November 25, 2019
This is it! That glorious week we look to our hearts to give thanks for our blessings. As Christians, we know that we should always be thankful for God’s Grace and Favor. My first thought this morning was my gratitude for this week. Every year, most people start the week thinking about Thanksgiving; some thinking only about the food, fun, family and football. While sadly, others fret over preparations to be made and upcoming family discord.
My hopes and prayers are that we all take a moment to be thankful. Giving thanks and all the glory to our God, who has blessed this wonderful country with His Grace and Favor. Beginning with those treacherous winters where our early Christian settlers found comfort, kindness and love provided by the native people of this glorious land.
So often it seems we are only thankful at the end of something. Those times when we look back in fond remembrance of a full life, saying our final goodbye to a loved one or at the end of a job or career. For me, my thoughts of gratitude today starts with wonderful memories, while looking at the end of a chapter in my life. At the same time, my heart is full of thankfulness and wonder. What is God’s plan for my next chapter? Reminds me of my first day of seventh grade. All the amazing memories of six years, full of love and learning; with the uneasiness of starting over again in the big new world of junior high school.
To our family at One Church Scottsdale, our wonderful church of “Unconditional Love”, my gratitude and thankfulness are too big for words. From the day we walked into our church home over three years ago, you have blessed us with your love, kindness and support. For this, you will always have our eternal gratitude. God planted us with you at a time when we needed unconditional love and understanding more than we knew. All glory to God and our merciful savior Christ Jesus, for lighting our path and ordering steps all along the way.
No, we are not leaving One Church, just a new chapter in God’s plan for our life. Some of you know that it has been my honor and pleasure to work with the brilliant audio-visual team, “Team Awesome”, on our weekly videos for most of our time at One Church. However, you might not know yet that this week will be the last video for me.
Working on the messages of Pastor’s Rowdy and Ashli, as well as occasional guests has been such a blessing. While most of you hear the message once on Sunday; others capture scriptures and points for your studies and some watch or listen to the message during the week for continued encouragement, growth and direction. For me, it has been more like going to school with God as headmaster. All week-long working in His word with the glorious guidance of our blessed shepherds. God always prepares us for the next steps of His plans. Even when we feel we are struggling to just survive. Hallelujah!
Well, here we are. At the end of one chapter with blessed anticipation of our next chapter. Only God knows where this will go, but it is always comforting to know that when God is in it, there is no limit!
As some know already, we began a ministry in June that was incorporated on September 21st. More to come on that later. The first step of the ministry will be the publishing of my book in 2020. While it was never my plan to be a writer, God has been tearing down walls, ordering steps and changing hearts to make this happen all my life.
Please keep us in your prayers as we step into this chapter.
All our Love, All Ways!
Mark & Kayleen McCuen
A Prayer for Our Children
This morning I woke to find my children embroiled in the latest debate on abortion and racial inequality.
My first thought was to debate the issues. Then in prayer, God led me to know we need to bring this to him in prayer and trust him.
Here is my prayer request…
Please keep our children that are in the world and those that are “of” the world in your prayers. They are beaten down daily with the ways of the world and a desire to find comfort in conformity.
In the latest battle for hearts and souls, darkness is once again using the genocide of people targeted at specific groups in the form of abortion to drive hate, vitriol and divisiveness between family friends and loved ones.
We are not saviors, and we pray for our Savior, Christ Jesus, to intervene in their hearts and remove the scales from their eyes so that they can see abortion for the sin that it is; and bring understanding to their hearts so they will recognize the racial genocide that abortion is perpetrating in the name of freedom.
While it is tempting to debate the pros and cons, it is impossible to change beliefs with facts and data. Like the song says… “No wise man has the power to reason away, what a fool believes.”
Or, as 1 Corinthians 1:25 says,
“Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
It is only our prayers and our God that can change hearts. Love you all, please pray for our children’s hearts.
God’s Got This, Grace Got You!
Love Is The Answer
Is Your Glass Half Full, or Half Empty?
It’s Always FULL!
When we read how Jesus talked with the woman at the well saying “…whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Doesn’t it seem that, as Christians, we should strive to be full of the “Living Water” Christ talked about?
Every time we let anger and hatred in our hearts, it replaces joy and love. By allowing fear and doubt in our heart, it replaces hope and faith. When our hearts are full of anger, hatred, fear, and doubt, there is less room for God’s “Living Water”. Think of that proverbial glass of water that is either “Half Full” or “Half Empty”. Truth be known, the glass is “ALWAYS FULL”. Way back in eighth grade my science teacher taught a very simple concept, Displacement.
In a nutshell… although the glass might be only “Half Full” of water, the other half is filled with air. The more air pumped into the glass, the less water. The more water, the less air. Displacement. The water displaces air and visa-versa.
Our hearts are the same; always full. Sometimes it has more love than hate. Other times, not. The good news is that you are in control of what goes in your heart. Negative thoughts are generated in our mind, not the Heart.
“Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” Proverbs 4:23
When we let dark thoughts take that eighteen inch trip from our brain to our heart, displacement of God’s “Living Water” begins. We must always keep our focus on Christ and His Love to ensure our hearts remain full of Love. As Christians, we are taught to Love People; including our enemies. Love is always the answer.
Growing up, being told what to do was just about the worst thing for me. After all, what kid likes to be told “clean your plate”, “do your chores”, or the worst, “Pick Up Your Room!”?
Is it any wonder that we would push back on something called Commandments? Especially Ten of them. For me, probably like most of my generation, when someone would mention the Ten Commandments, my first thought is usually of Charlton Heston on that mountain. Once I got that picture of Moses out of my head and began to focus on reading the Ten Commandments, all of the “Thou’s” and “Shalt’s” would get in the way. Being a casual (lazy) reader, it was so much work, like reading a different language.
Then, one day, someone introduced me to Matthew 22:37-39. Answering the question “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”. Jesus responded by saying, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” For me, that summed it up in a few, simple words.
Jesus was saying… “Love God, Love People”. Not a Thee, Thou, or Shalt in it! Truly words to live by.
Those four words are the essence of being a Christian. If all of us could only follow those two simple guidelines of love. Like the song says, “What a Wonderful Worldit would be”.
Going forward my studies showed that those simple four words, encompass all ten commandments. “Love God” covers the first four and “Love People” the final six. Wow! What would Charlton Heston have done with that? Can you see him standing on the mountain top with a lot smaller tablet? Maybe just an iPad? Certainly, it would have made for a shorter movie.
Growing up in the sixties was all about love. While some took it to the extreme with “Free Love”. Most believed it was all about loving one another in the biblical sense. Our culture was permeated with Love. It was in our music with songs like “All You Need is Love”. It was throughout our politics as well. Love one another was the basis of the Peace crusade and “flower children”. Sadly, greed and vitriol eventually engulfed the movement, replacing love with hate. Love was also the core of the Civil Rights movement. Led by Reverend Martin Luther King, he always led with Love and Peace including statements like…
“I love you. I would rather die than hate you.”
So often, today’s protests are full of division and hatred, making me think about those days in the sixties. It didn’t take long for a generation filled with love and peace to be “displaced” by hatred and viciousness. Today, in a world where it seems all are focused completely on themselves, there is one key element missing, Love!
Always Love! – Love Is The Answer!
Love God, Love People!
Here’s a video that we put together called “Love Is The Answer” featuring a wonderful version of the old Todd Rundgren song performed by Rumer. Enjoy!
There is no growth without Friction!
“In the confrontation between the Stream and the Rock, the Stream ALWAYS Wins… Not through strength, but through Persistence.” -H. Jackson Brown Jr.
We live in a frenzied world, oft times it seems most of us wish life was effortless. If we only could accomplish all our dreams. Without problems, barriers and disappointment. Really? Think how boring that would be. Making it through all the problems and obstacles in life, while persevering, fortifies us. Giving us a deep sense of accomplishment. Building character and preparing us for future difficulties and tough times.
The next time you are overwhelmed with trouble or hard times, be thankful, and know that you are getting stronger!
Think of how our bodies were created to deal with stress and injury. The first time you grab a shovel, head to the backyard for some gardening. What happens? Blisters! Just saying the word brings pain. You work hard all day to provide some food or bring some beauty into the world, and what’s the result? Your hands and knees are covered in those tender bubbles just under your skin. If one pops, you know the pain that follows. In addition to the blisters, muscle throughout your body feels like you just finished a game of football, and you were the Football!Why?
You’ve changed your routine. You’re stretching and growing. You have started using your hands and body for physical labor. With all the pain and blisters, our body is simply protecting us from doing major damage. While your blisters and muscle slow you down for healing. Your body is recreating itself to tolerate your new activities in the garden. God didn’t promise that there would never be pain. Instead, God designed our bodies to change and become what we need them to be, to handle the task at hand. The circumstances of our lives are no different.
Sure, there are times when we feel like we can’t take one more step; that there is no clear path to a good ending. Like the blisters, it hurts and sometimes the pain feels unbearable. God knows your pain. Like any loving Father, He would do anything to eliminate your agony. Akin to how our body uses pain to slow us down, recreating stronger, more resilient, skin and muscle. So too, God has created us with His protection as He molds us to become stronger and more resistant through tough times. Story after story in the Bible depicts how the weakest were favored, blessed and honed by God to do great things. Often through extreme trials. At the end, all were given everything they needed to persevere.
Reading the plight of the Israelites during their four hundred, thirty years as slaves. Made me oft times wonder; how could that be? After all these were Gods Chosen People. Imagine, that entire culture, enslaved as “sub-human”, manual laborers for over four hundred years. Every dirty, sweaty job, too lowly for the oppressors, forced on the Israelites. Was God mad, was He punishing them?
Understanding how God created our bodies to get stronger in adversity, it follows that the same regeneration was happening to the Israelites. After over four hundred years of toil and hard work, what shape do you think the Israelites were in? The vision of scraggly, starving slaves just doesn’t seem to fit God’s purposes, especially for His chosen people. Clearly they were well fed, not starving. Starving them would not serve their master’s needs building an empire. So the Israelites labored for four hundred years. Getting stronger every day, physically and spiritually. Is it any wonder that they became conquerors? Just as God will provide What you need, When you need it; He refined and strengthened the Israelites, mind, body and soul for the mission ahead.
We all have those times when we are overwhelmed with trouble or hard times. Experience has taught me, that it is at those times, God is making us stronger and more resilient. Physically and spiritually. Sometimes we need new tools to move on. Other times we just need to slow down. Whatever the need, God has a plan, and will provide all that is needed. When trouble comes, be thankful, not fretful. God is making you stronger, better.
Have faith in God; listening for His still, quiet voice for direction, and Persevere!
“Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” -James 1:4
OCD, A Blessing or a Curse?
During lunch with a friend recently; we talked about the revelation of my OCD (Obsessive, Compulsive, Disorder) tendencies. He smiled and started talking about our friend who is a “Classic” OCD case. Our friend was always a slave to his idiosyncrasies. We reminisced how our friend used his OCD as an excuse to fail. It seemed all his failures were related to his “disorder”.
It is an exceptional blessing to be who God created me to be. Without my attention to detail and unrelenting drive to get things right, my life would have been so radically different. God has blessed me throughout my life with keen eyes and extraordinary hearing. Both bless me with intense discernment for all things, big and small. The other side of my attention to detail is an intense desire to get things done perfectly. Thankfully, early on, God taught me not be a slave to things that are not in my control. “Let Go, & Let God.” Working to remember that “Done is better than Perfect”; and always following God’s lead to be aware, using tough times for growth, not self-condemnation.
In my walk with God over the last fifty years, God has led me to see Him in EVERYTHING. That is one of the greatest blessings of being OCD. Seeing God in the smallest details. Sure, when you gaze at the stars, the grandeur of His design is awe inspiring. The same magnificence is found in an Ant Hill or Bee Hive. My “personality disorder” has favored me with so many abilities. Thanks to God, by His design, there truly is no “disorder”.
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when he delights in his way;”Psalm 37:23
Sometimes, my attention to detail has led me to seeing God in the “Not So Godly”. Music from the likes of Jethro Tull, prophetic words from someone that had never stepped foot in a Church. Seeing Everything as God’s plan and design; nothing is wasted, all things come from Him. For me, it is impossible to look at the stars, or the insect world, and not see His clear and perfect design. The continuity above and below is clearly by plan, not happenstance.
Seeing God in Everything is exactly that. Everything; Big, Small, Good and Bad. In the Micro and the Macro.How Great Thou Art!
Getting to the Root of the Matter
“…seeing the root of the matter is found in me?” –Job 19:28
Over the last several weeks, Trees, Bees and Metaphors have been saturating my thoughts. It seems God has been helping me to understand His plan for my life through allegories, parables, music and images. I love it! After all; don’t we all enjoy a good story, good music, and good art?
Oft times I recall my favorite communicators of history; Abe Lincoln, Ronald Reagan and of course Jesus. All taught through storytelling with a message. Oh, and the many lessons learned from the poignant lyrics of some of my favorite musicians. Albeit some rather obscure musicians. And from the creation of the world, the stories told through the beauty of art and imagery; are too vast to catalog, recalling the tattered cliché, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words”.
Over the years in my walk with Christ. If I have learned anything, it is the importance of complete submission to God, in ALL things. For some, that might seem like a startling or obsessive idea: complete submission and obedience, to things unknown, and unseen. However, the word of God is not unseen, and for those in harmony with God’s Promise, God is not unknown.
Recently God has led me to write several stories that until today, I thought were mostly unconnected. Such are the ways of God. ALL things are connected, and ALL things work together for good.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28
These unrelated titles; “What Forest?”, “There is Truth in all Things”, “Are You Just A Metaphor?”, and “The Bee, The Brick, The Wall & The Honey”. Each, with their own distinct and separate message. Or so I thought.
Thinking back to where this all started, I believe it was Mother’s Day this year. On this special Sunday, I was looking forward to hearing one of my favorite speakers at Church. In what is becoming a wonderful tradition, our Pastor’s wife, Pastor Ashli Van Horn, takes to the pulpit with powerful, God inspired messages, from a Mother’s perspective. This Mother’s Day was no exception.
As usual, Pastor Ashli was ignited with God’s spirit and delivered an inspirational message. Explaining how, as the Body of Christ, we need to stand together, strong, as a family rooted in Christ. For those that weren’t there, I highly recommend watching the video. Here’s the link to the video, Mothers Day Message, Pastor Ashli Van Horn.
Pastor Ashli used an analogy based on the powerful Sequoia trees of the Sequoia National forest in California. She detailed how these magnificent trees; some that grow as tall as 250 feet, with a circumference of 30 feet, are wholly dependent on each other for stability and support. Ashli went on to explain how these glorious trees, towering so high above the earth, it hurts your neck to see the tops; are connected by an inter-locking Root system so massive, that it is only rivaled by the trees themselves. One look at an imposing Sequoia will easily take your focus off the forest.
Like the Bees that we talked about in “The Bee, The Brick, The Wall & The Honey”, the individual trees take care of one another. Through a complex, shared root system. The massive trees sustain each other by sharing water, nutrients and strength. Who would have thought that the tallest trees on the planet are wholly dependent on the Forest?
At no time, do the trees “fend” for themselves. Can you imagine what might happen if one of these brilliant creations would “take their roots and go home.”? It’s simply not an option. From their fragile beginnings, the sprout’s roots grow and intertwine with all the trees in the forest. The forest of shallow roots permeates the ground below. Forming a root system as massive as the trees themselves. The roots provide unconditional support and strength to every tree in the forest. With the sustenance of the forest, these wondrous, individual trees are completely free to grow and prosper; unhindered by the daily need to acquire the food, water and nourishment needed to survive.
Like the Bees in our earlier story, with each Bee concentrating on the wellbeing of all the bees, the Hive takes care of itself. Gone are all thought of self, and the perceived rewards of serving oneself. The Hive flourishes! So too the Forest prospers as well. The needs of every tree are met by their intertwined roots. As Humans, it is when we become the servant to all, we prosper. As Jesus taught,
“…But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.”Mark 10:43-44
So, as with the Body of Christ, the strength is in the body, or in this case the roots. The tallest trees on the planet find their strength in helping others. Free from the worries of the day and the fight to survive; each tree towers above all others, as does the entire forest. Isn’t this truly God’s design? This design saturates our world. We see it in Bee Hives, Ant Colonies and throughout the Animal world. Was this our sacrifice in Garden? All for the sake of knowledge?
“And all the trees of the field shall know that I am the LORD; I bring low the high tree, and make high the low tree, dry up the green tree, and make the dry tree flourish. I am the LORD; I have spoken, and I will do it.”– Ezekiel 17:24
I’m reminded of a story from my childhood where a man visited both Heaven and Hell in a dream. He told his wife of his surprise to see the ground of Hell covered with beautiful, ripe fruit of all kinds. Seeing hordes of people walking around, the man noticed that no one had elbows; making it impossible to pick the fruit and eat it with arms that would not bend. Needless to say, there were a lot of hungry faces. As he left Hell and arrived in Heaven, the man was astonished to see almost the exact same scene. Hordes of people with no elbows. A ground covered in beautifully ripe fruit; but with one distinct difference. The people of heaven were picking up the fruit and feeding it to one another.
While reviewing my writing, I am thankful for God’s Divine guidance. It is apparent, not only in content, but also in continuity throughout all the recent stories. We talked about Bees with their “Servants Heart”, and how by serving the hive, all flourished with Gods reward of abundant Honey. We referenced a Master brick layer’s direction that taught “Focusing on the Brick, the Wall would take care of itself.” Understanding with each individual Bee selflessly working for the benefit of others, the hive would take care of itself. In a story inspired by a song from Stevie Wonder, we established that being honest and truthful was in keeping with God’s word, and an act of Love. We also recognized how being too focused on a specific obstacle, could distract from God’s vision for our lives. As we dug into the World’s view of Christians, we observed how letting others define who we are as a Metaphor, could lead to an understanding based on the Worlds interpretation, not reality. All in all, we recognized the power of God through what Jesus defined as the most important commandments; to Love God with all our heart and to Love others as ourselves.
…“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”– Matthew 22:37-39
Sure, we all want to be strong individuals. Taking complete care of our loved ones. From birth, men and women alike, are encouraged to “Stand On Our Own”, or to be the “Best We Can Be”. So often, these teachings, like so many from the World, lead us to focus on ourselves. As we talked about “by taking care of the Brick, the Wall will take care of itself.” Doesn’t Christ teach us that the best way to take care of ourselves is by loving others? When we tear down the walls of self and ask Jesus into our hearts, self-dies. As a Christian, the way to be your best, is to take all focus off self and become a servant to all.
Love God, Love People
Bees, trees, bricks, walls, roots and forests. All different ways at looking at God’s divine design. Ultimately describing the same structure.
The body needs selfless individuals, focused on others; so that ALL individuals will prosper, flourish and grow strong. The individual, when stripped of the need to provide essentials for survival, blessed with the unconditional support from the body. Is free to flourish, becoming the best, strongest and tallest individual it can be. All in a body of the strongest and best.
A simple design. God’s simple design that yields God’s divine prosperity for all.
Bee the Tree and the Forest will take care of itself.
“…do not be arrogant toward the branches. If you are, remember it is not you who support the root, but the root that supports you.” –Romans 11:18
To be a servant it just takes one step. One Drop of Love!One Drop of Love, By Ray CharlesPlease Click Below to Listen:
He Had a Dream
Hate will get you Every Time!
2017 was a year of hatred, divisiveness and Vitriol on all sides of our culture, and Political landscape.
On this day when we celebrate the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King. Let us All put aside the hate and loathing that Dr. King so detested; and commit 2018 as the year of Unconditional LOVE throughout the world.
Darkness Cannot Drive Out Darkness!“No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the LORD, And their vindication is from Me,” declares the LORD.” -Isaiah 54:17
Much like free speech does NOT give us the freedom to falsely shout fire in a public theater, our Constitution does NOT allow us the freedom to incite violence through despicably hate filled speech.
“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King
There is a reason that the framers of the Constitution chose these words to start the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:
WE HOLD THESE TRUTHS TO BE SELF-EVIDENT, THAT ALL MEN ARE CREATED EQUAL, THAT THEY ARE ENDOWED BY THEIR CREATOR WITH CERTAIN UNALIENABLE RIGHTS, THAT AMONG THESE ARE LIFE, LIBERTY AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS.
Our God does not see a world of White, Black, Green or Purple People. He sees only his beloved, perfect creation.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.” -John 13:34
ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE
So many times, during situations good, and bad; often I’ve questioned my ability, and resolve, to push to the end. It was at those times, God reminded me that I would not be faced with challenges that I could not overcome, when I kept focused on him.
When ego takes control, and tries to push through; when it is not in line with God’s purpose for our lives, we can stumble. In a sense, like in a foot race, we are taking our eyes off the finish line and focusing on our feet. Inevitably, this will cause the greatest of track stars to trip and fall.
So instead of going through life wearing “Rose Colored” glasses. We do the ultimate “Selfie,” and put on our mirrored glasses. The ones with mirrors on the inside, so that we can stay completely absorbed in ourselves. Inevitably, this will cause us to stumble and fall as well.
Staying focused on God, and listening for direction. We are empowered with divine guidance, directing our path in all things.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” – Matthew 19:26
We ALL Live In A Yellow Submarine!
Recently I shared these thoughts with a dear friend that I have a unique bond with. He had just texted me back a comment about some music that I sent him. When I read his simple “Fantastic” comment I was reminded of a thought that I had a while ago. So, I pulled into a parking lot and wrote this message to him…“Two constants that I’ve noticed throughout the Bible are references to Water and God’s love for Music. All my life I’ve worked to pay attention to that. With water, it’s always about the flow. So many people see things that are not flowing and they start building dams to force the water to their path. Me, I work to step back and figure out how to get with the flow, understanding it’s one of the ways God guides us.Music has always had a special part of my life. In my career, so many of my peers would try to understand people through things like astrology, birth order and various “Physcho Babel”. For me, if I could find out what kind of Music someone liked, it always told me so much about them.”
“What Kind of Music Do You Like?”
Best answer… “I Like Good Music.”
After reading my response, my friend texted me back…
“Oh. My Word. Water & Music. You will laugh out loud at what I bought you just an hour ago. I’m speechless. No, seriously. Wait till you see what I just got you. God blows me away. Absolutely. You really won’t believe it. Water & Music. Man, you are definitely on the right path.Just wait. I was standing at the store with my son, and I looked over, and I said, “I have to buy that for Mark!” So, when you sent me this, my mouth just fell open.”
I spent the week wondering what he was talking about. He really peaked my interest. The next time I saw him, he gave me this wonderful gift.
It hangs in my office and reminds me every day to make sure that I’m in God’s flow and that I am not building any dams to try to change the flow. And, that music is a VERY special gift from God that empowers us to communicate with others in ways that no words can convey.