Tuesday, April 29, 2008

His last Peru trip.

The end of the school year is near for most. Yesterday, Whitney received official word that she had been accepted into the University of Texas, Arlington's Nursing program! WooHoo!

She has been studying there for a semester, and went through the formal application process. She has been checking the mailbox daily awaiting word, and it has finally arrived!

The end of the year means an increase in mail, when you work with students. There are many graduation announcements. It is exciting to see that those who have been working hard have finally reached this point.

This year is a bit different. This year, BJ's graduating class will walk.

As we receive these announcements, it cannot help but bring the question to mind of what might have been. I suppose it is inevitable.

It stirs and moves a place in us that perhaps we visit less frequently. We understand what happened, and have seen God be glorified through it. We are thankful for that. We also, wonder what he would have looked like today. Two and a half years older, wiser, and ready to graduate.

I would have enjoyed that day. I would love to watch him in his cap and gown, walking the platform to receive his diploma. His head filled with hopes and dreams for the future. His desires reflecting God's call on his life.

That would have been a good day.

This past weekend, we watched our nephew get married. How sacred the union between a man and a woman that God has brought together. It was a beautiful wedding, and we enjoyed being there.

I will confess to you that I found it very difficult. I did not expect this at all. I expected to be thrilled for Derek and to celebrate with them. We did do that, but I found myself on edge.

Somehow, I seemed to be watching the blessed event unfold through eyes I wanted to pluck out. I was thrilled for Derek and Audrey, but very sad within my own heart.

Suddenly, I rushed forward in time to Whitney's upcoming wedding. BJ would not be a physical part of it. It felt so unfair. It seemed each part of the wedding brought on a new emotion. I knew how excited he would be for her, and how much he would enjoy celebrating that event. We will too.

I guess it's hard to think of what might have been.

I didn't set out with that plan. It spontaneously happens when you are passing through life's events, and you miss a loved one.

I ached for my bride as I watched the groom dance with his mother. Tears spilled down Deanna's face as she longed for it as well. She decidely rose from her seat to stave off the flow and went to dance with him herself. I was proud of her.

I was proud of my daughters who responded immediately to a call from the groom that he and his groomsmen did not know how to put on their butoniere's. They immediately headed off to the rescue.

I am proud of my son. He will never reach these landmark moments in life, but the ones he did reach have had a deep impact on our world. Still, I would have loved to have been at those events on his behalf.

This year, I will celebrate in my own way. I have been afforded the privilege of speaking at a graduation in a couple of weeks. I look forward to that. I may also be able to attend a few others.

I will always be mindful of how precious his life was, and thankful for each day I still get. I miss him a great deal. I could sure use one of his hugs!

Until the day I get to be reunited with him, I will enjoy celebrating with his peers. Each one of their lives count for Christ as well. Sometimes, they just need to be reminded.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Alaska missions. The three of us in front of a glacier.

It was so good to be back with my girls again this weekend. It was a very quick trip with lots of driving, but a blessing to be together!

In the last six days, I drove over two thousand miles. Some people do this for a living. I don't. It wore me out. The drive to Hays, Ks. was very different from driving to Houston, Tx.

For one thing, I was alone for the trip to Hays. I had a lot of thinking time. I don't know how many of you have driven in Kansas, but it seems to stretch on forever. The landscape is fairly monotonous. There are times that it reminds you of films you may have seen of pioneer days when settlers were headed west, and encountered Indians.

Of course there are also the farms that are strewn about that seem to have significant sums of land. Land without a crop in sight. Livestock are about, but pale in comparison to the vast land expanses.

People in Kansas are proud. Billboards are found along the highway, boasting of how many families one farmer feeds, or how many homes, one oil man provides heat for. I don't think I've ever seen anything like that, elsewhere.

I spent time looking for Dorothy's home. I thought I might catch a glimpse of that Kansas farm...and Toto too? and Toto too! I never saw it. It was pretty run down in the movie anyway, so it wouldn't have mattered if I had seen it. It's probably been refurbished or torn down. Oh well, it gave me something to do.

As I headed west along I-70 between Salina and Hays, I came upon a sight that was so unusual it felt other-worldly. When it first appeared on the horizon, I wondered what I was seeing. As I drew nearer, I wondered at times if it was real, or if I had been in the car so long that I was hallucinating.

The tallest, gleaming white pillars I had ever seen, stretched to the sky and seem to attach the earth to the heavens. The closer I got, the taller they appeared.

Magnanimous, mythical, monoliths spread across the plains for miles. Each seemed to spire endlessly toward the heavens. In the lowly shadows below, stood rusting windmills, lacking the components that once generated electricity. A sad and broken reminder of days gone by.

These sparkling white replacements seemed to gleam with purity. The brilliance of the sunlight reflected off of each one. This area of Kansas seemed to be taken over by a modern day "war of the worlds."

I realized upon seeing these farms of wind catchers, that I had driven on more than one occasion beside semi's trailers, hauling a single blade of these incredible structures.

These were modern day windmills. If Don Quixote wanted to tilt at these, he would need a beryllium lance and Babe, Paul Bunyan's blue ox. Even then, he would only have been able to reach the southernmost tip of its descending rotation.

Each blade was three to four stories tall, alone. The height of the base unit was hard to measure in the vast expanse of open land, but appeared to press upwards of 10stories. Watching the blades turn in the wind was mesmerizing. Some stood silent.

I don't know how much it cost to erect one of these, but to have it stand at attention without revolution seemed a total waste. It was hauntingly eerie to see some not in motion.

Their size and assumed ability threatened a vacuum capable of usurping the very tractor trailers that had hauled them to their positions, off of the road from beside me.

My small mind is not capable of reasoning the amount of power these can generate, or where that power is stored or transferred to. It can however logically assume that when one of these is idle, it is costly.

Similarly, when we do not function as our Creator intended for us to, it comes at a price.

Our construction is far more complex than the engineering that went into these. A loving God put us together in such unique ways, that we have wondered for centuries how we were created. We offer mythical answers to this simple question. We try to prove scientifically something that happened supernaturally.

In our puny attempts to prove that what we cannot see could not exist, we erect structures that prove us wrong.

We may not stand as tall as we would like, or have the beauty we perceive in others, but we each have an intended purpose...to serve and honor Him. If we do that, then others get to see Him too.

The brokenness of bygone days in the lives of those around us can be restored, and other worldliness comes out in them. That which our Creator planted deep within us can finally be cultivated. We are His, and we reflect Him. No other purpose can be greater than that!


Friday, April 25, 2008

Derek and Audrey

We are on our way to Houston for Derek and Audrey's Wedding!!!

Derek is my nephew that spent 7 or 8 months in Peru as a missionary last year. He is a youth pastor looking for a position, once back from the honeymoon. They are a precious couple with huge hearts!

Derek's parents (Dan and Jolene...Dan and Deanna are siblings) have just moved to Tuxpan, Mexico where Dan is Pastor of a church there! God has been doing incredible things within our family and we are very excited to see Him continue to move!

We look forward to a bit of time as a family! We pick Whitney up in Dallas, drive on down to Houston, hopefully arrive in time to meet Lauren's flight, then get a night and a day together. We'll be back in Dallas Saturday night and then home on Sunday. It's all very quick, but being with family is very important, and we look forward to it!

God bless!


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Jenn and me in Mexico

The last two nights of ministry have been simply amazing. God has moved so powerfully, and He has changed the hearts of many. I am just so thankful that when I seem to be the weakest, He demonstrates how little He needs my strength to accomplish what He desires!

The Students at Ft Hays State University were highly responsive. God's timing was perfect as what He had me share coincided unsurprisingly, with their preparations for sending two missions teams, and preparing other students as well. I praise the Lord for Micah and Karen and the other staff from "Christian Challenge," who work with these students on a daily basis.

Last night in Sand Springs was incredible! 400 to 500 students turned out for the cross denominational event.

I can honestly say that when I arrived, I was exhausted from travel and ministry. I knew I would have to depend entirely on the Lord to deliver as I had nothing.

Those are the times that God shows up in the most powerful ways! He continues to teach me that it has little to do with me, and everything to do with Him and His desires. I am just grateful He allows me to be part of it.

We saw the Lord break the hearts of some of His own who were living for the world. We saw many come forward to pour themselves out before Him, seeking to live for Him and not their own desires. I saw a pk who had been rejecting the call of God on His life, surrender as he came before the Lord, trembling.

The Lord was ministering to adults as well. I heard from many who God had moved. One precious soul, believing God was calling she and her husband into ministry, was seeking hard after Him. One of the organizers of the event told me "this was the most powerful service I have ever been a part of!" He went on to tell me, he normally did the preaching at these events.

I can only say, Praise God! The cross has not been emptied of it's power! When I literally have the least to offer, He shows up in tremendous ways! This service was all about Him, and what He did!

The organizers, the praise band (Silver Lining) and I were all just tools in the hands of the Master! A very good place to reside!

Thank you Father for ministering to them and to me!

Thank you family for praying as you consistently do!

We serve a mighty God, and He hears and answers our prayers!



Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Behind the protection of two "good knights."

This morning, I am leaving for Hays, Kansas. I have the privilege of sharing at Ft Hays State University. First I will be with their leadership, and will share with them privately for a time. Then I will speak to their body of students.

I am so thankful to be able to meet with them.

In gearing up for this trip, I have been reminded how many times Jesus did the same thing with his disciples. He got alone with them to teach or train in private. He poured into them knowing His time was short, and the Salvation of the world was at stake.

Yes, the plan formed was to place ministry in the hands of these untrained followers. They were a ragtag bunch of fishermen, a tax collector, and others that it would have been hard for us to believe in.

Jesus spoke to them privately, frequently, trying to train them for the task before them. He would send them out in pairs early on, to help them see what was ahead.

He would share Truth and tell them they would understand more after the Comforter came. They often seemed confused. They would ask after a series of events, "What did you mean when you said...?"

I often wonder if Jesus grew frustrated, knowing He had chosen the lowest of men to carry on His ministry. I try to imagine following Captain Sig from "Deadliest Catch" on the Discovery Channel. I don't think I could do it. I imagine, following a bunch of guys who were outspoken (as Sig is) but seemed to lack wisdom in the areas of life other than fishing, would have been a bit crazy. After all, there were plenty of trained 'religious leaders' about who could help if religion was what we wanted.

And that is the deal is it not? We do not want religion. We want a relationship! It did not matter that these men were nobodies. What mattered was that Jesus poured into these guys. The Salvation of the world was going to rest in their hands after Jesus ascended.

While the plan seems ill conceived, it reflects that Jesus trusts us, the untrained followers that come to Him like little children, with a seed of faith. He can do so much through the untrained, to bring His truth to the world that is in such need.

Moments alone with Christ go a long way toward bringing others to an understanding of Him. The disciples had that opportunity, and afterword, the anointing of the Holy Spirit rested upon them and empowered them to go forth and serve.

That same Spirit will utilize our nothing to bring Jesus to those whom the Father draws. The key is, we need to be alone with Him. We need that time in His presence where He shows us things that don't make sense at first, but when we get it, He emboldens us to teach it to others.

When we surrender our foolishness, He replaces it with His wisdom, and prepares places for us to go and share it. We need to be willing. If we aren't willing, nothing happens...not in our own lives, or the lives of those He wants us to pour into.

What He gives us is not meant to be kept to ourselves. We are like buckets. Buckets fill a purpose, they are containers that hold or store liquid for a time, but then are used to pour it out.

What He pours into us, He does not intend for us to forever hold onto. That which He gives us may be stored for a time, at least until we understand it, then we need to pass it on. Liquid in a bucket that is not passed on will either spoil, evaporate, or ultimatley rust through and be lost in a manner of no account.

What is He shows us is of great importance, and His desire is that we pass it along. All of us are intended to be vessels that pass information along. The more working vessels that are deployed, the greater amount of information gets disseminated.

If we sit back and expect paid, trained professional to do it, we miss out on significant blessing, and far smaller amounts of info get passed. People want to hear from people who are real. They want to hear from those who live in the trenches where they live, who suffer as they suffer.

Its hard to relate to someone who is perfect. Its easy to understand someone who is broken. That is a place we've been.

Your brokenness will result in far greater glory for the King of Kings than putting on an air of perfection that most see through anyway.

Lets be real for Jesus.

We are buckets, lets stop hoarding what has been poured into us. The more we spill, the more we can get refilled!



Monday, April 21, 2008

This is Jessica, one of my team members from the recent Mexico trip.

I wanted to update our schedule for you. By the way, Deanna did an incredible job, thank you for lifting her up!

April 22nd Ft Hays State University, Hays, Kansas
April 23rd "the One" rally, Sapulpa, Oklahoma (youth from many area churches worship together)
April 25-27th My nephew Derek's wedding, Houston, Texas.
May 8th WGRC Raido, "The Matter at Hand" interview by Larry Wiedman (heard in 14 countries)
May 17th Ridgefield Christian School Graduation address, Jonesboro, Arkansas
May 18th Central Baptist Church, Jonesboro, Arkansas
May 28th Tuscola Christian Church, Tuscola, Illinois
May 30th WXIN FOX 59 Live Television Interview, Indianapolis, Indiana
June 1st Northside Baptist Church, Indianapolis, Indiana
June 2nd Cincinnati, Ohio, venue tba
June 16th to July 25th Summer trips to Chile, North Africa, Panama, Peru, and South Asia (I will be in Peru)

I had the privilege of meeting with a number of business men on Friday. Some in publishing, some in print media, some in media/cinema, some business owners.

They had recently returned from a Caribbean cruise on a tall ship, where they had taken their wives to get away, and discuss the things of the Lord, and the work He is laying on their hearts.

It was hard as I listened, not to wish I had been invited along. I like to talk about Jesus in difficult places. I saw some of their pictures...they did not suffer too much.

One of the men told me about a property owner he met on one of the resort islands. This man lived in a shack. The land he owned was significant. It had been handed down through the generations, and was precious to him.

He was a man of little means, and he was enduring a falling out with his family. He worked his land hard, but his family thought he was a fool.

You see, he had been offered $15,000,000 for his land by a developer that wanted to put up a resort. His family was very anxious for him to sell. They wanted to reap the benefit of the good life that they saw others live, but had never tasted.

They pushed him hard to sell. They resented living in the shack, and watching him go out each day with his machete to work the land. They saw this opportunity as one that could not be refused. The patriarch did not see it this way.

He had worked hard in life and was thankful for what he had. He was very proud of the land that he owned as it represented his culture and heritage. He was not interested in having great sums of money as he saw what it was doing to his family.

He knew they were anxious for him to die, so that they could sell off the meaningless land. They saw no value in hard work, when huge financial reward was theirs to be had.

This story is a hard one for us to hear. We can each see how we could benefit from having such gain. Perhaps most of us would sell quickly.

How many of us would stop to count the cost? Do we find value in the right places?

Many, many people today believe that much is owed to them. Our affluent society contributes to that idea. People believe they are suffering, and that quick gains could be made if they could just do things their own way.

Many believe that mom and dad owe them. Others believe society owes them. Many are sitting back with expectation that things will come their way because they deserve it.

There is no doubt that I could do a lot of good with that sum of money. But, would I? To have that kind of money brings with it brand new responsibility that few know how to handle. Each and every family would have to decide on their own, whether or not it meant more to have the land, or the money.

In the cultures I have been lived in for brief periods, they do not view life in the "throw away" way that we do. Land of their forefathers is highly prized and literally handed down for many generations. To get rid of it brings a form of dishonor to them. They have to weigh the loss against the potential gain.

This sum of money makes it all seem foolish to consider that there might be a down side. There is. There always is.

Most would say that the downside of fifteen million dollars is worth dealing with. It is hard to argue, I know. However, money coming to the hands of those who do not know how to use it can destroy their lives. It becomes a god to them. There is always something more to spend it on...something more they deserve as they have done without compared to the rest of the world.

I see this attitude frequently. I struggle with it, too. It is so easy to believe that life has dealt us strife and discouragement, and that we are owed much.

Few rest in the heritage, the promise they have in Christ. Few believe that Jesus plus nothing is everything. Many would say they believe it, but their lives demonstrate something else. So do their actions and attitudes.

We can all reason that that kind of money could be put to good use. No doubt it could. There are some who would actually use it responsibly. There are many more who would not.

What would be the cost be in gaining the whole world, and losing your life?

We must choose who we will serve. God is God alone. We cannot afford to allow money in any form of pursuit, to become even a temporary god in our lives.

My point is not to condemn those who would sell. Only to make us think about what our priorities are/would be.


Friday, April 18, 2008

We are so proud of who they each have become in Christ!

I have to tell you that of the interviews we have done for "I Would Die for You," this one was easily my favorite. I do not know a great deal about Janet Parshall. I know she is an award winning radio personality and that I have seen her name linked to national debates with very liberal names. She is a mother and an author. Janet was a joy to speak to and blessed us that her own understanding of who we are in Christ came through so vividly as she formed each question. If you have opportunity, I encourage you to visit the site listed in the blog below this one, and have a listen.

I find it very interesting in our lives, how we so often strive to be known. We want people to know us, and we want their approval. I think of the myriad tv and movie stars, professional athletes and more, that have risen to high levels of recognition. Many of these find it to be such a difficult place to live.

We want what we can't seem to have, but if we get it, we stop wanting it...the cost is too high. I think of how a portion of media make it their pursuit in life to have the latest photos or dirt on any particular high profile personality.

How many famous people do you know who remain humble amid the storm of notoriety?

Jesus is one among few.

Because of his ability to do miracles, and His employment of those at key moments, His own notoriety grew like a wildfire. There were no gossip columns or entertainment tv shows whose sole purpose was to air the details of famous peoples lives. There was word of mouth.

Yet, His fame was enormous. People knew who He was. Most everyone had heard of Him. Rulers and common people alike hoped for an opportunity to have an encounter with Him.

However, most hoped for interaction for the purposes of seeing the supernatural. Some were drawn into His presence because of their need for healing. How many of those were faithful to Him afterwards? For how long?

How many of us would get caught up in our own acclaim if we had been healed of a disease? Or had been lame and could suddenly walk?

We have a unique ability to turn that which is about Jesus into something that is about us...as long as it sheds a more positive light on who we are.

What happens to our claim to fame, when public opinion turns against the one we have connected ourselves to?

Jesus stood before angry mobs. Many of them had seen Him perform many miracles. Even His own disciples could not support Him at key moments. Public opinion is huge in our lives.

We don't mind speaking out against it from the safety of our own armchair. Put in the spotlight, who do we glorify? Self? Christ? We cannot be lukewarm. We must be all in, or not at all.

To call ourselves Christians when it is convenient for us and then to not back it up when He really needs us to step up, reveals much about our depth of relationship with Him. Who are we really serving?

Jesus stood silent in the presence of accusation and royalty! He did not play political games. He did not try to win public opinion when His own life was on the line. He sought to bring glory to the Father. Though He stood innocent, He was beaten for our sin, our iniquity, our pride. He uttered not a word.

How often do we stand in silence...in the wrong moments?

In the presence of our enemies, we must be willing to stand for Him who stood for us!

Opportunities will come for us to be found faithful. Will we point others to Jesus or further our own agenda?

When being found faithful is not congruent with public opinion, we cannot stand down.

Some of us have been seated for far too long. We are proficient quarterbacks in our own domain where the cost is low, but cannot put one foot in front of the other for a cause that requires our energy, our putting action behind words spoken in private.

Our words are empty and meaningless if not accompanied by surrender and action that would slay dragons.

Valor is not found behind closed doors. It is found in emptied homes whose hearts have risen up and whose energy has been poured out for the One who spilled His blood for us and who will one day be anything but silent when we stand before the Father.


Thursday, April 17, 2008

YOU CAN LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW AT http://www.wava.net/jpa/index.shtml LATER ON THIS EVENING (FOR FREE) IT SHOULD BE THERE FOR ABOUT 30 DAYS. It will be "Hour 2" under the date of 4/17/08.

Carol and Deanna. Carol and her husband Lowell were with us through our 6 week journey in the hospital.

Thank you Jeff Cross for fixing our picture issue and adding the slide show to this site! You have blessed us once again. Jeff is the one who set this site up for us.


Today, Deanna and I will be on Janet Parshall's America from 2pm to 3pm ET (3-4 CT). This is a national radio broadcast that airs in all 50 states (as near as we can tell). It is an honor for us to be asked to be on this show. You can hear the show by clicking on www.jpamerica.com and then clicking on the "listen live" button from her site.

We have been privileged to participate in many interviews, but this one feels very different, since it is national. We would appreciate it if you would remember us today as we try to make sure that Jesus remains the "main thing" as we share.

Perhaps American Idol has turned us all into music critics. I know we enjoy watching and critiquing. My American Idol...Deanna... is singing in church this Sunday for all three services. She will play the piano and sing "Captivate Us" by Christy and Nathan Nockels and Charlie Hall. She blesses me so much! I can't wait to hear her!
Feel free to join us at Parkview Baptist Church at 8, 9:35 or 10:55 this Sunday morning.

What? I gave you three days notice, you can still make the trip.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Laura, BJ, and Suzanne spent two summer together, ministering in Peru. Laura was with us last summer as well. Both ladies return with me this summer to once again, share the Gospel.

I remember when I was a child in church and heard stories of missionaries, how moved I was. I remember having this picture in my head of living in the jungles and connecting with tribes who dressed like Tarzan, and hung out with chimps. Much of what I believed about being a missionary was not true.

As an adult, after Deanna and I got married and began raising our children, I remember hearing the plea for people to go fill our churches short term mission projects to serve.

I heard testimonies, and they tugged at my heart. Kind of the way that watching "Little House on the Prairie" reruns would do. Still, I had a disconnected understanding in my head of what being a missionary would mean.

I found I was passing judgment on those who I knew to be missionaries, and even those who served in short term projects. Somehow, I saw them as hyper-spiritual, or disconnected with society in some other way. That somehow, God had called them to go to the ends of the earth because they did not fit in to our culture.

I was fighting hard for the American Dream. I wanted my children to have more than I had as a child. I wasn't really getting anywhere, but I saw myself as pursuing a better life for them.

My attitude began to grow a bit sour on the whole missions idea. It seemed an unwelcome distraction. An idea that seemed to take up an increasing amount of time in our church services. What was the deal? Why did they have to keep bringing it up? I knew I could not afford to go! The little money I made in human services, certainly wasn't going to allow me to go on such costly ventures.

Simultaneously, I was buying stuff I really could not afford to pacify my lust for my distorted corner of the world.

Through youth ministry, God began to open my eyes to the need and reality of His desire for me to serve. He had gifted me with an ability and a desire to connect with students. He showed me how to do this, and it was contrary to my suppositions.

I began to learn much from Him, once I let go of my own agenda.

Soon, the youth ministry at Northside Baptist Church in Indianapolis was planning a student mission trip to Croatia. It was to last around two weeks. I remember being asked to pray about going and helping lead. I remember being terrified.

I had been to Canada. I had been to Mexico. I had even been to the Bahamas. I didn't need a passport for any of those. I never had a desire to travel. I have always been something of a homebody. A homebody who wanted to live in the mountains or woods. the idea of leaving our soil to go to those jungles of my childhood memories, and hanging out with chimps was way out of my element...or so I thought.

The Lord made clear His will for me to go that summer. I submitted, but had great concern. I helped plan in small ways, but spent a lot of time nursing worry.

I remember getting my passport, showing up at the airport, and being filled emotion. I did not know if I would ever return to my family or not. I had a crisis of understanding my purpose in life.

God broke my heart that summer. He showed me what happens when I walked in obedience to Him. He showed me what impact He would have through my "yes." He separated me from the team and had me preaching in churches, while the rest of my team worked together. Me...preaching! No one would believe this. What was God thinking?

I got to spend time with my team as well. I saw the Lord open the eyes of students in ways that expanded my view of Him. I saw God save many for His kingdom!

I remember saying to myself, "wouldn't it be cool if I could do this for a living?!"

Eight years later, through a seemingly unmeasurable journey, I would be doing just that!

A surrendered life changes lives.

When we fully surrender to what the Lord desires, He begins to move and demonstrate His power in ways that break down pre-conceived notions.

Your life matters. My life matters.

He can and will do much when we yield control to Him.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Thy Word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."

In my life, I have logged hundreds of hours in the saddle of a mountain bike, and thousands on a road bike. I have better skill in the latter, but enjoy the challenge of the former.

Spending that much time riding, I have also experienced my share of accidents and road rage. I've been forced off of the road, had things hurled at me from speeding cars, been flipped end over end, and more.

I wasn't looking for a fight in any of these scenarios. The ugliness that often dwells within us seems to come out in momentary frustration. A cyclist is an easy and vulnerable target.

In trail riding, one of the skills you must develop quickly is the ability to maneuver at speed between all of the obstacles. It is not uncommon to be on very narrow trails, called "singletrack."

These intend to challenge the rider. He must watch for sharp tree stumps in the path while negotiating the limbs and low branches that seek to dislodge the pilot from his cockpit. These things are accomplished (or not) while also dealing with elevation changes. Some are so significant, that many riders must get off and walk.

It is not uncommon to exit the woods with scratches, cuts or bruises, on your body. Riding singletrack is intended to challenge as well as keep the path so narrow as to prevent riders from cruising two abreast. In races, this increases the challenge to get ahead. One must be ready to accelerate at the smallest of windows of opportunity.

Each of us experience times in our lives where it would seem that we are walking a "singletrack" path. We seek to be heading in the right direction, while the world claws at us, and fights to dislodge us from our intended direction or goal.

The brambles and briars that often line the trail edges leave their mark on us. The enemy seeks to bring discouragement and frustration into our lives by leading us to believe that we are alone, headed in a ridiculous direction, and on a course that will not be of true benefit.

Sometimes the beating we take is significant enough that we find ourselves beginning to listen.

I love the woods. I am significantly alive when I am in them and do not know where they lead. I cannot wait to see what is ahead. I love to drink in the beauty that I am surrounded by.

To be honest, if I am on a bike in the woods, I am going too fast to notice these things. When I get off the bike or leave it at home, I can enjoy the beauty.

There is potential beauty in our path that the enemy would use for harm. It is possible to traverse our lane in such a way that we can avoid the pitfalls or dangers and still enjoy His creation.

Sometimes we must slow down, others we need to accelerate through. The key is to take the tools He has provided, and to use them wisely. Gods Word combined with the direction of His Holy Spirit are with us as long as we engage them. When we try to 'go it alone,' we are more likely to get whacked.

Open eyes and an obedient heart will not assure that we take no hits, but will help assure that we respond appropriately when we are blindsided. When armed appropriately, we a far less likely to be taken by surprise.

In cycling, there is protective gear available for such trails.

In life, we should always be suited up in our spiritual armor.


Monday, April 14, 2008

The family on the porch of our Carmel, Indiana home.

This past weekend, Deanna was at a women's retreat at Fall's Creek Camp. With her away, Lauren and I spent some time together, eating dinner, watching movies, etc. I thoroughly enjoyed her company.

I also learned something a bit peculiar about her.

Saturday morning, she had a bowl of cereal. As she was eating it, I noticed a dollop of peanut butter on the edge of her bowl. I asked her about it. I had never seen this before.

She carried on about the virtues of this little practice. I don't know when or why or how she began to do this, but it was clearly not a usual practice, so it captured my attention.

I like peanut butter. I like cereal. Other than Cap'n Crunch, I have never mixed the two. Perhaps I've fallen a bit behind, I don't know for sure.

Over the last week or two, I have reconnected with a number of students that I used to work with through various ministries. Facebook, was the way I found them. For those unfamiliar with it, it is an on-line address, where everyone can have their own page with whatever info they want on it. It is a pretty easy way to stay connected to friends.

I need help in this area, cause I am not very good at it. When the Lord moves us from one place to another, I struggle to stay in touch. I am not proud of this, but it is a part of me.

I know the Word tells us that this is not our home. I know that even when I am comfortable in a setting, I still long for that which will only come after Christ returns.

I realize that I am blessed to work among devoted students who love Jesus. The Lord has provided a way for me to be a part of their lives and I enjoy them a great deal.

However, it has been a bit heart wrenching recently, as I reconnect with students from the past, who were seeking hard after Him at that time, that now seem to be far from Him.

Those who used to be "peculiar" and would stand out in this world, have become part of it. They have embraced the things that the world offers, and have become so comfortable with it that they post picture after picture of their forays into the world on their facebook site.

"Incriminating" is the word that comes to mind.

I don't honestly have any idea what is happening in their lives at this point, other than what I can see and read on their web page. Perhaps what they choose to post, isn't reflectice of who they are, I don't really know.

However, it occurs to me that the windows we adorn for people to look into our lives ought to reflect who we are, what we stand for, and what we believe. Even if only in small ways, our lives are visible by what we choose to reveal.

Are we "peculiar?"

Have we come out from the world and been separated by our choices? Do the things we do really reflect well on our Savior? Have we become so comfortable with the world that we allow pictures of ourselves doing that which can only be construed in some sense to be "self-gratifying" because they don't point to Jesus, to represent who and what we stand for to the extent that we post them for others to see?

If who we are cannot be seen in brief glimpses into our lives, there is nothing peculiar about us. If we are truly following Him, if we have really come out from the world and been separated, then our peculiarity will be revealed in ways other than how we choose to eat our cereal.

Neither our lives nor pictures of our lives should reflect to others a disconnect from our Savior. James 3 says, "Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be." It is not a leap to then say, out of the same life should not be reflected both the embrace of the world and of the Savior.

I know that in my distant past, there are probably pictures of me embracing the world. I hope I am mature enough in the present to realize that I cannot point others to Jesus, if I remain tied to that past.

I have been set free from that.

My life needs to be a sacrifice to the Savior. Each day, I learn new ways for that to be lived. This is what I need to show to those who would look into who I am.


Friday, April 11, 2008

BJ, Meagann, Sierra, and Ashley

Last night, two of my favorite people came over and made us dinner! What an awesome time we had in sharing this meal. They allowed us to relax in the comfort of our own home while they worked in the kitchen to prepare us a wonderful Tilapia meal.

The salad had more color in it than I have ever seen. Of course that meant it also had some vegetables in it that were crunchy. Red, bright green, purple, yellow, dark green, orange, etc. Many of those veggies, I would never eat by themselves, but they were delicious together, and I didn't even put the salad dressing on. Okay, I picked out the cucumbers. That is one I will have to ask the Lord about one day.

When the rest of the meal was over, they brought out a wonderful pie. I don't like coconut when it is processed. This had fresh coconut on it and it was incredible! Yes, I had a second helping!

It was so good to fellowship with them. They had such servants hearts, and thoroughly seemed to enjoy cooking for us.

I often have to pause when I encounter people in ministry who don't enjoy serving. It causes me to look at their motivation as well as my own.

There is no question that Jesus came to serve. We are supposed to pattern our lives after Him. So where does the idea come from that says, I will come and participate if you meet my needs? We seem to be willing to show up for church, but don't ever ask us to actually do anything, as that would be infringing on us.

If anyone ever deserved to be served it was Jesus. But He outserved the lot of us. When I look at these two young ladies from last night, and know their hearts and see what they are involved in...how they serve, it blesses me. It blesses me because I realize, that not everyone comes before the Lord with the spirit of entitlement.

So many within our Christian circles today, expect things to be done for them, and are void of any expectation to actually invest.

We believe it is the preachers job to evangelize. Ours is to show up and sit in the pew and think about lunch. We believe the pastor or deacons should visit us regularly, but we won't do anything to provide for or bless them.

We expect the preacher to know when we are ill and in the hospital, and have much to complain about if he doesn't show, when we haven't ever contacted him.

We believe that worship should be to our liking, and ignore the fact that it is not about us, but about giving of ourselves to Him...sacrificially!

We are annoyed when the offering plate is passed, after all, we gave at the office.

Many of our expectations are about our own comfort and desires, and do not reflect in any way, the attitude of Christ.

But because its always been done this way, it should be okay to do that way now! Many of the things we cling to, we cling to because of tradition, not because they are scriptural.

We like to point at the children and talk about how easy they have it, and how hard it was for us. We like to elaborate on their shortcomings, and express frustration over their materialistic natures.

The majority of these things are learned behaviors. Ones we embrace over time. Sometimes without even realizing it. Many of our offspring are the way they are because of the way we have trained them.

Jesus came to serve.

We are supposed to be like Jesus.

It's not too late to become more like Jesus, and less like us.


Thursday, April 10, 2008

BJ interacts with a Downs Syndrome girl

Last night I had the privilege of sharing the Gospel with a group of students. I find it interesting how one can usually tell which ones are with you and which ones have other things on their mind.

The view from being the teacher is very different from the view of being part of the audience. Along the way, you learn little things that help keep the ones on the fringe, engaged. Employing them, usually works.

I often wonder how our attention spans might differ, if Jesus were the teacher.

Through the years, I've seen my share of congregants who sleep through the message. Nothing personal there, they sleep through everyones message. I've often wondered about the justification process in their minds.

If it were a fluke, and only happened to these individuals on rare occasions, that would be one thing, but to see them drift off on a weekly basis, makes you wonder.

Personally, I cannot get enough teaching! I am so thankful for the internet at this stage of my life. I can download sermons by others on a regular basis. I have my favorites that I return to, but I love finding new ones.

This is a practice that BJ used on a fairly regular basis. He would listen to or read a downloaded sermon and then engage others on-line to discuss it.

I do the same thing with my summer leadership. I send them weekly messages, and have them engage the rest of the leaders once they have listened. There is great benefit to this.

One can listen when they are ready. Too often, we are not in the right frame of mind on Sunday morning (thats a topic for another day). Being able to utilize the internet for listening or downloading the written messages of others has been inspiring in my own life.

When I run, I listen to sermons on my iPod. This helps me focus on God's Word instead of my pain. Recently, the iPod was on the fritz, and I didn't have any portable electronic device to keep me focused. I didn't make it near as far.

God has used many different men and messages in my own life to inspire the words and messages that He wants me to bring. My usage of the iPod increases as I near a mission trip. It is amazing how He will take things He's been laying on my heart and give them to me in a new way when I listen to some random preacher.

This has helped form many messages that I have delivered on the field. On occassion, a message is so good by itself that some of our leadership just play the message for the whole team, while on foreign soil.

In general, there is such a wealth of godly good stuff available to us in our day and age, that we really don't have any excuses for not learning or growing.

For those who sleep through each Sunday message, I certainly hope they are taking advantage of technology. Our presence on Sunday morning is not enough. For those who think we can coast through these times, reread the book of Amos. Especially chapter 5, verses 21 on. We cannot fake our way through this!

Whether we like to admit it or not, God sees the condition of our hearts, and knows if we are putting on show for others. Our connectedness to Him is often revealed, like it or not, by our body language and attention span on Sunday mornings (or in any service).

The preacher sees what is happening, and the Lord knows the reality of our heart conditions. I believe both are disappointed by too much inattentiveness.

We really cannot afford to take our Sunday afternoon nap, during the feast!


Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Walker, Brad and me...

Last night was amazing! Deanna shared before a packed out audience in Newkirk, Oklahoma. She spoke to a women's group. The group is comprised of women from the many different denominations in the surrounding area. These women get togehter monthly to fellowship, share a meal, worship, pray and hear teaching.

What an incredible blessing to see the body of Christ come together, rotating from church to church, month by month, to further the kingdom. In Acts 2, this is what occurred, that elicited growth in terms of souls that came to Christ. These women, have a clear vision of what the body looks like.

They have transcended their church background, stepped out of their comfort zones, and embraced each other, for the sake of their Lord.

I am so proud of Deanna, and how she availed herself to be used by the Lord!

I was not present at the service, but came at the end to pick her up. They ran late, and so I heard from many of the women. Some still wiping their eyes, at how the Lord had stirred their hearts. They were blessed by Deanna's transparency and her strength (which is in the Lord)!

While she was speaking to a full house, I was privileged to spend that same time with a handful of men...spouses of some of the women. I received such a blessing from them. They invited me in, knowing we were coming from a couple of hours away to spend time. We ate, we laughed, and we fellowshipped.

Deanna spoke in Newkirk, while I was a few miles away in the little country settlement of Peckam.

These were 'good ole boys,' who love Jesus. There is something very calming about being with a group of people you don't know, who have a common bond in the Lord. There is no pretense, just fellowship.

Most of these men were my senior, and the way they related to one another was wonderful. The fact that they included me, was a blessing.

I thank the Lord that He provides small windows of anointed moments in our busy lives.

Thank you for lifting Deanna up. The Lord responded, generously!


Monday, April 07, 2008


I would like to let you know about some speaking engagements that we would appreciate your prayer covering for, this month:

April 6th at Parkview Baptist Church to students, Tulsa
April 7th at a Ladies Community Group (Deanna speaking) Northeastern Oklahoma
April 9th at Parkview Baptist Church to students, Tulsa
April 17th on Janet Parshall's America, National Radio Broadcast (3pm ET)
April 22nd at Ft Hayes State University, Kansas
April 23rd at the "One" Rally (multi-church student rally) Sapulpa, Oklahoma

I am excited about Deanna's opportunity to share tonight!

It is no secret that I am getting older, and that my eyesight is not what it used to be. I am betrayed by my eyes more and more often!

While in Mexico, recently, my partner Katie, kept showing me messages on her blackberry from our home office. I kept handing her phone back to her and saying, "I can't read that, Katie, please tell me what it says."

I try really hard to keep my reading glasses nearby. Without them, I find myself lost, too much of the time. I need them for my quiet time, I need them at work, I need them to read menus when we're out, etc.

While I knew my eyes were losing elasticity and not focusing well on things up close, I did not realize how much I was missing of the rest of life.

This weekend we finally got around to getting our taxes done. Every year, I put that off and dread the whole event. Every year, I get stressed...way too stressed over this. I enjoy having my taxes done about as much as I enjoy going to the dentist. Well, I'd rather have my taxes done.

That does remind me, however, that I also need to go to the dentist.

After the early Saturday morning appointment was over, we felt a huge release! For a time, I was bi-polar. I had been wearing my "grumpy pants," for a few days over the whole tax thing, and suddenly, I was mr. happy!

A few days earlier, Deanna and I had visited a couple of different stores to look at flat panel, HD, televisions. We kept hearing how in February of 2009, things change in the whole tv realm. If you have rabbit ears for your tv, and don't have cable, your tv will no longer work without some new equipment.

We don't have rabbit ears, but this did compel us to join the rest of ours society in looking at flat panel televisions. I was amazed at the clarity of these screens. It makes watching our old one look like its out of focus.

We debated and discussed for several days whether or not to buy one. I spoke to the local authority on the subject, who also happens to work in our offices. He has surround sound at home and just finished installing speakers in his couch. Yes, his couch. Well, they're really not speakers, they are "bottom rumblers." When you are watching an action movie, and an explosion happens, these things jiggle your backside and insides, and make you have to use the bathroom.

A great tool if you enjoy surround sound. Not so great if you have a weak or needy internal elimination process.

We looked at many different screen sizes. We talked about brands, and could see the difference in pictures. We finally decided on one and bought it.

While this screen is bigger than what we had, it is not near as big as what I know many people are watching at home. However, the picture clarity and increased screen size are revealing things to me.

I have been missing half of everything I've watched (that is really not a bad thing). There is so much more to see, and I didn't even realize it was there. Something else, too. We now get many more channels. We've been paying for the same plan for over a year and not been getting part of what we've paid for because we had inferior tv sets!

Yes, we enjoyed watching movies on Saturday evening in High Definition. We could both see, and neither of us had to wear our glasses! Have I told you recently that my lovely bride has a different pair of glasses for every room of the house?

Anyway, as my eyes were opened to all these things this weekend, I couldn't help but sense the fact that this is often what it is like when you have been living in darkness and suddenly through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can see! How incredible! What a blessing to be able to discern what has been right there all along, but you couldn't see it cause you hadn't made the right choices.

This is true of those who lived in darkness and came to Christ as well as those who know Jesus, but do not invest in their relationship with Him until something compels them to do so. Suddenly, that feeling of seeing things in a new light washes over them. They realize that there has been much they have been missing because they've been focused on the wrong agenda.

Praise God for how He changes us from the inside out!

Now, if I could just get Him to do something about being able to read the fine print...


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Our two beautiful girls!

A note to the blogger who asked about Hanta Virus yesterday: This virus was ruled out. So was most every other possible virus or disease. The one that matched best as far as symptoms, was Bubonic Plague. The doctors in Peru and our infectious disease Doctor both believe this is what BJ had been infected with. There was one positive test result for Plague, but two postitives are required for diagnosis. The Plague is highly contagious. None of BJ's teammates, his close friends or his family were ever infected. For this reason among others, we believe that the Lord was using BJ's life...his testimony to point others to Christ. That it was not about a disease or infection that claimed a life, but about a young man who the Lord had spoken to and revealed that he would lay his life down for his faith. He shared this with closest friends, and continued to follow the Lord in obedience. He was willing to do whatever it took to point others to Jesus. That is what his life was about, and is what the Lord desires that each of our lives be about. Thank you for reading and asking the question!

This past Sunday, my pastor used a video at the beginning of his message. In it ran a story from Memphis of a 92 year old woman who was shopping. She got into her car after finishing, only to have a man open her passenger door, get in, and demand her money.

She refused!

He argued with her. She told him that if he chose to shoot her, as he was threatening to do, that she would be with Jesus and that he was headed to hell. As she continued to speak to him about his lost and desperate state, tears filled his eyes and began to run down his face. His tense posture relaxed as she told him of Jesus Christ the saving One.

He listened intently to her.

When she was finished, she opened her purse and gave him her last $10.00, and told him that she wanted him to have her money, but that he better not spend it on whiskey!

He leaned over gently and kissed her on the cheek before he left.

She had faced death and spoken of Christ!

This week, one of the men I work with was running errands with me. We had stopped off at the post office to drop off and retrieve mail. We pulled into the full lot and found a place to park. I waited with the car while he went in and made the exchange.

I listened to music and waited.

A few minutes later, I caught a glimpse of his red jacket. There was a problem however. If this was my partner clad in his red jacket, he was going to the wrong car.

It all happened quickly and there was nothing I could do but watch. I could see that this car was occupied similarly, by a driver waiting on someon inside.

The story of this dear 92 year old woman raced through my mind as I watched my friend open the car door of an adjacent vehicle and start to get in.

As he began to enter, he looked over and saw the startled expression of the driver. He quickly apologized for his mistake and told him, "I'm getting into the wrong silver SUV!"

He closed the door, made his was around that car to mine. The man opened his car door and was looking at my friend face to face. He said, "I'm the one who is 63, I'm supposed to be getting into the wrong car, not you!"

We both laughed. I think my friend was embarassed. I know I was embarassed for him.

I didn't "tell on him" when we arrived back at the office. I've done enough silly things to know that not every foolish act needs to be relayed.

The next day, when I had still not told on him, he chided me in the presence of other staff for not having done so.

So, I shared. They all had a good laugh.

How often do we get so involved in what we are doing, that we fail to recognize that we are opening wrong doors?

If we are walking in obedience to Jesus, we will quickly recognize our mistake and can back out. When we do, Jesus may look us full in the face, and with grace encourage us for choosing wisely.

When we act foolishly, let us be fools for Christ.


Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Taken two years ago, just before the move south, we stand beside the tree planted in BJ's honor.

I received an email from my brother this morning. He was letting me know that he had recently heard from a college friend he hadn't spoken to in nearly 18 years. She had been looking at her daughters "Brio" magazine (from Focus on the Family) and had seen our book advertised...one of two books they recommended.

She knew nothing of the situation. Seeing our names, she felt it had to have been our book. She began calling friends and family trying to find out if anyone knew for sure. Ultimately, she connected with someone who knew, and she ended by calling Brad.

Being a mom herself, once realizing all that had happened, she wept. Every parent can sense this pain by merely reflecting on how it might feel to lose your own child.

I must admit, that when I hear stories like this I am often overwhelmed by raw emotion. I will always want to hear people's stories. I am just surprised at how close to the surface all of this resides...and with such intensity.

To see how the Lord continues to be glorified is a blessing. We are very thankful for this. We are grateful to hear from people who have read and have been stirred by the Spirit of the Lord.

The Lord was showing me this morning much about His time in the garden, before the betrayal and crucifixion. I was moved by His agony in having to pray alone. He had brought three with Him to also pray, but they could not handle it, and slept.

I was reminded through this, that though we felt very alone at times, we never were. Nor have we been since. Many tried to sleep during our journey, and could not. The Lord remembering His own pain in having to pray alone, saw fit to keep many of you up to pray, while we tried to sleep. This is ovwerwhelming to realize.

We have sensed and known the multitude of prayers continuously offered on our behalf. We have much to be thankful for. We are most appreciative of the surrender and faithfulness that many of you walk in. There are many more who no longer visit here that have been part of this process. We are so very encouraged to have had each of you as part of our lives.

Thank you for giving of yourselves as the Lord has prompted you. Thank you for blessing our lives.


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

One of many sets of eyes that steal your heart!

In my own life I am often reminded of how quickly my thoughts and then sometimes my actions will distance me from God's will. I am not proud of this, but I see it happen time and again.

It seems to occur without my realizing it. My mind has a natural tendency to move from the things of God to things that are not of Him.

I have learned I must make conscious decisions to keep my focus on Him and His desires. If I do not, I am quickly moving in the wrong direction.

Recently in Mexico, I saw this play out in others lives as well. First of all, we had an incredible team, and God did some amazing things through their obedience. This is part of the reason that this stood out to me.

Within our leadership we assign Team Directors (TD's), who are responsible for daily ministry. One of their responsibilities is to keep the team focused while traveling from one ministry site to another. This is accomplished through any number of means. Having the team pray, worship, give testimonies, etc.

Since I was always driving, I was not in a position to take on this role. It was assigned to others. They did it very well, and I was pleased with their effort and creativity.

However, I noticed, that if the TD's relaxed their efforts for a few moments, something disquieting happened. Each time they let down for a moment or two, the team began to talk or discuss things that moved them away from a ministry mindset. They were very simple, even natural conversations, but they would end in places that the instigator never intended them to go.

There is something about the mentality of groups that when focus is lost, they end up revealing even amplifying what is within each of us, that is not good. It is not our desire to say or do things that are contrary to His will. We often find ourselves saying or doing things more quickly in groups if someone does not act as the spiritual conscience of the team.

It is even interesting how that person can become disliked for playing that role. They do not intend to be holier than others, only to hold them accountable. They must do the same thing within themselves.

Our minds get transfixed on many things that are not Christ-like. Most of us have learned to take these thoughts captive, and surrender them to the Lord, so they never reach our lips. However, often times in groups, the opposite happens.

My point is not to denegrate my team or what they did. God worked in powerful ways through the team. My point is to remind myself and others that we have a natural tendency to think and perhaps do wrong things...these things must be held at bay by conscious decisions, whether in groups of by oneself.

Don't be afraid to be the TD of your group of friends! I will tell you that this is something I saw my son do on many occasions. It came very naturally to him because of the time he spent with Christ. I know he took hits for it, but for the most part, he gained the respect of people, and pointed them back to Christ.

This did not occur because he went with a mission organization, it happened because he knew what was right.

The more time you spend with Jesus, the more likley you will take on His characteristics. This tends to be true whenever you spend large amounts of time with someone. We need to spend more time with Jesus than we do the world. Otherwise, we begin to look like that which we do not want to represent.