Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Love You +20 Years

20 Years ago on October 12, 1990 I got up the courage to tell my girlfriend of 3 months... "I Love You" But I wasn't about to be any ordinary schmuck!

My friend Tim Harris and I drove around town taking pictures of me in front of street signs to "tell a story" This was not the easiest of tasks because of course this was WAY before Google Maps much less the internet and GPS. Anyway, we went down town and took a picture in front of an "I Street" sign. I was wearing various items that represented who I was. I had a racket in one hand, shorts, a snowboard boot on one foot and a bible in my other hand. The next picture was in front of the street "Love Ln" In this photo I was wearing a black suit and tie and was looking at a white rose. "U" street was next and then of course "Rebecca Way"

Becky was at the Master's College that semester so I sent her a care package that included a little stuffed animal I called Melchizidek. There was a tape I made with the song "I L-O-V-E YOU by Take 6" as the main track. My intent was for her to simply thumb leisurely through the pictures while subliminally listening to the music in the background as were my instructions along with the care package. She is way too impatient and jumped to the last picture!

I didn't actually write the words in the letter much less speak them until I saw her that weekend of Oct 12. I invited her to assist me while I was teaching a seminar at the CLASS (Church Leadership and Sunday School) convention held at Capital Christian Center. I was the College Intern at Arcade at the time and my seminar was on how to lead a college Bible Study.

Funny Twist - Another gal by he name of Rebecca was in attendance at the convention and she approached me while Becky was at my side and said "Hey Jon! How are you?! It's good to see you! We need to get together so I could cook you dinner again!!" um... AWKWARD! LOL

Anyway, that night Becky and I had dinner with her parents in Citrus Heights and I finally got the courage up to tell her... "I Love You" and it's only been truer ever since!


Saturday, September 25, 2010

Oh Mom!

It didn't matter how many times I had heard the story before, I always wanted you to tell it one more time! You were driving the family home from a day of water skiing on the lake. Everyone was a sleep in the car except for Kuya Josh and he must have been just a few years old at the time. He was eagerly sitting in the front seat just watching the road as you captained the journey home. Slyly you reached your hand around the opposite side of his head (this was long before seat belt laws) and you with all the stealth of a ninja would ever so gently tickle his right ear. Quickly he would jerk his head around to find who the culprit was! He glared at each of his siblings because he knew, he just KNEW that ONE of them was pretending to be asleep! Their ruse was so complete that he/she might even be faking the snoring and drool! Mom you almost made it home as you turned down Orleans drive you couldn't contain yourself any longer and you burst out in laughter of course waking everyone up in the car, the jig was up!

Oh Mom! Kuya Josh must have exclaimed! At that point you probably parked the car and lovingly pinched his ears and bear hugged him just like I've seen each and every one of my siblings do to their own children. Oh how I wish I could have one of those bear hugs from you right now. Long pause... I love you so much...

Mom I try so hard to love my kids the way you loved us. You were always the perfect example of unconditional love. There are so many "Oh Mom!" memories racing through my head of all the times you played with us, met our physical needs, you prayed for us, you took care of us and spoke highly of us even when we weren't around. You prayed faithfully for each of us each day and each night that we would get to know the savior intimately... like you did/like you do. Oh Mom, I miss you so much.

Alas... You are gone. You left us 3 years ago and now you are in a place of perfect peace, where there is no more suffering and only tears of joy. Thanks for being the best mom in the world!

Your Loving Son,

Jonathan

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Blue?

I wonder if "Blue" is a fair description of how I've felt over the last couple of weeks. I wrestle internally with my system of beliefs and have found the struggle between my internal locus of control and my unconditional faith in a Sovereign God rages on. This is perhaps life's greatest dichotomies. I believe with my whole heart that God reigns supreme and rules with a tender and compassionate father's heart. I believe also with all of my cognitive being that I have been empowered to accomplish great things in this world, in this life we have been given to live. I believe that we indeed need to LIVE and not simply exist.

It amuses me still how just a few dollars in my pocket (or not) changes my disposition and my physical demeanor.

Powerless and yet so powerful! Who am I?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Brush with Billy Graham


OK so I never met the man. In fact the closest I ever came to him was at Arco Arena many years ago when he led a crusade in Sacramento. I never even saw him in person as I was outside in the parking lot watching the whole thing on a JumboTron.

I HAVE met Bob Mitchell though! Bob, former President of Young Life, came and spoke with our region at Woodleaf here in CA just the other day. He recounted the story that affected me profoundly.

Bob began his journey with Christ under Jim Rayburn at Young Life club 37. This is funny because even though it was called 37 it was actually the first Young Life club way back in the early 40's. Bob was 13 when Jim led him to Christ and of course Jim Rayburn's legacy is that of countless others led to Christ. He is certainly worth another whole discussion but for now I want to focus on Bob and Billy. You see when Billy asked Jim for help working with the kids that were coming to Christ through his ministry, Jim sent Bob. Bob is to this day one of the most prolific leaders Young Life has ever seen and will undoubtedly be greeted by stadium cheers when he gets to Glory.

When Bob was asked to become President of Young Life, he didn't want to jump into the position without seeking counsel so he called Dr. Graham. Of course it wasn't the easiest thing to do, to get a hold of Billy Graham, but because of their relationship in the past, Dr. Graham agreed to host a meeting in Toronto, Canada.

They met in Billy's hotel room and after some discussion Billy dropped to his knees. This is where it gets good. As Bob was retelling this story you could see the profound nature in which Bob was affected. Dr. Billy Graham on his knees at the feet of Jesus pouring out his heart for the kids that would be reached by the ministry of Young Life. What was clear to me was that Billy's emphasis during his prayer was not about Young Life but it was about the Love of Jesus. Bob said... "When this man prayed, you got the feeling that God was LISTENING!" WOW! Billy continued his prayer with supplication over his own son Franklin who was struggling with his own salvation back then. Fast forward you know that Franklin is now carrying on Billy Graham's legacy at BGEA.

What I love is that Billy Graham, Jim Rayburn, and Bob Mitchell, 3 Giants of the faith... their core emphasis is focus on Jesus. You as an individual... focus on Jesus and everything big or small will line up.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Shelly Howard's Memorial

On behalf of Shelly's family I would like to thank you for coming to help celebrate Shelly' life. It's not a mistake to use the word "Celebration" even though this is clearly a sad time. I want to give you permission to smile again and to laugh and to rejoice. Today you're going to hear some stories that will certainly stir your emotions and I say let them be stirred. If you knew Shelly at all, you knew that she was a passionate woman. She was a lover AND a fighter! Right Anthony? Today our purpose is to honor Shelly with our laughter as well as our tears.
In 2 Sam 12 David wrestles with the death of his son. For 7 days he wouldn't eat or sleep .. he probably didn't even change his clothes! He PLEADED with God not to take his son... but on the 7th day, he died. David's servants were all freaking out wondering what the king was going to do when he heard that his son was finally dead. David got up, washed up and worshipped God, then he ate. He explained to his servants that he didn't know what was going to happen while his son was alive but now he does know... the son was NOT going to return to him, he was going to go to his son. Now this is just a narrative about an imperfect man. This is not a prescription for our behavior necessarily but maybe a good model. It seems that David had a GREAT understanding of God. So today we are going to celebrate, we are going to worship, and we are going to eat! Let me invite David Shaffer up and lead us in worship!

Music
Today is a day to remember Shelly and the awesome woman that she was and our purpose for being here today is to honor her. I believe the best way to honor her would be us to reflect on our own lives and the significance we each personally strive for. In honor of her I would like for all of us for the next few moments to reflect on our own lives and on our own hearts. Some observations about the Human Heart -We describe a person without compassion as "heartless" and we urge him to "have a heart"
our deepest hurts we call "heartaches"
Jilted lovers are "brokenhearted"
Courageous soldiers are "bravehearted"
Saints have "hearts of gold" If we need to speak at the most intimate level, we ask for a "heart to heart" talk.
"lighthearted" is how we feel on vacation at the beach.
And when we love someone as truly as we may, we love "with all our heart"
But when we lose our passion for life, when a deadness sets in which we cannot seem to shake, we confess, "my heart's just not in it" Sometimes the heart in your chest speeds up. Like when you exercise, your heart rate goes to 120 beats per minute, you start burning fat, your body releases endorphins, your blood vessels expand and your body is full of life. This also happens when you fall in love... like on the 4th of July about 20 years ago... when Anthony met Shelly and he KNEW within minutes... this one is different! When your heart is pumpin, you can feel EVERYTHING and it's GREAT!
Now sometimes your heart slows down... in life there are lots of things that are downers... it starts when you're a kid... when other kids say mean things like "you're fat!" or "why do you have so many freckles?"... It get's worse... when you go through that first break up or you lose a job or your investments fail or you can't pay the electricity bill yada yada, I'm sure you can fill in the blanks here. Sometimes it gets so bad that you want to numb your heart... to slow your heart down to the point where you don't feel anything.
Shelly's physical heart grew weak and quit beating a couple weeks ago but her spiritual heart... it was huge! It was the size of a giraffe heart! It kept beating strongly all throughout her sickness! She discovered she had cancer shortly after Shelby was born almost 4 years ago and through the ups and downs of treatment and sickness and health she opened her children's eyes to see the faithfulness of God.
My question for you today is "what is the state of your heart"? Physically you could probably stand to exercise more and maybe eat more vegetables but you are completely missing the point if you think that's all I'm talking about here. Shelly knew with her whole heart that she was about to meet God face to face and she did it with grace and confidence! She knew Jesus personally and intimately and she knew Him as her savior.
Why was she a woman of grace and dignity? Because of her relationship with JesusWhy are her children beautiful and sweet? Because of her relationship with JesusWhy was she confident in her last days? Because of her relationship with Jesus
The true source of vitality in ones heart is Jesus. Jesus 2000 years ago invaded history and took the wickedness of the world upon himself. He took the sin of the world upon himself. He paid the penalty of sin with His life and He conquered death so that death for us is no longer death but a transition into eternal life with God.
Do you know what I'm talking about? Do you have the same confidence that Shelly did? Like it or not your body is going to experience the same fate. The question is what is going to happen to your soul? Do you know in your heart of hearts what the status is of your spirit is? Do you want to know this Jesus that I've been talking about? He wants to know you! He wants to have a relationship that is personal and intimate with you and he wants to begin right now. Are you ready?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

My Heart Hurts!

OH GOD MY HEART HURTS!
I met a young woman about 14 years ago... and she's leaving. Her name is Shelly and she is the reason my heart hurts so badly right now! When we met she was so full of life and so ready to tackle all of life's challenges. Her husband was a drunk but she loved him anyway. Her friends all told her she should leave him but I was opposed cuz I saw in her that she still loved him and wanted to make it work. One day, all of a sudden, he wasn't drunk anymore and although life wasn't instantly all roses... the journey started along the right path... again. You see God had a track record of faithfullness even when times were tough. When I met Anthony I could see why Shelly loved him, he was a good man. If you know me you know that I don't believe any man is good, by nature, but this man Anthony was good because he realized that God loved him and had a plan for his life... and along they went.

Chapter 2

Little Taylor was born! How did that happen? (of course we all know) but really... How !!!? The medical staff gave up all except that wonderful nurse who kicked everyone out of the hospital room where Shelly was with her incompetent cervix and all. That nurse said "if you believe in God you better start prayin!" Pray we did... and again all of a sudden, Taylor is 11 years old and just a beautiful reflection of your mother.

Chapters 3,4,5, and 6

Sydney, Anthony, Jaden, and Shelby... children 2 through 5. So much for struggling to get pregnant!

Now what? Breast Cancer? F(bleep) YOU! Shelly beat you once... no twice! Yeah yeah, life happens... ups and downs, houses and jobs, dogs and electricity bills and yada yada. It's all good though right? A beautiful family and friends who truly care... Shelly why are you leaving? Just a couple weeks ago we were all hanging out having hawaiian bbq remember? WTF!

I believe in God, I believe His Word. I believe death is just a transition into life eternal... But it still hurts. It hurts it hurts it hurts.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Devotion for the Wyld Life Leaders at Woodleaf Winter Camp Feb 2009

Thanks for being Jesus to the kids you have brought.  I want to recognize all the work you have done thus far and for your continued work.  All the contact work, the going to pizza or bowling , answering the phone when you don't feel like it etc. etc.!

I'd like to hear from some of you High School leaders, why are you hear?  

Answers - 

Because when I was a kid some people did the same for me.

Because I want to share the love of Jesus.

Because I want to help kids.


All of these answers are GREAT.  I'm sure we could all agree that the reason we bring kids to camp, the reason we do contact work, pray for kids, listen to them, play games with them... is to get them saved.  Right? That is to say that we are interested in sharing with them the Gospel, the Good News, that Jesus lived a vicarious expiatory life and died a substitutionary death for the propitiation of our sins right? LOL  Let's maybe look at salvation from a different perspective, not so much from the theological but from the practical.   Salvation is knowing God.  I'm reading a book by A. W. Tozer called "The Pursuit of God"  The 4th chapter "Apprehending God"  starts out talking about the inferential character of the average man's faith in God.  God is an inference.  You see Tozer suggests that most people don't know God personally but rather the view God as simply a principle or an ideal, another name for goodness, truth or beauty.  The scripture on the other hand insists that God is to be known personally and apprehended just as the person sitting next to you can be known.  God is just as real or more than the chair or table, He is a person that wants to be known.  Salvation is moving God from being a Principle to a Principal.  Nod your head if you are with me!  

We have been given faculties to apprehend our surroundings.  We have our 5 sense, hearing, taste, touch, smell, and feel.... excerpt from "The Pursuit of God"

The Bible assumes as a self-evident fact that men can know God with at least the same degree of immediacy as they know any other person or thing that comes within the field of their experience. The same terms are used to express the knowledge of God as are used to express knowledge of physical things. "O taste and see that the Lord is good." "All thy garments smell Of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia, out of the ivory palaces." "My sheep hear my voice." "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God." These are but four of countless such passages from the Word of God. And more important than any proof text is the fact that the whole import of the Scripture is toward this belief.

Now I'm not saying that you're going to take a bite out of God necessarily but you have been given spiritual faculties to apprehend God and these need to be developed and then taught to your kids.  So how do you get there?  How do you convey to a non-believing set of Wyld Life kids that Jesus is worth trying to know?  Here's a far fetched example.  Let's just say for instance that you have never tasted chocolate ice cream.  How would I try to get you to fall in love with chocolate ice cream?  Would I get a carton of chocolate ice cream and read to you the ingredients?  Would I tell you how sugar is metabolized by your brain and therefore you will love it? OR  would I simply get a spoon out of the kitchen drawer, open the carton of ice cream and slowly scoop from around the edge of the carton and let you see the creamy smooth delectable confection curl up on the spoon... then place it on my tongue and let you see the expression on my face that reflects delight.  Yeah baby... thats how you do it.  

Let me tell you a story about 2 men.  These men are diamond salesmen.  They import diamonds from Israel and they sell them wholesale to jewelry stores like in the mall and such.  Now one of the men is young and full of knowledge.  He knows diamonds and the diamond industry inside and out.  He knows and could tell you about the 4 c's Color Cut Clarity and Weight (carats). He knows everything there is to know about diamonds.  Well one day he takes a diamond into a store and tries to sell it to the shop keeper.  After about an hour he comes out without having sold the diamond.  He gives the diamond to the older guy to give it a try.  The old guy goes in to the shop and an hour later he has a sale.  The young guy is flabbergasted and says "I know everything there is to know about diamonds.  I know the history of diamonds, I know the future of diamonds!  I've been to Israel and have seen where they are cut into perfection. How is it that you were able to sell the diamond?  

The older gentleman replied "You do indeed know everything there is to know about diamonds but... I LOVE THEM.  I think they are beautiful.  I love the way they make me feel."

You see you don't need to tell your kids that Jesus is worth getting to know, you need to BE Jesus to them.  Continue loving kids unconditionally and caring for them as you have been.  Keep loving them for who they are and where they are.  Don't worry about getting them "saved" per se but rather teach them who Jesus is, let them get to know who Jesus is, by being Jesus to them.

Thanks again for all your work!  Keep it up!