Saturday, December 30, 2006
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Twelve Java Mudslides...
Eleven Caramel Lattes...
Nine Blueberry Bagels...
Eight Dad's Place T-Shirts...
Seven Strawberry Milk Shakes...
Five Shots of Swamp.
Four Chai Lattes...
Three Ham & Cheese...
Two pounds of beans...
And a large cup of Dad's Place coffee.
Friday, December 22, 2006
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
Here are the top scores in Dad's Place' Quiz. Thanks to ALL who joined in on the fun. A NEW CONTEST will begin on December 12th. Don't miss it!
3rd Place...Your prize is one scoop of Ice Cream.
2nd Place...Your prize is a Small Coffee of Choice.
FIRST PLACE...Your prize is a LARGE Coffee of Choice.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
And I close with the words of one of Ray Boltz's most memorable songs...
I dreamed I went to heaven
And you were there with me
We walked upon the streets of gold
Beside the crystal sea
We heard the angels singing
Then someone called your name
You turned and saw this young man
And he was smiling as he came
And he said friend you may not know me now
And then he said but wait
You used to teach my Sunday School
When I was only eight
And every week you would say a prayer
Before the class would start
And one day when you said that prayer
I asked Jesus in my heart
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave
Then another man stood before you
And said remember the time
A missionary came to your church
And his pictures made you cry
You didn’t have much money
But you gave it anyway
Jesus took the gift you gave
And that’s why I’m here today
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Far as the eyes could see
Each life somehow touched
By your generosity
Little things that you had done
Unnoticed on the earth
In heaven now proclaimed
And I know that up in heaven
You’re not supposed to cry
But I am almost sure
There were tears in your eyes
As Jesus took your hand
And you stood before the Lord
He said, my child look around you
For great is your reward
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave
Here is my list...
"Thank you Father for these 5. Thank you for allowing our paths to cross, if only for a moment. Help them to see You in me...Amen."
Monday, November 20, 2006
Today, I would like for you to list THE top 5 things that you are thankful for...then spend an extra moment in prayer giving a special thanks for those 5. Here are my top 5...
1.) My relationship with Jesus.
2.) My wife, Denise.
3.) My daughter, Tabitha.
4.) Unique ways and the freedom to minister.
5.) Learning to live and focus on one day at a time.
I look forward to seeing your list, and to join you in 'giving thanks'. Have an incredible day...and join me tomorrow for Part #2.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Not a 'payback', but a 'pay forward'.
Could be described as mercy in action. And in the instance that occurred this morning, a 'Good Samaritan' action.
In my astonishment, I vaguely remember asking, "Are you sure?"..."Oh, yeah...spend it all." was the reply.
'Unreal'...was all I could think.
And this person requested to remain anonymous.
But my biggest blessings came as I looked at each customer when I gave them their coffee, and told them that a 'Good Samaritan' wanted to buy their drinks this morning, and to take care of them...no questions asked. The look on the faces staring back at me was priceless. To most, it was that 'wow' moment. Quite possibly the first 'wow' moment they had experienced in a while. It's so amazing to me to watch 'Jesus in action in a secular world'.
I would really love to know how the rest of the day went for those who received their gift this morning. Some, I'm sure will probably think, "Hey, I deserve this", while others may have forgot about it as soon as they were back in their cars. But I have this feeling that most will reflect back on the morning with that 'hmmmmmmm factor'.
To the person who opened their heart, you opened mine a little bit wider...'Thank you'...and may God Bless you richly because of this small token.
To myself and all others, I encourage you to also show Jesus to a secular world...pay it forward...to those that you 'don't' know...just because...
It really is contagious...
Monday, November 13, 2006
His thoughts turned to those who had stolen his things and cheated him.
He remembered family that had passed on. His mind turned to the illness he had that no one could cure. His very soul was filled with anger, resentment and frustration.
Standing there this day, searching for answers he could not find, knowing all else had failed him, he knelt at the base of an old oak tree to seek the One he knew would always be there. And with tears in his eyes, he prayed:
"Lord- You have done wonderful things for me in this life. You have told me to do many things for You, and I happily obeyed. Today, You have told me to forgive. I am sad, Lord, because I cannot. I don't know how. It is not fair Lord. I didn't deserve these wrongs that were done against me and I shouldn't have to forgive. As perfect as Your way is Lord, this one thing I cannot do, for I don't know how to forgive. My anger is so deep Lord, I fear I may not hear You, but I pray that You teach me to do this one thing I cannot do - Teach me To Forgive."
As he knelt there in the quiet shade of that old oak tree, he felt something fall onto his shoulder. He opened his eyes. Out of the corner of one eye, he saw something red on his shirt.
He could not turn to see what it was because where the oak tree had been was a large square piece of wood in the ground. He raised his head and saw two feet held to the wood with a large spike through them.
He raised his head more, and tears came to his eyes as he saw Jesus hanging on a cross. He saw spikes in His hands, a gash in His side, a torn and battered body, deep thorns sunk into His head. Finally he saw the suffering and pain on His precious face. As their eyes met, the man's tears turned to sobbing, and Jesus began to speak.
"Have you ever told a lie?" He asked?
The man answered - "yes, Lord."
"Have you ever been given too much change and kept it?"
The man answered - " yes. Lord." And the man sobbed more and more.
"Have you ever taken something from work that wasn't yours?" Jesus asked?
And the man answered - "yes, Lord."
"Have you ever sworn, using my Father's name in vain? "
The man, crying now, answered - "yes, Lord."
As Jesus asked many more times, "Have you ever"?
The man's crying became uncontrollable, for he could only answer - "yes,
Then Jesus turned His head from one side to the other, and the man felt something fall on his other shoulder. He looked and saw that it was the blood of Jesus. When he looked back up, his eyes met those of Jesus, and there was a look of love the man had never seen or known before. Jesus said, "I didn't deserve this either, but I forgive you." It may be hard to see how you're going to get through something, but when you look back in life, you realize how true this statement is.
Read the following first line slowly and let it sink in.
If God brings you to it - He will bring you through it.
"Lord I love You and I need You, come into my heart, today. For without You I can do nothing...Amen"
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Quarterback Sneak - Church members quietly leaving during the invitation.
Draw Play - What many children do with the bulletin during worship.
Half-time - The period between Sunday School and worship when many choose to leave.
Bench warmer - Those who do not sing, pray, work, or apparently do anything but sit.
Backfield-in-Motion - Making a trip to the back (restroom or water fountain)during the service.
Staying in the Pocket - What happens to a lot of money that should be given to the Lord's work.
Two-minute Warning - The point at which you realize the sermon is almost over and begin to gather up your children and belongings.
Instant Replay - The preacher loses his notes and falls back on last week's illustrations.
Sudden Death - What happens to the attention span of the congregation if the preacher goes "overtime."
Trap - You're called on to pray and are asleep.
End Run - Getting out of church quick, without speaking to any guest or fellow member.
Flex Defense - The ability to allow absolutely nothing said during the sermon to affect your life.
Halfback Option - The decision of 50% of the congregation not to return for the evening service.
Blitz - The rush for the restaurants following the closing prayer.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
The husband said, " You are in charge of cooking around here and you should do it, because that is your job, and I can just wait for my coffee."
Wife replies, "No, you should do it, and besides, it is in the Bible that the man should do the coffee." Husband replies, "I can't believe that, show me."
So she fetched the Bible, and opened the New Testament and showed him at the top of several pages, that it indeed says.........."HEBREWS"
Thursday, October 26, 2006
Wow, things were moving fast! Yet, I knew that even though very few things were making sense at this point, I was being awakened to a whole new world that would soon come into focus. I had to come to the realization that I didn't have to be on staff at some local church in a certain location to be in full time ministry. What a wake-up call. That's one of those things that I always knew...but I didn't know it! Know what I mean?
It was at this point in my life that I was reacquainted...reintroduced to my calling. That I was to go and do wherever the Holy Spirit directed...not to search out a certain position in a certain location. I had to go back to the beginning and take a long hard look at my spiritual inventory and the spiritual mile markers in my life.
Spiritual Gifts tests have always proven to me that I have two unique gifts: music/worship and evangelism. And not necessarily in that order. I have an indescribable passion for worship and to lead His people before His throne. Being a musician has always given me a vehicle for entering His presence at the highest level. My favorite place is to be in the 'zone' and imagine myself at His feet, with guitar in hand, singing my most intimate praise to Him. And to take others along with me for that ride is absolutely chilling. One day, I'll be able to stay in the 'zone'...
For my other gift, evangelism is not something I do...it's just me, it's a way of life. I'm the guy that slows up the checkout line at Wal-Mart because I'm telling the cashier just how great my Jesus is. Again, it's not something that I think about doing, or think I should be doing...I just do it...it just happens. So many people have this misconception that by inviting people to church is the same thing as witnessing...NO IT'S NOT. Witnessing is when you are so in love with Jesus Christ, that you can't help but tell others about Him and what He's done for you. The phrase that rings so true is "It's not about religion...it's about a relationship!" It's never been if you 'love' Jesus, it's are you 'in love' with Jesus. And fear has gripped the hearts and mouths of so many Christians that it's become difficult to share Christ with others.
Churches, in my experience, are notorious for putting so much pressure and demands on staff members, that it becomes difficult for them to actually 'minister'. Demands for office hours, 'job' requirements, attempting to please everyone (which by the way, can NOT be done), and so on, hinder many men from doing what God called them to do. And I'll be the first to admit that I've allowed it to happen to me to the point, that my focus has been more on churchy stuff, and not on God stuff. (This paragraph is a definite post in the making!) I found myself falling and falling deeper and deeper into a never-ending black hole...further and further away from my family, my calling and myself. Not only was I speeding in the wrong direction, I was asleep at the wheel...
Just like many a father over the years have taken their young sons outside to the woodshed for guidance and direction, so it was that my Heavenly Father had to grab me by the knapp of my neck and drag me out to His spiritual woodshed. And just like those other young men, I came away with a better...a much more clearer understanding of where I was and what I was supposed to be doing...I came out of it, a better, a much stronger man.
"You want me to what?"
"You heard Me."
"You want me to do what? You're sure? You know there is absolutely NO WAY I can do this myself."
"Now you're getting it. Remember what we've talked about...more of Me, less of you."
"More of me?"
"More of You, less of me. All of You, none of me."
Imagine that. Through years and years of secular work, business travel, church politics and dysfunctunal churches, I've been allowed to do something that I always had dreamed of doing. Having the freedom to be...do...go...daily as He calls me. Being in a place where I can be myself, be with my family, love my friends, make countless new friends and induldge in my favorite pastime...coffee. Being able to put 'feet to my prayers', to show others what a Christ-filled life is like in the real world, not secluded or condemned to stay behind the four walls of a church. I'm actually able to be part of His church for the first time in my life. Having a place where people can come in and be themselves...to laugh...to cry...to pray. A place where the unloveable can find love...the hopeless can find hope...a place where Jesus is found at the intersection of church and the real world. A place where I can call home...a place my family can invite countless others to in a non-threatening environment...a place to serve....serve others through Him. A place that's easy to remember...a place you would want to be...a place that reflects me...Dad's Place...but we all know it's His Place.
To say the very least, I've learned a lot in the past two years. I've learned that the love my family has for each other is indescribable and incalculable...that God truly provides for you on a day-by-day basis if you let Him...that if you will just listen and watch, God will speak in a very direct way and He will open and close doors for you that only He can. I've learned who my friends really are, because there are many who just don't understand the fact that I still serve in full-time ministry, just in a much different method. I still get offers from churches to come back on staff, yet each time God very lovingly reminds me about why I do what I do. I've learned that the measure of a man is not determined by the amount of money he makes, the home he lives in, the car he drives, the church he serves in, or the people he tries to impress...he's measured by the God he serves, how he serves Him, how he leads his family and what effect he has on the Kingdom.
What does the future hold...I honestly don't have a clue. But for now, I'm enjoying the ride of a lifetime...the cruise control is set...my seat belt is buckled...my sun glasses are on...and the coffee is brewing...
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
There is a nine-year-old kid sitting at his desk and all of a sudden there is a puddle between his feet and the front of his pants are wet. He thinks his heart is going to stop because he cannot possibly imagine how this has happened. It's never happened before, and he knows that when the boys find out he will never hear the end of it. When the girls find out they'll never speak to him again as long as he lives. The boy believes his heart is going to stop, he puts his head down and prays this prayer, "Dear God, this is an emergency! I need help now! Five minutes from now I'm dead meat."
He looks up from his prayer and here comes the teacher with a look in her eyes that says he has been discovered. As the teacher is walking toward him, a classmate named Susie is carrying a goldfish bowl that is filled with water. Susie trips in front of the teacher and inexplicably dumps the bowl of water in the boy's lap. The boy pretends to be angry, but all the while is saying to himself, "Thank you, Lord! Thank you, Lord!" Now all of a sudden, instead of being the object of ridicule, the boy is the object of sympathy.
The teacher rushes him downstairs and gives him gym shorts to put on while his pants dry out. All the other children are on their hands and knees cleaning up around his desk. The sympathy is wonderful. But as life would have it, the ridicule that should have been his has been transferred to someone else - Susie.
She tries to help, but they tell her to get out. "You've done enough, you klutz!" Finally, at the end of the day, as they are waiting for the bus, the boy walks over to Susie and whispers, "You did that on purpose, didn't you?" Susie whispers back, "I wet my pants once too."
May God help us see the opportunities that are always around us to do good. Going to church doesn't make you a Christian any more than standing in your garage makes you a car.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
In the movie, 'Back To The Future', Marty experienced a new way of travel...a new way of thinking...a new way of life. From the safe streets of Hill Valley, he made his way by means of a skate board...always wanting more...trying to borrow the family car...reaching out, but not knowing how. Little did he know that just a few blocks away, Doc Brown was busy working...researching...testing something so new, so revolutionary that to anyone else, appeared strange...foreign...modern. Soon, by accident...call it necessity, Marty would be trading in his skate board for a nuclear DeLorean.
Were there bumps and bruises along the way? Sure. Were risks involved? Absolutely! Was it worth it? Oh yeah!
A church sign I noticed this past week had this message: "If God is your co-pilot, change seats". Two years ago, I had to do that exact thing. For many years, I had enjoyed life in full time vocational ministry. I had always been sensitive to the leadership of the Holy Spirit and had followed Him to many places to fill many positions. But in all honesty, something seemed out of place. It sometimes made me question whether or not I was supposed to be at that specific church...whether or not I was in the right position...and sometimes even made me doubt my call into the ministry. But each time, something would happen that would confirm to us that we were doing the right thing at the right place at the right time. But there was still that little...you know....
There I was, sitting behind the wheel...ready to make a move...follow Him down any path...and yet, the engine was blown. Not even a spit or sputter as I did every thing I knew to get that 'old' machine to run. I was out of ideas...nothing made sense. My life was in utter darkness. The only light I could see was the dimming glow of my life's dashboard informing me that something was critically wrong.
"OK...I give up...I can't do this anymore...I have nothing left...I'll work at anything, do whatever, just please take care of my family!" was my constant prayer. "Whatever, please just show me!" And He did. Did He ever!
In the distance, a tiny pair of headlights appeared. The closer they approached, the brighter they became...it was almost as if the headlights were reflecting the sun's rays. As the vehicle grew closer and closer, it became more difficult to see. Through the tears and the headlights I could make out the image of something I couldn't believe. The car had now stopped beside me, and I was face-to-face with the driver. The car He was driving was indescribable. Concept cars of the future were nothing more than mere Hot Wheel cars compared to this magnificent machine. The engine was so powerful it was making the ground quiver underneath me.
"Is that for me?" I asked.
"Sure is," He replied. "Are you ready?"
"I am so ready" I cried, "You have no idea!"
As I got out of my broken means of transportation, I headed for the driver's door. A sense of relaxation...peace, had overcome me. It was at that exact moment that I heard Him say something that would change my life...my entire perspective...forever. As I reached for the door handle, He said something to me that sent chills down my spine. "Stop", He said. "It's time to change drivers." "From now on, I've got the wheel."
As I crawled into the passenger's seat, scared out of my mind, He said "Son it's OK...don't worry...I'm right here with you." At that moment, the words of Isaiah 42:16 were forever branded in my heart and in my mind...
"I will bring the blind by a way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them, And crooked places straight. These things I will do for them, And not forsake them."
As He reached for the gear shift, He slowly turned toward me. "You might want to buckle up" He said. "I sometimes have a heavy foot." As I was locking my seatbelt into place, I noticed the sun was beginning to wake...darkness was quickly fading. We slowly began to move forward, picking up speed with each passing moment until we were cruising at some Mach speed. With my head pinned against the headrest, He was still reassuring me that all is OK, if I will just listen...and follow...and let Him drive.
It didn't take long, however, for us to run into several miles of reality construction. I was really confused..."Why are we going through this, if HE is driving? I thought I had left all of this behind!" "Just because I'm driving doesn't mean there won't be rough roads ahead" He said. "It just means that I know how to make them smoother."
Reminded me again of Marty McFly...even though things are going smooth, there's always a Biff Tannen somewhere around...
...to be continued
Monday, October 16, 2006
"We compromise the life of the church if we keep bad soil in our membership. We make church a show that requires the audience to make little or no effort. If someone is willing to come to our service once a week for a little more than an hour and sit passively watching others do the work, then they are considered members in good standing, no matter what the rest of their week is like. One can be totally uncommitted to the Kingdom, distracted by the deceitfulness of riches and the desire for other things, and still be a member of our church, complete with a smiling photo in our church directory."
This statement should jolt all of us...be honest...share your thoughts in the comments.
Friday, October 13, 2006
I've always felt as though I had a different call on my life. Never quite understood it, but I knew something was different. I remember the first time I knew that God had something special in mind for me...however, I am just like many men that are called into the ministry, I denied it, and attempted to do everything possible to escape it. In reality, one can escape many things throughout their lifetime, but the call of God is an inescapable labyrinth that haunts a man to the deepest chasms of his soul. And why He chose me, I haven't the slightest clue. But I plan on asking Him one day...
Most know what God is preparing them for when they enter into the ministry. Some are called to be pastors...others, youth pastors...some, into worship ministry...and the list goes on. But here again, mine was different. All I knew, was, that I was to totally surrender my life to go and do as He opened the doors, and to walk away from the ones He closed. Talk about an interesting journey! I've been blessed to serve in many staff positions over the years...Sr. Pastor, Youth Pastor, University Pastor, Worship Pastor, and a few more. But just a few short years ago, my calling was distinctly changing direction, and I certainly didn't know why, nor did I understand it.
It was during this time that my family and I were feeling a deep sense of urgency to reach out to the 18 to 35 year old age group. I really can't describe it...it was just a burning passion to minister to this group. We conducted a series of surveys...consulted with many church leaders...and spent many hours in prayer. Our findings were staggering. We determined that only a minor percentage (less than 10%) of this age group in our county could be classified as 'churched'. In addition, our community is home to a small four year college that has an average enrollment of 2800 students. And the student population wasn't even figured into the calculations. The revelation of this data analysis made us quickly realize a new direction in our ministry was happening...right before our very eyes.
In the summer of 2004, after much prayer, consulting with other personal friends that are or have been in full time ministry, searching God's Word, and much more prayer, it was obvious I could no longer remain on staff in my current position in one of the local churches. I didn't understand what God was doing. Here I was, having to resign my position, yet God would not allow me to leave my little community, nor would He allow me to send out resumes to other churches. What was HE thinking?! We had even sought His Will concerning a possible new church plant for this age group, but God closed that door also. However, He did have a plan...
I'll be honest with you, I'm normally a 'see the glass half full' kind of guy...very optimistic...highly aggressive...Type A personality, but this was crazy. I mean, absolutely nuts! My world was crashing down around me and I couldn't do anything about it. My entire concept of ministry was changing like a kaleidoscope in overdrive. My view...my impression of life in ministry and my life in general was that I would serve on staff of a local church, watch the church grow spiritually and numerically, grow old in the process (or should I say 'age gracefully'), watch my daughter become successful in her career, retire, cash in my annuity, and buy a motorcycle.
Sounded good...in theory...only.
My mind was racing so fast it could have competed in the NASCAR circuit. I kept searching...grasping...hoping to understand what was taking place, only to realize that my thoughts and ideas were vanishing as quickly as they appeared. But soon, the plan became very clear. That car that I had been racing in had blown it's engine, and it had been replaced with a much faster...more advanced way of competing...leaving my views of life and ministry as I knew it, in the rear view mirror...
...to be continued
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I pray these quotes are challenging you...encouraging you...and motivating you. We're having a lot of 'lookers'...'readers'...'lurkers'. And I want to encourage you to share your thoughts concerning these quotes in the comment section. I look forward to read what God is doing in your lives through these quotes. Thanks for stopping by.
Monday, October 09, 2006
"Unfortunately, in most churches in the Western world the presence of the pastor is more noticeable than the presence of Jesus. Actually, it is the pastor's absence that is more noticeable. This phenomenon is so common that on any Sunday when the pastor is expected to be away, the attendance drops. People say they missed him when he returns. I fear that we feel the absence of the pastor more than the absence of the Spirit of Jesus. Perhaps it is time we tell Jesus that we miss Him at church too."
Friday, October 06, 2006
I know there are a lot of readers that are stopping by, so Read...React...Comment.
"We would do much better as leaders in the Church to learn at the feet of the farmer rather than study with the CEO of a corporation. It is time we see that the Church starts in the fields, not in the barns (Prov. 24:27). We spend so much time building nice barns with padded pews, air-conditioned halls, and state-of-the-art sound systems, yet we have neglected the fields."
Thursday, October 05, 2006
"The Church is a vibrant, authentic expression of Jesus' love and truth in this dark world, and with Jesus at the helm she is unstoppable! We should not be running from drug dealers and darkness. If indeed we really are the light of the world, we should be running toward the darkness witht ehunderstanding that we cannot be overcome by darkness. We should take the light and jam it right down the throat of darkness...
...Jesus said, "You are the light of the world" (Matt. 5:14). He didn't command us to shine. He didn't suggest that we be brighter. He said in effect, "You already do shine, you are a light-that is who you are!" He then added that a light is useless if it is placed under a pot or basket. A light should be placed on a lampstand so that it gives light to all the darkness surrounding it (Matt. 5:15)."
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
Thanks to Dave Johnston at UAM's BCM for letting me borrow the book!
...from Neil Cole's "Organic Church"
"Church attendance, however, is not the barometer of how Christianity is doing. Ultimately, transformation is the product of the Gospel. It is not enough to fill our churches; we must transform our world. Society and culture should change if the church has been truly effective. Is the church reaching out and seeing lives changed by the Good News of the Kingdom of God? Surely the number of Christians will increase once this happens, but filling seats one day a week is not what the Kingdom is all about. We do Jesus an injustice by reducing His life and ministry to such a sad story as church attendance and membership rolls.
The measure of the Church's influence is found in society--on the streets, not in the pews."
Monday, October 02, 2006
"Listen", she said..........."what do you suppose that is?"
He drew his eyebrows together in a puzzled line and looked up as if lost in the mystery of the strange tap - tap - tapping deep in his chest. Then his face broke out in a wondrous grin and he asked, "Is that Jesus Knocking?"
Thanks Denise for sharing this with me...
Friday, September 29, 2006
Mission trips have always been a fancy of mine. I have been extremely blessed by the many opportunities to go...be...see...and build. Go to places I've never been before...be the Christ-Follower that I really want to be...see the multitude and feel the same compassion that Jesus did...and build relationships with people that I never dreamed possible. From the Mississippi Delta to the Puget Sound, the work of the Kingdom never sleeps. But it was on a special mission trip into the heart of Arlington, Texas that my eyes were opened to something so big...so wonderful...yet soooooo small!
There I was, providing 'tactical support' for a portion of our youth group in one of the many apartment complexes in the metro area. Our goal for the week was to conduct basic Back Yard Bible Studies to the children that lived in the area. The children were swarming like mad bees and the heat that was bearing down on us in that concrete jungle was almost unbearable. (Just for the record I don't do kids...er I mean heat, very well.) I was nearing the melting point, trying so hard to stay on task and my caffeine quota was running extreeeeeemely low. While our youth were busy keeping the children occupied, part of my responsibility was to attempt to make contact with the adults/parents of the children that lived in the apartments. Keep in mind these activities that were taking place was during the daytime and the number of adults around were really small, which gave ample opportunity to spend extra time with those that were there.
As I was making my way around the complex, I noticed two ladies that were sitting on one of the apartment patios. As I approached them to make conversation, I noticed they were drinking a beverage from an extremely tiny cup. Hmmmmm......what in the world...could it be? Attempting to begin to make conversation...that alone was a challenge for both ladies were of Cuban decent...the older of the two couldn't speak any English, and the other one could speak broken English at best...the younger of the ladies invited me to join them on the patio as they were watching the children participate in our BYBC. As the three of us sat there, attempting to stay cool in that blistering Texas heat, I couldn't help but notice that with each sip of their drink, it was always followed by a soothing mmmmmmm. OK...that's it...I had to know what was so good, so satisfying, yet so small.
The ladies, sensing my curiosity, invited me to join them in 'whatever' it was they were drinking. The first thought that ran through my mind, was, that it had to be some sort of Cuban tea...extremely HOT...extremely spicy...and extremely strong. As the younger of the two came back out on the patio with my 'cup'...it actually resembled a plastic tea cup from a little girl's tea set...I had almost prepared my taste buds for the onslaught of flavor that was about to be rushing in, when I noticed the older lady was beginning to snicker. OK...what's so funny? The closer I raised the cup to my lips, the louder the snicker became...and by now, the younger one is also trying to cover up her laughter. What had I just got myself into?
It didn't take long for me to realize that I was in the presence of something seriously incredible...
The aroma alone was enough to send the dial on my caffeine meter screaming in the opposite direction. From the very moment that my lips touched the edge of that tiny cup, I knew in an instant the reasoning for all of the MMMMMMMM's. For inside that cup, known as a demitasse cup, was a beast so ferocious that if it had been poured into a normal size coffee cup, a steel cage couldn't have contained it!
Little did those two ladies know that sitting before them was not only an over-heated, caffeine drained, kid chasing lunatic....but a Jesus loving, coffee drinking madman that makes even the strongest caffeine beasts quiver at the sound of my name.
I took that tiny cup and turned it straight up and immediately asked for a refill. You should have seen the look on those two ladies faces...it was priceless. The young lady took my cup & saucer, turned back to go inside...and through broken English all I could make out between them was "man do biggg coppeee!" The beast had been caged...and another door become open...
"Father, thank you for the Texas sun, screaming children and Cuban espresso. Help me to always be willing to face any obstacle in an effort to share Your love. Bless those two ladies...and help me to continue to walk through new open doors...amen"
I'll never forget that day...and neither will those two Cuban ladies. I had accepted their coffee...they accepted my Jesus...
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
I was almost immune to death. Day in and day out, watching men draw their last breath was part of my job description. It was a part of life...and I had accepted it. I was a career man in the Roman military...termed a centurion for my troop size of one hundred loyal soldiers. I led one of Rome's local forces in the occupied territory of Jerusalem.
One historian had stated that soldiers like me were the backbone of the Roman army, that centurions were not prone to take offense or start fighting on a whim...we are loyal...steadfast...and able, in the midst of adversity. We were willing to die at our posts rather than surrender or retreat.
One of my responsibilities was to oversee punishment for crimes...especially capital punishment. My unit was in charge of all scourgings and crucifixions. Over the years, I had become calloused...so hardened...by seeing so many men die. I knew a lot about men. I observed enough to know what a man was made of...not by the way he lived...but by the way he died.
This day, was different...unlike anything I had ever saw. Our orders were clear...crucify three men. Just another typical day...I thought...
I was pulling a double shift...seems as though one of these three men was somebody special...a king they said...king of the Jews. And my orders were to personally make sure that this so-called king received the 'royal treatment'. And at my command, he did...treatment like no other prisoner had ever received...yet, something about Him was different...
I was there during the last twenty-four hours of His life. I saw what happend...I ordered it...I saw what He endured...I heard what He said. He was different...unlike any man I had ever seen before.
After the long trip up the mountain, trying to maintain the chaos that was taking place with that ridiculous mob of people...and making sure these three men didn't escape...the time had come to put an end to this day...kill them...crucify them all. Then I could go off duty...go home and get some rest.
One by one, we held these three men down, stretched out their arms, and began to drive the spikes through their hands. For years, I had followed my orders...for years I had killed many men...for years, I had looked in their eyes to see anger...bitterness...pain...fear. But not this time. His eyes were not filled with that same anger...I couldn't imagine it...so I looked deeper. And I just could not believe what I saw...in the midst of pain...death...I saw a heart that was breaking...breaking with compassion. As He looked at those around the cross, He said something almost unbelievable...I could not believe my ears. Never had I heard a man...a crucified man say such words. I was accustomed to hearing them curse and swear and scream...but never words like this man spoke...this king...this king of the Jews. When He looked at us and cried out, "Father forgive them, for they don't have any idea what they're doing". What?!...what did He just say?! How could anyone ask for forgiveness for those who had just carried out the most horrible form of capital punishment known to man? I thought to myself, who is this Man...what resides deep inside Him...what's happening?
His words dug their way deep into my heart...but they weren't the only words He spoke during those last six hours that haunted my soul.
He was killed between two other men. At first, both of them yelled at Him...one of them demanded that He get them all down off their crosses. The vileness of that man's life showed in the words he hurled.
Suddenly the other crucified man look at at him and asked that he be remembered...remembered...remembered for what? Then this man, this King looked at him with those same eyes of loving compassion and promised the criminal that he would be with Him very soon...in a place called Paradise.
Then suddenly something happened that stunned the entire land. There it was, 12 Noon, and the entire sky went black. The sun was gone, and darkness prevailed over all the land. Here I was, the leader of this group of soldiers...the strong one...the confident one, yet inside, I was horrified. For deep down, I knew what was taking place. It was in this black hour of judgment that the sins of the entire world was placed upon this man...this man they called Jesus...and He must bear this cross, alone.
As the final minutes were quickly ticking away in this man's life, He was still concerned about others, and offered comfort and a promise of a better tomorrow. I've never seen a man die the way He did. What kind of man cares for others while His life is being drained from His body? I tell you I've seen a lot of men die...but I've never seen a man die like Jesus died.
The hours passed...death was hammering on the anvil of Jesus' life...and as the final minutes were approaching, He managed to raise His head toward the sky. And as He did, I watched His eyes...they seemed to be searching the heavens, almost like a lost child searches the crowd for his father. What was He doing? What was He...maybe, Who was He looking for? Then out of His mouth came words that began to crumble my heart that had turned to stone over the years. Through the blood and through the tears as He continue to search the sky, He cried out with such a lonely, haunting voice, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?"
Little did I know what Jesus was seeing on that heavenly stage...and it was as though for just a brief moment I was allowed a box seat to the Kingdom event of the ages. For there, standing on the edge of heaven was His Father...and slowly His Father was turning away while His Son was drawing His last breaths. And all around His Father were angels, thousands of them...everywhere. And I could see the look on the angels faces...they couldn't believe it either...there they were, gathered on the verge of attack...waiting for the battle cry to come and rescue this King off the cross. And I could see one specific angel, a leader like me, and I could almost hear his voice as he screamed, "come on Jesus, just say the word and we'll rescue You, we'll take those nails out of your hands and feet, and take you off that cross and destroy every single human in sight! Come on Jesus, come on! Please Jesus, let us take care of all this! No...No, Jesus, please don't die! Just one small word is all we need! Just say it...say it please!"
But He never called them...He just lowered His head and looked at us...and He looked at me. It was at that moment that I saw what others were proclaiming. And as He closed His eyes for the last time, I knew I was in the presence of someone very special...someone who changed lives...someone who had just changed mine.
My heart was absolutely melting away as I watched this remarkable man die...under my orders...by my hand. There I was, standing at the foot of the cross...His cross...drenched in His blood...with tears streaming down my face, and I felt as though the weight of the mountain had been lifted off my chest. Something had just happened...He really was who they said He was..."Surely this man was the Son of God!"
Before I walked away, I had look one more time at this man called Jesus. And as I was standing there, I somehow knew that I was standing in the presence of God. I knew I was watching love being poured out on unworthy people...people like my men...people like me. I knew that Jesus' death somehow, was for me.
I've seen a lot of men die...but I've never seen anyone die like Jesus.
I have to close this entry now, rest must wait. For there are others...my friends...my family...my men that need to hear. There are many that I must go tell...
Monday, September 25, 2006
I'd like to encourage you to take this new trip with my buddy, Dean Cirelli. Dean's on board, and there is room for you in the passenger's seat. Go ahead...jump in the Caddie...and go Ridin' With The King!
Tuesday, September 19, 2006
One of my favorite pastimes is people watching. It's so much fun to be in crowds of people and watch their habits...their actions...hear their statements...and see the truth! There are two days of the year that could be termed the 'holy grail' of people watching...the day AFTER Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve. On these two days, the inner self...or should I say inner beast...can always be seen. From the sweetest little grandma to the dirtiest old man, one's true self is always on center stage for these two days.
My annual ritual for these specific days are to be up early to be in a shopping mall...with at least a 5-shot latte in hand and another one brewing...find a safe place, if possible, to be out of the way of all the shoving and snatching, and just observe. It's absolutely amazing what I've seen during these times over the years. And with each year, brings a different twist. Each year, it seems, there is always this "one" item that industry analysts determine to be a 'must have' on everyone's list. And it never fails, there is always a shortage of "the gift"...which in turn, releases the demons.
I have seen fine, up-standing citizens...or so I thought, church deacons...by title only, church leaders...so 'they' thought, and countless others become barbaric in their actions and savages in their speech when faced with the thought of not being able to get one of that specific year's blockbuster items.
This year, thousands will gather outside their favorite stores in hopes that 'waiting till the last minute' will pay off...hours before the turkey has settled from the Thanksgiving meal and hours before Santa has hitched the reindeer up to his sleigh. This year's projected hot item...TMX Elmo...
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The much-anticipated top-secret 10th-anniversary Elmo, code-named "T.M.X. Elmo" is finally here - and it's the hysterically laughing, belly-clutching, floor-thumping Elmo. Fisher-Price, a division of No. 1 toymaker Mattel , unveiled the new T.M.X. Elmo to the world Tuesday. Elmo fans could face a shortage of the new T.M.X. Elmo over the holidays. (Price:$39.99)
"T.M.X." stands for 2 things - "Tickle Me extreme" or "Tickle Me 10," representing the toy's 10-year milestone. Elmo fans should grab the new toy while they can because industry analysts are already anticipating a shortage of Elmo T.M.X. over the holiday shopping season. (Read the entire article here)
I can just see it now...a WWF Smackdown is taking place in toy aisle 4, while just one aisle over is an imitation of a Jerry Springer-like production entitled "I'll Give You An Elmo!"...meanwhile over the PA system a nasally female's voice attempts to rise above the ruckus and screams, "would the little ol' lady please put the wig back on the bald guy...and would the lady in the cowboy boots kindly remove her foot from Mrs So-and-So's _______!" Yep, this is going to be a good year...
Even though this scenario will play out in malls across America...and even though as humorous as it will be, this type of foolishness saddens me. We have allowed ourselves to become materialized to the point that we will go hours out of our way to stand in line for hours in order to attempt to purchase an item that probably will be sold out by the time we get to the counter. We march in masses of mortal mayhem attempting to convince ourselves this type of behavior is acceptable. What's wrong with this picture...
Matthew 15:30 tells us of another multitude...a numberless mass of people seeking a Savior...searching...grasping...hoping. Now, it's 2000 years later, and we're involved in a new multitude, and we're still searching...grasping...hoping. The first crowd was in search of a man called Jesus...the Giver of hope...the Giver of grace. I'm afraid that we're involved in a multitude that is quite possibly seeking a giver of giggles, that will only last till the batteries wear out...
"Father, help me to stay focused. Help me to march to a different tune...Your tune. Never let me settle for a present...only Your Presence...amen."
Friday, September 15, 2006
In 1989, I was just completing 10 years of a successful management career in the retail industry. An opening came about in a field that I had longed for, for many years. I opted out of my management career and so began my trek up the corporate ladder. I was in secular heaven...or so I thought. I joined the nation's largest music company...CD's, Cassettes, DVD's, VHS, and for those who remember, 45s and LPs...you get the picture! My journey up that ladder was extremely quick...record setting quick. What started out as a basic salesman position rapidly turned into a corporate executive's dream job. There I was, still relatively new in the industry...winning one corporate award after another...receiving industry accolades that were seemingly deemed untouchable...living my dream. My salary was mind-boggling...and the perks that went with the job, you wouldn't believe me if I actually told you. Life, was great...
In 1993 however, my dream position began to paint a very troubling picture. By this time, my company had required me to live in the Little Rock metropolitan area, to be close to my office. That forced us to have to sell our home in North Arkansas. This was the beginning of the downward spiral. The only housing that we could find was in a two bedroom apartment, that in all honesty, I wouldn't recommend to anyone. These living conditions were a far cry from the three-story house in the up-scale neighborhood that we had just moved from. My sales territory covered nine states and the topic of traveling was no longer an option. My job required me to be away from home for days...and on a few occasions, weeks...at a time. You can imagine my fear as I left my wife, with a toddler, in a drug-infested sea, without a life-preserver in sight. Dead fish were all around. Our peace came on the weekends when I was home, as we traveled back to North Arkansas to go to our church. Yep...you read that correct...go to our church. Three and a half hours drive...in one direction. And it was worth every minute! Our church family, was just that...our family...our life-line. Outside of work, our world revolved around our church. There was something there that we just couldn't pull ourselves away from...and I needed that solitude now, more than ever. I was seriously sinking...
A ray of hope shined down on us one spring afternoon when I was offered a new position that would be the actual spring-board to the ultimate title...THE Prize...Branch Manager...full control of the largest branch in the entertainment's known world. All the muck and mess that we had suffered through was now going to pay off...we thought. We knew that another relocation was involved...just outside metro Dallas...and I thought I couldn't wait to get there. But after much prayer, we turned down the promotion. Call it instinct...gut feeling...whatever...maybe it was because I couldn't find a decent coffee house anywhere, I don't know, but...something wasn't right.
At this point, I was massively confused. The promotion of a lifetime, I just turned down to stay in a place that had become a miserably oppressed nightmare? What was I thinking? Had I actually lost my mind? Oh, and then came the dagger...when I informed my bosses of my decision, they informed me of theirs...I had just been fired! WOW! Where did that come from?! I never saw it coming! The stench of dead fish was everywhere...I had just been swallowed whole...
I've often wondered if the great fish that swallowed me was the same one that gulped down Jonah... Let's face it...at one point, Jonah's life sucked! Can you imagine what it was like for Jonah as he spent three days and nights inside the belly of this fish? Whether it was a whale or a whale shark, this creature was enormous! And inside, was Jonah...floundering around inside what must have felt like a dark (actually black) slimy cavern filled with remnants of the past few day's meals! YUCK! He was literally neck-deep in dead fish parts! Ever wondered what he thought when he just tried to sit down...and everywhere he tried to hold on to for balance, what was he touching...what did it feel like? What was going through his mind...I think I know...do you?
It was a bright, sunny Wednesday afternoon, the day I was terminated. We only knew one thing to do...load the car and head to church...three and a half hours up the road mind you, but we had to do it, we had to go...that was the only place on our minds.
I reflect back often to that day...a day that changed my life forever. It was the day I learned to listen TO God, not just hear His voice...
"Father...it's been a long time since that day, and in hind sight I can see a glimpse of the master plan that You have for me. Thank You for big fish...and how You use them to get our attention. In the darkest of days, Your voice is the clearest...help me to always be listening...amen."
The one thing that I learned through it all...if you're going to spend time in murky waters, have a great cup of coffee, and a big hook...make sure you catch & clean the problems before they swallow you whole...
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
I've heard it said that man spends the first half of his life trying to make money...and the last half of his life trying to keep others from taking it. I tend to agree. Money...the concept of money...the mere thought of money...the passion, the desire for money occupies more mind-space in our sometimes mediocre world than ever before. Everyone of us has dreams...fantasies of what it would be like if we were to 'win the lottery' or see Ed McMahon in the Publisher's Clearing House van pull into our drive. We've thought it...we've planned it...we've even gone so far as to compare with others what they would do with the ficticious fortune. Even yesterday, as I stood in line at a convenience store in Louisiana...with a Dr. Pepper and a candy bar in hand (not a decent cup of coffee anywhere!)...a young lady zoomed by to get in front of me for the sole purpose of buying several lottery tickets ...and, yes, my mind immediately raced back to unlock that ever-present dream of 'what would I do if I were to win.' Money...I've chased it for years.
It's this seemingly global obsession with financial fortitude that continually causes me to stand in amazement at a man who defied all logic...all common sense...and walked away from a forever fortune. No, I'm not referring to Bill Gates...or even Warren Buffett. His name...was Matthew...Matthew the Tax Collector.
A brief snapshot of Matthew would look something like this: a tax collector...a traitor to the Jewish nation, making him one of the most despised people in Israel...extorting money from his own people for the Roman government by often using strong-armed tactics...and padding his pockets along the way...basically a scoundrel...a thief. Yet it's the picture of this man that haunts my mind each and every time I'm involved in a discussion...or dream...of mass wealth. It's that moment...that one moment in Matthew's life as he was sitting in the tax collector's office that I can't tear myself away from.
It goes without saying that Matthew knew who Jesus was...He had to be something special...after all, Jesus was the talk of the town. Everyone from the religious elite to the common crook, the topic of Jesus was dominating every conversation. At every dinner table to every street corner, people were talking about this...Jesus. But Matthew didn't know just how special this Jesus really was.
It was in that one moment...when he least expected it...this Jesus that he had heard so much about, came walking in through the tax collector's door. It was in that moment as Matthew sat behind his desk, counting all the gold and silver...dreaming of all the extra pleasures this money was going to buy...living out the reality that many of us can only visualize...that moment, Matthew's life as he knew it, changed...forever. At that moment, Matthew was staring back into the face of this Jesus. At that moment, the coins that bounced on the table and onto the floor became silent...the thought of worldly riches was erased. When Jesus looked into his eyes and into the very depths of Matthew's soul, the passion he had for money was now a figment of his imagination. And in two very simple words from this man called Jesus, "Follow Me" (Matthew 9:9), Matthew immediately walked away...away from the riches that had controlled his every waking moment...and walked into the arms of a life-changing Savior.
At that moment, silver and gold didn't matter anymore...
"Father, help me to survive in this world of fast fortunes. Help me get beyond the jingle of the coins...help me to tune everything out...everything except Your Voice. Help me to have peace, knowing and believing that everything that glitters is not gold...amen."
Monday, September 11, 2006
Three thousand plus arrive in heaven
As they pass through the gate,
Thousands more appear in wait
A bearded man with stovepipe hat
Steps forward saying, "Lets sit, lets chat."
They settle down in seats of clouds
A man named Martin shouts out proud "I have a dream!"
and once he did
The Newcomer said, "Your dream still lives."
Groups of soldiers in blue and gray
Others in khaki, and green then say
"We're from Bull Run, Yorktown, the Maine"
The Newcomer said, "You died not in vain."
From a man on sticks one could hear
"The only thing we have to fear..."
The Newcomer said, "We know the rest,
Trust us sir, we've passed that test."
"Courage doesn't hide in caves
You can't bury freedom, in a grave,"
The Newcomers had heard this voice before
A distinct Yankees twang from Hyannisport shores
A silence fell within the mist
Somehow the Newcomer knew that this
Meant time had come for her to say
What was in the hearts of the five thousand plus that day
"Back on Earth, we wrote reports,
Watched our children play in sports
Worked our gardens, sang our songs
Went to church and clipped coupons
We smiled, we laughed, we cried, we fought
Unlike you, great we're not"
The tall man in the stovepipe hat
Stood and said, "Don't talk like that!
Look at your country, look and see
You died for freedom, just like me"
Then, before them all appeared a scene
Of rubbled streets and twisted beams
Death, destruction, smoke and dust
And people working just 'cause they must
Hauling ash, lifting stones,
Knee deep in hell, but not alone
"Look! Blackman, Whiteman, Brownman, Yellowman
Side by side helping their fellow man!"
So said Martin, as he watched the scene
"Even from nightmares, can be born a dream."
Down below three firemen raised
The colors high into ashen haze
The soldiers above had seen it before
On Iwo Jima back in '45
The man on sticks studied everything closely
Then shared his perceptions on what he saw mostly
"I see pain, I see tears,I see sorrow -- but I don't see fear."
"You left behind husbands and wives
Daughters and sons and so many lives
Are suffering now because of this wrong
But look very closely. You're not really gone.
All of those people, even those who've never met you
All of their lives, they'll never forget you
Don't you see what has happened?
Don't you see what you've done?
You've brought them together, together as one."
With that the man in the stovepipe hat said
"Take my hand," and from there he led
Three thousand plus heroes, Newcomers to heaven
On this day, two thousand one, nine eleven.
(A wonderful poem shared from a great friend...Thanks Roy!)