Archives For musings

When I was nine or ten years old, I built a fort out of tree limbs and debris. I leaned them up against the front of our house like some sort of natural shelter. I thought it was awesome. My dad, on the other hand, did not. It was an eye sore for the neighborhood, not something a home-owner wants to be known for.

He made me take it down, just as quick as it went up. In that moment he simple told me, “No, you can’t put this here.” But his “no” wasn’t forever. It also came with a promise.

HE ALSO TOLD ME, “YES, I WILL HELP YOU BUILD A REAL FORT.”

In my brain, that meant that day. But again, he said, “No, not now.” He was much too busy and I totally understand that. His office was at home and I was constantly trying to disrupt his workflow. He had tight deadlines and no guarantee of income. He had to work hard to keep the business and our family afloat. He continually, and gently, pushed me out of his office while he worked. Something I do now, everyday, with my own kids.

So his “no” was temporary. He would help me. But it would have to be on his time table.

Weeks went by, maybe even months and I continually asked him, “Can we build the fort today? Can we? Can we? Can we?” And eventually, after many attempts to get this project started, I almost gave up hope.

I needed someone to intercede on my behalf. Someone who also had the ear of my dad, someone who had a relationship with him that was all their own and could plead my case on my behalf.

I needed mom.

My mom marched into that office, after noticing my defeated plea, time and time again, she said, “You promised and you need to follow through.” And in that moment, the plan was birthed. My dad said, “Okay, this Saturday we’re going to start working on it.” I was thrilled. This was going to be fun.

Early that Saturday morning, we went to get the supplies: wood, nails, shingles, windows, hinges, siding, electrical boxes… this wasn’t what I was expecting. This was shaping up to be something far better!

We worked all day, several days, and by the end I had a majestic fort. It was beautiful. I don’t know the exact dimensions, but I think it was probably in the neighborhood of 100 sq ft, complete with electricity, bunkbeds and trap-door for entry. Basically a tiny house on stilts.

This was epic.

  • If he hadn’t squashed my little fort dream…
  • If he hadn’t promised me a new one…
  • If I hadn’t persisted in that promise, continually asking for fulfillment…
  • If my mom hadn’t interceded on my behalf…
  • And if he wasn’t a man of his word…

…I WOULD OF BEEN STUCK WITH THAT LITTLE JUNKY FORT.

But that little junky fort was the prelude to something amazing.

YOUR EARLY UNDERSTANDING OF GOD IS TYPICALLY SHAPED BY THE BEHAVIOR OF YOUR FATHER.

If you had an absent father, a missing father, or a work-a-holic father… you tend to view God in the same light. And the same things can be true of your mother, but for whatever reason, dads tend to have a bigger impact on your impression of God than moms.

I AM GRATEFUL THAT MY DAD SHOWED ME THAT A FATHER CAN BE TRUSTED.

But at some point,every father, no matter how great, fails. They are not perfect. They say the wrong thing. Their busyness or frustration bubbles up into words that cut like a knife and can’t be unsaid. So, as we mature, we must realize, whatever good our fathers showed us was from God and whatever deficit they created in our hearts was not because of God, but prideful-sinful-human nature.

God can be trusted, no matter what.

If you have a father-wound, as we all do to some degree, I want to challenge you to let that go, to forgive. If you have been struggling with the idea of a perfect-heavenly father because of your experience with your earthly father… choose to trust. He can be trusted.

HE MAY BE SAYING “NO” TO YOUR JUNKY-FORT-DREAMS NOW, BUT HE’S GOT SOMETHING FAR BETTER IN MIND.

  • Be patient.
  • Keep asking.
  • Don’t lose hope.
  • Get someone else to intercede in prayer for you.

And believe this promise:

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Romans 8:28 NIV

Growing up, I spent one week every summer in Yosemite National Park with my family. It was our tradition, a yearly vacation. From the moment we packed up and left Yosemite, I started counting down the days until we would be back. Hiking, rafting, bike riding, bouldering, swimming in Lower Yosemite Falls, s’mores, skipping rocks… it was just my idea of heaven on earth.

The last time we went to camp there, in the Housekeeping Campground, was after my senior year of high school, the summer of 2000. It’s been 18 years.

Back in 2012, my sister tried to revive the tradition, even creating a Facebook Group for all of the people who used to do this and we all tried to reserve housekeeping units. But nobody could get in.

But recently, I decided to try again. Not for whole week, just for one night. At the end of May I had our sons for two nights without the girls and I thought it was the perfect time to see if we could get up there for a night. And you know what… we did it! The three vlogs (video) below are from those couple of days.

What’s even better? I took the whole family back for two nights for Father’s Day! I’ve got a different vlog coming for that! So we are starting a new tradition. It probably won’t be a week, but we’re sharing some adventures with our kids in the wild! Looking forward to more.

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In December, my in-laws took us to Disneyland and California Adventure. It was the first time Eli had been and we had a blast and we spent an extra day at the parks after the rest of the family left. A couple of things to note:

  1. People don’t like to be on video, so I don’t take much video of people who aren’t me or my kids. Erica doesn’t like to be on video either, thought she values that I am preserving these memories in video-form.
  2. Erica felt horrible this whole trip, but she powered through like nobody I’ve ever seen do before. I mean, she was exhausted and in pain, the whole time, and when we got home she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with “walking pneumonia.” So… that’s just a side note.
  3. When Eli was dancing, there’s a good chunk of that in the video below, Erica said, “This is the best day of my life.” Even though she was in pain, she still found a great deal of joy in watching our kids create some life-long memories.

Enjoy the recap video…

There are many myths we live by that God never ordained. Honestly, I’m still discovering them. They’re just things that unknowingly become ingrained into us without us ever making an active decision to accept it as truth. Things we might have grown up thinking, by inference, not necessarily teaching. It’s what wasn’t said, sometimes, that impacts us more than what was.

One of those myths is what I call…

The Perfection Before Presence Myth

Here’s the basic idea.

  • I know I’m not perfect, I’m a sinner.
  • My sin separates me from God.
  • I want to follow Jesus, but…
  • In order to approach Him, or be in His presence, I need to turn my life around… be perfect.
  • Once I get my life straightened out, I will be able to truly follow Jesus and approach God.

You’re probably looking at that saying, “That’s so wrong” or “Yep, that’s me” and maybe you’re saying both at the same time, because there’s this tension we don’t know how to resolve.

Last night I went to the Fresno County Juvenile Hall with people from several different churches, including Two Cities Church, to put on a Christmas Party for the boys currently living there. The situations and life track many of these boys are on, are heart-breaking. Many of them have been in there 2 or 3 times and one young man I spoke with is in for the 9th time! Can you imagine that, 9 times?

While talking to one of them about their belief in God, he said, “I want to follow God, but I’ve gotta get my life together first.”

I said, “That’s a common misunderstanding. The fact of the matter is, none of us, volunteers, are here because we were able to get our lives together. We’re here because we gave our broken and messy lives to Jesus. And Jesus has been cleaning house.” 

He didn’t understand, as most of us don’t, God isn’t up there handing out judgement, he’s handing out mercy. The reason this young man was in there is because of robbery. I reminded him that God’s mercy has already been on him because all it takes is on citizen with a concealed weapon, all it takes is one person willing to shoot one bullet and he’d be dead.

You can’t get clean and then come to God, you’ve got to come to God to get clean. The walls of the church won’t cave in on you if you show up with your life in shambles. Don’t let the enemy of your soul convince you otherwise. Here’s the truth.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. John 3:16-17 NLT

So here’s the truth…

  • I know I’m not perfect, I’m a sinner.
  • My sin separates me from God.
  • I want to follow Jesus, so…
  • I approach Him to surrender my life to Him.
  • He loves me, accepts me and cleans me so that I can fulfill the true purpose He has for me.
  • I am an adopted, royal-child of God, co-heir to the throne and there’s nothing that can take that away.

What myths do you accidentally live by? Are those myths holding you back from truly living a life of freedom?

In the wake of so much tragedy, my best friend, Paul Haugen has released a song that he wrote a few months ago. It is meant to bring hope and inspire and I pray it does those things for you. Enjoy.

“I wrote this song a few months ago after the divisiveness on my Facebook feed had reached a high point. I had this sense in me that in spite of all of our differences and strongly held beliefs there was and is a connective tissue that holds us together; that there’s this thing inside of us that makes us so much better together than we could ever be apart. I believe that connective tissue is hope. I think we all want better. We all want change. We just are really bad at listening sometimes. I remembered a time in my life where I felt safe and I really want that for my kids. What really scared me was thinking about how long it had been since I felt that way and the thought that my kids might grow up in a world without that feeling of safety. I wanted to write this as my stake in the ground declaring that I believe we can be more; that we can be better. So this is me hoping that we find a way to love one another and maybe find a little bit of hope.” – Paul Haugen

 

At Two Cities Church, when we say our mission is to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ, what you’ve got to understand is that’s not an easy thing. There’s often pain involved.

It’s like learning to swim. This summer we welcomed a foster-son into our home. This little 3-year-old boy, in the month and a half he’s been with us, has learned to swim! He wore floaties a handful of times, but doesn’t want them anymore. He actually never really did want them. He would get into the water and immediately want them off. So I’d take them off and he’d shove off from the step. Well, what happened?

He sank.

Thankfully, he held his breath and I was right there with him. I can always see when his eyes go from, “I’m doing it!” and transition to “Uh oh!” And that’s when I’d bring him up and he gasped for air. But he learned quick!

My point is, before we grow, we often experience some sort of pain and we might even have a panic in our yes, but God is right there and he knows when we need to be pulled out and when to push us a little so that we can grow our capacity for holding our breath.

Whatever pain your experiencing, God is growing you in some way. He’s growing your…
  • capacity for empathy
  • trust
  • skills in managing something small, so you can handle something bigger
  • parenting patience (Am I right?)
  • and many other things

And the amazing thing is, one day what you’re struggling so hard with, if you face it again, you’ll fly through it with greater ease.

I mean, when you finally learned to swim, it was amazing… it’s like flying, through water. It’s gliding, it’s smooth and easy movement… you’re no longer frantic or flailing. You understand physics, buoyancy, and the mechanics of how to move through the water with minimal effort.

Think of it this way. God gives you more than you can currently handle, contrary to popular belief, so that you will lean on Him and he’ll grow you.

Here’s episode 6. It took me a couple of weeks to get around to posting it, but here it is. My #FiatFriday videos and other Go.Do videos will be slowing down in releases for the summer. It’s just because I’m doing stuff, ya know? And there’s something really big and exciting happening in our family… which you will hear about in due time. How’s that for suspension?

In this vlog I talk about:

In this episode, we go to the Fresno Chafee Zoo with 3 other families and we are completely outnumbered. Have you ever tried to herd 14 kids through a zoo? It’s a little crazy. Josiah’s favorite part was Sting-Ray Bay. It’s awesome because you can pet the sting-rays and some sharks too! We’ll be back next week, since we bought a family pass, to shoot a video for a school project. Enjoy and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more regular updates.

This year, Easter was a little crazier than usual. We put on our 3rd annual community-wide  FREE BBQ and Easter Egg Hunt at Dry Creek Park in Clovis, CA and people showed up in droves. The first year, it was basically for Two Cities Church. The second year we were able to invite a couple of hundred people to participate with us, but this year… this year was a different ball game. This year well over 800 people, maybe even 1000, came out to the hunt and it clarified for us that this event is for the community and not at all for our church. So next year, we’ll have that mindset as we enter into it.

Our kids walked away from that hunt with ZERO eggs, because it wasn’t about us. So we had a little hunt at a family gathering and then a third at our friend’s house. Here’s a short video highlighting all three from our Go.Do Youtube Vlog. Subscribe to the YouTube channel for more regular videos.