The Native: Silencing Our Doubts

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We’ve talked about him before, In The Order Of His Course, but I would like to revisit the scene.  Zacharias, a Priest of God, a child of Abraham, is having a conversation with an Angel. He had his doubts, as a result, the Angel told him that he would not be able to speak until the prophecy was fulfilled. On the surface, we humans, might be puzzled at this, until you examine more closely.

Yes, Zacharias was human, yes, it was an extraordinary promise, but it was not an unprecedented one. Since David, the promise of Christ from the family of Bethlehem was well known. Also famous, was the birth of Isaac, to two elderly parents named Abraham and Sarah. If anyone knew the history of God’s people, it should have been Zacharias.

What we must be careful, not to misunderstand, was the reason for the silencing.Set aside for a moment, the fact that this was a Priest Of God, and that he was talking to an Angelic messenger.  Instead, look at where they were standing, at an Altar inside a building that had been destroyed once before.

At the time of the exile, many probably doubted that God would return His people to their land.  Perhaps, some thought they would never again see a Temple on that mountain, but they did.  God had prophesied, before the first Temple’s destruction, that He would return His people to their land.

Zacharias was standing in a place of miracles, talking to the Messenger of a Miraculous God, about God’s plan for our future.This son of Abraham, had a heritage of hope, and yet, fear attempted to drown out his faith.

Please understand, I’m not judging Zacharias, just identifying with him.  It would be easy to say, he should have known better, but then again, shouldn’t we? Every Sunday, we stand in a place of miracles while the Messenger Of a miraculous God reveals to us God’s plan for our future.  How often do I, do we, give more voice to our doubts than we do our faith?

Doubt is a form of fear, and it can be very deceptive.  In our minds we think, “It’s not that I doubt God’s ability, but the circumstances are so great.”  Or, “I know He can do it, and has for others, but will He do it for me?”  Fear comes to us disguised as doubt, it’s less aggressive, it is less blatant, but it is still fear.  It will take many forms before it is defeated.

I’m sure that the enemy tried to fill Zacharias’ head with doubts even after that day.  The thoughts of, “All that could go wrong …”, even after Elizabeth was going to have the baby. I admit, I would struggle with all the ‘what if’s’ just as he probably did.  We are human, and we are going to grapple with fear.  It’s a battle however, that we cannot afford to lose.

The difference between Zacharias and us, he couldn’t give voice to his doubts. He had no choice, but we must choose not too.  In the middle of the night, when whispers filled his brain, he only had to remember one thing. His vocal chords refused to communicate them, they refused to give fear a voice.

God did this for our example.  No, He doesn’t make a habit of stilling voices, but He was trying to teach us something.  If we will silence our doubts, and give voice to our Faith, then we will always be victorious.  Yes we will have fear, but no, we do not have to communicate it.  We must choose to speak our faith instead of our fear.

That isn’t to say we won’t have fear.  I’m not saying that we pretend that we’re not scared of, insert mental image here, but I am saying that we mustn’t focus on it.  I can choose to speak what God promised.

I can grab hold of the hope that is before us like the horns of an Altar.  Incense fills a room, the smell attaches itself to clothing.  Zacharias was surrounded by a cloud of faith, and fear still was successful in hindering him.  Why?  Because, while the room was filled with faith, his vision was filled with fear.

One of the greatest things that God did for Zacharias was silencing his fear.  It had spoken so loudly that it had drowned out his faith.  It took over nine months, but he watched as faith grew, and fear dwindled.  Zacharias was given his opportunity to speak again. He said first, “His name is John, (Grace), and then he praised God.

In verse 63, he spoke his son’s name, and in verse 64 he praised God. Last time he spoke fear, this time he spoke faith. As a result, in verse 67, he was filled with The Holy Ghost, and God spoke through him. When we refuse to verbalize our fears, and we speak faith, we become the mouthpiece of God.

Luke 1:70
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began:

The Bible says that God prophesied through Zacharias. It’s no surprise that he uses the word spake in verse 70, and called in verse 76.  He went from doubter to Disciple long before Thomas was given the nickname.

God gave us an example in Zacharias, but today, God wants us to silence our doubts. He will cause the miracle, but we must do the practical. We must still them, not by the absence of doubt, but the purposeful rejection of it.

The Lord was essentially saying, “Not here, not now, and never again!” We must actively do the same to our doubts. When we do, like the child in Zacharias’ arms, something new will be born in our spirit. It will grow, and produce an even greater future in us, that points only to Jesus!

140 Mile Stretch: Meet Walter Reynolds

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We are a post away from the high flying conclusion of 140 Mile Stretch. Before we wrap things up, we wanted to introduce you to someone. Meet Walter Reynolds.

Walter Reynolds adjusted his tie. He wore a black suit, a green tie, and set down at his desk. He was fifty five years old now, having spent half his life working for his country. The problem was, he was tired. He had insomnia, it wasn’t eight in the morning, it was four. Walter didn’t know it, he had spent the last eight years underground.

At some point, his circadian rhythms had been affected, between living in a bunker, and all the International flights the years before. He was ‘project Skylark’ for twenty years. It had almost killed him, now he was a consultant for a major company. They didn’t know where he was located, he worked via phone. It was the only way that he kept those that hated him from finding him.

Many blamed him for Project Skylark, and for good reason. He had coordinated most of the missions for his term as the project’s Intelligence Chief. Sadly, he had lost more men than had survived. The government thought he took too many risks, and so had most of his operatives. A number of his surviving agents were now in positions of power. Almost the same number had placed a contract on his life.

As a result, he went underground. Only two people knew where the former intelligence chief was, one of them was Alex Whittaker. Alex was his lieutenant, he could be trusted. Of course, no one knew that. If they had, Alex would be dead. The next chief didn’t face the scrutiny that Walter had, thanks to Walter.

He had insisted on a special committee replacing his almost unlimited power. It consisted of the President, the ranking member of the opposing party in the Senate, and a member of the Supreme Court. This would eliminate abuse, as well as diffuse the blame. For now though, Walter was still alive, and so were those who wanted to change that.

Three hours later, he was getting sleepy, and the phone rang. “Hello Alex. How are you? Why are you calling?” He listened to Alex’s story, and it sounded crazy. Walter wished that he didn’t believe it, the problem was, he did. “I never thought that would be the case that I had to worry about.” Alex paused. “So you know who Oscar Minnix is?” “No, but I know who it isn’t.”

“It’s time to go to the circus Walter.” “I suppose it is. You bring the cotton candy, I’ll bring the elephants.” Walter was coming in from the cold, they would take steps, but he knew it was going to be risky. The ‘elephants’ meant that he would use the agreed upon safe houses and stock piles that had lay dormant for eight years. Alex was to meet him at the first one.

Across the world, in another time, a second phone call took place. A man in a little corner of North Africa picked up the phone. “He’s on the move.” “How do you know?” “Osgood met with Whittaker, and then he made a call.”
“What makes you think he called him?” “It’s a guess, but that’s all I have right now. They’ve hampered my movements with the explosion. I can’t act without revealing myself” “What are you going to do now?” “Simple, allow them to lead me to it, and then eliminate them all.”

“Is it worth risking the entire operation to kill Reynolds?” “Razi, not only is it worth it, it’s the main reason.” “It’s not my main reason, mine is power.” “That is why you have none, you see it as the solution. I see it as a fun side effect. My goal is to eliminate Reynolds, all those that cost me, and anyone who disagrees with me. Be careful Razi, that you don’t get on the same list as Tom and Reynolds.”

Unlocking The Doors

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The keys were in the ignition. The car was running, and the seats were warm.  It was ready to go, the only problem was it’s two normal passengers.  We were also excited, but for a very different reason.  I had locked my Wife and I out of the car.

In thirty eight years, I don’t think that I’ve ever had to call a locksmith to open my car.  Thankfully, it was covered by insurance.  However, I lost roughly two hours in the process. It may not seem like a lot of time, but a great deal can happen in two hours.

In reflecting back on this, The Lord directed my mind to His Church.  We’ve been in a series at our church, Point Of Mercy in Nashville, TN, called “Season Of Sacrifice”.  In it, our Pastor Denny Livingston, was calling us to a deeper place in the work of The Kingdom.  It was a truly great day this past Sunday.  The two images paralleled this afternoon, a ready Church, and a running vehicle.

Like our car, the Church is fueled and ready for the work of God’s Kingdom.  The keys are in the ignition, The Lord Jesus gave them to us before He ascended.  While, not locked, it is secure, and it is warm and inviting.  The problem is, too often, my focus is outside of it. For my fellow drivers, I have one question?

We attend Church, but do we attend to the Church? This vehicle isn’t only a means of personal Salvation, it’s a rescue vessel. Will its mission continue, or succeed without my involvement? Most definitely! However, if I neglect it, or give less than my all; I rob myself of being part of so many blessings.

There is nothing like seeing revelation on the face of a new convert. Or the feeling of praying with someone that you had a hand in witnessing too. There is excitement in everyday Evangelism. While I love the Mission field, we don’t have to go overseas to change lives.

My incident with the car robbed me of two hours. It robbed my coworkers of my help, and it made my Wife late. Aside from the great things I’ve robbed myself of, what have I cost those that I would have reached? Had I not been too busy on my ________ , who would have received this Message, hope, or encouragement sooner?

Thankfully, a Locksmith, wedged something between my car and the door. I received another chance to drive. Sunday was God’s way of stirring us to a call to action. Every day, we are given an opportunity to reach the person that we weren’t able to reach yesterday.

Maybe you’re doing all you can, if so, refuel, and keep going. If you’ve allowed yourself to focus on the traffic beside, and behind you, take heart. God knows how to clear the clutter. Breathe, focus on that person that needs a smile, and drive towards a new day. He unlocked the doors for us. It’s time for us to pick someone else up along the way.

Guest Artist: Spencer McCool Jr.

Our special guest artist this month is another of my dearest friends. Spencer McCool Jr. is a man of many talents. He is the Pastor of Greater Life Ministries in Utica, Michigan. He, and his wife Tessa, have two wonderful children, and are involved in their community.

You might not expect someone as busy as he is to be a skilled artist, but you’d be wrong. He describes his love of art this way, “Art for me is a release. It’s an opportunity to go into my own world for a few hours. I feel like art should be something you love, and it should be fun. If art isn’t fun you aren’t doing it right.”

While more of a Marvel guy, we both share a love of Batman. His newest piece features his interpretation of two of my favorite characters in the Batman universe. They are Batman and Penguin. We hope you love “Ominous” as much as we do.

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S.T.A.R.T. Workshop 2

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The letter that we want to concern ourselves with today is the second letter in our S.T.A.R.T. Workshop. Today our questions will focus on What you want to accomplish, who your audience is or will be, and what steps to take. Those steps may even include altering your strategy.

The components of our S.T.A.R.T. Workshop aren’t something that we only visit once. Each letter is a concept that has a continuing importance in your journey. The Tools that take you there, will not only follow you through to the end, your toolbox will, by necessity, fill up over time. The tool that we will focus on today is your website, and your social media outlets.

Last week, we examined the questions of why, and how to begin. This week, we will first ask what are you wanting to accomplish? Whether your goal is a book, a website, a blog, or a podcast, there are a few steps you need to take.

One of these steps is creating a web headquarters. In the early twentieth century, a person who wanted to start a business would secure a location. Whether it was a ten year old child’s lemonade stand, a lunch cart, or a storefront, it was about having a physical address.

In this day and age, it’s still about having a location, just not a physical one. You need somewhere to send traffic. If you have a podcast, people will want to interact with you. They’ll want to go to your site. If you’re a Writer, people will want to know more about you, they’ll go to your site. A web location isn’t a luxury, but a necessity.

This doesn’t mean that it has to be either expensive, or nerve wrecking. Two valid questions at this point have to be asked? The first is, “What is your project?” Next, “What is your budget, in both time and money?”

Some loved ones in my life have projects that are their business, while others have a project that is a hobby. Each group is valuable, and they both have something important to “Say”. The difference is, that they each will proceed differently, based on their goal.

Just because something is classified as a hobby, doesn’t subtract from its worth. The Apple TV was classified as a hobby, and then the profits rolled in. The question is not “What it’s worth?” The question is, “What is your current blueprint for this project?”

If the answer is that it is a hobby, then I would recommend starting with a free WordPress.com account. Perhaps a Tumblr blog, or a Facebook Fan page. If you want it to become more than a hobby, I would slightly alter my approach.

Either way, at this point, we have to address the second question. “What is your Budget?” If that isn’t a concern, then you may want to spend at least fifty dollars a year on a domain. If money is a factor, then a free WordPress account is wise option.

Even if your project is destined for more than a hobby, you may have a limited budget. If so, a free WordPress account is still a valid choice. It was actually the path that PruittWrites started with also. Now, we have PruittWrites.com, but at first, we had a free WordPress site.

Okay, you know which web option your choosing, that’s great. Don’t set it up just yet. You know why you’re doing this, you know how to begin, you’ve got your story, and you know what type of website you want. The next question, and it’s big, “What do you want to name it?”

The name is important, it’s not only proprietary, it can be permanent. Yes, there have been successful name changes, but why risk it? The identity you choose can take years to erase, if you decide later that you don’t like it.

For example, Agatha Christie created the character of Hercules Poirot, and readers loved him. The only problem was, Agatha didn’t. She, in fact, grew to hate him. So much so, that she wrote a story about his death, years before she published it.

Don’t allow your website to turn into something that you grow to hate. Take some time to evaluate your choice. Search for anything that is similar online. When you do a search for PruittWrites, you find our site, and our social media channels.

Our name communicates, on a broad level, what we are about. Even if you view it as a hobby, it will become your brand.  If you paint, if you write, if you are a woodcarver, you will have a style all your own.  People who see your work will be able to pick up on things that you do that are unique.  You will want to choose a name that does the same thing.

Once you’ve decided on it, it’s time to choose your web provider.  At PruittWrites.com, we are an Apple shop, so we used a hosting company that is also Apple based, we use Machighway.com.

The first step will be to review the different plans and choose which one works best for you, regarding pricing and feature sets.  This includes the storage size, and one very important feature, unlimited bandwidth.

If your website becomes popular, it will generate more and more traffic.  Unless you have unlimited bandwidth, which thankfully is much more common today, it could become very expensive.

Once you will request your site name, i.e. your dot com, purchase both it, and the hosting package that works for you. You can typically pay monthly, yearly, or bi-yearly. Congratulations, you now have your shingle on the web!

The next question is, what now? In my opinion, the only viable web solution today is some form of content management system, such as WordPress or Drupal. Just a few years ago, the complexity of this was overwhelming. Today, literally anyone can set up a successful WordPress site.

Many Internet Hosting companies provide an easy install for one or more cms (content management systems). An interactive wizard will walk you through the setup process. If they do not, you can obtain a free version from one of the cms sites.

My personal preference is WordPress. It has a very reasonable learning curve to it. One of the first choices you’ll make in WordPress is selecting a theme. What you choose will depend on your individual needs. A photographer will need a more graphic-centric site than a writer. Even in that case though, graphics will be a major part of any site’s success.

We will spend the rest of this article talking about your theme. Plug ins, marketing strategies, and content management are enormous subjects all their own. They will be featured in upcoming workshop articles. Today, we want to help you with your store window.

Have you sketched out, at least in your mind, what you want your site to look like?  Before you select the actual theme, imagine it in your mind.  Will it point to one particular project?  Is it all about pictures?  If you’re a writer, it will mostly be about the text, but it can’t be all text.  Graphics are not only your friend, they are your lifeline.  Even the image of your site in your head is a graphical one.

Your theme, especially the first page, is to you what the window on 34th street is to Macy’s. The theme you select needs to be big enough to grow with you. A few words to look for at the selection stage are, flexible, css, and widgets. This will ensure that you won’t have to suddenly change everything three months from now because your old theme was too small.

Once you’ve decided on your theme, you’ll need to pick the right colors. People will associate the colors you choose with your brand. You’ll want to balance your colors. If they’re too vibrant, they can drive traffic away. Too bland, and they will be boring.  Currently, one to two crisp colors on top of a white background is a popular, and successful strategy.

Regardless of what your site is about, you’ll need a good head shot of yourself.  People will connect with a brand, if they can see the person behind it.  I’m not a fan of my own picture, but it is a way of connecting with people.

In the end, everything that we have, or will talk about is about communication.  No matter what the medium, you’re sharing ideas.  It is your gift to someone else, and you want to present it in the best gift box possible.

Once you’ve added your header image, and your logo, you’re far from finished.  We are still just in the beginning stages, you’ll want a fav icon, and several other features that make it convenient for your customers.  One thing though is a must have, your social media links must be prominent.

PruittWrites has more than one way to connect with our Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and pages.  We currently feature our Instagram and Pinterest selections on our front page.  Try and think of these the same way that you think of an electrical outlet in your home.  Make them easily accessible, make them prominent, and have several of them.

In selecting your theme, you’ve added the store name on your window to the world. Even if you’re not completely ready for business yet, your store front is announcing to the world, “We are here!”

Congratulations on what you’ve accomplished so far. There is much more to come, but celebrate the steps. You’ve made a S.T.A.R.T., next month will go on from here.

 

The Italian Hatmaker: Eliminating Check Mate

Henri rode into camp. Sir Robert had sent a messenger, and a sealed note for Henri’s eyes only. It said to meet him in Alan’s tent. If anyone asks, he was only to say that he was going to Alan’s camp, consulting with Sir Robert, and meeting with the Whispering Merchant.

Henri got off his horse, and walked into the tent alone. Sir Robert was seated at a desk. There was a screen that covered half the room. A voice greeted them both from behind the screen. “Welcome gentlemen!”

Henri smiled. “Is this where the performance happens?” Sir Robert laughed. “Most times it is, of course they are are usually about twenty years apart. Our family have a talent for mimicry, and throwing our voice.”

“When did you know?” “When I saw how Alan’s soldier looked at you when you asked if Alan was here?” Sir Robert nodded. “Alex is a good man, but not an actor. Go ahead and ask Henri.”

“What is the purpose?” Sir Robert sighed. “To eliminate check mate. Tell me Henri, how do you keep two chess kings from gaining superiority, one against the other?” Henri, somewhat of a good player himself, said. “You force a stalemate.”

“Many years ago, Alan The Great proposed a plan to the Kings Of England and France. Kings know that there is only one Kingdom that lasts forever Henri.  His plan was this, whichever line was eliminated in the future, that line’s memory would be kept.  Not to honor, and not out of vanity, but as a tool.”

“It was to be a way to keep the other two kingdoms in check. Through the possibility of a third party with a hereditary pedigree. To keep the others from needless bloodshed.  They turned him down, so he secured a promise from his family.  Generation after generation of Alan has kept the threat in the public.”

“So, given the escalating threats of our two young kings, you felt the need to produce a stale mate.  How did you secure the Whispering Merchant?”  “Over time, my ancestors have added to the legend.  They produced, when necessary, a family to substantiate Alan, usually, the heir in disguise.”

“You’ve never had to actually produce the heir.”  Sir Robert smiled.  “Never. ‘The family of the merchants’, have successfully discouraged either country from following through.  This is the closest we’ve come, but our kings are young, and stubborn.”

“So where does the legend of ‘The Flying Swordsman’ factor in?” “That started with my Grandfather.  He found himself in service to the King Of England, his bravery earned that title.  My Father, and myself, have tried to do it justice.  I love England, and I miss it. I love my country’s king. I have always served loyally.”

“Like you, I am a royal cousin. I am a legitimate and direct heir to Alan, but I have no wish to rule.  Also, I wish no ill to the King Of France.  I am afraid Henri, that their youth will overtake their welfare.  You and I have some gray in our hair.  We have fought enough battles to hate the taste of it.  If we can, safely introduce this fear to them today, it will save many lives.”

“What of my Princess, and the two prisoners?”  “I would encourage them to do what my family has for generations.  Hide in plain sight, serve in some quiet way, and live happily ever after.” Henri agreed.  “As you miss England, I miss my house.  Let’s get everyone home.”

A production was set in motion, one involving soldiers instead of actors. This group included a collection of misfits with noble hearts. Two valiant soldiers, an escaped princess, and two brave fugitives.  One of which was, ‘The Italian Hatmaker’, whose particular skills would be vital, if they were to secure the peace.