Treasure Hunts

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On Thursday, Debbie Gable and Rebecca Monoghan and I met at the church and prayed in preparation to going out to see who we could love on for Jesus.  Debbie had printed out instructions used at Bethel Church in Redding, … Continue reading

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Rise Above the Clouds

A while back a friend of mine, Mike, and I got on the phone.

Mike and I have a weekly phone conversation on Wednesday mornings. He is a pastor in my denomination and lives across the nation in Virginia. We have been friends for 16 years.

When we started talking that particular Wednesday and he asked how I was doing, I was not expecting to, but I began to sob. That makes it hard to talk. Thankfully we talk on FaceTime so he could see me and wait. Pain sometimes just needs to be expressed.

I told him how that previous Sunday I was preaching on “wearing the Armor of God,” from Ephesians 6.  It is a great passage (check it out) and I had done all I knew to do to wear it.

But that Sunday I felt like I was in the middle of an immense battle.  It was as if a group of soldiers armed with AK47’s stood around me and was firing rounds of bullets into me. Every bullet had a title, a phrase, a statement and they were all negative.  I was under this barrage of language and was fighting to continue. After the first worship service, I sent texts to just Mike and another friend asking for prayer.  “SOS The battle is intense, please pray,” I wrote.

What I could have done, but didn’t, was to stop preaching and tell the congregation what was going on for me.  I could have said, “Guys, I’m the one needing prayer today.”  Instead, I soldiered on.

When I told the congregation about my experience, on another week, they totally called out to let them pray. And since that week one member has steadfastly prayed daily for me to wear my helmet of salvation to protect my mind.

Even though, I knew I was hearing lies that first Sunday, every word felt true.

Warfare is real and hard to manage.  Sometimes all we can do is stand, stand in the truth of what God says of us, stand and declare the truth. Like the new song, You Say, by Laura Daigle proclaims.

There were other disappointments crowding my thinking that Wednesday — the canceling of a workshop I was hosting, the numbers in attendance, issues in life, etc. Ever happen that things just get stacked up inside?

I remember years ago when our kids were young, my wife and I got practiced asking one question when one of the girls (we have four daughters) would come with some issue, complaint, or crisis.

After we listened to the presenting issue, we’d respond, “Wow. Sounds big.” Or whatever was a response that acknowledged that we had heard them, then we would ask, “Is there anything else?”

And often the initial response would be, “No…” and then after a moment, the daughter would say, “Well, there’s this…”

And another torrent of anger or tears would accompany this fresh tale.

And again we would respond, and ask the same question again. Eventually layer by layer, we would arrive at the core issue, this issue often felt miles from all the other complaints, but was the real, rock bottom, core issue that warranted a solution or sometimes just grief and acknowledgment. They’d realize all the other issues were covering this thing and feel ever so much better at discovering it.

Even with all the stuff I shared that day, there was a single underlying message that felt true: you are a failure. That was it. Even typing it today feels ridiculous, for today it bears no weight. The enemy of our souls does not get very creative in the lies we hear. They usually fall into one of a few categories, depending upon our life experience, either we are not enough or we are failures, losers, etc.  All are rooted in shame.

Talking with Mike that Wednesday morning was incredibly cleansing.

Sometimes we just need to see another human face and bear our souls. Oftentimes our own narratives are easily defeated through such honesty. It was like through that conversation I had climbed above the clouds. It took me back to another experience.

Months back I was flying back to Portland from Boise and as soon as the plane had risen above the clouds, as I was looking out the window, when Jesus began to speak:

“You just looked out the window and saw the clouds beneath you and yet you are surrounded by blue skies.  See that?  That’s a physical picture of this life. But the cloud cover can be individual, personal, and come with words and phrases attached. And those blue skies, those are found only in Me.”

He continued,

“You need to remember — as oft as you can — that there is sunshine always. Recently you’ve not given yourself the freedom to see it.”

That day the message was that the push I was subjecting myself to was like always exhaling and never taking a breath. I needed to breathe to rise above the clouds, I needed to play, to rest, to trust, and to simply be. That day the Lord ended saying — “Remember what I have said:  return to my Word.  I will free you. I have battled for you.  I love you.”

This other day, when talking with Mike, the same need of rising above the clouds, was achieved through the presence and gift of a caring, listening friend.

When things are tough, reach out, step away, talk to someone, declare the truth, take a break, breathe, rest, just do whatever it takes, so you can rise above the clouds.

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You Will​ Be Blessed

A while back, my friend Rebecca and I met at the local Bales’ parking lot to seek out people to pray for and love on for Jesus.

Basically, there is a paucity of outreach happening, we feel. There are so many people with walking pain all over their lives, and there just are not enough prayers going up for them.  So, we met on the sidewalk that connects the store with the McDonald’s and then a crosswalk to the school.

We stood there for a second. As I had arrived, I was so excited.  I could feel this energy and joy and desire to do several things, but one of them, I knew was simply this:  to undo the curse.

Back 25 years ago, in Banks, I had reached out to this woman, sitting down at a picnic table, and told her that the Lord had whispered for me to say one thing to her, that he loved her so much.  She reacted with fear.  “You are making me so uncomfortable,” she said to me, “Please leave.”

I think she thought perhaps I was making a come-on of some sort! 🙈

I did leave, but felt this immense shame,  Had I heard Jesus?  Had I not?  And what had just happened?  I left with a fear of saying “yes” to those prompts.  Back then, and I’m sorry to admit sometimes now, shame won over Jesus.  I had carried that fear of saying the wrong thing for many years.  It was a fear of people, a fear of outcomes, etc.

Robby Dawkins’ book “Do what Jesus Did” has since greatly impacted me. One thing I have taken away from reading it, and subsequently hearing Robby speak, is that Jesus will use even our failures for his glory. He also reminded his listeners and me that fear is a fiery dart. So don’t give in.

As I have looked back on that woman, with the blond hair, sitting on that bench outside of the Bales Thriftway in Banks, I wonder how God used that encounter in her life, even though it felt like a blunder.

Of course, we know this is true, the cross proves this, that even apparent failures are victories.  But in life, I have often not believed that “my blunders” or I often use the term “failures” could thus be used.

Robby tells a great story about his attempt to pray for a guy who had died to be resuscitated. That’s boldness!

He had prayed boldly, several times, but nothing had happened. This was in a park, so there was a group of 20 some people around him by the time he finished praying.  He looked up, thinking, “Well, they will not believe anything about Jesus now.”  But, in contrast, that group of people had tears in their eyes, and they were saying to one another, “What courage! What faith! What boldness!”  They were not dissuaded from Jesus. On the contrary, they were astounded that Robby had tried!

Out of that about 12 of them came to the evening worship service and several met the Lord that night. Out of his failure was birthed new life in Jesus.

So, that day, Rebecca and I met and stood on a sidewalk to speak with people who passed by us.  Before we had stood there on that sidewalk, outside McDonald’s, many kids and adults had seemed to be walking along it, but after we were there traffic stopped on that sidewalk.

We chatted and prayed for the folk in McDonald’s, and waited.

I saw this one kid in a grey sweatshirt and felt like there was something for him, but he ducked into McDonald’s and I never took the chance to speak.  But then this older woman came toward us.  Browned skinned, small of stature, with a small backpack on her back, attached to which was a folding chair.  She was walking with an ornate walking stick that was taller than she was.  She smiled as she drew near with this beautiful smile, with gold teeth on both sides.  Her wrinkled, aged, brown face creased around this smile and light shone from her eyes.  I was just going to speak when she surprised us and spoke to us:

“God Almighty will bless you mightily today,” she said, “yes, God will bless you.”

We were stunned to silence.

We were stationed to bless others and instead got blessed.

Rebecca spoke: “I see wisdom on you! You are beautiful.” And the woman smiled.

It was as if she was an angel of God.  She walked up the sidewalk, passed us kindly repeating her blessing, walked away from us, and we watched her go.  I said, “Any second I wouldn’t be surprised if she just disappeared from sight.”

“You will be blessed,” well, there was the promise.

We moved from the sidewalk inside McDonald’s and I began to pray for the people around us.  There was that man in the grey sweatshirt.  I prayed for him without going up to him, and soon after that, he left.  This girl was there with her dad, who spent the majority of their time while she ate and he drank his coke, looking at his phone, not at her.  Her eyes were haunted.  Like she longed to be seen.  I prayed for them, and next thing I knew, he had put down his phone, was holding both her hands in his and laughing as they looked into one another faces and told stories of the day. Even seated here blessings abounded.

This Asian woman with black hair, pulled back in a headband, and wearing a floral print sweater arrived and sat at the table nearby us with what appeared to be her two children.  While they awaited their meals, I went over and said, “While you wait do you mind if I tell you a story?”  She was eager and the children excited.  I told them it was from the Bible.  “This event really happened to a man named Jesus a long time ago,” I said.

I told them the story of Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52).

“Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.”

The children were engaged and responsive as was the mom.  They laughed, responded and answered the questions I asked.  Our moment finished, as their food arrived, and I allowed them to eat.  Planting seeds, I thought, we are just planting seeds.

Rebecca noticed this guy across from us and called over to him, “Your eyes are beautiful.”  Rebecca has this unique, bold, “nothing will stop me,” willingness to just say what she is prompted to say.

She told me that as she had said this, his eyes changed, became dark, and he seemed to growl.  As he left we followed him out and went up to him.  Then I saw, this man was on drugs.  He was talking, out loud, to the air. He was laughing uncontrollably. He was unfocused.  So, I stood near him, and said, “I’d like to pray for you, would you let me?”  He chuckled.  I repeated this offer.  I placed a hand on his shoulder and prayed on his behalf. He calmed a bit and then Rebecca spoke, “You will remember what I have said tomorrow.  You will awaken and think that we were a dream. But you will then know that we stood here and told you that Jesus loves you immensely, the drugs are lying, but he tells the truth.”  She spoke on and on.  It was immense for he just stood there. The presence of God was in that place even though so much of this man’s head was not present due to the drugs.

She finished speaking and then he walked away, swaying, laughing.  Not free, yet, but we had prayed, we had reached out, and truly, we believe that both he and we had been blessed.

Recently Jan, a woman who is a great grandma, and hotly pursuing jesus, from our congregation came into a lunch and told of an experience from that morning. She had been at a restaurant gathering of local business owners and the speaker had offered to pray for the woman who was serving at their table.

“What do you need today?” the man had asked her.

She had responded, “My feet really hurt today.”

So, this man had prayed, and God set her free from the pain.

Jan, experiencing this, came away so blessed. It was a privilege to see this man reach out for Jesus, and a privilege and encouragement to see Jesus show up.

I believe Jesus just wants His people to be willing to be out there offering love to the people around us.

It is too easy in this world to miss this, to not speak up, to not leave our “isolation” from others by not looking people in the eye, by not speaking,  by not being honest.  Who knows what the needs are, nor the level of blessing Jesus wants to give others?

Robby Dawkins told when speaking at the Compassion to Action event in Portland the end of September 2018 of offering to pray for a blind man in Rome a number of years ago.

Robby prayed four times and the blindness remained unchanged. When Robby asked if he could pray again, the man said, “No.  No.  It is ok.  But could I buy you and your family dinner?”

“No,” Robby said, “You need not do this. Truly. I just wanted to pray for you.”

The man responded, “Sir, I have been blind for 67 years and no one has ever offered to pray for me. I am very touched.  Could I buy your dinner?”

Robby now was moved.

Imagine the impact upon this man that after these years, God had chosen Robby to be the first to offer to pray?

Robby invited this man to join them for dinner. He did. And during the meal came to faith in Jesus through Robby’s witness.  I’d say that was greater sight and the greater miracle.

No matter what occurs to others, you will be blessed.

Speak.

“God Almighty will bless you mightily today,” she said, “yes, God will bless you.”

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Enjoy Portland, Share Jesus

Rebecca, a good friend, and I took the MAX from Beaverton to Pioneer Square in downtown Portland. We were to join the ranks of those who were volunteering two days before the “Compassion to Action” weekend of worship and speakers to flood Portland with the love of Jesus.  We arrived at the tent in the square and were greeted by Doug, a pastor from Vancouver.  He looked at us with eyes that shone with love and joy.  He was one of those people you’d like to spend time with.  There was a peace in him.  He handed us both free tickets to the festival and information to hand to others, and then said,

“I have just two instructions for you:  Enjoy Portland.  Share Jesus.”

What joyous simplicity.  That seems to be a good basic life prescription.  “Enjoy Life. Share Jesus.”

We left.  Walking around the square, we began to just wander.  We saw a mother and her teenage son with tickets like ours talking to the parking lot attendant inviting him.  Rebecca wanted to walk up to the Central Library, so we began heading up there, six or so blocks.  When we were across the street from the library, we saw a group of four women, talking with others on the sidewalk in front of the library. They also had tickets.  One of the women, had a hand on a man’s shoulder and was praying for him.  We walked across the street towards them, and Rebecca went into the library for a moment, while I stood a few yards from these women.  Just standing there, praying for them, thanking God for this opportunity.

As I stood there a man coming down the street stopped and said to me,

“Hey, what are you all doin’?”

I looked at him and said, “We are telling people about a great event happening at the Convention Center this week.  Do you know Jesus?”

“Um. Well, I’m spiritual but not really religious.”

“I’m not religious either, but I know Jesus loves me and Jesus really loves you, too. My name is Brian, what is yours?”

“Randall,” he replied.

“So you say you’re spiritual. You might appreciate this event.  Every night there will be awesome worship and then a speaker of international renown. Do you like great music?”

“Yah. I do.” He said, looking a bit nervous.

“Hey, you know, I have a free ticket here, do you want to take it and check it out?”

“I’d like that,” he said. He looked around at the folk down the block praying for others.

“Hey Randall,” I asked, “Is there anything you’d like prayer for today?”

“No, man, I’m good,” he said.  “I have a hernia operation scheduled soon.  And I am heading off to visit this lawyer regarding the lawsuit I am part of.”

“Seriously?  All that and you don’t want to pray here?”

“No, but I really appreciate the ticket and thanks for talking to me.”

“Sure.”

He walked off, I saw Rebecca coming out of the library, greeted her and she told me she got to talk with two guys named Darrell and Jared by the bathrooms.  “I’m writing down their names,” she said, “so that I can remember and pray for them.”

“Write down Randall, too,” I said and ran up the stairs.  In the bathroom, I saw Randall again, exchanging another greeting with him, saying, “Man are you following me around now?”  He chuckled and said, “Nah.”

I went out into the hall and there were two guys there, on a bench, and I said to one of them, “You must be Jared or Darrell.”

“Yes, I’m Darrell,” he said.

“My friend Rebecca told me she had met you.  I was wondering, what is the symbolism of your tattoos?”

He had this massive tattoo on his left arm, and a couple names near his elbows and a small tattoo on his right hand.  He pointed out the one on his left arm which featured a naked woman, with what might have been a bikini on her, so she wasn’t totally exposed, and other images that looked, frankly, ghastly.  He said, “This is sin and temptation.”

“Clearly!” I said.

“And these names are the names of my two sons.”

Here this guy is homeless and has sons, by his approximate age, they are perhaps grown.  But still, where are they other than on his arms? And do they know their dad loves them enough to have their names on his arms?

“And on the right side, I am going to put pictures of purity, righteousness, and have started with a skull and this cross.  I haven’t the funds to go further yet.  I have to have surgery on this knee first.  I fell and ripped the tendons and nearly the ligaments as well.  I shouldn’t be walking on it, but cannot help it.”

“Man,” I said, “would you like me to pray with you?”

“Yes, that would be great.”

So, I prayed and felt the presence of God moving on him.  He said he felt his heart changed in that prayer.  Glory.

When I exited the library, Rebecca was surrounded by the other women who had been praying for folk down the street.  Three of them were from Washington state, and Angela, the one I had first seen praying, had this great, distinctive purple and blond hair, shaved over her ears and these huge hoops earrings.  I told about praying for Darrell, and Angela asked, “Did anything happen?”

“Well he said he felt the prayer but no change in his leg.”  As I think back, and knowing what I have heard from others, perhaps praying again might have helped!

Rebecca and I walked to the food trucks on 10th and walked down along them.  I had said to her that there would be plenty of people to talk with there.  We saw two young guys carrying tickets like we had, talking with a homeless guy.  We stopped and chatted with this group of Hispanic guys, making their order at one of the trucks.

“Hable Inglis?” I asked one of the guys.

“Yah. I speak English.” he responded.

“Hey, my name is Brian,” I said. “Victor,” he responded and we shook hands.

“Do you know Jesus?” Rebecca asked the group of them.

“Well, I’m Catholic,” one of them said. “I’m Abel,” he introduced himself.

“We are sharing with folk that there is this rare, wonderful event happening in Portland this week.” I started.

“Do you guys like great music?” Rebecca asked.

And thus began this lively, engaged conversation with these six guys. In the end, they were all highly interested and were planning to bring their families.  They got their food, thanked us and made their ways back to work.  We started talking to the next guy in line who had this really loud, proud t-shirt on about being a fan of a sports team.  We said, “Hey, are you interested in coming to this great event at the convention center this week?”

“I heard you been talking about Jesus. Listen. I was raised Pentecostal and you know what that means?” He didn’t pause long enough for us to say anything.

“That means I went to church morning, noon and night on Sundays and Wednesday, and we were there Mondays and Thursdays too, and most Saturdays.  When Jehovah Witnesses came to our house, man, my mama didn’t shut the door like most folk might. No-sir-ee she would open that door and they would be in that house for hours.  She would be turning from passage to passage in the Bible and asking them about what they really believed.  Yes-sir-ee!  She made certain they had the WORD before they left. And eventually, they would make a wide pass of our house.  I was a teen when Jim Jones did his thing. Do you know about him?”

I said I did. Rebecca hadn’t heard.

“Well he was a preacher and lied to his people and hijacked their lives and took them to South America and they all died there. When that happen, my mama, was all on fire. ‘You see Clem?’ she said. ‘You see!  That’s what I was tellin’ you.  You bettah listen to your mama.'”

“That’s intense,” I said.  “You know Clem, I think if you came you’d experience something different here. No religion. Jesus hope and life.”

“Well, I’ll try it out,” he said. So we gave him a ticket. He had talked for some 10 minutes I think.  What a story.

We chatted with the two young guys also doing the same walk through Portland.  One of them was from Finland, here in the states attending the School of Miraculous at Bethel Church in Redding and the other from Texas doing the same.

They had had some amazing experiences already.  Ransom, the guy from Texas, had received a word for one of the employees in the Nike Store. The Lord had told him she had a sprained ankle and he was to pray for her. So he offered to do so and did so.  She was blown away. “That is so weird, that you knew that,” she said. Ransom responded, “No, not weird, that was just Jesus.  He loves you.”

We parted from them and continued to make our way around the trucks. We met many people, heard stories, were refused, were sent packing by one man who said we were harassing him, and others with tenderness in their faces were grateful someone was interested in them.

We walked up away from the trucks, heading to Target. Near the entrance sat a homeless man with a sign asking for .25 cents. On the back, he had listed, “spaghetti and meatballs, pork chops, tater tots.”  Rebecca talked with him about the event and gave him a ticket.  “I know where the Convention Center is,” he said.  He was interested.  “Got any more of those,” he asked, “I have friends I could bring.”

I wandered away while Rebecca talked with him. I was feeling wasted.  It had been good, but exhausting.

Rebecca said she was given this word for this man, Dennis. And she was to tell him how sorry she was that so many didn’t see him, didn’t see his pain, didn’t experience him as the person he was.

She said, “I see that you are a righteous man.”

He was stunned.  No one had ever placed themselves below him. No one had ever said anything like this to him and never had apologized to him.  This was a sweet moment for them.  She said to me later, deeply moved, “Let’s get him lunch.”  I was for that.  I checked with him what he would prefer.

“There’s a food truck called Verona’s that has the best spaghetti and meatballs, I’d like those, please” Dennis told me.  So Rebecca and I walked down to the food truck, got Dennis Spaghetti and Meatballs.  One the way back we passed by these workmen on their lunch break.

“Hey guys,” I said, “Do you like music?  There’s a great event happening in Portland this week.”

These five guys were so interested and intrigued that anyone had noticed them.  We told them all about it. One of them was all over getting his family and friends there, and another guy was convinced he and his family needed to be there.  We introduced ourselves around.

When we arrived back to Dennis he was so touched to have a meal. We prayed with him.  As we left for home we’d spent a few hours enjoying Portland and sharing Jesus. What a privilege.

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Touch a Rock

I’d been using stories less than a year, back in 2012, and flew to Fresno to participate in a workshop there. I floundered.

I found myself not recalling the simplest and plainest details in stories. The issue, however, was not so much the actual facts I’d lost but the feelings of shame that engulfed my heart:

“What was I doing? Why did I really believe I could do this?”

The accompanying thoughts ran a familiar course:

“You’ll not get this. This will never be for you. This is a dead end. You’re a failure.”

I took a break and walked outside and texted a friend at church asking for prayer. She texted right back saying:

“Touch a rock. Sit in the sun. Feel the earth. Breathe.”

I sat down on a hot rock in the warm California sun and leaned against it. I ran my hand over its surface. I thought about what the texture of the rock felt like. My fingers warmed. The rough, hot surface soaked in. And as I did this simple thing, focused on something tangible like that rock, the feeling of shame dissipated.

It’s a simple fact that our brains cannot literally think of more than one thing at a time, and when stuck in our heads, spinning with thoughts and feelings, it helps if we can pull our brains back into our bodies.

Whenever I’ve helped others do this with any simple exercise of pulling the head out of the clouds of spinning thoughts back into being aware of the body, it has brought them peace. Often to their surprise, the anxious thoughts settle. The racing hearts calm. The feelings dissipate.

One time on the phone I instructed the woman I spoke with to stand barefoot on the cool tile floor in her home, and describe what it felt like to me. As she did so she suddenly stopped talking and said, “My heart has calmed down.”

At a workshop another year, a woman was panicking about the story she was about to present. I asked her to step outside, to touch the side of the building, breathe and then describe it to me. As she did so, again, her anxiety lessened.

Back in 2012, my friend’s text reminded me to do what I knew– ever need reminders? And it worked. My heart settled. And I could breathe deeply and focus on being present to the experience at hand.

Fast forward to 2017.

I was preaching at the week-long Redwood Christian Ashram in California. I used storytelling to root the listeners in a scriptural story and allow the Holy Spirit to speak and then shared some out of it myself.

The first night I vulnerably shared a more thorough story of my abuse than I’d ever before spoken publicly. It was a great night but I got slammed by shame as I finished.

Instead of realizing that this probably was the best evidence that I’d done exactly what God wanted, I at first believed the lies whispered into my heart. I walked to my room and battled through the night. I texted friends requesting prayer.

One friend texted back:

“The old man is dead. You are a new creation, a new prototype. Never been created before. Lazarus was a new creation. Jesus told them to take off the grave clothes and set him free. Grave clothes stink. But they are not who you are. Look from Heavens’ perspective and our Father’s eyes and His heart. You are new DNA. Praise The Lord.”

This was true and a great reminder, although difficult at that moment to receive.

I breathed into this, prayed long into the night, journaled, and eventually slept.

The next day at breakfast I sat next to a young man who began to share, to my surprise, how he’d been impacted by my story. He’d also experienced childhood sexual abuse. I was able to share with him how shame had hit after I’d shared. He heard this empathetically, my vulnerability met his own and all those voices of shame, diminished in the light of a new day, dissolved like morning fog.

Then, later, when an opportunity came to rock climb as a free time activity, I took it. I enjoyed meeting the college students overseeing the climbing wall. They were doing a summer internship at the camp. Our random conversation turned to Jesus and who He was. I was able to pray with one of the girls and see Jesus touch her with His love. Interesting how my own brokenness begot healing in another.

They harnessed me and I began my first climbing-wall experience. The sun had beat down on the wall during the first part of the day. It was warm out. Climbing took all my concentration. I felt nervous. My heart rate was way elevated with my first tentative steps up the rock wall. Would the rope that felt loose as I climbed really catch me if I fell? Up twelve feet or so, I lost my footing, and the rope caught me. Ah!

Suddenly what at first had felt scary became a great game. Truly I couldn’t get hurt. I climbed again, reaching, stretching muscles, making it past where I’d previously fallen I reached the very top of the wall. It was exhilarating.

Looking back I realize how incredibly cathartic this activity was on the day after all those negative emotions. Touching, climbing that hot rock wall, the focus, the physical activity, the stretch of muscle and mind, totally freed my heart.

Now, although I do know this, I do not always remember to do it. I think that is the most difficult thing about what we know. It is easier to assist someone else than it is to remember to apply it to myself.

I went camping with one of our daughters and her family in May. It was awesome. Among my favorite moments was watching our then five-year-old granddaughter rock climbing up this 60′ wall with rope and harness. I was staggered by her courage and saw that she hit the moment of panic as she reached the last obstacle on her way down. Here she had successfully climbed to 60′ and at around 10′ she hit a wall, burst into tears, while clinging to the rock, and cried: “I can’t!!!”

She was stuck in her head. She had plenty of ability. But whatever thoughts preceded the words had stymied her.

Her dad was beautiful.

“Girl, you got this,” he said. “You’ve actually achieved the entire wall — all except this last little bit. Breathe a few deep breaths there, and take it one step at a time.”

She did so and made it without a hitch.

I watched and remembered the many moments of overwhelm I’ve encountered and wondered if they also would have brought such a response from Jesus – “Brian – you’ve got this! You’ve nearly made it. Take a breath. And now continue just one step at a time…”img_3152

 

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Jersey – The Tunnels and The Bays

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My friend “Pops,” David Luce, and I visited his home turf in June 2018, and on Thursday of our week there, we visited what is called the “Underground Hospital” also called the War Tunnels.

The island of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, occupied by the Germans during WWII is a museum of the Nazi War machine.  Noirmont is the headland above S. Brelade’s Bay, where we stayed, and is much encased now in concrete left by the Germans

This reality and this history behind it was captured by one of the characters in the wonderful book The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows,

Hitler was fanatic about fortifying these Islands. England was never to get them back. His generals called it Island Madness. He ordered large gun emplacements, anti-tank walls on the beaches, hundreds of bunkers and batteries, … miles, and miles of underground tunnels, a huge underground hospital, and a railroad across the island to carry materials.  The coastal fortifications were absurd. The Channel Isles were better fortified than the Atlantic Wall built against an allied invasion. The installations jutted out over every bay.  The Third Reich was to last one thousand years in concrete.”

(quoted from chapter 3, Random House Audible Edition, c. 2008, ubp).

These fortifications were built mostly by the more than 16,000 Todt workers, named for the head of this workforce, Fritz Todt, but interestingly enough, his name means “Death” in German.  And this was an effort to often work these men and boys to death.

They were fed sparsely, based upon the diet determined necessary for a man to still do a full day’s work. After every work day, often covered with the dust of cement, they were free to forage for food.  Some of the islanders would take these workers into their homes, hide them, feed and care for them, moving them from place to place so as not to be noticed by neighbors or reported.  If discovered, such Islanders would be arrested and deported to camps on the continent.

This history is a ubiquitous contrast to the beauty around every bend.  img_3334

One of the massive projects was the construction of the Underground Hospital, now called the War Tunnels.  Some locals also were hired by the Nazis to fill out the workforce, and they would be paid a salary that was better than what they would make in other island employment.  This involved dangerous work, 100′ underground, dynamiting, shoveling, taking out rocks and finishing the tunnels.  There were many cave-ins, burying many workers in the construction.

Today, the War Tunnels on Jersey are a point of tourism.  As you enter you are given the identity of an Islander who died during the war.  And the tunnels are now a very cold, underground journey into a historical replay of the occupation.  There are many actual recordings of pronouncements made during the War and countless reproductions of letters and experiences the islanders had.  It is incredible.  Below, Pops is speaking with a couple who upon discovering that he had lived through the occupation were fascinated and caught up in his stories of his family’s experiences.  They peppered him with questions and others stopped to listen. img_3445

Our smiles felt far from the experience of what these tunnels represented in the lives both of those who died in the making, and those who had suffered during the occupation.  The hospital was never completed.  The war ended and work was abandoned. So today it is a kind of memorial to the losses of war and a reminder that war is not an “answer” in this world, it rips, tears, destroys, and dismembers. It is certainly a part of our world.  To find the name of the man’s identification I carried, realize he had died while trying to escape the island in a rowboat and make the 90-mile journey to England, was sad! There had been an islander who had actually made that journey, and upon arriving in England was arrested by the English, his story distrusted.  Ah, war!

And what a contrast the dark underground hospital was to the beauty of this place.  It was truly a journey from darkness to light, from hopelessness to hope. I swam in this beautiful water again and again.  What a privilege and contrast to what others had experienced in the same place.  For me, it was like a visit to some of the concentration camps in Germany, also surrounded by exquisite beauty yet, such darkness had reigned within.  This reminded me of the passage from Paul’s letter to the Christians in the town of Ephesus where he wrote:

“Be imitators of God therefore, as dearly loved children. And live a life of love as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” They he continues, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light  (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth)  and find out what pleases the Lord.  Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Ephesians 5: 1-2;8-11).

To walk in love and walk in the light both bear fruit and change this world, “for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.”  For me, looking back on the beauties of the Island of Jersey, such a walk would look this beautiful, and more so.

What Paul seemed to lay open in his writing was a path, a choice — how will you respond in your life?

Will you choose to walk in love and be part of light in this world, as those islanders did, who sought to love those around them even during the occupation?  For some that meant living as they had, day to day, loving neighbor and enemy alike. For others that meant seeking to work against the occupying forces, seeking to rescue the Todt workers, etc.  But both were seeking to walk in love and being part of the solution, not the problem.

Or will you choose to take another path — to react to others, blame, make others responsible for your life, and not take responsibility for your actions?  This can be as simple as road rage, blaming others for every hard thing in your world and taking it out upon them, or internet rage, that ridiculous belief that by naming, labeling, and using heartless words in the isolated world of the social media, words you would never speak face-to-face, you are actually going to accomplish something good.  Or it can be any one of many other darker paths of destruction.

I’m reminded of how a friend reacted once when someone on the sidewalk screamed from the side of the road at her, driving, on the road, blaming her for some unknown offense, as she drove by.  This friend wrote to me, that the woman’s reaction had momentarily angered her:  “What did I do to you?” or another unkind, uptight response.

This friend then stopped herself and asked: “I wonder what might have happened in that woman’s life today?” And as she asked this question and listed many horrible options, a sick child, a dying husband, an enormous bill, suddenly empathy replaced anger, and she gave generosity, and the “benefit of the doubt,” which released her and rather than anger, instead, found herself praying for this stranger to experience love. 

Daily we have such opportunities.

Each of these becomes a simple chance to love or hate, to bring light or darkness, to spread joy or sadness.  What I loved about traveling with my friend Pops is that he inevitably chose love and light. No matter the situation, nor how tired he might have been, still, those with whom he dealt experienced their lives blessed by the encounter.  His life bears what Paul says is the fruit of light: goodness, righteousness, and truth. May your life and mine bear the same.

 

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Speak Life

My friend Rebecca starts her day by getting a diet soda at her a local 7-11. I tell her it is one addiction that continues to bear incredible fruit!

Here’s what occurred a few months ago:

An interruption of a loud explosion invades the sounds in her mind. She is a spiritually sensitive person and felt the sounds of fear, trauma, and intimidation which came to a hault as she realized “these aren’t my emotions!”

Here’s how she described the experience:

“My eyes cannot believe it. Standing before me is a large crowd of people who have just witnessed only feet away from them a rear-end accident of what looks like a Honda mini van trying to take on a full size Silverado truck!

The newer mini van had poured itself into a very dominating truck that didn’t take on much damage. However, the Honda exploded itself into a desperate mess of uselessness.

The engine was leaking and the steam looked dangerous. If the van could talk, it was certainly throwing a fit! It looked angry!!! 🤔

I’m standing across the parking lot and could barely see through the crowd of men standing around. These were the same people I saw in line at 7-11 that reminded me of The New Kids on the block band! Certainly they would be old enough to help out!

There had to be at least 10 people standing there, yet no one stepped into the scene?

Crazy!

Surely, “someone from the crowd will help,” I thought?

I glanced again and within seconds, the crowd was gone! They’d witnessed this accident and walked away. No one checked if anyone needed help?!?!

I thought “Where did everyone go??”

I walked toward the van. I can see that the airbag had deployed. But where was the driver? Then, I see her, a mom, heading towards the back of the van and I go running towards her.

Her car is smoking and leaking something gross, it doesn’t look safe to me. I’m not a mechanic, but I knew I could pray! How could I turn away? I couldn’t.

I tried to open the passenger door, but it was broken. It was jammed shut. My heart was racing, wondering, would this van explode?

Sure, I was over-thinking in that moment, but there was a huge panic upon touching the car. I was praying to Jesus, “please let her receive me!”

I started thinking what if she freaked out on me and I scared her? I was so thankful Jesus guided me and showed me her emotions.

I tried opening the sliding door, it wouldn’t open, so I gave it a harder shove.

There she was, the mom was inside the van, she looked shaken, disconnected by shock, yet frantically trying to get her kids out.

She had just been hit with the air bag! Can you imagine the trauma you might be feeling as thoughts invade and overwhelm your senses?

I got door open and said, “Hand me your babies. I am here to help.  Let’s get you all out safely.”

She had four kids with her. Those babies were terrified and all trembling with fear. The look on each face was heartbreaking. Snot was dripping by the buckets! They couldn’t stand. The ground was hot and their little bodies were riddled with emotions. The two girls I took from the van, grabbed ahold of me and didn’t let go. They held my hand as I rubbed their little fingers and just spoke peace back into their fragile souls.

I knew Jesus was with me because I felt an abundance of peace. I had enough to give away and always have laughter and comfort for the kids. The mom allowed me to sit in her space of confusion and just trust that I was safe. Truly I saw such beauty!

I really felt a strong presence of God with me to just give them all life and how to really remind them of how blessed they all were to be alive.

I know it’s hard to give glory to God when things go terribly tragic, trust me when I say I KNOW the wilderness well.

But, if you can spin it and view it from a completely different perspective, you’ll find God’s glory! To be a carrier of God’s glory is an honor, a privilege but it’s something earned through the wilderness of suffering.

I am humbled, amazed at the Glory of God and how it radiates over any circumstance of life regardless of the situation.

God is THAT big. We forget, don’t we.

To witness an accident and have the privilege of speaking trauma away was humbling.

I told the officer who sat with me that I wanted to frame him in this moment. He was holding the youngest child probably 18 months and helping her with a slurpee.

I framed him with compassion. I actually took my fingers and drew it in the air. I painted it with a timeless movement.

I couldn’t hold them all and the mom had to tend to towing.

I wondered if maybe the officer needed a reminder? Don’t we all?! Life is so precious.

I greeted the dad who came on the scene later who came with anger (the mom expressed concern) and I told him how blessed he was that his family was all okay and today was a good day!

He said nothing to me. It’s okay, I’m not offended.

I pray Jesus moves in his heart.

I told the little girls I held named Evie and Tabitha to speak peace to their hearts and tell their parents too.

A fireman told the girls the seatbelt marks they had would be hurting in the morning and they would awaken to pain.

They started crying again, saying, “I don’t want that pain!”

I said to them, “Me either, it won’t hurt in the morning, pain go away!”

It amazed me how many statements are spoken over people in an accident. So many “What if’s” that lead to paranoia and agreements with trauma.

You could clearly see trauma trying to take ahold and I wouldn’t let it. Jesus is teaching me how to speak against the spirits of trauma and fear.  It’s so interesting that we say “yes” to such things without knowing it.

I have learned that when Jesus shows up, he speaks life and life abundantly! John 10:10: “The thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but I have come to give life and that abundantly.” Where Jesus is, the oppresser is trying to steal.

So be careful how you hear. I spoke away the trauma, because thankfully I had eyes to see and ears to hear the trauma. Thank You Jesus! Your counsel soothes my soul and soothes others through me.

The tow truck man came over and started telling me about his 15-year-old child and their estranged relationship. I told him to apologize for the hurt.

Sounds simple, but true. I had the chance to invest an hour in so many lives. And that all because I opened the door of a car, while many others refused.

Truly, there were many witnesses who saw what happened but I believe Jesus wanted a witness of him who’d sit and speak life to his children, not one who had seen the accident.”

Rebecca concluded:

“I came to speak life and hold babies.”

And what a gift she brought!

Today, take the opportunity to speak life wherever you are.

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