Montana part 3

Part 1 is HERE

Part 2 is HERE

Why does it hurt & what am I really afraid of? Those are the questions I would ask myself the following day, just moments before I get in a drift boat to float and fish down the Big Horn River. I woke up, not by an alarm, just simply woke up. There I am wondering what today will bring. I remember thinking, I feel rested. Could it be? Maybe I can go home now and do all the things I thought I should’ve stayed behind to do? Nah, I wasn’t rested but I wasn’t sleepy either. I had gotten some great sleep. Little did I know that this desired rest was only a few minutes away from penetrating my heart, mind, and soul. After grabbing a cup of morning anointing juice, also known as black coffee, I found my way to a lawn chair overlooking the plains of Montana with the Big Horn river nestled in the center of my picturesque view. I opened my Bible, then I closed it and repeated that about a dozen times before that voice appeared again. The voice Is the one I mentioned in Montana part 1. This time it said “be still”. I tried but couldn’t. I took a deep breath and held it in and slowly released it. A few repetitions and my body became still. There I was, overlooking the absolute beauty of Gods creation. No email, no kids, no Facebook, no church tasks, no friends, no worries, no place to be, nothing was there except me and God. Others may say they were there, but in this parameter of time and space, it was just me and God in the most beautiful place I’d ever been. Of course I’ve traveled the world and seen some beauty’s but this one was different. It was special.

After almost an hour of just sitting, listening, and reflecting and probably from time to time, even questioning, I managed to open my bible. There I was in the Book of Ephesians. In total AWE, my eyes had been leaking some. These tears were unrelated to the hurt and fear. These were what my children call “happy” tears. The space I was currently occupying was a heavenly space. It was indescribable. It was peaceful. It was as almost as good as if Chick-fil-A had announced they’d be opening on Sunday’s😂. In this moment, I read these words

“Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.”

Ephesians 1:4 NLT

Before this beauty was created, the creator LOVED ME. WOW!!! I can’t wait to preach that, I thought, and all of the sudden, that voice appeared almost shouting, “don’t preach it, process it”. God was saying those word are for you to receive not for you to recite. The tears gained mass and momentum. Freedom was overtaking my body, mind, and soul, Freedom isn’t always comfortable & it wasn’t at this moment either. I was LOVED by the creator and while I’ve spent much of my life getting that message to everyone in my reach, the creator stopped time to make sure I remembered HE LOVED ME as much as He loves those I deliver the message to. The creator loves me and sees me without fault!!! I soaked in that moment like a roast would soak in a crock pot at mamas house on a Sunday morning before Church.

This isn’t something I hadn’t known, it’s something I had forgotten. Forgotten may be a little strong of a word, perhaps I hadn’t forgotten but I had failed to remember and reflect on this love for me. My parents had told me this. My brother had told me this, in fact I think his voicemail today still says “Jesus loves you so much that He gave His life for you”! The pastors in my life had told me this. I had read this in His word before. Today, the reminder of His love for me would occupy a space in my mind, body, and souls that required the eviction of some incompatible thoughts. Literally, I grabbed my journal and began writing. It’s unnecessary for those words to be published as they were mostly for me and not for others. In that moment I discovered some principles I’ll happily share with you:

1- somethings God will take out of your heart

2- somethings God will point out in your heart and rely on you take out

3- the need for heart surgery is almost always unexpected

I had some breakfast and boarded the drift boat to fly fish for some trout in the amazing Big Horn river. After learning to cast a fly rod we were in the water with our fishing guide named Jacen. Every cast would be echoed with Jacens, even more country accent than mine, nice cast. He would say other things like “I like it”, “that’s nice”, “yea baby, and when I’d get it tangled he’d whisper “bring it here and I’ll fix it”, “you got this”. The day on the river was amazing even if I’d only been out there for 20 minutes. That day didn’t result in me catching any fish but I did hook up with a “tank of a brown trout” based on Jacen’s description. It resulted in me fishing, laughing, relaxing & finding rest like I never knew existed. Half way into our day we stopped for some beers and brats on the river (see picture above). After lunch we were back in the drift boats, drifting, fishing and occasionally stopping for some wade fishing.

Fishing ended and we made it back to the lodge where I put my running gear on and went for a jog. After my jog, I showered and laid on my bed just reflecting. Trying to wrap my mind around what had happened and what was happening. A few moments later my friend calls my name followed my “it’s time for dinner”. Dinner time meant sacred time and space around the table. At the table this time I was different, but so was everyone else. What happened that night could possibly be revealed in the next part of my Montana blog….

Until then take a few moments and review these questions:

What would a deep breath for you look like?

Would you slow down and let God take somethings out and point some things out in your heart? Where do you need rest?

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

Matthew 11:28 NLT

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Montana part 2

Montana pt 2

If you didn’t read part 1, you can HERE

“Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.”

1 Peter 5:7 NLT

Before I left for the trip I asked each of my kids to pray for me. I asked them to pray for daddy to get the rest he needs. I’m told, while I was gone, each of them prayed every night for “daddy to get the rest”. In fact, when I arrived home the first thing my daughter asked me was “daddy, did you find the rest”? Innocently, she was being more profound than she knew. Rest is something that can often only be found when we change places and paces. To find rest, we must slow down and the best rest is found in unfamiliar places. Problem is we confuse sleep with rest or rest with sleep but the two are quite different. Maybe some day later i’ll elaborate on rest versus sleep.

After arriving in Montana we had some small talk around this massive dinner table. The director asked, what do you think you need to get from this trip. I was sitting right beside him when he asked but then he pointed to the guy on his opposite side and said “why don’t you go first and we’ll go around the table”. I thought, that’s great, even though I already know my answer. My answer was “rest”, that’s what I need and that’s what I want. But a fish on a fly rod would be pretty freaking awesome. As the guys around the table shared what they needed from the trip, it dawned on me that rest was not what I needed. Rest would be totally available, but I wanted rest and I needed to be honest. Honesty was my simple answer. As quick as you can blink, my answer changed from rest to honesty. This meant I needed to address something in my heart that had caused pain for nearly a year and I needed to address something in my heart that had the potential to cause pain over the next several years.

Almost one year ago I lost a friend to suicide. This was a guy that I loved deeply and my family loved deeply. We had a handful of mutual friends. I assumed since I had pastored our friends well through his death that I had dealt with it too. Sitting at that table it dawned on me that my heart was still hurt and that I hadn’t fully dealt with his death. I thought there’s no way I’m saying out loud that I’m hurting from this or for that matter, from anything. I’m not doing it, I thought! The discussion was about half way around the table and it was inching it’s way toward me. I found myself asking this question, “what are you afraid of”? First of all, I’m afraid to be honest and even say I’m afraid. I was afraid to share that I was still hurting on the inside over my friends suicide. As I internally asked the question, I found myself answering what seemed to be a totally different question. My friends suicide caused hurt in my heart but im also afraid. This fear i’m carrying is around something totally different. Over the past 2 years, both of my parents have had heart attacks, my brother had health issue that caught us off guard. Over the past year I’ve noticed some other things in my dads health. These aren’t rare things, these are things that are pretty common in people as they mature (get old). This happens to many people but while sitting at this table, in this sacred space, I realized that this occurrence has created fear in me. I’m afraid of what the future looks like. Yes, I trust God and yes I know that God isn’t caught off guard by my families health. But, I’m still afraid.

About that time, it was my turn and the tension had grown into the size of a mountain. Do I really say out loud, I’m hurting and afraid? Can’t God hear me and know these things without me allowing others to hear me say them? Of course He can, but what I need is probably connected to what God wants? I need Honesty and God wants honesty. My turn came and I said “well, I’ve had the most time to debate what I would say, so here goes”, “I need to be honest”. That’s what I need. I need honesty, I could feel the room staring at me .Then I said I need to be honest with myself. I’m still hurting from the death of my friend and I’m afraid of what the future is going to look like with the declining health of my dad and mom, but for some reason my moms doesn’t scare me as much as my dads does. Probably because when I look in the mirror or at my toes, I see a younger version of my dad.

The moment the words left my mouth it was like I took a deep breath for the first time in a long time. I felt my heart beating at a peaceful rhythm and my lungs inhaling and exhaling at a pace so clear and in rhythm I could count it. My honesty was preparing my heart, mind, and soul for the rest I needed and wanted. I had a basic conversation with a new friend that night around the fire and while he didn’t say stupid crap like “I understand what you are going through”, he listened and often times would ask deep questions causing me to clarify my hurt and fear.

It was early the next morning that I realized just how tired I was. I didn’t feel guilty for being hurt, afraid or tired. It’s almost like my honesty around that table was my signature on the consent form for God to perform a 3 day open heart surgery on me. The next 3 days would be God taking my heart out and holding it, taking some stuff out, pointing some stuff out, and maybe even doing some bypasses to make it flow the way He designed it to flow.

This concludes part 2 of the trip and if things go as planned, the next parts will be penned and posted soon….what hurts are you carrying? what are you afraid of?

til then, find a friend and be honest & take a deep breath!

Montana part 1

“We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.”

Proverbs 16:9 NLT

I was invited to a retreat for pastors by a good friend! I was told that there would be fishing, gun shooting, laughing, refreshing and whole list of other promises. All of this would be happening in Montana on the Big Horn river. The date was set and it was more than 6 months away. As the trip got closer and closer my excitement built. By the time the trip was 2 weeks away, my excitement had shifted to something different. I began thinking I want to go but probably don’t need to go. I have many things to do at my house, with my family, in my ministry and on top of all of that, I travel enough. The more I looked at my calendar the more I began to draft a narrative that I would share with the friend that invited me. This narrative would result in my cancelation of the trip. Just before I made the call to cancel, something said “you need to go, don’t cancel”. Was it my own voice being directed by God, was it the audible voice of God or was it a thought that my mind translated into a voice? I’ll never know for sure, but I listened to it.

After I preached 2 messages on Sunday, I came home to lay down for a few mins to see if I could find some relief from a headache I had developed earlier that morning. I found some relief and mustered enough energy to pack my bag and head to the airport. I hugged my wife and got on an airplane with another friend that had accepted our mutual friends invitation to this retreat. First flight to Minneapolis was seamless. 2 seconds (literally) after I boarded the next flight the pilot came over the intercom to announce we were going to be doing a quick airplane swap. My first thought was, I knew I shouldn’t have come on this trip. We made the swap pretty quick and before I knew it, I was on the newly assigned aircraft and dosing off. I was awakened by the pilot announcing “we are striking out”. Apparently the new aircraft had an electronic board issue. 2nd thought, I should’ve stayed home. After a few minutes the pilot announced that this repair was easy and would only take a minute or two once the part arrived. The best news I’d heard was the part was few minutes away and we’d be on our way shortly. Some short 3 hours later after sitting on the plane with the power going off and on & the air conditioner turned off completely we were finally taking off. We arrived in Billings Montana at around 5 am my mind and body time. By this time I was too tired to decide if the trip was good or bad idea. Grabbed an Uber which was a Toyota Tundra and that was pretty awesome. Get to my hotel and fall fast asleep to be awakened a couple hours later by my wife who I never let know that I’d made it. This was my 3rd thought, I’d made the wrong decision to come on some retreat with some people I didn’t know in a place I knew nothing about.

After some travel by land, we arrived at the location. During the ride there, our host said to me and the others “be thinking about what you need from this trip & try not to think about what you want”. My first thought was I need an agenda. I need to know what we will be doing and when we will doing it. Where will I sleep. What will I eat. In other words “what the plan”. Later that evening the director of the retreat center gathers all of us for an amazing dinner. At this dinner he says only a few words but those words echoed of the words spoken earlier by the driver “what do you need? Not

What do you want”? Then he said, there’s no agenda. We will go when we go, start when we start, stop when we stop, and do whatever we want to do. For some of you that are planners, this won’t be easy, but perhaps it’s what you need. The only thing we will do everyday is eat dinner together at this table. The actual time is undetermined but the dinner table is sacred and we will all be here. Then he said we can fly fish the bighorn, ride a pontoon in the 77 mile lake, shoot AR-15s on the ranch, lay in bed all day, sit by the fire pit all day, binge watch Netflix or just about anything else you can think of. But right now I’d like each person to answer this question, “what do you think you need from the next few days”?

My brain immediately went from considering the amazing possibilities to thinking deeper about me than I had thought about me in a long time. I wasn’t sure how to answer so I just sat there thinking as did everyone else.

This concludes day one of my trip and for now I’d like you to consider a similar question “what do you need right now, not want but need”?

Stay tuned for part 2 of my Montana trip….

My Grandpa

I didn’t grow up near my grandparents. The closest distance I ever lived to them was about 3.5 hour drive. I discovered this picture of my grandpa earlier this week. Most of the grandchildren called him “pah” but all my life I’ve been against the grain so I called him grandpa. I ate my first bite of canned beanie weenies with him. Drank my first sip of whiskey with him. Said my first cuss word with him. I grew up anxious to visit his house or to have him visit my house. He stood over the hood of my truck many times instructing me step by step in the maintenance and repair of my truck. When I was 20 years old I called him and asked if I should marry this girl and I can hear his voice today as clear as I heard it that day “why, hell yea you should, you’ll never find another one as pretty as her”! A few minutes later I told him I thought I should join the military and he instructed me to go straight into the Air Force, he knew I was too tough for those other pansy branches. My grandpa loved me and I loved my grandpa. If you had a grandparent like this then you understand that to be in his house (where I knew the hiding spot for the candy, whiskey, and beanie weenies). I loved for him to be in my house where he would watch me play an Atari game, limp outside with his cane to watch me jump a ramp with my bicycle, and even let me slip a cuss word in every now and then (sorry mom). Every profound word that would leave his mouth would be proceeded with “like I say”! Like I say Jeff, you gotta watch out for the wild women. Like I say, a little sip of whiskey never hurt anyone. Like I say, the Air Force will treat ya right. Like I say, you need a little more speed on your bike to hit that ramp just right. Like I say, we need to go to bed cause we have a busy day tomorrow. Like I say, eat all your biscuits and gravy and try that mater, it’s good for ya!

I loved my grandpa. I loved being in his house and I loved having him in mine. I loved asking is advice & I loved him offering it even when I didn’t ask for it. I loved his laugh and his stern voice when he meant business. My grandpa wasn’t perfect, but he was a man I trusted, a man I wanted to model part of my life after, a man that would do anything for me. When I think of our relationship I think of my relationship with God. Not to remotely suggest my grandpa was God, in fact, my grandpa had many traits that contradicted those characteristics of God. I think of our relationship and the desires I had to be with him compared to the desires I have with God today. I’m anxious to be in Gods house (I’m talking about Church here). I love Church! It’s fun! It’s encouraging! It’s a place I love to be. I sincerely believe that even if I weren’t a pastor, I’d be there every Sunday! I’m anxious to have God in my house. I enjoy him standing over me and guiding me step by step. I love seeking his advice and receiving His advice even when I don’t ask for it. God isn’t someone I simply believe in, God is one I trust in. Many people saw my grandpa, even you have good reason to believe that He existed and what I’ve written of him to be true. But, to trust in my grandpa you would have to have known him and you would have had to made the choice to trust what he suggested. The same with God, many believe in him but few trust in him. If you would want to trust in Him today, it’s quite simple! Take whatever is in your hands and on your heart and put it in His hands. Sounds complex but it’s simple. Say these words, “God I believe in you and today I want to trust in you! I’m taking _________,out of my hands and placing it in yours! (you fill in the blank here). Get to His house (the Church). Tell him you trust him! Read his Word (the Bible)! Declare His Son, Jesus, the Lord of your life! Ask him what you should do! Listen to His answers and then do them! Don’t just know Him, Trust Him! See him like I saw my grandpa!!!

The Morning Thought

Today, right after I made this really clever comment to my wife, I started thinking about something.  The comment I made was a reply to her quickly solving a small problem that I presented to which I replied “thats why I married you girl, you so smart”.  I followed that statement with “Ok, your moves on the dance floor and the curves in your silhouette had something to do with it too, but you are really smart”.  A few moments later I was really thinking about my wife.  For some reason, I started thinking about something that very few people know about her.  Beth earned a 10 year pin for working 10 years for the Department of Defense.  Beth birthed our first child knowing that I would deploy with the Air Force for 4 months just 36 hours after his birth.  Beth sold popcorn in a mall, stocked Bath and Body works shelves, and sold Estee Lauder make up in California to ensure she and I didn’t lose the car we owned, jet ski we couldn’t afford and weren’t late on the credit card debt she had married into.  These accomplishments that I started thinking about this morning reminded me of the fact that she did all of this before she was 30 years old.  While that sounds impressive, even as I type it, its not the thought I had.  

When her crazy husband, that would be me, told her that he felt called to plant a Church she said “YES”, without asking one question.  I remember the 100 + questions I had rumbling around in my mind but she didn’t ask one single question.  I remember when I told her it meant leaving the financial security that we were currently living in.  She still didn’t have any questions, she just said “YES”.  I remember when I said we wont be able to continue living financially the way we had been because we had to save every penny we had in order to survive.  This time she said “YES, I KNOW and I’VE ALREADY STARTED SAVING”.  I must confess, all the “YES” stuff was blowing my mind but that’s still not the thought I’ve been reminded of this morning.  

We started our journey of praying, planning, and preparing to give our LIVES FULLY to the vision and mission of this new Church plant that would earn the name, Revolve Church.  We asked everyone we knew to give us money, move with us and pray for us.  We set financial fund raising goals and off we went planting a Church.  The thought that I can’t seem to shake this morning is related to what I found in the mail one afternoon.  I found a check in the mail for an amount that’s unnecessary to mention but I will tell you this, “It was the largest check we ever received toward our launch budget of $100,000”.  This check wasn’t made to me or to Revolve Church, so at first I was unsure what it was even for.  After discovering the check, I brought it inside to ask Beth to explain it.  She looked at me and said “that’s mine”.  I looked back without saying a word but my expression must have shouted “no crap, it’s addressed to you”.  She said, that check is the money I requested from my retirement account.  After a conversation with her, I learned that Beth had been putting money into a retirement account for 10 years and the Department of Defense had been matching her contribution.  That means that before her money experienced any growth from interest it was doubled automatically.  That day I thought, why has she cashed in her retirement? 

Now, the thought today is different from the thought that day.  She handed me that check and said “YES” once again.  She literally invested her life and life savings into planting Revolve Church.  I can’t shake that because after over 5 years we have seen hundreds of people make commitments to Jesus.  We have seen God do things that only God could have done.  We have made some really amazing friends and we have lost some really amazing friends.  We have laughed with people and laughed at people, cried with people and cried for people.  Revolve Church as experienced things that will never be told until Heaven and placed memories in our hearts that could’ve only come from Heaven.  The thought I cant shake is simple.  Beth said “YES” in ways nobody else ever has or will to the vision God gave me for Revolve Church.  I recognized Beth before, asked her to speak and lead in ways beyond her comfort, celebrated her privately and publicly but I’m not sure I ever uttered the simple words “THANK YOU”.  Today, I say “THANK YOU BETH”.  That is all!!!! 

Tough week

Here I am Thursday night writing about a totally unexpected week of events.  My week started off great. I spent the day Monday training multi ethnic church plantersIMG_3821.JPG.  I also got a chance to sneak over to the hospital and visit my friend Mark who’s battling cancer and my little buddy Ridge who was fighting off a fever and low counts.

IMG_3818.JPGTuesday was pretty effective too. I spent the morning with Ella then took her and Beth out for lunch to celebrate Valentine’s Day! After Lunch I managed to get some study time in before and after my dentist appointment to get my teeth cleaned. IMG_3882.PNGI picked my 4 year old, Jacob up a few minutes early so we could get a little one on one time in hiking the eno! After a brief hike I went home and loaded the whole family up and we drove over to the amphitheater at WestPoint on the Eno where we dreamed about our 50,000 Easter Egg drop (www.bullcityeggdrop.com) After a short dream, we dropped our 12 year old son, Reagan off at small group and headed over to Popeyes for dinner.  Before putting the kids to bed my mom stopped by to give her grand babies a valentine present.  Mom left, we put the kids to bed and Beth worked on school work while I worked on church work.  Got in bed just in time for opening remarks from Jimmy Fallon & I passed out during the first commercial break.
I was IMG_3826.JPGawakened early in the morning by a call from my father.  I could hear the concern in his voice before he ever said “your mother has had a heart attack”!  This is the unexpected.  This kind of thing doesn’t happen to my family.  My head spun, emotions raced while I got ready and drove to the hospital.  The next 36 hours were a blur.  Many have sent texts, fb messages and called & im grateful for everyone.

However, I’ve learned a valuable set of lessons thru this experience.

  1. You are not exempt from crisis; but you are also NOT exempt from Gods promises.
  2. Healthy relationships really do make a difference in times of crisis.
  3. Nobody is promised tomorrow, we must learn to savor today!

I’ve reworded Romans 8:28 to say “God turns whatever life throws at us into something great when we Love Him.”

I didn’t know what to do, so I did what I knew to do.  I prayed, visited with my mom, and I took care of myself.  So many times I see people neglect taking care of themselves in the face of crisis.  Think about it, how much help can you be if you fail to take care of yourself first?  The 2nd commandment from God which is equal to the 1st is “Love your neighbor, as YOURSELF! I went for a run late last night and again I went for a run late tonight.  Running is my place to connect with God.  Running isn’t only physical for me, it’s also spiritual.  Therefore, figuratively and literally I run to God when I run into unexpected situations.

3 Questions for you to consider:

  1. What is your place of connection with God?
  2. How do you take care of yourself?
  3. Who are you in healthy relationship with?

Thanks for reading and please check out my running initiative for 2017.  www.15kfor15k.info
 

Running with Brayden

Today was an interesting day.  Started my day cooking a birthday breakfast for my cousin Chris.  Then I delivered kids to their appropriate destinations (aka preschool and bus stops).  Finally, I arrived at the office to work on some upcoming message series stuff.  Worked until lunch where I enjoyed a meal with 2 Congolese Pastors dreaming about planting a Revolve Church in Congo, Africa someday.  Came back to the office to finalize a few things for Sunday before heading home.  Arrived at home where I decided to go for an outside jog since I missed my gym time this morning.  My 7 year old decided he would join me on this run.  We completed just over 2.5 miles together and I did a little Facebook live video that you can find HERE!  After the run we stopped in Starbucks for a little refreshment where Beth picked us up and took us on a ride to pick up the 2 youngest kids.  We got home, I took a shower and got ready to head to meet with a crew of people that help me create relevant delivery methods of the Sunday morning messages.  Spent about 2.5 hours talking about the last few messages in the “Little Johnny” series, planning the new “JESUS” series and planning parts of the city wide “BULL CITY EGG DROP”!! You can find some info at www.bullcityeggdrop.com Got back home and gave kids baths, said prayers, and wrote this short update.

Monday was a busy day but a fun day.  I did ministry, family time, and prepared for my 15,000 for 15,000.  I am looking for supporters so if you are interested please join my www.15kfor15k.info movement.  If you can contribute financially that would be awesome, if not, just agree to support me and my efforts to raise $15,000 bucks for PURPOSE!!!

Good night!