Friday, September 29, 2006

Great Things...Small Packages...

I've always heard it said that 'great things come in small packages'. Take dynamite for example...itty-bitty tube, great BIG bang! I learned that incredible lesson in magnificent fashion...just a few short years ago...

Mission trips have always been a fancy of mine. I have been extremely blessed by the many opportunities to build. Go to places I've never been 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 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 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' 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 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

Diary Of A Killer...

What started out as a typical day, soon changed...

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 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 I looked deeper. And I just could not believe what I 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 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 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 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 men that need to hear. There are many that I must go tell...

Monday, September 25, 2006

Let's Take A Ride...

Every now and then, a person just has to get out...have a change of a falling star...see life through someone else's eyes. I like to call this... taking a 'road trip'. And of these road trips, there is always one in particular that stands always remember...something happened along the way and life change occured. Well, I have great news...a new road trip is just beginning...and you are all invited!

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

The Crowds Are Gathering...

Everywhere He looked, the crowds were gathering and making their way up the mountain...

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 title only, church '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 ( -- 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

Something Smells Fishy...

There are days that, in all honesty, life just sucks! We think it...we mean it...we might as well say it...sometimes, life sucks. I know that's harsh...I should probably say 'stinks' instead, but I have a problem of 'saying what I think', here it is. There are just simply days that life is not worth getting out of bed for! PLEASE, tell me I'm not alone! I am extremely thankful, however, those days are 'few and far between'. So 'few and far between' that it's easy to forget that while we are living in our crystal palaces, many of us...including our friends and family...are living their lives, trapped if you will, surrounded by proverbial heaps of dead fish. And life to those, stink! Ever been there?

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 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 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, 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. read that correct...go to our church. Three and a half hours 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 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 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...

"'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 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

All That Glitters...

At that moment, silver and gold didn't matter anymore...

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 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 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

9.11 Remembered...

Two thousand one, nine eleven
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!)

Friday, September 08, 2006

New @ Dad's Place...

In an effort to keep you informed of news and events that are happening at Dad's Place, we've created Dad's Place News. A new blog just for DP. Drop by often for ever-changing news and events.