Iraq: How did I get here?

Iraq: How did I get here?

The this is a continuation of a previous story, you can read the first part here ….


It’s the end of August and I am sitting cross-legged on a rug in a refugee camp in Northern Iraq (Kurdistan). A girl politely places a glass in front of me containing very strong piping hot tea loaded with too much sugar. I can’t understand the quiet conversations going on around me as our team and our hosts settle into their spots on the rug along the dark walls of the tent. The inside of the tent is a cool oasis from the scorching 109F heat of the day. As if on cue, everyone begins stirring their tiny teas with tiny spoons. Everyone smiles at one another as a strange symphony of chiming metal against delicate glass fills the space. I don’t know our hosts except from reading about them but I feel quite welcome.

I am seated across the tent from a group of shy but seemingly contented Yazidi women and girls recently rescued from the Islamic State terror group (ISIS). ISIS terrorists are masters of human trafficking among other evils. Women and girls are stolen from their homes and sold as sex slaves. The boys are turned into child soldiers, suicide bombers or simply discarded. A few months ago, these women and girls were experiencing horrors beyond the bounds of human comprehension. Just thinking about what they’ve undergone is more than enough to break your heart and mind. But, they are survivors and resilient.

The epicenter of something massive on a global scale

Its difficult to fathom exactly how I got here. Yes, I flew from Dallas-Fort Worth to Frankfurt, Germany to Erbil, Iraq then drove north for a few hours. But, thousands of tiny threads converged to arrive at this moment. This is the epicenter of something massive on a global scale.

Two years prior, on a chilly morning I was invited to a meeting with the Fort Worth Police Department to address the sex-trafficking epidemic in Fort Worth. This small group of loosely affiliated agencies and non-profits were trying to get their heads around the problem. We were pressented with cases where little girls were being bought and sold for sex in my city, I was in a state of shock. The police department was overwhelmed. Local government was in disbelief and I’m considering vigilante justice.

Fast-forward a year. I’m now deeply involved in a taskforce combatting human trafficking in North Texas. The tiny group has grown to over 50 agencies, non-profits and departments. Over previous 12 months, I’ve made connections across the country with leaders and agencies dealing with the issues of human trafficking.

The Threat

One Thursday evening, I’m preparing to leave my office when I get a call from a woman in our church who is in a US city that will remain unnamed. She’s a part of our anti-trafficking community, she’s a friend and she’s attempting to rescue a girl and her infant baby from her trafficker.

I hear fear in her voice. She’s at an airport with the victim, the victim’s baby and another woman assisting the rescue. The trafficker is part of an organized gang, very dangerous and issues an ultimatum to the victim; “Be at my house by 11pm or I’ll kill you.”

I’m sitting in my office in Fort Worth 8 hours away staring at a clock on my laptop screen edging closer to 6pm. The victim can’t board a plane because her trafficker has confiscated her ID. The women can’t leave the airport because he may have people looking for her. Local law enforcement cannot be trusted and hospitals are not geared up for this type of situation – they will just call the police. She can’t go to her parents because one of them sexually abused her for years. The three women and baby are stuck. They begin to panic.

I begin thinking and praying through the situation. The safest place at this point is the airport. But, they can’t stay there all night without raising suspicion of airport security.

From my office, we make a plan to get them to the airport hotel and into adjoining rooms. One room is for guests with physical disabilities. That way, they would be near an elevator and they could activate emergency devices in the room to call for help. They could flee to the adjoining room if necessary. Our plan was a tiny bandaid on a massive problem. They didn’t know if they were followed. The victim will be going through withdrawals from Oxycotin soon (her trafficker keeps her doped up in order to control her). She will need medical attention and aftercare to stabilize her from years of trauma. The baby will need formula and fresh diapers.

I’m thinking, “What the heck are we going to do? I have a friend in a potentially deadly situation and I have no way to help.” It’s now approaching 9pm. I’ve called everyone I know with access to aircraft. I considered renting them a car but then they would be driving for several hours without protection. I’m out of ideas. My assistant and I are staring at Google maps and the clock. We were both praying. This situation is far beyond our abilities or experience. We’re in way over our heads.

Then it hit me, “Wait a second! I know someone who knows a guy who deals with this type of situation!” I made a phone call and we prayed. “Lord, help them, help them …” That is about all we could pray at this point. We sit and stare at the clock. Nothing is happening. Minutes are rolling by. Still nothing.

The Call

Finally, I get the call I’ve been waiting for. First thing in the morning, a private plane will be dispatched to a small municipal airport outside the city. In the meantime, a retired US Special Forces guy will be parked at the hotel to keep watch over the sleeping girls. Like clockwork, the next morning (Friday) a plane arrives and the security team bring the victim, her baby, my friend and another young woman back to Fort Worth safely.

On Sunday, the victim (now trafficking survivor) is receiving care in a local facility and her infant girl is at our church for Sunday Services (in the caring arms of a young woman who agreed to babysit while her mom received treatment). When I got word the baby was on campus I knew I was walking under the gentle rain of answered prayer. Incredible!

There are people in our world willing to risk their lives to rescue forgotten women and children from evil and walk with them toward restoration. I had to learn more and God opened the door for me to do just that… I will take you on that journey.

To be continued…


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Making Room for Christ

Making Room for Christ

This post was originally published December 22, 2017 on Christ Chapel Bible Church -Ology Blog.

Scripture: 1 Peter 3:15

“… but in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.”

1 Peter 3:15

“Christ” (Christos) in Greek means “the anointed one” or “chosen one.” In Hebrew it is translated “Messiah” (Mashiach).  In addition, “Christ” is not a name, but a title. “Jesus Christ” renders Jesus the chosen one/anointed one.

1 Peter 3:15 is not typically considered a Christmas verse per se. We find it in the context of suffering for Christ and leading up to Peter’s apologetic (apologia) for our faith in Jesus Christ. However, I think we can view this short passage through the lens of preparation for the incarnation of our Savior-King and Lord.

A few nights ago my daughter (6 years old) was frightened and could not fall asleep. She was scared and I know what that feels like. So, I joined her in her fear to validate her feelings and try to help her find a way out. I started talking about Jesus and His protection in times when I’ve been scared.

The conversation went something like this:

Me: Did you know that the Bible calls Jesus “the Lion of Judah”?

Lilly: No.

Me: He is. Jesus is like a mighty lion. Nobody messes with a lion, right?

Lilly: No.

Me: We are His children and He protects us like a lion. Did you know that Jesus has other nicknames?

Lilly: Yes, mommy plays a song called “The Lion And The Lamb.” What are His other nicknames?

Me: Yes, Jesus is also the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords!”

Suddenly, fear left the room, the tears subsided and she began to relax and even smile a little.

We began to softly sing together the “King of kings, Lord of lords” portion of the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s “Messiah.” It wasn’t pretty.  However, I think I could hear the faint toe tap from the throne room of heaven. Lilly peacefully wandered off to sleep under the blanket of God’s protection with a mighty chorus echoing in her heart. My heart was full. We had set apart Christ as Lord in our hearts and fear fled the invading forces of peace.

The ancient prophet Isaiah said “A light has dawned…” (Isa. 9:2), I’m convinced he was seeing the incarnation, the coming Lord. “A child is born… a son is given”. Above all, we needed more than a child, we needed the Son. Only one son would do — a Savior. The Christ! From the annals of time, we hear the chorus, “King of kings, Lord of lords” like peals of thunder rolling through history.

In all matters of life, we should set apart Jesus Christ as Lord.

Our heart is our essence as moral creatures, as image-bearers and the seat of our will. It begins in our hearts. But, what does that look like at Christmastime?

When we set apart Christ in our hearts as Lord we are acknowledging His majesty and holiness. We are bending our knee and heart toward Him as a flower bends toward the sun. We are yielded to His lordship, His splendor and captivated by His power, beauty and love.

Christmas celebrated rightly with Christ set apart as Lord in our hearts should be a mighty procession that occurs every year. We wait and watch for its arrival. When Christmas arrives, we celebrate like no one else on earth. The rest of the world is in darkness, yet the light has in fact dawned. It is the perfect time to share the gospel of peace and invite others to come out of the darkness and join in the chorus acknowledging “Christ is the King of kings, Lord of lords!”

“Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere …” 

2 Cor. 2:14

The procession has arrived. Have you set apart Christ as Lord in your heart? Have you made room for the Christ?

Finally, in Revelation 22, Jesus Christ says repeatedly, “I am coming soon.” He says, “Surely, I am coming soon” (Rev. 22:20). He did come, He is here and He will come again! Christmas is a time to reflect, a time to wonder and celebrate the magnificent Savior.

Merry Christmas!


Read previous post: “It’s always an inside job
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It’s always an inside job

It’s always an inside job

I used to think that Facebook was my problem. 

Surfing the newsfeed experiencing a new emotion with every little swipe of my thumb, I’d get a little hit of dopamine.  It felt great in the moment.  

Over time I recognized that I had a problem. So, when I went overseas in August I deactivated my Facebook account and did not re-activate until nearly two months later.  At present, I rarely check the platform.  Yesterday, I logged in for the first time in a week to check messages and I decided to scroll the timeline.  Not much has changed.  I got bored after about 5 minutes and went on about my afternoon.  Addiction defeated, problem solved right?

Last night I was alone at the ranch while Kat and the kids were at her folk’s house. Usually, I’d be outside doing something but the weather was nasty.  So, I was stuck inside the house.   I had some choices to make.  I could watch a movie, I could catch up on news on my iPhone or I could sit down and try to finish a book called “Hearing the Spirit” by Christopher Ash.  All decent options.

I rarely watch TV, so I crossed watching a movie off my list easily, no problem.  I scrolled the news and read the paper earlier in the day.  No need to do that.  Reading a book was the most profitable activity I could do as the day drew to an end.  Simple enough.  Let’s read!  I prepared to sit and read for an hour before going to bed.

At some point between making a hot cup of Rooibos tea, sitting in my easy chair and opening my book, I picked up my iPhone to check on the weather. Then, I began reading the news. 

The battle was on! 

I realized that the instant gratification and the dopamine release of scanning news on my smartphone had won over the delayed gratification and long-term benefit of reading a book.  Like a naughty child, I took the culprit (my iPhone) to the other room and put it down.  Problem solved!

I went back to my comfy chair and picked up my book.  Then, I thought, “What if Kat calls with an emergency?”  My phone is in the other room, I’d miss the call.  I’d better keep it with me while I read.  I got up and retrieved my iPhone from timeout.  In the short walk from the other room where the phone had been to my chair, I decided to check the weather again.  After all the wind was howling and it may freeze tonight.  A few moments later, I was watching a news video on some media channel.  I had been ambushed!  It was an inside job!

It’s always an inside job!

My problem isn’t my iPhone or Facebook or Apple News.  My problem is my heart.  If I am honest, the dominant characteristics of my desires are worldly.  Yes, I have a few Godly desires.  But the shimmering allure and distractions of the world draw me away from God.  There is nothing wrong with smartphones, social media or reading the news.  However, when self-centered passions, instant gratification and ruling desires overshadow my desire to know God, my life becomes disordered and worldly in nature.

Worldliness is being devoted to affairs, activities and concerns of temporal existence over our spiritual lives.  A life rooted in worldliness leads to emptiness, frustration and sadness.

As I prepared to pray this morning, I was lead to James 4 (Warning Against Worldliness).  I read the passage and something changed.  A light clicked on in an old forgotten room of my heart.

Worldliness and disorder ooze their way into our prayer life like an infection.  We know the passage; “You have not because you ask not…”  I hear many Christians (myself included) throw it in conversation or prayer when a need arises.  In response, we say, “Amen and Amen!” 

Is that what James 4 is about?  We don’t have because we don’t ask? 

You ask and do not receive, because you ask WRONGLY, to spend it on your passions.” 

James 4:2b-3 ESV

We ask wrongly for the wrong things because we have yielded our hears to worldly passions.  Therefore, our disordered prayers are rooted in worldly desires deep in our hearts dressed up in a veneer of “Christian lingo” and out of context Bible passages.  God does not answer prayers that run counter to His nature and His revealed will in scripture.

Why do I pray for more stuff in my life to distract me from God?  Because I’ve allowed worldly desires to ambush my pursuit of God.

How worldly is your prayer life?


Read previous post: “Help us advocate for John and other kids in foster care”
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Help us advocate for John and other kids in foster care

Help us advocate for John and other kids in foster care

November 11th was National Orphan Sunday. Frankly, every Sunday should be Orphan Sunday.

Our church is advocating for John and other children in foster care. You can help John and other children find a forever family!

“John is a sweet 10 year old boy! He said, “I really, really want to be adopted!” He is described as being all boy. John loves playing outside and catching bugs. He is very sweet and fun to be around. John likes to make jokes, and his infectious laugh will spread to anyone around him! He is competitive, athletic and ambidextrous. John is artistic and loves to draw- especially Minions and Pikachu from Pokémon. He desires a family that will love him unconditionally and be patient as he works through his trauma.”

 

Challenges:

  • Nearly 7% of all orphans in the USA are in Texas
  • 17,000 children in Foster Care in Texas
  • 340 kids are currently in Tarrant County foster care waiting to be adopted
  • 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless when they reach 21.
  • 7 out of 10 girls who age out of the foster care system will become pregnant before the age of 21.
  • 25% of children who age out of the foster care system still suffer from PTSD

Not everyone is called to adopt or become a foster parent. However, everyone can advocate for children in the foster care system.

Creative ways to help:

  • Pray for children in the foster care system and families who choose to step in.
  • Share the need on Social Media and with your community
  • Advocate for these children by becoming their voice in the family courts CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate)
  • Advocate for these kids in your community group, your church or civic group
  • Support adoptive families by asking how you can help them
  • Create a meal calendar with your friends and family to bring a weekly meal to an adoptive/foster family
  • Get certified and trained to provide respite care for these families
  • Ask an adoptive family if you can mow their lawn or help with some chores
  • Do they have transportation challenges? or need a bigger car? Gather a community group to fund a vehicle
  • Do they have a child with physical challenges that require accommodations like wheel chair ramps, etc? Meet that need.
  • Go to the grocery store for them
  • Help them celebrate special events like birthdays and Thanksgiving
  • Adoption is expensive – are their ways you can help financially? Pay a water bill or mortgage for a month.
  • Give the parents a ‘Night Out’ by paying for a sitter and providing a gift card to a restaurant.
  • Offer to take the entire family to the zoo or a museum or just a park
  • Get creative or just ask a family what you can do to help!
  • Find out more here…

Get in the game!


A Message to the Church

“There are almost 17,000 kids in foster care in Texas. That seems like a crazy number until you hear there are almost 30,000 churches in Texas! There is more to Orphan Care than just fostering or adopting. If one Christian family from every church adopted and that church agreed to support and wrap around that family there would no no more orphans in Texas.

“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.”

(James 1:27)


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Welcome to Iraq dude – A wild ride

Welcome to Iraq dude – A wild ride

I had fallen asleep on the second leg of our journey.

Tired from the previous 9 hour flight and layover in Frankfurt, I was delirious.  I opened my tray table, crossed my arms and fell headlong into a deep slumber. 24 hours of no sleep was taking its toll. I don’t usually sleep on flights, but I hit the wall and sleep overtook me like a bandit in the night.

Suddenly, I was jolted awake. I felt the sensation of my stomach and its contents lurch into my throat. I woke up on a giant plane and totally confused. The engines were roaring. I had no idea where I was. You know when you sleep in a strange place and you wake up and forget where you are? This was like that except I had the added confusion of being on a plane spiraling toward the ground.  I’m good with turbulence and rollercoasters but waking up on a rollercoaster is a different story.

What the heck was going on?

Our Lufthansa Airbus was in a nose-dive and spiraling to the right. I looked out the window and saw the earth rapidly approaching. Due to the force, I was glued to my seat. I glanced at my buddy on my right. His face was blank. I asked myself, “are we experiencing engine failure? Had a surface-to-air missile hit us?”

I looked across the isle at another friend (retired military) who was traveling with us. He was completely relaxed like he was sitting on a beach sipping a pina colada. Heck, I think he was half asleep. I’m thinking to myself, “Dude, you may want to wake up because we’re all about to die!” He glanced over and must have noticed the bewildered look on my face and calmly said, “the pilot is performing a tactical approach.” Then he turned back around and I swear he went back to sleep.

Meanwhile, the giant ‘Airbus’ is sideways, falling fast and I’m thinking the wings are going to snap off under the force of the turn.

To avoid being knocked out of the sky by a surface-to-air missile, pilots employ a tactical landing approach in dangerous places.

Some refer to the maneuver as a “corkscrew landing”. The goal is to get on the ground as quickly as possible avoiding being shot down by some terrorist with a shoulder-fired-missile. The pilot will turn sharply and guide the nose down to lose altitude fast. The effect on the happily sleeping dude in 9C was a silent cuss word or two followed by prayer. [Yes, in certain high-stress situations, some pastors are known to cuss silently – don’t judge!]

Before I could get my head straight, we were on the ground. A soft female voice came over the intercom, “On behalf of Lufthansa, we welcome you to Erbil, Iraq…. we hope you enjoyed your flight.”  Yeah, right.  Next time warn me!  None of the jokers I was traveling with mentioned anything about stunt flying.

This was just the beginning… 

I found a video that gives you an idea of what the landing looks like (below).  Someone filmed a corkscrew landing in Bagdad.  You’ll get the idea.


Read previous post: Hashtag Culture – A better way
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Hashtag Culture – A better way

Hashtag Culture – A better way

When something bad happens, you will see #hashtags rise like bubbles in a glass of soda.

Today, the path of least resistance is to get emotional, post a hashtag and move on. There is no follow through.

Hashtags can be detrimental to a cause if used improperly
When influential people, particularly political types begin using hashtag and memes, it communicates that someone is actually doing something about a problem. The problem is nothing is actually done.  It gives the appearance of action without any substantive action.

In 2014, the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped 300 girls from their boarding school in Nigeria.  Famously, the “Chibok Girls” became known around the world. It appears everyone was speaking out and demanding their freedom. This is a healthy response to injustice.

A few weeks later, like the bubbles in the glass of soda – the outrage and hashtags vanished.

What ended up happening?
Essentially nothing. Boko Haram, the media and others exploited the girls. Were they released? Nope. Four years later, over 200 girls are languishing in the hands of terrorists. In addition, Boko Haram is holding hundreds of other children captive that are not counted with the Chibok Girls. What about them? Where is their hashtag?

The problem with a “#hashtag” movement is that it is all about emotion, it contains no plan and no perseverance. There is no real commitment because the hashtag itself is transient and short-lived by design.

Hashtags are created to trend on social media until they are knocked off the top by other trendier hashtags.

Not all hashtags are bad. However, if you want to create a #movement, don’t make the hashtag the main driver. A hashtag is a spark.

If you want to drive cultural change or advocate for the freedom of the Chibok Girls, you better have a ton of fuel to keep the fire burning until the objective is realized. It may take months or years. Nothing good comes easy. How committed are you?

A better way:

Build your tribe, plan your mission and pursue your cause relentlessly. When you’ve made some decent progress, add a hashtag.

 

Note regarding image: I believe First Lady Michelle Obama’s response to the kidnapping of the Chibok Girls in 2014 was a healthy and good response to this injustice.  However, it indicated something was being done at the top of the international power structure.  We all failed to follow through in fighting for their freedom.


Read previous post: Generational dysfunction how we can use stories
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Generational dysfunction how we can use stories

Generational dysfunction how we can use stories

Generational dysfunction begets generational dysfunction, until the cycle is broken.  This is not relatively true it is empirically true across cultures.
Politics and economics are downstream from culture. They are lagging indicators.

To affect culture, people use stories. Some of those stories are true and some are untrue. Stories and narratives tell us what to believe and why.  Finally, stories generate culture at the leading edge of culture.

We must tell true stories to combat lies.

Stories we tell will determine the future of our culture and whether or not the cycle of generational dysfunction continues.

Resource: Nate Wilson – Storytelling and ‘the Aroma of the Gospel’

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Father and son – A Voice in the Darkness

Last weekend, I took my 9 year old son (Nelson) for an overnight camping adventure at our ranch.

I had three objectives. First, to invest time into my son’s life. Second, teach him practical outdoor skills while feeding his sense of adventure. Third, each activity was designed to point him toward authentic manhood. All the while, pushing him outside his comfort zone surrounded by God’s amazing creation.

Upon arrival, I gave him a gift. It was a small field med-pack with a headlamp (red light), a striker, one chem-light (aka: glow-stick for all you ravers), a multi-tool, a small LED light to illuminate the inside the bag at night, a zip-lock with several cotton balls soaked in Vasaline petroleum jelly, a small first aid kit, a wrist compass and a two-way radio. I instructed him to keep the pack with him at all times.

Before sunset, our first lesson was to learn how to start a fire without conventional ignition, like matches or lighters. We gathered rocks, tinder and wood. Then I demonstrated how to ignite a tinder ball using a striker and a cotton ball covered in Vasaline.  Nelson practiced a few times before dinner.

Night came and temperatures fell. Stars filled the clear sky. Nighttime noises in the country surrounded us – crickets, frogs, locusts, owls and coyotes

We dawned our packs and made our way down to the pasture gate in the darkness. I instructed him to turn on his red-light head-lamp and close the pasture gate behind him. I prayed and read Bible passages about loyalty, leadership and humility over him. We turned on our two-way radios and tested our comms. Loud and clear.

“What are we going to do, dad?” he asked with a great deal of uncertainty.

As I put the compass on his wrist, I said, “Son, I am going to walk 250 yards down the path. You will stay here until I call on the radio. When I call, you will begin walking on a southwest heading, keeping on the path. Do not wonder off the path. As you know, there are cactus, snakes and trip hazards out here.” I continued, “Down the hill, there is a tree with a green chem-light hanging in it. I will meet you there.”

Coyotes were howling all around and the moon was not quite high enough to give much light. The red headlamp only emits enough light to illuminate the ground a few feet in front of you.

With his voice a little shaky, he uttered the words I expected, “Dad, I’m a little scared.”

I replied, “Son, there is nothing to be afraid of – this is just a new environment for you.”

I continued, “You have your radio and red light. You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you. Stay on the path, use your radio and your compass. I’ll meet you in a few minutes at the tree. I love you.” I shut off my headlamp and made my way into the darkness.

You will be able to hear my voice and talk to me on the radio. You won’t be able to see me. But, I will be able to see you.

When I arrived at the tree, I made the radio call to Nelson. I could see his red light up the hill begin to move toward my position. He radioed that he was still afraid. I encouraged him to keep walking down the hill. “I can see you. You are doing a great job son. Keep going!”

As he approached our meeting point under the tree, he couldn’t see me in the darkness. So, I called out to him without the radio. Nelson trotted over to me. He was so excited, I was too. Hive-fives and hugs around the board. I congratulated him and read Bible passages on purity, honesty and self-discipline to him.

After a drink of water and another radio check, I told him we had a second objective – further into the pasture. The terrain is rocky with a little creek running through it. There would be another tree with a chem-light hanging in it. I walked ahead into the dark to the meeting place and called him over the radio to begin walking. He could hear my voice but couldn’t see me. But, I could see him.

He arrived at the tree excited and confident. I instructed him to take off his pack, get out his striker and fuel. “Are we going to start a fire here?” he asked. I replied laughing, “YOU are going to start a fire!” We cleared a small space and he gathered tinder. With minimal guidance from me, he assembled a small bundle and put the petroleum jelly soaked cotton ball in the center. After several minutes of failed attempts, he produced a giant spark that landed in the center of the bundle. We had fire!  The boy had built his first fire.  I could see his self-confidence and satisfaction on his face.

As we hovered over the tiny flames, I read scripture about excellence, integrity and perseverance over him and I prayed. He was so excited. We put out the tiny fire, put on our packs and headed back to the pasture gate where we had begun.

This time Nelson would lead the way and I would follow. We talked and laughed as we walked in the darkness. Looking forward to building a camp fire and roasting some marshmallows. We would sleep beneath a blanked of stars.  Nelson had conquered fear, learned something about listening to the father’s voice in the darkness and learned perseverance through fear and adversity.

 

Further consideration…

Maybe you are in the darkness right now. The darkness can be a dreadful place. However, our heavenly father can see us and we can hear his voice in darkest night. You can call out to him. He will answer.

Special Note: The ideas for this activity with my son originated with a book called “Raising a Modern-Day Knight” by Robert Lewis and operations with Ironcenturion. Thanks guys for your creativity and leadership.


Read previous post: Remember when Jesus prayed for us? (a reflection)
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Remember when Jesus prayed for us? (a reflection)

Remember when Jesus prayed for us? (a reflection)

Jesus’ prayer for us …

“I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

(John 17:20)

Before our Savior marched to the cross, He prayed.  He cast the seeds of His Gospel into the eternal hearts of future generations – the Martin Luthers, the William Wilburforces, the Charles Spurgeons, the Jim Elliots, the Billy Grahams and so on. This includes you and me. One of the Savior’s seeds landed perfectly in the soils of your heart and mine.

“in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.”

(Psalm 139:16)

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

(Eph. 2:10)

The seeds of our salvation were cast on the bed of eternity as yet the foundations of the earth were laid. Try to imagine it with our finite minds as we plunge into the depths of God’s unending, all encompassing grace – it is incomprehensible.

 

Will you join me in preparing the soils of future generations with prayer?

Father, THIS EASTER, may seeds of the Gospel be cast into the eternal hearts of men and women here today and generations yet born. May the seeds sown THIS Easter reap a harvest of righteousness, prayer and revival in generations to come. We pray in one accord for our children’s children’s children and so on that they may believe that you sent Jesus Christ… for “those who will believe in Jesus through [our] word.

“The shower of answers to prayer will continue to your dying hour. Nor will it cease then. And when you pass out from beneath the shower, your dear ones will step into it. EVERY prayer and every sigh which you have uttered for them and their future welfare will, in God’s time, descend upon them as a gentle rain of answers to prayer.

I (we) reap, in truth, what others have sown.”

Ole Hallesby

Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

(John 15:16)

We pray for a mighty harvest in generations to come. May our present prayers shower down like sweet rain from heaven on generations yet born for the Father’s Glory. In Jesus’ name.

Blessings and Happy Easter!

Ps. 16:11

[This post is an excerpt from an email I sent to my fellow church staff members. I thought it may encourage my readers to experience Easter and Prayer in a deeper way. I hope it blesses you … and you children’s children for generations to come.]


Read previous post: Goal Setting – A Proven System
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Goal Setting – a proven system

Goal Setting – a proven system

I’m often asked how I go about setting goals.

So, I decided to share my goal setting system. You may not be a goal-setter.  On the other hand, you could be goal guru.  Wherever you find yourself, I hope you find value here.

First, I have not always been a goal-setter. I was aimless for many years until someone (Dave Ramsey) taught me how to set goals. More importantly, I was taught ‘why’ I needed to set goals.

Second, I am not claiming that my process is the only way to set goals. Nor is it completely original. I am drawing from great leaders from whom I’ve learned over the years.

Thirdly, I’m not going to get into the ‘why’ of goal setting here. This article is for the individual who knows ‘why’ goal setting is important but needs a fresh look or wants to go a little deeper. I ask the men I mentor and leaders I work with to set goals using this method (or a variation). If we are setting goals using similar methods – we are speaking the same language.

FYI – I set my annual personal goals in March (as not to get mired by the ‘New Years Resolutions’ of others.)

I. Goal Setting Basics

Your goals must:

  • Be SPECIFIC
  • Be MEASURABLE (achievable)
  • Be YOUR OWN (don’t let someone else set your personal goals)
  • Have a TIME LIMIT
  • Be in WRITING (keep where you can see them every day)

Example: “I want to complete the XYZ half-marathon (13.1 miles) on October 1, 2018.”

 

II. Undergird your goals (the ‘whats’)

For each goal ask the following questions (write down the answers)

1. What are the benefits of reaching this goal?
2. What are the obstacles?
3. What help is needed?
4. What is my plan of action?
5. What is my time-budget?

Using the example: “I want to complete the XYZ half-marathon (13.1 miles) on October 1, 2018.”

1. Benefits: I will be healthier, stronger and gain a sense of accomplishment
2. Obstacles: Procrastination and busy schedule (work and family)
3. Help needed: Accountability and encouragement – perhaps a training coach or partner
4. Plan of Action: Training plan – weekly running and conditioning schedule, diet changes, journal results
5. Time Budget: Weekly time set aside for training leading up to the half-marathon

III. Balance your personal goals

I recommend setting goals in 7 areas of life (Zig Ziglar’s ‘wheel’). This will keep you from becoming lopsided. Unbalanced goals will cause problems in other areas of life. Think of driving a car with a flat tire.

Set goals in these seven areas:

1. Personal (relational)
2. Spiritual
3. Family
4. Financial
5. Career
6. Intellectual
7. Physical

IV. Share your Goals

My biggest obstacle in reaching my goals is me. I must admit I need help (and I consider myself a self-starter). However, life gets busy and I know I’m a magician at creating busyness that pushes goals aside. Its a form of procrastination. Therefore, I share my goals with folks who will hold me accountable. I give them permission to press into me and ask me how I’m doing. They are my cheerleaders as well.  I need someone to speak into my life and tell me to get moving or be there if I need help. (Great book on this is ‘Power of the Other’ by Dr. Henry Cloud)

I can’t say it enough, share your goals!

V. Going deeper with goals

Personal Mission Statement: If you want to live a life that matters and makes a difference in the world, create a personal mission statement. It is your ‘why’. It tells the world who you are and what you are about. Here is my mission statement.

Prayer: As a Christ-follower, I am intentional about prayer. I need wisdom, vision and strength to set and achieve goals. In addition, I want my goals to be in line with God’s will and purpose for my life. Pray in each of the seven areas of your life and ask God to provide direction.

Bible Verses: It is vital to me to have a bible verse as the foundation of my goals. I usually have one for the entire year. This verse undergirds all of my goals and acts as a theme for the year. When times get tough, I can fall back on God’s Word for strength. This reminds me whose ultimately in charge.

Reflection and Reporting: At the end of the year, I reflect and report on my goals. I share this with the team and invite feedback.

VI. When you FAIL – and you will FAIL

Every week I try to experience three things:

1. Accomplish something difficult
2. Learn something new
3. FAIL at something

Failure is a good thing. I do not hit all of my goals every year. If I did, my goals are not challenging enough. We need failure. We learn more from failure than success. When I look back over goals I’ve failed to achieve, I learn where I failed and why. I learn and also see PROGRESS! We may have failed to reach our goals but we make progress.

 

Encouragement for you

In conclusion, below are some quotes I keep in mind when it comes to goals:

“If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time.” – Zig Ziglar

On being SPECIFIC: “Aim small, miss small” – Chris Kyle (US Navy SEAL Sniper)

Where there is no prophetic vision the people cast off restraint (or perish)…” – Proverbs 29:18

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.” – Proverbs 3:5-6

I hope this is helpful.

Now, get after it!


Read previous post: Three Strikes and you’re NOT out – a comeback from failure
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