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This is a quote I’ve heard on more than one occasion from some of my favorite people, Jim and Carrie Tienken. Chances are, if you’ve lived in Fresno and attended any of the local churches for long enough, you’ve run into one or both of these fine people. We recently shot a video of them at a local coffee shop, just telling us a bit of their story. The questions were simple:

  • What do you love about our cities (Fresno and Clovis)?
  • What do you think we could improve upon in our cities?
  • Why are you a part of Two Cities Church?
  • What kinds of roles do you play at the church?
  • What’s one of your favorite wins we’ve experienced?

You know, simple stuff.

But in the middle of all of that Carrie calls herself a “Recovering Pharisee” and explains that when she first came to Two Cities, she was extremely judgmental. She is brave. She just said that on video for the whole world to see. Wow.

I think far more of us, Jesus people, Christians have more of that in us than we’d like to admit. But what I love about Jim and Carrie is that they’ve realized that’s not Jesus’ response to people, his response is gracious and so they are actively seeking ways to be more gracious and giving their judgements over to God.

I want to be like them when I grow up!

Maybe you’re asking, “What’s a Pharisee?” Well, a Pharisee was a certain class of people that lived contemporary with Jesus in Jerusalem and the surrounding communities. They were devout religious-Jews. They took the Hebrew Scriptures very seriously, literally and they held every part of those documents in high esteem. So high, in fact, that treating people with graciousness was hard to do. Consequently, they were notoriously harsh with people they felt were breaking the Law of Moses. They were judgmental.

Sometimes, we, Christians can be that way, even with the Old Covenantal Law of Moses, which, by the way, doesn’t apply to us because we are actually under the New Covenantal Law of Christ. That’s enough back story, here’s their video, enjoy.

 

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

Awareness is the enemy of contentment.

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In mid-July I spent a day with my family at Wild Water Adventure Park, or as you long-time Clovis people would say, Clovis Lakes. The park has changed a lot since I was a kid, but some things remain pretty much the same… like the big family tube ride, The Rapids.

This is the first time we’ve been, that my oldest, Josiah, was not only big enough to ride the big rides, but he actually wanted to try a few.

So I took him on The Rapids. First off, let me just say, carrying that gigantic raft up the hill by yourself is a tall order, but once I caught my breath and we got in the raft, I could see the excitement in Josiah’s eyes.

But have you ever done something that you thought looked really fun and then in the middle of it, you realized, it’s kind of terrifying too?

Well, that’s what happened for him. As we approached the drops, he realized he was going down backwards, and his face changed. His screams got louder and higher pitched. Now, of course, that made me laugh really hard because I knew he was going to be fine and that feeling when your stomach drops… that’s all part of the fun.

Do you ever feel like God is laughing when you think you need saving?

I don’t know if he ever does that, but if he does, maybe it’s because he knows exactly what’s ahead… and what’s ahead, past the fear, is absolute joy. And we can be sure that our best fatherhood or parenting moments are not even close to how great our Heavenly Father is. Just listen to what Jesus has to say about that:

“If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” – Matthew 7:11 NIV

Now, if there’s one thing the scriptures teach us about joy, it’s that the most joyful people go through some of the hardest things before they find that joy.

Sometimes you’ve got to go through it, to get to it.

So what happened with Josiah? Well, like you might expect… after the screams, came the laughter and he went again with mom. Now, mom on the other hand, she said, “Those drops are a lot bigger than I remember!” 😂

I hope today, if you face any fear, you’ll be able to face it head on, knowing your heavenly father is right there with you. If you can do that, you’ll find the peace and joy that surpasses any earthly understanding.

Watch Josiah’s fear turn to joy in our family vlog at Wild Water Adventure Park.

This post first appeared on the Two Cities Church blog.

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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About three weeks ago we took some of our students from Two Cities Church to the Fresno Grizzlies baseball game. It was “Christian Fellowship Night” and “My Job Depends in Ag Night.”

During the game I was taking a lot of video on my Go Pro Hero 6 Black. Some kids took notice and eventually came up to us and excitedly asked, “Are you guys YouTubers?”

Josiah thought it was the best thing that ever happened to him.

Here are some highlights…

Remember when you were a kid and you didn’t care what other people thought about you? Personally, I wore neon for a season. Now, if I cared about what others thought… do you think I would’ve worn neon? No way! And then I went into a camouflage stage. Pretty drastic. I went from, “Look at me!” to “You can’t see me!”

We recently went to Pismo Beach for our annual family getaway and what I’ve noticed is, the kids don’t care about the strangers who are judging us from afar.

You may be asking, “Why are peopling judging you?”

Well, simply put. We’re a mixed-race family and we tend to turn heads wherever we go from that, but on top of that… our kids have recently decided they need to communicate their needs with very loud voices. So, people look because of the noise and then they stare because of our mix.

They also stare because our kids are always doing some goofy dance… and I’m always taking video of that very dance.

But you know what… it’s okay. We love our family and we wouldn’t change a thing about it. Everyone gets judged for all kinds of reasons, but God calls us to love. So that’s what we try to do.

Here’s part one, of two, of our most recent trip to Pismo Beach and Avila Beach, CA.

I had two distinct parts of my childhood.

1. The third child.

2. The last child.

I have a brother and sister, who are roughly 8 and 5 years older than me, respectively.

My brother, Jason, left for college in the fall of ’91 and my sister, Cheronn did the same in the fall of ’94 and finally I did the same… to the same college, in the fall of ’00.

That means I lived at home with my brother for almost 9 years and with my sister for almost 13.

Then from 13-18, I was the last child.

My brother and sister greatly influenced me. They were heroes for me.

Jason was the video pro. He recorded, to VHS, every movie we rented. He would, without a computer, mind you, re-edit, or re-mix different music over his favorite action sequences. I vividly remember watching the Speeder Bike chase scene from Return of the Jedi remixed to the song Danger Zone by Kenny Loggins.

Sort of like this…only way before this guy did it.

I looked up to his sweet skills and still do.

Cheronn was the musical talent that I aspired to be. I took voice lessons with her when I was in elementary school from the accompanist of the Clovis West Choir program. I remember recitals and performances. She’s not the only musical person in the family, but she was the one I saw perform the most.

I attended her evening rehearsals for her Women’s Chorale so much that I learned the songs, in Latinor whatever languages they were singing in. I loved going to those.

I was a strange kid, I know.

Don’t get me wrong, I was, in their words… a turd to them, especially Cheronn. But I’ve always loved and respected them.

I still admire them.

My brother still works with video, he’s a high school video teacher, he teaches math too, and his students are going on to produce content and do things in that industry.

My sister surprised us all just a couple of years ago by starting a pursuit into nursing. She’s done lots of different things and it took a long time and the temporary loss of our mom to cancer, to help her find a passion she wants to pursue.

I am so proud of her for bravely pursuing something she feels called to do with her life.

She recently was “pinned” and finished her nursing program at Clark Community College in Vancouver, WA. With the help of our dad, I was able to go surprise her and support her by attending the ceremony.

Here’s a documentation of that journey.

I don’t know if you have siblings, but today, I hope you can remember and appreciate them.

Give them a call, text, or write a blog post honoring them. They deserve it. After all, you were probably a turd to them too. 👍🏼

I love you, Jason and Cheronn. Thanks for always supporting me.

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…

Back in November, our family took a trip up to the Northwest and visited family in Eugene OR, Dallas OR and Vancouver WA. Thanks to Uncle Mitch, whenever we go up to Eugene, we get to spend a little time playing around in the University of Oregon’s Player Development Area. It is attached to PK Park, their baseball field. Enjoy…