So now what?

So the Easter holiday has come and gone, lent has passed, and my bracket is done. Now what?

Well it appears to me that all of those are simply opportunities to get spiritual. They heighten our awareness of what we perceive is important to God or they replace God with religion or a worldly passion. Instead of Living On Target. (by Pastor Kelvin Smith > http://tiny.cc/vkzuuw)
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For me, going to church on Sunday is like half time of the big game. It is time to regroup, get built back up, and be encouraged to go out there and do it again. For me we are called to be “the church” every day; all day. Why? Because “we are the church” and we are here to help all in need around us, not just a select few.

Now, I have a personal relation with Jesus. You can too. God doesn’t want us to come by for a visit. He sent His son to die for us because He wants to spend time with us. He created us to be in relationship with Him. He is my friend, my helper, my Deliverer, my Savior.

We are not designed to go it alone. The world tells us “we can do it ourselves if we put our mind to it.” When you ask Jesus into your life, the wall between you and God comes down and the promise of Jesus is your’s. He said, “I will never leave you or forsake you.” Religion cannot alleviate your loneliness. Beliefs can’t do it either. Only a person can do that; a person who will never leave you, never forsake you, no strings attached. That person is Jesus Christ.

We might like to think that our lives are all about us, but the reality is that all of our choices in life influence not only us, but the people around us. In the end our lives (and deaths) speak loudly of our love for, or rejection of, God.

Having troubles? God, our Father is standing there ready to help as only He can, but we have got to release any bitterness that is making our burden so much heavier. Why carry that load? Your Father wants to trade your troubles for His grace.

Yes, it’s a lonely world out there. And yes, you may walk on Lonely Street again? But the day you come to Jesus Christ is your last day alone. God never looks away from us or ignores us. He is always there watching over us and working things out in accordance with His plan. You may even feel that He is chasing you. He is, because He loves you and He wants you. He doesn’t need you. He wants you.

Once we come to know Jesus, it becomes all about Jesus and not about us. “Us” gets us in trouble. We are our own worst enemy in many cases. When you make choices with Jesus in your life He intercedes and helps you make those tough decisions. Remember, He will never leave you.
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Easter is the greatest day in a Christian’s life. Without His resurrection we are ALL lost. When we invite Jesus into our hearts, repent of our sins (and we all sin), and surrender our lives to Him, we are assured life… not death. By simply believing that Jesus died for our sins and rose from the dead, we are guaranteed eternity with Him in heaven.

Won’t you consider giving your life to Him and begin living every day… all day with peace and harmony? If you are willing say this prayer. Either aloud or quietly in your heart. Be open and honest and say…

“Jesus, I am lost without you. I am sorry for my sins and want to follow you. I believe you God that you sent your son to die for my sins. I surrender my life to you and ask that you live in my heart. Change my heart. Thank you Jesus.”

If you prayed this, know that you are now a new believer in Christ. Your past is your past. That means it is behind you and there is no need to look in the rear view mirror.

Now, get connected with a local church. Remember, we are not wired to go it alone. There are people that God wants to connect you with all day… every day.

May His peace be with you and I’ll look forward to seeing you in heaven if not before.

In fact, maybe I’ll see you at half time. Go Saints!

Where was Jesus on Holy Saturday?

Sometimes I wonder when the Bible has gaps in time and isn’t very clear what really took place. Like Jesus’ childhood between His visit to the temple at age 12 (Luke 2:41-51) until His ministry started at age 30.

So what actually took place on Holy Saturday? (the day between Good Friday and Easter Sunday)

Was this a day of rest for Jesus where He lay in a tomb? Or was He in a fight with Satan in which He clearly defeated death?
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The only biblical reference to what happened on the Saturday in between Jesus’ death and resurrection is found in Matthew 27:62-66. After sundown on Saturday—the end of the Sabbath—the chief priests and Pharisees went to Pontius Pilate and asked that a guard be placed at Jesus’ tomb to prevent His disciples from removing the body. They remembered Jesus saying that He would rise again in three days (John 2:19-21) and wanted to do everything they could to prevent that. We know from the succeeding accounts that the Roman guards were inadequate to prevent the resurrection and those who returned to the tomb Sunday morning found it empty. The Lord had risen.

What is your take?

Reference > http://www.BibleGateway.com (pick your translation of choice)

Back To Reality

I got back to Charlotte about 11:30AM on Saturday and I’ve been dragging ever since. Man… 39 hours of travel will make you delirious.
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My sweet wife took me to breakfast even though it was noon here and 11PM where I had just come from. There is nothing like blueberry pancakes and crispy bacon to welcome a guy home.

Fighting through the process of unpacking including starting laundry I found myself wanting to take a nap. That was probably not the best thing for me to do since I needed to get back to normal, but boy, it sure was tempting.

Working on about four hours of sleep over the past two days I had to fight through it. “Keep busy” kept echoing through my mind. “Keep busy!”

A nice warm shower was helpful and what a delight. We are so blessed to have running water let along it be warm. I soaked for quite a while.

Once all my stuff was unpacked and sorted into stacks I threw in a load of whites and headed out to run a few errands with Lisa. It was nice to just be hangin’ with her again. I missed her cutting wit and her piercing smile.

Soon it was 6PM and my goal became survive until 8 o’clock. Like my 80 year old friend’s daily ritual, I was looking to make it through Wheel of Fortune before the shutters came down. At 7:30PM even a dip in the hot tub seemed to be a chore and that is saying something.

Ahhhh, 8PM is finally here and I forgot how nice a sheet warmer can be and how comfortable it is to sleep in your own bed. Soft linens and fluffy pillows.

Ten hours of sleep later I still felt groggy. Went to church and visited with a lot of friends that were praying for me on this trip. I am a lucky man to have so many great and caring friends.

Lisa is on a mission to find a TV stand for our new 40 inch HDTV we bought ourselves for Christmas. That took all afternoon. We prepared ourselves with a trip to Shomar’s for a grilled chicken sandwich and a strawberry milkshake. Good stuff.

I fought through dinner due to simple fatigue. It had nothing to do with Lisa’s cooking although stir fry from a bag is not real stir fry, especially after eating real Chinese food in South Central Asia for the past two weeks.

I found myself missing my traveling sisters. We had so much fun dealing with worldviews so much different than our own. In no particular order I miss Jessica keeping us on track, Elizabeth’s disarming sense of humor, Nicole’s little dance “getting jiggy with it,” Laura’s amazing ability to cite information on almost any given topic off the top of her head, Meredith’s sweet nature and Julie’s contagious laugh.
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So, now here I am on Monday morning feeling drugged from sleep trying to get motivated to go to the office. Back to reality! No more climbing into a van to be escorted from meeting to meeting. No more comp lunches from NGOs and aspiring politicians. No more “Out of office” messages to deflect email and phone calls.

Now it gets real!

Guys… please keep the prayers coming?

Thanks To My Traveling Sisters

I am still in the process of traveling home now with all flights behind me except a 90 minute hop from Dulles to Charlotte, NC. No challenges after more than 36 hours in airports that started at 8:30PM on Thursday. It is now 9AM in Washington, DC.
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Every check in and transfer went smoothly until I hit stateside. The snag came with United losing one of my bags which we were able to intercept on its way to US Airways. Not a big deal except for a short connection to Charlotte.

My friend and Legislative Fellows’ coordinator on this trip, Jessica, stood by me all the way insuring I was on my way home before heading home herself. I was hesitant to ask, but the nearly forty travelers in line for final clearance to the gate were cordial and accommodating as I moved to the head of the line.

The hustling and jumping to the head of security lines proved to be an exercise when shortly after arriving at the gate it was announced the flight to Charlotte is delayed an hour. Now I wait.

I don’t know how many of you have traveled overseas, but the flight home always seem to take forever. There is nothing like getting home to the security of our own homes, dreams of sleeping in our own beds, and being with the ones we love the most. I’m ready to get there.

All in all though, this trip has been very smooth and drama free. There are always challenges with international travel that we cannot foresee. The only other situation that could be considered a snag would be the check in process in Dhaka when the check in clerk tried to finagle some extra cash for our extra bags. This was another valid reason to travel light.

When traveling in groups there are extra challenges that arise, especially when all the parties in the group begin the journey as strangers. This group was great.
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There were six women in our group leaving me the only male. They were all young enough to be my daughters, which was a reality check in itself. How did I get here so fast? Along with Jessica who kept us all on task and insured our smooth sailing the entire way, the others were made up of very successful women.

Each and every one of them inspired me. They were passionate about their work and were willing to share their experiences as world travelers. They each had a clear message to convey to our new partners in this new world we found ourselves entrenched in.

Each and every one of them was fun and felt free to express their feelings about any given issue or situation we found ourselves in. It became very clear early on that we were all willing to help each other along the way.

The drawback with taking a trip like this is you live together for a full couple of weeks and suddenly it is over. We find ourselves back home in our regular routines.

I feel amiss because I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to each of them since we disembarked our flight together and then found ourselves scrambling to the next flight taking us to our respective homes. We spent nine hours in Dubai as we waited for our flight to Washington, DC having fun and reminiscing, but I didn’t tell me individually how much I appreciated them. I figured I had plenty of time with the upcoming 15 hour flight.

We all promised to stay in touch and I hope we do.

Thanks ladies for an amazing journey. I’m sorry I didn’t give you a hug goodbye. Please know this, you all were a very big part of this magical experience for me. This journey would not have been as impactful without you.

Life as usual?

There is something to be said about visiting three cities in two weeks. Some would call it ambitious. Some might call it crazy. I call it amazing.

In the past 16 days I have been to Dubai twice, Kathmandu and Dhaka. A week each in Nepal and Bangladesh. A blur. A vapor. Soon to be only memories.

Great memories I may add, including fun with six amazing women. All very accomplished and inspiring because of their passion for the people they help. Newly found friendships that I will cherish.

I am very excited to get home to see my beautiful wife, the puppies and to sleep in my own bed, but…

How do I go back to life as usual when I now know there are millions of people in Nepal without electricity 12 hours out of the day?

How do justify letting the tap water run freely when I have had to brush my teeth using a cup because water is so scarce, let alone clean enough to drink from the tap in both Nepal and Bangladesh?

How do I go into a grocery store and not feel overwhelmed by the choices we are so accustomed to in the United States.
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Are we spoiled? Yes.

Are we ungrateful? Sometimes.

Are we blessed? Always.

I have spoken with so many people that have traveled abroad to under developed countries and they all say the same thing. “Seeing how people survive will change your perspective.” In my heart this trip has change my life.

My greatest fear heading into this trip was the potential exposure to the reality of real poverty. I was afraid of the possible heartache. Once realized, I didn’t realize how deep people could go into a this abyss.

We barely scratched the surface only traveling a couple dozen kilometers outside the capitals of these countries. In both cases running water was not an option. Homes were mere shelters not much bigger than a tent accommodating multiple generations of families.
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Being perfectly honest, I get annoyed by lack of space in my 1,800 square foot home. Not today though. Not after seeing how the majority of the 160 million people live in Bangladesh. Not after seeing homes shared with wild stock in the villages of Nepal. Not after seeing the remnants of a burnt out garment factory where more than a hundred lives were lost.

My prayer is I never forget and that I remember how lucky I am to live in a country that I do not always agree with.

One thing is for sure. We are all blessed to even have creature comforts let alone a bathroom indoors. We do not comprehend what it like to live without heat after dark on cold damp nights.

Thank you Lord for putting me in a place where I can live beyond my means. Please help me stay humble and grounded and content with what you have so freely provided me.

In The Streets

There is very little tourism in Dhaka other than a handful of museums, a couple of memorials and a lot of mosques and temples. The campus of Dhaka University is very nice.

If none of that does it for you then you need to head to the streets. Even with the poverty level so high that begging is expected, the trek is well worth it.

It is not uncommon to have heart breaking mothers, struggling with their kids in tow, to follow you for blocks to gain any morsel. The more affluent you look the more persistently they pursue. Don’t take their picture because they will expect payment from you since they need help so desperately. And once you succumb and dish out even a taka or two (1 taka = 1.26 cents) the other homeless and desperate come out of nowhere.
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The street markets are beautiful with colorful fruits and vegetables, aromatic spices, rice of all types, live fish, freshly slaughtered meat, and live chicken plucked and de-feathered on the spot. (see photos > http://tiny.cc/09nbrw)

The best part is the people. It is a bit disconcerting at first, but you learn to embrace the fact that they will flock around you. Because we are so different from them we stand out.

At first I thought it was just the men gawking at the six beautiful women I am traveling with, but local women were in the crowd just as eager to get a glimpse. Some had phones taking pictures while others playfully jumped in front of the camera.

I then noticed that they were watching me too. It became apparent they were reveling in the fact that we were interested in what they were offering. They loved the fact that we cared about them through our wanting their goods. They loved the fact we were willing to come down to their neighborhood.

At one point I turned to find my party was gone. I figured they had wandered further down the street. I did not see them anywhere. I suddenly felt alone and a bit apprehensive. Almost instantly I saw nearly a half dozen locals waving to me that my party had crossed the street. They did not want me to lose my friends. I then felt completely safe.

Suddenly I was being escorted by two young boys; probably younger teenagers. They cheered and laughed as I started to step into traffic. One of them actually grabbed my arm at one point to save me from a high speed rickshaw.

It seemed the entire crowd was cheering as I finally made it across. My two young escorts cheered the loudest and received my high five of thanks. Others in the crowd patted me on the back with congratulations as I joined up with my traveling companions.

For me, this experience on the streets assured me that the Bangali people cared for me. They loved seeing me succeed. In turn, I now find myself cheering for them hoping they succeed through all their political challenges and economic struggles.

Thank you my friends in the streets of Dhaka. Thanks for welcoming me into your world.

Is It Politics?

I am not a politically minded person, so I am feeling a little over my head in Dhaka. Every conversation turns to politics because they love it here.

There is a sophistication and air that comes with politics. I remember my parents always getting into a fray with their friends as to which view was right or wrong. I struggled with the conflict.

I feel that kind of struggle here. There is a debate taking place with the Opposition Party about the upcoming election. An election they are not certain when will take place, but it is certain that it will at some point in the next year.

The sticking point appears to be the appointing of a caretaker government during the election. The current ruling government does not want one. The Opposition Party does to the point of seriously considering not running against the Prime Minister as a way to draw international attention to the issue.

The concept of a caretaker government, as I understand it, is an assembly of people would be appointed for approximately three months to run the election to insure that neutrality is kept in place. I guess the main concern is pressure from the ruling party on the people to vote their way.

Similar to my parent’s discussions, I understand the desire to debate. I feel it is healthy to get all of the ideas out on the table. Where I struggle is when a line is drawn in the sand with no willingness to come to consensus.
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It seems to me that we all need to be willing to give up something along the way. I am coming up on 21 years of marriage and feel sometimes our success is due to our daily negotiations. What we will eat for dinner? Who is going to do the dishes? Who will get up in the middle of the night to take the dogs out? If I didn’t come into these conversations with a willingness to concede on some things I would spend most of my life sleeping outside.

The debate here is much more important than whether or not I am going to take out the trash, I know. Where the real struggle comes is a lack of meeting people on their turf instead of our own. A willingness to view the world outside their own beliefs. A “My way or the highway” mentality.

At some point the Opposition Party is going to find it will need to concede something. I hope they do and do not find themselves sleeping outside another 20 years.