Thursday, May 31, 2007

I have never seen anything good, result from telling a lie. I know it's a common practice. People do it everyday. They begin at an early age, and many never really stop.

We assign color to the word to mute it's sharp edge. We talk about them in terms of severity, implying that lesser ones are not as wrong.

I know each of my children have been faced with the decision to cover their tracks by shaping the story in such a way that it seemed as though nothing was wrong. One of them could not handle doing that even a little bit (not that the other two practiced it).

After having tried once, she was so convicted that the result was she began to confess everything she did that she knew she shouldn't have. It became a regular occurrence. A kind of soul cleansing for her. She wasn't just illuminating lies, she was baring each kind of sin.

Of course she was pretty young, so what was happening would have been measured as harmless by most. I appreciated the her attitude and tried to encourage her.

A few weeks ago, some college friends of mine were attending a local youth service. None of them belonged to this particular church, they just decided to go and check it out. It is a fairly reputable place.

The youth pastor's topic that evening was the same as mine. He was sharing with the youth of that body that lying is not always wrong. He led them through a couple of scriptures that seemed to prove his point.

I confess, I was very surprised when my friends returned and shared their news.

I know some have thought me naive in the past. I am sure many would still characterize me that way. However, to me this is just wrong.

In business, I have been in many situations that seemed to reflect that the only way out was to be untruthful. Otherwise, a price would be paid and it would be significant. I am far from perfect. I do not live a sinless life. But as painful as it was each time to confront the situation with truth, I was always amazed at how the Lord affirmed that the right choice had been made even if I had to pay a price.

This youth guy was teaching the students that their is a line in the sand that can be drawn and recognized. As long as motives are positive, it is likely the right thing to do.

As humans we learn to justify our actions with each new day. Some of us have gotten quite good at it...masters really. Where there once was a conscience there is now an "open mind." We become accepting of so many things, and can openly and easily justify the whys and

We each began doing this at a young age. Some reach points of doing it compulsively. Others do it when it is convenient for them.

The point is, sand shifts.

The line you draw today, you will not be able to find tomorrow.

Justification becomes the wind that shapes your line...or covers it up. It may seem firmly placed for now, but in truth, is elusive and changing. Especially when under pressure.

Young people who are struggling to discover who they are, and who God wants them to become, are fighting enough battles without being fed lines that seem to fit who they are in such a way that it extends acceptance for the practice of sin. Each time the threshold is approached there lies an undercurrent of justification that may help them step over. Crossing the line becomes progressively easier to do. Shifting happens.

His grace covers sin, but does not accept it as a practice.

Justification can teach us that lies are acceptable, even normal. Choosing to lie and believing it to be okay to practice will likely douse the Spirit of God in our lives. "Do not quench the Spirit!"


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Last night we had a surprise party for a friend. We were celebrating a milestone in his life. Not a birthday, but the joy in seeing years of work bring to fruition, an intended goal.

Have you ever been to one of these? You have to be sneaky about where you park. You have to iron out many details in advance to make sure of things like, what door they will enter, will the alarm be turned off when the "surprisers" arrive, what time they will actually return, etc.

It was crazy. We gathered half an hour early to be sure we were all in. For some reason, there are always the obligatory "late arrivals" that threaten to blow the whole thing up. No matter, it came off as expected...completely.

This was an easy party to pull off because my friend does not pay attention to details. There were many "tells" throughout the day and evening that could have given it away. However, this particular party had something going for it that would help a non-detail person remain clueless.

One of the children of our "victim" was celebrating a birthday this same evening. As a matter of fact, that is how we got them out of the house.

Under the influence of their own celebration, when the family returned, the doors opened and everyone jumped out and screamed "SURPRISE!" my friend turned around to look for his child. It was a long awkward pause. This father in that moment thought he had completely missed out on all word and all planning of his child's surprise birthday party, and not wanting to spoil it, surely thought we were a bunch of dolts for yelling before the child had come near the door.

The fact was, this child had the idea of this celebration and was intentionally "hanging back" so that dad could be surprised.

We had to convince him that the celebration was on his behalf and not his child's. That took several moments. It was the kind of thing that could have been a party killer, but instead added to the humor of the moment. The dazed, lost look in his eyes was priceless. He absolutely had no clue what had happened.

The impish grin that consumed his lost frame, was then covered by an embarrassed demeanor. All these people were here to see him! It was suddenly a bit overwhelming. We had to make up a "congratulations" song to prove to him that it was his evening. Unfortunately, the candles melted into puddles of wax on his cake while we were figuring it out.

Though he is not detail oriented, he is known for always figuring things out in advance. A sort of spiritual gift, if you will. The kind that drives family and friends crazy, because surprising him is difficult. No, not difficult...impossible. He has an uncanny ability to figure gifts out before they are opened. He routinely knows what he is holding, much to the dismay of hopeful onlookers.

Not this night. For the gift of this night was not to be unwrapped, but was in the element of surprise. I think his family was very pleased. They had finally done it!

So on this evening that we celebrated his achievement, we also celebrated theirs. It was a worthy event.

It was great to be a part of celebrating this father's achievement. However, there are those times when achievements cause us to be blind to the Father.

It is far too easy for us to be wrapped in the glory of our own celebrations and miss out on the Father's intended purpose for us. In these moments, I wonder if He gets confused. I imagine he is mostly disappointed.

It is too easy to push for and seek our own agendas when we have our eyes on a prize. It is urgent that we redirect our efforts and seek to celebrate Him, and not ourselves.


Tuesday, May 29, 2007

When I was young, and inevitably frustrated, as most youth become at some point, I longed for an axe. I wanted to chop wood to blast out the frustration I felt inside. We lived in the city, had no fireplace, and thus, no axe. I had to find alternative methods.

Those usually got me into trouble. One spring, the peonies beside my parents bedroom were in full bud. Each flower-to-be was about golf ball sized, and very firm. I slid my fingers around the flower stem, and closed my hand around the bud as I pulled up. The bud popped off nicely as I did. I took my baseball bat, and tossed the bud into the air, swung and sent the little flower-never-to-be into oblivion.

Wow! That felt really good. So I did it again and again and again. There were no buds left atop this prolific plant.

Bad idea! My dad was the gardener in my household, and he found my little self-expression and chose to then express himself. I guess in hind sight (no pun intended), it was really stupid. Those flower stems all pointing to the sky with nothing to show for their effort, nothing to support...I didn't ever do that again. However, each time I see peonies in bud, I am reminded of my early, poor decision making skills.

When Beej reached this point in life, we bought him a heavy bag. You know, the kind Rocky beat up in each of his 37 movies. We had an axe, but BJ was not me. His desires were different. I had a talk with him about not using the peony buds as baseballs. He thought my story was funny.

He used the heavy bag a time or two, but it never got the work out we expected. I remember that the things that frustrated him were different than what I had experienced. He would grow impatient with friends who did not want to know Jesus, or teachers who shut him down as he shared in class. He too, had "relationship" issues like most students, and that and dad. But as Deanna and I were talking about this over the weekend, it seemed to us that most of his indignation was over others receptivity to the things of God.

I was not that way. Not until much later in my life.

Even today, as I look at what I get stressed about, the culprit is often self-induced and not necessarily, properly motivated.

My outlet for stress has changed over the years. I have entered into different types of physical activity each in an attempt to improve my mental and physical state. I used to cycle thousands of miles a year. Then I would hike or run. Now I get out of breath walking to the refrigerator.

I did go to the doctor to have my body checked out. I had a complete physical, including a "stress test" and "echo-cardiogram." My results all came back "fine."

That is good, but it causes me more stress. Now I guess I can only blame being tired on mental gymnastics. To improve my stamina, I try to run. I can't go as far or as fast as I did a year ago. I get kinda frustrated, being competitive and all. I don't think aging is a good idea.

The things it does to your body...well it just isn't very nice. Things that used to be described as "solid" or "ripped" now sag or are plump.

I wanted to express my appreciation to the technician lady who did my "stress test" and "ECG." She told me to "suck it in" and that we were going to "create a six pack." The belt she chose to use would have barely fit around Deanna's waist. Every man in the waiting room I saw had a 100 pounds on me. What in the world was she going to do to them? That puny little belt wouldn't work on them! I searched the room for a larger belt. There was none.

My perspective on the definition of "stress test" changed after that. Apparently it has more to do with embarrassing you that you can no longer fit a 28" belt around your waist. I think I was BJ's size when I last wore one of those.

Anyway, I heard a statistic recently that suggested "walking" was better than running for losing fat. Okay, so I will try walking, actually I tried it yesterday with Deanna. I just got stressed caused I wanted to be running...oh well.

I'll keep trying. That "stress" has gotta go!


Thursday, May 24, 2007

Before she left for school this morning, Deanna shared a story with me she had just read. I find it compelling and relevant to who we each are in Christ, and what can be done from a surrendered heart.

A family had moved to Africa to serve the Lord. Their 9 year old son told his mother, "Mom, have the camera ready. I want you to take a picture of the first person I tell about Jesus."

Mom was taken aback. She was surprised to hear her son say such a thing. She was more surprised when he pressed into action the very words he had shared. He had understood the purpose of coming. He understood the need of the people. He did not let his weaknesses stand in the way of doing what he had come to do.

He began to share with one who was in need, and mom stood back in awe of her Savior, as she watched her son lead him to Christ.

This was no ordinary experience. This was a moment ordained by God, and it came to pass because of simple understanding and obedience.

Her 9 year old son was not a people person. He did not normally share in front of others. He had learning disabilities of some sort, and found it difficult to even speak in coherent sentences. When her son, with a willing and obedient heart said these things to mom, that was one thing. The practice of life had taught her that her son would struggle in social situations for the rest of his. That he would even say this, was amazing.

To see him actually follow through, that was of God. His words came out clearly, and in a foreign land where understanding each other was already an issue, he spoke with no hindrance or cumbersome tethers to his past. It was obvious to mom, that her son was being used of the Lord. She saw him recognize his disabilities, confront the issues, give them over to the Lord and watched Him use the weakest of the family to do a great work for the kingdom.

Mom knew this had been the right thing. Sometimes affirmation comes quickly and unexpectedly. It certainly had in her experience.

I am inclined here to draw ties to the life of my own son, and the amazing things God did through his young life. When we read things like this, yes, tears still come quickly because we are so moved by the same Spirit that so moved our son. I will say no more about that today.

We cannot afford to allow our own perceptions of who we are and what we can accomplish to drive what we allow the Lord to do in or through us. He saved us and set us apart for a purpose. We need to stop allowing the world around us to dictate to us who we are and what we will or can do. What we will or can do is immeasurable if we follow Christ in simple obedience.

Our world would have told that 9 year old boy he could not share his faith with anyone, let alone in a foreign land.

What lie is our world telling you?

Does the practice of your life reveal that you are believing it?

We need to get real.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

A year ago, we were wondering what Africa would look like. How the landscape would appear, if the people would be friendly, and how the Lord would move. We had a difficult but incredible experience there.

Taking part of BJ's ashes seemed like a huge thing. We knew it was not acceptable to the people of that land, yet felt the prompting from the Lord that it was what we were to do. I cannot tell you why, I only know we were supposed to. We took them, had an incredible time of worship and remembrance, and left him the last land he was called to.

Now, Deanna and I are preparing to take the first Awe Star team back to Peru, since BJ went. We have tremendously mixed feelings about doing this, but once again know it is the right thing for us to do.

One of the churches that knew and remembered BJ well, has asked to have a service in his honor while we are with them. They asked for many pictures. We have no idea what that will look like, but appreciate the fact that they want to do this. We know this will be bittersweet.

We are looking forward to meeting people he knew, whose lives he had an impact on. We are thankful that we will have this experience. We are trying not to put too much expectation on what lies ahead. The trip is not about BJ, it is about taking Jesus to people who do not know him. The Lord has sifted the team we will be taking, and it has not been an easy process. Our numbers have risen and fallen, and risen and fallen, as those who wanted to go have had one thing after another stand in the way.

The team that is going is the team that the Lord has prepared. It is comprised of 10 men and 9 women. This is pretty amazing in and of itself, as the last two teams into Peru (both of which BJ was on) had 4 then 5 men on them. We are thankful to have a strong representation of men. This will help us minister in a country that is male dominated.

In two and half weeks, we gather our 2007 leadership together for training. Then we gather with all of the students who are serving this summer. On June 20th, we head off to four different countries. Lauren will help lead the India team, while Deanna and I head to South America.

I don't know where the time has gone, and cannot believe it is almost time to go again. I only know the enemy is fighting hard against us, and pray that the level of intensity of the fight reveals the powerful way the Lord intends to move. We need for Him to move. We need for the students who are signed up right now to get where the Lord has called them. We have seen too many drop out.

We know that His Word will be taken to each of these lands, and that He will be with us. What an honor to be able to take 17 students into the land the Lord has called them. Please pray for strength and unity for our team and our leadership. We recently lost one of our key leaders, but the Lord has replaced him. We are humbled to see God at work in this, and marvel at what lies ahead. We are thankful that He would trust us with His own. We do not take that responsibility lightly.

Between now and then, as we are preparing for our trips, we are also trying to take care of book details. I can tell you that the name of the book will carry the same title as the song. While this was not the working title we were using, we are very excited about it. We anxiously await it's release (January 2008), and look forward to how the Lord may use it.

"I Would Die for You; One Student's Story of Passion, Service and Faith," is a book about the life of one young man sold out to Jesus. He spent what he had in serving the King. We are excited to take the next team of students to do the land that BJ loved...a land called Peru!


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Today, the Lord is bringing idolatry to the forefront of my study and prayer time. I guess He brings it up as I allow Him to stir and move in my heart, and it really began before today.

I know like most of us that I like to believe I have no idols because my hands have not hewn from rock or wood any graven images. If this were the lone definition of idolatry, most of us would be in the clear. Most of us are not that handy with a chisel and hammer. If we picked up these tools, the end product would likely not be worthy of worship.

Graven images are not solely fashioned from our hands at crucial moments of creative expression that result in repetitive revisiting due to derived pleasure. Graven images can be imprinted in our minds based on what our eyes have seen. Our minds are perhaps the greatest artists. Capable of bringing visual representations of what our hearts long for. Somehow, we can restore in full detail that thing, person or situation that brings us "rest" when we visit.

The place we return to over and over when we are stressed, or broken becomes an idol to us. For some it is a person. For others it is a place. Still others find it in things. I don't think Mrs. Brown, my first grade teacher, taught me that nouns and idols were interchangeable. However, understanding idolatry is elementary to being consistent in my faith.

It is far too easy to "get stuck in a rut" with how we approach life. The stressers present find us collapsing into thought, returning to places, or even planning how to bring back that which brought us peace and contentment in the moment. Returning here repetitively, is idolatry.

We have taken that which brought us pleasure in a past experience and tried to recreate it, perpetually. When we get there, we can rest...take our mind off...get away. Slowly, gradually, it replaces the Lord on the throne of our hearts, because we spend more time thinking on these things than we do on Him.

When you lay down at night, what is it that lingers in your mind as you drift off to sleep? When you awake each morning, what are the first thoughts you experience? If they are not things of the Lord, and you visit them frequently, idolatry may have become an issue in your life.

This does not end when you enter your place of worship. There are clearly times in each of our lives that we find ourselves trying to recreate a worship experience from the past. We long to be in that place, or to be worshipping like that, again. Wanting to be close to the Lord is a right thing. Recreating a moment in time to attempt to bring that about is the wrong vehicle. That would be idolatry in worship.

It is and always will be the Lord alone that brings us true peace and contentment. When we focus on Him alone during worship, then worship happens. When we stand in His presence trying to recreate a moment (of worship) from the past, and our attention is on bringing back how we felt or what that looked like, we have exited worship, and entered the production of a graven image in our mind.

For some of us we are on sensory overload, as we remember the sights, sounds, smells, and even the touches of those experiences. I am not saying it is inherently wrong to remember with fondness, worship experiences from the past. Only that dwelling on them in an attempt to recreate them encroaches on the purity of worship. We are in affect trying to bring back something we know, in exchange for the unknown of what is before us. We are trying to have what we had because it was pleasurable, experientially.

In Christ, each moment is new. He has not changed, but our experiences will. His Word will not change, but how we walk through a day should not be repeated for comforts sake. How we respond to His promptings should be consistent, but will not necessarily produce like results.

A few years back, Ross King wrote and recorded a song called "Clear the Stage." One of the lines from that that resonate within me is:

"Clear the stage, set the sound and lights ablaze if that's the measure we must take to crush the idols."

Sometimes, I need to clear the platform of my life and allow Him to come in and bring wholeness and restore purity to the place that I have begun to perform. In my performance is found idolatry. In the surrender of my weakness is found His perfection.


Monday, May 21, 2007

Yesterday morning Deanna, Lauren and I worked in the nursery at church. We kept the toddlers. We were told it was an off day. There were only nine of them. Oh my goodness what energy they have at the age of a year and a half.

It's been many years since we worked with children that age. They love so easily. They are very accepting. They seemed content to play together or alone. They rebound quickly after their world only moments before, seemed to come to an end.

Another thing about them that I do not remember well...they move in a pack. At least many of them will. This is partially to vie for the attention of whoever is in charge and partly not to miss out on the fun they perceive happening.

I had a great time. I found it important to get down to where they are to play. Unfortunately, the day before, I ran, trimmed the bushes, cleaned the gutters, mowed the lawn and did laundry. My body was in full out rebellion. Bending and twisting was not what it wanted to do. However, it was all the children wanted it to do. Guess who won?

Children that age like to pile on top of adults who are unsuspecting. The higher the pile the better. The more you cry out in rebellion, the more fun they have. They should have all gone home and slept when they left, cause they got a workout. Me too, I had to go take a nap.

I love it when children bring you a book to read. Apparently it's fun for them to bring you a book, play musical chairs for space in your lap, and if they don't win a seat, play with toys on your head. Oh, and if you stop reading, they chide you to begin again. The fun is in distracting and tormenting you while you are occupied.

They are very smart. They can play toys, musical chairs for lap space, talk while you read, spin around in circles and still know the right answer to questions you ask from the book. This must be the age they begin multi-tasking. I think I was sick that year, because I can't do two things at once.

My own children are incredible at it. Not me. I focus on one thing at a time, and if I'm lucky, I make progress. For them it seems the more they are trying to do, the more they get done. Apparently there was a cultural shift in this area. I just keep wondering what I was doing when the shift started that I got left so far behind.

Anyway, to be loved on by children in such an unconditional way for an hour or two was a huge blessing. It makes me look forward to when my children have children. Of course, I may not have any energy left by the time that happens, but I still look forward to it.

For now, I'll continue to hang out with students and young adults on the mission field. It is interesting to note that the primary difference between toddlers and teens and what they like to do is...size.

Some of them should really stop trying to sit in my lap, because I'm old and they're hurting me.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Do you think the person others think you are is who you really are?

In the late eighties and most of the nineties I operated a wholesale greenhouse, that employed developmentally disabled adults. On my staff, were a half dozen college grads who filled various roles from "grower" to "supervisor" to "sales and marketing." In addition, there were 25 adults most of whom were mentally retarded.

Working with them was enriching. There view of life was lived out each day. Most were glad to be there, and liked interacting with others. Strong relationships formed between many of them. I still get Christmas cards each year from one of the ladies.

Being a greenhouse, our products were seasonal. We sold poinsettias at Christmas, bedding plants in spring, mums in the fall, and filler crops in between each season. It was a beautiful site when things were in full bloom.

We had need seasonally for additional help. One of our needs was delivery drivers. The greenhouses would go from full to empty in a matter of three weeks. To accomplish this, I would hire temps through our companies personnel department.

One year during the height of our busiest season, I was called and rather cryptically told to come over to the administrative offices. I asked questions as it was extremely inconvenient, but was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to get there right away.

To get there, I had to walk to a different building on campus. I had to cross a park area where many ate at lunch, and then a parking lot, to get to where I had been summoned.

I had been out of school for eight years, but felt like I was reporting to the Principal's office. What had I done? Why was it coming to light right in the thick of my busiest shipping season? I was annoyed.

I walked into the office of our Chief Financial Officer, and found a room full of people. In addition to the CFO, and the Personnel Manager were two people I did not recognize. My mind raced furiously from possibility to possibility. I had no clue.

I was introduced to the two visitors. They were police detectives.

I didn't have any unpaid parking tickets, I was not involved in any illegal operations, what on earth had I done?

They saw the curiosity laden fear in my eyes, and quickly explained.

They were on a manhunt. They believed that one of my temporary delivery drivers was wanted for murder in New York. "Wanted for murder in New York?" Did they just say that? This was Indiana!

"You mean the same man who is out with three of my employees right now?" I asked. They showed me a picture and we talked about names. He was going by an alias. From the picture I knew he had three of my developmentally disabled adults in the truck with him. I was sick. What was going to happen?

I did not have to wonder long. They began to tell me what I was going to do. I did not have a choice. I had to do this as the lives of the rest of those in my charge were at stake.

I went back to the greenhouse and gathered my staff. I told them what was happening, and locked down the building. My employees knew something was up, but they were cooperative without questions.

I stood for what seemed like hours at the front door waiting for the truck's return. I had much I needed to be doing, but right now it all had to wait. My staff kept the other employees deep in the greenhouse. The only people up front were my secretary and me...waiting.

How was I going to be convincing? He was a murderer. He was suspicious. He would be expecting trouble at some point. If I inadvertently tipped him off, would he take hostages? Was he carrying a gun? How in the world did he not get "screened" by the temp agency we used? They were not getting a Christmas card from me this year.

Finally, the big box truck came around the corner. I stood and waited until it backed up, then I hurried out to them.

I forced small talk and gave my employees specific direction. (Please God let them follow it with no questions or discussion). They cleared the truck and headed to the greenhouse, where my secretary waited to let them in. Then she locked us out.

It was just the two of us. I was so incredibly nervous. I knew he was going to suspect something. No way I was going to pull this off.

I told him, "Go ahead and give me the invoices, and then head over to personnel, you forgot to fill part of the paperwork out."

He was nervous.

"I need to do what?" he asked.

"You need to go to personnel and fill out some paperwork. You don't get paid, they told me, if you don't come fill it out." (no way he was buying this). "Leave the truck here so I can reload it, and head on over."

He looked me square in the eye. He did not seem to believe me. I didn't believe me either. I am such a bad liar. Now I was going to pay.

Suddenly, he stepped down out of the truck, looked at me again, then turned and headed off.

My legs were rubber. There were about 30 steps to that locked door. I didn't think I could make it. I was going to fall down right here in front of the building.

I walked as with legs of molasses toward safety. My secretary waited to the last minute, then let me in. Panic was on her face as she grabbed me and pulled me into the building.

From our vantage point we waited and watched him cross, first the park, then into the parking lot.

After about 20 steps into the parking lot (around 75 yards away from us) much screaming and movement commenced. I was startled even that far away.

This event was before the "bad boys, bad boys" tv reality shows.

Around twenty police officers from at least 6 different departments converged on him with weapons drawn and verbal assaults with instruction. They had made a 360 degree perimeter around him. They had him on his face and in cuffs in no time.

My heart took forever to slow back down. We watched in disbelief as he was taken into custody.

He had quite easily moved into a midwestern city and passed himself off as someone he wasn't. We all bought it. We trusted him with precious lives as we had been given no reason to fear.

This is often how the enemy prowls. He is good at his job.

We have to be prepared!

I have heard from many students in the last year or two about struggles they are having. They come across as people they are not. They are involved in things believers should not be. Clearly they are under conviction and want to stop living a lie. They want to be who the Lord wants them to be.

So do I.

Father, I pray your conviction falls on each one of us who are living contrary to your Word and will. Help us to surrender completely those areas of our lives we hold captive. Let us by Your strength, stop putting on false pretenses, and live for you alone.

We need to stop justifying our personal sin, surrender, and live for Jesus.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

Friday of last week, in our office, we received two pallets of brand new books. We do not normally store books in our offices, but these are different. These are a tool. They are the culmination of the life's work of my friend Walker Moore.

This work from Thomas Nelson Publishing, is titled "Rite of Passage Parenting; Four Essential Experiences to Equip Your Kids for Life." It won't actually be released in book stores until the end of this month.

This book is well worth the money you will spend. It has a generous mix of humor and stories told in Walker's signature style. It is amazing how the unique situations shared combine into teachings that can impact your children, your family, and your world.

A war is raging around us in this day that the enemy prowls in such overt ways. His attempts to grasp and control the lives of our children has never been more successful. Essential weapons are needed to combat and protect them. This work provides common sense methods of taking your children through a 'rite of passage,' and preparing them for life. It begins at ages earlier than you might think.

I can tell you that Walker helped BJ to realize adulthood was an expectation that came earlier in his life than our culture was telling him. This was key to who he was in his last two years. At fourteen, he embraced adulthood and had significant impact on his world. Our children today want to have greater opportunities to make an impact than we are generally willing to give them.

"Rite of Passage Parenting" helps you understand how to bring this transition into your child's life in ways that are not contrived and overdone. Preparing them to be who the Lord wants them to be is one of our responsibilities as parents. If you have ever struggled at this, this book is for you. Even if yours are grown or you do not yet have children, the Lord will impact your life through this work.

Respectfully I let you know that I have not been asked to write this. I receive nothing from it. I simply saw the power of the teachings the Lord gave Walker have an incredible impact in my sons life and that of my family. I believe the Lord will work similarly in yours!

You can go to or call 1-800-AWE-STAR and order your copies today.

This will not be a commercial site hereafter (unless the Lord directs again). I just believe in this work!


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Last night Deanna and I were interviewed for an upcoming story in the "Tulsa World." We understand the story will run in the paper a week from today.

Sometimes it seems no matter how many times we share, it remains fresh and quickly draws emotion deep from within wells we thought on some level were nearing empty. I suppose in truth, it would be foolish to ever think that. It will always be right there under the surface, looking for a place to break through and be shared again. It is our nature to want to talk about those we care about the most. Especially when they are no longer near except in memory.

Moving to a new city where you do not have a support system forces you to make new starts in areas like this. You certainly meet people who care and who are sympathetic, but there is often a need deep inside to relate to those who also knew him well. Who because of their relationship with you, knew your children and relate to you in ways others cannot or do not know how.

Being alone in a new city does not afford such opportunities. Learning to build new friendships is harder for us than it used to be. Each time we begin to get to know people there is a burning desire to share about him. The problem with that is that it produces a sense of pity, and turns the conversation so heavy that the fragile state of the budding relationship is not prepared to handle it.

We just are not good enough at waiting to talk about our journey as it is so much of who we are, and much the reason that we are here in this place. Understandably, one of the leading questions in new formed relationships with other couples is "Why Tulsa?"

I think we have learned to share the answer in a cursory manner that doesn't require such heavy visitation, but to be honest, it remains what we want to talk about most. Interestingly, we don't actually talk about it a great deal with others. Therein is the conundrum.

What burns in your heart to be let out has an all consuming impact that few understand. Sometimes then, it comes boiling out as from behind a broken dam. The form can be through tears, emotion, words, stories, or in some cases pronounced sadness.

We continue to work through this day by day. God continues to send us grace and windows of surprise that help us cope. For this we are most thankful.

One of the side affects of this whole process is that unfortunately at times, we tend to have little ability to deal with perceived foolishness. This is exposed in many ways. It certainly comes through what I write at times, it is revealed in the actions and attitudes we share with each other and even our inability to tolerate its glaring nature in those we spend time with.

We are certainly no better than anyone else. We don't pretend to be. What I mean is that as a couple we see things that do not matter in life that tend to be the focal point in the lives of many, even most of America. The pursuit of these things draw us farther from Christ. We have been guilty of it and at times most certainly still are.

What we need is Jesus, period. What we have to do is stop trying to fill His place with other things, other people and/or other opportunities.

Simple concept, but a most difficult task.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Recently, we were asked by friend who was going to be out of town, to help him with a project. When I say we, I mean a co-worker and my two daughters. What we were told in advance was that we would be moving a high end, older model display set-up. It was two stories tall, and pretty extensive. It is the kind of thing used at pricey, large scale national trade shows, and though he purchased it for little money, comparatively, it had been quite expensive, originally.

His thoughts were that we would arrive load the display into a rental truck, and haul it to a storage facility. Our expectations were that we would make multiple trips each, carrying the disassembled display and that the whole operation would take around two hours or so. We did not really have any idea. Neither did he, as he had apparently not seen the display in its shipping cases.

We arrived at it's current location to begin the move. The owner of the property directed us to a different place on-site where we could load up.

We drove around to the back to a staging area. We had to be careful as there were several massive crates, randomly standing around the outer rim of the building. We had rented a 17' truck fearing we were getting too much truck for what we were going to move.

We jumped out and talked to the man giving us direction. He said a few words and without telling us where our 'display to move' was, turned to walk away. He said, I'll get a fork lift to help you load."

"A fork lift," we thought. What in the world were we moving?

We said, "can you show us where the display is?"

He turned us around and pointed to the massive shipping crates adorning the outer staging area. "Right there" he said, and then quickly retreated into the building.

I was sure the color had just drained from my face. Those crates were the type loaded onto ships crossing the ocean, or semi's crossing the country. How on earth were we going to move them?

A fork lift showed up as we mumbled in disbelief to each other. Suddenly my daughters did not seem like they would be much help. Not because they couldn't, but to move these we would need men with massive biceps!

The fork lift driver had a much needed sense of humor. Mine in that moment was gone. I was thinking about my 'out-of-town' friend, who had asked for our help.

We began to discuss how we would get the six jumbo shipping units into our puny truck. We devised a plan that with two trips might get all the units off of the dock.

Yes, we might get them off of the dock, but how would we get them back off of the truck? We needed Hercules, Atlas, the Incredible Hulk, and any friends they might have who weren't busy. What we had was my two daughters, my friend David, and me. In case you aren't sure, we have never won any body building contests. We struggle to lift our coffee cup to our mouth in the morning.

The sky grew darker and it wasn't a metaphor. Well, it was, but it also happened physically.

Said fork lift operator maneuvered five crates onto our truck. He double stacked them and David and I attempted to push them around so more could fit. It was all we could do to move them...inches.

The smallest crate was 5x5x5 and weighed 350 lbs. The largest crate stood 10x6x5 and weighed in at half a ton or more. I was dying inside. Who was going to unload these?

We headed off to our storage facility to "unload."

Since we had only received five and half inches of rain in the preceding days, we needed another inch and a half, today if possible.

Those dark skies attempted to lighten their load. The amount of rain falling was apt for that moment. What already seemed impossible was being made frantically humorous by the deluge of precipitation.

The four of us stood huddled in our little storage unit as lightning flashed, thunder boomed and we were figuring out that there was no where near enough space in our 10x10 storage space, which was already full of other "junk."

Our only option was to go to Mr. Storage Unit Man and ask for a bigger unit. We anxiously awaited the opportunity to not only move these six behemoth crates, but now all of the stuff in the current unit, in the pouring rain. Did I mention the only way to unload the truck was to empty the crates of their contents and then drag the shipping boxes (made of plywood and wood planks) from the truck to reload them? Did I happen to mention there was not enough space to open the crates in the truck to empty them of their contents?

I wanted to cry. Then I wanted to scream. Then I wanted to kill...something.

Sirens began to rush to nearby apartments where apparently the lightning had started fires. The rain continued.

We secured a unit twice the size of the original, still unsure we would have enough space.

We called friends and asked if they would like to play in the rain with us. We might have mentioned it involved moving stuff.

We drove our puny little 17' truck with tires rubbing the quarry above around to the new unit. We postulated. I was glad my girls were there. They are smarter than I am. They had good ideas. The problem was, their ideas required strength. We didn't seem to have much of that.

The four of us were able to manipulate the back crate into a position to unload its contents. Once empty, we dragged the crate from the truck, only to discover that all of the weight was in the packing crates and not the contents.

We drug it into the storage room, positioned it, and reloaded.

We attempted to move the next one, and laughed (sociopathic laughter). We had no chance without reinforcements.

We decided this would be a good point to stop and go eat lunch. We called our friends again and tried to bribe them with lunch. None were able to make it. One promised to mobilize some buddies and they would meet us back at the facility.

Breathing a sigh of relief that we were going to have help, we ate.

We picked up one friend and returned. A phone call from the other revealed he was incapacitated in high water from the deluge of rain. He would not be coming. However, he had called another friend who was en route.

The six of us were able to unload the other four crates. We truly strained and struggled, and grunted and moaned, but we got them off.

David and Lauren went back to get the biggest one, still waiting to be picked up. The rest of us began the walk between storage units, carrying piece by piece each prize within.

Upon their return, we laughed at just how massive this last piece was. It teetered on the wheel well frames of our little truck. It was bigger than we remembered. Had we enough space left?

We emptied this crate of it's contents and began to twist and turn the huge packing edifice to get it down.

Once on the ground it was clear it would only fit in the unit in one way...and not the way we intended. We had to improvise, but we got it in.

Wet, tired, but now a bit giddy, we celebrated being done. It had only take the whole day. Our friends left and we mounted up to leave The truck battery was dead.

No, I'm not kidding.

We were able to secure jumper cables and get it restarted.

I saw so much of me in this experience. I tend to look at each hurdle as insurmountable. I grow too quickly frustrated. The task was large. However, with cool heads, planning and help, we got it done. I have the bruises to prove it.

Each of these huge crates represented a stress that I needed to give to the Lord. The situation did not seem that it could have gotten any more difficult, and yet he provided. We had to find joy in the process.

It was hard to envision the value of what was inside those crates as being worth the effort. How often is the value of what is inside of us, unseen because of the rough and bulky exterior?

Wow. I don't want to do that again.


Monday, May 14, 2007

When my family is together, the world seems "right"... or "righter." We have spent so much time apart over the last year and half, that it was a great blessing to be able to have a week or so of just being together with no pressure or agenda.

I will say that when the girls come home, and we are doing...whatever, there is something missing. It always feels as if someone else will enter the room at any moment. That might be better stated that it is like we are waiting for that last person to enter. Waiting constantly, even sometimes hopefully.

A couple of weeks ago, a two neighbor kids came by selling chocolate. As I walked to answer the doorbell, I saw the triangular face through the opaque glass. His hair was dark and framed his face perfectly.

In that moment, hope rose up in me...foolishly. There is no way for this to actually happen. Knowing this, it still brought a spot of joy and melancholy. To be reminded of him is never a bad thing. To know we will not spend time again until our turn has come, keeps us longing.

The back yard of our home is small and secluded. Truly postage stamp size compared to our last wooded acreage. Still watching the first baby bunny of spring nibble on wild violet leaves after emerging from under our shed, brought a stillness and again hope. He hopped purposefully from patch to patch foraging for his new favorite. I called everyone to the window...still waiting for the last.

We had many dinners together at home and out. We had to advance our celebration schedule as there was little time and we would not see each other again until...well we don't know, but hopefully August.

We celebrated Whitney's 20th Birthday a couple of weeks early. We celebrated Mother's Day right on time. We watched many movies together. It's what we like to do. Still, occasional echoes from another room distract me. I get very involved in whatever I am watching, but my mind finds hope present when I hear a noise I can't identify, and the other three are all accounted for.

The night we celebrated Whitney's Birthday dinner, we ate at an Italian Restaurant. It sat conveniently at a busy intersection. Across the street, she had already picked out her dessert.

We sat down to dinner as a stretch limo pulled up. Somebodies prom night. Several teens emerged from the elegant white vehicle. All adorned in sharp regalia, and most looking awkward and uncomfortable. Trying their best to seem sophisticated, they paraded to just behind us for their dinner.

He would be this age. He might even be attending prom. Most of his friends have posted pictures from their experiences on the web. I have often thought about who he would have gone with and how sharp he would have looked.

Dinner was finished, it was time for dessert. We headed out to the parking lot. A quick survey of the intersection revealed that due to concrete esplanades, there was no way to get across the street to the next destination without driving blocks out of our way and through much traffic.

I made an executive decision. We're all adults, we can do this. This was one of those crazy busy streets with several lanes of traffic, and no pedestrian crossing lines.

The light was red. I prompted my girls and we ran!

Squealing, screaming and laughter escaped their lips as we bolted across the street in front of an audience of automobiles. I think they were laughing as much at the picture of how this must look as anything. We shared a prolonged chuckle over this, and entered the chosen "cookie store" to a variety of knowing looks from other patrons. Had we not just done something foolish, you'd have thought we were famous.

He'd have led that charge...probably from the back, but he'd have led it.

Perhaps we will never feel completely at ease as that glimmer of hope which seems to fade, is renewed when once again we gather. But that is alright with me.

We believe he is feeling the same way. Though all of his needs are met in the presence and person of Christ, there remains a longing in his heart for those who have not yet arrived...


Friday, May 11, 2007

There are many things that I would not be, apart from the love of my Mother. While I am a flawed person, the smooth edges that do exist are in large part, her successes.

I can remember different occasions growing up when my Mom would catch me doing something positive, and she would quickly reinforce it. She would tell me why what I was doing was a good thing, and stir within me the desire to repeat that behavior.

Certainly she caught me doing things I shouldn't have, as all Mother's do, but she did not always dwell on the negatives of my youth, and that helped me desire to do things that were pleasing to her, to the Lord.

I can remember encounters of such disrespect with her. Times I was way out of line and could have been punished severely, had she done so in anger. She did not. I certainly had my share of spankings, but believe me, I was deserving.

She cared for me deeply and wanted to see me follow the Lord in obedience. Many of our conversations were fashioned around that precept. She taught me much about how and when to pray for my enemies, for my friends, and for my family.

She tried hard to teach me to be responsible with money. I wasn't very good at it, and I will never forget how that played out one Mother's Day weekend.

We had within walking distance of our home a small family owned garden center. My Mom loves flowers planted in her yard. They bring her pleasure all summer long. It was the Saturday before Mother's Day and I had some change in my pocket. I liked to have change in my pocket, but if I did, I liked to spend it.

It was hard for Mom to train me to be responsible, because spending money was fun. On this day, I was conflicted. She had been trying hard to get me to be wise in spending, but I wanted to get her something for Mother's Day.

Would I get in trouble for spending the money I had, if I spent it on her? I hoped not, but I feared so. I had made too many bad money decisions already. I decided to risk it.

I bought my Mom a tray of petunias.

The entire four or five block walk home, I played out scenarios in my mind of whether or not I was going to be in trouble for spending my money. I did not know what to expect. Again, because of my own poor decisions (as a young boy) not because she was unreasonable.

When I got home, I knocked on the front door as if I were a visitor. Mom answered.

I stumbled with my words, because of how nervous I was, but presented my little tray of petunias to her telling her I wanted to do something special for her, while mixing in that I did not want to get into trouble for it. It must have been comical to hear.

Her eyes lit up with excitement. I knew in those couple of moments I had done a good thing.

I did not get into trouble. It was like I had just handed her the keys to a new car. She was thrilled.

I don't think I have ever given her a gift that has evoked such a response, since that time.

It is the little unexpected things that we do in honoring our Mom's that seem to really have impact. I can not imagine my life without her! I will once again be spending Mother's Day apart from her, but my deep abiding love for her will hopefully cross the miles that separate us, and help her to understand a fraction of how much I care for her!

I love you Mom!!!


Thursday, May 10, 2007

I was talking to a friend and missionary in South America yesterday morning. I was sharing with him the frustration of dealing with the current culture in the United States of people saying "yes" but not meaning it.

If you watch cop shows on television, you quickly see a story about a woman who said "no" to a man, but the man took it as a "yes." The result is ridiculous and painful.

The opposite is also true. We have reached a point in our society where it is okay to say "yes" when you have no intention of meaning "yes." In essence, your "yes" means "no." However, the hearer of "yes" is not familiar with your game, and assumes that your "yes" means "yes," and makes plans based on it.

As I shared, my friend told me of recent events in the country he serves. Twice in the last month or so, a team of short term missionaries made plans to come and minister alongside him. He and his team spent hours and days setting things up. They wanted the short term team to have a good experience and to further the Kingdom.

In both cases, moments before the team was to arrive at his location, a phone call would come advising him that, "oh by the way, we will not be coming."

In our "throw away" society, most of us have no clue the depth of what those words mean. It speaks volumes to what our priorities are in the US. We will pay for a trip and not be committed to it. Somehow, then when we bail on it, we think, "oh perhaps my money will help since I can't."

Much work goes into setting up trips, both here and overseas. It is not a simple thing. It does not happen easily. Too many Americans purvey the attitude that "it's okay if I don't follow through, because somebody else will do it for me."

Does that work at your house? If you don't empty the trash, does the "trash fairy" suddenly appear and empty it for you? Does it work at your office? Your school? Does someone magically step in and handle your project or study for your test and take it in your place?

We did not learn this behavior from Christ. Every time we allow our "yes" to mean "no," it costs someone. It is not inexpensive to lack follow-through. It may not cost us individually...or at least we may think it doesn't. Every time we 'commit then quit,' we are saying that this is acceptable behavior. We teach our children the same thing by our actions. Then we wonder why they are the way they are.

The death of a vision comes at the cost of our disobedience to Christ. We will be accountable for our actions. When we say "yes" and don't follow through, it can bring to an end the hope that someone had. Sometimes it means that lost people don't come to know Jesus. The Bible speaks loudly on that topic.

Because of our comfort and affinity for pleasure, we like to say "yes" until a "better" opportunity comes along. We tend to do what we want, when we want. We have the freedom to do so. We will say "yes" to the idea of something, but when we see it will take personal sacrifice and investment on some level, we have a tendency to say, "Oh, God has called me to do this instead."

He is not a God of confusion. He does not change His mind. He does not compel you to go and have you give your "yes," only to flip-flop later and have you give your "no" because a better opportunity He did not foresee, suddenly arose.

The Word of God says, ..."let your "yes" be "yes" and your "no" be "no."

When we follow the Word of God, great things happen as a result of our obedience, and we glorify Him. When we follow the current whim or emotion of our circle of friends, and move in and out of commitments, we cause suffering that is unintended, whether we ever see it personally or not. We are accountable for those actions.

Please, let your "yes" be "yes."


Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Why is it so hard at times to find joy in the present? We long for what once was, or look to what could be, and grow increasingly frustrated with how things are. We find it nearly impossible to be who we know we are supposed to be, because we do not have what we desire. We are not even sure what it is we desire, we just know it is different than our current set of circumstances.

Finding joy in the moment can be elusive. This should not be, but it often is.

It becomes easy to point to what has happened or to blame those with authority in our lives for how miserable we are in the moment. The misery seldom lasts, but gaining freedom when it overwhelms does not come as swiftly as the pain.

There are times that it is easier to abide in the darkness. As humans we seem to have an affinity for dimly lit surroundings. Perhaps to hide our iniquity, or even to evade our pain. It seldom works, yet we run there as if we have been commanded to go and will only find relief if we arrive quickly.

At times we bring others down. We coerce them into listening to our current set of dire circumstances and then wonder why they do not want to be near.

Who will really stand by you? Who really reaches out in tenderness to meet your needs?

When I arrive at this place I always recognize it. How does my road somehow lead back here with frequency? Where did I miss my turn? When did the Red Sea part and then consume my enemies and I did not see it?

Why do I feel so alone, when there are so many others residing at this address?

Deception. It's all lies. I am not alone.

Have I really become the captive, recently set free from bondage only to beg to return to my binds? I thought only dogs returned to feast on what once was.

Do I seem to walk alone because the enemy presses in or is the enemy pressing in because he perceives I am walking alone?

Where is relief? What thought or action releases me from this prison?

I have not stopped praying...seeking. His Word lies open. My eyes journey through, but despair grows. Am I giving victory away or is it being stolen? What stems this tide?

I must cling to Him. Having been here before, I know the veil will lift and clarity will return. It won't happen in my time. I must endure this journey. Somehow I know He will use it in my life. I always think I suffer well...until I suffer. I don't do it well. He's the only one I know that does.

Suffering somehow begets joy. It is not a straight line event. It is never the shortest distance between two points. It is a rough and blister producing trek. Somehow, the offspring is peace and joy.

If I can only remember.


Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Every now and then, I get in this weird mood... and find it necessary to remind myself of what God has already taught me. That waiting - not necessarily for anything specific, but just the general concept of the word - is a good thing, in spite of its difficulty.

God taught me this in a unique way I can't help but remember.

I went with some friends to camp on this beautiful deserted island for a week back in March. One morning we had all planned to get up for the sunrise. Now, normally, I would much rather see a sunset, because I enjoy my sleep. But I thought I might be able to manage for one morning sun. Just maybe.

So, as per our island custom, we all went to bed at 9. It was dark, so we felt validated in our tiredness. I cuddled up in my sleeping bag in the little Eureka tent Beth and I were sharing... When I awoke, I thought I'd missed the sunrise alarm because the moon was shining so brightly through the opaque clearness of our tent window. I tried to go back to sleep, something I am usually very skilled at. I couldn't. And I felt this urging in my spirit to get up, like the Lord was telling me, "This will be my gift to you."

My friend Julia says that God speaks to us much more often than we allow ourselves to believe. I am determined to do better at listening to His voice and then believing what I hear, so I pulled on my sweats, grabbed my beach towel, and headed down to the beach.

I had no watch and absolutely no idea what time it was. Could have been 3 in the morning, or 3 minutes til dawn. In Eureka I had been so convinced sunrise was close, but as I reached the shoreline and saw the sky more clearly, it became very obvious to me that, no matter the brightness of the moon, it was still very much dark.

I started to wonder at my own ability to wait for an unknown amount of time for the sun to rise. And as soon as the thought crossed my mind, even before I had time to process its implications (parallels in my life, particularly about impatience), I knew I had to wait. That I would wait for 10 minutes or 5 hours if I had to. Because God had called me to the beach to do just that. Wait.

I spread out my towel and walked to the water. Kicked off my flip flops and walked the shoreline a bit, watching the waves and regarding the moon. I returned to my towel and began to pray. My family, close friends, people in my life, people not in my life, whoever came to mind. I let my prayers roll over my thought processes the way I wish I made time to do in everyday life. I knew it should be a pleasure, to pray in this way, yet I knew also that it was something that would help me wait. Take my mind off of waiting...

I was very impatient. And kind of cold. I was antsy and fidgety on my towel, pulling my arms inside my sweatshirt and huddling down to stay warm, then just as quickly looking up to the sky, hoping for some beginning light. I began to doubt whether the sun would actually dawn on this morning, and then I felt incredibly ridiculous... I think that was the moment I realized that when I doubt God's promises it is not because I categorically doubt Him, but because of my own impatience.

So began my pattern of praying, fidgeting, and sky-checking. At some point I realized I was facing the wrong way. See, the sun rises in the east, not the west... So I turned away from the moon and toward the rocks that lined the channel we first crossed to arrive on the island.

And I fidgeted, sky-checked, and prayed for a long time.

At some point, I looked up yet another time to gauge the light, and saw the beginning of a morning haze lightening the edges of sky directly above the jagged rocks. I stood and began praying aloud in excitement, then fell silent. This was it.

Perhaps there is no way to convey the feeling of loneliness that exists when you have no idea just how long you will be called to stand wanting, yet without. But then, you probably know it. And if so, perhaps you also know but may have forgotten the feeling of excitement, big in its own way no matter the insignificance of the actual object of your wait, when you actually finally gain it.

It was exhilarating!

And this is the part I found profound in its simplicity. It was only at this moment of gaining the reward of the wait, that I was glad for the loneliness of the journey.

I had been so impatient for the others to join me that morning. To come wait with me. And yet, when I stood watching the light grays and yellows of the morning rise and grow in color and boldness, I was glad they hadn't yet come. Glad for the simple joy of experiencing a moment meant just for me and the Lord.

It was, of course, also a joy to watch with them, nine of us in a semi-circle on the beach, watching like small children as the sun suddenly revealed itself. It was like God lit a match in the sky! Very glorious. And we all, in our neat little row, gasped just because we were watching so intently!

But I will not forget how precious a time that agonizing wait was. Lonely, just me and God, but so full of rich knowledge that I am still unwrapping.

Perhaps next time, I will not be so impatient.


Monday, May 07, 2007

My family and I went to see Spiderman 3 this past weekend (yawn). While we were watching the show, a young person asked their mommy a question that caught my attention. Seeing this movie through the eyes of the children behind me was far more entertaining to me than the actual movie (and by the way, these children were way too young for how dark this movie was).

The child asked their mother, "what kind of phone is that?"

When I grew up, I think we had one telephone for most of that period. It was yellow and had a rotary dial. It was the kind of phone most people had. Somewhere in my later youth, the touch tone phone came out. It was awhile before we bought one, but eventually we did.

I remember how much faster that phone was to dial. I am a person usually in a hurry, and waiting on the rotary dial drove me crazy. It probably was more of an issue after we bought the second, faster unit.

Then the streamline phones came out. You know, the ones that were thin and came in exciting colors so every teenage girl in the US could have one in her room? At that time, most of them came with a switch, and you had to choose, rotary or touch tone. My sisters never had one in thier room.

Then in the 80's, the cordless phone came out. The originals were monster size, and had antennae that were three feet long. They worked if you were 3 feet from the base. I remember when we bought one of those. It was so freeing to use that thing and walk a little farther from the area I was usually bound to.

Gradually the technology improved, and you could stroll to most any room in the house. Old reruns of "Seinfeld" show this's pretty funny to see, now.

Somewhere in there, cell technology began. Again, the originals were as big as the walkie-talkie units the military used. My first cell phone (for work) was big and it flipped open. It was cool and made me feel like I was asking "Scotty" to beam me up to the "Enterprise!"

Now when I see those, I laugh! They were huge!

Phone technology has advanced so rapidly in my lifetime, it's kind of crazy. I still remember when one of my kids asked me what a rotary phone was. Until that moment, I thought my mom still had one in her house. It can be amazing what kinds of things will catch you up in life, to where things are, rather than where we think they are.

Today, phones are little tiny and it seems that everyone has one. We held out for a long time with our girls. Lauren asked for a cell phone for Christmas for 3 or 4 years in a row. Each year she was disappointed. We finally gave in, and now we cannot imagine not being able to be in touch with them. We even get annoyed when we get their voicemail.

The child behind me in the theater asked, "what kind of phone is that, mommy?"

It was a pay phone. To that child it must have looked like the one that "Lisa" uses on "Green Acres" reruns. You know the speak into the bell, and have to crank the phone up to get it to work? I think they are remaking those today. You can spend a whole lot of money and get one to carry around with you...just kidding.

I know I have said it before, but with constant change in our world, and the instant gratification attitudes that most of us have on some level, I am so thankful that the Word of God never changes. "He is the same yesterday, today, and forever."

We need the security of Christ to remain as is. At least I do. I am often amazed at how relevant Jesus is for today, in a world that looks nothing like the one He grew up in.

Technology is not a bad thing, but left unmeasured, it propagates within us, attitudes of expectation and gratification that are not Christ-like. We need to keep our eyes on Him, and still allow Him to direct our steps, day by day.


Friday, May 04, 2007

This afternoon, Whitney is supposed to arrive. How great it will be to all four be in the same place for several days! Yesterday, she finished her last final. She was so excited to be done and to be headed home for an evening filled with social events. Then off to Tulsa this morning (via an airplane).

While she is still headed here, her evening did not go as planned. After her final exam, we were on the phone, and her voice was filled with exuberance as she walked to her car. A few minutes later she called back. The joy was replaced by tears and deep frustration.

Her key sheared off in the ignition switch as she turned it, to start the car. Amid the anxiety, we began to formulate a plan to try and solve this. She made calls, I made calls and we tried to find help. I looked up numbers on the internet and called them back to her. She started calling friends to break the evenings plans, as it became clear there was no simple fix.

It is amazing how many businesses are out there who only seem to want to take advantage of an emergent situation. She was quoted insane amounts to come and help.

Quick research produced the fact that locksmiths supposedly have an implement specifically designed to retrieve broken keys from the ignition switch. Somebody did not inform the locksmiths in Indianapolis of this fact.

Some wonderful friends came to be with Whitney during this drama. They have been there for her through many car issues. They have worked on her car on several occasions and have been a blessing to Deanna and I both when we lived there and now by long distance, as they care for her. They have often treated her as one of their own. Giving of their time and resources to meet her needs.

They are the West family. They have a son who is Whitney's age. They attend the same university, and are both pursuing nursing.

They came and spent somewhere around seven hours with her while they waited and hoped for the best. The untimely "smith" was about three hours late.

The last word I received was that the key was not retrievable, and the man who came to extract it was now pulling the whole ignition cartridge, so she could start the car with a screw driver and go home.

I received a message from her in the wee hours of the morning, that she would tell me "what happened," today.

Does that sound like good news?

I know the enemy usually attacks the ones we love. I know in time, this little occurrence will no longer matter. What we will remember is that the West's once again came to Whitney's rescue, and once again blessed us in doing so.

Some relationships will forever seem one-sided. They give and we take.

While this is not what we want, it is how most of us live our Christian lives. God gives and we take. He gave His only Son, and we accepted His gift of Salvation. For too many of us, that is the end of the story. We call on Him only for emergency care.

We have many excuses for why our lives look this way. Some even seem plausible (to us). We must begin to live our lives in such a way that the relationship is not one-sided. Not because we need to "work" our way into His grace, but because He is worthy of our all!

Mark, Ann, Stephen, Emily and Jake...Thank you so much for helping Whitney. The outcome doesn't really matter. What does, is that you were there and you gave. We are very thankful for you, and we know the Lord has placed you, with willing hearts and arms of love, for such a time as this.

Once again, we are in your debt. Thank you!

The Lord protects and provides in the most unusual ways. Through Christ, could you be the answer to someones emergency, today?


Thursday, May 03, 2007

The night we arrived in Mexico, I was on the phone with Deanna, letting her know we had arrived safely. As we talked, I asked her to pray that the Lord would allow me to see Sylvia again, if possible. I greatly wanted to encourage her, and see how she was doing (she was the 16 year old prostitute who gave her life to Christ on our previous trip to Mexico).

I have noticed in my life that at times the attacks or temptations the enemy sends are so obvious, that they can be laughable. I wish it were always this way, or that I was always in a position to discern what was happening, and could thereby resist and cause him to flee.

It is not always this easy, and that is for sure.

Our time was to be short. We would be in the city to minister for one day, and then we would return to the US. We do not usually stay out after dark here, as it is not as safe for our team. On this occasion, there were eight of us. Six were men, and two young men. We felt safe enough to walk to dinner.

We headed out, and were looking to meet our contacts at a restaurant. We were armed with the name of the restaurant, and thought we knew just where it was. When we arrived at that place, it had a different name and was closed for remodeling. However, we knew our instructions were correct, so we headed off to find it.

We walked, and walked, and walked. I asked some of the locals if we were headed in the right direction. Each time we were told "Yes, its just 3 or four more blocks." When we finally arrived, twenty or so blocks later, we were ready to eat.

Unbeknown to us, our contacts would not be coming. After a long day of travel, a long wait, and then a long walk, we were hungry. It was 9:00 in the evening. Too late for dinner, by my body clock. We finally decided to order, even though we felt it was not polite.

We waded through the menu, determined what we wanted, and ordered. We listened to the Mariachi band sing and play. For some reason, my mind was on John Wayne and old westerns, where I heard similar music.

The food arrived, and eight men plowed through it. We left little on the table!

We were now ready for the long walk home.

Secure in where we were headed, we walked single file down the narrow streets, talking of our day, and wondering where our contacts had ended up. The sidewalks had mostly emptied by this time of night. It was certainly a different view of Nuevo Laredo than I was used to seeing.

As we neared the end of our walk, with one street corner to approach and turn on, I could see the church where we were staying. In that moment, what caught my attention, was what was in front of the church, passing by on the sidewalk.

Surprised, I immediately pointed it out to the pastor I was walking with. Just as I pointed, a van pulled into his view, and we could not see. Not wanting to draw too much attention to the circumstance, I quietly said, "wait just a moment, and you will see what I am talking about."

We rounded the last corner, and began to cross the street. As we did, the six men in front of us were passing them. Then all of a sudden, there they were.

Two ladies of the night, with very little clothing. I was the last in the line of eight, and as they passed the pastor in front of me, the one nearest to me, reached out her hand, and placed it on my stomach.

I was moving the entire time, but as it happened it seemed like she had too much time to do so. She was saying something in Spanish that I was glad I could not understand. The last time I heard some of those words was 25 years ago when I was working with a crew of Mexican men in Houston, and they were teaching me words that were inappropriate, but telling me they had "appropriate" meanings. I didn't know then, and I didn't know now, what I was hearing.

I reacted like I was being held up in an old western. My arms shot up like I was at gunpoint, and I tried to hurry off and lose eye contact.

I knew what was happening. My stomach turned at the realization of what these ladies were looking for. In that instant, I knew they had been sent. I also knew that this was laughable in terms of temptation...there was none.

I knew these ladies did what Sylvia did. I knew they had been doing it longer as their ages and "uniforms" betrayed them.

I began to pray for them, and for the men they would lure. While there was no weakness for this in my own heart, I knew there would be among the men (like Jose from yesterday) who would be coming out of the saloons at any moment.

While it seems foolish to me that the enemy would send such a blatant attempt our direction, it is only foolish because of who we are in Christ. For those who do not know Him, the temptation would be significant. For those who do, sometimes He allows us to see the fiery darts Satan sends at us, and defend against them with no real struggle.

I Praise the Lord that He strengthens me this way. I know in my flesh, I am not always strong. But because I walk with Him, He apportions His strength and wisdom to me, and I can discern foolishness.

Praise Jesus!


Wednesday, May 02, 2007

I don't know what it is that draws them, but when I am south of the border, those who are under the influence, seem to be drawn to me. It seems that each time I go, I am engaged by a man who has had too much to drink, and wants to talk to me about life.

They have plenty of other choices on my team, but I am the one they decide needs to hear what they have to say (I am actually thankful they choose me and not one of my students).

This time, I had gone out to my aforementioned favorite spot...leaning on the black wrought iron rail, in front of the church. I stood there watching and praying for those who passed. Occasionally engaging some in brief conversation.

As I stood there, the rest of the team of eight wandered out to join me. There we stood, leaning on the rail, watching life in Mexico go by.

A man about my height, but with way more hair plodded past seven others and stopped at me. He even looked familiar. Maybe this Jose was the same one I had spoken to before, I am really not sure. What I do know is that he was drunk.

He wasn't falling down incoherent, drunk. He was just slurring his words, so my friend/interpreter couldn't understand him, drunk. For some reason, I could comprehend what he was saying better than my friend. As you may recall, I understand more Spanish than I speak, and the fact that his speech had slowed down due to his inebriated state, helped me. Or maybe it was the Holy Spirit working in translation, I really don't know...but I was after all, at the black fence rail, where I understand Spanish better than anywhere else in Mexico.

As Jose shared with me, some of the others listened. Sometimes thinking I did not know what he had said, they would toss words my direction trying to didn't. It just distracted me. I tried hard to focus on our conversation.

Something about him reached into my soul. He was drunk, his shirt was ripped in the back, from top to bottom. He wanted something. I wanted to give him something. What we each had in mind were worlds apart.

As we spoke, a woman came up, who was apparently with him, and urged him to hurry as she needed to go to the bathroom. He was intent on talking.

Once, one of the other men tried to intervene and get involved in the exchange. Jose pointed at me, and indicated his lack of desire to speak to anyone else.

I told him about Jesus. He told me of his need for more money. He told me he had tried Jesus and it did not work for him. I told him he did not need more money that he would in turn spend on more alcohol. He laughed with embarrassment, realizing I was seeing through his ruse.

At several points I said goodbye to him, but he did not leave.

I knew that it was unlikely he would even remember this conversation in his condition, and so did not press too hard to share more with him. I did however, try to embrace him as a brother.

When we left for dinner, he was still talking. As we walked to our restaurant, he trailed me. When we reached an intersection, he asked for money to buy cigarettes. I turned and told him one final time I would not support his habits. He left.

Like Jose, my conversations with other drunks have been similar. I have seen them pass out in and fall to the ground in front of me. I have had other extended conversations in which there would be no end, unless I ended it. Some want to talk about Jesus, some want money, and others only want to be loved.

The perception is that every American is rich. Compared to what they have, this seems true. What will we choose to do with our wealth? They are hoping we will help them. I hope so too, only I know we will not help them in the way they desire.

People who are drunk are likely to only remember conversations in fractures and fragments. My prayer is that the Lord will one day bring them to Him. I have invited each man to return when sober. So far, none have.

Alcoholism has a firm grip on many in this country. The enemy uses many different vehicles to gain control over their lives. The same is true in our country.

From college campuses to co-workers to our churches, there are people who are in need of what we have. Not our silver or least not yet. For now, they need us to freely give to them from the well of the Holy Spirit within us. One step at a time, one person at a time, we can make a difference.


Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Wow! I can't remember the last day we had that was "normal." So much travel and scheduled busyness in such a short time! We are safely back in Tulsa, and have a recent Magna Cum Laude graduate sleeping under our roof. YAY!!!

I am very proud of Lauren! She graduated with a double major in Biblical Literature and Adolescent Ministries (Youth Ministry). She spent her entire college career in the Honors College, which meant she had to work even harder.

Isn't interesting how graduates assemble all wearing the same cap and gown? They all look like virtual carbon copies of each other. In a sea of black, it is nearly impossible to find the person you are looking for. When they all have their backs to you, good luck. You better know their hair color and style, their height, their skin tone, etc. or you will never find them. Of course, the alphabet long as they sit in the right order.

These students spend 4 or more years studying, preparing...being told to be individuals, being encouraged to make a difference due to their giftedness, then the last act of most universities is to have them all assemble looking alike. There is nothing wrong with this, it's just ironic.

I cannot wait to see what direction the Lord leads Lauren. She will spend her summer leading a mission trip to India. When she returns, the unknown faces her. She has sent out many resumes to many Universities, as she would like to get her graduate degree in Counseling. Specifically, she would like to counsel students. It is easy to see her in this role as she is very good with them.

Facing the unknown can be a daunting task by itself. Couple this with timing issues, and your life can seem out of control.

Recently, the Lord has consistently shown me how immense He is, and how small we are. If you consider things from His position for a moment, and you look upon humanity...the sea of faces with different desires and abilities...being God is not something to aspire to. How could one possibly desire a relationship with all of these? How could He have time to know each one, plus all of the rest of His creation?

It would seem that when he looked upon us, with our sinfulness, He would see a sea of black...all looking alike, all seeking our own selfish desires, all using and abusing whatever resources were at our disposal to gain a higher rung on the success ladder. What could He possibly want with us? How could I matter to Him with so many virtual copies of me all around?

Wouldn't it be amazing to have His vision for the world...even for a moment? To see everyone with from a heart of love and compassion that would cause Him to send His only Son to die for us? Surely when He looks upon His children, He does not see a sea of black. He must see us as we are, complete as He created us...different colors, different abilities, different hearts seeking to glorify Him...yet He takes time to share with each one of us. He desires to set us apart, and let us see His vision for our individual lives.

Incredible! We just need to seek Him, and He will use us.

At the conclusion of Lauren's Religion School Commissioning, the faculty encircled the few hundred students and began to pray over them! This was such an awesome experience! My secular University certainly did nothing like this.

These students spent the last 4 or more years getting to know how to please each of these doctors and professors. In the process they learned...a great deal. It was painful at times, and difficult to keep focused. The end result was to produce something that resembles the teacher, but with defined and significant differences. Each of these looked more like Jesus than when they started.

Perhaps at no time in her past, has Lauren looked more like Jesus than she does today. 2Corinthians 6:17 says, "Therefore, come out from them and be separate."

Looking like Jesus will always separate you from the world...even in your place of worship.

Take advantage of the opportunities before you, but "be separate." There is a reason you have been given the giftedness and opportunities that those around you do not have.

Don't be just another black form in a sea of higher education. Be Christ's form in a world that needs Him.