post

The Flower In My Yard

Flower in my yardWe moved into the house we live in now about 11 years ago. It was just me and Cheryl and Trinity back then, and we had plenty of room for all of our stuff – my books and tools, Cheryl’s piano, Trinity’s toys and baby bed.

I love doing yard work, and this yard was a challenge from day one. It was a combination of Bermuda and St. Augustine grass, with a few weeds thrown in for good measure. So I had a choice – do I used the yellow bag of weed and feed, and kill the St. Aug, or do I use the purple bag and kill the Bermuda? Purple bag it is –

For the first 3 years, it was an unholy struggle. I was out yanking weeds almost every day, all spring and summer. Yanking, pulling, digging, patching in new sod, watering, fertilizing, spraying. And in the 4th year, our yard was amazing! We had a four inch covering of thick beautiful grass, front and back, and I was so happy!

Except for one little thing – no matter how much I sprayed or pulled or dug, this one stupid little white flowery weed always came up in the yard, every year, always in the same spot. I used to tell Trinity to go pull it, and she did, then one year she thought it was pretty so we left it. I mowed around it once a week, and when it got hot in the summer it would go away.

11 years I’ve been hating that stupid white flowery weed.

And now we are selling our house. We’ve been cleaning and painting and patching and throwing stuff out and hauling other stuff to storage for weeks, maybe even months. And about a week ago, that stupid white flowery weed came up in the yard. I saw it and sat down and cried like a baby.

Our first daughter was barely 6 months old when we moved here. It’s really not much of a house, and we actually couldn’t afford it at first, but we made it work. This place has seen the best and the worst of each of us. 5 years in, and little Zoey showed up. It was a tough pregnancy on Cheryl. Right about the time she was supposed to deliver, I got a kidney stone and missed almost a month of work with it – long story – and at the same time, the church we had been planting shut down.

I’ve had 5 different jobs since we moved here, Cheryl’s had 4. We had to declare bankruptcy about four years ago – another long story –  and almost lost it all. It was so bad that winter, within about a 3 week period, our lights were shut off, our water was shut off and Cheryl’s car was repossessed. But we made it through.

We have been happy here, we have been depressed here, we have recovered here, we have been set free here. This is not just a house, it’s a home.

Don’t get me wrong – I want to move. It’s too small for the four of us. And I’ve never lived in one place this long. It’s an old, small house, and in spite of our past, our present is awesome, and our future, although unknown, is so bright we have to wear shades. We have faith in a great God who has brought us here, who is propelling us into a destiny that he set up for us before he even created a thing. He is steadfast even when we can’t be. He’s the rock, and often we are like the weeds.

So, in spite of the things that happened today (taxes, toilet overflow, missing work to stay home with a sick kid, spilling paint on the floor, and about a dozen other things), we are moving on. And we won’t look back. There’s no time for that, but I may look down every now and then – on the foundation that was built while we were in this place, and for that stupid white flowering weed…I cry every time I think about it. I will never forget it. Not as long as I live.

post

God Thinks I’m A Loser

 

I was standing in the front of the church, weeping. Sobbing. I had been through the whole church service – from the first song to the final prayer. A nice lady sitting in front of me went and got me a box of kleenex, which I used up. So in addition to being screwed up, I thought I also owed God a box of tissue.

The man I was standing with had a gold badge on. Don’t remember his name. He held up his hand, and a man with a silver badge came to stand with me. He said some things I don’t remember, but one thing I do remember, quite well. “How do you think God sees you?” And my answer was, “God thinks I’m a loser.”

I came to this point in my life after years of struggle. I was a pastor in a church, and the staff was fired. I had sent out resumes, had interviews, had some hope, too – at first. As the months and years went by, I lost all hope, gave up and didn’t even care anymore. Then we found ourselves standing in front of the church at Gateway.

The minute we walked into the building, my whole family sensed something, but we didn’t know what. Later we knew, but at first it was foreign, but a good feeling. When the service started, we just stood there listening – we knew a few of the songs, but the impact they were having in our hearts prevented us from saying a word – we were broken and alone and for the first time we actually understood that.

And when it was all over and the pastor invited people to the front for prayer, we were the first ones there. I think we even ran a little bit. We didn’t even see it at the time but for the first time ever we were actually running toward God.

For years as a pastor, I thought I knew everything. I always knew what to say and do – several times in my 15 years, I was called on to preach at very last minute (like right before the service started!) and I would take my bible and go up and the words would just flow out of me. That’s part of who I am – I just always know what to say.

In all of that, I looked good on the outside – like I had it all together – but on the inside I questioned everything – my calling, my salvation, if God was really real. What I discovered was, although I was saved, I never really knew Him at all.

That changed, quite dramatically I should add, that day standing down in the front of Gateway Church.

I found out that God created me as I am on purposed, for a reason, and that He loves me no matter what. That pastor went a step further – He said, “God is love and He loves you, but you know what? He LIKES you too!”

I never felt like God liked me. I thought my purpose was to be an example to others of what not to do with your life. Believe me, that was the enemy. I had listened to his lies for so long that they became who I was. I was living a lie.

It took almost 2 years to work past those lies. Some victories came immediately – healing started that first day at our new church home. Others were fought for and won the old fashioned way – with heavy artillery. AKA prayer, fasting, more prayer, counselling and prayer. And lots of praying.

Now, as opposed to thinking I know everything, the only thing I am truly aware of is this: I am God’s, He is mine. I can see who I am to Him, and I am wonderfully made, powerful because He resides in me – I am the temple! And I take His power and His image and His Kingdom with me everywhere I go. And wherever I go, I am called to do the same thing Jesus did – make disciples, bring peace and rest – and to take dominion. Not to dominate, but to let His Spirit so work through me in every place and every situation, that all those around know that His Kingdom is at hand.

“Come to me,” Jesus said, “And I will make your burdens light! When you can’t carry your load any longer, I will give you rest!” Can you believe that, for yourself, right now? Can you begin to see who you are, through God’s eyes? Take a minute and ask Him right now – “Who am I?” And listen for His answer – you might just be taking the first steps on an incredible journey to freedom!

post

Heart Disease

Just recently, this world lost a good man. His name was Robbie Yandle, and I had known him for almost 43 years. Longer than I have known anyone except for immediate family.

Robbie wasn’t my best friend, but I consider him my first friend. Yeah there’s a story attached, and I’m pretty old so my memory is fuzzy but some stuff stands out. I hope I tell it right.

I was born in Southern California to some pretty standard run of the mill hippies. I think of myself as an accident. Or I used to. Product of free love and all. By the time I was old enough to understand some things, I’d been back and forth between Oklahoma and California about a dozen times and lived with a variety of family members.

I was with my mother, living in Midwest City when I started kindergarten. Things seemed to be good at the time but one day nobody was there to pick me up from school. No biggie. I’d never walked home but I knew the way. When I got there, nobody was home except my not quite 2 year old sister. It was strange but I did my best. I knew how to make toast so that’s what we ate that night. And for the next four days.

The food I knew how to make was gone, Hannah was crying and sick, we were all alone. And out of the blue, my aunt and uncle showed up and rescued us both. We lived with them from that day on, and they eventually adopted us both.

Because of that experience though, something happened in my heart. It’s taken me most of my life to get past it.

When my aunt and uncle took us from that place, we went to a little town called Harrah, Oklahoma. They had a little house on a hill, a place we learned to call home. Regardless of all the places we moved to because of my dad’s job, Harrah was always my home. Still is. Here’s why –

Right after we were rescued, my (new) mom took me to church at Harrah First Baptist. I went into the kindergarten class. Mrs Grimes was the teacher. And I sat by a boy named Robbie Yandle. He was the first person I met, my first real friend ever. It was enormous for me. It started a lifelong process of healing a heart that was broken, sick, stomped to pieces.

I met others as time went on. I was in kindergarten, first and second grade in Harrah before we moved. And we moved a lot! After moving four times between second and sixth grade, we moved back to Harrah.

By then I was as closed off as a person could be. I didn’t know who I was, I didn’t know where I belonged. On top of that I was a skinny asthmatic who did poorly in social settings. I didn’t trust anyone and I held people in contempt because they always ended up hurting me somehow. So I looked for ways to make people stay away from me.

But some very good people took an interest anyway, and the healing began again. The thing about it is, I have never told these people just how important they were to me, or why.

Who I am today is partly due to those people having a role in healing my diseased heart – and just who am I?

I am a minister to the broken, a lover of those who have been hurt. There is not one single thing in my life that the enemy tried to use to destroy me that God has not redeemed. Not one single moment of time has been wasted – it is all His and now I share these things and who I am – saved, healed, set free, discipled, equipped, empowered and serving The Lord.

It took 40 years for me to get over what two people did to me in my first five years of life. But there were a lot of people involved in my being set free from that terrible past. And like I said, not a minute of it has been wasted. I want to thank some very specific people right now – because you should know just how important you are to me –

Robbie Yandle, Wes Brewer, Kevin Harkey – you guys were the first ones I got to know when I started school in Harrah. And even when we moved away, we still came back on the weekends. I’d see you in church or go to your house or birthday party or whatever. And when we moved back you were the first to welcome me home.

Tony Sossamon – do you remember setting all that land on fire right behind your house? When I broke my arm skateboarding but your dad wouldn’t give me a ride home? Prank calls, playing football in your back yard, baseball cards, OU games, rock fights and a bunch of others stuff – you are a true friend!

David Byers – wow what can I say about the coolest guy I’ve ever known? I tell my kids stories about you! You put up with a lot from me and I’m glad! Seriously – I thank God for you often! Plus you still have a great head of hair!

Marc Bell – I truly admire you. You have the best heart I’ve ever known. You are one of the most genuine people I have ever met. There’s nothing about you that is not awesome.

Curt Munger, Todd Caldwell, Jay Ramer – you three were like brothers to me. I love you all and would do anything for any of you any time. You said what needed to be said – you spoke encouraging words over me, you spoke the truth in love. You may have even beat the crap out of me for my own good a time or two.

The Gobin family, Middleton family, Deaton family – any time I was at your home, I was home. You took care of me, you treated me like I belonged right where I was – at your house eating your food, fishing in your pond, pealing out in your driveway, staying way too late, getting there way too early, and in at least one case blowing a hole in your floor with a 12 gauge shotgun. Steve told me it wasn’t loaded so not all my fault. I love each and every one of you!

Danny King – you’re my brother from another mother. Possibly the most important person in my life when I was a kid. I think about all the crap we got away with and wonder why we are not in prison. I just flat out love you man. And I’m proud of you – you’re a great dad, husband and a good man!

Jim Dillingham – you live like 5 miles from me and I never see you! What’s up with that? You’re as much my brother as any. You’re funny as crap and I love your stories and your funny voices. Do Theo for me!

Donovan Ward – high school friend, college roomie. You put up with stuff no person should have to put up with. I’m truly sorry. Your friendship meant the world to me!

Troy Caldwell and Randy Maxey – like two younger but not by much brothers. You guys had a friendship I envied. Two of the funnest people ever. I always knew I’d be laughing when you guys were around.

Deni Staples – one of the best people on the whole planet. To this day you encourage and challenge me. I love you and think you are awesome!

Donna Link – the first girl I ever loved for real. Well, who loved me back anyway. You just accepted me as I was and made me feel important.

Jimmie Parker – another great guy from high school who lives right down the road from me. I remember some trouble making, a lot of laughing, some foreign liquids introduced into the radiator of your car, sitting in opposite corners of the room in chem class and a bunch of other stuff. And that one ski trip where I got into some trouble. I blame the Methodist youth group to this day for most of what they say I did.

Mark Thompson, Branch Staton, David Staton, Clint Gray, Thomas Halsell, Brian Wideman – true Christian brothers who sharpened me and did their best to keep me on track. I was a mess in college. For the love of what all is holy I tried to stab a man with a fork in the cafeteria! I’m glad you were there to pull me off of him and for a million other things!

That’s all I can think of right now. Plus it’s gone on about two days too long. If I think of more I’ll add to later. I love you all so much! Plus don’t think if your name isn’t here you didn’t mean anything to me because you’d be wrong!

post

Pursue God

Francis Chan said the following, “We never grow closer to God when we just live life. It takes deliberate pursuit and attentiveness.” What are some things you do to pursue God? Click the picture above for a great article on practical things you can do to strengthen your relationship with God!

post

She Started In A Garage

garageHistory tells us that a lot of really great things were started in garages – and I guess so does the Cadillac commercial that gave me this idea.

Without garages, would we have Apple Computers, Amazon, the aerospace industry? Would we have fast, beautiful cars, awesome music or even movies like Frozen?

Yeah, we would still have all that. But would it have been as cool? No, I don’t think so.

What is the deal with garages? Why have garages been so instrumental for so many years in ushering in so much change?

I know why it’s like that at my house – there’s just no more room in the house itself. We had to move all of Cheryl’s recording equipment out into a room I built in the garage.

So, for us, just like for so many others, the garage, and the work that has gone on in the garage for so many years now, is about to usher in a new era for our family. For so long, Cheryl has been out there – on her piano, playing her guitar, recording, writing, re-recording, tweaking and modifying. And praying – praying that because of her gifting, that other people would be led into the presence of God.

Her time is now! There is no other way to say this, no other person to give credit to – it is all from God. He has blessed our family so much over the last year – so much! And because of what He has done for us, the changes in our lives, we are able to share so much with all of you. That’s what my writing is all about, and that’s what Cheryl’s music is all about. She just wants to share with the world how wonderful God is, how much He loves us, how much He has done for us all – she wants to lead you into a place of worship.

And on March 4th, you will be able to be a part of that – her first song, I Am Yours, will be released into the world – on iTunes, on Amazon, on Spotify, on Google Play, and several other websites.  Specific links will be shared soon, but for now, you can check out a preview by clicking this link to her YouTube video.

I know God has so much more in store for us! This is just the first step of many – and we are trusting Him, and walking the path that He has opened up for us. I would love it if you all would decide to take this journey with us – for Cheryl, it may have started in a garage, but for her, not even the sky’s the limit!

post

Terrified

terrifiedI have been scared a few times in my life. Once, when I was a teen, I had parked my car at a friend’s house and went out with some other friends who picked me up. Nobody was at the house, so several of us left our cars there. We got back late, I got in my car and was driving home, when a face appeared in the rear view mirror! It was my friend who’s house I parked the car at – but I didn’t know it! I pulled over and got out and ran like crazy!

This type of scared is normal – a shock to our system, where our heart pounds in our chest, and we instinctively run away.

Then there are situations that we avoid because we are scared of them. This is fear that has taken hold of us. Instead of us being in control, we give the control over to something that most likely will not happen, to an imagined idea or concept. This is not normal.

A good example for me is flying. I am scared to fly – I avoid flying. But you know what? I had to fly to Chicago last year, and to San Diego. I swallowed my fear, got on the plane, and believe it or not, we didn’t crash and I didn’t die.

I have another fear I’m dealing with though. This one goes way deeper – into the roots of who I am. You see, I love people, I love helping people, I love listening to people. I was a pastor for many years, and my gift of helping and the way I listen was a huge part of my success. But those gifts were turned back on me in a very bad way, and I my wife and I were both hurt badly in a church setting, by Christian people.

It took years to get past the pain, the anger, the bitterness. But we did, and we are involved in ministry in our church as volunteers and we love it – we use our gifts to help people every week. But I am still clinging to fear – fear that if I do what God is calling me to do, I will be hurt again, and I don’t want to go through that ever again!

This fear is unfounded, not based in reality, but still in my mind and heart it is such a real thing. It is actually terrifying to me to think that I might be a pastor again some day. I actively avoid that thinking and conversations where it comes up.

This is a stronghold in my life. Because of this stronghold, my ministry is limited in reach – I will never be the person God created and redeemed me to be with this fear in my life. And yet, it persists.

I know the steps, and I have led people through them myself, on overcoming a stronghold. This battle takes place in my mind, and is played out in my flesh, and affects my spiritual relationships. I know that the bible says I can be transformed by the renewing of my mind, and so much transformation has already taken place – but this one thing persists. Our weapons to fight these attacks are spiritual in nature – prayer, fasting, worship, reading God’s word, listening to his voice instead of the voice of the enemy. And I do these things. But still this fear has hold of me.

What it comes down to is, I have given up space to the enemy, and he has built a strong fortress. I may need to tear it down brick by brick, or God may just give me complete victory over that. Either way – I have given satan the right to be there. Until I take it back, he’ll be a part of everything I say or do or think or feel. And that is not right or normal for a son of God.

What kinds of fears or strongholds are you dealing with? What steps are you taking to recapture ground that the enemy has taken? Please talk to me about this! I would love to hear what you have to say!

aside

Sometimes we will boldly approach the throne of grace. Other times we’ll fall on our faces before him trembling with fear and awe. He’ll let us know when it’s time for each.

http://www.freefallingonline.com/83/

video

aside

quesoWe could be doing anything tonight – painting (we’re about to put our house on the market), going out to see a movie or to the mall (too cold!), just about anything else. But tonight, queso is calling my name. It’s just a whisper, faint on the breeze. It’s clear to me though – tonight, we must sit in our bed, watch the new Thor movie, and eat bowl after bowl of sweet queso.

What are some of your lazy Friday night traditions?

quote

“What Satan put into the heads of our remote ancestors was the idea that they could ‘be like gods’—could set up on their own as if they had created themselves—be their own masters—invent some sort of happiness for themselves outside God, apart from God. And out of that hopeless attempt has come nearly all that we call human history—money, poverty, ambition, war, prostitution, classes, empires, slavery—the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy. God cannot give us a happiness and peace apart from Himself, because it is not there. There is no such thing.”

– C.S. Lewis