How Jesus Saved the Marriage of Alan and Denise Jackson

Alan_jackson180_2 Country singer Alan Jackson’s wife, Denise, says:  “Yes, we have wealth, fame, fortune; from the outside we have it all.  But all that stuff does not bring joy, contentment, happiness or fulfillment.”  You can see their house in the video below called, "You Can Live in a House without Curtains," with lyrics that say, "but you can't hide the heartache inside."

They knew something of heartache.  They were high school sweethearts and married young. Alan became rich and famous and cheated on her.  In 1997 they separated.  But Jesus was going to come into the situation and change everything because Jesus is great at coming into hopeless situations and turning them around. And he did.  The result was a restored marriage, a new life and now a new book by Denise called, "It's All About Him (Jesus!)"

Here's a snippet from and Associated Press article about their marriage:             

"NEW YORK (AP) -- Denise Jackson knew that her marriage to Alan Jackson wasn't perfect. She was too needy and insecure in the relationship, and he was on the road a lot, becoming one of country's biggest superstars. Denise Jackson's marriage to Alan Jackson was crumbling until she turned to God. Still, she wasn't prepared for the shock she got in 1998, shortly after the birth of their third child, when Jackson -- her sweetheart since their teen years -- told her that he didn't want to be in the marriage anymore. Hurt and disillusioned, she tried everything to get him back, and turned to prayer.

A revelation came one day when a friend told her she wouldn't pray for Alan Jackson to come back, but instead, would pray for Denise Jackson to become the woman that God intended her to be. From that day on, Denise Jackson began to reassess the role God played in her life -- and, instead of focusing on how to repair her relationship with her husband, put her efforts into rebuilding her relationship with God. In the end, she says, becoming closer to God helped her become closer to her husband -- and save her marriage."

Read an interview with Denise and Alan Jackson with Alan singing the song he wrote for his wife's book, "It's all about Him!"  Which is really cool, because his wife said it 'used to be all about Alan, and now it's all about Him (Jesus!)"

Here's a video of their home. Enjoy!

The Life of My Friend Rick Hathaway

Dick_and_debbie_hathawayRick Hathaway is my friend. He was my pastor and we've worked together on the same church team.

Rick has written a book on the legacy of faith that came from his father. He has put samples of his book on his website  Go and check it out. Once you read the first section you'll be hooked!

For those of you that have attended Calvary Chapel of Southeastern Connecticut, see if you recognize the building in the wedding picture.

Billy Ray Cyrus, Hannah Montana's Dad, Learning from Paris Hilton & Lindsay Lohan

Billy_ray_and_montana_4As we sink deeper into the mire of the Christian gossip column... This just in: "Lindsay Lohan Finds God in Rehab, and is going to church." Or so says her dad, who is suing her mother for support after the breakup of their marriage. She says all he wants is his daughter's money. He says he just wants his investment. He has also been seen around the Hamptons showing up for photo-ops.

Lindsay Lohan's friends report that she will not be spending her 21st birthday at Pure in Vegas as originally planned, but will spend more time at the Promiseland Rehab in Malibu.  Are Paris Hilton and Linsey Lohan really finding God?  Maybe. Rehab is a great place to find God, and if you want the 12 Steps to really work, you need to bring God into the equation.

A lot of people don' t know that the original 12 Steps of AA came from the Bible and a Bible believing group, but that's fodder for another post on another day. However it shakes out, it tells us that people deep down inside know that they need God. Maybe when better times roll around they will forget the need they felt inside and feed their hunger another way, but people definitely have a God shaped hole. Pray for these girls. 

Or....  do like Billy Ray Cyrus, who tries to use the antics of Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan and Brittney Spears as lessons for his own Hollywood daughter Hanna Montana.  Billy Ray became a Christian some years back and his kids are trying to serve the Lord as well. Here's some excepts from a recent article in People Magazine:

Billy Ray Cyrus is crossing his fingers that his daughter, "Hannah Montana" star Miley, won't go the way of Lindsay and Paris and Britney. He even shows her articles about the Hollywood troublemakers as cautionary tales.

Billy_ray_3_2 So far, so good.

"The biggest phenomenon in all this is that the kid's been able to keep her head on her shoulders," the 45-year-old country singer tells People magazine in its new issue. "She hasn't flipped out. I'm going to knock on wood."

He adds: "I pray every day she can stay on that path."

Cyrus, who recently completed a stint on ABC's "Dancing With the Stars," co-stars with 14-year-old Miley on the hit Disney Channel series "Hannah Montana," about a country-girl-turned-pop-star who tries to keep her celebrity life a secret from her classmates.

Miley, who saw her "Hannah Montana" soundtrack go double platinum last year, is a daddy's girl at heart.

"We're really close," she says. "I feel like I can tell my dad anything. When we come home, we forget that we even work together and just hang out."

The picture above is of Billy Ray Cyrus with my son Stefan. Stefan is carrying his Tony Alva Skateboad, Billy Ray is carrying his guitar. They both have on "Rock tees." Stefan with Jimi Hendrix and Billy Ray with the Doors. Are those Christian groups?

The Internet: "Do You Who is Talking to Your Kids?"

Internet_safety_with_directions_2Mark Gomez of Clearfield, Utah will be bringing his presentation on "Internet Safety: Facts and Critical Information" to Southern New England, February 11 - 18. The presentation is geared primarily for parents and teachers, but is suitable for social workers, law enforcement and all those working children, adolescents and young adults.

Gomez's presentation is an expose of online victimization techniques and a profile of who is most at risk to online predators.  He includes the "Six Steps Predators Use to Lure Children." The presentation prepares adults to protect children and themselves from predators that are entering our homes through our computer screens.

Detective James McLaughlin of the Keene County Police Department has coined new term, Technophilia, to define a new level of crime associated with the increase of online communication and networking. It is now believed that one in five children are sexually solicited or approached on over the Internet in a one year period of time. Online availability has lead to a new category of crime and social corrosion. You won't want to miss this presentation. Bring a friend that needs this vital information with you.

Domestic Violence and the Evangelical Church

SilencedSilenced! Or at least silent. That describes the evangelical church on the topic of domestic violence.  Statistics tell us that one out of every four women and/or girls growing up in America will be touched by physical (violence) or sexual abuse by the time they reach full adulthood. Yet it is a topic rarely addressed, at least in the evangelical church.  Here's the short response: From a Biblical perspectice, nobody desrves to be beaten (especially a woman by a man.)

When I first heard the one out of four statistic, I thought that it could not possibly be true.  I had heard it in a college class, called "Confronted By Violence," from a lady that had founded one of the first Women's Shelters.  The early Women's Shelters grew out of the Rape Crisis Lines that were springing up across the country in the late 60s and early 70s.  As the lines became open for women to call seeking help for sexual assaults, some women were calling in saying they were in battering relationships. The Rape Crisis Lines across the country began to give way to the forming of Women's Centers that opened their ears and hearts to women seeking help and refuge from violent relationships.

Upon hearing the one and four statistic, I soon became aware that in the church I was planting the one in four number may have actually been a bit low. In a meeting one night I did a stupid thing. I asked for a public show of hands of how many women had been either sexually or physically abused. The number was higher than one in four.  Since it was an issue in the church, I tried to track down Christian books and literature that would shed more light on the situation.  To my dismay I couldn't find anything written on domestic violence from an evangelical Christian position. This was (or is) affecting one out of four women in the church at large and nobody has been exploring it.  There are probably a few reasons for that.

Here are some statistics:

* "Physical violence is estimated to occur in 4 to 6 million intimate relationships each year in the United States."

* "Nearly one in every three adult women experiences at least one physical assault by a partner during adulthood. Approximately four million American women experience a serious assault by an intimate partner during a 12-month period."

* Age trends:  Domestic violence is most prominent among women aged 16 to 24.

The first reason that most people shove domestic violence into a corner somewhere is believing the event to be a one time abnormality that it will never happen again.  It's a nice thought - the Bible tells us to believe the best about each other in 1 Corinthians 13 - but believing it will never happen again is naive. One report says, "On average a woman suffering domestic violence will be beaten 32 times before she seeks help."

Cycle Those that study violence in families know that it usually happens in cycles.  There are exceptions to the cycle in homes that are constantly violent, but in most situations it follows a predictable pattern described by Dr. Lenore Walker as shown in the circle.                                             

PHASE 1: is the "Tension Building Stage."  In this stage the situation builds as frustration grows.  Verbal abuse, fits of anger and irritability are common. The woman feels as though she is being treated unfairly, but complies and tries to diffuse her partner's anger.

PHASE 2: "The Violent Incident." The whole family is freaking out at this point. The male is out of control and irrational. The children feel helpless and may jump in and take a side. In extreme cases children may even kill the batterer, but most just end up feeling really confused.

PHASE 3: "The Kind and Loving Stage." The woman at this point will usually feel relieved believing that everything is over and may become rather hopeful in the relationship for real change. The male is full of remorse, may be apologetic and promises to change.  While everybody may feel relieved at this point, it is very often just the beginning of a new cycle as tensions in the near future begin to build again.

To be fair about the issue it needs to be noted that men are sometimes battered by women as well, but the bulk of domestic violence and dating violence is perpetrated by males and not females. Perhaps it is as simple that the males dominate physically because men generally tend to be bigger and stronger than women. Regardless of the reasons, domestic abuse is still largely the  role of men in the relationships.

I've looked all over for an book by an evangelical author that deals with the issue of abuse and violence in the Christian home. Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark have written some on the subject over the past few years and have a book on physical abuse published by Inter Varsity Press in 2001. It's definitely a step in the right direction. It would be good to see some books published by men as well, it would point out that we are at least acknowledging the issue.

Until the Evangelical world changes, why don't we start speaking up about the issue. I'm a fan of saying "let's bring the sickness in the light and see what the sun does to it."  Just talking about it is a good start.

Let's pray about it as well and create environments where it is OK for the abused and the abusers to come forward to talk, to pray and to work towards healing and change.

Truth is nobody deserves to be beaten and abuse on any level is not a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

Here's the prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi. How about if some of his prayer starts with us? 

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;

where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;

to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

Where Was God in the Amish Killings?" Trouble in Paradise

AmishwomenIt's ironic that the killings of the young Amish children were in the village of Paradise, Pennsylvania. It was the third school violence incident in the United States involving guns in one week.  This time it was in the most unlikely of places, in an Amish community, where non-violence and pacifism are practiced and held as high vlaues.

Where was God in the midst of the killing of the Amish school children? It's a good question and one that we should ask and try to answer. When we start to dig a little deeper, looking at the lives of some of those involved, we start to see Him all over the place. Understanding where God was begins with the knowledge that faith goes deeper than tragedy and life goes deeper than death.

THE AMISH COMMUNITY DOESN'T SEE GOD AS REMOVED FROM THE SITUATION.  In fact their lifestyle and belief structure predicts that such horrible things will happen. The Intelligencer Journal, a Lancaster County newspaper, quotes Amish researcher Donald Kimball, "The Amish are a resilient, peace-loving people of faith who won't be changed by Monday's spasm of violence, which they likely will view as a one-time incident. 'I think the community will understand it as an aberration, a crime committed by a man with a severe psychiatric disorder... I think they have a sense of resignation in accepting these kinds of things as somehow a part of God's larger plan.'"  David Weaver-Zercher, of Messiah College said in the same article that the Amish have a view of the world as "an evil place, and one's only security is with God."

THE ELDERS IN THE AMISH COMMUNITY ARE TALKING FORGIVENESS.  Rev. Robert Schenck told CNN he was standing with the grandfather of one of the slain girls, while the grandfather was teaching the young boys that they were not to hate. He is quoted as saying, "We must not think evil of this man." 

Amish woodworker, Sam Stoltzfus told an Associated Press reporter that "the families would be sustained by their faith." He said, "We think it was God's plan, and we're going to have to pick up the pieces and keep going. A funeral to us is a much more important thing than the day of birth because we believe in the hereafter."

The same article that quotes Stoltzfus, quotes Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community who said people were trying to follow the teachings of Jesus. He said, "I don't think there's anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts."  Wow! Reaching out to the family of the man that killed your children. Supernatural power and love exists in the hearts of the effected Amish families. God is spilling out all over that situation.

THE KILLER WAS HAVING AN AWFUL TIME IN HIS RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD. Charles Carl Roberts IV, was having a hard time finding God in just about anything. He was experiencing a number of troubling thoughts that he recorded in suicide notes he left for his family. He was particularly troubled by the death of his daughter, Elise, born prematurely in 1997 and living for only 20 minutes. In his note Robarts said Elise's death, "changed my life forever. I haven't been the same since it affected me in a way I never felt possible. I am filled with so much hate, hate towards myself, hate towards God and unimaginable emptiness it seems like every time we do something fun I think about how Elise wasn't here to share it with us and I go right back to anger." Whew, that's some tough stuff, really rough emotions. But not a denial of God or His existence, just an overall anger.

One of the strangest places that God showed up in the incident was that Marie Roberts, the killer's wife was leading a prayer meeting for the community's schoolchildren at the time that he had stormed into the one-room classroom.  Marie Roberts has been asking for prayer all along in this tragedy. CNN reported on Wednesday night, October 4th in an interview with two of the midwives that delivered two of the Amish girls that died, that Marie Roberts had asked to meet with the families of the slain children after the funeral and the Amish bishop agreed.

Even emergency response workers were saying "God was with us while we were taking care of those kids."

SPONTANEOUS PRAYER MEETINGS ERUPTED ACROSS LANCASTER COUNTY.  Lancaster Online reported on one of the many meetings. “We come here tonight as a grieving community,” Sam Smucker, pastor of The Worship Center, said. “We’ve come here to pray and proclaim the lordship of Christ and to put our arms around each other and the community and ask God to put his arms around us. God hears our prayers.”

Contemporary Christian artist Michael W. Smith led the group in worship, playing the piano and singing hymns like “It Is Well With My Soul,” as well as praise songs
like “Above All.”

Smith, who originally had been scheduled to perform at a rally for U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum in Lancaster Tuesday night, said, “It’s not an accident that I’m here (at The Worship Center’s prayer vigil). I’m a big believer in the providence of God.”

Smith told those attending the vigil that the shooting “could be your grandest
opportunity to turn tragedy into good, to grieve with those who grieve. What happened (Monday) will see what you’re made of.” As long as it takes to heal, “we have to stand in the gap.”

Of all the places in the world, Smith said, this is the last place one would think anything like this would happen. “But God is in control. ... Was this God’s will? Absolutely not. But he will use it for good,” Smith said. “Satan has won the battle
— temporarily. God has overcome the evil one. Let’s get on with building the kingdom. Let’s get on with God’s agenda.”

Smith closed his portion of the service by dedicating his new song, “See You on the Other Side” to the “five precious girls” who died in the shooting, Naomi Rose Ebersol, Anna Mae Stoltzfus, Marian Fisher, Mary Liz Miller and Lina Miller.

THE POWER OF GOD WAS EVIDENT IN SO MANY PLACES IN THE MIDST OF SUCH A HORRIBLE TRAGEDY. Forgiveness is being extended to Roberts family by the Amish. God has been evident throughout this whole situation.  Enos Miller, the grandfather of the two Miller sisters, was with both of the girls when they died. He was out walking near the schoolhouse before dawn Wednesday _ he said he couldn't sleep _ when he was asked by a reporter for WGAL-TV whether he had forgiven the gunman.

"In my heart, yes," he said, explaining it was "through God's help."

Moms Working From Home

Working_mom_060830_nr Good Morning America did a segment today (Friday, September 15) on Moms in the Workforce. One of those sections was on moms working FROM home.  A cool thing about the segment is that it features Serena Lewis, the wife of Calvary Chapel church planter Jonathan Lewis in Greenwich, Connecticut.  The segment shows footage of Serena reading at home with the kids.  It's great segment. You can watch the Good Morning America clip by clicking here

Jonathan Lewis grew up in Connecticut and moved to Tucson, Arizona. It was there that he came to Christ after reading a Gideons Bible. He ended up in Calvary Chapel in Tuscon at the invitation of a co-worker, where he served in youth minstry and sang in a hip-hop group.  Jonathan wanted to come back home to Connecticut to tell his friends about Christ and to start a Bible Study.  Please pray for him in this work, as church planting in Connecticut can be difficult.  Bill Lamorey, who is planting a church in the West Hartford area has been blogging about his adventures in New England church planting. Visit Bill frequently by clicking here.

Pray for Jonathan and his family as they keep their hand to the plow in that needy part of Connecticut. Jonathan has some of his Bible Studies posted. Check out their church website here.

Cool stuff all the way around!

Suicide: Every Parent's Nightmare

DungyHere's a story about Tony Dungy and his sons suicide that appeared on this blog when I first started it.  It's worth reading again. did an amazing story about Tony Dungy, coach of the Indianapolis Colts. The story revolves around Dungy's faith in Christ and how it has sustained him through the most difficult period of his life. The death, ruled as a suicide, of his 18 year old son, James, in December of 2005.

Suicide is so difficult to deal with. Often those who are left behind blame themselves or wonder what they have done wrong.  Suicide strikes in families of all types.  As humans none of us are beyond the despair that can cause us to wish we were no longer alive.

Listen to what the apostle Paul said, 2 Corinthians 1:8 "We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life."

What? The apostle Paul despairing of life?  Most of us don't think of Paul that way, but none of us are exempt from despair and hopelessness.  After a great victory against the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel, Elijah demonstrates symptoms of depression (see 1 Kings 18.) Nobody is exempt from depression and despair.

The article is a great encouragement of how one father in the public eye and spotlight is coping.  ESPN named the article "Amazing Grace." Read it here.

A link farm of sucide realted organizations and articles can be found here.



What's Wrong with Fred Phelps?


Fred Phelps is a nut! That's the worst I can say.  Jesus said in Matthew 5:22, "But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, 'Raca,' is answerable to the Sanhedrin. But anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." I'm not angry at him, I'm embarrassed by him for sure.  Ashamed of him as a Christian and as an American.

This is a picture of Matthew Snyder. We didn't think it was right to put Fred Phelps picture anywhere.

Fred Phelps is a Baptist minister, not much of one in my opinion, who started the Westboro Baptist Church. He is best known for his campaign over the last 15 years of protesting anybody that he thinks promotes homosexuality with his "God Hates Fags" banners.  Some claim to fame.

This week he was sued by the family of Matthew Snyder. Phelps protested at Snyder's funeral, but for another reason.

Recently he has taken to protesting at the funerals of American soldiers that fell in Iraq.  Matthew Snyder died in Iraq on March 3, 20006. Phelps at the funeral of soldiers carries signs that read "Thank God for dead soldiers" and "Thank God for IED's."  How much nuttier than that can you get?  Phelps says that the American deaths in Iraq are judgment from God on a nation that tolerates homosexuals.  Somebody has to stand up and say this guy is nuts! I don't mind adding my voice to that!

I'm embarrassed to associated with Phelps as a citizen and certainly as a Christian minster.  I'm proud of our American troops.  We should be honoring and cheering on these families, not using the deaths of their heroic loved ones to advance a twisted view of Life, God and Scripture.

To sign up to pray for our troops click here.

For those that know people caught up in the web of homosexuality and would like to have some sane Christian help in understanding them and how to help, check out Exodus International.  Exodus (meaning 'coming out') is an association of international Christian ministries helping homosexual people and their families experience the love of God as they sort through the confusion and pain of homosexuality.

Check out the Christian testimony of Sy Rogers who has overcome homosexuality.

For a fuller treatment of Phelps and his family, see the website of our friend Anton at

To watch Phelps daughter on Fox News with Hannity and Commbs also agreeing that she is as nutty as her dad click here.

The transcript of a wild exchange between Phelps daughter and Fox host Julie Bandaras can be found here.  Unbelievable.