Saturday, May 23, 2009

Let me tell you about "Jon"

It may have been one of the more gratifying encounters I have experienced. Sitting in the back of the room with arms folded and heart seemingly removed sat a gray-haired gentleman no one seemed to know.
While many men were visibly touched by the stirring movie clips of "The Kid","Brave Heart", and "Good Will Hunting"... as well as the moving talks of men sharing their hearts vulnerably, "Jon" - as I will call him - sat detached, unmoved and noticeably uncomfortable. It was obvious that this was not the typical crowd he hung with on a Friday night.
In the midst of a profound night of encouragement for most men gathered, Jon walked out. It seemed to be more than he could take, or wanted to take in anyway. After all, he was the one obviously calloused man that no one seemed to know anything about. "Did he go home?" It appeared he did.
Then came morning: Jon approached a few of us - secondary players on this retreat weekend - and asked if we could meet. "Of Course". This profound meeting took place in room 804 at this remote retreat sight mid Saturday morning.
Immediately, the Lord began to speak and touch on some of the more hidden places in Jon's heart. He seemed uncomfortable, but surprisingly he remained.
"Who are you here with?" The question was presented. "No one!" Jon offered. "My ex-wife saw the web sight and told me to come!" That in itself was amazing. "You drove here by yourself not knowing anyone?" He nodded. What courage! "I almost left a few times... this is my last chance... I have gone through several marriages, several children, and this is my last chance... I was leaving, but I decided to give it one last try..." Wow! This meeting was his last ditch effort to reach out for help - something he had a tough time doing.
Jon looks like a cross between John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, and "Curly" from the movie "City Slickers". If you can picture any of them, you can see that Jon is a very rugged, burly, hardened hunk of a man - a western cowboy sort of guy - country strong and well traveled; visibly worn out from his 60+ years of life! It is obvious he has some stories to tell, and much pain and shame hidden beneath his massive frame.
It is not often that I feel intimidated, but I must admit there was something about Jon that was intimidating. His hardened exterior seemed impossible to penetrate. Yet, he was here for some reason he was not yet ready to reveal.
It didn't seem to matter what was said, Jon didn't seem to budge. Nothing seemed to touch him. Sensing something from the Lord, the question was posed, "Did anything in the movie clip from "Good Will Hunting" speak to you?" - earlier we were all shown the scene where the counselor revealed the pictures where Will was bruised and beaten by his father. A pointed question was launched, "Did you choose the wrench?" Jon just shrugged it off just like he had been doing. "No." He oozed venomously."The Shotgun!" Now we were getting somewhere. "Your father beat you with a Shotgun?" He looked up with some of the angriest eyes I have seen, "On a good day!" Intimidation crept in once again. The other two men in the room felt it as well.
Following an awkward pause, Jon managed to bark out some of the darkest anger heard, "You F_ _ _ing prick!!!" he directed toward his father. Years of pinned up anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred... crept to the surface. His crusty eyes welled up with tears. This hardened cowboy looked up at me and all I could see was a wounded little boy in a massive man's body, crying out for the help he had never before known how to ask for.
The rest of the story began to unravel. "Have you related to any of the movie clips at all?" He smiled wryly, "The only movie I relate to is "Silence of The Lambs" and I don't think it would go over real well if I told everyone I related to the bad guy!" He meant it. "I have lived a F _ _ _ ed up life! I ruined many people..."
His father left when Jon was two, and the few times he came back into the picture he brought a severe beating with him... By the time Jon was twelve, he had had enough. His dad came around again, this time the many years of pinned up anger had come to a boiling point... "What came of it?" I dared to ask. He stood up face to face with me and grabbed at his shirt and pulled it up. "This!" He pointed to the large scar on his stomach. When he was twelve, he was stabbed with a knife!
Instead of the love he needed from his father, he received deep, painful rejection. He has a scar to show for it.
Sometime later in his twelfth year, Jon gave his life to the Lord, but as he said, "family called me chicken sh_ _! So I ran..." I asked the obvious, "When did you come back to the Lord?" Jon looked at me as if I was stupid for asking, then just shook his head from side to side. "I hadn't!"
When it was all said and done, Jon was willing to forgive his father, forgive his mother, and forgive himself. A miracle within itself!
Following what seemed like a ten-minute hug, where I felt my guts were going to be squeezed out by his massive, loving embrace, Jon left a new man!
A few minutes after this powerful encounter had ended, Jon went up to two or three people immediately, and with a massive smile, shook there hand and said, "Hi, my name is Jon!" It said so much. An hour earlier, no one seemed to even know who Jon was, and Jon had not said a word to anyone for two days. Now free of shame, guilt, anger, bitterness and resentment toward mankind, Jon was able to proudly declare with his head held high, "I am Jon!"
This, my friend, is what Christ died for! This is what the love of God does!
Believe in Miracles! Jon now does!
Enjoy the Journey!

A day or two after the gathering was over, "Jon" sent this poem to the men involved in the weekend. As he said, "...the following thoughts came to me this morning... it helped me sort through and I hope you will find some comfort in it as well.":

"We are men, brought together
to heal a violence, done upon us,
flesh and spirit, soul and mind's
by parents, keepers, trusted kind.
That, which learned at care-less knee
we've now passed on the legacy,
of agony, delivered by mother's, father's,
we bestowed upon our sons and daughters.
Cries God 'Enough.,I'll set you free.
Take a painful reach and trust in Me
There are none so broken, none so cold
That I'll forsake you to the Enemy's hold.
It's not easy, I'll lead you through it,
It'll make no sense, but you must do it
Forgive them all."
He knows you must
Only then will you know
they were hurt like us.
A wounded link in hatred's chain
Set upon us, to destroy again and again.
"Break the link, and trust in Me
it's a dangerous journey
I'll set you free.
You are my child, My man, My warrior
From hatred's chains, I'll you deliver."

He wrote in a letter to me later in the day:
"I now have one of the rarest of all gifts... Hope."

That says it all!
Enjoy The Journey! And as you do, throw up a prayer for "Jon" - God knows his real name!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

What Does Soon Really Mean?

The other day, my 3-year-old warrior-boy, "Joshie" (Joshua), made a very touching, funny, yet profound statement. I woke up to it ringing in my head the following morning.
Let me first lay the backdrop: Mommy and Daddy were away for 5 long days, in Redding CA. During that time, Joshie's young-big heart was having a tough time. When we would call and talk to him on the phone he would sweetly say, "But Daddy/Mommy, I miss you! But Daddy/Mommy, I love you! But, but, but Daddy/Mommy, I miss you!" it was sweet but sad at the same time. He could not comprehend why we were away from him for so long.
His sisters, and friends babysitting, would say, "It's alright, Joshie, mommy and daddy will be home soon..."
Well, the week after mommy and daddy were finally home, Joshie's heart and mind had already created some startling conclusions. I was playing a game with Joshie and his sisters, when Joshie's 6 yr sister, cutie Kailey, made a comment about something being soon. To this Joshie quickly added, "Don't say soon... soon means Daddy and Mommy will not be home for a very long time!" While it brought a smile to my face, it also brought a tear to my eye. It said so much. "Soon means daddy and mommy will not be home for a very long time!" How profound.
Of course, we spent much time snuggling him and his three beautiful sisters, and we made sure to demonstrate to him that we are here for him and with him. I even went as far as demonstrating what soon really was, by playing a game of "soon" with him: "Daddy will be back real soon, Joshie." He looked at me unsure. "I will be back soon." He stayed lying on the floor waiting. Within about 30 seconds, I returned to the room to the delightful smile on Joshie's face. We did this two or three times until he got it. Soon really does mean soon!
This encounter with Joshie awakened some areas of sadness in my own heart. When I was 3 years old, my "daddy" left... yet did not return home. I began to wonder how my little child's heart and mind must have adapted to this loss. As an adult, I understand and I have received much healing from my heavenly Father throughout the years. Yet, this encounter with Joshie caused me to wonder what impact it must of really had on my emotional and mental development.
I can admit this, "soon" when it comes to the fulfillment of the promises of my Heavenly Father, has always been a strange word to comprehend. As I have heard many say over the years, "God's soon and my soon are not the same thing!" Is that really true? My experiences give it credence, but is that because we are often shaped by our inner beliefs? Or, is it because with God, time and space really are calculated differently? Maybe one day I will be able to expound on that. For now, it remains a mystery to me.
"A day is like a thousand years to the Lord." So who knows what "soon" really means?
This I do know, soon you and I will be walking in the fullness of what our Father has promised! In the meantime - however long that will be - we can rest in the loving arms of our ever-present, all-loving, joy-filled, amazingly good Heavenly Father!
I do know this, and I can testify with boldness: we can rest assured that our loving Father "will never leave us nor forsake us" as long as we shall live - which I am pleased to announce, is forever!
We will "see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the Living!"
Daddy is not only coming back soon, He is here with us now!
Enjoy the Journey!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Lion In The Ocean

"... You are like a Lion in the ocean..." These were the words Glenn, my office partner, said to me following a conversation we had about following desire and fulfillment. The phrase stuck to me like glue. In just a few words Glenn managed to describe what I was feeling inside. I feel much like a lion in the ocean.
An ocean is a great place for a fish, a Dolphin, a Shark, a Whale... That is their source of life. A Lion, however, finds life in an open field, a jungle. A shark, who may be king of the ocean, would not find life in an open field, but a lion... He is the King of the jungle!
"A lion would get weighed down in the water...." Brooke later added. Yeah, that pretty much describes why I am so warn out. How much longer must I doggy paddle in this vast ocean? Fortunately I have learned to swim, but that doesn't mean it brings life to wade in the ocean water.
I remember being in Wyoming on a family trip, and as we took the boat to a private island the boat captain informed us that there are Elk, Bears etc on this tiny island. "How did they get there?" I asked curiously. "They swim..."
Could you imagine taking a canoe ride over to the island, casually paddling, and all of a sudden seeing an Elk swim by? Or worse, a Bear! That is not where I would expect to see a bear!
Yet, as a means of getting from one island to another, I guess I could see the value in such an effort. Glenn humorously added, "There must have been something pretty great on that island..." Why else would a bear take such a radical plunge?
That pretty much describes things... I thought I was only temporally "swimming in the ocean" to get to something much greater. Many years later, I still find myself doggy (or Lion) paddling in the ocean. Did I get lost along the way?
How does a Lion find his way back to the open field?
Yesterday, I was talking to an old friend/father figure in my life who had some very pointed and impacting things to say. One of which was a simple truth I had heard many times before but it seemed to have deeper impact coming from him: "You need to follow passion...take a leap of faith..."
In a discussion at dinner this past week, someone I respect asked Brooke and I pointedly, "So what is your passion...?" When we tried to answer, he added, "So what are you disillusioned about?" The question pierced my heart. Perhaps the many "Leaps of faith", where we felt like we fell flat on our face after risking all to pursue our dreams, may have something to do with it.
So what do you do? Not dream again? Bury your heart in order to survive an ordinary life?
A Lion was not created to swim the ocean! A Lion was created to rule the open field majestically. A lion in the ocean is a weakened foe, overburdened by the weighty water upon his coat. A lion may find a way to survive the ocean, but he will never thrive there.
A lion belongs in the open field where he can rule as King of the jungle!
So, what about you? Are you a fish swimming in your intended ocean? Or are you too a Lion trying to find life in an ocean you were not created to paddle?
So, what can we do about it now? Anything?
This one thing I know, I am searching desperately for my "open field" to thrive in.
As well known speaker Lance Wallnau likes to say, "We were all created to have our own sandbox to rule?" (something to that effect anyway)...
What is your "sandbox"? What is your "ocean" or "open field"?
What are we willing to do to get there?
I for one am tired of swimming in an ocean when I was created to rule in the open field.
Perhaps it is time to find the open field we were created to thrive in!
Enjoy The journey!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Lesson of the Peach Seed

Have you ever wondered what is inside of a peach seed? As odd as it may seem, that is how my mind tends to work at times. I like to know what is at the root of things.
If I look at a tree, I can appreciate the beauty but my curiosity gets me looking deeper: what is at the root of that tree? Roots, of course. But what kind of roots? Where did it get it's beginning?
A peach tree, for example: how did it grow and create so many peaches? I am no gardener or farmer (or whoever grows peach trees), but I am aware enough to figure out that a peach tree must come from a peach seed, right?
Have you ever looked at a peach seed? I have one sitting in my office. Weird, I know, but there is a reason which I hope to get to. A peach seed looks like an ugly brown rock of sorts. It looks pretty useless if you ask me. Yet, there is much more to a peach seed than meets the eye.
A peach seed, much like you and I, is packed full of potential. Inside of one little peach seed is the potential for thousands of peaches. Think about it: from that one peach seed there can be one large peach tree that can eventually produce thousands of peaches.
Notice I used the word "potential" and "can". As an ex-athlete I grew up hearing the word potential. "You have so much potential"... "That guy has the potential to be all-world." I'm sure you have heard that word potential thrown around a time or two, right?
What does potential mean? Well, in athletics it means the athletic ability is there but time and effort will determine its realization? A peach seed has great potential! Yet, the one that sits in my office will probably never realize its potential unless something drastic changes.
In order for a peach seed to reach it's full potential it must first be planted in the ground, die to what it once was, and with proper care, begin to grow into a mature peach tree. Once mature, and if planted in the right environment, the peach tree can then reach it's full potential and produce thousands of peaches with more peach seeds.
'What does this have to do with anything?' I can hear you thinking. Thanks for asking. Everything!
Inside of you and I is amazing potential! We were created for greatness. As an athlete, greatness had to do with effort and hard work coupled with natural ability. As an older gentleman (I use that word loosely), I see it is not as much about effort as it is about yielding. A peach seed can strive all it wants as it sits on my desk, but it will accomplish little. Only when it yields its right to remain a single seed can it ever reach it's full potential.
"Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds." Jn 12:24
When we are planted in the right soil and die to our hardened ways, a tree of life is given room to grow within us that can produce tremendous fruit for many to partake of.
We have tremendous potential. After all, the creator of the universe created you and I! Sure we can accomplish great success in an earthly sense, and there is nothing wrong with that. Go for it! But there is more.
Inside of you and I is the potential to be a world changer! We were created for greatness, and the one who created us put a seed of destiny within us. If we will yield, and die to our self, and be planted and rooted... we can produce great fruit for a much greater purpose.
Yet, if we just remain as we are we can have some successes, influence a person or two and live a descent life in hopes of someone saying something nice about us at our eventual funeral. Wouldn't it be more admirable though, to yield to the one who created us and become all that He intended us to be!
You and I are packed full of potential. Will we be like the peach seed in my office and remain only a single seed that never reaches it's full potential? Or, will we yield to the hand of the Master Gardner and allow Him to plant us in such a way that we produce much fruit for His Kingdom sake here on earth?
"This is to My Father's Glory, that you bear much fruit..." Jn 15:8
If we would but yield our life to Him we can find that deep fulfillment we long for. After all, He is the one who put that seed of greatness within us!
Maybe we too can be a tree of life that produces great fruit all year long!
"Cannot I do with you as the potter does?" God asked Jeremiah, "Like clay in the hand of the Potter, so are you in my hand..." Jer 18:3-6
Enjoy the Journey.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Standing on a Mountain

Have you ever stood on a mountaintop and looked out at the amazing view? I remember one particular time some years back, looking at the breath-taking panoramic view that engulfed my vision. I could see as far as the eye could see on this bright clear day. I remember thinking of the amazing potential and possibility before me. It was endless. I was inspired with hope and dreams.
Then, when I drove down off the mountain, I ended up on a single highway and all I could see was the microcosmic view before me. The longer I rode on this highway the more real the limited view appeared.
As I have traveled along this long valley road my heart and mind have had a tendency to believe the limited perspective that my eyes could see. My mind began to tell my heart and soul that this was reality.
I remember reading in a book an analogy about a child standing in a crowded elevator. The writer posed a question something like this: "When you are a child in a crowded elevator, what can you see?" The answer, "All you can see is Butts and Elbows!" The point, "But if you ask your Daddy to pick you up, your perspective immediately changes."
While driving down this valley road, I often have to remind myself to "ask Daddy to pick me up". When I do, I envision this beautiful, endless Mountain view. My eyes, heart and mind readjust and I begin to see clearly again the endless possibilities of hope and dreams before me.
"Without a vision the people perish" (Pr 29:28). Or said another way, without the ability to see the panoramic view of endless hope and possibility before us, our heart and spirit tend to die within us.
In this day of economic challenges, financial strain, dashed dreams and fading hope, it is crucial that we take our car off-road on a little stroll atop the mountain. It is paramount that we take a deep breath in Daddy's arms and take in the endless view of hope and possibility before us.
It is true that "we become what we think about most." When we spend all of our time on the low valley road we begin to think that this is all there is. We tend to settle for a mundane life of "eat, work, sleep and die".
I refuse to believe that. I may die one day as "just a dreamer", but I would rather die dreaming than live a life stuck on an endless road of empty pursuit. Why settle for roadwork on a long valley road when there are Mountaintops to climb? Maybe the modern philosophy of our day is true; maybe we can't live on the Mountaintop all of our life. Maybe... Then again, maybe we will discover that the real "reality" is to live on the mountain in order to bring hope to those in the valley.
Regardless, we can always take a daily stroll atop the mountain to gain Daddy's perspective on a regular basis - doing so will allow us to bring a whole new reality to the valley road of life below.
Why settle for less when we can have so much more?
Maybe it's time to take in the breath-taking, endless mountain view of hope, dreams and Heavenly perspective. "For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mt 16:25-27).
Isn't it time we dream and hope again?
I hope to meet you on the mountaintop to take in the endless mountain view of hope, dreams, and inspiration. Perhaps we will gain Daddy's perspective in order to bring the heavenly point of view down to the valley that we call life.
Enjoy The Journey!