Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Our family at Lauren and Weston's wedding!!!

We had a blessed time together as a family. It was much too short.

What does perseverance look like? When does it cross the line into futility? How does one measure it? What things in life do we need to persevere in and what do we need to simply, stop?

I have been asking myself these questions.

The reality is that we will persevere endlessly in the things that bring us pleasure. Even if we don't "succeed" in the venture, we will continue on, as long as we still find it appealing.

The things I persevere under are probably different than the things you persevere in.

One example that I don't tolerate well, is shopping. Many others love this.

I have to know what I am after. Wandering about a mall to "hunt" down an idea for a gift is tortuous for me. I need to know what I am there for, to find it enjoyable. I can get in and out of a mall in record time, if I am by myself and know what I am after.

In the late Christmas shopping rush, I got into a nearby mall at lunch time, bought all of Deanna's Christmas, ate lunch and was back out and to work in an hour or so. And no, I didn't skimp on her gifts. I just knew what I was after, and got it done.

On the other hand, "hunting" for wild game, I find pleasure in. It calms me. I can be very leisurely about it. I can sit motionless in a tree for hours on end, and find great enjoyment in it. Even if I don't successfully harvest what I am hunting, it has been a blessed time out in God's Creation!

Which one is perseverance? What is perseverance to me, may not be to you.

Sometimes it can be defined by what your spouse or loved ones think of your pursuits.

I can "hunt" in the woods for long periods, but if I come home without any game, I fear my bride will think it a foolish endeavour. She never has given me cause to think this, I just do.

Conversely, if Deanna goes shopping (which she doesn't usually enjoy any more than I do) and comes home empty handed... I think she has been "successful!"

Success can be relative, but in general, does not define whether or not perseverance is futile.

Hebrews 10:36 says, "You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised."

Some could argue that the perseverance in our faith is worthwhile because of what is coming... the promise of eternity. I don't disagree.

However, I also know that when we persevere, others take notice. While they may see foolishness in our endeavors in the moment, they are impacted by our witness and by how we steadfastly remain connected to Him. It draws them to our Savior.

There is still success in this, I know.

The point I am trying to make is that we need to find joy in the process of persevering. If we are joyful through the trials of life, it has a deeper impact on us and others.

Others will always try to define 'success' for us. We need to find 'joy,' not be concerened about the definition of success.

When we are joyful amid perseverance of all types, (yes even when doing that thing we don't enjoy) it impacts others in a positive way.

It's easy to be joyful doing what we like. It is more difficult to have it amid scenarios we don't enjoy (shopping).

I believe this is why so few Christians have real joy as a part of their experience. Success has been defined for them, by the world, and they want it. Many Christian principles run in opposition to this definition, and they are conflicted.

I can think of many times that I would prefer to have 'much,' rather than to endure with 'little,' by worldly standards.

If that becomes my focus in life, I will not have much joy, as I will usually be consumed with trying to get, 'more.'

Learning to be pleased with what I have, and not constantly feeling the need to obtain more is crucial. It is also counter-cultural.

Joy is found in obedience, serving, and most importantly, Jesus. Perseverance is the vehicle for the journey.


Monday, December 20, 2010

BJ with Rusty and Mark (back in Indy), in our church "Christmas Pageant."

My last post needs updating! Late last week, I heard from my friend Matt, who gave me the knife made by the Cherokee man, whose name is BJ.

Matt received an email from BJ who was responding to the events that led to his making my knife.

The way God moves in between our lives, to draw us together and bless us is so significant! We cannot afford to miss these details! That He is interested in the details of our lives IS significant. When we see the evidence, we need to celebrate!

With his permission, I am reprinting BJ's own words about this story (Sharon is his wife's name):

A few weeks ago a co-worker of Sharon's named Matt ask me to make a knife for him. It was to be another gift he was giving to someone. It was also to be the fifth knife like four others I had made for him. I didn't know who it was for until he shared with me his story after the knife had been delivered. Matt's part of the story can be read by googling "Pray For BJ" and reading the blog "The Gift". Please read the blog.
As I read the blog I thought that the knife was really just an insignificant item that God had used to bless Matt's friend. Then I was reminded that nothing is too small and insignificant to God that it doesn't matter because He knows each of us to the extent that He knows how many hairs are on our head.
Matt had shared part of his conversation with his friend about God being a God of detail. Then the next day Sharon had told me about Matt asking her how old I was. She told him I was 59. Then he told her how God had had a plan for that gift nearly 60 years ago when my parents named me.
That got me to really thinking about the details of the plan God had for my life. My mom always called me Billy John. When I went to work for OG&E my foreman asked me what my middle name was because the were too many Bills working there. I told him my middle name was John so he and everyone else at OG&E started calling me BJ. That was over 40 years ago. When I retired from OG&E in 2004 I started making knives. I made several with no mark of mine on them. A good friend told me I needed to put my mark on them so I decided on BJ. I enjoy making knives and have considered it just a hobby and a source of relaxation and a source of pride in the finished product. After thinking about all Matt had said I now believe my "hobby" to be a gift and part of God's plan for my life. I now believe none of the things I have written about to be coincidences but part of the Master plan. I don't know what else God has planned for me but I only pray I will be receptive and open when I hear that still small voice.
My prayer for you is that you also will recognize and be willing to accept God's plan for your life.
Oh, by the way, the first knife I made for Matt, it is the only knife I have ever made a template for. Another part of the plan.


During this season of celebrating our Savior, being aware of how He continues to bless us through his ultimate sacrifice, cannot afford to be lost on us.

I am thankful for both BJ's in my life! One I have yet to meet. The other, I will meet again!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010


It's been a while since my post didn't begin with a picture.

I grew up with a love for American Indians. In school, I wrote papers about them. My father was from Wisconsin. His area of that state was home to local tribes. I often pretended to be, and wished I was, Indian. I have the deepest respect for their plight and their love for the land and nature. That I live in Oklahoma, the land where the "Trail of Tears" ends, is not an accident.

When my brother Brad was here for Lauren's wedding, recently, we were discussing the knives we had obtained from Wisconsin as children. Made by Indians, mine had a deer's foot handle, his was carved of bone and a metal eagles head formed the hilt. At some point, we had traded. We each still had them.

This past summer, I did not get to go to overseas to serve. Deanna and I were scheduled to take a team to South Asia, but the trip had to be canceled.

I knew the Lord was up to something, but did not know what that might be.

Over the course of those hot months, I began to receive calls from people in the area who were seeking my input into their lives. Before I realized it, new and deeper relationships were being forged.

I got to see (and still do) the Lord actively working in the lives of many. I have been discipling students for as long as I can remember. Now, I was blessed with the privilege of doing so for some mature believers.

One of these young men is in his 30's. He and his wife have become precious to me. We met through ministry around five years ago. He was very close to some mutual friends, and was working to promote an area Christian concert.

For the next four and half years, we'd come into contact from time to time, but never drew close... until this past summer. God was doing a work (and still is).

I heard from him yesterday.

He and his lovely wife have two children that have recently invited Jesus into their hearts! The family is blessed of the Lord. They are currently looking into adoption as the Lord moves in their lives. So much is happening as a result of the obedience this couple is walking in. I wish I had time to write it all down. God is abundantly good, and blessing beyond our imaginations.

We met for lunch today. He came by my office and picked me up. As I loaded into his truck, he began to try to explain something to me. He seemed a bit uncomfortable, and struggled to get the words out.

He has become a dear friend, and I was not used to seeing him struggle like this.

He proceeded to tell me how he had given a gift to two very important men in his life. One was his father. He talked of their meaningful relationship. He was trying to tell me something. I had no idea where he was going.

He told me he did not want me to feel uncomfortable.

This brother was the state wrestling champion of Oklahoma, and a highly decorated All American collegiate wrestler from Oklahoma State University. What was this "man's man" going to do, or say?

Moments before, while standing in my office, we were mid conversation. He was telling us a story. As his voice trailed off, words began to rather involuntarily leave my mouth. I conveyed that the Lord was detail interested and oriented and that many believers struggled because they were trying to handle what the Lord wanted to.

When we were in the truck, he said those words were affirmation that he was doing the right thing, as there had been several details involved in this process that led him to realize what he was supposed to do.

He said, "I have a friend who is Cherokee Indian. He is also a brother in Christ. He's made these for the other men I spoke of. One of those men is my father. The other is my father-in-law. As we have gotten to know each other over these last few months, you have spoken into my life, like a father. I know you sign your blog, "dad" each time you write. I know you have three wonderful children, but I have a sense you have many others who call you "dad." I want to give you this to exemplify the battle I know you fight for our Savior every day. It signifies the necessity of close combat. Thank you for pouring into me."

With those words (as best I can remember), he handed me a hand made knife! The handle is walnut. The blade is nickel. Brass surrounds the transition from handle to blade. The sheath is leather with my initials, and is hand crafted so that the blade slots in snugly and cannot fall out. When I slid the 9" knife out, my attention was immediately drawn to the blade. Not because I could see myself in the gleam, but because there were two letters engraved at the hilt... "BJ!"

I asked about them. He told me the Indian mans name. He said "all of his closest friends call him, BJ for short."

The craftsmanship of this knife and sheath is far superior to any I've ever owned. Honestly, I fought to hold back the tears.

My mind raced from the day we gave BJ the sword, and how he had responded. I felt similarly. I am humbled and deeply blessed. I could not speak well for several minutes.

My friend was uncomfortable because he feared I would not understand his gift.

I probably understand this gift, better than most I have received in my life!

Recently, my daughters asked me what I'd like for Christmas. I told them I needed a good knife. One I can use when I hunt.

When you receive a gift that meets many needs simultaneously, it is overwhelming. It touches something deep within you. My friend had no idea his gift would do that!

I will never forget my friend, this day, this gift or the many reasons it resonates warmly within my heart. You do not have to have an affinity for American Indians, knives or hunting, to understand what I am saying.

I believe you do need to have a relationship with Christ to understand this, in it's fullness. My Salvation is the greatest gift I have ever received. This knife and all it signifies, ties into that whole expression!

My son wrote (of receiving the sword we gave him) "With the exception of the gifts that God himself gives, one could not ask for a greater gift."

Because of my friend Matt, I understand this in it's fullness. Thank you, brother!

Below are pics of "The Gift."


Monday, December 13, 2010

Merry Christmas from all of us!!!

Technology is ever improving. What you buy today, is obsolete tomorrow. How do you stay ahead of the curve?

Some of what you buy will be vastly improved upon if you wait a little bit. When do you wait and when do you pull the trigger?

In the music world, things have changed dramatically! One can now download the application of every instrument to your phone! Not only this, but if you know what you are doing, you can play in concert with others who have done likewise.

Some would understandably argue that there is no substitute for the real thing. While that may be true, even a trained ear will struggle to discern the difference.

I was called across the hall a few minutes ago to view the proof!

Upon arrival, I watched an iBand play a Christmas Concert on stage at a church! Not a single "musician" had anything but an iPhone or iPad! The collective sound was just like they were playing the real instruments!

I watched as an iPad laden with Bells, chimed "Carol of the Bells."

I watched as "Feliz Navidad" was sung through a phone.

The drums were on one, the guitars on another, and even an accordion on another. There had to be 10 guys on stage, each playing... an "i" something.

Where does the substitute for the real thing end?

Whatever your interest, you can do it virtually, now.

Clearly, there will never be a substitute for real Truth. There are many pretenders out there trying to pass themselves off as a way to God. None but Jesus will ever be the real thing.

Though you can now read your Bible on your phone or other electronic device, or listen to it via your phone or cd, you cannot "virtually" have a relationship with Christ. There is no substitute!

There is no substitute for the humility of being born in a stable, among the straw and dung. There is no substitute for being conspired against, though innocent, laid open through beating, and marched up a hill to be nailed to a tree. You cannot virtually rise from the dead to Save the world.

To be in relationship with the "Reason for the Season," is what our lives are all about. Virtual aspects may be incorporated, but cannot substitute for really knowing Him intimately.

Seek Him with all that you are!

If you wanna view what I did, go to:

Merry Christmas!!!


Thursday, December 09, 2010

"the family" on Lauren's wedding day, hiking at the farm...

What an incredible blessing it was to have family with us for several days around Lauren and Weston's wedding!

When I was young, my parents took us on a trip to Washington DC. It was a worthwhile time of touring many things involving government and our US history.

It also left me not desiring a return trip. Perhaps this trip helped shape me into one who much prefers the country to the city.

I was little and much of what I saw was larger than life. Probably the single event that most defines that trip, has had a lasting impact on me.

We were touring the Washington Monument. We boarded an elevator. It was the world's slowest elevator and it was packed full. I've seen smaller crowds with more space in sardine cans. I'm pretty sure it got stuck on the way up. If it didn't, suffice it to say, we could've watched "Gone with the Wind" in its entirety as we rode.

For a little guy, this traumatic event was made much worse by my view. I was just tall enough for my head to be level with the backsides of every adult in that tiny excuse for a "lift." I got a full sensory experience (I wished I had a stuffy nose that day).

When the last words of "War and Peace" had been read, the elevator doors flung open. We would have spilled out quickly except for two things.

1.) We were packed in so tight, no one could move. I'm pretty sure we exceeded the maximum occupancy load for any school bus.

2.) No one wanted to leave because of the smell. No, not the aroma I "enjoyed" on the way up. Rather, right in front of the elevator doors, someone had emptied the contents of their stomach, just in time for our arrival.

I suppose there was a nice view from the top. I really don't remember. What I do remember is that every time I get on an elevator, I relive that memorable day...and the fullness of it's sensory "enticements."

For many years after, I struggled with claustrophobia.

To be truthful, I would break out in a cold sweat anytime I entered elevators, airplanes or any other "crowded" situation. I would leave football games and races early to "beat the crowd."

I was 37 when I finally began to surrender this fear to the Lord.

I was on my first overseas mission trip, headed to Croatia. Months before I left, that same "cold sweat" would visit me, as I anticipated the long plane ride and the attempt by every passenger to get out at the same moment, once the little bell rang to sound it was time to exit.

The Lord revealed Himself to me through that experience. I realized I was allowing fear to invade my mind. He showed me I didn't need to fear, but rather could rely upon Him to help me in my weak moments.

I am still seeking Him to be my strength. I still need His perfection to overcome my weaknesses.

I seldom struggle on planes these days.


Well, my nose and mind still remember the combined smell of, shall we say "dirty laundry" and partially digested food revisited. I take the stairs whenever possible. I still ride elevators. I am marginally taller, so that helps. I do try to stay near the doors.

Anyway, the journey of life includes many "off ramps" that we would not revisit. However, it is these experiences that allow us to see personal growth and enjoy the depths of His love.

He is ALL we need. Celebrate Him through the joys of this season!


Wednesday, December 08, 2010

my lovely bride...

"Love is not just an emotion, as the world sees it. It is action. While admittedly it does have emotion involved with it, it is not as unstable or changeable as emotions are. Affections come and go, grow and fade, but love does not. It is a constant state of selflessness that produces action." BJ Higgins

So much wisdom is contained in these words. I have on occasion, used them, as I have married young couples. I think they are potent and filled with truth.

This time of year, could often be described as the 'season of selfishness.' Many have their 'wanters' working overtime. "Visions of sugarplums" are not likely the video scrolling through ones' mind.

What we want frequents our hearts in full 3-D explosion. We have identified it for those who request our "gift list," and have full expectation that it will be found under the tree. The cost doesn't really matter... we want what we want and hope others will sacrifice to meet our desire.

This is scenario tends to play out across our country.

I am blessed when I hear stories to the contrary.

Deanna and I were to lead a team to Mexico to do missions, the day after Christmas. As we were making preparations, I sent my contacts an email to verify our dates, and make sure one last time, that all was well, for us to come.

Friday night, I received a message from them that in short, requested we cancel our trip. The current level of violence between warring drug cartels is such that our presence would endanger anyone in our vicinity.

As much as they want us to be there, they felt the risk was not worth it this time.

I have been taking teams there for five years, and this ministry has for 18. Each year, the news of violence in this border town hits the news just prior to our scheduled trip. Until now, we have always gone, and ministered with the Lord pouring out His blessing upon the people.

When a trip like this has to be canceled, it is evident that the enemy has gained ground.

Yesterday was filled with phone calls and emails, letting all know that we could not go.

The reaction of many of our students blessed my heart.

Several of them that live within a reasonable distance from one another, have begun to make plans to do ministry right here in Tulsa.

They understand what "love" is. They know that reaching out should not cease because the enemy gains ground. There are people all around us, especially this time of the year, that are in deep need.

My wife called me after school the other day, from a shopping trip. She wasn't buying for our family, or friends. She was out buying for children in need!

While typing that last sentence, I received a phone call from one of the young men who was to be on our team. He is going down to the border town anyway, with a plan to preach the gospel anywhere he can. He is flying there from the New England area.

That is love! That is action!

When we view 'need' through the heart of our Savior, 'wants' seem to fade into obscurity.

When we 'love,' we impact the world for our Savior!