Saturday, March 15, 2014

to live is Christ, to die is gain

Dad, Ronald Douglas Cleveland, 1950-'13. Click photo for Slideshow.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Phil 1:21

Like a lens that sees wide, my dad saw life in lue of eternity, fitting every person he could in that frame.

That confession of the apostle Paul quoted above, written on many hearts who believe, now appears etched in marble alongside Ronald Douglas Cleveland, at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery. 

His life pointed to another age, saying: "Let's Go Together."

Together, let us go to Him. Let's bear the sufferings of others. Let's endure reproach for Christ. Let's give ourselves for the sake of ones who cannot speak or don't know. Let's die to ourselves, and rise again. Let's live forever in Him.

Death, where is your sting?

My father lives. He led not by his talents, resources or what he could do, but by the measure of his heart. He touched many by his gifts of generosity, love, childlike joy and passion. 

This was my dad. He gave himself for the needy and the broken, a nurse to the crippled and the lame. He paused much in the midst of life's busyness, to befriend the stranger, the homeless, the lifeless, and refused to carry-on without carrying others with him. 

His own weaknesses and "disability" of ADD actually allowed him to experience a unique measure of grace and freedom. The Lord could inhabit and display his nature in this one, who thought little of self-preservation, sought little of man's wisdom, and brought little but an open, sensitive heart.

Pops embodied the Proverbs 31 example of the church, the Bride:

Open your mouth for the mute, For the rights of all the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, And defend the rights of the afflicted and needy. (8-9)

"He didn't come to find a friend. He came to be a friend," said Pastor Clint Ward of Westover Hills Assemblies of God, during a memorial Jan 4.

Nephew Ethan Wimberly, 3, after the 21-gun salute at Fort Sam Houston Cemetery. 

I found myself asking the question many of us do at some point: How could a loving God allow suffering in the world? Amid my seeking of the gifts, witnessing healing and knowing His will that all would be well, I wrestled for understanding. 

Suffering is a result of our fallen world, the repercussion of rebellion. And yet it counts for the redeemed, as we allow it to form humility in us. Like Christ scorned the shame of the cross for the joy set before Him, so do we consider it joy to share in His sufferings.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends. John 15:13

By laying down his rights, becoming a man to die for the world of sinners and bearing our shame, Christ displayed the gravity of His glory. He came so low, with all humility and love, so we might be raised up with Him. 

He is so patient with us. Imagine, all that God endures in all of history, in order to bring as many of His children possible to the knowledge of Him. 

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. 2 Peter 3:9

We have a Bridegroom who is Judge. That reality, that for all injustice, we have a God who will avenge us and others, allows us to forgive. We cannot know mercy without knowing judgement. As a former atheist, I once denied this, as do those who see and perform healings apart from the name of Christ. Unless we recognize everything spoken in scripture alone, by the prophets about God that He is Bridegroom, King and Judge, we will not know Him. 

He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.' Luke 16:31

I was able to care for my Dad for the two months he battled stage-4 pancreatic cancer. God was so good through it all, though, and opened the door for an (unknown to us then) essential procedure, a celiac plexis block, which curbed nearly all the pain. 

Yet the pain in my heart grew. It changed me, just to be at his feet (literally, massaging out the major swelling from chemo), and to experience what he did for a living, caring for the destitute. I've never felt so broken, humbled under his love. He never uttered a harsh word. 

Dad understood my need to take pictures, and the importance of bearing witness. I pray that my photos portray the testimony of the Lord, as difficult as some were to make. 

We have a living hope (click photo to view a slideshow). Just as I came into town, hugging him as he asked me, "Do you think I can make this one?" "You're strong," I said.

There was a parallel occurring in my relationship to my earthly father, and my heavenly One

Together, we grew poor in spirit, and drew nearer to Him. Psalm 73:21-28 portrayed:

When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast before you. Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For behold, those who are far from you shall perish; you put an end to everyone who is unfaithful to you. But for me it is good to be near God; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all your works.

I felt like I was just coming into my sonship, as I only recently began embracing and celebrating sonship to my heavenly Father. To be able to minister to my dad and seek the Lord with him...this was the greatest gift. 

The Lord gave me a dream a few days after dad passed, addressing that parallel. Dad came back from heaven in his eternal glory, a golden aura around him, and I was embarrassed to see him, as I so often was as a child. He was unlike other dads; cornier and quirkier than most, greeting everyone, dancing and singing. 

"Go back to heaven," I said sheepishly, as if resisting those pure affections of one who just wants to bear hug you, despite everything you ever did.

Suddenly, I began to wrestle him! He was smiling, almost egging me on. It was good for me to wrestle with him.

Then, I stopped; I turned, and bolted running toward my old bedroom window, becoming a child. Through the window I saw my dad, holding a blanket over his head, waiting for me to come inside so he could tell me the stories of his life, and of the ages.

I waved, and ran back to wrestle him, until he went back to heaven. I woke up. 

It is how he wants us to relate to Him: sons; adopted; inheritors. To love Him, wrestle with Him, turn, and become like children again. He's inviting us to come underneath the covers, his wings, that we could hear his story and make it our own. That we would become stewards of the mystery. 

This is the two-fold attitude I must have: spiritual violence and vigilance of heart, in tandem with childlikeness - the posture of heart my dad carried his entire life - in order to inherit the Kingdom and experience the quality of unperishable life to come, even now.

And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you turn and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:3

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. Matt 11:12

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God. Romans 8:19

We become by beholding; His meekness, gentleness, and sacrifice making us great. Let us go to Him. Now my dad sees Him, face to face. 

So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Hebrews 13:13

On December 18, two days after deciding to forgo chemo, we worshiped Pop into glory; my two older sisters, my mom, (and a few angels).

My dad began his 36-year military career in the Air Force as a medic, serving in Operation Desert Storm & Shield as a nurse. He transitioned to the Army, and later retired in the National Guard. Below is a slideshow of pictures (click photo) from yesterday's 21-gun salute. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

Hearing Without Headphones

‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams;'
Acts 2:17

I met Samantha Ferraro in the Business Leadership Building on the morning
of my dream. We agreed that God is doing an amazing work among the youth
in Denton. She attends Eagle Point Church, and works as an R.A.

A note: the dream began at 6:30 a.m and lasted for two hours. The only reason I know this is because I woke up, started getting ready, and the next thing I know, I'm up two hours later, trembling under the presence of the Lord! He knocked me out!!! 

Another note: I don't typically dream. In fact, I was never really a dreamer until two years ago, upon attending the onething conference at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City. Some brothers prayed for my healing (I needed deliverance ministry), and I was baptized in the Holy Spirit. I started having dreams unlike I've ever had before. In the ones I have from God (and not pizza the night before), I'm sometimes like an observer, taking notes of all the symbols.  I don't take them lightly, and as a former atheist, I tremble in my heart to share them to life-long Christians and theologians alike. He wouldn't have it any other way.

And he said: "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18:3

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. Matt 11:12

The movie theater was packed.

Perhaps it was my first time attending this church. I came with a friend from high-school who I had not seen in a long time. I was an atheist back-then. She knows of God but doesn't know Him personally. She's a curious artist. We sat in the very back row.

Everyone was hypnotized by the screen. I never took a long glance to see what it was. But it almost appeared like white noise. I resisted, yet everyone seemed entranced by it, including my friend. 

Tugging on her shoulder, I wanted to pray. I wanted to hear from the Lord with her, for her. 
But she couldn't get her eyes off the screen, and didn't really understand what I was asking. So I started to pray anyway, my hand rested on her shoulder.

Immediately I heard,"cancer," (and as if I was so used to doing this), I just prayed against the sickness, rebuking the illness in the name of Jesus. Upon quiet verbal declaration of that brief statement, the unexpected happened.

It was like being hooked up to a thousand volts. The power of God broke out through me and everything went white - I was knocked out! - my ears ringing for what felt like five seconds. 

I came out of it, shaken, and I noticed she experienced the power (and was healed!). There was a disruption in the theater. Some older men came down from the film-box upstairs, who were playing the flick.

"What's going on down here?" said one. Another began confiscating headphones from everybody. They didn't want us to hear something. "My sermons? The webstream? My worship music?" I think to myself. I hand over my headphones, but with hesitation. 

Everyone evacuates the theater. The dream flashes to us in the parking lot outside the cinema building. My friend hands a picture she drew to a group of youths standing on ledges and sitting on the stairs, speaking about what just happened among them. The artwork is in the caricature style used by a woman in the Well House of Prayer - Lola, who was healed of schizophrenia. She is always drawing/painting prophetic art and attends Calvary Chapel.

In the dream, the picture my friend drew was two-fold. It was actually a folded picture, the top depicting her as a harlot, surrounded by the great congregation, and when folded down, revealed her as redeemed, healed and joyful!

The youths were testifying of what just happened in the theater. At the same time that power broke out in the back-row, there was revival going on in the front row among the children and teenagers! Kids, as young as eight and as old as eighteen, were baptizing each other in the Holy Spirit, seeing healing and deliverance and tongues.

The older men that came down from the film box, elders in the church, were wiping tears from their eyes, repenting. Everyone reconciled and there was unity.

Dream end.

I heard a sermon a few days prior to the dream, by Corey Russell, in which he shared the prophetic word that Mike Bickle spoke to thousands of leaders at a national conference. "No one with a control spirit will experience my power."

The word challenged me. I tested it and asked God about it. We know God gives life to all without partiality. 

A friend in my Bible study just mentioned I should check out "The Twofoldness of Divine Truth." The author addresses the manifold nature of God's wisdom, and how some things seem contradictory. For instance, like in the verses quoted above, the kingdom of God suffers violence - it has a weak point - and yields to the spiritually vigilant; we also must turn and become like children; we wrestle with him for the blessing.

His power is also his life - and how we gain that life is two-fold as well. We don't have it if we refuse to come to him for it (John 5:40). But he also opens up our heart to receive it (Acts 16:14).  His power has it's greatest expression in the transforming of the human heart, the most iniquitous and prideful thing, into love, peaceable and humble as Christ himself.

Today, a control spirit threatens the Western church and its leaders. The youth will contend for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit with a pure, full-faith abandonment unlike anything we've ever seen! Their testimony will lead people to repentance. The hearts of the fathers will be turned toward the children, who experience the fullness despite never having been under the tutelage or religious propaganda. The Lord is zealous to defy the  wisdom of man with the foolish and weak.

When the corrupted elders came down to confiscate headphones, I wasn't sure what it meant. My friend said it could represent God's voice that we carry with us. I was cool giving them up, because I knew I would still be able to hear God's voice without them.

The Lord isn't against church being in a movie theater; it's the entertainment/control approach, that hinders. While people are hypnotized, it's like white-noise to the Lord.

This dream was full of lessons! I don't need to pray long and loud for healing, and for prophetic words. We can be in different places, world-wide even, agree in faith and see outpouring break out over an entire region. The headphones are a tool, an aid, and like all aids (sermons, worship, etc), they are meant to lead us into private worship and conversation, but never replace it.

from death, comes life

The morning of September 26, 2012, I didn't wake up to any of my alarms.

I missed all my classes, and was on my way to the newsroom when I stopped to photograph this motorcycle accident. The driver, whom I'm currently seeking to identify, died after hitting a barricade on Interstate 35E at Teasley Lane. I want to find out who he was. I hope to encourage friends and relatives that his death was not in vain.

After taking pictures and talking to some officials, I was about to leave the scene when I felt compelled to turn around and ask a cop his name. He threatened to arrest me, so I just apologized immediately and left. This officer (not pictured) called both the Denton Record Chronicle and the NT Daily, complaining that I should be fired "for impeding an investigation." My editor was worried that the police would withhold information for the blotter indefinitely, and so decided to fired me, a staffer at the time. I fought for them to publish the photo, as they relented over its "graphic" nature. They ended up running it. That was justice for me.

In the grand picture, God brought me out of compromise. I was ensnared by busyness, isolated, and slightly depressed during my first year in Denton. I learned that demotion and promotion come from the Lord, among other things.

I finally entered the Well House of Prayer that next week. Soon began a year-long journey of learning about intercession, cultivating intimacy in the presence of the Lord, and growing sensitive to his voice.

I've returned to school one year later with a new heart, vision and determination, but most importantly of all, with oil of love for my Lord. He wants me to get some things, before I get sent out. He's brought me to the wilderness, so I can learn to lean, and for a lifetime.

Since living on the land - in my barn - I've entered into some serious spiritual warfare! I never knew what it felt like to loose things. Being a neighbor to several married-missionary duos, Laura and Daniel MarkumRachel and Kevin Marshall, and now Carl and Rachel Wilkinson, has impacted our ability to receive, more than we know. I've heard that we can stand underneath the anointing of others, like an umbrella. The anointing (the Holy Spirit) teaches us all things - God's unique presence among the community - and without us being fully aware of it.  I think He likes it that way, humble as He is. So inter-dependent and manifold are His works among us, that none can boast.

Our house church, Acts 2 Fellowship, formed almost over night. God brought us together to contend for the fullness, and for all of Denton.

I sense a book in the making. A Christian newspaper? I will watch and pray. Ultimately, it's about - and I hear the Lord say, "don't ever get over this!" - awakened hearts, longing for the Bridegroom, hastening His return. This is the drama of the ages, unfolding before our eyes! May we never grow tired of what the Spirit is doing in our midst: fashioning the heart of the Bride through the revelation of Himself.

He is the greatest reward of our life. That we would be his bride. This is the greatest exchange of joy, and to witness in others. 

God answers the prayers of a persistent intercessor (Luke 18). What happens when God brings a group of fiery, lovesick hearts, together as neighbors? Refining. Exploits. Fruitfulness. It may be small beginnings, but we've been given a small taste of where this is going, and we aren't letting up. The Kingdom yields to the spiritually violent. The veil becomes thinner. A gentile witness will provoke Israel to jealousy; the Bride will be made ready, perfected in love.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:3-4

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise--the fruit of lips that openly profess his name Hebrews 13:15

Honor the Lord with your wealth, with the firstfruits of all your crops; then your barns will be filled to overflowing, and your vats will brim over with new wine. Prov 3:9-10
He makes his messengers winds, his ministers a flaming fire.Psalm 104:4


Wade Matheny, Daniel Markum and Kevin Marshall, my brothahs



                     Ember Marie Markum                                         Olive Celeste Marshall

Carl Wilkinson and Rachel Warren, married Dec 21, 2013.

"He settles the childless woman in her home as a happy mother of children. Praise the Lord." Ps 113:9
Intercessory missionary Laura Markum kisses 6-month-old Ember Marie, on her way to receiving her own hat, in their renovated (and warm) barn-home. When I first met Laura, the Lord gave me a prophetic word about her barrenness. That revelation stirred our faith to pray for healing. Hearing what God wants to do, what the Spirit is saying, allows us to partner with His will. Christ looked upward (Mark 7:34). Their home is nearly completed. in progress, below.


Well HOP currently serves the community 8 hours a day, five days a week. We are reaching toward 24/7! From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the LORD is to be praised. Psalm 113:3

Daniel ends an 8-hour day at The Well. A true shepherd, Daniel introduces many to their Bridegroom.