I have had people through the years share with me how much my story has meant to them but this testimony I received recently really struck a nerve with me. Maybe because it hit so close to home in my mind and reminded me of the depth of despair I was in when I was at my deepest darkest point.
As I have said many times, stories like the one below are not just about selling more books but about sharing what God has done with my simple story and how he can use what YOU have gone through for His glory too!
Here is the testimony I received from a reader. I pray it encourages you AND helps you know and recognize that you are not alone in the fight.
“I just finished your book. I can’t say just how much it touched my heart and soul. As soon as the new church I want to go to opens back up I am going to go. I am going to call the pastor tomorrow and ask him when I can start going.
I have been sick with a disease since I was 10 years old. I have been lost many times on the journey of life and am recovering now from being lost and making the wrong choice when it came to trying to take my life. I was in so much pain that all I wanted was for the pain to stop. All I remember is waking up in the ambulance and being so mad that my plan didn’t work. That was about 8 months ago and now I can say I am glad that I didn’t lose my life that lost moment.
Thank you for sharing your story and making me feel like I am not so alone in this world.”
As I pray for this new friend, I pray for you as well. That you would sense God in the middle of your darkest night and that Jesus’ great love would intersect you in a miraculous way.
There is just as great a chance of something wonderful happening in your life tonight as there is something terrible. How about you expect a MIRACLE and not just more crap in life? You can do it. I am cheering you on!
I can remember three times when debilitating fear struck me when i was sick.
One was when I had been sick for a few months and Yolanda and I were sitting on the couch at our house waiting for the results of a CAT scan of my head/eye area. I remember laying on the couch and not saying anything to Yolanda and my mind wandering from cancer to anything that could be worse. The test came back negative and the doctor said that everything (minus my eye situation) looked normal.
I can also remember being sent to the hospital to get a test for Grand Wegeners disease as a possible solution to why my eye was flaring up. I remember laying in the hospital before being admitted to the ICU and singing, with tears in my eyes, an old Imperials song “He Didn’t Lift Us Up To Let Us Down”. I got my kidney biopsy with a three day stay in ICU to make sure I didn’t have internal bleeding and released with another “good” report that my immune system was not functioning correctly and the core issue of my eye flaring up. This didn’t help where I was mentally and struggling to get a foothold on my disease.
The third time was when I took a trip to Barnes Eye Institute in St. Louis Missouri to meet with one of the best retinal doctors in the country. Barnes is known as the “Mayo Clinic for eyes” and I had high hopes that they would be able to give clarity to why my eye was acting up and giving me issues. I remember sitting in the examination chair with my eye dilated (which I have and always will hate) and the doctor taking a look in my eye and saying, “It looks like your doctor in Colorado is doing all he can. I don’t have another solution to your issue.” It was like someone punched me in the stomach.
Each of these situations gave me greater insight into what despair looked like when someone faces an issue, especially when it comes to fear and health. The best way I could describe what I was feeling during my entire time of being sick was like I had claustrophobia but it was coming from inside me and not from outside forces. Meaning, there was nothing I felt like I could do or anywhere I could go to make it better. It was like I was drowning inside myself with water pouring down my throat and an anchor tied around my foot.
I learned that when i got sick I knew Jesus for everyone else besides myself. In essence, I had lost my first love with Christ and thought that I was in full control of my destiny as a youth pastor and able to just cruise through life because I was a good person and doing the work of the Lord. I believe that God had to interrupt my life so that I could recalibrate and learn how to trust him even in the darkest days or nights.
I share these things to illustrate what it was like to lose control, or what I THOUGHT I was in control of, in my life. You see, we live our lives with a false sense of controlling the things around us or even our own health. Of course, we can be wise and eat healthy, get sleep, etc. but the reality of life is that we cannot prevent all bad things from happening to us. I can almost remember to the day after being sick for so many years when i finally let go and said to God, “I recognize that I cannot control this situation and whatever you have for me is what I will receive.” After I prayed that prayer, things turned around for me. It was not that I was succumbing to defeat but deciding to live my life in SURRENDER.
It is funny to think about how I reacted when I got sick and how I grew up with important outdoor life skills. I do a lot of hiking and always have from when it was a kid. Growing up in Montana, we were always taught one simple and important fact about getting lost in the woods. It wasn’t to bring enough extra supplies or know how to make a shelter, how to sterilize water or even build a fire. It was to STAY CALM. If you lose your head in adverse situations then you already start at a disadvantage. I even had a time when I was hiking a 14er (a 14,000+ ft mountain, for those of you not from Colorado) and got off trail and started going the wrong way up the mountain. I was assessing our situation and making plans to stay overnight in the wilderness but was able to think logically through the situation and not get nervous. Also because of keeping my head, we were able to find the trail again and get back to the car with limited problems. So even with all my learning and understanding of keeping calm in adverse situations I still “lost my head” when i got sick because I felt out of control with limited information about my sickness and why I was dealing with a rotten eyeball.
It is similar in seeing people’s response to not having a lot of information about COVID19 so they spin out of control and (for example) buy up rolls and rolls of toilet paper! There was nothing any of us could have done to prevent where we are and the only thing we can do is STAY CALM, trust in God and take patient steps to get through this season of life. In fact, those who don’t have a relationship with Jesus will be watching how Christians react to this situation and if we are going to walk in the same worry and fear that others do or are we going to show where our hope is; in CHRIST alone. I know that the peace I feel now in this situation is from spending so many years in fear when I was sick with my eye condition and see the results; loss of sleep, tearing down of my trust in God and pulling everyone around me into my black hole of defeat. Christians need to now PROVE all the worship songs we have sung for years in church and take a stand against the enemy and his lies and schemes.
Praying for you all and that the PEACE and love of God surrounds you like a flood and that you will NOT listen to the lies of the devil who wants to try and flex his power when the ONLY power he has is what we allow him to have in our lives. That you will take this time now to develop your relationship to Jesus or maybe start on the journey of making Him the Lord of your life. Once you experience HIS peace there is no virus, no disease no earth-shattering event that can keep you from mental and emotional well being that people have searched for and never found without Christ.
I want you to consider four “E’s” this weekend that could change your life.
Equip Think about what you need to activate in your life to be successful to not only yourself but to the people you come in contact with for the rest of this year. Do you need to ask God for patience or for wisdom in a specific area of your life? Let this be a weekend of taking inventory in your life and areas you need to be equipped.
Engage There are people you have in your life that you need you to engage. I mention in the Holy Crap book about the power of reaching out to others when you are in your own crap of life. Don’t wait until you have everything figured out in life to engage others and see how you can help them. Even a phone call that says you are thinking about or maybe even praying for them can speak volumes.
Encourage Let God encourage you where you are in life. Our natural human nature is to see the things that we still need to work on and then try and strive to get to those places. There is nothing wrong with working on yourself and trying to become a better person in all areas of life, but it we don’t have a little encouragement along the way, that path is much harder to navigate. Take some time today and let God speak to your heart and encourage you right where you are and to help you see how far you have come in life instead of how far you have to go.
Empower Empowerment is such an amazing word. It literally means to give power to (someone) OR to give official authority or legal power to (someone). When you ask Jesus to be the leader of your life, you then have authority given to you by God over the devil and his schemes for your life. You are empowered by Him to pray prayers that you could never pray in your own power and to take authority in all areas of life.
This awesome power if available to you if you would only reach out and ask for it!
I am believing that these four E’s can help you live the full and complete life that you were always intended to live. Have a great weekend and know that I am ALWAYS praying for each of you!
I was typing an address into my car’s GPS the other day and thought, “Wow. We have come such a long way with navigation in this world.”
I can remember when I used to have to just know where to go and my own crappy directions. We also used to go to AAA to get a “TripTik” for longer vacations. It was basically a map that was spiral bound at the top and about 4 inches wide and 8.5 inches long with your route cut into 25 miles increments. The AAA agent would have to use a stamper to let you know where construction or obstructions were going to be on a trip. There was no guarantee that you would not get lost using the map because it was still up to you to find the turns.
I have voice-activated navigation in my car that has real time traffic as well as a Garmin in Yolanda’s car that you can wake up by saying its name and tell it where you want to go. It just boggles my mind how technology has advanced when trying to get around.
Then I thought about the life we live in general. What are we allowing to give us direction in life? Is it trusting ourselves and our knowledge of what we have experienced to help us navigate life, like when I first started driving? Is it just based on other people we know and their experiences as in the case of going to AAA to get a TripTik? Or is it looking to God with a global network of satellite “life” images and accurate positioning to trust in our journeys? I know now that if I were to not have GPS in my vehicles that it would be much more difficult to get to where I wanted to go and I would most likely get lost.
When we give God control of our lives we basically say, “God, I know you have mapped out every place that I would need or ever want to go and I trust in following your directions in everything I do.” The key as well with GPS is that you still need to make the turns!! You don’t put in the location you want to go and then just sit in your car. You need to still drive and follow the directions.
Think today about giving navigational control of your life to God by reading the Bible and seeking God in prayer. If you don’t know how to do that, then click the “Connect” button above and send me an email. I will be more than happy to help you calibrate and start using the “God GPS” in your life!
Have a great day!
“It is interesting for me to look back on the “eyeball years” because I really feel God was working on my empathy for people more than He was working on my belief in Him while I was going through the worst of my eye situation. I want to state it again because I think this concept is so important for a person following Christ: God was working on my empathy for people more than He was working on my belief in Him. Now, to a “career Christian,” this can sound terrible. But I know that if I tell people I love Jesus more than anything in my life, but I can’t have empathy for people, give to the needy, help the poor, take care of widows and orphans, or just simply love people who are making bad decisions in life–as I do sometimes–then my relationship with Jesus is a lie.”
Many times we focus so hard on trying to believe things for our own lives rather than letting Jesus teach us empathy for others while going through crap in life. The empathy we have for others is what changes our relationship with Jesus. We go from just being concerned about ourselves and what WE can get and what WE need, to an outward focus that wants to serve others. It is the perfect and selfless example that Jesus gave us while on this earth. When we are focused on giving to others, Jesus not only meets our needs but meets them with perfect timing to receive it for maximum impact.
Today, think about how you can get involved in someone else’s life in a practical way, especially if you are going through some kind of crap of your own. When we help take care of God’s children, WE are taken care of. It’s the Kingdom way; give yourself away to find your own needs met.
As always, praying for you all to have daily revelations from God and a heart that is pliable to His ways.
Today is the 4th of July and a time that American’s celebrate coming together and deciding to start a new life for themselves from the rule of British government. But today can also be YOUR independence day from fear and things that hold you back from being mentally and emotionally free.
When people are in pain, one of the WORST things that happens is worry. Worry is a very interesting animal in that it can cause a person to stop moving forward in life while causing a fear of the future. I know that with my eye situation I have at times been paralyzed by the fear that comes from the unknown. Today is the day to possibly give God an opportunity to help keep your focus away from the worries of life and on the potential of the GOOD that is around the corner.
I want my life to help people see a different definition of being a follower of Jesus. He has brought a level of freedom to me that I want to share with people and offer it to them. If people don’t feel like a relationship with Jesus is something they want right now that’s ok. Everyone is different and God has a special plan of freedom just for you but you need to be willing and ready to accept it. Don’t let people try and coerce or force your into something you don’t want for yourself. The most powerful changes in life come from discovering the need for change on your own and then deciding to make a change.
The people who created America 240 years ago were only willing to make a change when they saw the need for it. The same is true with each of us and a relationship with Jesus.
Praying for you to see the need for God in your life. He has never let me down and you can have that same assurance in this life that God is in control.
Have a great 4th of July and don’t get meat sweats from all those hamburgers and hotdogs!
I took this picture while up hiking a couple of weeks ago and thought it was pretty cool. It’s a small tree growing from a rock formation that we stopped by while in the mountains. I was thinking today about this coming year and all the challenges that are ahead. This small tree is flourishing in an environment that would not be considered ideal for growing strong and healthy. It is hard for me, even as a pastor, to always see the importance of making the most of every situation in life because our flesh wants to always be focused on being in control and that includes our surroundings. When this little seed landed between the crack in the rock it found soil, or something sustainable for its life, and began to grow. Maybe that small seed is you at the start of this 2013. You don’t feel like you are in “proper” soil to grow and be the person you want to be. Maybe you need to just look around at what can sustain you and let God bring the growth. As I mentioned in my New Years Day thoughts about giving God control of your life this year in the face of the unknown, really think about what you are doing to give yourself a fighting chance at happiness this year. When i was sick, I was tempted (and actually did for a while) walk the path of anger at God for the things I thought He was needlessly allowing in my life. But in reality, I see what he was doing in the difficulty to help me understand the importance of giving complete trust in all parts of my life to Him. Let 2013 be a year of growth for you but not because of the perfect soil and growing conditions that the world and its marketing will tell you exists. Life is about ups and downs but the one thing that can stay consistent is a relationship with Jesus. let growth come out of the hard or stony times of your life by trusting that God can bring the increase in any and all circumstances and situations.
I have had two people I know who were followers of Christ in the past few weeks go home to heaven. I was considering their lives and the immense testimonies they each were to the people around them in the face of imminent death. I was thinking about how everyone, at some point in their life, will go through pain. It really isn’t a question of “if” as much as it is a question of “when” because we live in a world where things don’t seem fair at times. When I went through my eye challenges a couple of years ago I thought that because I went through the “pains of life” that I brought glory to God just for going through them but I don’t think that is true now that I look back. I can remember sitting at home when I was out of work and instead of asking God for strength and to use my situation for HIS good I was wondering what it would be like to go blind and considering all the life adjustments I was going to have to make. (I would actually take showers with my eyes closed to see if I could function without being able to see. That’s how far I had come from faith in God taking care of me. Not good) I had a perfect opportunity to give God glory and instead I complained about the condition of my flesh.
Think about it; if everyone goes through hard times and you are just another person who made it through, how is that a reflection of God’s glory in your life? Maybe you just got lucky and barely survived like everyone else. The only thing that would set you apart is that your attitude lined up with God’s word and example of focusing on His greatness and not your life’s goofiness. There were definitely times where I was giving the example of a selfish person who was only thinking of myself and how the pain I was dealing with was affecting me and not thinking of my wife, my parents, my sister and the other people around me who love me and didn’t want to see me sick.
Appreciating pain leads to being thankful for pain. In other words; if I can appreciate, or value, what God is allowing to happen to me I may not be pleased about it but I can learn to be thankful for it. The degree that I appreciate pain is the degree that God can use pain for my good and not for destruction. The key comes from developing that trust relationship with God so that when pain comes I don’t see it as punishment but an opportunity to let Him shine through me and through the circumstances of life. Pain in life where we don’t see the healing we are expecting are perfect situations for people to watch our lives and see how we deal with pain and be encouraged by it.
So here is the reason for the blog post today: if you are going through pain now in life congratulations! You have the perfect opportunity to give God glory that you could never give him if everything was going well. If you are not going through something in life right now, you have the chance to develop your relationship and trust in Christ to a point that when your day of testing comes you will have a chance to lead others to Christ by a Godly attitude in middle of your storm. This stuff is never easy, but that’s why, as a man of God, I want to learn how to deal with pain so that even in the bad times I can give God glory in my life.
Tonight, I had a visit from my neighbor. This may not seem like a big deal, but there are circumstances around this situation that are really encouraging to me and I thought I would share with you all. When I was REALLY sick with my eye situation, God had convicted me of not sharing my faith enough with the people that live in our townhome complex. One guy in particular, was a person who had always been on my heart since we had moved to this area of town about six years ago but for one reason or another I had always found excuses not to talk to him about Jesus. Being a pastor, I always said I was too busy putting together services for other people so THEY could go out and share their faith with the world. Then my world was turned upside down by having Scleritis and almost losing my eye in the process. If you have never been really sick to the point of a changed lifestyle, one thing to know is that your priorities in life change. I went from “looking good” as a pastor to actually doing my job on this earth which is sharing my faith with others. I can remember the night about five years ago when I decided that I was not going to go blind or die and not have shared my faith with this neighbor who had been on my heart for so many years. I walked over and knocked on the door and he let me into the doorway of his house. I told him, “I have lived here for two years and have never told you about the most important thing in my life which is my relationship with Jesus.” I was then waiting for him to break down and start crying and give his life over to God right then and there. Needless to say, that didn’t happen. He went on to tell me how he had been involved with a denomination growing up and had been abused by the church staff when he was a kid and still had some pretty hard feelings for church in general. I told him, “well, you know I am pretty sick right now and I dont know what is going to happen to me, but I knew that I needed to tell him about my feelings for Jesus and that I knew I was supposed to talk to him that night. I walked back to my house and went on with my life and living out the next four most painful years of my life emotionally, physically, spiritually and financially. Whenever I had seen this neighbor around it was good because I knew I had done my part to tell him about God and the rest was up to him.
So fast forward to tonight and my visit from this neighbor. He proceeded to tell me that he was fully involved in a church now singing in the choir and that he had dealt with the issues that had hurt him so many years ago. He told me that he had made it right with God and was not mad at the church anymore. I really feel like my conversation with him about four years ago started something in him that progressed to the point of him coming to grips with the pain that he went through as a child and knowing that being mad at God was not the answer to the peace he was looking for in life. The other amazing thing was that his intention tonight was only to walk over and tell me this information about him going to church and that he had made it right with God. This was encouraging to me in that my eye situation was used to get me off my fat butt and go tell someone about my relationship with Jesus and for it to start something good in his life and change his eternal destination forever. I know that it was not just about me talking to my neighbor that changed him, but it was about God using me in the middle of my crap to change a guy who I will now see in heaven and who has made peace with a painful past. What are you doing today to change the world around you? Please don’t do what I did and wait for a rotten eyeball to do the things that God is asking you to do. If you dont have a relationship with him then please send me an email and we can talk. email@example.com
I can now say that this is the most fun I have had in my walk with God and helping to change people’s lives for the better. It really isn’t me sharing with people about what I think is wrong with their lives or what they believe, it is talking about the peace I have found in Christ and the purpose beyond my life that is changing the world I live in forever for the glory of God.