Monday, September 29, 2008

12 Step Program for a Crisis

This is a copy of a letter I sent to a loved one almost 20 years ago. I thought it might help someone today with our current national crisis:

By the time you get this you will probably already made some decision about the business. I really don't know what to do anyway so my opinion isn't worth the time to read. What I do know and what is worth the time to read is found in Psalms. I do believe God speaks and will show you the way. If you mess up, it's ok, He will take care of that too. I also know that most of the things you are afraid of will never happen. What I want to share with you is a very rough outline of my new book SHATTERED DREAMS AND BROKEN PROMICES?...DAVID'S CURE FOR DISTRESS. This is what helped me when I thought I was going to die (and afraid I wouldn't) when we had so much trouble. David teaches us how to keep going and find victory in faith. As I said this is a rough outline so you'll have to do the work yourself. Follow this order and do like David did and you will find what you really are looking for and need. (let me tell you up front your biggest need is not what to do with the finances, it is learning how to lean totally upon the Lord. It you learn that, no other problems will matter.

1st offer a SACRIFICE OF PRAISE.
PSA 69:29 I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me. PSA 69:30 I will praise God's name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving.
In Psalms 70 David says Praise is important to rememberwho God is.
In ch.71 David recounts past deliverance and expects there will be a future for him. God has always seen you through before, and he will this time.

2nd offer a SACRIFICE OF FAITH (this should really be first).
Where do you look when trouble comes. Where do you put your eyes?
PSA 4:4 In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent. Selah PSA 4:5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the LORD.

3rd allow yourself HOPE.
3:1 O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! 2 Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." Selah 3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. 4 To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. Selah 5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 6 I will not fear the tens of thousands (of Dollars) drawn up against me on every side. 7 Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. 8 From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. Selah

4th COMMIT YOURSELF TO ACTION
The action is found in ch. 56-57 David was running from Saul and knew he did not need to fear mand (55) and hid beneath the wings of God, ie. Let him protect you reputation, pride, finances etc.

5th place your CONFIDENCE AND TRUST IN THE LORD
12:6 And the words of the LORD are flawless, like silver refined in a furnace of clay, purified seven times. 7 O LORD, you will keep us safe and protect us from such people forever.
13:5 But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. 6 I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me. Actually others had bad days too: see ch.69
Actually what is the other choice? You eithe trust God or trust yourself....no contest!
13 I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.

6th REMEMBER PAST SALVATION
71:15 My mouth will tell of your righteousness, of your salvation all day long, though I know not its measure. He never failed before.

7th. EXPECT VINDICATION
Psa. 26:1 Vindicate me, O LORD, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the LORD without wavering. 2 Test me, O LORD, and try me, examine my heart and my mind;

8th WAIT PATIENTLY
27:14 Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. This is an active choice of your will.
ch.62 Stand silently waiting for the lord.
121:1 I lift up my eyes to the hills-- where does my help come from? 2 My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. 3 He will not let your foot slip--he who watches over you will not slumber; 4 indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. 5 The LORD watches over you--the LORD is your shade at your right hand; 6 the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The LORD will keep you from all harm--he will watch over your life; 8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.
How long do you wait? ch. 122:2 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maid look to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the LORD our God, till he shows us his mercy.
What do you do while you are waiting? Ch. 55 16 But I call to God, and the LORD saves me. 17 Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress, and he hears my voice. (keep it up until you get an answer.)

9th BELIEVE GOD WILL RESCUE YOU
Read Ch 55

10th STAY FOCUSED ON THE WORD
ch 119 Read.
ch 43:3 Send forth your light and your truth, let them guide me; let them bring me to your holy mountain, to the place where you dwell.

11th STAY DEPENDENT ONLY ON GOD
ch. 7171:1 In you, O LORD, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame. 2 Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me.
There are lots of rescue verses. The main point is God never failed.

12th PLEA FOR HELP
Psa 63:16 Turn to me and have mercy on me; grant your strength to your servant and save the son of your maidservant. 17 Give me a sign of your goodness, that my enemies may see it and be put to shame, for you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

LAST: IF YOU MUST GRIPE AND COMPLAIN BECAUSE OF THE PAIN...
Do not sin against the Lord with your lips. See Noah and Abraham
Proper complaint is taken directly, respectfully, and honestly to God.
39:1 I said, "I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth as long as the wicked are in my presence." Don't dishonor Him before the weak and unbelievers. It is ok to cry out to God, he did too. 22:1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? Just be careful how and when you do it.

REMEMBER; THE REAL AND LASTING CURE FOR DISTRESS IS TRUST

One final thought: If the Lord were going to destroy you...124:1 If the LORD had not been on our side--let Israel say-- 2 if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, 3 when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; 4 the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, 5 the raging waters would have swept us away. 6 Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler's snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. (ie. You'd be dead already)

Well that's it in a nutshell...I know it will help if you will let it.

Say UNCLE!

My father’s brother, my Uncle Roland, is 12 years younger than my father. When I was a toddler, Uncle Roland was a star athlete in high school Since my parents worked, I was often at my grandparents house when my uncle came home from school, always, to my memory in his varsity sweater. He was my hero, so much so that my grandmother knitted me a matching letterman’s sweater complete with an authentic varsity patch on it. I have a picture of Uncle Roland and me when I was about 3 years old in our matching sweaters. We are easy to tell apart. I am the adorably cute one. I was too young to remember clearly, but I would imagine that I was underfoot at most every opportunity, especially for a teenage boy with other things to do besides entertain a toddler. By the time I was 7 Uncle Roland got married and went into the Navy. I remember the family meeting him when his ship came in from one tour of duty, his last I think. He had been to Japan for some months. Even at that early age I had a strategy to get his attention which would logically be given to his wife, Aunt Helen. I didn’t ware glasses back then but for that occasion I donned a pair of round oriental wire frame glasses. The response was not what I expected, but I did get his attention, which was all I really wanted. Christmas was a special time. Uncle Roland was half way between his 3 siblings and the competing cute grandkids. He was the star of Christmas, entertaining all of us every year. As I grew to be a teen we would often wrestle…like I had even the slightest chance! NO way. I enjoyed being defeated and gleefully called UNCLE (a title he always insisted on in any situation) in absolute surrender to my very superior opponent. It was great to be bested by the best. I remember our last match. By then I was married and was as big as Uncle Roland and a college athlete. I was a youth pastor and taking on all comers, usually several at a time. I had it in my mind that I could best my uncle at wrestling. NO way could I out run him, he was fast. We got into a little match in the surf at Huntington Beach at a family summer outing. I did well but I knew that to truly beat him I would have to hurt him, or he me. I was totally unwilling to do that…but sadly to stubborn to say Uncle one last time. I wish I had said uncle. Looking back, although I was just coming into my mature body, he was at his peak, early thirties, great shape, very athletic. Had he wanted to, he could have turned it up to a notch I did not yet have. He would have won, but he let it go with a draw…of sorts, meaning I would not say Uncle and he would not hurt me to make a point. We never wrestled again. I think our relationship lost something that day. Were I actually as mature as I believed I was, I would have said UNCLE one last time and let him retire the unbeaten and unchallenged champion he was. A title of love and respect he earned over the years of playing with and caring for me. I rarely see him anymore, but to this day he is very special to me, that will never change.

I was reminded of this wrestling as I read Andrew Murray. He reminded me of another wrestling match I cannot win and should not even try to win, yet I do. I live with one regret for a wrestling match that should never have taken place, why live with another? I need to just say UNCLE one last time. Andrew Murray advises:

And now, I desire by God’s grace to give to you this message—that your God in Heaven answers the prayers which you have offered for blessing on yourselves and for blessing on those around you by this one demand: Are you willing to surrender yourselves absolutely into His hands? What is our answer to be?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Brian

Brian is my brother. For those who do not know me, I rarely make in-law distinctions but for the purist, technically he is my wife’s, sister’s, husband’s, older brother. To my children he is Uncle Brian and because he lives in California they do not know him very well, which is a pity, because he is worth knowing. This blog is really more for my children and grandchildren. I want them to know how much Brian has always meant to me and why. I met Brian through his brothers, Dale and Marty. We were often together. Dale and I raised a few birds together, Marty was one of the few people who came around me and my father to work at church or Youth For Christ. Someday I will tell you about amazing Marty. My kids know Uncle Dale pretty well so they know his stories. I did not know Brian very well before he went off to Viet Nam as an MP/foot soldier. He was a nice boy from a solid Christian home that was totally unprepared for the horrors of the front line. By the time he left the military he was severely injured, both physically and emotionally. To be honest, he was scary. When he got home no one knew how to help him transition back into normal civilian life. I was a youth pastor in our home town and had a totally useless degree in Psychology, but I wanted to help. I was spared the Viet Nam experience and I felt helping Brian transition would be one way I could contribute. Those first few months were to say the least interesting. Brian would call, usually about once a week, seeking help. Sometimes he had been drinking, sometimes he was just in some place, some state of mind, I had never been. I said he was scary. I never felt threatened but I understood why others might. In the middle of a seemingly normal conversation he would drift off and explain how he could cut your head off with one jerk of a piano wire around your neck or mock demonstrate how he could incapacitate you with a strategic blow from the cane that was, of necessity, always at his side. Many nights Brian slept on the front couch and Deanna made me slide the bed in front of the door so he could not get in. I quickly learned that I had no way of relating to Brian’s experiences that if the retelling was only 10% true, it would have been utterly terrifying. I had not seen what he saw or had to deal with what he dealt with. He hurt in ways that I did not know how to reach. I threw out my degree in Psychology and went straight to The Book. It usually took 2.5 hours and it always followed the same pattern. Brian would call and I would meet him or he would come over, usually between 11 and 12PM. Brian would tell me what was on his mind. It was always a blend of memory, confusion, frustration, depression and desperation. After he had gone through the story twice I would pick up my Bible and start reading passages to him that I thought would help. The first passage did not always or even often help. Somewhere between the first and Twelfth passage Brian would stop me with “that’s it, that’s what I need.” Rarely did I understand what it was about that particular passage but it was usually between 2 and 3 am so I didn’t really care, or dare ask. Brian would be off to sleep in a few minutes. That process continued for months and Brian ultimately made it all the way home mentally. Physically he still needs the cane, a part of his contribution to our freedom. As Brian improved I asked him to help me out with the youth group I was taking care of. We ran a Junior High group of up to 90 on Wednesday nights from 4 to 8 PM and a large High School group on the weekends. Very quickly Brian became indispensible to me. If I told of all the stories it would take hours, but for my Grandkids, I want to record a sample because once Brian risked his life for me…literally, and once a man’s life was spared because Brian was NOT there and more often than not, Brian could read my mind or anticipate where I would be and what I would need.
Story ONE: First you need to know that as youth pastor I had to drive the church bus. I don’t like to drive the church bus, as a matter of fact I hated the church bus! We were only 90 minutes out of Downtown LA and it was not unusual to run the kids to some event, ballgame, beach or whatever in LA. Brian and I usually made the trips alone with 40 or so kids. The bus was critically unreliable and Brian drove a cb radio equipped escort car. I was behind the wheel of the bus but Brian did the driving from the escort car. Before a trip to an unknown area Brian would plot out our course. As I would drive down the freeway Brian was better than any TOM TOM today. He would block the traffic behind me in the lane I needed to go to and I would hear my instructions on a TUBE STYLE CB radio. I didn’t even have to look in the mirror to see if the lane was empty. Of course I looked, but it was always empty. We were on a side street off Sunset Strip in Hollywood. The bus was packed and the breaks failed while coming down a hill into a blind intersection. I frantically told Brian of the problem. " No breaks, I’m gonna run the stop.!" Quick as a flash Brian passed the bus and shot straight into the intersection, stopped the station wagon in the middle, jumped out and stopped all the traffic as the brakeless bus full of teens ran the stop and through the intersection. Would we have wrecked? Maybe, I do not know. All I know is Brian, with no though for his personal safety brought a major street in Hollywood to a full stop seconds before I got there.

Story Two: On another weekend outing in San Diego I had to step between two gang members and another youth pastor who had caught them doing something they were not supposed to be doing. I don't remember waht. This youth pastor was also a school bus driver in LA where they are taught NEVER back down to a gang member. When I arrived all I saw was the gang member take a swing at the pastor, the pastor whack him up side the head with a big Bible…really and the second gang member behind the pastor draw back a metal skate board preparing to split his head open. I grabbed the skate board from the gang banger and now I was the center of attention. A knife came out quickly, then another weapon. I held them at bay for probably 10 minutes with their skate board. I prayed that Brian would not show up. There is no doubt in my mind that had he seen them threatening me, he would have used force, which given his training would likely have been deadly. I do not believe I could have stopped him, he is that loyal. He scarcely left my side the rest of the trip.

Story Three: On another trip to Lake Havasu I accidently broke my assistant, Chuck’s legs on the way out of town. How is another story. He had planned the trip, I was just along for the ride. We left Chuck in the hospital and Brian and I continued on the trip. When we arrived we used the first day to teach the kids how to operate a canoe on a short 6 mile trip down the river. Day two was a 20 mile canoe trip through Topoc Gorge, down Lake Havasu to the London bridge where we were to camp, somewhere. Before leaving, I told Brian to take the escort car around to London Bridge make whatever arrangements were needed then, and here is the fun part…find me where the river opens up into the lake and tell me where to go. After hours of paddling we finally cleared the river and we could see where Lake Havasu would be, but it was to far away to actually see. I did not know it at the time, but there are NO roads in that area. We paddled a ways and I saw a small peninsula sticking about 25 yards out into the lake. I had no idea were Brian might be but from the lake, it looked to be as good a spot as any. As the nose of my canoe touched the bank, Brian stepped out of the brush that lined every inch of the shoreline and handed me a fresh 44 oz Circle K coke. I still don’t know how he timed that or even found us, but that was typical for Brian. All the arrangements were made and the trip went perfectly...except for breaking Chucks legs...

Story Four: Another time one of the mothers in our church called me. It was early afternoon. She was at work as a nurse at the local hospital. She left her oldest child Skip, (I am not going to change the name to protect the innocent because Skip was NEVER innocent. He was the most lovable scoundrel I have ever known) home with his sick little sister who was to young to be alone. The call was void of much detail. Skip and a buddy had “borrowed” an neighbors dune buggy and rolled it. They were injured, but how much no one knew. Mom was not exactly sure where they were so sending an ambulance was out of the question. She asked me to go find them and do whatever needed doing. They were in Lucerne Valley, about 25 minutes from where I was…at normal driving speed. I made it a little faster. There is a huge dry lake in the area and miles of dirt roads in every direction. I drove straight to the place of the “borrowed” (as in they were not going to keep it, just drive it a while) rail and began my search. Skip liked speed so I looked for the straightest, longest road. Yep, their they were. Not to badly injured, but in need of medical attention. The same for the rail. One problem. I still have a sick child that cannot be left alone any longer. What to do? While pondering the problem Brian came driving up. He had no reason to be there, knew no one any where near there, did not know of the problem, but there he was. He drove up and all I said was Brian, Skip is hurt, I need to get him and his buddy to the hospital. Skip's sister is home alone, find her and stay with her until someone shows up. All Brian said was “Right Boss” (which is what he mostly said anyway) and drove off to care for the sick girl till mom got home. There is NO reason (save divine providence) for Brian to be where he was but this story is not the exception, it was the rule. Brian was always anticipating what I was going to need before I knew I needed it. He always had a willing heart and a good solution. He never let me down. How could anyone not love a man like that. That was over 30 years ago. What has Brian been doing since I moved? The same thing, just with other people, although I seriously doubt they have the bond or stories we do. Brian for me, is beyond special. I think some days he gave my guardian angels the day off. I started off trying to help Brian. I received far more that I ever gave. I wish everyone could have a Brian in their life. Some time I will tell you about Marty, Brian’s little brother. After I left Apple Valley, he did for my Dad what Brian did for me. I shouldn’t but I will probably tell you why I hate Dave, Becky's husband, sometimes too. Don’t be shocked, I have told him to his face but he keeps raising the bar so high it makes most of the rest of us men look bad. I must admit, I have been richly blessed by the men in my life. I hope I have given to them even a fraction of what they have given to me.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Signs of the Times

I like to read really old stuff to see how things have changed. I was reading St. Augustine's lament on the failure of the school system. It seems in his day, almost 2k years ago, the teachers were more interested in justifying poor behaviour and a moral-less society than they were in teaching something of value. I'm sure glad that changed! Yea, right. I was also reading an author that wrote in the late 1800's. He was talking about the Hope of Believers when Christ would return to earth. He said we were supposed to watch for the signs and compares the scriptural signs to his day. He speculates on things like "aeroplanes" and the possibility of Israel getting a foothold in Palestine. I find that stuff fascinating and encouraging, especially in these days. If there is an interest, I will post some summaries here for your consideration. I will likely do a series on it this fall in church after we finish Philippians. Of course that is assuming we are still here. Let me know if your interested.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Spare the Rod

Doni was just barely 5 years old and perhaps the most beautiful of all God’s creation since, well, Lucifer. At 5 she had a little devil in her that needed exorcism. Deanna had told her to do something 4 times and for times she flatly refused, receiving the appropriate exorcism process that was not achieving its intended purpose. This was in the days when the advice of Proverbs could be applied literally and liberally. Given the PC sensors that may read this I will be sufficiently vague. Let them read Proverbs themselves! It will do them good. The Fifth attempt and exorcism ended the battle once and for all. In tears Doni finally admitted to mom “I guess it’s just better to obey the first time.” We never had to revisit that territory. As a teenager Doni asked to be grounded a few times just so she would have an excuse to stay home. Doni was pretty easy on me as a dad, but then came the boys! Early on I was sure I would be able to, shall we say with specific applications of some of Solomon’s parenting principles, not spoil them? I had learned some things from my dad. My dad was a pretty strict disciplinarian. To defy him openly would have been the equivalent of suicide by cop. He made a believer out of me when I was young so challenging him openly as a teenager was out of the question, that and it hardly seemed fair since he was an invalid anyway. His version of spare the rod was to take away my car keys, a fate worse than death for a teenager living in a rural setting. I knew the rules…and how to get around them. I never lost my car keys! Death threats are really meaningless if there is virtually no chance of getting caught. I would like to tell you a really good story here but either I was really good or just never got caught. Personally, I’m gonna stick with the really good story since there is no surviving evidence to the contrary. I really wanted to be a really strict disciplinarian with my kids too, you know, put the fear of father and Father in them. Problem was, DONI. Do you know how hard it is for a father to put the fear of God into a beautiful little girl? Fortunately, mom had no such misgivings and had largely resolved the issue up front. I do remember the day she crushed my strict disciplinarian parenting skills to oblivion. She was about 12 and I was dutifully speaking quite harshly and loudly with her expressing my disagreement with an inappropriate attitude that girls can occasionally have. At the end of my eloquent soliloquy, Doni looked straight at me and said with a tone approaching defiance, “when you talk to me like that it only makes me want to rebel all the more!” Here’s where it really gets bad being a preacher. I know scriptures command that I NOT provoke my children to wrath, which evidently (or obviously to some) I was doing. I was outnumbered and out maneuvered, which in retrospect really wasn’t fair. No way could I fight against Doni when she evidently had secured the assistance of the Holy Spirit. I lost that battle, but won the war. It was hard for me to relearn how to do things, especially when it was on the job training. My way was so simple going in. I was bigger so they better obey. Unfortunately years later my kids came up with the 5 year rule. They claim that after 5 years they can tell about what they did, but did not get caught. The list is horrifying. Don’t ask. On a few occasions the were caught doing something that was really out of line. On a few of those occasions there was NO punishment legal to pay for the crime adequately so on those rare occasions I simply offered mercy and let the Holy Spirit do whatever correcting was appropriate. What I am certain of now is that obedience tied to threats is only useful if there is a reasonable chance of catching them. The older they get, the better they get a being sneaky. Remember what you got away with? Fear of punishment has its place, but I like what really worked in the long run for me. Love and mercy. There is nothing to rebel against, only something to be embraced. That is the way God has chosen to deal with us

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Play Nice

When I was in kindergarten, the first lesson I learned was there are a lot of bullies in the world. Tommy gave me my first bloody nose. I still do not know why. The pattern continued through grade school, but Mr Kincaid kept the older boys in line…for the most part. When I was in 7th grade the biggest problem I had was the 8th and 9th graders. They were merciless bullies on everyone. Thank God for Mr. Lento the PE teacher who would not put up with it. He and a couple other teachers and one janitor kept the bulling to mostly verbal abuse. In high school I was one of the athletes and was mostly left alone, but the bullies were still there. In college, the bullying started with hazing of the freshmen, but by then I was finally bigger than most and no one wanted to mess with me. Last week at the gym I was standing in waist deep water next to the stairs in the pool at LA Fitness. A man half my age and twice my size bumped into me while doing his laps. I quickly apologized and accepted the blame for not seeing him coming. It was not good enough. He had a few things to say that were pretty much one syllable and ….well, you probably know. On his next lap he stopped to complain with the same language and worse attitude to an 80 year old man who was not really in his way, but had not stood at what he deemed to be the proper distance from his work out. Five of us AARP members just stared at the fool he was. We all had learned the same lesson which may sound like a Guy thing but is a rule of life in the jungle: NEVER BACK DOWN. I got a bloody nose in Kindergarten when I backed down. I never got another one, NOR did I ever strike any one in anger, still haven’t. “I’ve had to deal with people like him my entire life, the oldest and smallest of us commented while still staring at the bully. I doubt that physically the 5 of us together could have beaten him and none of us had any intention of trying. Had he persisted, we would have gone to the management and he would have been kicked out of the Gym…and he knew it. I mention this because of a conversation I had with one of my sons. He is trying to run every aspect of his life by the highest Biblical principles and morals. The problem is corporate America will take every advantage they can with NO CONCERN for right or wrong, morals or principles. They will act like bullies whenever you let them. My son is working it through but I feel a need to remind us all how far we should go when getting abuse from any system. Paul taught us. When he was in Philippi, he was arrested beaten and imprisoned without a trial because of a false accusation. From his stocks and leg irons he sang of his love for Jesus. An earthquake freed him from his bonds and in gratitude the jailer cleaned his wounds and accepted his Jesus. The next day the magistrates realized their illegal fau pax could land them in jail and sent word to release Paul. He refused to come out until they came to escort him out, admitting their error. Paul could have prosecuted them under the law, but that was not his main focus. He did force them to obey the Law under the laws of the day. I told my son to do the same thing. Don’t take advantage of anyone, but make them obey their own laws. It is illegal to sign a contract for service you have no intention of paying for after the service is complete. Biblical integrity does not require us to allow others to violate their own laws to take advantage of us in business. It is completely possible and biblically consistent to insist that they play nice or if necessary you will tell the teacher. That’s what Paul did, every time.

Resistance Training

Ahhh! The ignorance of youth! As child, I was not particularly athletic and to compound the problem I was a year younger than most of my classmates. I started kindergarten at 4, was sick most of my 1st grade year with a wonderful illness that kept me away from the other kids, but I felt fine, and was socially promoted to the second grade. Because my father was declared permanently disabled under the Veterans Disability act, our family got some government benefits that were greatly needed and still appreciated to this day. We do have a good government…when it is working correctly. One of the benefits was counseling for the dependents. It may have been a requirement, I do not know. I do remember taking a battery of test that took hours to complete. The result, I was considered to be to young and to small to be in the 7th grade. Would my parents consider holding me back for my own good. If I continued in school as is, I should catch up by the time I was a junior in high school. I never asked why, but my parents elected to let nature run it’s course and I stayed in school. My father, sick as he was, made one consistent sacrifice. He always encouraged and made sure it was possible for me to play any sport I wanted to. I played football, wrestling, basketball and track in junior high, 7-9. Of course, I rarely played in a game. A coach took pity on me in the eight grade and showed me a simple trick in football that carried me to the top of the league and even to the point of a college scholarship in football. I knew I would get killed so I took the tennis scholarship instead. I did struggle until my junior year and them my struggling switched to excelling. My GPA climbed 1.5 points and I went from the bench to all league in two sports. One of the things I learned early on that really paid off in the end was resistance training. That was the days before the gyms and weights that abound today. One coach with huge forearms told me that when he was in school, he would resistance train all day long. He would lock his forearm under his desk/chair and pull up against his own weight. He would arm wrestle himself or squeeze a tennis ball. I began to do that on a regular basis, I still catch myself doing it from time to time even today. Maybe it was just natural growth or maybe the result of the resistance training, but as a senior, my forearms and legs could match just about anyone, even though I was still on the smaller side, especially for football. (Thank God for tricks.) Two things remind me of the great value of resistance training today. One is the pain in my elbow that I have to see a Dr for soon. I am afraid it is the result of the degenerative arthritis the Dr. diagnosed 15 years ago and the excesses of youth. The other reminder is “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man …” (1 Corinthians 10:13). It took a while for the resistance training to have it’s full effect when I was young, but I have enjoyed the results of the effort to this day. My elbow does hurt, but my arm is still strong. In life temptations come of many sorts. It is natural, normal and if viewed as resistance training, desirable. When I first began, I struggled against little things that do not even require noticeable effort today. Gradually, I was able to take on bigger and bigger challenges with more and more success. I still do resistance training every day, wherever I hammpen to be and I am still getting stronger. Am I talking about physical resistance training or spiritual resistance training? Yes, both. I train with others at LA Fitness and at Grace Family Fellowship several days a week. I train solo every day where ever I happen to be, sometimes gripping a steering wheel tight, sometimes holding my tongue tight. Resistance training really works and the best part is no one is deducting anything off my bank card!.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Newsweek Mag. on "The Shack"

Kudo's to Lisa Miller, Religion Editor of NewWeek Magazine for her accurate representation of our telephone conversation about "The Shack". To see her review go to :

www.newsweek.com/id/156370

Confident or Concerned?



We got caught totally unprepared for the cold or the snow. It was spring break in the early 70’s and my favorite spot to camp by the hot springs had been taken over by the post hippie/free love crowd. When I was a teen this area was at the bottom of a canyon beyond the reach of most day campers. The US Forestry Service changed all that building a road and trails that made it easily accessible to just about anyone. The springs were about ½ mile from the end of the road, secluded enough for ample warning should the Law show up. Literally dozens if not hundreds of naked people would wander the area, doing whatever it was they did. Obviously this was no longer an area to take my junior high boys on their first backpack/camping weekend. We moved our camp about 8-10 mile up the canyon, far away from any crowds. The first part of the trip was prefect. The sponsors/parents drove us about 20 miles on the dirt roads and dropped off about 20 of us at the top of a really steep canyon. The plan was to spend some time fishing in the creek and then hike the 12 miles out on the last day and be picked up at the mouth of the canyon below the Deep Creek Dam. (If memory serves correct, this is the same area Warnke tells of satanic worship and the occult activities occuring in his book Satan Sellers. The more vivid parts of the book were later recanted I believe). Things were going perfectly. The fish rarely saw anyone and would bite on anything. With one pool of over 500 trout we easily caught more than we could eat. The boys played some in the frigid snow runoff filled stream until they were numb, stood by the fire until they were hot and did it all over again. The weather was beautiful…until a freak storm moved in. NO one saw it coming. As night fell, the temperatures fell and it began to spit snow. We were nearly 20 miles from the nearest anything and NO transportation except our feet. I had walked the trail before and knew it would be to dangerous to try the multiple stream crossings and steep/narrow trail that followed the gorge out. The only reasonable choice was to hunker down and wait it out, however long it took. None of the boys had cold weather gear and their light sleeping bags were better suited for a slumber party than a snow camp. I knew the best heat was body heat so I had all the boys pair off, two to a sleeping bag. I covered them with the second bag and then wrapped them in blue tarps or plastic to ward off the snow.. NO ONE hesitated. They were that cold and I think they knew it was to serious not to follow instructions. After securing all the boys against the wind and snow I dug a shallow pit in the sand, climbed into my sleeping bag and buried myself in about 4 in of sand. I didn’t have a good bag either and I was the odd man. The boys were restless but warm all night. They even slept some. The storm passed during the night and a very light dusting of snow was on the ground. At the first hint of light, some of the more adventuresome boys climbed out of their bags and rekindled the fire. Did you ever wonder what a chicken turning on a spit feels like? They built that fire so big the flames were going 15 feet in the air. What ever part of you that faced the fire would roast and the side away from the fire would freezer burn. By mid morning the sun had reached us on the canyon floor and things were back to normal. I hadn’t thought much about it that night but I began to wonder if the storm had reached the valley where the parents of these boys lived, maybe 30 miles away. I had no way of knowing. We just packed up and began the hike down the canyon. With the exception of passing a few dozen stark naked people at the hot springs, the trip out was uneventful. I knew the trails well enough to guide us several hundred yards above the springs. They were naked, that was for sure, but back in those long haired days, it was impossible to tell gender from that distance.

The storm had reached the valley floor the night before and my wife got plenty of frantic calls. The parents knew the boys did not have the equipment to handle the cold. I don’t know exactly what Deanna told them but her confidence in my ability to protect the boys was enough. There was not a thing they could have done. They could not have gotten to us if they tried. If the parents were over anxious, you would never have known it when they met us. The boys were ok and the storm became just part of the adventure. I was not worried, I knew what to do and Deanna had the confidence in me to share with the parents so no one overstressed.

Do you have a loved one you are concerned about right now? They may be caught up in a storm of life and you cannot help. Are you cringing in fear for them or are you confident? I guess you can worry all you want if you think it will help but Paul encourages us with this:


Phil 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.


Your loved one may be in a storm, but Jesus will be there with them.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Shack Annotated discussion guide,

Chapter 6
A PIECE OF p
88 “Well Mackenzie, don’t just stand there with your mouth open like your pants are full”. How does the earthy talk coming from God affect you? The story?
A At first it made me uncomfortable. My God box is so small some words are absolutely forbidden and a lot of words seem out of place. I was raised in an ultra strict home when it came to anything that my parents considered crude language, which was just about everything There were certain OT words we deliberately ignored, translated or mispronounced. We were greatly relieved when the NIV traded Balaam’s ass for a donkey. To bad the NIV couldn’t do something about his home town of Shittim or the plant of the same name. I do not have the freedom to use anything crude and I am not going to look for it. I will just try to stop judging another’s freedom.
89 Is the real Holy Spirit full of surprises with perfect timing? Explain
A the Holy Spirit seems to never show up when requested but is never late either. He shows up in the oddest places at the oddest times with exactly what was needed for the situation. He is seldom predictable, but can be expected to do what only he can do, on time every time
Jesus had just told Mack he was free to do what ever he wanted and Mack volunteered feeling obligated to talk to Papa. Jesus instructs: “Don’t go because you feel obligated. That won’t get you any points here. Go because it’s what you want to do”. What is the message here?
A Mack went to the Shack for the purpose of talking to God and Jesus knew that. Jesus freed him to do what down deep he wanted to do the most. Talk to God. Oswald Chambers said What causes you to say “I will not obey” is something less deep and penetrating than your will. It is perversity or stubbornness, and they are never in agreement with God. THE MOST PROFOUND THING IN A PERSON IS HIS WILL, NOT SIN. Oct-6 Because Christ indwells us we are stronger than the grip of sin.
Phil 2:13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. The closer we are to God, the more we can do what we really want to do.

90 How does the creator value things given?
How can Papa listen to music from a band that has not been born yet?
One of the benefits of living in the eternal present. He created time and is not controlled by it.
What does this mean in relation to how Papa might view all of life’s experiences?
There is a sense in which because God literally indwells us, he experiences life through us as we experience it. Certainly he would view it differently but there is a level of participation here. When I am in awe of a beautiful sunset or a thunder bolt or the cry of my grand daughter I experience something special that I can share and worship God in the experience. He too is a participant.
How is time different for us?
91 Would God really value all kinds of music? Why?
Why was Mack uncomfortable with Papa manifesting as a woman? Why did Papa manifest that way?
92 “If you will let me Mack, I will be the Papa you never had”. How much does our earthly fathers effect how we view our heavenly father?
“If you couldn’t take care of Missy, how can I trust you to take care of me?” In the back of Mack’s mind would he also wonder why God did not rescue him as a boy too?
A Because of our incorrect view of God’s love, Satan will try to tie together the rejections and disappointments of life into one colossal lie: God does not, nor did he ever love you…It is easy to tie it all together and get us to believing it.
Why does God allow the great gulfs that separate us from Him?
A So we can freely chose to come to and love him.
Do all God’s children have wounds at some point in life that God needs to heal? Does anyone escape?
A Only those like Missy to die very young.
“Life takes a bit of time and a lot of relationship”. In your life, does relationship really triumph over answers?
A Many of the criticisms that have come to me because of my high regard for The Shack, or any other doctrinal issue for that matter, have put right answers over relationship. Frankly, I really don’t care if you agree or not as long as I know you love me. If I am wrong I am sure God is wise enough to correct me. I no longer feel the need to keep everyone straight! That is quite freeing for my relationships. And yes, people do sin, big time sometimes, and I can still love them because God does.
93 What are the “head issues” that must be gotten out of the way that makes the heart issues easier to work on?
A The head issues are the religious conditioning, ritual, institutionalism, right answers, correct doctrine, best theology, religious clich├ęs that have no understanding, hierarchy, authority, practice, preference, rules, legalism, denominations, attitudes, expectations, assumptions, history, stereotypes , and anything else that is religious without relationship.
Is a relationship a head issue or a heart issue or some combination of both? Explain.
A Typically we “ask Jesus into our heart” as a head issue that promises a relationship that never grows. Josh Mc Dowell (Evidence that Demands a verdict; More than a Carpenter) argues “my heart cannot accept what my mind rejects”. Clearly there must be some basic understanding of WHO God is and what he is offering. This is where imagery clashes with revelation. When the head understands that God is offering a personal relationship and his love and forgiveness the heart can rejoice in an informed decision.
Why is Papa depicted as a woman?
A Simply to break up the stereotype and get Mack thinking about who God really is as revealed in scripture Many of the criticisms of the Shack ignore this explaination.
How big a part of the average Christian’s life is religious conditioning compared to genuine relationship?
A Experience strongly suggests that most people who practice the faith have no idea of why they do anything they do. The relationship offered has been reduced to rule, regulations and ritual. Worship feeling centered, Prayer is a wish list or therapy, struggles abound with guilt, there is little sense of freedom and not indication of an actual relationship with the Loving God of the Universe. Trust is simply a code word for conduct and rule keeping, faith is absent of true hope. Life is lived in a bondage Houdini couldn’t escape and the believer is consigned to live a life that is anything but free.
List all the religious (or non religious) stereotypes of God you have heard of. Which are the most accurate?
94 If God is not male or female, why is he presented as Father in the Bible? Is his feminine side ever shown?
Agree or disagree: God is neither male or female because gender is part of creation and God is above and beyond creation but it is contained in him.
Does God’s prior knowledge of any matter affect our freedom to choose?
A When I see you reach for the light switch I know the light is going to come on, but I am not turning it on or are you?.
95 What are the limiting influences of life that limit freedom?
A Health, wealth, age, ability, IQ, opportunity, race, religion, politics, environmental factors etc. Life itself imposes limits.
Why can’t freedom be forced?
A Logically it would not then be freedom.
How is a person ever truly free?
Where does freedom happen? Why there?
A Freedom is a process that happens inside our relationship with Jesus. We are free only there because he removed all the barriers and penalties caused by our sins.
Why did Papa have scars on her wrist to match the one’s on Jesus’ wrists?
A Don’t forget this is fiction: God has no body, he is spirit. Theoretically if he had a body it would have the same scars as Jesus. The point is the Union of the father and son. Whatever Jesus experienced, God did. In a similar way, when god indwells us he experiences what we experience in a way I do not understand. What I do understand is he really knows exactly how I feel and why I feel that way.
Col 1: 19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.
96 “Love always leaves a significant mark”. What kinds of marks does love leave?
A Healing marks, not wounds. Fruit of the spirit stuff.
Was Jesus alone on the cross, forsaken? Was that in his humanity only?
A Some deep thinkers are going to get really skittish here trying to make certain we understand the exact nature of the incarnation and the nuances of the inter-relationship of the flesh and the spirit. The point is simple, The father and son cannot be separated in essence. “the Son can do nothing of Himself …” (
John 5:19) I’m going to avoid the heavy theology of who is “righter” here and accept with Joy that though Jesus felt forsaken, the father was there as a participant according to the eternal plan. I will never be forsaken either. Make every effort here to KEEP IT SIMPLE. Some people will REALLY get pushy here. Just love them and smile!
Wayne Jacobsen explains this really well in He Loves Me, Pg 140-141. He looks at the original reference Jesus quoted from in the Messianic Psalm 22 showing that even though David FELT forsaken, he knew he was not forsaken ending with “yet he has not hidden his face from him but listened to his cry for help. What Jesus felt at the time is arguable, what he knew is written for us. He knew that God could not and would not leave him. It was right there in the scripture.
“Mackenzie I never left him, I never left you”. What is the message and point here?
A Since the believer is indwelt by God as a miracle of the new birth, it is impossible for God to ever leave or forsake us. It is possible to feel alone when we are not alone.
“When all you can see is your pain, perhaps then you lose sight of me?” What did Papa mean?
A There can be an instant during Labor that a mother in pain may lose sight of the purpose. When she looks at her baby, the pain is forgotten and the blessing begins.
How did Jesus put himself completely in God’s hands? How do we?A Wayne Jacobson’s HE LOVES ME is (I think) the foundation for the Shack here. It is advertized in the back of the Shack and is worthwhile for understanding better the nature of the trinity and what happened on the Cross. The other book, So you don’t want to go to church anymore? Likely

I'm Confused Today

Cars were always a big issue with my father. He bought a new one every 3 years. His excuse was he didn’t want to take care of problems older cars had, so he traded them in under the 36k mile warranty. There was more to the story. My father, Waldamar Walter Zimmermann, was born to German thinking, English speaking parents, Max and Anna, in pre WWII Los Angeles California. Grandpa, born in 1889, was raised in a military family in Vienna, Austria (think Sound Of Music) and immigrated with his family just prior to WWI. Naturally there was some confusion in the Zimmermann house hold about how things should run. LA and Vienna are worlds apart in every way. Grandpa’s family view was based on a strict German Military code. Dad could not relate to this code out of country. By American thought and standards, grandpa was way off base, but by German thought and standards, he was mainstream, rather typical. Tons of issues erupted for my father as a teenager, but none bigger than the 37 Chevy. The details are a little cloudy but as dad recounts, he bought a 37 Chevy and when it was paid for grandpa claimed it, took it and kept it. Dad had to buy another car for himself. Dad told me the story when I was an adult. It still really bothered him 40 years later that his father would do such a thing. It was a small shock to me. I had never detected a ripple between them. It was unfair, at least by LA thinking. I was a Psy. Major in College and although I agreed it was unfair in LA, it was the expected norm where grandpa came from. Granted, when grandpa was a teenager no one had a car in Vienna but there was an underlying principle that governed and justified his actions. I reminded Dad that Grandpa was just following the model of his culture and thinking. In Vienna, It was expected that the son would take care of any need of the father. Grandpa was consistent with his culture. He had taken in
both his father and his father in law. This insight tripped a flood memories and for dad, it finally made sense and he was at peace. Odd how people react to confusion. Dad’s life long reaction to losing a car? He made sure his little brother got one, my sister and I both had cars and a credit card for gas! When the Lord took him home he left me a Cadillac. I don’t have car issues and I am a truck man. I gave it to my sister.

Why am I telling you this? First, in general, I am the last link to the past my children know. They have no real contact with my family. For Doni, I am documenting a little of our family histroy and stories. Specifically today, I am a little confused with Father. I do not understand (or particularly like) some things that are to me quite threatening and if I dwell on the will become discouraging. I know I am in the LA of life and He is in the Alps of Vienna and there will be things I could not possibly understand, try as I might, until he decides to enlighten me. I am just trying to do what Dad did. For 40 years he did not understand but had a loving relationship with his father anyway. I am trying to follow that example. I don’t have to understand the ways of heaven to trust the Loving Father. I hate to admit that I am fighting fear and depression, but thats just the way it is today. I can only lose if I quit fighting. Jesus said there would be days like this.

LK 11:5 Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, `Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, 6 because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.'

LK 11:7 "Then the one inside answers, `Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.

LK 11:9 "So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.

LK 11:11 "Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? 12 Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Does everything matter?

Remember the first Karate Kid movie? The kid asks the karate master to teach him to fight. The kid is expecting battle training but ends up washing and waxing a car, polishing a deck and painting a fence…all with specific motions. Whip on, wipe off; Paint the fence. The kid did not know what the master did. He was training and conditioning the muscles, muscle memory they call it, for specific karate movements. When the actual training and fighting came, the muscles already knew what to do. They had been trained in the everyday mundane tasks of life. Did you ever think that you are being battle trained in your kitchen? Really. How you respond in the everyday mundane tasks is preparing you to respond when things get really serious. You are practicing for when it gets really tough. When I was entering my senior year of high school, I spent half the summer with the Tennis Coach. I was the heir apparent to team captain and only returning varsity tennis player. The guys before me were WAY better athletes than I was so coach Dudley was doing all he could to help me learn how to win. I am not especially quick so a reflexive net game was out of the question. I was fairly tall, over 6’, and strong so coach Dudley settled on training my muscles to serve the ball at light speed. Every day I would have to serve a shopping basket full of balls aiming at where ever he would put the tennis can on the opposing side. I got pretty good at 1, picking up balls and 2 hitting the can. His planned worked perfectly. No one on my team could come close to me in practice. I usually practiced against Coach Dudley. In the high desert league I smoked almost every opponent. There was one player that was actually better than me overall. He had beaten me in a preseason tournament. We met again in the closing match of my high school tennis career. We split the first two sets. It was a 100 degree plus Saturday morning on a black court. There was no tie breakers back then and the match was not over until someone won the third set. Normally a set is the first to 6 games, but you must win by two. Somewhere around 12-12 in the third set it became all about conditioning and muscle memory. That was when hitting 500 serves every morning paid off. Fatigue and dehydration was setting in after the nearly 3 hour match with no breaks. Finally at 14-14 I broke his serve. I just stood at the line and let muscle memory from hours of practice hitting a can take over. His ground game was better than mine, but he could not defeat my serve. I won that match 16-14 in the third set. A college tennis scholarship came with the win. I finished #1 in the league. No way would I ever have beaten him without the hours of hitting the can in practice. I have since discovered that repetition in the little things prepares us for when it really matters. Like worshipping God in the moment instead of waiting for Sunday. Or patiently cleaning up after the toddler…for the umpteenth time today. Maybe a smile at the clerk instead of a blank face. How about an attitude check while carrying out the trash or mopping? In The Shack, Sarayu tells Mack, “If anything matters, then everything matters”. From that perspective EVERYTHING you do today will make a difference in eternity. Nothing is mundane or ordinary. It will all make a difference, so practice well.

1 Cor. 10:31 So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Colossians 3:23 Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Annotated Shack Discussion Guide

I have not blogged for a few days because I have been putting all my time and efforts into finishing my Annotated Shack Discussion Guide. It is all my notes and scripture references for the Discussion Guide I have posted. Now that it is done, I am not quite sure what to do with it. It is fairly comprehensive and contains a lot of personal anecdotal material . I will share it with anyone who wants to use it. I have sent out about 40 copies of the discussion guide in Word 03 to people who found it with a google search. I have no way to know who may have clip and pasted the on line version.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Hurting and Healing

When I was young I witnessed my father being carried out of his office and taken to the hospital. After weeks of testing and bed rest that followed he was declared 100% permanently disabled. His heart was permanently damaged. Any strenuous exercise or effort could kill him. My relatives told me I was the man of the house now and had to man up. Odd, they did not offer me any keys to the car, cash or credit cards to assist in my right of passage and new responsibilities as man of the house. I was 11. Life indeed changed. My father was an active man in spirit and ministry and his weak heart did not slow his active brain one bit. I became his hands and feet. I spent most every weekend and holiday building something for the church or Youth For Christ. It included running spot lights, sound equipment, being the head stage hand for monthly rallies, building a full softball field including underground sprinklers and electrical for the lighting. I learned to wire sport lights strapped to the top of 60’ poles in a 45 mph cross wind. I walked the trusses 30’above the stage at the fair grounds because I was the only one light enough to do it. I did the electrical and sound wiring under the platform at the church because I was the only one small enough to fit. By my early teens, my friends knew to avoid me on holidays because my dad would rope them into some building project too. By the time I was 15 my sister went off to college and my mother had back surgery and did a long stint in bed. Now I had charge of the ministry work, the house work and the cooking. I got to be the lady of the house for a while too. Internal pressures were building in me to the point I was seeing my father’s heart specialist for pre ulcer conditions. He really didn’t do much for me. Don’t misunderstand here, my folks were great parents, strict but loving. We worked well together but resentment was building in me. As much as I did not like being the hands, feet and back of my parents, I knew they absolutely hated it. It was far harder on them than it ever could be on me. I could walk away, get relief, go hang out. They were being held prisoner by their own failing bodies. Minds and spirit as sharp as ever with no way to physically do much of anything. They could no more control what their bodies were doing than I could control the growing ulcers inside of me. If something in me did not change one of two things was destined to happen and there was nothing I could do about it. My ulcers would overtake me completely and incapacitate me or my growing anger would come out in some rebellious stupidity. My father saw it coming. I NEVER did anything overt, he just knew and I know it was killing him faster than his heart. My grandparents saw it to. They Prayed. What do you do when you are 15 and in a situation that is impossible to do anything about? The fact is I did not do anything. God did. God healed my heart in an instant, a moment. Here’s the rest of the story…My dad did everything he could do to try to ease my burden. Although he could not participate he would go and watch. It was a small town and I was a starter on the high school football team. They all knew dad and he was allowed to pull his car onto the field behind the end zone to watch the game whenever his health allowed. Chic Hearn, the voice of the LA Lakers presented me an award at the players banquet at the end of the season. Dad missed it, he was at home in bed. Like I said, he did what he could and often more than he should. I was not angry with him (well, ok sometimes he was unreasonable, really) I was sick of the situation. One afternoon Dad took me about 20 miles from the house to go quail hunting. No way could he climb he hills so he just sat in the car. I wandered over hill and dale for a while and approached dad’s position from a ridge behind and above him. He was sitting on a log drawing with a stick in the sand, no doubt designing his next project for me to do. I sat down and just watched him for a while and it happened. God did what only God can do in the way only God can do it. While I was sitting there on their on that hill, He reached into my heart and spoke to soul and everything was ok. The anger, anxiety, resentment and frustration was drained from my body. It literally did not hurt anymore. It would seem God does some of His best work on a hill. God released me from my fathers and mothers infirmities. I can’t explain how, I just know he did. It was as real for me as Moses telling the people waiting to cross the red sea “Be still and see the salvation of the Lord”. Some things in life are just to big, to permanent, to overwhelming to handle on our own. If God can heal a broken teenager who did not know God could or would do that and did not ask for God to do it, What does God want to heal for you?

Friday, September 5, 2008

The secret to winning the waiting game

I was so frustrated I could (and did) scream. My three younger boys were in the “tweener” stage of life. NO not the 12 year old kind, the really, really bad one, the 16-19, the boys to men kind. There are lots of tweener stages in life but we will save that for another time. This time they were begging me for permission to go on and outing with their cousin to Sheep’s Crossing to go swimming. It is a beautiful scenic place we had been to as a family but I knew what they really wanted to do. They had seen a rope tied to the bridge that had intriguing possibilities. That bridge is about 40’ over the water and more importantly 2 hours of washboard dirt road in any direction to help. If you don’t understand my hesitation it is obvious you do not know my boys (or their Uncle Dave who will jump of anything). They were at that stage in life where they needed to be making their own decisions as much as possible, but in the pit of my stomach I knew it was as close to a perfect bad idea. We discussed, negotiated and settled on NO JUMPING OFF THE BRIDGE. My parting words were spoken with a combination of disgust, aggravation and defeat: “if you have to go kill yourself go” I said referring to everyone in general and no one in particular. They left celebrating their one of their first victories of manhood. Tweeners tend to think negotiated permission is some form of approval. My 10 grand kids are really getting even for me now! They left ecstatic in the joy of their victory never once considering that I, by some mysterious fluke, could just happen to be right. A few hours later Jarrood, my nephew, called. They should be NO WHERE NEAR A PHONE! (Tuck this away: NEVER negotiate with a tweener, DICTATE! I ruled out the 40’ bridge but not the 80’ cliff!) He bold faced lied to Dee telling her everything was all right and he just needed to talk to me. Yea, like she believed him…NOT! In my head I can still hear the brief conversation. It began, “Uncle Don, David fell off a cliff. We know he broke some bones and we think he has internal injuries”. David had fallen of a 60’ cliff and had been air lifted to a hospital somewhere. The exact description of events is still under debate today but the agreed upon fact was me made an unscheduled exit from the side of a 60-80 foot cliff, landed feet first on the rocky bank below and rolled into the water. Have you ever wanted to take your parting words back? Me too. Two hours of calling every hospital in the valley turned up nothing. Waiting for David, for even a shred of information about his condition, whereabouts or anything was an emotional rollercoaster in the dark and out of control on a seemingly endless track. There was no way to prepare yourself for the next turn. No way to know when the ride would be over or how it would end. I’ll bet you have a waiting story too. After a little over two hours of fighting panic, fighting the urge to make any and every deal with God imaginable, fighting back tears, feigning a false courage and finding some solace in the fact I had not thrown up…yet… we found David was in a trauma center 20 minuets away. I don’t believe it took that long that day. I have no recollection whatever of the trip. I assume I drove. I must have. My car was in the parking lot later when we left. David would be and was ok. Today he is an accomplished Flight paramedic (that’s the best of the best boys) and was just promoted to Captain in the Surprise, AZ fire department. He is heading up the Surprise SWAT team Paramedic program. (OK I will admit that was a shameless brag line, but I earned every bit of it in those two hours!) As a side note, if you ever plan to have an accident or need a paramedic I would highly recommend you do it in Surprise. David is special to me, but they have a group of the finest and most capable young men I have ever met…and a few old salts to keep them in line. I don’t have to try to convince you that waiting for someone is one of the hardest things we have to do in life. But the sweetness of waiting with them! What a difference. Just this week I have waited with David twice. Once was a life or death situation that I felt very comfortable with because David was the first responder. It worked perfectly. The second time was last night. Tori was not acting like her normal self. She was content to sit on Sweeties lap and just look. Doni was concerned because Tori is in the process of learning to sit up on her own. Yea, she bonked her head several times yesterday. Picture this. Doni crosses the room with her littlest treasure on earth and hands her to David. NOW I am waiting WITH David the proven paramedic who handles the life and death calls. David does whatever it is that paramedics do…Probes this, pulls that, stares into her eyes, twist the other thing. Since there is not chance I could spell the diagnosis, I will summarize. She’s fine. I am convinced…and she was and still is.

There is a huge difference between waiting FOR someone and waiting WITH some one. No where is the distinction more critical than in our life with Jesus. My buddy Oswald Chambers encourages us to watch WITH Jesus.

“Watch with Me.” Jesus was saying, in effect, “Watch with no private point of view at all, but watch solely and entirely with Me.” In the early stages of our Christian life, we do not watch with Jesus, we watch for Him. We do not watch with Him through the revealed truth of the Bible even in the circumstances of our own lives. Our Lord is trying to introduce us to identification with Himself through a particular “Gethsemane” experience of our own.

I think I spent way to much agonizing time this week waiting FOR Jesus to do something than waiting in faith WITH Jesus to do the same thing. I did better than I used to, but not as well as I should because He did it again, miraculously, wonderfully, completely, but without all the Glory my faith of watching WITH Him would have brought Him. I am going to try to remember the difference between with and for next time. Are you with me?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Trophy Wife

Ok, this is gonna be a little edgy so get somewhere alone.

Several years ago I was watching a talk show because the teaser for the show promised Michael Landon’s ex-wife would have some interesting comments. My wife LOVED Little House On the Prairie and I was getting real tired of the continual contrived tragedies that were becoming the bread and butter of the show. For me, the show had “jumped the shark” when blindness and addictions were the topics. Honestly I was looking for ammo to shoot down the show and boy did I get it, but unfortunately I could never use it. Evidently Mr. Landon had traded in Mrs Landon for a newer, sportier model half his (and her) age. The new Mrs. Landon was referred to as a Trophy Wife. That didn’t need explaining to me. My fathers bookcase was loaded with my trophies from my childhood. I know what happens to old trophies. Eventually they are discarded or just left somewhere to gather dust. In my case my sons adored my old trophies. They made wonderful targets for their BB guns. At least they passed in a manly way. Michael's ex was baited just enough in asking what she thought about Michael and his new young bride being together. (that is a code word for something else). Her reply stunned me. Are we alone? Good. With the same twinkle in her eye and razor on her tongue that Sarah Palin had last night in her assessment of Obama’s accomplishments and preparedness, she said: “When I think of them together…it makes me Laugh….I’ve seen Michael Naked! At the time it was funny. I was working out at the gym and there were plenty of old guys around to know exactly what she was laughing at. Gravity effects the strangest things in the most unusual ways. It isn’t so funny now that I am the older guy. With a word picture that does not (and definitely should not) need further elaboration she got her lasting revenge on both of them. I never look at the reruns of the older shows without a grin. For the life of me, I cannot figure out why Michael ever thought he needed or even wanted a young trophy wife. Dude, if you want to look younger marry your mother's friend! If you want to feel older and look like an old fool, marry your daughter's friend. NO WAY is anyone gonna believe she married you for any of the right reasons or for the reason you married her. My wife’s uncle used to tease his wife with when she turned 40 he as gonna trade her in for two 20’s. He quit that tease when she told him, Bob, when I turn 40 you won’t be wired for 220. OUCH! But he asked for it. Personally I do not now, nor have I ever had, nor would I ever want a trophy wife. And not because my sons would use just her for target practice. My wife is not a trophy to be paraded around for a time then left neglected on a shelf. She is the richest treasure I could ever hope to have on this earth. We share life together! Not only do I know that but God confirms it in my heart and his Word. I do not worry about how she views my sagging physique. For us it is treasured life and memories shared with every scar and sag, and I have plenty of both. She loves me as I was, am and will be. (and vise-versa). I find myself telling her a lot more these days how beautiful she is, and no not because I am in trouble. I tell her that because it is the absolute truth of my heart and I have to say it. I do keep trying to tell her we are old, but she refuses to listen…she is a lot like her father in that way. I feel sad for Michael. He lived the rest of his life and died having lived LESS LOVED than he would have had he just kept the wife of his youth. Of all the women on earth, only she had the chance to really love and treasure him for himself. He traded it all for something that didn’t really exist. His life ended up as sad as his show, except in the end he does not live on in reruns.

There are a lot of people living life like Michael, living less loved. Not just by friends and family, but by the one who loves them as the were, are and forever will be. He cherishes every scar and sag as much as if it were his own body. They are not a trophy to Him either, but a treasure worth the ultimate price he already paid. They refuse to believe that they could be loved that much when they feel so unlovely and unloved. I love my life with my wife..I am not a perfect man, husband or anything else, but I am certain of this. I know my wife loves me, there is not the smallest doubt in my mind. I can be just as sure that God loves me too. Oswald Chambers put it this way: The Holy Spirit interprets and explains the nature of Jesus to me to make me one with my Lord, not that I might simply become a trophy for His showcase. He wants to live with you and love you too. Are you going to settle for living less loved? You don’t have to.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The Shack or the Woodshed?

Since I know that the majority of my readers are intuitive females you will be wondering from the last blog what is wrong today. I am not gonna tell you....except to say that someone I love did something stupid in reaction to a life time of pain. In many ways The Shack is their story too. They were hurt, they hurt others and the pattern continues. They question why God let them be so hurt so young. They have no excuse for hurting others in return. They are now in a situation that I can do nothing about...again. Only our Heavenly Father can heal, the wound is between them. It has nothing to do with me. I fear for them. I hurt for them. I want better for them. Part of my fear is I know they are going to have to go to their own SHACK and work it out with Father just like Mack did. I am ok with that. Been there, done that...more than once. I just realized my problem in the process. My mental picture of the Shack is wrong. When I think of my loved one going to the Shack, I am pictureing a woodshed!. God does not have a woodshed, only a cross! My loved one will be safe and loved in the Shack. I have it on His Authority.

(FYI: The Shack is a fictional book by Paul Youngs and is on the NYTimes best seller list)

Trusting Fathers

My Dad was struck down when I was 11 with what the doctor’s described as “the body of an athlete and the heart of a 70 year old man”. He was basically an invalid the rest of his life. His muscle could do anything but it would kill him literally if he did. He handled his health problems with his typical German determination and lived the rest of his life on the edge of doing the most that he could…all of it in ministry. Deanna’s dad Troy was rarely sick and the most self sacrificing and other oriented man I have ever known. A broken down coal miners son, he worked from the time he was 12 in the mines to support his family. On a trip to his childhood town my timid wife went door to door looking for someone who may have known him. To her delight she found an old friend of Troy’s. This family was the one Troy had talked about. They had 21 children! They remembered Troy as the same man I knew. He was always a sweet, kind other centered man. When he died he had next to nothing of his own. No tools, not hobbies, no treasure. My dad left some furniture and an heirloom ring he had made from the gold of his, my mom’s and his parents rings. I don’t want to paint them as perfect, they were not, but I would not recommend you mention that around me. They were close enough to perfect for me. At the time of his death, my father was easily my best friend. We talked constantly. I have the phone bills to prove it. What we lost in childhood memories due to his health, we more than made up for as men, working together, ministering together. Poppy, (Deanna’s dad) lived with us his last five years. He taught me so much about growing old without getting old. Cancer finally took him after a brief fight. As opposite as these two were in many ways, they shared core values. They were absolute men of their word and honor. My dad offended his pastor just before the pastor moved to another state. Dad got on a plane, flew to the pastors new church and made a public apology to him in front of his new congregation. That was near 40 years ago. I had lunch with that pastor last month. He still loves my dad and misses him. Poppy sold a car to a man who did not register it in time and wrecked the car in an accident. Poppy paid for everyone’s expense even thought it really was not his problem. He worked two full time jobs almost all the time I knew him. These were men of their word. I have never met their equal. I trusted them completely to do all they said they would do or die trying. I am really fortunate to have had them. It still hurts not having them. We had wonderful relationships. After I left California, Poppy and Dad teamed up. Poppy did all the physical things for Dad that I used to do. They fit, we fit. In many ways, they were my umbrella. Storms were not so threatening. They did not have to do anything and most of the times there was absolutely nothing they could do, but living in the relationship with them helped me tremendously.
They are gone, but I am not without my umbrella. I have one, I just struggle sometimes to use it. I have no idea why I am so stupid, I just am. I know what the problem is and the solution. With Dad and Poppy we worked on (it really wasn’t work) our relationship constantly, talking about everything, doing things together, watching, admiring, loving and being loved. The confidence and courage to face the hard times was crafted and cured in the day to day relationship of the good times. Oswald Chambers put it this way: I have to get to the point of the absolute and unquestionable relationship that takes everything exactly as it comes from Him 4-21. Today life reminds me that I am not there yet. I never questioned how the love of my dads for me. I had about as good of examples as a man could hope for. I totally believe in my head Hebrews 11:6 but sometimes there is a time lag between my head and heart. My relationship with the Father must more closely resemble my relationship with my two dads. I am better than I was, but not where I want to be. How about you?



Heb 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

MPH


Years ago, before we had any kids, Deanna and I had a 1969 Chevy Nova…and no money. We were visiting our family on the high desert on the other side of the Cajon Pass in Apple Valley. For reasons unknown at the time my newer car stopped shifting into 2nd gear. I knew better than to trust the Local mechanics. I knew them and their employees. To go to any of them I knew would be an automatic transmission rebuild I could not afford. In those days I was driving about 45K a year so my new car had some miles on it. I had an old mechanic friend, Les Ayres, 90 miles away on the other side of the pass who would fix it for the cost of parts. His ministry was fixing missionary and pastor’s cars. He could diagnose a problem faster and more accurately with his ear than any other mechanic with all the techno gear available. The problem was, Les was 90 miles away on the other side of the pass. Finances demanded that I drive the car to him in first gear, top speed 20 mph. Almost half of that would have to be on the freeway. We left early on a Sunday morning when traffic was light. It actually was back then. We raced on the freeway to the top of the Cajon Pass at speeds approaching 18 maybe 19 mph. On our rear window I had written SORRY! In huge letters with Dees brightest red lipstick. It worked, the sorry and the light traffic. When we crested the Pass I shifted it into neutral but left the engine running. I knew this part of the trip would work well. I had done that before to save gas. It had climbed to .37 cents a gallon so we needed to be careful. Really. I would search for the cheapest gas price to save .25 cents on a tank because .25 cents made a difference. No way could I buy an new tranny. The pass was only about 15 miles down to the flats, but we made really, good time. I will not commit to writing how good, just really, really good. At the bottom of the hill we got off the freeway and wandered back streets to Les’ shop a couple miles out of down town LA. The normal 90 minute trip took a little over 5 hours. On Monday AM I went to see Les, explained the problem and left for home about 2 miles away. As soon as I got home, Les called telling me my car was fixed! I knew he was good, just not that good. Curiosity and necessity got me right back to the shop in minutes. Total bill. $1.98. I gave him $2 and told him to keep the change. I’m not cheap, Les would not have accepted anything from me anyway. He only wanted eternal rewards. Pennies in heaven by a whole lot more. The problem was a nylon gear that was under a cap on the bottom of the transmission, easy to reach. A few years later it happened again in AV but this time I fixed it myself. I went into my friend, Butch’s ARCO station, borrowed a wrench, removed the plug and asked Butch (a mechanic) to get me a new one. To his surprise it worked! I believe that may be the only time I ever fixed a car.
That trip down memory lane came to mind as I read my devotions this morning. I was pondering with Father how I could be a better servant than I am. I am trying to learn to live life in relationship and am a little sensitive to just doing service for service sake, even though it feels better sometimes. Doing nothing is like driving in neutral, the only destination you can get to very fast has to be down hill. Living Neutral in the Christian life is the same thing. It only leads down. I did make progress in first gear and it was enjoyable. I saw things I’d passed a hundred times. I am not anxious to do it again that way, but that trip was worth it. I really wish I could tell you I got fixed like my car shifting into higher gears, but that would not be the truth. I feel like I have been stuck in first gear my whole life, some days 1 mph, sometimes a heart engine racing 22mph (My Personal Highs) and some days I am in neutral. I do not know how to get into second gear but I did find out how to get out of neutral. I just need to shift back to first things first and get up to ¼ MPH or even ½ MPH (My Prayer Hour). If I can do that, I can climb any hill or cross any flats that come my way. It will not be record setting time, but contrary to popular belief, life is not a race anyway. The finish line is all that ultimately matters and Jesus guarantees we get there.

Phi. 1:6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.