Thursday, May 31, 2012

Unexpected Encouragement

One of Tucker's many faces of joy...

Encouragement comes in unique ways for those in Christ.

A couple of weeks ago, I was contacted by a recent Oklahoma State University graduate. He is leaving soon for an 11 month mission experience, called the "World Race." He and his team will cover 11 countries in 11 months. He is with a group of 55, but his family unit of 7 (2 men, and 5 women) will work together on projects throughout their time in Eastern Europe, Central Eastern Africa, South Asia and Central America.

How he came to contact me is a thread weaved by our Savior.

Being a college student, he has stumbled and fallen many times with his peers as they embraced the 'party' lifestyle. He realized he was called out to be separate.

He served as student manager on the OSU basketball team for the last four years. His desire has been to be a coach at the highest level...until recently.

He discovered he was finding his identity in relationships with women. As one of those mock unions recently failed, he found himself knowing he was headed the wrong direction.

He sought the Lord.

He ended up on the website of another universities, campus minister's podcasts. He found a sermon about the 'blessing it was to be single.' He listened intently and felt as if it was specifically geared towards him.

This led him to listen to other messages on the site. One of those messages was by Afshin Ziafat. At the conclusion of his message he spoke of BJ Higgins and his testimony. He encouraged the students to go out and buy "I Would Die for You."

This young man, risking being late for work, promplty did just that.

As he read the pages, the Spirit of the Lord moved in his heart. He felt he needed to contact Deanna and me. He found our contact information in the back of the book, and fired off an email.

I received that email, and our electronic connection began. It culminated in his arrival at my office this morning. We spent the next two or three hours sharing hearts.

He had asked an unusual question, early in our traded email and facebook messages.

He requested our blessing on his wearing a bracelet that carried BJ's name on it, for the duration of the trip. I did not find out until today that he had no idea where he would get such a bracelet. We've never had a request like this before.

Deanna and I quickly consented, but then I remembered a friend from Mooresville, Indiana had made some bracelets back during the time BJ was in the hospital and sold them as a fund raiser.

Each bracelet contained two quotes. One said "go through the mud," and the other, "I will unsheathe my sword." Each bracelet was pink!

We had just one of these left. When this young man asked for permission, the Lord moved my mind to this bracelet.

I had to hunt for it.

I set it aside for this meeting.

As we sat and talked, I found myself wondering how this small encouragement may be received.

At a time I felt was ordained by Him, I began to tell the story of my son as he related to these two quotes, and why he penned them. I explained in context, what they meant. I even told the 'pink shirt stories' to help him understand the color.

His eyes filled with tears as he was given this keepsake. Actually, they did that several times throughout our meeting. So did mine.

There is something about a young man surrendered to the Lord that moves and stirs my heart at a deep level. Perhaps it is because they are rare.

I thought of the few occassions that I've had to have similar conversations. I thought about how the Lord has used the testimonies of those young men. I was deeply encouraged. I thought about two young martyrs that were among this group.

Please join me in praying for Jacob, as he embarks on his Father's journey. Certainly, it will be wrought with hardship, joy, suffering, enthusiasm, danger, and peace. All of it to make His name famous.

He is worth it!

Is it your turn?


Friday, May 25, 2012

Tracking His Will

Deanna and I will be returning to Peru in just a few weeks. We will once again, be working with Pastor Tito, and concentrating our efforts across the northern parts of the country. We need and appreciate your prayer support as one of the cities we will spend a week or more in, is the witchcraft center of the country. We want to see Him do a mighty work here!

Being one who loves the outdoors, I have spent a bit of time tracking animals.

There are conditions that make tracking very easy, like fresh snowfall, or a soaking rain. One can see every step taken in the new fallen snow. Similarly, the animal will leave prints in soft mud, and one can trail them relatively easily.

When tracking an animal, one must pay very close attention to the path or trail they leave. Details are important. Of course, one must occasionally look up and take in the full scope of the landscape to assure safety.

Psalm 119:105 teaches that "Your word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path."

The phrasing implies that just enough light is cast  to reveal the next step.

In tracking and in life, I struggle with this.

When I am tracking, I don't like focusing on details (though in other areas of life, details are my thing). This makes me a poor tracker. I constantly survey the landscape to look for the prize, rather than poring over every minute twig break or footpath depression. I get too easily frustrated, because of impatience and a desire just to see the animal without much effort.

I have tracked with others less experienced than me, but quickly found my flaws and their skills were based in patience and attention to detail.

If His lamp reveals just a step or two ahead, then perpetually surveying the landscape is a pointless proposition. Regardless, I continue to try to prognosticate His will. Rather than just following one illuminated step at a time, I try to connect the dots before the pattern is laid out.

I find that I have done this over and over again. Epic failure!

I am not proud of it.

Sometimes I get so focused on 'dot connecting' that I miss the obvious.

He reveals a step at a time because it requires that we remain focused and dependent upon Him. This is how it should be.

This isn't how most of us function.

When our complete dependence is placed upon Him, He takes care of the details we would otherwise fret over.

We are always trying to map out or manipulate circumstances to produce desired outcomes. This is not His way. This is not what He teaches us to do.

I need to turn blind eyes to what I think is best, and view the journey as the part of the prize. I need to wait upon Him. Where I routinely assign inflated, random value to events, objects or achievements, He is trying to reel in my focus to His path, one step at a time.

I cannot have intimate understanding of His will until I yield my heart, my time, and my focus to His Word.

Join me?


Friday, May 18, 2012

BJ and I backpacking Red River Gorge in Kentucky

Working with many students through the years, I find myself frequently wondering, "what if?"

Since his passing, many students have graduated from high school. Some went off to college. Several have married. Those his age are now graduating from college.

I guess it naturally brings about a retrospection.

What would he be like today? Would he have fallen hard, like so many of his peers? Would he allow the grace of his Savior to wash over him, after?

I recently heard someone I admire say, "we learn more from our failures than our successes."

I know this should be true. I believe in many cases, it is true. There are areas of life that we do learn quickly.

But, I've read the Bible and I've fallen myself frequently enough, to realize that we have a tendency to repeat our mistakes. Over and over the Israelites failed in the same ways. Over and over I fail, in all too familiar ways.

At times Deanna and I look at the Old Testament and shake our heads wondering, what were they thinking? Then, a few moments later, as the Spirit of God brings gentle conviction, we find our own reflection in the mirror of their failure.

It's not pleasant. And, its painful.

For some reason, it's just easier to see the splinter in the eye of another, even though we are embracing the cumbersome 2x4 from which the sliver came.

Many of his contemporaries no longer reflect the Savior they once clung to. Their social networking sites are laden with portfolios of sin. Somehow, when embracing the world, momentary joy produces photo-shopped memories that seem to reflect a happiness that actually left, the moment the event concluded. Trophies of transgression are all that remain.

One such young man used to contact me occasionally. He wanted to let me know when some young men that formed a band that my son was fond of, were failing. I believe he wanted me to intervene. I always interceded. I continue to.

One need only glance onto his page to see he has chosen to follow their failures, not reflect the Savior.

Some of the students I was privileged to lead the mission field, have abandoned their first Love.

I am sickened.

I am called to prayer. A banner on a hilltop, is a call to arms for His warriors. We cannot sit idly by, while others fall down and their Christian brothers stamp on them rather than offer a hand back up.

My son was gifted at calling others to Truth, but with love.

He cannot do this now, except through his written words.

You and I can be active and engage the fallen. We cannot assume others will run to their rescue. When I see someone fail, I need to own their fall and reach out to them.

It's easy to judge. It's much harder to be an implement of restoration.

We are called to love. Love is not what wells up within me when I see this peril. However, I must deny myself, and allow Him to penetrate my piercing judgments, and reach out to the broken.

Just because I do the right thing, does not mean they will respond appropriately. But, they will see that I care. They will know where they can turn.

We each need a place to turn. We all have that in Christ.

However, sometimes they need to feel His touch through my hands or yours.

Pray and Love... (you can eat later).


Friday, May 11, 2012

when the unthinkable happens

Deanna and Whitney, just a few years back. This year, Whitney celebrates her first Mother's Day with her son Tucker who is about this same age.


When our children are young, we love them, watch them grow (with amazement), and do all we can protect them. We hope and pray they will seek the Lord, and follow His heart.

When working with students in ministry, one has the same heart.

Some of them choose to follow the Lord, some do not. It is very difficult to watch the ones who do not. You find yourself second guessing and wondering if a different approach would have made a difference.

It is difficult to watch the ones who seek Him for a time, and then allow the world to get ahold of them, and drag them down.

Facebook is often a window into the hearts and lives of people. Sometimes what happens on there is not edifying. Sometimes it's heartbreaking.

Yesterday morning, I was checking in on a former student. One who is now an adult. I noticed she had started a new blog. Deanna and I had seen some updates on facebook recently, that raised questions that we had no answers to.

I was hoping the blog would provide answers. I was not prepared for what I would find.

This is a young woman is significantly blessed with an incredible singing voice. She also has a passion for theater. After completing high school, she went to a university and studied music. When she had completed this degree, she moved to NYC to live her dream.

Throughout this time, she found herself struggling with who she was, what she knew to be truth, and living at times in ways that stood in contrast to this.

After arriving in NYC and getting her feet on the ground, her priorities began to settle down. She got a job to pay the bills, got involved with a theater company, and plugged into a church.

Soon, she had the privilege of going to Africa to serve on the mission field. This had long been a desire that was within her, but she had not experienced it. Her first experience was life changing. She soon returned for a second opportunity.

Because she chose to follow the Lord in serving, she was fired from her theater company. A sacrifice she was willing to make.

Her life was moving in a great direction... and then the unthinkable happened.

She caught a cab home from work, late one evening.

She paid her money, and made a move to get out. I'll share the rest in her words:

At this time the driver raises a gun (which I later learn was a 7mm hang gun) over his head and says, "No, no baby, you get back in or this goes off."

Forgive me, there are blank spots in my memory and a time when I completely blacked out of it all.

I sit back in my seat, trying to quietly find my phone and dial 911 but I couldn't find it. As I am doing this 2 other men are approaching the car. They look down into the drivers window to talk but they are all talking in some king of different language, not English, not Spanish.

Then suddenly one of them gets in the back seat with me and one of them gets into the passenger seat with the driver. The driver hands the gun to the passenger and the passenger tosses it over to the man sitting far too close to me. I still can't figure out why I don't remember saying anything. Not one word. I was hyperventilating and crying but no words.

The man now sharing the backseat with me has the gun pointed right at my left temple. I hear a click. I don't know if that means the bullet has loaded into the chamber or if he just locked it but I know a click means something. He asks if I am wearing any pants under my work clothes. I say yes. At this time the passenger gets out of the car and then gets back in the car, only this time he is also in the back seat.

They trade off putting the gun near my ear and on my temple and under my chin. They make me put it inside my mouth. They ask if I ever want to see my family again. They ask if I have a father. I say yes. They ask if I thought my father would really care if he never saw me again. They asked if I had a boyfriend and I said no. They said, "Well after we get done with you no one will ever want you again, you know that honey?"

They then took off my pants, all with the gun still being pointed and pressed up against different parts of my face and neck and head.

Then....they took their turns. One holding me in a choke hold with the gun to my temple while the other forced himself on me. Then they switched.

All the time talking about how I would never see my parents again.

This is about the time I stop paying attention. I start praying. I am saying my last and final pleas to Jesus. Not that He would save me, but that it would be over quick. That I wouldn't look too disfigured when my family had to come identify my body. I prayed [my cousin who is like a sister] wouldn't hurt too badly.

I prayed that maybe [my brother] really did know how much I loved him.
I prayed that my mom would find that strength to survive this.
I prayed that my dad would be the rock my family would need, but also let them heal him.
I prayed that they would all forgive me.

I prayed that [my first boyfriend] would somehow know that in that moment, what I thought was my dying moment, I just wished he could have been the one holding me.

And then I felt the shock of pavement as my head slammed into the curb, chipping my tooth.

They had dumped me. They let me go. I wasn't shot. I regain a little as I hear, "We'll be back! We know where you live and we like what you have" driving away down Amsterdam Ave.

After that is is a black blur. I know that someone found me stumbling around looking for my keys and was trying to get into an apartment that wasn't mine. She sat me down on the curb. It was then I realized that the cab must have been moving while everything was happening because we were not in front of my apartment building any longer. We were in front of Columbia hospital, in my neighborhood.

The next thing I remember is being in an ambulance yelling at the drivers and those who were just trying to help me, that they couldn't touch me and that I wanted to go home and that they were breaking the law by touching me and forcing me to be there with them.

Of course, I say nothing in the taxi, but for the people who try to help me I have plenty to say. First impression was not so great.

After spending the next 29 hours in the hospital, [where I had numerous tests and rape kits run], I finally was released. I walked home in the snow with one of my sweet friends who sacrificed her day to sit with me waiting till they would let me go home.

I get home and my parents are there waiting for me and it is the most amazing feeling to see your family after you had just said goodbye to them forever.

That first hug I got from my dad has me bawling right now.....The place I fit just under his chin on his shoulder. I though that place was gone for good. I had said goodbye to that place. But just like that, I had it back.

This is ALOT I know, but this story needs to be told. All of these stories need to be told. There is no sense in the silent. If I fear then they win, that's true. But if I never speak of it again and hide it to myself forever, they will win forever.

After this experience, she moved back to Indiana. She is surrounded by those who love her, and is making a fresh start.

What I have not shared, is that through the years, my family has been involved in her life. My girls, my wife and I have each been blessed by her as well as poured into her.

The day that BJ died, she placed a picture of him on the mirror of her passenger side seat, in her car. It remains there to this day. When this unthinkable thing happened to her, she was carrying just a few things in her bag. One of those things was her copy of "I Would Die for You." The Lord had been ministering to her through it as she grappled with living a missional lifestyle.

It is imperative that we each understand that if we are in Christ, we are not the sum of the sin we have committed. Neither are we the sum of the sins perpetrated against us.

This young woman understands that He has a plan for her life. She is seeking Him hard! Please join me in praying for her!

When the unthinkable happens in our lives, He is there. He draws us to Him. Some will become bitter and turn their backs on Him. Blaming Him.

He is big enough to handle that. He draws the bitter, back to Him.

He desires to love us. He extends His grace to us. He wants to be in relationship with us. He is seeking, but we must allow Him have our hearts, our lives, our surrender.

He never intended suffering to be defeat, rather a process whereby we are refined and become increasingly useful in His Mighty hands!

She was overwhelmed, but not defeated. She is making His name known to those who will listen. He is using her voice, her heart, her testimony to bring glory to His Name!

After all, that is how our lives are to be poured out.

Suffering will come, for each of us. How we handle it amid the storm and what we do with it afterwards reflects our relationship with Him.

If my dear friend who realizes her survival is His mercy, can serve Him, so can you and I!

Bring Him Glory, He is worth your all!


Thursday, May 03, 2012

i Remember

back at the beginning of our journey together...

i know, i know, she hasn't changed a bit! Time has been so very kind to her!

i was going through a drawer the other day. i found a handheld tetris game that somehow made its way into my hands, back when BJ was in the hospital.

That game provided necessary distraction during many sleepless and broken moments. It captured my attention and kept at bay the pain, and tide of overwhelming helplessness that sought to consume me. i can remember playing that game and listening to a Crowder song on an iPod that had also been provided by those that loved us.

(the song is "Only You" and can be heard here:

i put that song on repeat, and tried to power through the difficulties that were inconceivable. i tried hard to press into my Savior and keep away the thoughts that wanted to consume me.

The thoughts of what might happen... of what could happen... of what did happen.

i can honestly say that only Jesus kept us during that time, and walked us through, moment by moment.

i remember the day we rode in the ambulance and arrived at the hospital.

i remember the 'hammer fall' into my abdomen when we were told "he might have a 40% chance of survival."

i remember ascending a staircase daily to his bedside to touch him, though he was unaware.

i remember going with a pastor friend to a television station that wanted to interview me, only to be turned away because i was not dressed appropriately. i remember missing my son's last moment of awareness because i had left to do this.

i remember being awakened by a nurse to come to his bedside. i remember him slipping into the arms of my Savior. i remember the arms that supported my back during those moments, only to turn and find... no one there.

i remember the day a very broken family left the hospital together for the first time in six weeks. i remember the sandals i wore every day through that journey, breaking in the parking lot as we walked to our car (Deut 8:4). i remember the symbolism of that moment and believing we were finally leaving the desert (only to truly enter it).

i remember how cared for we were by those who loved us. i remember how our Savior has taken care of us at every turn.

i remember falling on the floor of his room and flooding his carpet, beside my girls.

i remember going to bed that first night at home, with my wife and both of my daughters on either side of me.

i remember how much i miss him... how much it hurts.

i remember the Lord ministering to me an abiding sense of purpose, throughout.

i remember a long receiving line at his homegoing celebration.

i remember that scores of people have surrendered their lives to Jesus as the ripples compound.

i remember hundreds surrendering and GOing to meet the needs of the lost and broken.

i remember that sometimes I lose focus.

i remember that Jesus died that I might live.

i remember being told my sin brought about His/his death.

i remember being told this was not God's will.

i remember being told this was God's will.

i remember feeling powerless to impact the broken heart of my wife.

i remember wondering if the physical pain of this loss would subside.

i remember the moment that i realized the physical pain had left.

i remember the brokenness of more parents who have lost children. i remember that somehow we have the privilege and authority to speak into their lives.

i remember how thankful i am for a Savior who cares for me through the darkest corridors and the most vibrant mountain tops.

i am most thankful for my wife, daughters, sons-in-law and my grandson. Each one loves and serves the God who gives and takes away.

through all of the pain of life, He is worth my all. He is an amazing Lord. I cannot move forward without Him. i remember how He loves me so.

This is a great day to impact the life of another, on His behalf.