February of 1996. I was 26 years old. I had been a youth minister for 8 years. Full-time for 4. The youth had all gotten together for my birthday and given me $$ to go skydiving (on my bucketlist of things to do). My Pastor, Mike Mathews, (He is now my Father-in-Law) was organizing a trip to Israel and came to me saying he’d arrange for me to be able to go for free, but I’d still need some $$ for a passport, food, etc. I decided to skip the skydiving experience in favor of the trip. It was one of the best decisions of my life!
We got to walk in Jesus’ footsteps for 9 straight days. We saw Jerusalem and the temple mount, the wailing wall, the empty tomb of Jesus, Golgotha, Lazarus’ tomb, Bethlehem, & Nazareth. We rode a boat across the Sea of Galilee, hiked Masada, and explored Qumran. Seeing these sites was truly remarkable! I now understand why robbers placed themselves on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. (It’s a steep road and travelers would be too tired to fight them off.) I will never read the scriptures the same way again. Phrases like “Land of milk and honey” and “Armegeddon” have new meaning!
When Mike described the experience to me, he said that I’d feel like I had gone “home” when we got there. I didn’t believe him. How could I feel “at home” in a strange country, where most spoke another language, and machine guns were seen regularly? He was right! I did feel “at home.” There’s something about that place that goes beyond description. Well, it’s not “something” – it’s someone, and His name is Jesus. If you love Jesus, you will love Israel. Some have called it the “fifth gospel.” Just like the other four, Israel has as story to tell about Jesus, the land itself testifies to His glory!
I hope to go back one day. You should consider a trip too. It will change your life.
If you’re interested, here’s a link to my journal entries from the trip.
Philippians 4:7 says that the peace of God transcends all understanding. I don’t understand it either, but I’ve experienced it. First of all, you should know that the Hebrew/Jewish understanding of this word “Peace” ultimately comes from their understanding of the word “Shalom.” It was a word used as a greeting, but it was so much more than “hello.” (Shout out to my “Cardinal Rise” friends – they wrote a song called “more than hello”). Anyway, “Shalom” was not just “peace.” It was all-encompassing. It was like saying “God be with you!” – May God Himself, in all His glory, shadow your every move granting you His favor and blessing throughout your life. “Peace” was huge!! It was a colossal concept of walking in the constant blessing and favor of God.
OK – on with the story. Sept 11 was normally a happy day for me. Sept 11 is my birthday!! But Sept 11, 1996 was different. (So was 2001) That day I received a call from my mom wishing me a Happy Birthday, but there was another message too. She also said that my dad had been diagnosed with leukemia. I didn’t really know what that meant, but I knew it wasn’t good. I soon discovered that it was the most aggressive type of leukemia and that dad would be going through radiation and chemotherapy. They weren’t sure how long they could deter the disease. That year was strange. I lived 5 hours away but got to see him quite a few times. He was always the same dad I had always known except he didn’t have quite as much hair. Although I know he had his down times, he had a great attitude about it around me. He even wore a baseball cap with dreadlocks hanging out when he’d go the the hospital. Mom said the nurses always laughed.
The doctors arranged for dad to be on an uphill swing during Christmas break so we could take a ski trip together. We had a great time – like normal – but not so normal either. There was always something sort of hanging in the air. It seemed harder to breathe during those days – not just for dad, but for all of us. In June of 1997, my sister and I were with a bunch of youth on a houseboat in the middle of Lake Texoma, when the boat rental people radioed to us with the message to call mom. Dad was on his deathbed. We immediately drove to the hospital in Ft Worth.
When we arrived, dad was on the breathing machine. He had contracted pneumonia and they couldn’t treat it because his body was so weak. They had also given him medications to paralyze him so his body wouldn’t fight the breathing machine. We wouldn’t be able to communicate. . . well. . .we could talk, but he wouldn’t be able to respond. Over the next 3-4 days (It’s a blur – I don’t know how many it actually was. Some of my facts may be wrong, but this is how I remember it.) we took turns going in and out of his room – telling him the things we should have said long before or just sitting with him in silence. I spent lots of time in the hospital chapel. There were lots of tears, little sleep, phone calls from friends, and something else. Something surprising. It was peace. What?!?!? at a time like this??? Peace? Yes. . . .peace. Peace that passes understanding. I cannot describe it. I only know I experienced it. . . . well, I experienced Him. Jesus was with us – in the midst of the tears, the sadness and grief, Jesus was present.
Eventually the doctors came and said the time had come to turn the machine off. It would be his one last chance to fight and breathe on his own – a chance to live. I can still picture the scene so clearly (and it’s been 12 years). I stood at his side and held his right hand. I told him that I loved him and that this world had not treated him well. (There’s another long story there.) I told him that he should go and be with Jesus ’cause this world was just not worth coming back to. I said goodbye. And. . . . something I never expected. . .dad squeezed my hand. Overpowering the paralyzing medication, he squeezed. He heard me! He knew what I had said! He loved me back! He agreed! Dad was still with us. . . . moments later . . .
Today, he is still with me. As I father my children, I do so by the examples I learned from him. As I love my bride, I do so in ways that resemble his ways. My dad was my Indian Guide leader, my little league coach, the parent who yelled the loudest at the swim meets. He took us on vacations and spent hours teaching us how to play sports, how to build things, or just simply playing with us. He loved us by being with us. I want to be that kind of dad. One who will truly invest in the lives of his family.
The words “Rest in Peace” resonate within me in new ways today. Dad has found ultimate “shalom” – I hope to follow his example. I hope to find it too.
My family had been skiing in Colorado and were traveling through New Mexico on our way home to Corpus Christi, when a snow storm came upon us. A “white out” is the term used when there’s is so much snow falling that visibility disappears. I was about 11-12 years old and had been laying in the back of the station wagon. (We called it the chili wagon.) Anyway, my parents thought my brother and I were sleeping back there. I think he was. . . but I was wide awake. I remember hearing my parents argue. Mom wanted dad to stop ’cause he couldn’t see the road and we could drive off a cliff. Dad was scared to stop for fear of being covered in the snow and freezing. I was young, but I was old enough to know we were in danger. Old enough to know to be scared. Old enough to realize that my parents were helpless and scared themselves.
I prayed. Dad kept pushing ahead slowly looking desperately for a place to stop, but we couldn’t see anything. We could have been within a few feet of a hotel or rest stop, and never seen it. It wasn’t too long before someone drove up behind us (we could make out the headlights) so dad stopped and a man came to knock on dad’s window. We heard the knock before we saw him. He was a local pastor on an indian reservation and was offering us a place to stay – there was an extra house on the reservation. We were saved! and it wasn’t my parents skills, resources, or abilities that did it. It was an act of God and God alone.
It’s the first time I remember experiencing God. Of course it wasn’t the first time God intervened in my life, but it was the first time I recognized it. As a result of this experience, at 11-12 years old, I began to understand His power, His love, and knew that He cared for me and my family. I also recognized that God used another man to do His work. These initial revelations/experiences laid the ground work for the day I would give my life to Him and for my life. Because He loved me first (expressed in this experience) I eventually began to love Him too and today I hope to serve Him with the rest of my life.
I thank God for snow, white outs, indian reservations, pastors, the chili wagon, ski trips, New Mexico, and my parents and family.
PS – If you want to read more about this experience check out the other blog I wrote a few years ago. My First Memory of God
This weekend, I experienced the sacred mystery of an amazing cathedral. Entering, I was first struck by the arches of east Texas pine stretching to a ceiling of endless blue. An easiness washed over over me and the world’s worries disappeared as I became overwhelmed by a sense of peace. We rested on old rocking chairs at a humble altar of two by four decking where we offered up our most lofty dreams and concerns communing with each other and the Creator. We laughed around a table sharing something more than our lives – truly sharing the present moment. It’s a sacred place – a holy place – where God engages us and helps us to think bigger stretching our hearts beyond the corners of our present state. It’s truly a joy to be in this place – an experience that I’ll never forget, and yet it’s also one which is not alone – I have come to expect and long for these experiences.
Thank you Godbolds! I truly consider our times with you in Livingston sacred.
I have a new brother. Daniel Johnson has been volunteering with the youth ministry and went on our ski trip with us a few weeks ago. He is a teacher and coach by profession and so we have quite a bit in common in regards to working with students. He has been a great help in the youth programs and I realized on the ski trip how much it means to have another brother to come alongside me in shouldering this youth ministry. He’s also really good for me. As I watch the way he lives his life, I’m challenged to be more disciplined. (especially when it comes to my health and finances) Anyway, I just wanted to go on record saying that Daniel is my brother and I’m glad to have him around.
PS – Don’t you just love my “old-school 80s” ski jacket? And the way Daniel’s lift ticket (at first glance) makes it look like his fly is down?
Our UM ARMY camp this year is using 1 Timothy 4:12 as their theme. It says, ” Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believes in speech, life, love, faith and purity.” This is a classic “youth ministry” verse which has been used for camps for years and years. It lays out really well to focus on each of the five examples for a week long theme too. (Anyway, I thought it was funny ’cause we’re studying Paul’s epistles right now at school too.) The director of the programs for the week sent me an e-mail asking me to put together a banner for each day’s theme. I used a program called the “rasterbator” (weird name huh?) to take the work I did on the computer and blow up the images to about 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide. The youth helped me put all the printed pages together today to make the large pictures. They turned out pretty well. Here are the images that we used. (I’ll attach them here tomorrow when I have the files.)
No, I’m not trying to say that school is a breeze. It’s just that Miranda and I went on a cruise last week and I missed out on class. We had an incredible time.
I guess when it comes to school, in some ways I could say I’ve been “cruising” through. It’s not been easy sailing, but I guess it’s just the right time in my life for me to be in school. I’m really enjoying all that I’ve been learning and it seems like the time is going rather quickly. Up to this point, I’ve completed three classes and received “A”s on at least the first two. (I feel like I’ll get an “A” on the other one too) It’s been a whole lot of work and certainly requires more time than I ever imagined, but it’s just been really interesting – it’s not a painful process for me like school was for me years ago.
I had to read some while I was on my cruise and ended up even doing some homework while I was there. I had made plans to not take any homework with me, and really could have gotten away with not doing any of it, but I discovered that I wanted to do it. Now that’s really weird – “wanting” to do homework. What’s wrong with me??
We got to do lots of stuff on the trip – swam in a cenote (underground river) and saw Chichen Itza (Mayan Ruins) not to mention all the great food and shows on the ship. I even laid on the ruins of a table where the Mayan’s practiced human sacrifice. I call it my “living sacrifice” pic. The more I’ve thought about it since then, the more guilty I feel for doing it. I certainly didn’t want to be disrespectful to the people, but I guess it didn’t really occur to me in the moment ’cause there were lots of people running around back and forth over the spot where I was. For all I know, maybe that isn’t even the real spot, but it was the best we could figure.
We also got to know the people who we ate dinner with on the ship each night. I don’t think any of them were really church goers. One couple certainly was not and the other two couples talked about how they spent most of their weekends on Texas lakes with their boats. Anyway, Miranda and I were wondering what would a church look like that they would consider attending? Would they come if the services were on Wednesday night or sometime other than Sunday morning? There’s nothing Scriptural that says we as NT Christians are bound to the Sabbath, or even that Sunday is the new Sabbath. Our culture has adopted that from the early Christians who enjoyed celebrating on Sunday because it was the day of the resurrection. Would there be anything wrong with Wednesday being the day of worship? Some might say that Wednesday doesn’t work ’cause it’s a “work day,” but wasn’t Sunday a “work day” for the first Christians? Besides, if worship is a lifestyle and not an event, isn’t every day supposed to be a “day of worship?” Anyway, these are just some of our thoughts. . . . .what do you guys think?
How powerful is a journey? That’s what I’m thinkin’ about today. I mean, the disciples were regular guys until they journeyed with Jesus for 3 years. After that, they changed the world. Of course the power in that last sentence isn’t in the journey, but in Jesus.
But still I wonder why Jesus chose to use a journey to teach them? I wonder how things would have been if they had just stayed in one place instead of traveling all over? Would the disciples have gotten the experiences they needed to grow and learn the ways of their rabbi – Jesus?
What if every Christian High School graduate spent 3 years on a journey with a rabbi before going to college? Some people might say that’s what college is, but a rabbi isn’t just a knowledgable teacher. He is a wise spiritual leader. What would that look like? Who could be that rabbi in today’s culture? Are there any rabbis in the world today? What kind of man would I be if I were to follow the rabbi (Jesus) for three years on some kind of journey? Where would He take me? What would He want me to experience? What miracles would I witness? What kind of conversations would I be involved in and with whom?
My Prayer: Lord, I know that my whole life is a journey, but I want to live it following You. Show me how to do that. Give me courage to step out of the boat like Peter (out of my comfort zones) and into the next part of my journey with You. Teach me Lord! Be my rabbi, and I’ll try to be Your “talmidim” (disciple) That means I’ll try to be like You in every way.
1. We were priviledged to have God use us to bring hope to hurricane victims. NOAH = New Orleans Area Hope
2. We met some new friends from Baton Rouge.
3. Our own Mardi Gras Parade!
4. We saw Dawn Delany in New Orleans.
5. We heard about all the cool stuff God is doing to bring people together in that area. Dawn’s neighborhood was the murder capital of the country and she had a BBQ last week with lots of different races of people.
6. I got to hang out and work with my sister.
7. Some of our youth got to meet my sister.
8. The sunset on Lake Ponchatrain.
9. John from Baton Rouge was a true inspiration – I mean this blind guy snow skis and skydives.
10. Name that Tune!
11. Ms. Claudia.
12. The donuts Ms. Claudia brought us one morning.
13. Nail Guns!!!! Yes!!!
14. My friend Dustan says “If I didn’t sweat, I didn’t worship.” We “worshipped” alot on that roof.
15. Finally feeling like we were able to actually “do” something about the feelings we had when the hurricane hit.
Ichthus was a great experience. There were so many places that I saw God at work. Here’s a short list (They aren’t in any particular order – I mean how could you rate God’s work anyway?):
1 – The church vans
2 – Our church family helping us pay for gas
3 – Edith and John (Our hosts in Germantown)
4 – Our adult sponsors – and new ones too – it was sure fun getting to know them
5 – The youth – not even one fight all week long – nothing but smiles, inside jokes, and shared experiences, and maybe a few shared smells too
6 – Our cooking teams (we ate pretty well all week)
7 – All kinds of denominations worshipping under the one name of Jesus
8 – The bands – every style from 95 thesis, twelve guage valentine, to chris tomlin, reliant k, and david crowder
9 – The speakers – justin lookadoo, efrem smith, and even the xxxchurch guys
10 – watching youth spend time with God reading His word each day without me telling them to do it
11 – wagon riding, ultimate frisbee, and lightning bugs
12 – rearranging tents
13 – rolling down hills
14 – water for a dry throat
15 – prayers of people in our church
16 – communion for that many people all at once
17 – Sunsets during worship
18 – specific things God is teaching me through some of our experiences (want to know more? check my other posts)
God worked all over the place. We’ll never even recognize all the places until maybe one day in heaven when God reveals it all to us. Thank you God for it all! We don’t deserve the incredible gift You have given us in these experiences – thank you for loving us like You do.