Music Mondays-I’ll Be Okay by Lydia Laird

When I read the about section for Lydia Laird’s site-lydialaird,com, three things got my attention. First she is a Christian. The other two things I related to, 1-she lived in Romania part of a missionary family, and 2- she has struggled with depression and anxiety which for me were side effects of chronic illness.

Whatever we go through in this life, we can know God is with us. We can look to God for help, comfort, and strength. Laird’s song I’ll Be Okay is a reflection of that borne out of her experience looking to God for help, comfort and strength.

May this song bless you as much or more than has me.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

June Is Here-Now What?

Here we are in the month of June. June has been a month of new adventures for me. It has also been a month of God doing something new in my life. So each June I tend to have a sense of expectancy about what will happen.

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A few examples:

June 1997 I had my first trip to Romania.

June 2010 I had my one and only trip to Mexico which led me to study Spanish.

June 2013 I had my first trip to Brazil which led me to study Portuguese.

One change will happen today. I will go do my employment paperwork for the school system here. My morning class had been a collaboration between the community college here and the public school system. It will only be with the public school system and I have been hired. But I knew that was coming.

Either today or Monday I will find out about starting a new medication. But that does not seem so exciting to me.

So I thought I would share an idea and get feedback. I have written short stories in my other blog- encounterswiththeancients.com. My idea is to make short films from them and post them on YouTube. Let me know what you think.

So June is here. I have had 5 of my 11 international ministry trips in June. I wish I had one this year too but COVID is still an issue in many places. So it will be staying at home.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Become A Pastor- Part 5- Romania

In this series on A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Become A Pastor, I shared about A Decision and A Book in Part 1, Part 2 was A Discovery and The Downfall Begins, Part 3 was The Valley of Death, and Part 4 was Recovering and Remembering That Book.

Part 5 today is about Romania and how God worked through my trips there to begin to show me what he was calling me to do.

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As I shared in Part 4, in April 1996, the doctor told me, “Matt you are now a healthy man, It is a miracle you did not die.” Upon hearing that there was a sense of relief, but when I got to my car I had question- What now? My life was in shambles after three years of health struggles. God would begin to show me What Now through my trips to Romania.

After hearing my church wanted people to go to Romania, I signed up to go. My first trip was in June 1997. That trip demonstrated two themes that would reoccur. The first was being doubted by others and the other was being with other cultures was like a fish taking to water for me.

When the missionaries first saw my name on the list, their first thought was, “Isn’t he the guy who talks slow?” Their only frame of reference for me was meeting me when I was still sick.

But while I was in Constanta Romania, I found that relating with my new Romanian friends was so natural for me. There were so many incredible moments we shared. That first trip gave me the desire to return in June 1998 and teach a class in the Conversational English Language Camp.

I loved interacting with the students in my class and spending time with them in the afternoons or after the evening classes. Being in a classroom teaching English was something I loved. I learned some Romanian phrases during those first trips too.

In October 1999 during my third trip, I had a conversation with a missionary outside the People’s Palace, built under the dictator’s rule, about teaching English as a way to connect with people. He told me it was one of the best ways to connect with other cultures.

I returned from that trip knowing God wanted me to gain experience teaching English Second Language. At the time I thought it was for the purpose of returning to Romania full-time as a missionary.

God would bless me with four more trips to Romania, but the calling would become clearer in time. More about that in Part 6.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

A Funny Thing Happened on my Way to Becoming A Pastor- Part 4- Recovering and Remembering That Book

This is Part 4 in a short series of posts about what happened on my way to becoming a pastor. Part 1 was about the decision and a key book in my life. Part 2 was about a discovering and decline in my health. Part 3 was about my health crisis.

Part 4 today is about my recovering and remembering that book I shared about in Part 1.

In Part 3 I shared about the night I prayed and experiencing the presence of Jesus. The pain stopped. The next day I had a doctor’s appointment. He was still puzzled by what could have been wrong with me. He told me he wanted me to go to the hospital to be admitted. When he was at the door to leave the exam room, I blurted out, “I am tired of feeling cold.” He looked at me and asked, “You feel cold?” I told him I felt cold all of the time. The light went on in his head. He told me to wait for the nurse. Side note this was in July one of the hottest months in the year where I live.

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The nurse came in and took ANOTHER blood sample. She told me the doctor thought he knew what my problem was and that I could go to work. If it was what he thought, he would call in a prescription. If not, I would need to go to the hospital.

I got to the pizza restaurant where I worked and saw a note to call the doctor. The nurse told me the test showed the problem and the doctor had called in a prescription for me already and that I should start it right away. The problem was my thyroid stopped working. I got the prescription and that day began my long recovery.

Over the following months, I had to see the doctor for testing at first once a week for one month, then once a month for three months, then once every three months.

In April 1996, the doctor told me, “Matt you are now a healthy man, It is a miracle you did not die. I did not want to show you this last summer because I feared you would go into heart failure.” Then he showed me my chart. I was headed into heart, liver and kidney failure.

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Those months of recovery were a constant uphill battle. It seemed like for every mountain peak of improvement, there were two valleys or more. I only knew one thing according to the bible in Philippians 4:

I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.

I got more involved with my church helping with the prayer ministry. I arranged to transfer to a school in Omaha to finish my education having to drive one hour there and back two nights a week. Progress had begun in my life.

Then one morning in December 1996 during worship service, my church which had sent teams to Romania in the years after the fall of communism, announced they were looking for people to go to Romania.

Boom. The memory of that book Tortured for Christ by Rev, Wurmbrand that I shared about in Part 1, hit me like a ton of bricks. The same urgency in my spirit before God hit me. I MUST GO TO ROMANIA. It was as if God was telling me the answers would be found there.

So I signed up to go…..

Thank you for reading. God Bless. More in Part 5

A Funny Thing Happened on My Way to Becoming A Pastor Part 1- A Decision and A Book

I have been in the process of trying to become a substitute teacher in my city. There is a shortage of substitutes due to COVID. To teach Adult ESL a person only needs the college degree, but to teach K-12 a person needs teacher certification. I have taught ESL for adults for over 20 years.

During a phone conversation with someone at the State Department of Education, I said, “I should have gotten certified to teach.” She replied, “Why didn’t you?”

My reply was, “Well I was studying to become a pastor. A funny thing happened on my way to becoming a pastor.”

I shared that with the librarian at the school where I teach Family Literacy She encouraged me to write about it in my blog, so here goes. This will be at least two parts.

A Funny Thing Happened on my Way to Becoming a Pastor Part 1- The Decision and a Book

In the late 1980s, God began to do a work in my life to draw me to him. I was an Office Furniture Rep for a top 50 dealership in the U.S. actually located in my home city. He began bringing people into the store that were Christians, in ministry etc. Through that series of “chance” encounters, Jesus brought me back to himself and I rededicated my life to Jesus in July 1989.

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God became so real in my life and my pray times were so deep. I would lose track of time in the prayer room at my church. In that prayer room, God changed me on the inside to where my desires in life matched his. In 1990, I visited a bible college in Minneapolis with my pastor. The decision was made that I should indeed go to that school to study to become a pastor.

In 1990, I also read a book- Tortured for Christ by Rev, Wurmbrand. He was a pastor in Romania during the brutal communist dictatorship of Ceausescu. Rev, Wurmbrand was imprisoned for his faith but was allowed to leave the country. He eventually came to the U.S. and started the ministry Voice of the Martyrs.

When I read that book, an overwhelming thought struck deep within me, “I must go to Romania.” I just simply knew God wanted me to go to Romania for some reason.

In 1991, I left my home city, my career as a sales rep, and moved to Minneapolis to study to become a pastor. But a funny thing happened on my way to becoming a pastor. More on that in Part 2.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

God’s Timing for Jesus’ Return

“He isn’t here. He is an American and we were very late.”

Those were the words of a young woman in Constanta Romania during my last trip there at Christmas time in 2005. I was there to help a partner church with their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services. One evening there was a Christmas party for college students. I was waiting outside the apartment building for her and her brother for a ride to the church.

They had told me they would be there at 5pm. I waited until 5:15pm and then I thought something happened, so I took the bus. They arrived at 5:30pm. The brother suggested I was in the apartment. The sister said, “He isn’t here. He is an American and we were very late. He took the bus.”

They walked into the church and saw me. The sister laughed and told her brother, “I told you.” She shared with me what happened and we had a good laugh.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the different views about timeliness among different cultures.

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God has a specific time set for when Jesus will return to earth. But it is not for us to know. When Jesus was asked about when he would set up the kingdom, his answer in Acts 1 was:

He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

It is not for us to know the time Jesus will return. But we have work to do. Jesus wants us to share him with others. But God is not slow about the promise of Christ’s return. Peter wrote in 2nd Peter 3:

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.

God is being patient, for now, because of his desire for people to come to know Jesus as their Savior. But the day is coming for Christ’s return. Until then Jesus has work for us to do.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

The Favorite Christmas Memory Tag

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A few years ago, a drama monologue I had written was part of our Christmas Eve service at church. I directed it as well and a friend of mine acted the part of Gabriel. It was a drama about Gabriel coming to the manger to see the baby Jesus as he shared his perspective of an angel who had seen Jesus on his throne in heaven.

In the choir practice room, we had snacks and time to socialize between services. We shared our favorite Christmas memories. Mine was of Romania.

My favorite Christmas memory is Christmas 2005 when I went to Constanta Romania to help a partner church with their Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services as well as other Christmas related activities.

It was wonderful to share the love of Jesus in Romania. A group of college students invited me to their special worship celebration and party afterwards. I also joined the children’s ministry for their special Christmas program. I also had the opportunity to visit people in their homes during the three and a half weeks I was there.

Serving Jesus on a ministry trip was the best Christmas gift I could have ever received.

Now for the tag. Here is how it works.

Please share a link to the original post- The Favorite Christmas Memory Tag.

Share your favorite Christmas memory and tag some fellow bloggers to join in.

If they choose to participate, I am tagging:

Dawn

Temi

Vanessa

Chuck

Ruth

Alicia

Barb

Cheryl

Mercy

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Q and A with me- Good Questions and My Responses

I enjoyed receiving some good questions in my post The K Club: Thank to My Followers and Q and A with me, and today I would like the share the questions and my answers.

I think I got all of the questions. If I missed yours, please let me know in the comment section.

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Lydia of inhisserviceandlovingit.wordpress.com asked:

How has blogging helped you in your life?Did you ever think you would make it to the # of followers you have now?What advice do you have for a first time blogger?

Blogging has helped me connect with people around the world. I have learned from my fellow bloggers. It has given me a creative outlet as well. I never thought I would reach 1,000 followers, but when I hit 800 I thought I might.

Advice for a first time blogger- give yourself time to grow. Don’t give up in the beginning. 2 years ago I had 30 followers and would get excited if I had 10 views. Also remember to interact with other bloggers with meaningful comments. Comments like “great post” don’t get my attention. Learn from other bloggers by seeing how they write and seeing if you want to incorporate ideas, but be yourself. Remember why you want to blog.

I would like to invite other bloggers to share ideas in the comment section 🙂

Dawn of drawingclosertochrist.com asked- Being that you interact with so many different people (often from different countries), what advice can you give related to sharing your faith with others?

Be authentic, actually care about the other person, take time to get to know the person. By doing these things you can build friendship. PRAYER is key. Don’t worry about method. Share the love of Jesus and what he means to you.

Pallavi of curatingthoughts.blog asked- how are you dealing with all of this Covid-19 fright? I will be honest, it’s starting to get me and now I am looking for ways to stay calm and positive in all of this.

It is definitely a stressful time and one that I have never seen before in my life. For the fear, my relationship with Jesus helps me the most. He has helped me through many difficult times in my life. I don’t know how it will all work out, but I know nothing can separate me from Jesus.

I have to admit being single and living alone makes the self isolation thing rough because I am a people person. I love to be with people. I am trying to stay in contact with others via social media.

Beverley of becomingtheoilandthewine.com– I admire your strength and your positiveness during all of this worldwide drama and I recognized that you are able to stay calm because of your strong faith in God. My question to you is this: Do you think that another reason why you are not fearful of this virus outbreak is because your struggles with chronic illness have made you more resilient and strong?

Yes I do think my struggles with chronic illness and living through them with Jesus helping me has made me resilient. I will never forget my first major struggle in 1993 to 1995 and how I was almost at death’s door in July 1995. One night I thought I was going to die and prayed to Jesus saying, “there are more people who need help and more people who need to hear about you.” The presence of Jesus filled my room. It gave me a tiny taste of being in his presence but enough of one that I know he is so real and he is on the other side of death waiting for us to come home in his time.

Brenda of becominghistapestry.com asked- How many mission trips have you been on? Which made the most impact on your life? Would you consider yourself a missionary?

I have been on 11 missions trips and hope to go on more. My first trip to Romania in 1997 had a huge impact on me. It was during that trip I realized there was something special about the connections God has given me with other cultures. It was my 3rd trip to Romania in 1999 that I realized God was calling me to teach English as a way to connect with people from other cultures.

Yes I consider myself to be a missionary- a missionary to the many people groups living in my city.

Rene of hearttokens.home.blog asked- What has been your greatest teaching moment as a teacher and as a Christian in your church, and/or in your life, in general? Or what has been the greatest teaching moment that maybe God has taught/or shown you personally?

Oh my so many wonderful teaching moments I do not know which to choose. I think my study groups with young people from Vietnam over a period of 7 years was meaningful to me because I watched them go from high school students, and a few out of high school but needing more English, to graduating college and going on to grad school. My times with them taught me a lot about myself as well.

Another wonderful time was teaching English in Rio do Sul a small city in Southern Brazil. I taught for a small university there. I was the only American in the city most of the time, so I got immersed in the culture. My Portuguese improved a lot. I spent a lot of time with my students outside of class too.

Herry of herrychiccounsels.com asked –  What advice would you give your twenty something year old self? Anything you would have loved to do differently

So many things I would tell 20 year old me such as pour yourself into language learning because God has given you ability with languages. Biggest thing would be focus on Jesus.

Big Sky Buckeye.com asked – How does your teaching fill up your emotional tank?

Teaching fills me up in many ways. The interaction with students energizes me. When I am teaching, it is when I feel I am fulfilling what God has called me to do. Seeing my students succeed in life and experience milestones such as becoming a citizen, graduating college or high school, starting and having a career, encourages me a lot.

Story Time- I Am Still Going to Romania

On a Friday in February 2005, the day started off normally. I taught my morning class. I met a friend for lunch. It seemed like any other day. Then suddenly I started having pain in my stomach and could not keep food down. It was a pain I never felt with just the flu.

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In the evening, I went to the ER thinking I had food poisoning. The pain kept getting worse. Next thing I knew, I had an IV in my arm and a morphine drip. The diagnosis acute Gall Bladder attack. I had to have surgery. They kept me over night hooked up to the morphine drip and an antibiotic drip to fight infection.

But my mind was not so much on the medical problem as it was on a scheduled trip to go to Romania in April that year to give the Easter message at our partner church there.

Pastor Scott came up to see me in my hospital room and the first words out of my mouth were:

“I am still going to Romania.”

He did not respond, but prayed with me. Pastor Scott had known me for a while and in fact was the team leader during my first trip to Romania.

I ended up going to Romania that year because thankfully the surgery was arthroscopic and I was back to teaching a week later.

I like the old Star Trek saying-“To boldly go where no one has gone before.”

The adventure of ministry trips and spending time with other cultures here in my city light up something in me.

What lights up something in you for God?

But I don’t think there is any need to boldly go to a shopping mall.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

Story Time- It Was Turned Into A Shopping Mall

This is a story time that my shopping crazed friend Brenda of becominghistapestry.com will enjoy. 🙂

Each of my trips to Romania we flew into Bucharest and then went to Constanta. My denomination had a guest apartment in Bucharest for missionaries that our groups could use.

From the apartment, we could see a large steel frame that stayed that way for years. I asked a missionary who lived there what the frame was. He explained that it was going to be the first feeding center the dictator was going to use to control the people by having everyone go to feeding centers for their meals. The frame had stayed a unused shell since the revolution of 1989. It was in 1997 I learned about it.

When we returned in October 1999, the frame had been turned into a western style shopping mall. It was a modern shopping mall. What had been planned to be a way to control the people by the communists was turned into a symbol of the west- A Shopping Mall.

I only went there for the supermarket to get food, but others were excited to check it out. My thinking is that if you have seen one shopping mall, you have seen them all.

However, it was amazing to see the transformation from a bare frame of steel girders and beams to a modern colorful shopping mall.

God transforms lives that are broken. It is much more amazing for me to see how Jesus can change a person’s life. It doesn’t matter what label we have before we come to Jesus, he can transform us. 2 Corinthians 5 says:

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come. The old has gone, the new is here!”

We may feel like an empty shell for many reasons, but with Jesus we can become a new creation.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.