Thursday, June 14, 2012

I don't know...GAPS!

"I don't know....Gaps".  "Gaps, what are gaps", "She's got gaps, I've got gaps, together we fill gaps".

In case you don't recognize it, those poignant words are spoken by a nobody, wanna-be, Philadelphia boxer by the name of Rocky Balboa, aka Sly Stallone.

He's responding to his future brother-in-law in regards to why he loves his sister, Adrian.

Amazing that such incredible words scripted for a movie, could be so full of life and such a beautiful picture of how Christ depicts the role of the individuals that comprise the body of Christ, namely the church.

I have my part to play, my gifts to exercise, but they will never be enough to accomplish God's intended purposes.  You see I've got gaps.  You have your part to play, your gifts to exercise, but they will never be enough.  You've got gaps. But together, along with the rest of our sisters and brothers in the body, we can fill the gaps of one another and together accomplish great things for the Kingdom.

Interestingly enough, as the Chief Development Officer for Youth for Christ Central Valley, the same scenario plays out with our partners/donors, volunteers and Board members.  Our staff team has some incredible talent, gifting, and skill, but we've still got gaps.

On our very best of days, we will need need 100's of volunteers to accomplish even more hours of relationship time, mentoring, loving on, chauffeuring, and chaperoning, the 1000's of kids we work with.  In fact if they don't fill this gap, our ministry effort is easily cut by more than 75%.

Board members fill gaps by way of governance, accountability, advocacy to the church and business community.  Without the $ and people resources they bring to bear, our team is like a well tuned and fast very race car, with NO FUEL.  Or even worse add the fuel, but with no one on the sidelines providing a road map and a 10,000 foot perspective for the driver of the car (that would be me).

Partners.  Remember the empty gas tank from above, well, now take off the tires, remove the oil and water and just see how quickly your car can get around the track.  But when partners step up and fill their gaps, you don't just put gas back in the tank, you put in high octane, gas into your Bugatti Veyron.  You don't just throw on American Tire company tires, you bring Michelin PAX tires to the game.

It's certainly not rocket science.  It most definitely is not new news for any of us, so why does it seem like ministry and kingdom efforts have so many gaps?

Question: Who are the people that you need to fill your gaps?
Question: Are you actively, consciously playing your part, using your gifts, talents and abilities to fill the gaps of others?


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

First the trash, then the fun!

So a bunch of my buddies get together once a month to hang out, catch up, and in general have all sorts of goofy conversations about everything....religion, politics, sports, whatever.

My turn was coming up in May and so with Marian's guidance we had plans to "renew" the backyard.  New lighting, some new trees, new lawn, new fire pit, outdoor fan and light in the gazebo!  Maybe even a few new outdoor chairs.

I was excited about getting all the new fun things (yes, even the new lawn seemed like fun), uh but wait a minute...minor problem, before or at least in parallel with all the new things, I was reminded that the old spa had to get towed away, hedges needed major trimming, the entire pool deck needed to be power washed, and lots and lots of weeds needed to be pulled.  Yuck!

Well on the big Saturday before the guys are gonna show, I start in, what a bummer!  I'd so much rather be golfing, but the old had to be dragged out, in this situation not even so much to make room for the new (well okay, the spa did have to go to make room) but just so that the new could truely be appreciated.

The event was blast.  The guys all had a good time.

A few days later it occurred to me in one of my pondering sessions...In my spiritual journey, how many times do I avoid getting the old dealt with because I just want to focus on the new??!  Or maybe I just don't want to deal with the old.  Not sure, but for me I could sure see some parallels.

What weeds or spa do you need to get out of the backyard of your life? Don't avoid it or put it off any longer.  You can do it.  Phil 4:13



Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness (part 3)

Perseverance - Steadfast

"Consider it all joy my brothers when you encounter various trials and challenges, know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. And let perseverance have it's full effect that you may be complete and lacking in nothing."

As God continues to work in my life in this significant area, its amazing to me how different words in the passage seem to get "bolded" for emphasis in my life.  Recently the word perseverance seemed to be the word to jump off the page.

This journey of learning to live by joy (God's rock solid faithfulness and foundation) and NOT happiness (circumstances) is not a short track experience.  We don't get to learn it once and then forever put away the lesson book.  In fact the very reality of learning to live by joy is that its main product, the main resultant is PERSEVERANCE!

Interestingly the Latin breakdown of perseverance is per - "very", and serveus - "strict". But rather than a picture of some kind of harsh disciplinarian, is actually has to do more with the idea of being very strict about what we tie ourselves to (as in tying down or anchoring a boat).  Do we lash ourselves down to the ROCK of Jesus and His word, or are we silly enough to tie ourselves off to the ever changing (and definitely sinking) sands of circumstance.

So when the horrible times come the very first thing they work in us, in God's wisdom, the item we LACK most at the foundation level is perseverance.  Then as we allow this process to have it's full effect, as we begin to build up, strengthen, grow, and develop our perseverance the rest of our "lacks" will begin to be filled in.

Emile Zatopek is still to this day the greatest long distance runner, his home country of Czechoslovakia has ever seen.  In fact, Emile is still the only long distance runner ever to win the 5k, 10K, and Marathon race all at the same Olympics.  Upon returning from the 1952 Olympics where he accomplished this incredible feat, he was asked about his training routine.  "I go out everyday and I run, and I run, and I run, until I am completely exhausted, THEN", he declared, "I begin my training".

Not sure God intends for us to run ourselves into exhaustion, but I think some aspect of Emile's training, is exactly why God starts with perseverance and then as we let it have "its full effect", we truly begin the rest of our spiritual training.


Rev. RJ

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness Part II


More thoughts, more work, more ideas.  More crud, more challenges, more tears. Sometimes more frustration, more anger, more disappointment.  More than a few whys, coupled with WT? (sorry I know that's really stretching it, but didn't know how else to express it).

You know how you should NEVER, EVER pray for patience!  :-) Well, let me suggest that preaching on James 1 is like the same thing, but on steriods!

Settle down!  Embrace it.  Get out of yourself.  Holy Spirit please do your thing.

This prose capped my sermon for my home church, where YES, I preached on James 1 and Phil. 4.  (What an idiot)

Happiness is stupid because it's so circumstantial!
Joy is stable because it only relies on God's faithfulness!

Happiness is being stuffed (just like the 3 bowls of tortilla chips do BEFORE the overstuffed burrito arrives.
Joy is being satisfied

Happiness is lustful
Joy is loving

Happiness is yearning, aching, wanting
Joy is waiting

Happiness is horizontal and 99% of the time self centered and self focused
Joy is vertical and other centered, getting outside ourselves in the right way

Happiness is here and now
Joy is eternal

Hmmm, not sure I'm going to get there today!

Pray for me.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Happiness is NOT good for what ails you! Part I


I think I finally figured it out.  Well maybe!

For sometime now I have been contemplating writing a blog about the issues, challenges and experiences I'm having with sorting through the difference between JOY and HAPPINESS!

Through the past several years of life's journey I've been forced (that might be too strong of a word, but I'll leave it for now) to look at what God is trying to teach me about JOY vs when what I so desperately want is actually HAPPINESS.

But I've faced at least 2 challenges in attempting to write;  1. I'm not a theologian and it sure seems like it would require one to be so if they were really going to tackle this topic and 2. Our current use of these words is so mixed up, so intertwined, so convoluted that sometimes for sure these words are miles apart and sometimes they sit right next to one another, if not on top of one another.

So I've hesitated.  I've looked at tons of scripture.  I've pondered where to start, where to end, should I even try to start and then it hit me.

While pouring over James 1 and Phil. 4 recently it became very clear to me...

I'm a HAPPINESS addict.

Forget all the theology.  Forget trying to dissect the words.

In my human experience, especially when looking upon some of my most challenging times, whether they be due to my own sin, or simply the challenges of life, some of my greatest failures, biggest logs in my "own eyes", issues of boundaries (or lack thereof), come down to the simple fact that I want HAPPINESS and I want it NOW!

And of course through James and Paul, we see a different course set.  A different road laid out before us.  A different choice is handed to us.  Choose JOY.

HAPPINESS says no pain.  HAPPINESS is instantaneous.  HAPPINESS is pleasure.

HAPPINESS reaches too far, too high, too much.

We help for the wrong reasons.  We consume with the wrong motives.  We want, we need, we desire all for reasons that ultimately are NOT with the single intent of becoming more Christ-like.

Forget my problems with XXXXX, my propensity for XXXXX, my addictions to XXXXX and XXXXX.

I'm a HAPPINESS addict.

From where you sit reading this, that may be too simple.  It may even seem downright silly.

But right now, for me, it is the greatest challenge I face (seriously).

Note I put a Part I on the title of this blog entry.  I know I'm not done writing about this and I'm most certainly only beginning to scratch the surface of understanding it.

But I at least wanted to start with the confession!  I'M A HAPPINESS ADDICT!

Pray for me.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Had breakfast with a long time friend and partner of YFC's, in the past several weeks.  This is a great guy who over the years I've gone to many times for advice and counsel.

In the course of our time together he reminded me of a very difficult time in his life, when admittedly some bad choices on his part (yes, he'll even acknowledge it was sin) caused him and others around him significant pain and heartache.  He went on to share that many of his "friends" chose this time to turn away from him.  Several even invited him to lunch during this season of grief, when in fact all they wanted to do was take him to task.  Making matters worse, some weren't even brave enough to face him, deciding a healthy dose of condemnation, in the form a letter, is what was required.

He completed his reminder story by sharing about one lunch however that took a different turn, when the man he was meeting with sat quietly and in the course of my friend's sharing began to write upside down on a napkin.


That's all that was written on the napkin.  That's all the man felt lead to share with this friend during a deep and dark hour.

My friend concluded that he had never forgotten and was forever indebted to the man that had demonstrated this act of compassion and love, especially when so many others were showing him quite the opposite.

Will we ever learn what it means to hate the sin, but still love the sinner?  I'm just thinking that Gal 6:1 and Matt. 5:5 are pretty clear.  But I'm no theologian, what do I know?

But I do know this, heaven forbid should I ever face that same day, but if i do, I hope I'm sitting across the table from someone writing upside down on a napkin...Especially since someone else already hung on a cross.


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Reckless Abandon

Grams and Parker greeting

Parker, our 2.5 year old grandson got to spend the night with Grams and Papa this week.  Needless to say all other duties, chores, responsibilities, etc., etc.,  went on hold during the hours he was with us.  Heck, Grams would put bodily functions on hold if that were possible, but since we are both 53, that's just not possible anymore :-). Real point is, all attention was focused on Parker and truthfully it was pure delight to see him soak it up and respond to it.

As I watched him and Grams during this past visit, it occurred to me how "free" Parker was.  With total abandon he could totally soak in the attention and joy of the moment that resulted from two people totally in love with him and extremely busy focusing exclusively on this most beautiful child's needs and, within reasonable Papa and Grams limits, wants.  But it was even more than that.  It occurred to me that within his capacity to understand, Parker felt totally safe.  In the presence of these two "big people", nothing could hurt him, all minor booboos' would be magically and quickly kissed away, nothing bad could happen, no fear, no worry, no anxiety.
Grams, Parker and Hungry Hippos

And then it hit me.  Why don't I live life in total reckless abandon? At least in regards to fears, worry, and anxiety.  I'm mean let's be honest, I'd run in front of a truck, bullet, or pit bull to save Parker, but in reality I only control so much.  There are things that could bring hurt, harm, or mayhem into Parker's life that would be far beyond my control to make go away or to never allow to happen in the first place.

But that's not true of my Heavenly Father.  He is in control and He totally loves me (yes way more than I'll ever be able to love Parker and that's saying something). His attention is 110% focused on me and focused on completing in me the work He already started.

If Parker can live in total abandon during his times with Papa and Grams how much more should I ALWAYS be able to live life like that because of my Heavenly Father?

Grams, Parker and the Snowmen

For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love....II Tim. 1:7.

P.S. I'm positive Parker's parents, other grandparents, and 3 sets of Great-grandparents also create this same place of safety and love for him.