Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Whitney and Jared

Whitney, Jared and the puppies (I guess they aren't puppies anymore) are coming tonight! They will be with us for a few days, as we observe BJ's birthday. He would be 21 on October 1 of this year. I would love to know what he would have been like at this age.

I was recently asked if he was more like Deanna or me.

I believe he was more like his Father... in heaven!

There are certainly attributes of both Deanna and I that were part of his personality, but who he really most resembled, was Jesus.

I have told many in the past, that living with him, was at times like having the physical embodiment of the Holy Spirit. He would say the kinds of things to us that one would expect God's Spirit to whisper.

There were times I resented how Christ-like he was. This was not his fault, but mine. He wasn't overbearing, I was just too much like the world.

He knew how to love others without judging. He knew how to love them in spite of their poor choices. I have known few in my life who could do this. I've had conversations with his friends, who have told me that no one ever listened or encouraged them like he did.

I have loved the pastor's I have served under or alongside, but most of them struggled not to be judgmental. I struggle not to be judgmental.

It is far too easy to light into someone who is not saying or doing what they should... especially when they are doing things that are also a tempation to us. The idea, "me thinks he doth protest too much," is easily understood by those who struggle with the sin another practices or speaks out boldly against.

It's easy to judge. It's harder to love.

There are many ways that I would wish to be like my Savior.

This one tends to significantly impact the lives of others. Being able to point out their sin without hurling heavy handed words, precipitates conviction.

The Holy Spirit brings conviction. The enemy brings condemnation.

What a blessing to have a son who is most like his Father... in heaven!


Sunday, September 26, 2010

missing you tremendously, "little man!" Everyday, but today especially...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

self portrait by BJ, a few days before he entered the hospital

Afshin Ziafat, the evangelist who was speaking the night BJ gave his heart to Christ, was preaching a week long youth event over this past summer. His concluding message ended with BJ's story.

A couple of youth groups from the Pampa, Texas area were in attendance at this event.

One young man named Zach, was deeply impacted by BJ's life. He came home, told his family about it and they quickly got a copy of our book.

After reading it, his family began to tell others about it and a "buzz" began, that would result in the trip I just returned from.

I was contacted by a youth minister in Pampa. He told me that they had a "See You At The Pole" event coming up, that included many churches across denominational lines. He asked if I would be willing to come and speak at their event.

I was excited to be asked and had the privilege to go.

I arrived yesterday afternoon, and was taken to dinner by two youth pastors from different churches.

Both men had served two to three year terms as missionaries. One in Yemen and one in Togo and Niger (Africa).

We covered a lot of ground in conversation, over dinner. The former Yemen missionary told me he had stumbled across our blog while serving. He and his wife followed our story until BJ went home.

We arrived at the church that was hosting it this year. There are around 10 churches that work together regularly and their youth pastors meet frequently. The students from these churches plus their friends came last night, forming a group of around 500 or more!

I had the opportunity to share BJ's testimony with them. God moved in power!

We saw many receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior and hundreds come forward to reflect their surrender to take on the significant task of beginning to share the Gospel with those around them!

I praise God for how He moved!

I am tremendously blessed!!!


Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Cladee from Carlsbad, California was one of the first to surrender her life to missions at BJ's celebration of life. Since that time, she and her family have been to the field multiple times, and are having a deep impact for our Savior! She is learning everyday how to "Raise a Revolution" for her King!

I just returned from the doctor's office and everything is fine right now.

This past weekend on a very hot day, Deanna went with me to do some work at the farm. She hadn't been there in a while, so I was walking her around the property showing her some things of interest to me.

Then we settled in to get some work done. I climbed a tree to hang a tree stand for later in the fall. I had some struggle getting it to settle in the way I wanted it.

Once it was hung, I grew nauseous and faint. I was faced with a decision. I didn't know what was going to happen, but I could tell I was getting weak, light headed, and unstable. These are not things you want to experience 18 feet up.

I didn't want to frighten Deanna, I felt a bit disoriented and unsure, so I leaned into the crotch of the tree to get as stable as I could. I began to fade...

Several times this past summer while I have been working at the farm, I had similar experiences. The difference was that I was always on the ground, and could get my head between my legs. A couple of times, I had to go start the truck and let the air conditioning revive me.

We have been concerned, but have written it off to the extreme Oklahoma heat (100+), and possible dehydration (combined with my high blood pressure). This time, raised the bar of concern.

...The mental fog I found myself in, disappeared with all daylight and consciousness.

I could not tell you how long I was out. I only know that its been years since I heard the urgency present in my bride's voice, as she beckoned me back.

As the gathered clouds began to lift, I tried to figure out what was happening, and where I was. All I could hear were her pleas.

I had a firm sense that I was being held against that tree.

When I was once again aware, I began to sing to my Savior, using His Name. I had a sense He had me held there. It helped bring focus back to my situation.

That He would spend Himself completely on a tree to save my life and have me held against another to spare it again, is incomprehensible to me.

I could hear her fear. It haunts me still.

I felt stupid, desperate, grateful and scared all at once. I was still shaky and uncertain. I was thirsty.

She offered to go to the truck to bring me water. When she left, I breathed a prayer and climbed down as quickly as possible, and knelt to get my head below my heart.

She collected my gear and we retreated to the truck.

Driving home, I realized I carried a mark from my experience.

My neck had "strawberry" from where the bark had scuffed it from the pressure of being "held" against that tree.

I was and am thankful for it. My scuff has dissipated, His scars remain.

The doctors' staff did a number of tests which provide me with no immediate answers, except to say they have doubled my blood pressure medication. (My EKG was fine, my blood sugar - good, my urine sample, "clean.")

I will be heading to a cardiologist for further testing, in the near future.

I give praise to my Lord for "keeping me."


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Whitney and BJ, five years ago... (now she is a practicing, registered nurse)

Most of us know that when students graduate from high school, most of them will also "graduate" from church. Perhaps "vacate" would be better terminology.

I believe more and more, that the reason for this has much to do with the lack of evidence and/or connectivity that most of them see in the Christ they hear preached and how church attenders live.

Perhaps Pastor Steve Stroope said it best when he stated, "Our kids are not rejecting our doctrine, they are rejecting our hypocrisy." (I found this on my friend, Pastor David Anderson's facebook wall)

The treasures held within the Bible were not meant to remain locked or untapped. Our Father in heaven means for us to establish such significant relationship with Christ, that our lives are and remain completely changed.

When we allow ourselves to be changed, we stop looking like the hypocrite we often see when we peer into the mirror.

All we have to do to ignore these changes is to pursue our individual desires. The more we seek self, the greater the emptiness inside. This causes most to pursue desire more passionately, under the mistaken belief that "more" will quench their lustful thirst. The truth is it creates a significant chasm between what we say we believe and how we live.

This gap causes others to lose interest in, or belief that the Christ they hear preached, is the answer. In their minds, if He were, the difference would be reflected in those they have encountered.

If we know Him, then we are each sinners, saved by Grace. Grace has room for failure. But grace needs not to be the crutch upon which failure leans. I mean, we should not intentionally pursue selfish desires because we know in the end, His Grace is sufficient.

That kind of hypocritical living, is what causes many others to believe that He isn't worth it.

Jesus IS worth the cost of self denial.

Our children learn to embrace things in life by watching us. Let us also teach them how to let go of those things that don't bring Him glory!


Friday, September 10, 2010

My California family (minus Nina and Devin)...

The national spotlight has recently fallen on a small body of believers in Florida where a pastor has made plans to burn the Qur'an. The burning was/is supposed to happen on 9/11 (this Saturday).

The contents held within those writings are clearly not inspired of the Lord. I know people of other beliefs, routinely burn Bibles. Regardless, I vehemently reject the idea of participating in this event.

We cannot love the lost if we are condemning them without even attempting to reach out from the heart of our Savior. We cannot follow "do unto others..." ideology if we are 'doing what they do.'

"a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God." John 16:2

We see this in the religious zealotry of many who persecute Christians. Islam gets most of the attention, but it's happening in other belief systems as well.

What sets us apart is supposed to be Jesus. We do not force our beliefs onto others, rather we show them truth by word and deed. We allow the Holy Spirit to penetrate the darkness to reveal light.

When we take part in open condemnation, we precipitate the enemies applause.

Who would stand and cheer at the burning of any "religious book," but the prince of this world? Sowing discord is his joy. When we become instruments in his orchestra, we are out of tune (with our King)!

We need to stand up for Jesus. Intentionally standing against other belief systems alienates entire people groups. Why would they want to listen to what we say if our opening statements are offensive?

I have been treated better by Muslims who didn't have any idea who I was, than some of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Arrogant Christianity doesn't win souls for our Savior, but it does intoxicate the enemy. Humility is an attribute we need to sharpen. Displaying it causes others to ask, "Why?"

"Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus..." Philippians 2:3-5
(my favorite passage of Scripture)

Do we have the freedom to burn books... any books?


Should our freedoms cloud our judgment?


Jesus said the greatest commandment is to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind..." and the second is to "Love your neighbor as yourself." Matthew 22:37&39.

If we do this, we will not be burning anything, but a hearts desire to embrace the lost, and see them come to Christ!


Wednesday, September 08, 2010

remembering the disastrous trail left by Katrina, and the continuing efforts to bring restoration...

I noticed on facebook this morning, that a friend of mine posted a picture of himself on a mountaintop in Colorado, where the wildfires are burning out of control behind him. His gleeful expression, stands in intentional contrast to the raging fire behind him.

Disasters remind me of Katrina.

Deanna and I often speak of it, as we were in the hospital with BJ, before the storm hit, and heard about little else afterwards. In some strange ways, our own journey was washed aside as the plight of thousands faced uncertainty.

We knew that our own situation, regardless of how it ended, was secure. We were being held in the hands of our Father. Where did these others have to turn?

Those who have lived through wildfires, hurricanes, tornadoes, or other natural disasters, are faced with the question of what do you take when you flee?

I have often contemplated this question. I don't know why.

Do you take family photos and scrapbooks? Do you take items that are the object of your affection? Do you gather important papers together? Favorite clothes? What would you grab, with moments to decide?

I think the answer to this question says a lot about our focus in life.

No doubt, there have been many things that have captured my attention through the years. Some innocent, until I give them unhealthy attention. Then there are the things that I don't want to have to do without, under any circumstances.

What are these things in each of our lives?

Obviously, the first thing is to see that all family members are accounted for. What's next?

I always wonder how I'd really respond under this kind of pressure? Moments to decide, knowing that as you walk/run away, you may never recover what is left behind.

For me, the consistent thought in my head has been to grab my favorite Bible. It was given to me by my family... Deanna, Lauren, Whitney and BJ, on my birthday in 1994... just a couple months after my father passed away.

My views on death changed through the course of his home going. That journey and this Bible, have received much of my attention through the years.

This Word is where I am most at home. I have studied, marked and taken notes on these pages more than any other I have owned... (even more than the one given to Elijah Ajaang in Kenya).

I remember back around the time I received this Bible, a friend had his favorite stolen... from church.

Like mine, he had it marked up and his notes were throughout.

There is something about knowing exactly where to turn in your own Bible, that brings comfort... comfort that sometimes I might ought to lose.

Being challenged to know where to find His hidden treasures based on being "at home" in His Word over having topics captured because of smudges and uncharacteristic markings is important for each of us.

That way, I could take your Bible and find the same things, regardless of what extras are stuffed into yours.

We are a society of comforts. We like them a lot!

No pursuits are as profitable as being intimate with Jesus and being comfortable in His Word!


Friday, September 03, 2010

from my walk along the beach at Torrey Pines, California

My recent trip to California was amazing! I had the privilege of meeting many new friends in both Bakersfield and Carlsbad. Sharing our journey with the public will always have many emotional elements to it, but it is also healing.

Before the trip, I had fallen into a low ebb. Sometimes, we just need the Lord to show Himself in very tangible ways. When He does, we are blessed.

Let me say, I AM BLESSED!!!

Thank you Steve and Raquel Vernoy, Andrew and Daniel Denton in Bakersfield. Thank you Lyne and Schmaltz family in Carlsbad! This was such and encouraging experience for me!

In Bakersfield, the Vernoys worked hard to promote and set up an event that would unite the body of Christ (across denominational boundaries). It worked! People purchased tickets to come to this event, and I was amazed at how my Father worked!

In Carlsbad, I had the privilege of sharing the platform with two of my cousins (for the first time ever). One of them, Blues Lyne, is a recording artist and musicianary. The other, Chris Schmaltz, is a minister. This truly had an intimate family feel and again the Lord moved and worked in each of our lives!

I was blessed to be able to meet many who had prayed for BJ while he was in the hospital. I will always be humbled by this!

I walked the cliffs and beach at Torrey Pines with my Aunt Maralyn and Uncle Ray, and cousin Blues and his son Devin. We had a great time! We shared meals with ocean views, and had uplifting conversations about how God is working in our lives. What a blessing!

The cool thing is, I get to see them all again in November when Lauren gets married! Yay!

I praise the Lord for the provision He makes in my life. He reminds me that it is not about me, but about Him. I need that reminder, because I often begin to believe otherwise.

It's not always easy, but walking with Jesus is such a blessing!

Have a blessed holiday weekend!!!