Thursday, August 31, 2006

Leadership is an important facet of our lives, whether it is in the family structure, the business world, or in our churches. A friend of mine has a teaching that "everything rises and falls on leadership." There are times we would like this not to be true. If we are in leadership, we would prefer to lay blame at the feet of those under us. We might even declare we are a visionary and that it is up to the "workers" to accomplish the goals.

The truth is, that real progress begins with a leader who not only puts forth dreams and visions, but motivates those on his/her team to want to reach the prize. In effect, they lead by example. They do not just talk about where we are going, there is evidence that they are leading in that direction.

When this does not occur it is often reflective of a systemic problem within that leaders life. Too often we pretend that the personal issues or sins we struggle with don't affect others. The attitude that what I am doing won't hurt anybody else is expressed.

The problem is that what we do does affect those around us. When we fail on an individual level it has an impact on those closest to us first, then if it goes uncorrected, it begins to infiltrate the remainder of the ranks. A dynamic leader can be brought down quickly by hidden personal failure.

The selfish attitude that is prevalent in our society of self-gratification is a major factor. We become so 'me focused' and driven to bring about personal pleasure, that other areas begin to suffer. There is a redirection of resources. When they are not allocated properly, the ship begins to tilt, and if unchecked may sink.

A dynamic leader will inspire others and draw them in. When their heart is focused in the right direction, it will be evident to those around them and the team will work in a synergistic fashion to accomplish the vision. All will benefit through the process when the leaders heart is right. It does take a team to accomplish the dream.

A couple of weeks ago, when I was in Indiana, I returned to our former home. I visited the BJ tree. I walked up and sat down beside it. I thought back nearly a year ago when we encircled it and sought our Lord for comfort and peace amid the difficulty. I reflected back on memories of him and how he loved that property. How he loved to take walks with us, how he loved to share with us what God was teaching him or what was going on in his life. It was a precious time.

As I went over these images in my mind, I noticed that the tree did not look the same. In fact, the top of the spruce (called the "central leader") was virtually needleless. I confess my heart sank.

Sometimes when a central leader begins to die it reveals a significant problem. One that cannot be diagnosed by just looking at the outside of the tree. While it is indicative of an internal problem, you must collect information about the whole situation. You must look at other factors affecting the health of the tree. The loss of the central leader is not always a death knell for the tree. If the problem that exists is localized, you can simply wire up an adjacent top branch, aim it to the sky, and it will take over the role. In time the tree will recover.

If the issue is one that is pervasive throughout the inner workings and it goes untreated by one who can diagnose the problem, death will follow.

As much as I would like the tree to survive. My resources in those moments were limited. I rewired a new central leader, and hoped (okay, I prayed) for its survival.

The tree may live, or it may not.

What is truly important is dealing with the internal systemic issues. Is it time to take personal inventory of where things are headed in your life?

Don't just treat the symptoms, get to the root of the problem.


Wednesday, August 30, 2006

I have reached that age as an adult male, where no matter how much or how little I drink at night, I must get up in the middle of the night to visit the facility. Sometimes its 2 or 3 times a night. I have gotten pretty good at negotiating my way past furniture in the dark.

As I think about this, I remember doing the same in about every place I have lived, at one time or another. I doubt I am the only one who wonders about in the thick of night, to find relief. It is pretty amazing how quickly we become aware of our surroundings... we know there is a desk chair here or a table leg over there, and we sidestep these items to make our way.

As a parent you learn to have the children pick up toys before going to bed. This serves several good purposes, but one of the benefits is the avoidance of that midnight fall after tripping on a stuffed monkey. Yes these little land mines in the night have claimed many of us. Falling down is bad enough, but falling down in the dark can be a terrorizing experience. You cannot see what is about to submit its density into your soft tissue. When it happens, the surprise alone causes you to think it was a near death experience.

Often our knee-jerk thought is to uncover the little body who bestowed this untimely little blessing, and remind them of your potential power in handing down punishment for such careless acts of kindness.

Fortunately, the fact that knees sometimes jerk, doesn't mean we have to. The simple fact is that as we embark on our foray into the dark, the simple flipping of a switch would illuminate any potential foe, and prevent untimely upending. We could even invest in a nightlight.

Too often in our walks with Christ we do the same thing. We don't allow the light of His Word to shine into our lives because we are too busy or just fail to open it up. Unless His light is routinely shed on our path we will fall often. The cool thing is that His Word - which is "a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path" - always reflects His marvelous light on the road before us. We can be prepared to face the uncertainties in our lives if we will but enter His Word. He illuminates each necessary step, not the whole lane, but each crucial footlanding so that we can continue on in faith.

Flip the switch... open the Word!


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A year ago we were aware of the unfolding tragedy that Katrina brought to the Gulf coast. It seemed for days and days... actually the remainder of our time in the hospital, Katrina was the vamp that all of the news reported on. It is unfathomable to see and know of all the destruction that she brought. Most of us were somehow touched by friends or loved ones who were impacted by the storm.

Simultaneously, a friend of ours named Jim wanted us to be aware of a new cd by Casting Crowns. On it is a song entitled "Praise You in the Storm." This song became our anthem. It's meaning found its roots deep within our experience. We played the cd for BJ on many occassions, always sure that he would one day come to appreciate the song as we had.

We found ourselves clinging to such things as our hope in Christ seemed mutliplied by hearing and claiming the message within. We were not alone. That song was claimed by multitudes of people who had endured difficult circumstances. Many can identify with it.

Later, when the Lord began to prompt us to share our experience, Deanna began to sing this song. The first time was last November, at Awe Stars leadership training weekend. It was and is a powerful experience to see a mother who knows the words of the song so intimately, share them with those who would hear in such a tender fashion.I am moved each time I hear.

Deanna will have the priviledge of sharing it again in September at FBC Snellville, Georgia.

Just as it was difficult for us to hear of Katrina and all she unleashed while we were walking the full length of the "valley of the shadow" in our own lives, it has been excrutiating at times to be just another story. We go to bed many nights, hoping to wake up and have this all to have happened to someone else.

We would never wish this on someone else, we just want to be free from the searing pain in our own hearts. I believe that there will never be a day when I am not reminded of BJ (nor should there be). I am eternally thankful for his legacy, his committment and the time we had to share with him. I just miss him a great deal, and I wish I could sit down and hear him ramble on endlessly about... whatever.

That which I was often annoyed with in his life, I am starved for in his absence.

Gods provision for us in the wake of this journey has been undeserved. I am not bitter. I am just lonesome.

I often wonder how our Father in Heaven was able to cope.


A year ago we were aware of the unfolding tragedy that Katrina brought to the Gulf coast. It seemed for days and days... actually the remainder of our time in the hospital, Katrina was the vamp that all of the news reported on. It is unfathomable to see and know of all the destruction that she brought. Most of us were somehow touched by friends or loved ones who were impacted by the storm.

Simultaneously, a friend of ours named Jim wanted us to be aware of a new cd by Casting Crowns. On it is a song entitled "Praise You in the Storm." This song became our anthem. It's meaning found its roots deep within our experience. We played the cd for BJ on many occassions, always sure that he would one day come to appreciate the song as we had.

We found ourselves clinging to such things as our hope in Christ seemed mutliplied by hearing and claiming the message within. We were not alone. That song was claimed by multitudes of people who had endured difficult circumstances. Many can identify with it.

Later, when the Lord began to prompt us to share our experience, Deanna began to sing this song. The first time was last November, at Awe Stars leadership training weekend. It was and is a powerful experience to see a mother who knows the words of the song so intimately, share them with those who would hear in such a tender fashion.I am moved each time I hear.

Deanna will have the priviledge of sharing it again in September at FBC Snellville, Georgia.

Just as it was difficult for us to hear of Katrina and all she unleashed while we were walking the full length of the "valley of the shadow" in our own lives, it has been excrutiating at times to be just another story. We go to bed many nights, hoping to wake up and have this all to have happened to someone else.

We would never wish this on someone else, we just want to be free from the searing pain in our own hearts. I believe that there will never be a day when I am not reminded of BJ (nor should there be). I am eternally thankful for his legacy, his committment and the time we had to share with him. I just miss him a great deal, and I wish I could sit down and hear him ramble on endlessly about... whatever.

That which I was often annoyed with in his life, I am starved for in his absence.

Gods provision for us in the wake of this journey has been undeserved. I am not bitter. I am just lonesome.

I often wonder how our Father in Heaven was able to cope.

Monday, August 28, 2006

One of BJ's chores was to take out the trash. To be honest, he was not very good at remembering. As a matter of fact, seldom did he do so without a reminder. It was not that physical signs were lacking. They often stood full to overflowing. I found myself wondering what he thought about when he would drop something into one of the many in the house, only to have it fall onto the floor as it bounced off whatever stood guard on top.

When I was his age, I had the same job. I would like to be able to report that I was amazing at it. After all, that was in the days when you actually could burn garbage within the city limits. My job was to collect it all, haul it to the back of the property, stuff it in a 55 gallon drum, and set it ablaze! Cool, right?

I wasn't much better at remembering than he was. After all, I had to stop whatever mundane task I was involved in... homework, watching tv, thinking or whatever, to go and do this thing.
I at least got to set it on fire... BJ had to put it in a stinky big can with a lid. No wonder he "couldn't" remember.

After his passing, emptying the trash has became a constant reminder. Perhaps it always will be.

Interestingly, though he wasn't good at remembering the physical act of dumping refuse, spiritually he seldom needed a reminder. As a matter of fact, he was pretty amazing at guarding his heart from letting "trash" pile up.

This summer in Africa, it amazed us that on trash day, each family would set out at the curb a plastic grocery bag worth of garbage for the whole week. What had they learned that we have not?

When other men were entertaining thoughts/ideas which were a precursor to sinful acts, BJ would literally flee from those situations. When the television revealed too much, he would cover his eyes or leave the room. He would request we not watch certain shows because of the content.

There were times when I wondered who the parent was, as he would tell me I needed to read more, as I sat enthralled in a worthless show. He understood that taking certain things into his mind caused him to stumble.

Rather than flirt on the edge of temptation as most of us do, he would try to occupy himself in a meaningful activity. Video games were one of his weaknesses. He could spend hours at it without realizing how much time had passed. He began to fight against this, and tried to lay it down.

He seemed to realize that "up to this moment, we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world." 1 Cor. 4:13

In his pursuit of Christ, he learned to take out the spiritual trash. He even learned to guard against letting it in. His wisdom exceeded his years. His knowledge seemed to multiply as he surrendered himself daily. He came to realize that he was "God's temple," and fought to keep it Holy.

Did he do this because he knew time was short?

I cannot say for certain, but I believe he did so because he understood the sacrifice that had been made on his behalf, and he wanted to honor and glorify his Savior. He seemed to get it in a way most of us spend our lives trying to.

"Be holy because I, the Lord your God, am holy." Lev. 19:2

Empty the trash today.


Friday, August 25, 2006

A recent television show portrayed a man who had lost his daughter to cancer months earlier as one driven and focused. The initial portrayal caused you to think the direction of his attention was in an extremely vile avenue. Only as you watched did you see the reality unfold of what this grieving father was actually doing.

He had gone to bat for a young lady he had never even met, but who reminded him of his daughter. Against the odds, and at great risk to his own reputation, he began to fight on her behalf, to free her from bondage.

Ultimately, his efforts paid off and the young lady was free. Upon her final freedom, he released his pent up emotion. Though he was a hero for his efforts, he was not often viewed this way by the shows main characters. They saw him as "over the edge."

I think the world view of believers is often like this. Because we fight for the freedom of those who have fallen prey to Satan's lies, we are viewed as radical... extreme... the religious right.

Religion has little to do with what we seek. We would lay down our reputations for the opportunity to see one lost soul come to Christ. In the process, the world will cry, "foolishness!"

This does not matter. We know 1 Corinthians says that the He "chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise." I would rather be out of my mind for Christ, than wise and accepted by this world.

Even as I think on this, I am amazed by one who was so young, and yet "got it." Upon arrival to the hospital a year ago, BJ was starving for breath. His body was heaving as he tried to draw it in.

Even so, he never forgot whose he was and what his purpose on this earth was. As he fought for breath, the nurse who checked him in tried to help him relax. BJ had one desire. As she told him to focus his attention on getting oxygen to his lungs, between pants, he asked her if she was a Christian. He would spend those moments sharing his faith, and his testimony with her.

This would be the last day he would speak. The intensity of purpose in his life was so sure that his focus was not on himself when it most needed to be. He wanted to know that she knew what he knew. He wanted her to have the assurance that she was free from bondage.

I want to be that "foolish" with my life.


Thursday, August 24, 2006

The empty walls and tabletops of my office have begun to recede as trinkets and treasures from around the world lay claim to space. Some were gifts from the Amazighe people we worked with this summer. Some are souvenirs from staff in the office which were brought back to me from the respective countries they ministered in. Some are items BJ returned with from Peru, which I only recently inherited.

Some of the items were especially made for me, or more aptly, for the position I hold at Awe Star. A wood carving with our ministries' name on it along with the name of one of the associations we worked with over the summer was constructed and given to us out of appreciation. Another item is a large shallow bowl made in and by one of the Ceramics shops we visited when we were in Africa. It too has our ministry name and the name of the local association on it. These gifts are treasures to me.

I remember when and how they were given and the loving people who gave them. They were very precious.

A leather ashkar or "man-purse" I purchased from an Amazighe associations' antique items is among my favorites. It is weathered leather and rope bound by formerly bright colored thread. It is very old, has several cool pockets, and was used by a middle aged man who was comfortable with where he was in life, to hold and carry bread and other necessary items.

On the wall hangs a knife tooled by nomads in the Sahara. The sheath is bound by snakeskin and the belt strap is a large pliable leather loop.

There is a slingshot made of wool, used for herding llama's. It is 4 to 5 feet long. It is typically worn around the neck until needed. Then, I am told, it is retrieved for use when the llamas' stray. The Peruvians are extremely accurate with its use. This was brought to me by our Extreme teams from this past summer.

I joked with a couple of students before they left this summer that I wanted them to bring me a llama puppy. Well, they did... sort of... they brought me 3 small stuffed llama figurines.

I have trinkets from Panama and Chile as well. All of these things carry meaning for me.

These items all bring about thoughts and memories which I am fond of. However, they are just things. The memories are what is important.

Of the items adorning my office, the thing which carries the most meaning is a 12"x18" photo of BJ. It was enlarged by some wonderful friends and matted to an even larger background. It was used at his funeral celebration as it stood on an easel at the pinnacle of the floral pieces. It's a bit grainy, but it is him sitting at leisure in Peru with the Pacific Ocean in the background. His smile is a constant reminder of how willingly he loved, served, and died for his Savior.

Few things will evoke memories in such a way.

Things perish. People perish. What people do with the time they have resounds through time.


Wednesday, August 23, 2006

I suppose it is only natural at this juncture to look back at where we were a year ago. As I do, I am frequently and thankfully reminded of how much Lauren did to keep everyone updated. Also, I am amazed at the magnitude of how many of you were praying and writing. We know there were many reading who were not writing, and as we meet you from time to time, we continue to realize that this is still true. We are very encouraged in our walk that so many of you find peace and encouragement through our Savior by visiting this site. For we are only broken people trying to follow Christ.

I continue to remember the words of BJ, asking me to alert his Awe Star family and the body. He was studying John 17, Christ's prayer for the unity of believers. This was no small thing to him. He saw the importance of believers uniting as he read from Christs' perspective. He also saw how imperative it was for us as his followers to remain focused on Him, as this world tries relentlessly to drag us back into backbiting, name calling, and finger pointing.

I have heard recently from ministers who are fighting these very issues in their churches. Christians often have difficulty not usurping available power and trying to direct it for their own purposes. Often this is to maintain their level of comfort in the face of following Christ (through the pastoral leadership). This is not easy because it requires the steps of faith we are challenged to have and grow in.

This does not happen randomly. It happens purposefully, as we submit to His authority for our lives. This happens at the personal level as well as the corporate level. When we superimpose our own views into the direction of the church because we feel we are a better judge of what Christ wants than the staff, we are doing little more than grabbing at power for the sake of our own belief in the direction we are most comfortable with.

Christ will accomplish His purposes often in spite of us if we do not allow Him to direct. The result is that we get hurt because we could not crawl, walk or run by faith. At what point do we stop trying to be in charge of that we were not intended to control. If we believe the Lord has called our pastors to their roles, then we need to submit to the vision or direction He lays on their hearts.

Yes, we must be careful and test everything against the Word. Yes, we want to assure that the Lord is the Lord of our pastors life. The way to do this is not through backdoor methods which result in gossip and undue persuasion of other members. Try being his friend. Meet with him to pray. Pray for him when you cannot meet. Ask the Lord to change your heart to match what He wills, over what you will.

His desire is unity among the body of believers. This will not occur if we are seeking our own ideas of what and who our church is supposed to be.

We often come together during crisis times. The way believers rallied to BJ's journey is one such example. It is time we recognize the lost of our neighborhoods, cities, states, and foreign lands as crisis, needing intervention. If we are truly seeking His will and to serve Him, worship will happen, prayer will multiply, dying to self will occur and the Lords will will be done.


Tuesday, August 22, 2006

After my first day in middle school, I feel a bit relieved. The students were very respectful and responsive. I know the first day of school can be a little scary for them too, but I'm thankful and praising God that He saw fit to place me in a school that seems to have a lot of potential and very nice students.

Thank you so much for praying. I've just been beside myself with anxiety and fear, over and over praying that I would let go and just trust. I even met two boys that in introducing themselves to me (and the whole class) let me know they were Christians. Now, I know I'm in the Bible belt but that was still very affirming to me.

I decided to tell the students a little about myself, briefly sharing of the loss of my son and our connection with Awe Star ministries. Afterall, it is a huge part of why we are here in Tulsa.

Now I am able to look forward with a more hopeful attitude to what God has for me. The challenges will remain but they will not loom as large with cooperative students coupled with their positive attitude toward music. I'm thankful and remain prayerful for the days ahead. That's about all we can do, since none of us knows what tomorrow may bring!

With love and renewed hope,

Monday, August 21, 2006

I sat with my Mother at a local restaurant awaiting breakfast. A tall thin young man walked in with his adorable 3 to 4 year old son. Watching their interaction was heart warming. To see a boy so enthralled in every detail of his father, and to see the dad respond with such gentleness and love towards his son produced a sense of melancholy, yet joy within me.

Adorning the walls and albums of Mom's home are pictures of BJ (among her other grandchildren) . His life resonates in her memory, and through her spoken words. Tears trace the lines of her face as she remembers aloud both the memories of him, and the seemingly lost opportunities to connect with the heritage of her side of the family.

Part of this is because of the difficulty of her life circumstances growing up. Too many of us are afflicted with families who do not represent or reflect Christ in their own experience. Her mother was a very godly woman who trained my mother and her siblings in the ways of the Lord. Her father, though a believer, had struggles which resulted in the breaking apart of her family.

They endured things unmentionable. Much of her life has been a positive reaction to things which tend to destroy the lives of too many. How is it that she was spared this folly? What contributes to the downfall of so many in light of most difficult circumstances?

The "prince of the air" in this world would desire more and more families fall apart. He sends his legions to interfere and cause disruption to our lives. He would teach us through our society that certain things are appealing and good and right, when the truth is that those same things contribute to the very destruction that breaks so many families apart.

In the case of my own family, perhaps it was easier to view my father's side of the family as the pillars of strength because Christian values were upheld and promoted as a way of life. It isn't that they weren't in Mom's family. It is that when we have "dirty little secrets" in a family, there is a tendency to shy away from those family members, or relations with them. The path of least resistance in a Christian family will flow toward the side that has the most secure foundation.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this, but in the case of my family, lost opportunities have resulted due to strained family dynamics.

As Mother reflected on who her family was/is, and how she and my father raised us as children, it became clear that they learned from the mistakes of their own heritage, and did the best they could to raise their own, in the light of Christ, and not in the darkness of a shadow less desirable.

To learn from the difficult circumstances in our lives is part of our journey in Christ. Consider Job, Daniel, Moses, and many others. Taking life's ugliness and building from those experiences is required if we are to reflect Christ.

My Mother is an example of a survivor. One who trusted Christ for strength and grace within a stone's throw from disaster. Actually, each of her siblings are as well. There is so much we can learn from our mistakes. If we are accountable to our Lord for our failures, and then trust Him to rebuild within us His character, then we can succeed. Perhaps not by the standards of the world, but certainly by the standards of the One who loves us and created us.

In wiping away tear after tear, smeared make-up transferred to a second saturated napkin. In this I saw the reflection of a woman who has seen the worst, battled through pain and loss after loss to contribute to raising a generation of children and grandchildren who love Jesus and by His grace are able to cope with life's circumstances.

There are times we must "hide in the shadow of the Almighty," but we can ill afford to abide in the silhouette of destruction as it battles to defeat us. We must train our children to do likewise.
Standing firm on Him who holds us, is our only true hope.

Thanks Mom!

son (brent)

Friday, August 18, 2006

Returning to Indiana has been a unique reflection on life in so many ways. I have had the privilege of sharing many meals with many family and friends, but I fear not many enough. I did not have enough time to renew all of the acquaintances that I wanted.

I have heard many encouraging stories, and have been blessed many times over by the opportunity to share with many of you. One story in particular has caught my ear and heart.

A "Crazy" friend of ours (actually Lauren's) arrived back at school with something new. Something she picked up this summer. Something indelible. Something to constantly remind her of the experience she had this summer.

While Lauren spent the summer in extreme corners of Africa, her friend, who missed her dearly parked herself in front of her computer screen one day. Her thoughts were of her friend whom she missed dearly. She pulled up this sight and began at the beginning, and proceeded to read a years worth of material (I cannot imagine how long that actually took) in that sitting.

The Lord began to move in her heart as she read. She was already familiar with the content, because she had read along the journey. However, this was a new reading which resulted in a new experience for her. God stirred her heart to stop living as she had been. He moved in her to begin to seize every opportunity and make the best of the experiences He opened up to her.

She made a commitment to herself and to the Lord that she would not take life for granted. To mark her decision she made another. (While I don't personally condone this next one or want anyone else to go and do likewise, I want to report what she did).

As a reminder to herself to live her life to the fullest for the Lord, she had "Carpe Diem" ("Sieze the day") imprinted on her wrist where she could always see it.

I encourage this change of heart, and Praise the Lord that He chose to use this site to bring about this kind of encouragement in her life. I trust it will last and not just be a temporary mind flex.

When the Lord brings about change in our lives, He provides the strength to keep us moving toward Him if we keep our gaze upward, and not on a flat plateau.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

When Lauren was an infant, we attended my Grandmother Higgins' funeral. She was a godly woman who set an incredible Christlike example for her children and grandchildren... and great-grandchildren.

I will never forget the pastor's words at this event. He spoke of life, it's endings and beginnings. As he did, he illuminated Gramma's death and how it was recently preceeded by Lauren's new life. He spoke of her legacy, her love and care for her family. He spoke of her sacrifice. Her life was filled with it on behalf of her Savior, and her children.

I will always remember going to my Gramma's home and heading for the cookie jar where freshly baked chocolate chip cookies awaited. I remember spending the night at her house and how special that was, even though she only lived about 5 or 6 blocks away.

She was often in the Word upon my arrival. She worked at memorizing scripture and would share it from time to time. What a blessing and influence she had on my life.

A year ago this past weekend, Beej and I went to our local hospital's immediate care facility to have him checked over for apparent pneumonia. He was given a new antibiotic and we were sent home (he had already been on another for the swollen lymph nodes under his arm).

Yesterday, I went back to that hospital because good friends of ours just had a baby. Baby Olivia has just entered the world and my she is precious. Lauren, Whitney and I took turns holding her.

My what a difference a year makes. As we pulled into the hospital (not the one where he spent 6 weeks), I nearly rear-ended the friend I was following. The entrance I was expecting to drive to had been covered over by a massive pile of dirt. The new entrance was much closer than I expected. Change happens where you do not expect it.

I could not help but reflect upon where things were a year ago. The rush of emotion, the intensity of concern, the suffering young man who didn't sleep for two or three nights in a row as he fought for breath and life. How I love that "little man!"

Now, a year later, Olivia gets her turn at life. What choices will she make? Whose life will she impact? Will she trust Jesus as her Savior?

The same place that we mark in time as a sort of 'beginning of the end' for Beej, holds an entirely different meaning for this family. It is the start of things new and exciting. We celebrate this life with them!

Olivia's older cousin Jeremy just returned from 8 weeks in Peru. You see, He heard God's call on his life at BJ's funeral celebration. He heard the voice of the Lord call him to take BJ's place in Peru. He went. He served. He impacted the lives of the the lost for the King of Kings! He has an amazing testimony to share as a result. God raises up those He chooses, those who are willing, those who will answer His call. Jeremy is making a difference for the Kingdom of God. Olivia will have her chance. BJ had his. What are we doing with ours?

dad (brent)

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Since arriving in Tulsa, and as our schedules allow, we have been jogging/walking. When the girls arrived, they did likewise. I am proudest of Lauren who established a daily schedule, and stuck to it. She and Whitney set up a three mile course, and ran it regularly.

At this point Deanna prefers to walk. She and Lauren found a track across the street from where we currently live. Deanna has taken to walking their frequently. She was doing so last night, this time by herself as we are all now in Indiana.

Years ago, when BJ was little, he and his mommy were noticing a sunset together. Standing out vividly above the palette of colors that evening, was a shade which Beej particularly noticed. He commented on it to Deanna. She was so tickled that he even recognized the word and its corresponding color at that point, that she wrote it in her journal. BJ had spied the color "teal" and pointed it out. Deanna never forgot.

As a family, in the last year we have certainly become aware of pink sunsets. They have often come at unique and sentimental times for us. The color never meant near as much in his life as the life it has taken on in his sickness and death. Rusty said it well at his funeral celebration when he stated that "this color thing has gotten out of hand, and has come back to bite him."

Even so, it continues to bless us, and we continue to notice.

Last night, Deanna decided to walk an extra lap at the track. She knew it was getting late, and she needed to move quickly. This was not easy as she was tired, but she wanted to make this last trip around.

She rounded the corner and was met as she did by a sky which stopped her in her tracks. As the sun slid behind the clouds at horizons' deep, projected into the skyline was the intense color of pink. It sashayed above the treeline, and just to make sure she noticed, on this one year anniversary of his entrance into the hospital, a solid pocket of crisp teal hung just above the descending sun.

"Goodnight Mother," it seemed to say, "I love you."

On this blessed note, the conversation she had been offering up to BJ and her Father in heaven, concluded.

brent (dad)

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Lauren, Whitney and I will be driving to Indiana Monday, to return the girls for college. Deanna will be begin her new position at Sapulpa Middle School as the choir teacher, and will not be able to be with us.

We will post when we have opportunity this week. The girls and I will be spending time with Indiana family and friends. We love you, and thank you for checking in!


Friday, August 11, 2006

There was some confusion in our family about who would be updating the website while Dad was in Dallas debriefing the last mission team that came in from the Peruvian mountains... But now they are back, not without some airport hassle, and Dad is on his way home. Everyone is safe, and excited about the things God has been doing!

Today I guess I just want to share with you all about some things that have been on my heart. I pray God gives me the words, for there are so many things He has been showing me lately...

I've been reading through John, one of my favorite books of the Bible, and rediscovered a verse the other day that really spoke to me. In chapter 3, John the Baptist's disciples are very concerned because most of the people are going to Jesus to be baptized instead of coming to John. They're nervous about job security, or maybe they're just jealous. John explains to them that he was never meant to be in the spotlight forever - He knows that his place has been to prepare the way for the Lord. He does not expect to receive the same glory that Christ does.

"Man can receive only what is given him from Heaven."

What an impact this short, profound verse had on my heart! How often, even recently, I find myself seeking the blessings God has not yet given me. And I cannot receive them. I cannot manipulate situations enough to twist God's arm into giving me what He has not yet prepared my heart to receive! When will I learn.

And what I know is this: I want to receive what the Lord is trying to give me from Heaven. And to do that, I must be focusing on the now... and leave the future for the future.

What is God trying to give you now? Are you paying enough attention to receive it, or are you missing out on blessings by yearning for the ones yet to come?

Love to you all!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Jessica is 9 years old. Her mother died of breast cancer a year and a half ago. Her father is an alcoholic. Her family does not want her. She is the youngest resident of the Baptist Childrens Home.

She is precious and smart. As she shared her story with me, my heart collapsed. She was very matter of fact about it all. When asked how things were for her now, her eyes traveled a great distance as she sought the right words. Clearly, she did not want to seem ungrateful, but her circumstances are not easy. She longs to have a daddy that loves her, and a family that embraces her.

Her reply indicated that things were okay... just okay.

A phone call interrupted the morning preparations in the Awe Star office. Rachel answered, then came and relayed the need for assistance at the Childrens Home. It seems the scheduled speaker had to cancel at the last minute.

Today was the day we were to celebrate Danielle's last day with us. The Lord was moving her on to other things. I did not want to miss this. As we discussed filling the void at the Home, it became clear that both could be accomplished.

We accepted the privilege of sharing there. Rachel, Lauren and I celebrated Danielle's ministry with Awe Star, then headed off to our engagement.

We were greeted by several young men. They were very young (10-13) and friendly. They shared very openly about their lives. J.B. was excited about going fishing later in the day. He walked me to the window and showed me the fishing pond down the way. He shared what kinds of fish the pond was stocked with.

The residents assembled and it was time to share BJ's testimony, our journey, and our connection and ministry at Awe Star. The students ages 9 to 18 sat and listened to an unbelievable story.

At times it seemed the pain of the story reminded them to clearly of their own plight. A few checked out mentally, though they remained quiet and respectful.

At the conclusion, we had the privilege of sharing personally with those who wanted to talk. I met several amazing young people, and heard about their desperate circumstances. I was moved beyond words as I listened.

Then young Jessica stepped up shyly and waited her turn to share with me. We sat down as she began to open her heart. In the course of the next few minutes she spoke of a journey that was wrought with pain and rejection on a level no child should ever have to endure, but she had. She was sweet and loving, and as she talked it became clear she wanted something.

She had sat and listened to BJ's story intently. The Lord had stirred her heart and opened her eyes to a Truth she had not seen before. She wanted a relationship with Jesus. She wanted to live her life for Him. She wanted that kind of love in her life. Jessica and I prayed and she was ushered into the assembly of angels celebrating her decision.

Please pray for her, she has a long road ahead and I fear it will get harder. She needs to be discipled. Pray for the staff of the home that they will lift her up, encourage her, and love her in the ways she needs.

I spoke with one of the board members of the home who found out she had made this decision. I was told this never happens. Speakers who come in seldom have impact or opportunity with these young people. Their hearts are hard, their circumstances difficult, their road long.

This is about a Divine Appointment for Jessica. None of the peripheral issues of this story matter. What matters is the heart of a young abandoned 9 year old was drawn to the Savior by the Holy Spirit, and she wanted what she sensed.

Praise God for His Marvelous light and provision!


Tuesday, August 08, 2006

My comfort level is teaching elementary. I love them. It is what I have always done and so it is what I wanted here in Tulsa. Well, I'm here to report that God has answered my prayers in amazing and very different ways than I expected. I'm going to be teaching choir in middle school! I'm excited yet terrified. I've already met some wonderful people that will stand along side me in this mental (I mean, middle) school (hey, the principal joked about it so I can too!)

OK so I must report the God things: I mailed my application at 5 p.m. Wednesday and the personnel director opened it the next morning. If that's not a miracle I don't know what is! The interview itself was nothing like I've ever experienced. It was as if they had already decided and they were talking me into believing I could do it! (God knew I needed that, and why am I surprised?) After the interview I met a teacher that knew of Awe Star and BJ and had read this blog. Incredible.

It's a new day, a new challenge and I've decided I'm up for it. Oh my goodness, I trust you will pray for me! You have been so wonderful to pray for us on this whole journey and we appreciate it so very much. One of the staff members I met today lost her 13 year old son 11 years ago. God is very much looking out for me and I am oh so grateful!


Monday, August 07, 2006

This is hard for me to share and I am struggling to do so, but I feel the prompting of the Lord to go ahead.

Since returning from NA, I have had a great deal of difficulty seeing what the Lord did while we were there. Much of this is because of the extreme spiritual battles I found myself fighting throughout many parts of the journey there.

My friend and mentor has taught me much already since joining this ministry. One of his teachings is that "when you go into darkness, the darkness comes out in you." The country God called us to was very dark and oppressive. We were under attack most of the time we were there. I was fearful of how I would respond. I had heard stories (actually horrific ones) of how some people responded when they entered the darkness.

I feared the battle would be evident on fronts that never materialized. In reality, they came in areas that I thought the Lord and I had defeated and left behind. I became highly stressed, and lashed out in ways unacceptable. I grew increasingly frustrated over my inability to establish and control a flow of daily events that would allow us to get into a rhythm.

The truth is that it there was little I could do about this. Much of what occurred was not within my power to control. What was within my power was daily surrender, and a sturdy focus on Christ. I did not do nearly as well here as I would like to report. I caused additional confusion to those who had placed their confidence and trust in me.

I can say that they did not relent in providing me their support. They offered routine encouragement and displayed the kind of Christ-like attitude that they had been trained by their parents, youth ministers, and Awe Star to convey. I am very proud of them. I found myself asking the question "who is the teacher, and who is (are) the pupil(s)?" I learned much from their attitude and disposition under stress.

I'd love to report that this changed my poor self control. However, the truth is that upon return to the states, the combined efforts of fatigue, jet lag, weariness and this same issue, continued to find me surrendering to that which brought pain to those closest to me. It has taken me a couple of weeks to unpack all that the Lord has accomplished, as my lens has been clouded with the smudges of my own filth. I fear I do not even know all that I need to apologize for and I trust the Holy Spirit will bring conviction.

I kept my eyes on my circumstances instead of on Christ!

I was sharing with my friend Eddie about all of this. I went on to tell him that there were literally times when I felt like telling God, "You have my son, You owe me!"

Without missing a beat, he uttered with blurry eyes, and a broken voice, "I wonder how many times God looks at Eddie and Brent and says "You have my Son, you owe me."

He is so right! I was stopped fast as the Lord spoke through this.


Friday, August 04, 2006

I never want to forget them. They were beautiful. They were generous and amazingly hospitable. They were ready with a smile and a hug and a kiss on each cheek. They opened their hearts and arms to us so readily, without even a hint of suspicion in their demeanor. We struggled in language only, but it’s incredible what gestures and smiles and hugs can do. We communicated, oh yes.

Her name was Aisha. She was the mom of the household. She was a lovely lady, very gracious and waited on us hand and foot. We never ate enough to satisfy Aisha. “Each!” - that’s what it sounded like to us – her encouraging us to eat more - as any good mother would do!

As the team left to travel to another village, I stayed back with Jennifer, who was sick. Aisha and her husband, who spoke a little English, were very concerned about Jennifer; they were so sweet and accommodating. What Jennifer needed was rest. So as she slept away her bug, so to speak, I got to spend time with Aisha and her close neighbors and friends, many of whom were related to her in some way that we never could verbalize. In the late afternoon, the ladies sat and talked on the sidewalk in front of their homes. Although I didn’t understand much of what they talked about, they made an extra effort to include me and it was a special and touching time for me. I took note of all of their names and I pray for them.

It felt like Bible times to me. Up close, many of the structures and buildings appeared to be made from mud and hay. Air conditioning is unheard of. Showers, ceiling fans, tile floors and froshes (couches) were only owned by the elite. They had electricity, but not quite like we do. The bulbs hung from the ceilings with just a wire and the illumination was dull. Many families had only one water source, but it was a common sight to see women carrying water buckets from the river to home every day. Bathrooms were squatties: a hole in the ground and slightly elevated steps for your feet.

We saw lots of kids, but no toys. I saw one young boy kicking a tin can down the street. I saw a baby teething on an empty yogurt container. Some children would stare vacantly at you, but most would smile and greet you with “Bonjour!” I’m happy to say that we didn’t see starving children, at least, not that appeared so. Twenty Americans (prayer) walking in a village was a spectacle. We not only got noticed, but droves of children would follow us and laugh and want our attention in some way. Many of us prayed that our appearance would stay in their minds and make a difference for the cause of Christ someday, somehow.

In the villages, cars were few and far between. In the cities, they were usually jam-packed with people. Most people walked everywhere. Mopeds and bicycles and of course, donkeys were on the road with us often.

They did not possess much materially speaking. They have never known the conveniences and advantages that most of us Americans expect and take for granted.

It’s the very thing I never want to forget about the people of North Africa.

Their human spirit of compassion and kindness and joy of living seemed to overflow despite their circumstances. We can learn a lot from that, can we not?


Thursday, August 03, 2006

The day before the nine month anniversary of BJ's death, we were hiking through a village in the foothills of a mountain with a group of Amazigh people from the association we were working with. I was frustrated at myself because I felt so disconnected from the group of people. I interacted a bit with some of the good friends my sister had already made, but I was thinking and quiet and alone for most of the hike. I felt trapped inside myself, unsure how to love these people and afraid to try.

When we reached the end of our road, the entire mass of people stopped to sit down and talk with each other while our drivers hiked back to get the vans. There was a large group of children all sitting together, singing songs. Off to the side, one of my teammates sat with a group of boys, talking to them. As I looked between the boys and the group of children smiling and swaying and singing songs, I noticed one grown man in their midst... and my heart just hurt. I knew that was exactly where BJ would have been, ministering to children by enjoying them and joining them in their games and songs.

The reality that he is dead hit me with unusual clarity. I rejected it, as usually happens at those terrible, raw, real moments. Tears streamed down my face as I practically ran to my dad to cry while he hugged me. After several minutes, we looked on, watching the group as they continued in their fun.

Suddenly, a little girl several yards away broke away from her friends and ran right over to me. She put her little arms around me and gave me as big a hug as she could muster.

Then she reached up to my face and wiped my tears away with her small hand.

How much I have to learn about how to love other people! And so much I did learn in one precious moment when a little girl from another culture saw my pain and loved me the only way she knew how. And it was enough.

Sometimes we are so afraid that how we love each other won't be enough that we simply cease to try. How wrong we are!! The love we have in us, given to us and made perfect by Jesus, is really all we have to offer each other.

Live that love.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

You may have heard this story, but you haven't heard my version.

I'm going to tell you.

One afternoon, our North Africa team was prayer walking in Amizmiz. We went out in teams of four to walk the streets, see the people, see their lives, their need, and simply pray for them and the things God is doing there.

Frankly, I was not looking forward to it. I thought I had seen all these things before. My prayers were all starting to sound the same. I was tired of being so hot that I would break into a sweat just standing outside for two seconds.

We began our walk. I began to pray for the Lord to adjust my attitude... I knew I needed it. The first person we ran into was a good friend, a Moroccan man who worked with us during our time there. A man who knows about Jesus's love but is waiting to make a decision because it would disgrace his father, who is dying. A man our team grew to love. As we briefly talked with him, I felt the Lord begin to change my heart. This sweet man, who knew we were praying for him, who understood what we were about... my heart broke for him and the way his heart is ready to follow the Lord, but his circumstances are holding him back.

The floodgates of prayer were opened in my heart. I had not seen everything before. We walked in places in the village I didn't even know were there. We passed by a garage FULL of children in some kind of summer school, all their small voices repeating phrases in unison. My spirit leapt at the opportunity to come before the Lord on their behalf...

God began to impress upon my heart the desire for these people watching us walk through their village to KNOW the Power we walked in. I became desperate to actually be walking in Jesus's authority, that His presence in me would be unmistakable! And so for the next however-long, that is what I prayed for. That is the desire God set in my heart for Him, for my team, for the North Africans.

On our way back to our home base in the village, two little boys began following my prayer group. They wanted money; they wanted water; they wanted whatever they thought we had to give. After several minutes, they weren't cute anymore. They were annoying.

Until I realized... Jesus, this is what it is to walk in Your Power. People follow. They have a hunger deep inside themselves that can only be satisfied by what I have deep inside myself - You.

Later that night, our team was able to perform our salvation-themed drama in another small village outside of a major city. This was the night we happened to meet 5 Europeans.

Matt was from Poland. He spent a significant amount of time talking to several of my teammates about God and why we were there. While his European colleagues left to eat, he stayed and watched the drama. It was not translated in a language he knew, but he understood it. He saw its spiritual significance. Matt came to know the Lord that night - it was such an amazing God thing!

And this is what Matt told my teammate who helped lead him to Christ:

There is something different about your team. I can see it on each of your faces. You have something I do not.

We walk in the unmistakable power of Jesus Christ!