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Friday, September 30, 2011

Life in Death

Life in Death

Three people I know are going through the incredibly painful journey of going with their spouses as they may or may not die. Two are dealing with the cancer of their spouses and the other a serious bleed on the brain (AVM).
My care and affection for each of these couples is very deep but has manifested in different forms. All of these couples have made significant contributions to my life in Jesus Christ; contributions which are far beyond just basic friendship and care for God’s call on my life. It is that “strange” relationship in which distance or time provide an inconvenience but when we get together it is as if we saw each other yesterday.
My care for them has much to do with what is stated above but also, and maybe more importantly, their joint devotion to each other and to the Lord of the Universe. All three couples have served for decades together. They have supported each other in the beautiful moments of ministry and in the very painful moments that come when dealing with the people of God.
They have raised children, celebrated the joy of being grandparents, and continued to become best friends as they pursued their marriage covenant. They have been a shining example of long devotion to another as they stayed devoted to the Lord of All Creation.
These three couples have boldly proclaimed Jesus Christ as the Sole means by which we can approach God. They have not deviated from sharing that Jesus Christ is the way and the truth and the life and that no one can come to God except through Jesus Christ. They have planted churches, discipled countless people, and served sacrificially since the beginning of their marriages.
They haven’t been “perfect,” or even “good” all the time. They have failed and not lived properly at various time. They readily share these shortcomings to help others follow the narrow path better. They seek to utilize their gifts and strengths and talents to help others, but don’t shy away from their weaknesses to achieve the same result, helping others to grow closer to the famously gracious and merciful LORD of All.
From a human perspective their painful journey doesn’t seem fair. They have been faithful over the long haul. They have sought to be obedient and helped thousands to come to Jesus Christ. For all their work they are now suffering in a tremendous way. The spouses are particularly suffering as they wish and pray for their spouses’ survival all the while wanting their spouses not to suffer.
In talking, messaging, and reading posts no one will find a hint of people who are angry, resentful, or hopeless. Yes, each deeply desire for their spouse to survive and have vibrancy. Yet, more than that, they want the God they serve to be honored and appreciated. One spouse battles the health issues, and the other seeks to comfort and pray for God’s will to be accepted. They don’t want to “lose” their spouses, their best friends, their beloved, but they want God honored and appreciated above their desires.
Each is willing to accept the hardship of losing a spouse if God will bring others to Himself through the process of death. They understand death is but a stage in life. They have invested much and will experience extreme pain in the loss. Again though, they understand the loss to be short term because their faith and hope dictates a reunion when their own time comes to pass. They desire for others to understand this process.
They have loved each other well and that is why they suffer right now. But, because they have loved so well, because they have strived to be unconditional in that love, because they have sought to serve the interests of the other, because they have understood their marriage to be an example of God’s love and care for all of us, they will go through the sorrow and rejoice that God has been honored.
They see nothing as important as this: that you know Jesus Christ as the only way in which to receive eternal life and the sole means by which to live your life in a way which brings honor to God. They understand that their loss is nothing compared to Jesus’ sacrifice and they seek to rejoice in the suffering they are going through. Don’t try to understand that paradox. Look deep within yourself and acknowledge your need for the God they have lived to serve and will continue to serve in their devastating loss. Can you handle this loss? You will with Jesus Christ. If you have doubts or questions you should send me a message. I’ll talk with you. My life is different because of these people. But more importantly, my life is different because the God they have served is the God I served.
Send me an email to and I will share my own journey from desolation to being part of Lord of Universe’s work in our world. God bless you, please consider Jesus for your life. It is the only genuine life changing choice we can make.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Because I said so...

“Because I said so…”

“Because I said so…” has to be one of the most over used and empty phrases developed within the English language. If words have power (and they do) then the combination of these words show how powerless and meaningless some speech (speeches?) can be.
“Because I said so…” reeks of intellectual dishonesty, lack of legitimacy in exercising authority, and indicates a worldview in which nothing in life is purposeful.
“Because I said so…” smacks of an acceptance to tradition without critical evaluation of its pertinence in contemporary life, and that today’s circumstances are secondary to history.
“Because I said so…” indicates a lack of desire to claim responsibility for exercising authority, decision making, and the consequences (good or bad) of such issues.
“Because I said so…” tells those under your supervision, authority, and responsibility that you lack the caring and willingness to work for their benefit.
“Because I said so…” closes off all beneficial dialogue and the possibility of deepening a relationship.
“Because I said so…” should be eliminated from your speech if you desire to promote relationships, have respect for you position of influence, have better relationships with your friends and family, and desire to be accountable for your actions.
You should pay attention to this not because I said so but because you evaluated the “argument” and believe it will enhance your relationships and general interactions with all around you.
God bless you.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Rapids with God

I don’t know if you have ever participated in the incredible adventure of white water rafter, but you are seriously missing out if you haven’t. Now I am writing this as a person scared to death of open water. Especially fast, freezing rushing water! I was so paranoid I had to do a flotation test of the wet suit and vest to insure my large girth would stay above water. It worked so I got into the raft.
I guess that is my first metaphor for the Rapids with God. While it is very cool to watch God accomplish great things, it is way beyond great to be in the midst of his work. If you want a genuine, invigorating, never will you be the same experience for your life you need to get into the raft.
The beginning of this rafting trip was pretty serene. The air was cool, the sky was clear, the sound of water was calming, and the guide was calmly giving us very important instructions on what to do through the expected and what to do if something unexpected took place. Little did we know that the later instructions would become so important!
My second metaphor is simple this, pay attention to God’s instructions. They are not only effective for the calm parts of the journey but they are crucial in catastrophe and will enable you to finish the journey.
Within just a few minutes we saw the rapids coming toward us. Excitement, fear, and determination took hold as the guide shouted out the lesson reminders and told us exactly what to do to negotiate this particular set of rapids. We would soon learn that there are a variety of different rapids and the same approach is not to be used if one wants to stay dry (relatively speaking!). We discovered this very quickly as the second set of rapids came upon us before we could finish celebrating our victory over the first set. This set was far more formidable. A whole different set of instructions came from a very determined, calming, and clear voice of the guide.
My third metaphor, when God is in charge all issues of life can be negotiated but we should never assume how He worked in the last situation is how He will work in the next. In fact, it is for our safety we must leave Him in charge and not assume we know what we are doing! One rapid is not like another. There are too many unseen factors that change the level of danger and require different efforts. The slope of the river at that time, the rocks under the water, and the narrowness of the river make all the difference in the world. If you are in the raft make sure you are totally focused on the Guides instructions. Likewise, don’t assume your journey is ever under your control. Stay focused on the instructions of God. This will keep complacency out of the picture.
The river this particularly year was pretty fast and the variety of rapids was pretty intimidating. There was no way that a novice, or group of novices would be able to get through the Rapids with God without some sort of calamity, even death. A particular set of rapids underlined how important the instructions of the Guide were for our safety.
The guide for our crew, at the very beginning of the journey, gave us instructions on what to do if she was tossed overboard! Most of us (including me) figured she was just trying to scare us so we would pay attention. Little did we know what would happen half way into the Rapids with God.
We had successfully passed through a few different rapids and had been having a great time. We were learning to row in such a way as to complement the strength of each person. We were consistently going in a straight line and hitting the rapids in the angle most beneficial to all of the crew. The scary part of the next scenario was that no one saw it coming, except the guide in the raft. Her experience and knowledge informed her that the scenario about to unfold was quite possible.
As we hit the last couple of big plunges (very cool by the way!) we were celebrating coming through them when we realized our guide had been launched from the raft. We were seemingly without a guide and only half way through the journey! All of a sudden we began to hear the guide shouting instructions to us on how to get the raft positioned so she could get back on board. The instructions were simple and EXACTLY like she had taught at the beginning during the serenity of the journey. Before we hit the next big set of rapids she had us perfectly positioned so as to climb back into the raft and be “in our presence” once again.
Here is another metaphor to chew on. Our guide told us (at the beginning of the journey) that despite not being in the raft she would still be able to instruct us. God says the same to us. He will never leave us or forsake us. We might not “sense” His presence but He is there nonetheless. He is still helping us negotiate the unexpected turns of life. No matter what He will be instructing us on how to get through the rapids of life. Despite our consternation our guide was completely calm and in control. Please, I urge you, this is how God operates in our life. NO situation surprises Him. He is prepared to give us instructions. And, in case you have missed the metaphor, He usually requires us to expend effort through acts of obedience to realize the validity of His authority.
It is interesting, but my group of people had the most exciting, talked about journey of everyone who went on this trip. We had experienced a pretty scary situation. We had made it through because we followed our guides calm, yet commanding instructions on how to recuperate. Our journey was more fulfilling because of a significant trial during the journey.
My last metaphor (I promise) follows, it is not that trials should be “desired,” but our fulfillment and joy and experiences are heightened through trials which catch us completely off guard. As we look back and realize that God not only prepared us for the possible scenario, we also realize He was faithful in carrying us through the ordeal. This causes us to develop a deeper awareness of God and our faith grows in preparation for the next set of Rapids with God!
Friends, get in the raft and go with God. If you don’t know Him it is time to say, “You are God, and Jesus is supposed to be guiding my life. Please come and take over and I commit to you in being the guide to the rest of my “rafting trip.” Email me at if you would like to discuss your next rafting trip with God. God bless you.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mentoring Matters (check out my life!)

What kind of life do I have? How could my life have ended up differently?
I don’t know about you who are reading this, but my life could have turned out completely different than my current reality. My life is certainly very complicated at the moment. When I am asked, “How are you doing?” I reply, “I’m not sure how to answer that question?” I’m 53 years old and have incredible energy that I know comes from something other than myself. I feel that the major life/career adjustment I was compelled to make on January 1 of this year, and the process began in January of 2010, was definitively and actively coordinated by ANOTHER. Security in position, finances, and influence was abandoned. It was very clear that I would probably have to work three jobs in this transition. It was clear that I would not be able to bring home the same amount of income despite working these three jobs. It was also clear to me that I would be doing two things with certainty, and need to be open to the “wild card” job.
So I began the journey of building a non-profit (Highway City Community Development) into the transformative agent we believed it should be in our community. I began the process of applying to become an adjunct professor at two of our local universities. One door closed very quickly due to our state budget issues. The other door opened up (Fresno Pacific University) in a very unexpected way and I am relishing the teaching time. I kept looking for the “right” third job. The simple matter was that our family couldn’t continue to absorb the $2,400+ loss in take home pay. We had done pretty well in financial management, but not completely. Hindsight sucks, because it is so accurate. I wish we had done a bit better. On the other hand, the only reason the first two jobs could be accomplished was through accumulating debt. This is an interesting paradox, yet one that my family must live with.
I knew the third job would need to be a “graveyard” type of employment. Certain jobs were pretty easy to rule out because it was clear they didn’t “fit.” Other opportunities were something to think about but I was worried about my integrity if an organization invested in training me and then I need to quit because one of the first two jobs broke open in a financial sense. One day while networking the person asked if my interns might need employment. Valley Teen Ranch is an awesome work dealing with foster care, adoption, and group homes for troubled male teens. I gladly took the job descriptions to give to our organization’s graduating interns from our Urban Leadership program. As I perused the descriptions a night shift job description caught my eye. I could be a substitute night shift worker.
I then went to the CEO and asked if she would mind if I applied knowing it might be for a short duration. Connie is a great friend and inspiration to what I was primarily doing (HCCD). She was a great encouragement. So I spoke with Janet, the HR person. She gave me the low down and said it was perfectly fine to use my laptop at work! So, I became a nightshift Child Care worker for Valley Teen Ranch in June. It helps my family, it helps Valley Teen Ranch, AND I can do research, reading, and writing while doing bed checks and clocking in every half hour (make sure I’m not sleeping!).
So I’m working two full time jobs and one occasional job (if adjunct professor can be put in that role) just as I felt I would be doing. That actually feels pretty good. On the other hand, I do get tired and periodically question my move to this situation. Three things have helped me to feeling secure in this season of transition, fatigue, and expectation. One, I have an amazing wife. She has been completely on board with the decision to transition and encouraging me and communicating herr deep respect for me as her husband and father of our children. Quite frankly, this has been more than a little important.
Second, if you haven’t figured it out by now, my faith in Jesus and the faith that He was/is directing this move is foundational. All my Christ-following years (almost 23 years) He has directed my path in amazing ways. So much unexpected, never thought it could happen, and “are you sure I’m the one?” have marked my life with Christ. It hasn’t been very often that the journey has been “easy” or considered “safe.” He has asked considerably of me in the areas of giving up comfort, ease, and safety. Each time I have stepped into the unknown He has made a new reality for me. What I would have disqualified myself from He has made me experienced in. Being in the center of God’s will IS NOT the safest place to be. But, it is the most fulfilling place to take a stance.
Finally, the third thing that has sustained me in this journey, and the chief reason for the blog is my mentor. His name is Jim. Quite simply, if you do not have at least one “Jim” in your life I feel very sorry for you.
Jim has been my mentor for 18+ years. He has traveled with me through some very significant transitions in my life. He has shared his life with me. I have observed his life and marveled that I would be allowed to have this person in my life. He has vast experience in the fields I feel so strongly called to be in, a great marriage (not without struggles for sure which he has shared from their journey), good adult kids (pretty close to my age), and grandchildren he adores. He mentors me in all areas of my life. He encourages me, confronts me (gently), spurs me on, and advocates for me when my doubts start to cloud the vision I feel led to move toward.
Today was one of those days. He made a simple, astute statement which changed everything for me. It released doubt, even a little self-imposed guilt, and served as a great cheer for what I was trying to achieve according to my call in life. He said, “Building a dream requires a lot of effort that just can’t be measured.” That was crucial for me to hear. I’m working toward a “dream.” I’m sure it is not my dream. If it was I would have quit long ago. Even when things look totally crappy (probably not the most eloquent word but you get my drift I’m sure) this vision of what could be is always front and center.
Wives are great and critical supporters. God has to make the call and direct the steps. But, God has orchestrated that we move forward in community. He set up the idea of mentors. Whether Moses for Joshua, Elijah for Elisha, Jesus for the Apostles, or Paul for Timothy, he knew that we needed an experienced, godly person to be there with us to help us see more clearly how God is working in our lives.
If you haven’t thought this to be important, I plead with you to seek out a mentor who can relate to the whole of your life. Jim has been this for me. If you don’t think this is important I will pray for you (you are in a dangerous position). If you have this in your life, verbally let them know how much they mean to you.
I don’t know what my life would look like without Jim. So many of the steps I felt I was being led to make seemed so unconventional. The truth of the matter was that they were and he had already traveled the road less traveled. Jim has been willing to share his downfalls, shortcomings, and ill advised moves. But, he has also shared the victories and given me hope in my own circumstances. He has never said, “do it my way.” He always says, “let’s figure out how God will use you in this situation.” He has confronted my shortcomings with love and with a great desire to see me become the man of God he believes I can become. He has been a fierce advocate for me even if it could have been detrimental to him. Simply put, he has believed completely that God is working in my life and has a great desire to help me see this and value that work in my life.
You need this in your life. Mentoring matters. Get one. And prepare to be one for others. That has also been taught to me. Thank you Jim. Thank you for believing in me being used by God. Thanks for crying with me, laughing with me, laughing at me, and setting a great example for how to follow Christ even when we might mess it up a bit.
To those reading this, you need to know Christ. It is that pure and simple. Once there, find another who is farther up the road with experience in your passions. Chances are they are around you and it is time to approach them. I will pray you gain at least as much as I have gained from Jim.
God bless your journey together,