Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Photos from different years of my California family

I believe there are two kinds of passion in our world today.

The first is routinely found in our culture. It does not necessarily begin as passion, rather it is borne over time, through the pursuit of an interest which at some point, graduates to lust, then obsession.

It is an unquenchable thirst that one strives to continuously plan for, or orchestrate circumstances to pursue. It does not bring fulfillment for more than a few moments, and then the cycle begins anew.

Those who know me or have heard my testimony, know that I used to ride my racing bicycle, religiously. I began doing so during a time I had been diagnosed as 'clinically depressed.'

It began as my ticket out of a zip code (or state of mind) I did not want to reside in. As I found the endorphin rush that this activity brought, my depression lifted, but what settled in was an unhealthy pursuit.

I began to plan for my daily/weekly rides, both alone and with others. I logged thousands of miles a year. I was strong, fit... and arrogant. My passion for this sport drew in disciples, who also began to pursue it.

The promise of physical fitness through an activity that brought endorphin release, camaraderie, stress relief, etc, seemed logical and harmless.

Perhaps, if not for my obsessive personality, it would have been.

However, while this tuned my body, and in some respects my mind and emotions, it became my salvation... and its promises were empty of truth.

I see many pursuing activities or hobbies just like I did. I still have to hold myself in check when I find joy in an activity.

Empty promises in our world are not new. They do seem to be cloaked in half truths, that elicit a willing response to take a bite from the poisoned apple. Too soon, we find ourselves under its spell, and unable to break free. It begins to drive us, rather than us being in control and using it in healthy fashion.

The second and truest passion is birthed in the crucible of suffering. This passion stirs hearts and changes lives.

This passion reveals itself as we come to the end ourselves and allow Christ to be "all" in us, to us, and through us.

The suffering that produces this life change, can come in many ways. It is different for each believer, though there may be similarities from one to another.

The fulfillment that results from this passion endures. It does so, because it is born of Christ, His example and His word. There is no substitution that can come close to this.

What is truly amazing is that one can be amid the worst storm of life, and find peace that others cannot comprehend... until it is their turn in the crucible.

That does not mean it is easy. It certainly is not something one wishes into the life others. However, when we cling to Him as our only hope in such times, we learn how we then should live, and He stirs and transforms others lives because our example is a result of His.

A current example of this can be found in my California family.

My young cousin Tadee (she is the little redhead in the above pics) has been ill since last fall. Her sickness requires the body of Christ come together to lift her up. Many across the country have been doing so.

She has been diagnosed with Lyme Disease and some accompanying co-infections. These have taken a slow toll on her health, and precipitated a little girl who the medical community have been unable to find relief for.

The diagnosis came slowly, and differing opinions about her circumstances or infections have produced an impossible situation, where different doctors stand against each other.

While the medical community has tried to sort out her illness, she has grown weaker and been racked with deeper and more abiding pain. The sparkle in her eyes has been dampened through multiple visits to hospitals, specialists and searing bone pain.

Through it all, her family continues to point others to Christ. They have learned to lean on Him in ways their years of ministry had not taught them. They continue to elevate Him and care for others, though their own situation seems dire.

They were already believers who were doing Jesus' ministry.

Right now, they are clinging to Him, as they seek answers and comfort for wee Tadee.

Would they have chosen this path? Who would?

Yet, their faith has deepened, their witness multiplied and the glory they have brought Him reached beyond what they believed possible.

I am blessed to call them family! I am thankful for the way they seek Christ and point others to Him. Yet, my heart breaks for how desperate Tadee's situation is.

She is miserable and finding little to no relief from her plight.

Please pray for Tadee! You can keep updated from facebook at the "Love for Tadee" page. Most of the updates are done by Marla Schmaltz, her mother.

All else fades away as foolishness in times of such deep need.

Passion is a blessing from above. Developing the gift as He would desire requires denial of self on a daily, moment by moment basis.

Let your passion be for Him. Magnify the Lord with me. He is worthy, and ALL of our hope is found in Him.

Nothing else is worthy of our time, energy, effort, attention, or pursuit. He alone is where our identity, value, and worth is found.

Lord God, PLEASE bring healing to Tadee! She is yours alone. Chris and Marla are stewards of your child, and are doing ALL they know how to love and encourage her in a time that she has seen little relief...yet, YOU are the reward. Hers, theirs and ours. Please, let others see this, and bring rest and recovery by the power of your Holy Spirit.

Lord, be glorified in Tadee's suffering, and that of your body!

As BJ put it:

"God glorifies us when we suffer
To have glory, you must suffer
To bring God glory, you will suffer
To suffer brings God glory"

While they are not worried about glory for themselves, they do need rest. They need relief. They need to be drenched with your presence, anew. I ask you to bring them what only you can give, in the Name above all names...Jesus!

dad (cousin)

Friday, March 16, 2012

a dear friend, Eric. One who is impacting the lives of many for His glory!!!

When BJ returned from Peru the second year, we have often shared that he went on a youth ministry trip called "Jumpstart." Our daughter Lauren (who was interning) had organized the event. The design was to energize students in their faith as they prepared to return to school for the fall.

One of the conversations BJ would have on that trip has had a significant impact on us.

Deanna was in conversation recently with Eric. He eluded to the impact BJ had on his life and ministry calling. As a result, she asked him to share the story with her. Here is further evidence that BJ knew the Lord had called him to lay down his life.

Below, is Eric's story. We praise God for how He is using him to impact the lives of others. The picture is from his trip to Chile in 2006, the summer after BJ poured into him. Eric is now a college student at Purdue University.

Eric gets it. He is a humble servant of our Most High God!

Eric wrote:

I would love to share with you! BJ returned from his 2nd trip to Peru the summer before I started 8th grade. I would already consider that summer to be monumental for me, in that, God was already preparing me for something. After UYC [Ultimate Youth Camp] that year there was great fervor in my heart to 'own' my faith and to really grow into the man I was supposed to be. However, there wasn't much direction for that.

BJ sat with me on the bus ride back from YC [Youth Conference, a part of the "Jumpstart" weekend] at Anderson to Northside [Baptist Church]. BJ was telling me, what I know now to be the Awestar trademark "30 min version' of his trip that summer . He was deeply engaging and it was really new for me to see someone of his age (even BJ) to be speaking like he was. With incredible passion and authority. After most of the stories were done, I think I may have asked a few questions-- not quite sure. But I distinctly remember the last 10 minutest of the trip.

It was dark but BJ turned his body facing mine and looked me right in the eyes. He said, "Eric, I think God has this same calling on your life. I might not be around for long so you need to decide what you're going to do and begin." My reaction was certainly masked as I think I said something in agreement to appease him at that moment. But those words stirred within me long after we stopped talking. We got off the bus and I think a few others were around by then. The rest of the weekend was pretty low key for me.

In my mind I kept thinking, "I know God has something for me but NO WAY could I go overseas!" I remember feeling like such a child. Completely unequipped for the journey ahead. I was nearly living in fear for the few weeks that followed that conversation. And then BJ was admitted to the hospital.

For the 5 weeks that BJ battled the disease, there were only a few things I remember thinking. They were big things that I always regard even now.

1) BJ's faith, the faith of your family and the faith of all of our friends at the time was a real thing. As real as anything could be. Praying and reading and talking with all of you, drew me into the Scripture and brought out a reality of faith and trust in the Father that I had never experienced before.

2) The reality of this situation was not just a circumstance, it was a very, very clear call (demand) from God for me to decisively begin this journey of ministry.

3) BJ's death was heart-wrentching and I don't want to minimize the emotions of loss that I know you must feel. But in the midst of all of it, God spoke to me much confidence that it was new beginning in my life.

Very much was still unclear to me, but that year was a year of incredible growth. Deciding to go to Chile, preparing for the trip and then going. It was all by the grace of God and I am so thankful for His plan. Throughout most of high school I probably would have told you that all of this with BJ and 'the call' that he was referring to was overseas missions. It could be, but I think that some of that was an immature sense of worth and adventure on my part. I thought that I was surely called to missions because it is the most extreme and best type of ministry, which is not the case. As I have continued to walk with the Lord I think He is slowly equipping me for counseling and preaching.

We praise God for Eric's surrender, humility, and love for our Savior. He is a warrior for the the Kingdom and a deep blessing to our hearts! His younger sister, Leah, also served with me in Peru, a couple of years after Eric went to Chile.

Thank you Eric, for sharing with us. Thank you for allowing us to share with the world. Thank you for responding to the call of Christ!

May we each do likewise.


Worthy of significant note: Eric's Dad, Jim, put together the video of BJ's life set to I Would Die For You, by MercyMe, that has been seen around the world. God has His hand on this family! It can be viewed at

Monday, March 05, 2012

Many of the plants from the Andes in Peru are grown as container plants by greenhouses in the USA

Years ago, I managed a wholesale greenhouse. Seasonally, one could walk in and see incredible beauty from one fiberglass wall to the other.

As a season drew near, it became more beautiful. During Christmas, you could see a an ocean of red (poinsettias). It was truly captivating.

Many would enter and say something like, "I would love to work here, it's always so peaceful!"

I could understand their sentiments. However, I understood what it took to get everything to bloom on time, and how critical it was for what was in bloom to be sold in a timely manner.

In short, I did not bask in the peace they believed to reside there. Fertilizer schedules with necessary implemented variations, insect control, disease control, fungi control, annual budgets, monthly budgets, sales quotas, shipping schedules, staffing, and a master plan of scheduling for all of the above, were my responsibility.

Greenhouse grown products are perishable, and one out of balance issue could devastate an entire crop.

One year as spring approached, all of my greenhouses were filled with bedding plants. Container geraniums, flats of petunias, marigolds, impatiens, begonias, flowering baskets, perennials and much more, took every inch of space.

Everything was scheduled out to bloom and be ready to ship for spring. Orders were coming in nicely. All seemed quietly pastoral.

However, trouble had been introduced in silent fashion.

I began to notice that many of the flats of bedding plants were dying. They were dying in specific order which allowed me to deduce exactly what irrigation time and what chemical additive (a fungicide) had been the cause.

I was convinced I would lose my job. I was deeply grieved.

Such an operation exists on very fine margins. Something like this would be catastrophic, and most difficult to recover from. Thousands upon thousands of plants were dying, and I could do little more than stand by and watch it happen.

I contacted my vendors. The suppliers of seed, seedlings, fertilizer, and other chemicals (including fungicide). Through a long and extremely painful process, I would find out that the origin of the problem, would be from a highly reputable chemical plant, where a disgruntled employee had introduced a poison into the fungicide in limited fashion.

The action of this individual would cost us thousands upon thousands of dollars. In all honesty, the revenue brought in during the spring bedding plant season, was between half and two thirds of our total annual sales volume.

There was no way to recoup the costs of lost plant material...lost sales.

Up to that point in my life, this was the most difficult thing I had ever been through. The amount of thought, calculation, detective work, seeking of wise counsel, and general stewing was overwhelming. I remember sitting in one of the greenhouses, surrounded by tens of thousands of dying plants, powerless and weeping.

No matter what I did, I could not change the outcome! I was utterly humiliated. Ruined, I thought.

Ultimately, the chemical company would settle with our organization (not a court battle) and take some of the sting out of this experience.

I learned an enormous life lesson that has served me well. I find myself reflecting on it again in our current days.

I cannot control the circumstances of life, but I can faithfully seek to walk in obedience to Him. If I am able to remain faithful, He will handle the details of my life.

I can set schedules, seek to impact circumstances or growth, but I am ultimately powerless to control life. If I find myself in a season of suffering, my responsibility isn't to leap off of the Potter's Wheel and cry "foul!"

Rather, I need to continue to seek Him, and allow Him to shape my life to the forms and contours He desires. I am far more useful in His hands, if I have allowed Him to direct my paths and bring growth in the areas I most need them.

There is no substitute for the crucible of suffering, for bringing about a more Christlike, humble servant.