Apprehensively, making my way home…

73084667_6ba91708d7 I don't know who said it…but it is true, "there is no such thing as a sure thing."  Well, I can think of some things that are sure things…but that's another story.  My apprehension comes tonight because I'm making my way home to Eagle tomorrow…no guarantees my dad is going to get healthy enough to be released from the hospital soon…no assurances that he won't have to face the bullet he dodged, more extensive and intrusive and risky therapies that would and could help "snap" him out of the depression he is in…no sure thing that I won't be back within a week or so…truth is NO sure thing.  So, I'm a bit apprehensive…do I want to get home?  YES!  I'm missing my wife, my home, my friends, my community, the things I love to do with family and friends…I want to get home and back to the life that God has blessed me with…apprehensive in the fact that I prayed for a breakthrough before I left…we have somewhat of a breakthrough but now more of a plateaus that will have to be breached and conquered before any more significant progress is acknowledged and celebrated in my dad's life.  So…I"m making my way home…on the one hand, with joy in my heart…on the other, with apprehension in my soul because I still don't know where this is headed.  Hey, I'm peeking around the corner…it looks good with no "sure thing" in the wings.  Oh well…isn't that the definition of faith?  In so many aspects of life, that's all we have!  So, with faith I entrust my father to the Lord!  

New Discipleship and Kingdom Lifestyle Resource!

Missio is a new website designed by Matt Smay and Hugh Halter (Tangible Kingdom authors, Adullam community facilitators/leaders).  It is a great resource because it provides anyone who logs in (registers, etc.) to view videos for free and get some other resources that will encouraging on the journey all of us are on to glorify the Lord through our lives, lifestyles, and faith communities.  I have watched all the videos this morning…they are excellent.  They are brief (under 10 minutes long)…simple, encouraging, challenging, and of course, uncompromisingly faithful.  Click on the image above and head over to the site.  Like I mentioned, click on the "videos" link…you will need to create a profile to view the videos…remember, every step is worth it!  Watch the videos!  That's all I can say…simple enough!  I can also suggest that you read the Tangible Kingdom and get a hold of a TK Primer and start your own "incarnational community" experiment.  Praise God for these types of resources that are available to us as we seek to be faithful to the call of Jesus!

The first Ray of Hope…

2589259839_4415eb8b32There are times when I like the word HOPE as a noun…in other words, having HOPE as a certainty.  Hope is light at the end of a tunnel…HOPE is emergence out of a place of insecurity and threat and into a place of safety and confidence…hope is a feeling…it can be an expectation.  HOPE is a something that you can possess or grasp.  But hope can also be a verb:

hope – "to feel that something desired may happen."

In other words, hope is dynamic…it is alive in the heart, in our emotions, relationships, feelings and lives.  Truthfully, although most of us would LOVE to be able to have HOPE alive within us as a certainty (more noun-ish), the truth is that it is alive…it is something that is sometimes an experience we are celebrating…sometimes a reality that feels as illusive as chasing after the wind.  That's why I hope for hope…that's why hope is a gift…no one I know really (I mean, really) "owns" hope…hope is something that we choose to experience as a gift…it is held out to us and despite the realities around us, we look at that reality and sense or know or "hope" for something new or different or healthier or more powerful or something transformational to happen.

Well, a "ray of hope" flooded our lives today in our journey with my dad.  For the first time since he was admitted to the hospital over three weeks ago…for the first time since I've been here for just about a week – something that we have been praying and pleading with God for…as well as something that we have been challenging my dad to experience anew started to happen.  A "glimmer" of what may become…a hint of "spring"…a taste of a breakthrough.  It wasn't overly obvious but it was profound (like many gifts in relationships, sometimes you have to look beyond the obvious to see/experience the gift of love)…a smile, in fact, a laugh.  A comment, "yeah Rob, I ate half of my breakfast and lunch today".  I walked into the unit at the hospital and instead of having to roust my dad out of bed, he was sitting, waiting for me.  He had been to his "group" (relational therapy) meetings…even the staff said, "it was a better day for Ron."  So, a ray of hope…a fortaste of things hope for…a desire to experience the things not yet seen.  Isn't it any wonder why hope and prayer go hand in hand…we trust in a God who is hope but brings hope to our lives.  More to come…

The Journey of Severe Depression…the saga continues…

Crush_the_enemy It is day five of my time in Denver…we have been battling alongside of my dad who is attempting to get the best of a syndrome called, "acute medical-resistant depression."  I spent significant time at the hospital with him today…he has been in the hospital for over three weeks.  In his own words, "no, I don't feel any better"…"no, I am not hungry"…"no, I don't know if I am NOT trying to starve myself to death."  Those are the types of phrases that I am hearing when I hear words at all.  It is hard to have hope in the face of such desperation.  Many of you know that I have had my own battle with depression…a few dear, dear brothers have also done hand to hand combat with that demon as well.  In fact, a couple of them are still my heroes for all that I knew they stared down in their journey.  Hope is all our family has to rely on…that "conviction of things not seen."  I really can't see any way that dad is going to dig himself out of this…the doctors and staff say to him, "you just have to pull yourself up by your own desire to live"…ah, no.  That's not hope…that's just a faint trust in the frailty of the human spirit.  True hope, you know, is supernatural…it is able to transcend circumstances, situations, even biology to be able to say that:

1 – life is worth living

2 – there is a purpose for me to live for today and tomorrow

3 – I am someone who is loved and chosen for a mission in life that brings along with it a powerful light in the midst of the darkness and confusion of reality

There is something deep inside of me that feels like my father isn't going to be able to get better…I know that he is fearful of death but he has lost all enjoyment of even the simplest things in life.  With my own eyes, all I see is giving up, shriveling up, drying up…entering the tunnel of darkness and not emerging.  But I know that there is a power, a presence, a person, the Spirit, the God of love, life, light and hope in the room…surrounding his life…and, as that powerful section in the book of Revelation says, "He is knocking".  I always laugh at those Honda commercials ("I'm Mr. Opportunity, and I'm knocking")…because opportunity isn't what brings hope…Jesus alone does.  Only when you know, trust and find meaning in the source of life does life make sense.  So, despite what I sense in my head about the situation my dad is facing, I trust in a God who "ain't finished with His knocking yet."  I can't force my dad to open to door…but I can help him listen…I can say, "do you hear that"?    So, the saga continues…

Tomorrow will be a medication day…we're watching and waiting and joining many (if not all) of you in your prayer before the Lord…Wednesday is another medical consult and the final decision on whether the more drastic forms of intervention are merited.  But trust me friends, all therapeutic interventions aside, the will to live comes from within the heart…nothing can say "live" and "alive" like the Spirit of Jesus…that's what needs to invade my dad's life now…otherwise, he'll be responding to God's knock, as we would say, "face to face". 

More to come…my heart and my family's hearts are blessed by your interest, your prayers, your partnership in our pleadings before the Lord.  All my love and our love to you…

Sad and praise-worthy moment while in Denver…

FSLO-1216089153-111153 While in Denver helping out with my father's hospitalization, my curiosity got the best of me and I drove by a church building that once housed a congregation of which I was pastor from 1991-1994 – Valley Lutheran Church in Denver, Colorado.  Here's the quick story – the wheels of my life had come of in the late 80's.  That story could fill up blog posts for weeks to come…a story I won't tell in this context.  After a year of healing, prayer, counseling, and mentoring from friends, pastors, therapists and my then bishop and good friend, Wayne, I was called to lead a church that the denomination was considering closing – Valley in Denver.  I had an amazing and healing 4 years with that community of people – many of those brothers and sisters in the Lord, I credit with restoring much of my heart and spirit.  They accepted me…listened to me while I struggled…shared in many of the issues that were a natural fallout of what occurred in my life earlier as a Christ-follower and leader.  Fact is, Vicky and I were married at Valley in 1992…our kids were a part of that congregation for the years we were there.  While we were there, we were blessed and the congregation grew in spirit and numbers.  When we left in 1995 to accept a call to Good Shepherd in Irvine, California, we believed we were leaving a healthier church.  Well, this past year, the congregation "closed" with a celebration of ministry and a handing over of the property to the regional denomination.  Now, apparently, the church building is being utilized by a specialized ministry of the denomination with a specific strategy for neighborhood, ethnic ministry.  I hadn't been by the building in over 15 years…actually, since we had move in 1995…it was a moment, while a sat in my car in the parking lot, of memories, prayers of thanksgiving, and contemplation…many of those people (most of which were elderly even while I was there) have since passed away…I thought of my many friends and people who were instrumental in my life for over four  years.  Thank God for that ministry in my life…and I pray that there will be not defeat in the Kingdom because of their transition but that maybe with a new emphasis God can raise up a new beacon of life and light in that community through the people who still call Valley their faith community home…

New info on the “religious-ness” of the state YOU are living in!


US Religious Map

I had a feeling about this…there is something about living in the Northwest…traveling around and sensing the "religious" atmosphere of where you live.  Frankly, I was a bit surprised that Idaho is on the "same plane" as not only Washington and Oregon but also California.  Truthfully, I expected something a bit different.  But now that I consider the religious landscape that I see on a day to day basis as well as consider the conversations I have with churched people and especially non-church or even de-churched people, it does come as no surprise.  What does this mean to you?  Is this "good" news?  Relevant news?  Something that sparks some curiosity or issues in your heart?

The battle of depression…

Image_depressionI'm getting on a plane in a little bit to head over to Denver in order to hang out with my father.  He has been hospitalized for over two weeks with what the doctors are calling, "medical resistant depression syndrome".  That's the label but it by no means summarizes the battle…this is a life-long battle for my father.  He is in his 70's and caught up in a biological and emotional cycle that is severe and life-threatening.

Depression is not something to be messed with…it is diabolical and destructive.  It is, in many instances, the epitome of the "strongholds" that the Apostle Paul mentions in 2 Corinthians.  So, humbly I ask for prayer but I also join you in prayer for all those who deal with this battle.  All I can say is, "God, create in us a new heart and lift the clouds of darkness". 

Loving your enemies…from my friend, Henry!

My canadian children's ministry pal, Henry found this video – here's what he had to say about it as well as giving an encouragement on how to use it especially with kids (although adults need to think/pray through this just as much if not more):

"thought it was pretty cool and a powerful way to jump start a conversation with children on loving your enemies.

Any ideas on how you would use it?

Here’s one idea that takes a transformational approach rather than an educational approach which could be easily adapted to whatever age group you might be teaching:

Show the video to the kids without telling them what it is about or what topic you are talking about. After the video is done, have them tell you what it is about. Don’t correct or lead. Simply listen and allow children to give their input. Ask questions about how they felt about the video. Ask them what they thought about the person throwing stuff. Ask them what they thought about the person building the bridge. Ask them what they would have done if they were in the video. Have them imagine themselves in both roles. Read Luke 6:27-36 and/or Matthew 5:43-48 (HT:EC). Have the kids tell you what they think Jesus is saying in those verses and how those verses might relate to what they just saw. Finally, have the kids come up with ways they can follow Jesus in what he said in those verses. Have some sort of response time whether that be silence, prayer, an art project of some sort… be creative."

Innovation! Great video to watch and think about…

Thanks to friend, Rick for pointing this out – great video – in fact, watch it and ask yourself, "in the organization/church/fellowship/business" I'm in, are we welcoming innovation? 

Rick goes on to make some "editorial" remarks that are also worth taking a peek @:

Signs that you’ve got an innovation dysfunction:

  • People laugh at new ideas
  • Someone who identifies a problem is shunned

  • Innovation is the privileged practice of a special group 
  • The phrase, “you can’t do that because we’ve always done it this way” is used for every new idea
  • No one can remember the last time anyone did anything really cool
  • The organization is focused more on process than success
  • There are lots of baby boomers about, and few people younger than 25
  • After any type of pleasant surprise — product, market, industry or organizational change — everyone sits back and asks, “wow, where did that come from?”

According to Carroll, innovative groups act differently. In these organizations:

  • Ideas flow freely throughout the organization

  • Subversion is a virtue
  • Success and failure are championed
  • There are many, many leaders who encourage innovative thinking, rather than managers who run a bureaucracy
  • There are creative champions throughout the organization — people who thrive on thinking about how to do things differently
  • Ideas get approval and endorsement

Rather than stating “it can’t be done,” people ask, “how could we do this?”

So, if you are a leader in your faith community, takes some time to reflect on these points and ask yourself, “do I encourage innovative thinking or I’m I just a manager who runs a bureaucracy?”