Friday, October 31, 2008

A Costume Party/Wedding Rehearsal found a "latino man" between "Bonnie and Clyde"

I must share a story I heard for the first time, yesterday. I fear I will be unable to do this particular story justice. Please understand that this is solely about how the Lord uses our obedience to move in the lives of others.

I have a friend in Georgia who has filled a calling to prison ministry for many years. His name is Eddie. The Lord has used him to impact the lives of many inmates, and he has been in the blessed position of leading many of them to a relationship with Christ!

In 2004, Eddie was in one of the toughest prisons in America. As he surveyed his surroundings, he saw a man bound with chains between his feet, his wrists, and those joined to each other, causing him to be bent over. He stood between two guards.

The Lord moved in Eddie's heart and he proceeded toward this man. Blanketed with tatoo's, one espousing hatred, he approached anyway.

He discovered that he was talking to a man named Earl, that had been transferred from prison to prison across the US, as he provoked fights and difficulty wherever he went. Each time, he landed in a more hardened environment with more stringent rules. He spent much time in solitary confinement. He was feared by most.

Eddie began to talk to this man, and a relationship began that would continue to the present.

Somewhere along the way, Eddie would stand before this man sharing Christ with him. He spoke to him in the yard between guards, in solitary, and through weekly letters.

Earl, a very hardened man who had been in prison for over 10 years, had done many horrific things. Eddie was warned to steer clear of him, as things would only end badly.

Eddie persisted, and one day in 2004 through the bars, Earl would surrender his life to Christ!!!

Earl was transformed! God was doing a work in his life. The system did not believe, as they had seen many hardened inmates espouse "born again" religion, and live to the contrary.

Earl developed a voracious appetite for the Lord. Eddie began to send him books to read. He watched through the tone and content of letters, a discipleship process begin that was difficult to believe.

Earl who formerly lived a life of hate crimes and drugs, was now reaching across racial boundaries, and the Lord began to impact the lives of others around him. He developed impossible friendships, and sought to serve those he formerly persecuted.

In the course of his reading, he was sent a book that would transform his way of thinking. He began to say, "nothing else matters" as he spoke of Christ. He would bring Him up in any conversation with anyone he encountered. He would encourage his mentor, Eddie to do likewise, saying, "in this life, we have no excuses for not bringing Jesus up at every opportunity! If we live our lives for Him, NOTHING ELSE MATTERS!"

Eddie watched from afar, as an amazing transformation took place. Most of it was documented in the many weekly letters traded by the men.

A couple of months ago, Earl was to be released. Eddie, went to bat for him, and met him at the gates to carry him first to a half way house, and later to a place even more personal.

When Earl met Eddie at the gate, he was carrying all that was important to him. The clothes on his back, his Bible, and his dog eared copy of "I Would Die for You." Eddie was moved by what he considered important.

He had supplied him with many other books which were left behind. The two books that the Lord used to change his life, and his way of thinking were carried out of his own "gates of hell."

When Earl's time at the half way house was coming to a close, Eddie was making arrangements to move Earl into his own family home. Eddie had shared many of their traded letters with his wife over the course of time, and she was ready to receive him as well, that is, until a parole officer came to call.

This man knew of Earl's past. He listed for them all of the hideous crimes he had committed. He tried hard to keep them from taking him in, insisting, he would only return to his former life, and possibly harm them along the way.

When the officer left, Eddie's wife despaired. How could her husband be willing to bring such a person into their home? Eddie implored, "please, just pray about this?!"

She did, and an amazing peace came over her. She once again stood in agreement that Earl was welcome.

Most doors before Earl were closed. No one wanted him around, not to work and not to live. Eddie persisted.

He took Earl onto his own payroll and began to work with him day and night.

Earl was truly a changed man. Eddie saw it, his wife saw it. Then the parole officer saw it.

She even told Eddie, "he is the son you never had isn't he?"

"He is!" Replied the father of three (now adult) women.

Earl now rides shotgun with Eddie during the workday. Just last week, Earl saw some folks living under a bridge. He asked Eddie to stop at a burger place where he bought a big box of burgers. He then requested they return to the bridge.

The next hour or so was spent handing out burgers and telling these 'discarded people of society' about Jesus Christ, the Saving One!

Earl's copy of "I Would Die for You" is tightly wedged into his back pocket, folded and dog eared. When he tells people about Jesus, he uses his Bible and this book, quoting from both. He has passed his copy to other inmates, and talks to those not incarcerated about a young man who gave his all for the Lord, and speaks to them about life, saying, "Nothing else matters!"

Earl gets it! He has learned to lay down his life for the Savior! There is so much more to this story. A testimony is a fluid parcel...too much to fit on a page. Earl will live and serve the Savior who gave His life for him. He has died to self, that Christ may be brought glory! Amen!



Thursday, October 30, 2008

Deanna and Lauren preparing the bride (Whitney)...

Recently, a 14 year old young man came forward at my church to give his heart to Christ. He had been through a great deal in his life, as he had open heart surgery three different times.

He came forward declaring his love for Christ, just one week before he was to undergo his fourth and final surgery to correct issues of the heart. His small stature and glasses reminded me of someone.

His family traveled to St Louis to have his surgery. The surgery went well, and high hopes abounded for his full recovery.

As sometimes happens in such cases, complications began to surface. These brought the family and their son to a place of significant testing... a squeezing of their lives.

How would they cope, what would be the outcome of their journey?

Week after week I read their updates. Daily they gave glory to God and proclaimed their undying faith in the One who could heal. A handful of times, I wrote on their wall. I felt I understood their situation, and wanted them to know that we supported them, and were lifting them up.

Last week, as we were experiencing the first marriage of one of our own children, they were in the throes of deep darkness.

Early on, I had forwarded their updates to my bride. About three weeks ago, I stopped doing so. I stopped because the words were met with my own understanding in a way that was not easy to tolerate. The pictures in my mind from the descriptions offered up were far to familiar. I knew the sounds, I knew the whirs of machines, I knew the crush of emotion as they tried to make sense of all that was happening... trying desperately to be hopeful when little hope was being offered by the medical staff. I wanted to protect her during this time when she needed was carrying so much, already.

I continued to read and pray, but I confess that my own path had led me to a place of unique understanding. One I did not want. One that seemed as if it would end with a similar refrain.

As we celebrated the joining of two lives into one, this family was enduring the loss of their only son. He had gone home to be with the one he proclaimed as Savior and Lord. No doubt he was greeted with open arms. The love of a mighty God was there to usher him into the presence of the Spotless Lamb.

He is home. He is at peace. His heart is fully healed. The heart of his family is broken. Yet, this family did nothing but praise God everyday as they wrote of their journey. The know where he is. They would not steal him back for selfish gain. They understand eternity.

Many have said to us, "I could never do what you are doing."

The longer our journey continues on from August and September of 2005, the more people we see who CAN do this. Never is it by choice. Always it is a walk of faith. Every time it has been parents who love so deeply and embrace so completely a love for God that supersedes their own pain and loss.

None of us ever expect or hope to endure such chasms of grief. Each of these families we have met along the way have one thing in common. They are being carried by the Christ. They are also loved by a Father who gave His one and only Son. He understands the pain. He allows the abiding love His Son to assist us in overcoming our circumstances that we might point others to Him.

Perhaps none would choose this path.

Perhaps we experience the love of God in ways that are unique.

Each of us find ourselves drawn to serve in a way we didn't before. We have a sense of purpose that we did not realize prior to the trek or the loss.

We are so incredibly thankful to serve a Savior that sees fit to meet each of our needs in such unique ways. His role is to tend to issues of the heart. He does so with complete healing. Things do not always end the way we would like, but they do bear the fruit of His glory, if we put Him first.

We never know what may happen tomorrow. We must learn to be faithful today.

Bring glory to the One who is the only one worthy of it.

He loves you and cares for you. He is there to walk with you through your own situation.

No matter what the circumstances, Praise Him, He is worthy.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mr. and Mrs. Law enter the reception

Technology can be friendly or it can be... mean! For whatever reason, my laptop has decided not to work at home (internet wise). Forcing me to alter my schedule from it's norm. I am such a fan of changing schedules. It brings me such joy.

It can be quite interesting living in different states. Getting used to their rules and ways of doing things also brings about much sought after change.

I confess, I have been delinquent. My family has been making fun of me. I have finally overcome.

I was the first of my family to move here to Tulsa, 2 1/2 years ago. I am the last to get my Oklahoma license.

Deanna moved here and had hers in less than a month. Lauren it took a few months longer. I got mine yesterday.

Let me tell you of the joys of the Department of Motor Vehicles in this state.

Most know I grew up in Indiana, where you go to any branch of the DMV (or BMV) to have your licensing taken care of. Not here.

A few months ago, I went to a local branch to get my Indiana license changed to Oklahoma. I was told, "you can only do that at one of two branches, one is in Jenks and the other north Tulsa."

Neither was close, both were a 30 minute drive or more. I admit, I quit at that point. I was annoyed.

Last week, a friend of mine from the office also needed to renew his license, so we decided to go together. We drove to Jenks. We stood in line for 20 minutes. When we got to the front of the line, we were told, "you are in the wrong place, to get what you need, you must begin at..." and they redirected us to another location in the same city.

This was fun.

We headed to the other location to find it slammed with people. No matter, we acted like we knew what we were doing and headed right to the desks where people were getting help. Only a couple people in front of us! Shouldn't be too long.

While waiting, and armed security lady (retirement aged) approached. I confess, I did not fear her. She looked like a kind grandmother with a sidearm she probably didn't know how to use...oh wait, this is Oklahoma. She knew.

She asked if we had just arrived. Looking at my watch, it was 2ish, and I replied, "yes."

"I am sorry, she said, we are not accepting any more people today. If you want to wait and see if we get to you, it's fine, but there are not guarantees."

They didn't close for 3 or 4 hours. I did not want to wait. I would rather have a root canal.

We headed back to the office, defeated.

Yesterday, my friend had heard of a new location in Broken Arrow that could help us. He called ahead. They said they could take care of us.

We headed off for 20 minute drive to Broken Arrow. We arrived, it was not crowded. We took a number and sat down. We had overcome. We had found a place few knew about!

He was helped first and all went fine except they informed him he had to go to a second location to complete the process. What? They had just taken his picture and fingerprints, made him promise his first born grandchild, and now he had to go elsewhere to complete the process? Why did I move?

It was my turn! I foolishly went to the desk expecting a different outcome. I handed the nice lady my social security card (issued without lamination in 1975), my Indiana license, and two bill stubs with my new address on it.

She looked over my paperwork and said, "Do you have your birth certificate, or your passport?"

Had I just left the United States? Why did I need those items. I wasn't in Mexico, Canada or any nation, other than my own!

"No," I replied like a drone, "but I have them at home."

We went to the second location and got my friends brand new license where they once again, took his picture and fingerprints. I am not sure we weren't in the wrong line, maybe we looked like bad guys and they thought were headed to jail.

We left with him smiling, and headed to my house to get my paperwork so I could leave the country, I mean get my license.

Before I left the BMV, the nice lady had actually written on my ticket, "FREE PASS, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WAIT IN LINE AGAIN."

I think that was supposed to make me feel better. Instead, it made me feel like the wheelbarrow in monopoly.

We returned to the first location with my appropriate paperwork. I moved to the head of the class and got processed! I was ready for jail, I mean for the second location.

We went to the second location and I got re-fingerprinted and a second picture taken in front of the pretty blue screen. I might send it on a Christmas Card.

Oh wait, when the other nice lady handed it to me, she said, "there is a line through your eyes." That will never do on a Christmas Card.

We will see if it will do on my license. If I ever get pulled over, I fully expect them to think I made this myself. Who has a line through their eyes on government documents?

We headed back across the border...from Broken Arrow to Tulsa, and went to lunch, laughing and licking our wounds. You know where we ate? "South of the Border!"
It had take all morning! This was my third attempt to get my license and this time I won!

Persistence is a virtue. So is patience. I don't think I was born with either, but with the Lord's help have learned to develop them both.

I didn't say I was good at either, but I am learning. Our lives tend to be consumed with events and trials that require the use of both of these. He provides us with the tools we need along the way, if we plug into His resources.

I am finally legal. I am no longer a delinquent! I can't wait to see if this document stands up to scrutiny. One thing I know, when I stand before the judgment seat, because of Christ, I will not be found delinquent, I will stand up to scrutiny, though my life has been full of failure!

Praise God that He loved me enough to send His only Son to die for me!


Monday, October 27, 2008

Wedding Day!!!

The last few days have been amazing! The bachelor and bachelorette gatherings, the costume (for the season) dress rehearsal and dinner, and the wedding were just fantastic! We had such fun, joy, laughter and even a few tears.

Every wedding is unique, regardless of how similar they are. This one was Whit's and it was such an enjoyable occasion. She was absolutely gorgeous, as were Deanna and Lauren. Someone sent me an email telling me how blessed I am to have such beautiful women in my life. I agree!!!

All the preparations had culminated in the gathering assembly of family and friends. The music began with a line out the door to sign the guest book.

The grandmothers were seated, and still the line seemed to grow.

I had a view down the hall to the entry of the sanctuary where I stood guard, perhaps for the last time, of my Whitney Lou. Inside the room she was being assisted by her mother, sister and three bridesmaids.

The signal came and I sent Deanna down. After Deanna, walked our two flower girls and the sword bearer (Joshua carrying BJ's sword and his two sisters, Emily and Ari)Then it was time for the bridesmaids and maid of honor (Lauren).

They each went in turn.

Whitney and I were left alone. Just the two of us in the room down the hall from where I would give her away. How do you turn loose of something so precious? It does not happen easily. It comes only for me with the peace of Christ at the center of their relationship. They truly love the Savior and each other.

I told Whitney, "I want to pray for you."

She quickly responded, "Daddy, you're gonna make me cry!"

I repeated, "I wanna pray for you."

I began, "Father God, Thank you so much"...words leave me, tears race to the surface and I can't talk...Whitney sniffles..."Amen."

I know the Holy Spirit interceded where words and emotion failed. We both wept as we headed for the sanctuary doors.

The doors open and all eyes are on my little Lou. She pushed a joyful smile through the stream of tears and I did likewise. I stared at her as we walked to the front.

She looked so beautiful, I was in awe.

The tears ceased as I waited to answer the question always asked.

His dad began the ceremony, and ultimately asked, "Who gives this woman?"... I awaited the moment of saying those words I wasn't sure I would ever want to say..."Her mother and I!"

They came much more easily than I anticipated!

It was my turn to pray. I took the mic, turned to the audience and asked, "Would you cry with me?"

The wedding was a joyous time and a time of remembrance! Pictures flashed across the screen of Whitney growing up, usually ensconced by two siblings. One was present, one was remembered. Both are proud of her.

I praise the Lord for such a godly man that would love my Lou. It is not easy to give away that which was never really yours. I am so thankful for the love they share, and the life ahead of them.

What an incredible celebration.

The last time all of these people gathered at this location, it was to say goodbye to a warrior. This time, it was to begin two new lives together.

Praise God for His provision!


Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Whitney and Jared

Since my father passed away in 1994, there have been many times that I wished he were here for me to spend time with. He was wise in the ways of the Lord, and consulting Him is something I'd like to be able to do. He was so good to my family and they loved him dearly. He never knew that God called me into ministry, but would have been enthused by the idea. I miss his support.

I have often noticed something as I study my Father's Word. Something that I have never spoken of. Something that others would dismiss, find foolish, or perhaps even disagree with. I don't care, however, as I believe it is a mercy from the Lord and will continue to draw encouragement from it.

My favorite Bible is all marked up. I know where to find scriptures in it in a number of ways. Some I have memorized. Some I know by the way I marked them. Some I find by what is marked around them. In the end, when I don't have this Bible accessible, I am at a disadvantage when I am trying to study.

This Bible has another unusual feature. It is held together by duct tape, actually black gaffer's tape. The leather cover was disintegrating many years ago, so I did a restoration work on it to prolong it's life. It's getting close to time to rework the rework.

This Word has some age to it. I've journeyed through every portion of It, from cover to cover, many times. From unbearable valleys, to thin-aired mountain peaks, I have walked with the Lord here.

Every time I open it, I notice the same thing. It carries the aroma of my father. Yes, it carries the Aroma of my Father.

My father had a scent that I will never forget. One that brings me comfort from time to time when I am reminded of it in public. I don't mean his cologne. I am talking about his natural, raw, manly smell.

On rare occassion, I will encounter another who is similarly blessed. Every time I open the Word, I am reminded.

How can my Bible and my father carry the same scent? There are so many metaphorical lanes to traverse from this position, but I don't wish to dilute the purity of my point.

My father and I had an amazing relationship. He loved me unconditionally. He showed me grace. He showed me law. He was a gentle soul who loved with his eyes and his arms. I knew when I needed correction it would be given. I learned a great deal about life from the journey with him. I learned things he would never see me demonstrate. I am still learning. I hope I will always learn.

The Word of God truly communicates in a similar fashion.

Jeremiah 6:16 says, "Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls."

My father taught me to do this. He taught me both by word and by example. He demonstrated who Christ is by how he lived. I am thankful to have had a loving father who invested so much in me.

To be gifted by the Word of God that would carry not only the aroma of the Son, but also of my father, is a mercy I am truly blessed by.

Each time I open It, I am reminded of the ancient paths. Those my father walked and taught, and those of his father and his...all the way back to my Father's creation.

That Word is true for today. It is relevant for my life. It sets out road markers that I may find my way. It helps me to bring encouragement to those the Lord puts in my path. It brings encouragement to me.

I will never forget that smell. Some would not find it agreeable. How could an old Book carry the aroma of a godly man? Rather, it is the aroma of that Book that makes a man godly.

The ancient paths. The proven ways of the Father. Seek them. Walk them. Live them. You will carry His scent.

my father's son

Monday, October 20, 2008

My little girl is getting married this weekend...

I sit here this morning with so many thoughts racing through my mind.

What a crazy busy week this will prove to be. So much going on, so much to do, so many we'd like to see, so few we will spend fair time with, so far to travel and so longing for him to be present to see this event. He was and would be so proud of his sister.

At the same time, I think of how he invested in the lives of others while he was here. I think of conversations I've had of late, with youth ministers and youth workers, whose growing broken heartedness over this generation of youth is ever increasing.

Somehow, I've spent time in the 'narrow lane' of students who are in love with Jesus as they come to our organization looking to partner, to serve Him. Meanwhile, the superhighway of other youth seem to descend at perilous speeds, into lethargy, even apathy over their view of God and what it means to serve Him.

Too many sit week after week in Sunday or Wednesday services with their hearts and minds anywhere but in the presence of the Lord. Their glazed and rolling eyes are a clue to their level of disengagement. If they ever understood what it means to have a relationship with our Savior, there seems to be a widening chasm of concern over the intimacy of that relationship.

What is important is will they be accepted among their friends? When will they get to see them next? Where will they go, what they will do, and who all will be present? It's not that they do not desire your investment, it's more that is seems misplaced or ill-timed...irrelavent for the moment.

Many seem to be so engaged in the immediate nature of intimacy with others that is righteously reserved for marriage, that their view of the Bible isn't waning, it's fractured and the marrow dessicated. The intoxication of their moments together are addicting and strengthens their yearning for the next opportunity.

In their minds, the wave of their hormones requires expenditure in gratification, and the idea of "waiting" is unimaginable, impossible, and lacks virtue.

And these are the churched youth.

Reaching them and understanding them and their subculture is more important now than it has ever been. We are losing more and more of them at high school graduation. They see it as the 'right to drop out' of things forced upon them by a world that doesn't get it and obviously doesn't understand them.

The nuclear family has been replaced by their complex network of friends and amusements. Conventional methods of reaching them are no longer a worthy part of an evangelistic arsenal.

Love and acceptance for who they are comes quickly from friends, while the church tries to change them, and make them fit a mold that was die cast a millenia ago. They look at too many of their parents and other adults and see a band of fools that are nowhere near living the Gospel they preach on church days. In their minds, if it were truth, why wouldn't it be working for these they once revered?

They want things to be real, they want truth but on their own terms, and they believe that it is relavent in the moment, not across centuries.

Broken homes produce splintered dreams and reshape paradigms of young hearts.

It is our responsibility to figure out how to minister in the brokenness of a world we have helped to create.

The answer is still the same. JESUS! The method of reaching these wandering hearts must change. We must figure out ways to meet them where they are and invest in them in ways that ultimately lead them to a fruitful life in Him.

That means we need to model the same.

We cannot tell them one thing and live another. They know truth when they see it. It's time to let them see it.


Thursday, October 16, 2008

BJ with my friend and his youth minister, Rusty

Deanna and I spent last evening with a group of students in Sapulpa, Oklahoma. We had an incredible time with them. I taught on having "Compassion for the Lost." This is their fall break, and today they are heading out into their community to serve. They will mow yards, interact with the children of a trailer park, seek to embrace those who do not know Him, and encourage those who do.

Being with these students last night was an encouragement to me! I get to share with them again, tomorrow night.

Recently, through this blog, I had the privilege of meeting (on-line) a new friend. She is a senior at Oklahoma State University. She came to Justin Magers funeral, and was doing a web search on him, just after I had written about his life. As a result, she contacted me.

Since that time, she has met with one of the young ladies from our office, we have spoken on the phone, and she has started a blog of her own! She writes the blog with a friend of hers from school. Their blog is They are doing a good job of sharing their hearts.

I am always amazed at how the Lord uses whatever tools He crafts and puts in our hands to reach into the lives of others.

Justin, who was a young man who lived his life for Christ, died serving Him, and stirred the heart of a young lady who felt she had lived a fairly nominal Christian existence up to that point, and motivated her to serve.

Now, she is seeking His counsel on serving overseas, writing a blog, involved in a new Bible study and really trying to reach into the lives of the many around her who don't know Him. This is how the ripple affect works.

With a heart already stirred up, she purchased and read "I Would Die for You." After finishing it, she just couldn't keep still, or settle down. She knew she had to do more, she had to somehow engage and begin to make a difference.

Simultaneously, her life is a mercy, a blessing in our life. When we see God move in the hearts of others, and produce action, it somehow ministers healing to our own lives. We are very thankful for this.

To be honest, we have heard from many, nationwide, and overseas with similar stories of how God has changed or motivated them, through BJ's testimony.

Of course, it is seldom through one testimony alone. However, this often becomes the catalyst for change.

Change is not easy. We usually resist it. We like being comfortable and to know what is going to happen next. When true change comes, it brings about change in others lives as well.

While we should never spend our time measuring the positive impact we are having on others around us, it does not take but a cursory glance to know whether or not change in our own lives needs to happen. Without it, we are doing little to impact the Kingdom. We are doing little to serve.

We each need to serve with a glad heart. Not one that is glad in front of people and turns bitter and a bit nasty the moment we perceive we are offstage. I have struggled here from time to time, and have certainly seen it in the lives of others.

Surrender. Constant surrender is what we seek. He will make the differences that we cannot. But, we have to let go and do it His way. Our way produces pride and frustration. His way saves lives.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What my Father in Heaven has called us to do...

I have needed to spend the past couple of mornings preparing for a youth event called MORPH that begins tonight, and carries through the weekend. I have the privilege of speaking tonight and again Friday night.

I am always excited when the Lord provides these kinds of opportunities. Speaking to students about life in Christ and through Christ brings such peace. I know it comes from Him.

Being able to be a part of the molding process for young people is what Jesus intended when He told us to 'let the children come unto Him.' We are supposed to be there to help show them the way. A way that few find on their own. Our intervention is intended to reveal Christs heart for them...a love that many may not experience without us doing our part.

How awesome our God is for allowing us to take on such responsibility! He taught us first to pray and then to act. During the praying, our hearts are conformed to His and He then ministers through us. For this, I am most thankful!

I pray we each look for the opportunities in our communities, churches and para-church organizations to get involved and help the children to 'come unto Him.'

In small ways or large, we each impact the lives of our youth culture by our actions, our reactions, our assistance, our example, and our time. We are accountable to Him for how we use the time He has given us.

If we each seek to make a difference in the life on one young person today, we can begin to turn them to our Father. It can be challenging, but is rewarding and well worth it!

We need to intervene while we can. Our investment will multiply in their lives and the lives of others.

First we have to begin.

Thank you Lord, for allowing us such a privilege!


Monday, October 13, 2008

Carving Pumpkins!

Wow! What a weekend! Soo much goodness and fellowship. It was great to be with Whitney and Jared as they count the few days before getting married. Being able to speak at their church was a privilege and honor. This is a body that loves and has embraced the two of them. It is a real blessing for us to be able to see them minister in place that is thrilled to have them do so.

While their wedding is coming up very soon, a couple of months ago, we went to Oklahoma City for the wedding of some good friends.

On the way, we stopped along the turnpike, at one of those places where 'billions have been served.' We needed a break, and Lauren had a particular thirst for a fountain drink. She nursed it the rest of the trip.

We arrived, and got settled in at the home of a friend. After a brief time there, we headed to the church. We all rode in our car, which meant the back seat now had three young women in their early twenties.

There was a lot of talking and laughing, as you might expect. It was the first weekend after our summer trips were over, so there was much catching up to do.

That's why it was such a surprise.

Conversation had been flowing, as it seemed we all talked at once, for a time. The fellowship meter was in the "Happy" zone.

Suddenly, high pitched screaming that seemed to multiply! I am told it was one person, but I still find it hard to believe. From my perspective, there were three mature young women in our back seat as Deanna and I listened in and participated in the conversation when we could.

I was driving on a country road, headed to the church, and now, blood curdling screaming overwhelms my ears!

What on earth should I do? Cars in front and shoulder on the road...what was happening behind me?

The screams subsided for a moment, and then rose again as if in competition with the first burst.

I was in shock. My eyes darted from the rear view mirror to the cars around me, looking for a place of refuge and for the cause. I had to keep driving.

After a time, the high pitched torment fled down the scale into discernible, fragmented, words.

What had caused the departure from reality?

Lauren, who had sipped on her fountain drink until it was dry, popped the lid off of her cup. When she did, to her utter horror and nausea, beetles were crawling in her ice! Two good sized ones!

I understand that Lauren was not the screamer. It didn't matter. My ears hurt.

Few of us are fond of creepy crawly things. None of us expect to find them in our drinks! Lauren had the drink in hand the entire time...these uninvited guests, had to have entered at the point of origin...the fast food stop.

I'm pretty sure we will never stop at that particular place again. It wasn't even Halloween and they were serving up "beetle juice."

Too often in our lives, this is how sin works. The outside is represented as normal, perhaps nothing even noteworthy. However, on the inside, evil is at work. We allow bitterness or some other deception to take root within and it begins to feed and fester on the ugliness we each struggle to overcome.

When it is revealed, there is a collective disbelief.

Fortunately, we have a supplier that is above reproach. No creepy crawly evil can penetrate at this Source. When we allow Him, He cleanses us from the inside out. Such things can be removed (and not revealed unless we choose to...which can be a good thing) without the terror or embarrassment that we fear.

I Praise God that He works in such ways that our inner struggles can be set in order, if we allow Him access.

It is His desire to cleanse, and we benefit from yielding to Him! Some of us need to remove the lid, and allow Him a peak at what needs bathed in His Amazing Grace.


Friday, October 10, 2008

BJ and me backpacking at Red River Gorge

We will be in Denton, Texas this weekend to speak at Gracepointe Church. This is Whitney and Jared's church, and Sunday afternoon the church is putting on a wedding shower for them. We look forward to being with them.

I am most thankful for the memories I have of backpacking, camping, and hanging out by a fire with BJ. We derived a great deal of pleasure in doing these things together.

I know I have written before of his creativity in coming up with games to occupy his time, in the woods. From 'tree sliding' to running down steep banks at top speed just to see if he could make it from top to bottom without falling, were among his ideas. (The trip pictured above is the place he invented 'tree sliding.')

My own passion for the outdoors is ever present. I confess I have not been very proactive in pursuing it while living in Tulsa, but my thoughts often involve being back in God's Creation.

My pulse races at the sound of movement of unseen wildlife behind brush lined embankments. I love finding tracks on the forest floor and trying identify then follow them.

The autumn is most beautiful with its awesome display of color, deep reds, bright yellows and vibrant oranges. The palette covers the canopy above the footbed below as many leaves bail out early at the seasons change.

There is such wonder in what our Father in Heaven has created. For me, I will always feel closer to Him when out among His handy work. Seeing His brooks carving and winding their way through the wilderness, and watching His creatures frolic near the shores, stirs something within me.

Being in Love with Jesus, is being in love with His Creation...all of it. It is a fantastic reminder of His majesty if we can get out and mingle with the beauty all around us.

Sometimes we need to be reminded of all He has done. It is quite a gentle blessing to walk in the coolness of change, and forget about the rush of life for awhile. His beauty certainly does this for me. I trust He will remind you of those things He has done that bring you joy as well.


Thursday, October 09, 2008

Lauren will be opening for "Downhere" in three upcoming shows, December 4-6!!!

We are living in a time of significant uncertainty. Many are struggling with the downturn in our economy. Retirement funds are diminishing, hopes are being dashed and many are frightened.

The reality of increased struggle in our lives has never been more prevalent. Some have even turned to suicide.

I did not live through the first depression in our country. I don't have firsthand knowledge or wisdom on how to ride out this hurricane of fear, based on that.

However, I do know what Scripture says. I do know that we have not been forgotten by our Lord. I believe now, as before, that He is the answer to our woes, and it will be by faith in Him that we endure whatever comes next.

His Word says, "My son, preserve sound judgment and discernment, do not let them out of your sight...Have no fear of sudden disaster or of ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being snared." Proverbs 3:21, 25-26.

Now is a time that we must depend on Him, and apply the wisdom and good sense He has given us. It's not a time for rash decisions or fools errands. With our faith in Christ, and our trust in Him, we can step forward into uncertain times with the knowledge that He is just as much with us now, as ever. He can be trusted when our bank accounts can't.

Bailouts and stimulus packages may be effective and they may not. Jesus will never fail.

We are surrounded by those who have a growing darkness within them as fear becomes their closest ally. They have not intentionally chosen this, but have fallen prey to the enemies schemes.

We must recognize truth and wisdom, and separate it from that which would seem right, but is folly.

We must become more fervent in our prayer lives, more trusting in Christ who has never forsaken us. We must show others how to do likewise.

Times of increased stress and looming disaster prepare the hearts of many, to receive Truth.

The hearers are in place.

Will we be assertive in the telling?

The openings for sharing His Gospel are unfolding all around us. Let us be found faithful, and offer this Great Hope to those who are hurting.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Baptizing a new believer, in Peru

One of my greatest joys in life, at this piont, is seeing believers whose passion for Christ suddenly begins to develop and their enthusiasm spills in any and every direction.

This comes about through any number of means. Usually and encounter with the Lord in some capacity, whether through the faith of a friend freely shared, the life of a hero in the faith, conviction through a message, or even simple obedience on a mission trip.

When I see their exhuberance, I get excited. Joy in Christ is contagious!

Being involved with them at this point is amazing, because they just want to be found obedient. Suddenly a lump of clay that may have been on the wheel for a long time, becomes pliable, moldable, teachable.

They quickly put to use the instruction that is given. They don't sit on information that can change lives, they go out and do something with it!

For most of us, when we get excited about something, those around us are often moved by our enthusiasm, and stirred to action. It may be a new car, a new outfit, or new furniture but the point is, when we show interest and pursuit of something we find intoxicating, others take notice. Then they begin to get involved on some level.

If that thing that we are enthused about is Jesus, some will be turned off, but some will realize a dormant interest with abiding unanswered questions, and they will begin to move about the perimeter of the issue until they feel safe enough to ask.

Our responsibility is to be joyful in Christ, and looking for those people hanging around the perimeter with a question mark on their forehead. We cannot accomplish much if we our routine conversations do not include references to our relationship with Him.

I'm not talking about overbearing, holier than thou, types of conversation. I am talking about intentional references to our faith and the relationship we have that has changed our lives.

Anything we are excited about will stir our inner circle of friends. It becomes a topic of conversation whether we are around or not. If then, they get excited, their inner circle gets to moving, and on and on. We know this as the ripple effect.

For a ripple effect to begin, someone has to be willing to make a splash in the water.

Who among us is willing?

There is a commercial out right now that makes my point. Several young men are hanging out at an outdoor basketball court, apparently at a break between games. One young man strips off his shirt, and runs to the edge of the court and jumps. In mid air he forms his body to and inverted canonball (some call it a watermelon).

The first time I saw this, I thought..."he's gonna break his neck on the concrete, and die!"

It was an illusion. It wasn't a basketball court (though it looks like it), it was a pool! He enters the water with a splash, and all of his friend follow!

Someone has to be willing to go where no one else seems to want to, and make a splash.

Who is willing?

It's time to get wet.


Tuesday, October 07, 2008

in Huamachuco, Peru

Over the last three years, as we have traveled, we have heard from many who have suffered loss. Some lost parents, some extended family, and a few who lost children. Each time, the stories have had impact on us, each time, we have left prayerfully lifting up the other.

Last night was the first time we have spent extended time with a couple whose situation mirrored our own.

Their pain is much more recent, and their emotion frayed because of it. They are precious people who are learning to carry on, without their one and only son.

Hearing their hearts, and sharing memories brought laughter, tears and maybe a little healing.

In some respects, I realized how far the Lord has led us through this journey. In others, the reality that the pain clings like a closest friend abiding in adjacent silhouette.

I remember feeling as they do, that I had to get involved. I had to be more active in sharing the Gospel. I had to learn from the life of my son, that there is much to do, and I can no longer hang out in the wings, but must get on the stage and be part of the change that so many need.

I remember feeling physical pain that promised to devour me, and wondered when it would relent. When would I be able to take a deep breath again? When would focus return? When would I begin to enjoy the small things in life, once more?

All of these things have come to pass, and I am not sure I realized it until last night.

For them, its been 7 weeks. Thread bare emotions, tautly pulling and seemingly popping, one by one. Where is the end of this madness? Always, in the arms of a loving Savior.

We have so much in common...this is a strange sort of mercy. Neither would want to understand the deep pain of the other, and yet we do. We are brothers in this fraternity we did not pledge. Members of a club we paid dues for, but signed no agreement.

Our sons were so much alike. Always putting others first, engaging in sports but lacking the 'killer instinct,' being "love" for those who did not understand what it was and those who did. They loved Jesus more than life and were prepared to give their all...and did.

My heart travails for theirs. The depths of their pain seem unfair to plumb, and yet we try...together. God has a plan for them, and they are pursuing Him. Deanna and she found solace in the very same book..."Heaven" by Randy Alcorn...the long version. He found blessing in it as well.

They have a daughter, still in college, but focused also in missions. The heartbeat of this family is pursuing Christ, and seeking to help others do so.

At a time when others would be mired in bitterness, they cling with blistered grip to the Only wise God. And then the realization, they don't have to hold so hard, He is holding them within His wing of protection and bringing peace and affirmation as it is needed. Portioning out grace when they fear they cannot go on. HE IS THERE!!!

He is no stranger to their pain. He saw fit that we are not witless to their torment. He provides vision in our blindness. He brings drink to our thirst. He helps our feet find the path when our staggering threatens a fall over the precipice of insanity. HE IS THERE!!!

I am so thankful for Him! Through them, He has blessed us. I am thankful for them, He has blessed us with new friends.

At times, progressing through the grief seems a blood and mud soaked garment that drags along behind us...not wanting to face it, not recognizing the odor, yet being compelled to it for our own benefit. His mercy has provided us with that which we never thought would come, and even as the mirror reflects it back to us, we strive to seek only Him and His glory. His provision covers the ugliness and the putrid aroma.



Monday, October 06, 2008

A picture of our children from BJ's birthday

This past Friday, I worked at the State Fair as a Chaplain. It is always a most interesting affair.

There is a strong mix of the many foods being prepared that send their aromas wafting across the acres of rides and people that post a tempting allure. Just about everybody can find something they like to eat!

This combines with a true melting pot of attendees. Cowboys to carnies, cattle to big cats, and serious gamers to casual walkers. All end up in the same place a the same time.

I've never been one who enjoyed the games at the fair. This in stark contrast to my brother-in-law, who is an expert at many of them. He seldom leaves the grounds without one of those giant stuffed somethings under his arm.

He has studied the games, and learned their weaknesses. He then uses this knowledge to his advantage...and that of my sister who becomes the benefactor of something large an cuddly (besides him...just kidding).

I saw a dad walking the grounds of the fair with a lifesize, stuffed Spiderman. His son was less than half the size of the prize. While his son was probably thrilled, I was equally thankful that I did not have to carry said superhero around with me!

Working with the Carnies at the fair, produces some interesting results. Some who begin telling their life story the moment you walk up, others who begin their confession of sin as if you were their priest, and then those who don't want you anywhere near them and look around constantly wondering who might see you together.

One of the "benefits" of working with them, is free attempts at many different games. I seldom take advantage, but often watch a partner do so. Some are prone to telling you the secrets of how to win their event.

Many are what we call "rigged." They are tilted in favor of you losing. By the time you have figured the game out, you have spent $49.95 for a prize that cost $1.49 in Asia. You may win, but you still lose.

It's very interesting to be having an in-depth conversation with a Carney, when suddenly, they see a potential "player" coming and begin "barking" at them. They can jump in and out of 'Carney mode' at will.

It makes me think about us as Christians in the states. Many of us can jump in and out of "spirit-filled" mode at will. Who we are on Sunday is too often, not who we are on Monday.

We know how to put on the right clothes, and say the right things, but when we return home and hang up our suit, our 'spirit-filling' gets hung up with it. We then don the worldly version of ourselves.

Our student culture reflects this flaw, on-line. You can open many "facebook" or "myspace" pages and see them proclaim to be "Christian," and then open their picture pages and see them partying like rock stars.

What does it mean to avoid the appearance of evil, in todays world?

As I wrote those words about students, some will leap immediately to support that position without the realization that they do the very same thing in life...just perhaps, not a web page. We can find condemnation for others quickly, but do we respond to conviction when it comes?

There are too many chameleons in Christianity.

To come out from the world and be separate is not easy. To reflect Jesus is a significant task.

We need to strive for a life reflective of Him, not of those who claim to be His, but bear no fruit.

Let's try to begin anew, today.


Friday, October 03, 2008

Whitney and BJ, just a few years ago...

What an amazing week it has been.

Getting to spend time at Oklahoma Baptist University and sharing with many students there was just incredible. The presence and Spirit of the Lord is thriving among them and I am thankful to have had an evening there.

Then the past couple of days in Southern Georgia was very unique. The pastors there from many denominations have been meeting and praying for many years. They have been seeking and asking the Lord to "Send the Rain" in the form of Revival.

Over 70 different churches from multiple races and denominations met together for several days to worship the Lord and seek Him in hopes of this revival. The adults met in one venue and the students met in another.

The student numbers for their event ranged from 250 to 350 from Sunday to Tuesday night. For some reason, the Lord saw fit on Wednesday night (BJ's birthday) to have 700 people or more present when it was my turn to share. It was a standing room only crowd, and they were incredibly attentive!

To have that many students together under one roof who love the Lord and are willing to lay down denominational boundaries and just seek Jesus was amazing!

God moved among them. At the conclusion of the evening, students flooded the altar area. Some came to give their lives to Christ, others to came confessing sin and seeking counsel for truly living for Christ. These students want to "Raise a Revolution, and know that God will give them the strength!

What an incredible blessing on BJ's birthday!!!

Before the service began, I got alone with the Lord in an upper room. As I sought Him, I also worked my way, tearfully, through a poor rendition of Happy Birthday.

I don't know what the view is like back to our broken lives from the other side, but I know there had to be celebrations afoot among those who have preceded us home.

We can all learn a great deal from Coffee County Georgia. We can embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter their church preference (as long as Jesus is the only way to Salvation). We can learn to work together, love together, worship together, and see Him reap a harvest together.

It is truly worth it. It isn't easy, but it is what our Lord would have us do!

I praise my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ for His provision of such a mercy in my life on this particular day.

Our God is amazing, and... HE REIGNS!!!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Happy Birthday BJ