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Polarizer or Peacemaker

Sunday, December 26, 2010

And Saul spoke to Jonathan his son and to all his servants, that they should kill David. But Jonathan, Saul's son, delighted much in David. (1 Samuel 19:1 ESV)

David learned early in his political career what it means to be a polarizing personality. “You love him or you hate him.” You’ve heard the saying. You’ve seen it because, if you’re honest, you’ve either liked or not liked someone and didn’t even always know why. Every president ever elected, to one degree or another, was loved by roughly half the country and despised by the other half. We see the same contrast in the verse above. The father hates enough to kill, but the son loves so much he delights. David elicited two different attitudes from the same family members: hate and love. David was a polarizing guy.

The same thing happens to you and me. Some people just don't like you. Maybe it’s a colleague or a customer, a boss or a pastor. It doesn't matter. He doesn't like you. Or you don't like him for a reason you don't even know. It's natural; unpreventable.

That's why we have to be told specifically in Ephesians to do something that does not come naturally; to be filled with the Spirit "addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. (Ephesians 5:19-21 ESV)."

As we're filled with the Spirit and put others before ourselves - no matter how we feel about the person - the result will be a change of heart in both ourselves and those around us. That's the process of being a real peacemaker.

Christmas: here's why

Saturday, December 25, 2010

“The Son of God became a man
to enable men to become sons of God.”
~ C.S. Lewis

Santa needs a hero

Thursday, December 23, 2010

I watch cartoons every morning with Allie as we work through our morning get-ready-for-school routine. The past two weeks the majority of her cartoon shows feature Santa in some broken down situation depending on the characters of the cartoon show to save Christmas. SAVE CHRISTMAS! Santa's the victim of some eleventh hour calamity and it's up to Handy Manny or Mickey Mouse or the Imagination Movers to save Christmas. If the mouse or the little kid or a red-nosed reindeer doesn't get Santa back on the road, Christmas is canceled. Some hero Santa is. It's amazing he's lasted this long.

Believe it or not, these are all the best ingredients to make a great story. It's the classic David and Goliath template. Our hearts are built to respond to this story. Santa is cast as Israel. Our little cartoon character is young David. The calamity that sidelines Santa is our Goliath. Just as David takes down Goliath, our little cartoon character ingeniously and bravely eliminates or navigates through calamity saving Christmas. We love this kind of story. Do you know why? This biblical style of narrative points to Jesus. It's God's idea that Hollywood is using.

So let's use these stories to redeem the true Christmas story. The boy David who takes down a villian and becomes King of Israel points to a future child from an obscure village and a backwater family that, in an incredible plot-twist, conquers sin and even death. He rises from the dead and now reigns as not only King of Israel but King of the whole world. All authority in Heaven and Earth have been given to Him.

Christmas is the story of this Unlikely Hero's birth. Let's redeem the story.

After you get that done, monitor Santa's progress at NORAD.

- Posted from my iPhone with BlogPress

Awww, Man!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

dontaskI was so sad to see my beloved Eagle, Globe and Anchor over President Obama's shoulder as he gave a speech prior to the signing into law the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell."

Couldn't they have flown the Navy or Air Force colors behind him instead? We all know that would be MUCH more appropriate for this particular occasion.

To add insult to injury, when Nancy Pelosi shoved her way into the photo frame directly pelosibehind Obama as he signed it into law, she was dressed like the Marine Corps flag. This is a sad day for all Jar Heads.

Why Christmas? by Pastor Bob

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Here's a video from Pastor Bob Coy about making the most of the next few days while out and about...


Book Review: Decision Points

image Author: George W. Bush
New York, Crown Publishers, 2010
Number of pages: 481

It's hard not to be fond of the George W. Bush written about by George W. Bush in his autobiography Decision Points. It's a narrative of his early life and presidency. He tells of swearing off alcohol so he could grow closer to " the Almighty." He gives us a look into the day fourteen year old George W. drives his mom to the hospital after she has a miscarriage. He remembers seeing the fetus in a jar. He writes about the famous walk on the beach he had with evangelist Billy Graham where questions about faith in Christ and the Bible are answered.

He tells of his father's honorable service in World War Two and, afterward, when his father and young bride moved to New Haven so he could attend Yale. It was during this time that George W. Bush was born.

There is no doubt that Bush has profound respect and a deep affection for his father George H.W. Bush. This is clear throughout the book. " ...the truth is that I never had to search for a role model. I was the son of George Bush." He writes of the emotional moment when they were both together in the Oval Office when the younger Bush first took office. "Neither of us said much. We didn't need to. The moment was more moving than either of us could have expressed."

The book often takes a defensive tone when Bush discusses his military service record or his political and judicial detractors.

Those who take an opposing view of Bush's policies in Iraq and Afghanistan will have a cynical response to Bush's recollection of history lessons at Yale. "I was appalled by the way the ideas that inspired the [French] Revolution were cast aside when all power was concentrated in the hands of a few," he wrote about the French Revolution. Of Stalin's purges of East Germany, Bush told of a lecture by Wolfgang Leonard. "[I]n his thick German accent he described the show trials, mass arrests, and widespread deprivations. " One can't help thinking about what Iraqis have experienced during their own violent transition from Saddam Hussein's Iraq to the Iraq we see on the nightly news. Readers of this book may come away thinking Bush has a blurred view of history. It hurts his case when he writes things like, "After the successful liberation of Afghanistan...," in the past tense when, to date, we're still involved in regular military actions in this conflict that's lasted longer than any other in American history.

Bush writes his book out of a sense of obligation to give his perspective of his two terms of service as the forty-third president of the United States. Despite its casual tone, the book is full of surprises. He gives the inside scoop on behind the scenes politics. Bush describes Dick Cheney as a likeable guy while the press characterized Cheney as Darth Vader incarnate. His public persona almost caused Bush to dump him from the 2004 presidential ticket. Senate majority leader Bill Frist was the considered replacement.

Bush is relaxed as he discusses 9/11 and staffing the Whitehouse, enhanced interrogation techniques, and many other issues that became the memorable events of his presidency.

Early in the book, Bush laments that his political rivals in Texas paint him as an East Coast outsider. Despite his East Coast roots and privilege, Bush leaves the reader with no doubt about his love for Texas. And Bush does his best to portray himself as just a "regular guy."

John McCain, Bush writes, used similar tactics in his run against Bush for the Republican candidate nomination in 2000. "McCain, a member of congress since 1983, had managed to define himself as an outsider and me as an insider." The tactic worked for McCain in the New Hampshire primaries and McCain is remembered by the public as a Bush rival ever since. McCain compared Bush's character to Bill Clinton's in that race, Bush reminds us. Bush also tells of his surprise when McCain suspended his presidential campaign in 2008 to attend a Whitehouse meeting and help rescue the failing economy. Bush lets us know that he and McCain are friends and barbeque buddies through all of their spirited, political ups and downs.

Search "Bush book" on and several books written by various members of the Bush family, including their dog, Millie, will turn up. For the past two decades, the entire Bush family has been churning out books about their lives and political exploits. Your love for George W. Bush will determine your level of enjoyment of Decision Points. If you love Bush, you'll love the book. If you hate Bush, this book will probably become an object in motion as Bush tells his side of the story. If you're indifferent, it's a good read, but you may want to pick it up at the library or wait until it hits the discount racks at your favorite bookseller.

A video gospel tract for your distribution

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book Review: Fatherless Generation

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

fatherless generation Fatherless Generation; Redeeming the Story
Author: John Sowers
Grand Rapids, Zondervan, 2010
Number of pages: 143

My family is under attack. So is yours. It's a concentrated spiritual effort designed to undermine our civilization's reliance, dependence, and turning to God. That's the conclusion you come to when you read Fatherless Generation by Dr. John Sowers. "No longer do we have to travel abroad to make war. America is making war on itself," Sowers writes.

Sowers is the national director of the Mentoring Project founded in Portland, Oregon, by New York Times bestselling author Donald Miller. Miller serves on the Task Force of Fatherhood and Healthy Families for Barack Obama.

The book is about fatherlessness. "Someone has determined your value and decided you are not worth having around - or that he would be better off someplace else, without you." Sowers words are wrenching. They evoke an emotional reaction in the reader. "The Bible makes it clear that there is one who hears and acts on behalf of those who have been abandoned, a Father who longs to father a rejected generation," Sowers writes.

Sowers' book gives the reader a sense that he's duty bound to do something.

Sowers research shows that fatherlessness accounts for:

  • 63 percent of youth suicides
  • 71 percent of pregnant teenagers
  • 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children
  • 70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions
  • 85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorders
  • 80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger
  • 71 percent of all high school dropouts
  • 75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers
  • 85 percent of all youths sitting in prison.

Sowers divides the book into two parts. In the first part, Sowers tells the story of fatherlessness. "Rejection is the defining characteristic of the fatherless generation," he writes. The second part of the book is about redemption. Rejection becomes acceptance as Sowers makes heroes of the men who invest in the lives of fatherless boys. These are men who save lives.

Sowers wants men to know what it feels like to experience the gospel as a follower of Jesus. When men learn that living the gospel makes life interesting, they'll make life meaningful and interesting for the fatherless. They'll save souls as they redeem these cast off lives. It doesn't take a lot of money to live the meaningful life of a mentor. But it does take some will power to share your life with someone in need. And it will give an explanation for one's own past conflicts; a sense of meaning for one's history of pain.

Sowers peppers his book with excerpts from the fatherlessness embedded in culture around us. It exists in the lyrics of songs written by Linkin Park, Everclear, Filter, and Good Charlotte. Sowers invokes lines from Tyler Durden, the main character from the popular cult movie Fight Club. Our hero - who is also the narrator - has a split personality and asks his alter ego, "if you could fight anyone, who would you fight?"

"I'd fight my dad," our hero responds.

The fatherless generation is doing just that. Their expression of angst is rooted in an all out fight with fathers who've turned their backs on them.

Sowers book has an emphasis that is not only social, but has political and economic implications. "Our country is at a crossroads. If we continue to focus on the symptom - the rise of gangs and youth violence - we will miss the real problem, the reason why these gangs exist in the first place: absent fathers," writes Sowers.

In Fatherless Generation, Sowers quotes renowned worship leader Matt Redman who grew up without a father but had the benefit of many godly men who taught Matt to be a man. "In 1 Corinthians 4:15, Paul comments that the Corinthians have had many teachers in Christ - but not many fathers. I'm grateful that this has never been my experience. Though I grew up without a father, I was blessed with an abundance of older guys who invested into my life..."

If men step up and step in, prisons will shut down because less young men will end up there. Godly men mentoring the fatherless can turn a generation around.

"Children with mentors are 46 percent less likely to do drugs, 33 percent less likely to resort in violence, 53 percent less likely to drop out of school, and 59 percent more likely to improve their grades. One-to-one mentoring has also been shown to lower the rates of teen pregnancy, suicide, and gang involvement in communities."

This book is written to men who want to change their communities and a generation of fatherless boys. Whether you came from a home with or without a father, this book will have a deep and necessary impact. It takes about two and a half hours to read. This small investment of time could end up changing and fulfilling the life of a boy you know if you heed Sowers' call to action.

A Force of Three

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken. (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 ESV)

My dad told me stories of his service in Viet Nam when I was growing up. He told me about jungles and boredom and fear in the middle of a sudden ambush. He told me of the enemy. There were frigid nights spent in damp forests when Marines slept head to toe soaking wet with feet shoved into a buddies arm pits to keep from freezing. Survival in battle and even in sleep required the help of a brother in arms. Your buddy covered your unseen and unprotected flanks and you covered his.

Self-sufficiency doesn’t exist in war. Neither do self-made men. Brothers in arms submit to each other to survive. If a soldier plays “super warrior,” it may cost him his life or the lives of his comrades. Life in the faith community works the same way. It's tempting to believe that we're doing this Christian life solo like it's just me and God against the dark forces of the world and Satan. The above verse implies that God isn’t really present until at least two are submitted to each other working for the good of the other.

You can try to be a force of one, but when you pair up with a brother in Christ, you’ll discover that you're a force of three.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Stomp in Love

Friday, December 10, 2010

image Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. (Ephesians 5:1-2)

My dad was a giant. At least that’s what I thought when I was five or six years old and stomped up and down the stairs and around the house with his enormous shoes on my feet and over-sized hat on my head. He was so big and heroic that I wanted to be just like him. I’d march in his Marine shoes and snap salutes in his Marine hat. My mother told me he was a protector of our country’s freedom. I was a kid and knew I was too little to be him. But that didn’t mean I couldn’t imitate him and look as much as like him as I could.

Jesus imitated His Father. The result was healing and salvation of broken people. And He taught those around Him to do the same thing. Jesus wasn’t simply a mystic that talked about a spiritual path to enlightenment or a knowledge that came from feeling good feelings. Jesus DID something. He loved and served His Father by imitating Him and reflecting Him to the people He walked among.

In the same way, we need to imitate Jesus. We best represent Jesus to a watching world when we imitate Him the way a child imitates his heroic dad. The result will look like Jesus' results: the healing and salvation of broken and lost people.

The Story of Allie

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

IMG_1723A pre-dawn phone call from my prodigal daughter wrenched me from sleep. “Dad!” she gasped. “You have to pray. Allie is in an ambulance. She’s not breathing.”

My wife Susan and I prayed. Then I called my close friend and begged him to wake his wife and pray too. I needed heaven to mobilize. We needed more prayer than I knew at the time. We didn’t know yet that horrible violence had been inflicted on our granddaughter. These acts against her mowed a wide swath of damage across every life that touched Allie’s.

Allie is my granddaughter, born to my daughter, Charity, when she was 19. In the summer of 2006, Charity brought Allie home to live with us. Allie brought new life and brightness into our house. Six months later, on an unusually cold day in January, our hearts were broken when Charity decided to leave our South Florida home to live in gray San Francisco with Paul, Allie’s biological father. They wanted to be a family.

Allie’s second call came an hour later. “Dad, Paul shook her. He shook her and squeezed her and she stopped breathing,” my daughter said. My knees buckled, but I couldn’t find a chair.

Charity had been at a girlfriend’s house after a late-night shift, and Paul had been home with Allie. That was the arrangement. One parent worked and the other watched Allie. Alternating shifts relieved them from the added financial strain of employing a babysitter. They lived in a fifth floor studio apartment in San Francisco's gritty Tenderloin District. The building was old and poorly maintained. The elevator was often inoperable, requiring tenants to hike up the stairs with armloads of groceries and babies.

10-21-2009 02;30;58PM When the paramedics arrived at Paul and Charity’s apartment, Allie’s vitals were crashing. She wasn’t breathing, and her pulse raced as her weakening heart attempted to pump precious oxygen to her organs. A paramedic tested Allie’s capillary refill. He pressed the flesh on her arm with his thumb and counted how long it took for his thumb print in her flesh to disappear. For a healthy person, it’s immediate. On Allie’s skin, the print lasted several seconds.

As the paramedics squeezed air into Allie’s lungs with a bag valve mask, the elevator door disengaged from the lock, leaving its occupants stranded between floors. The paramedics manhandled the door open and climbed out onto the level above with Allie and their equipment, scrambled down the stairs, and sped to California Pacific Medical Center. Nurses and doctors worked to stabilize her. Tubes were inserted into her throat and a machine inflated her lungs with oxygen. Ten-month-old Allie remained in a coma.

She was admitted with a broken collar bone, a broken rib, and a broken fibula. Each injury was in a different stage of healing, indicating several traumatic insults spread out over time. When questioned by the emergency room doctor, Paul calmly confessed to physically abusing Allie for over four months. He showed little emotion as he told the doctor. “He seemed relieved,” the ER doctor later told me. His confession elicited a strange peace in him.

I was in a daze the day after the phone call. It was Sunday so I went to church. As a pastor, it made sense to be with my church family as the crisis unfolded. The earliest flight I could get was on Monday. Time stood still. There’s a famous scene in the movie “Good Morning Vietnam” juxtaposing Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” with scenes of explosions and people being mowed down by machine gun fire. This is how the first day was. It felt like somebody else’s tragedy was unfolding while I looked on.

1 I arrived in San Francisco on Monday. As my cell phone picked up the local signal, I noticed I had voice mail. It was from Jim, Paul’s father; Allie’s paternal grandfather. “Bryon, please call me when you get this,” the recording said. He answered my call and was frantic. “I can’t believe he did this! I hope he rots in jail!”

Those were my sentiments, too, but strangely, instinctively maybe, I told him, “Jim, if there’s anything Paul needs right now, it’s his dad. You need to be the best father to him you can be.” Out of nowhere, the pastor in me showed up. I was startled, quite frankly. I discovered early that I couldn’t hate Paul even if I wanted to, which was strange because many of my friends did not restrain their expressions of rage toward him. I wanted to keep an open door to his family. I didn’t want to blame them for the actions of their son. I couldn’t hate Paul because I didn’t want his family to become the accidental targets of my anger. My impression of Paul when I first met him after Allie was born was that of a bewildered kid in a big, frightening world. I felt sorry for him. After this happened to Allie, shock was added to deeper, inconsolable sorrow.

Another inmate beat Paul so badly his first night in jail; he had to have his jaw wired shut. He ate his meals through a straw. This news sickened me. Maybe if I was looking at this as an onlooker rather than a participant, I would call this justice. But I didn’t feel avenged, and I didn’t want the attacker as an ally. This perpetuated chaos. I felt neither vengeance nor vindication—only nausea. It didn't bring Allie out of her coma.

image I made my way to the pediatric intensive care unit at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. A polite, serious nurse escorted me into Allie’s room. Allie’s head was completely wrapped in a bandage, turban-like. She lay under the glow of a heat lamp that maintained her body temperature. Tubes from machines for breathing, eating, and delivering fluids and medicines snaked from machines into her mouth, nose, and veins. I wasn’t met with excited giggling as I had been in the past. There was only the sad whir and beeping and pumping sounds of machines keeping her alive. I leaned in and kissed her, but she didn’t know.

San Francisco’s director of child protective services called Charity and me to a meeting. She was hard on Charity. “You should have known something was hurting your daughter,” she said, her words heavy with rebuke and warning. Charity told her she wanted to give custody of Allie to my wife and me. The director of child protective services looked me in the eye and told me there was no way I should expect to simply take custody of Allie. The director doubted my wife, Susan, and I were qualified to care for Allie medically if she ever left from the hospital.

In the same week, while Allie was still in a coma, doctors and I began to have conversations about removing the artificial breathing apparatus Allie depended on. Allie’s ability to breathe on her own needed to be tested. If she could not breathe long term without the equipment, we would have to have another conversation.

I pled with God to heal her, but doubt and despair towered over faith. If God had been unavailable to keep her safe, why would he be available to heal? I used faith-filled words in my prayers, but neither my faith nor my words had value.

image In the first week I was pummeled by information, decisions, and weighty conversations. The only improvement observed in the first week was her ability to maintain her body temperature without the heating lamp. This was not enough improvement for me. Anguish paralyzed me.

Somehow people from a local San Francisco church, Calvary Chapel San Francisco, heard about my situation. They visited me regularly in the hospital and brought me food and prayed with me and were quiet with me. My relationship with God was thin, but he made his presence known through the small band of new friends.

I did my best to be upbeat in my communication with our church family back home. I recruited people to pray for us. Perhaps God wasn’t hearing my prayers, but he definitely would work, I concluded, through the prayers of others.

At the end of the first week, doctors removed tubes from Allie’s throat. She began to breathe on her own, but she remained in a coma. Her first few breaths were labored, and throughout the first day and night breathing was hard work.

Susan arrived in San Francisco in the middle of the second week, and Allie started to respond and began to emerge from the coma. It was gradual, not like it happens in movies. Allie didn’t just wake up a little confused after too many days of sleeping. Only one eye fully opened the first day. The other slowly followed over the next few days. It was evident that she was in terrible pain.

image Susan’s prayer life also suffered. Whenever she prayed for relief for Allie, it seemed Allie’s pain and discomfort would immediately increase. Prayer seemed to have contrary effects; it made things worse. Susan quit praying in the early days of our ordeal. Our entire belief system was flipped upside-down. My wife and I have watched God answer prayer in our lives and the lives of our friends because we followed him; we obeyed him and lived for him. Weren’t those the things that guaranteed that God would bless our lives? Not only was I confused, I was discouraged. Thinking about it now brings to mind the story of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham watched God deliver what only God could: a son to a childless couple whose child-bearing years had come and gone decades ago. Abraham loved Isaac with all of his heart, and one day God required Abraham to sacrifice his son, Isaac. The Bible doesn’t give us the details, but I believe Abraham’s belief system was flipped upside-down, too. “What about your promises God?” Abraham must have cried in anguish. “Haven’t I followed you all these years?”

I was learning that God was doing something much deeper in our lives than we ever expected. God gave Isaac back to Abraham. This happened near the end of Abraham’s very full life, but it was only the beginning of God’s plan to redeem men’s lives. So, too, we were in the very early stages of the work God was doing in and through us to include us in the same plan; redeeming lives. The work he was doing would only be visibly evident from a not yet developed perspective. Why God would let all this happen to us we couldn’t explain. This is the point where we began to learn to trust God in day-by-day increments.

image We lived in the hospital for eight weeks with Allie until the day she was released. Susan learned how to care for Allie while we were there. She relieved the nurses from including Allie in their regular rounds. Meanwhile, the doctors in the pediatric unit became our biggest advocates in the bid to gain custody of Allie. Our case was turned over to a new social worker who was not antagonistic. In fact, Jack became our greatest ally and champion of our cause. In a stunning reversal, Allie's court appointed lawyer followed suit and began to make the case that awarding us custody was the best course of action for Allie.

On the same day Allie was released from the hospital, the courts awarded us custody of Allie. Becoming Allie’s foster parents came with two restrictions: we were not permitted to leave California, and Charity was only allowed supervised visits. She could not live in the same house with Allie. We decided to live with my sister in northern California, a six-hour drive north. We had to say goodbye to our house in Florida, my job as a pastor, and our 18-year-old son, Aaron, living in Florida.

That was the beginning of the hardest time in our lives. We didn't have the hospital to back us up. We didn't have doctors and nurses as ready resources. We didn't have a hospital keeping house and preparing our meals and getting medicine doses ready. We were totally on our own.

My wife and I went to war with each other over private moments of peace. Our days and nights were filled with battle, each claiming that the other wasn't doing his or her share. I was a selfless martyr and she was a slacker. We tore into each other like wounded animals. I wanted to leave.

“If you’re leaving, don’t wait,” Susan said. “If you’re going to do it, do it now so I can get on with figuring out how life is going to work.”

This wasn’t living. It wasn’t even surviving. I made a decision to serve my wife and Allie no matter what the cost. This was the only clear option. I couldn’t get Romans 12 out of my head. I needed to become a living sacrifice. The only way our little family unit would weather this was to serve selflessly, expecting nothing in return. This isn't personal piety and this isn’t an attempt at superior spirituality. It was the only rational thing I could do to survive. This is what God was waiting for me to discover. Being a living sacrifice isn’t just a mystical way of doing Christianity. It’s not a life of simply reading the Bible, memorizing a few verses, singing songs, going to church, and obeying a few rules. The way Christianity works was summed up best by Jesus when he said, “…whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it (Matthew 16:25 ESV).”

In his book, The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer wrote:

There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life. Because it is so natural it is rarely recognized for the evil that it is; but its outworkings are tragic. We are often hindered from giving up our treasures to the Lord out of fear for their safety; this is especially true when those treasures are loved relatives and friends. But we need have no such fears. Our Lord came not to destroy but to save. Everything is safe which we commit to Him, and nothing is really safe which is not so committed.

This was the biggest step of faith I had ever taken because there were no guarantees and no way to survive a failure.

image Meanwhile, Charity was despondent after losing custody of Allie. Twice I talked her out of suicide. She went days without sleep. She became unemployable. She ended up homeless, a 99-pound 20-year-old living on the streets of San Francisco and Berkeley. She spent her nights up off the ground and out of sight in trees and on scaffolding of multi-story building projects. After about three months of living like this, she made friends at a local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter. They opened up their homes, allowing her to sleep here a few nights and there for a few more, giving her much-needed rest and security. Soon she was able to find work as a short order cook and rent a room.

My son, Aaron, involuntary discovered solitude. Everyone that was ever close to him has moved a continent away. Aaron was in school when everything happened. He wanted to come out to California, to do something, but I told him to stay put. There was nothing he could do. Allie was in a coma. Charity was in shock. Thinking back, it would have been nice to have the family back together even in this crisis. But having the family truly back together was not going to take a trip across the country, it was going to take a trip back in time.

Susan felt utterly abandoned. At first, there was an overwhelming response to our situation. Friends and family flew out from Florida to help Susan when work took me out of town. Over time, our needs changed little, but people got on with their lives. Friends promised to help and provide relief, but they took one look at how much work Allie is and slowly faded from view.

Now, three years later, Susan and I are back in Florida and have officially adopted Allie. Susan and I stick together like we never have before. We live near close friends that encourage us and help when they can. It has been healing for us. “Why me?” I complained to Joyce, a motherly lady in my life.

“Why not you?” she shot back. “You did a great job raising your first two kids, you’re visible in the community as a pastor, and you have a strong marriage. Why wouldn’t God give this child to you? Who else would he give her to?”

Those simple words pierced my heart and peace washed over me. She spoke like an oracle, completely shifting my perspective. At first, I couldn’t get my mind off of what had happened to this little girl, to us, and to me. My faith was strengthened as I shifted focus from our situation and to the Creator God who delights himself by including us in his plans to the great amazement of all who take notice. Once we felt abandoned by God, but now we sense his presence and see his wisdom. We couldn’t do this without each other and we couldn't do it without the preparation of our hearts over our lifetimes. My life is full now as hard as it is to take care of a special-needs child. Yet this child is the source and the recipient of all my love at the same time.

familyAllie’s medical challenges will be continuous. She has cerebral palsy and is a quadriplegic due to brain damage sustained from shaking and oxygen deprivation. Her little body grows incorrectly, requiring surgery to prevent painful deformed development. Bones and muscle grow at different rates causing joints to migrate out of socket. She eats only puréed foods preventing teeth from strong development. Brain damage has severely limited her vision. Doctors say that she will never walk or talk or play like a normal child.

Susan is the biggest trooper. She’s embraced the task and held on with a relentless, unyielding grip. It’s more than motherly instinct. It’s mission. Of all of us, she has most deeply recognized that God picked us for this task. That being selected by God for this mission at this time in our lives is the best thing for us. That God has shown himself to be wise to wait until this precise time in our lives to do this thing. She loves being a mom again even if it’s the hardest thing that has ever happened. I always hear her say to Allie, “I love being your mommy."

I don't think about Paul, Allie’s biological father, much. When I do, I try to pray for him. I see his mother often, but I don't think of her son at all except when Allie is having an unusually bad day. On those days my mind runs a feedback loop of blame. But I find myself allowing this pattern to run a much shorter course lately. I'm quicker to pray. I ask God to cause Allie's little life to somehow impact Paul's redemption.

We want Allie to grow up to be a hero whose life blesses victims and perpetrators alike. Nobody is vindicated or avenged. The Cross enthroned a dying savior who said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” Nor did they know what was coming: resurrection and new life. Death is the end of the road for offenders, but not for the forgiven. We want Allie to have such an understanding of the gospel that her repaired life is a signpost pointing to the redeemer who vindicates, justifies, and pours grace upon accusers, victims, and executioners alike.

The Kingdom Center, Ventura CA.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

How do we as Christians, as church people help the homeless? This video tells the story of how one community and several church congregations came together to take on homelessness in their town. You need to watch the video, but in a nut shell, an old motel was bought, refurbished, and staffed to provide shelter, food, clothing, counseling, and Bible studies. Each congregation sponsors one room. They own the room, they gut it out and remodel it. Then they minister to the family in transition that occupies that room.

The government can't meet the need. It's too big of a bite for one congregation. But a bunch of churches working together get the job done in their town. It's a pretty cool model for ministry.

The Kingdom Center, Ventura CA. from Enoch Magazine on Vimeo.

Why are cartoon characters taking over Facebook?

Saturday, December 04, 2010

image The Charming and Beautiful Susan noticed that all our friends were uploading childhood cartoon characters as profile pictures on Facebook. This was happening in real time this morning as she checked up on friends. It’s fun to watch something go viral right in front of you. So the question is why. Why are people doing this?

Here’s the back story:

The Rugrats. Strawberry Shortcake. Jem and the Holograms. Mickey Mouse.

If cartoon characters are starting to replace your Facebook friends, take comfort. You're not alone.

The latest fad to go viral on the social networking site has users changing their profile pictures to images of their favorite childhood cartoon characters.

And judging from today's Google trends and Twitter traffic, Facebook users across the site are enjoying the animated walk down memory lane.

Earlier this morning, "cartoons from the 90s," "80s cartoons," "hong kong phooey," "care bear pictures" and plenty of other cartoon-related phrases dominated Google's list of hot searches.

On Facebook, images of the Flintstones, Thundercats, the Smurfs and other classic cartoon characters are taking over users' news feeds.

According to the trend-tracking website Know Your Meme, the cartoon fad started with Facebook users in Greece and Cyprus in mid-November.

Cartoon Message Says Campaign Is to Stop Violence Against Children

The site said the original message was in Greek and translated to "From the 16th to the 20th of November, we shall change our profile pictures to our favourite cartoon characters. The purpose of this game is to remove all photos of human for a few days from Facebook."

On November 19, All Facebook noticed a slightly different cartoon message sweeping the site.

"NewGame: Change your profile picture to your favorite cartoon from when you were a kid. The goal of this game is not to see a human picture on Facebook, but an invasion of childhood memories until Monday. PLAY AND PASS ALONG!"

Messages posted today include a cause in the call to action.

"Change your facebook profile picture to a cartoon character from your childhood and invite your friends to do the same. Until Monday, Dec 6th of 2010, there should be no human faces on facebook, but an invasion of memories! This is for a campaign against violence on children."

The origin of this latest message is murky, but, as with most Facebook memes, that isn't stopping Facebook users from joining the online movement. read the rest of the story...

Child abuse, as many of you know, is close to our heart. Here’s a link to our story.

My articles this month

Friday, December 03, 2010

I just wanted to update my post from the other day. I had two articles published in this month’s Good News.

Churches do missions “in-house”

By: BryonMondok

How churches do missions is changing. Traditionally, prospective missionaries leave their church families to join mission organizations to execute the vision and tasks of the organizations. But here in South Florida, churches themselves fulfill the role of the mission agency. Calvary Chapel Boynton Beach, First Baptist of Fort Lauderdale, Calvary Church in Jupiter, Grace Fellowship in West Palm Beach Florida, Calvary Chapel Port St. Lucie, and Calvary… Full Story

Out Live Your Life by Max Lucado

By BryonMondok

Get out? Or get in? You’ve heard the saying, “she’s so heavenly minded she’s no earthly good.” In a time when Christians in American culture myopically focus on their own heavenly evacuation, Max Lucado issues a challenge: leave something behind. Be a world changer.

In his newest book Outlive Your Life, Lucado celebrates the otherwise uncelebrated. In vivid prose, unsung heroes are brought to life as examples of people whose work benefits the world beyond the span of their lives. They’ve left a legacy behind that continues to point people to Jesus even though they’ve gone to be with Him.

And this is a really cool article about Christmas carols by Anitra Parmele.

The story behind the songs at Christmas time

By: AnitraParmele

It’s the moment when the phrase captures you…”O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel” as you’re standing in the coffee aisle at the grocery store. It’s the CD where you listen to the whole thing and not just cherry pick your favorites off iTunes because this is Bing Crosby. It’s the neighbor’s little boy dressed up in his dad’s bathrobe as he tilts back his head and belts… Full Story

Fatherless Generation

Thursday, December 02, 2010

I'm working on a book review for a future article. The book is called Fatherless Generation by John Sowers. I just re-read these sobering stats about the impact fatherlessness is having on our country. Here's what it contributes to:

63 percent of youth suicides

71 percent of pregnant teenagers

90 percent of all homeless and runaway children

70 percent of juveniles in state-operated institutions

85 percent of all youth who exhibit behavior disorders

80 percent of rapists motivated with displaced anger

71 percent of all high school dropouts

75 percent of all adolescents in chemical abuse centers

85 percent of all youths sitting in prison.



Good News articles this month...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

I have an article in the Good News of South Florida this month...


By Bryon Mondok

How churches do missions is changing. Traditionally, prospective missionaries leave their church families to join mission organizations to execute the vision and tasks of the organizations. But here in South Florida, churches themselves fulfill the role of the mission agency. Calvary Chapel Boynton Beach, First Baptist of Fort Lauderdale, Calvary Church in Jupiter, Grace Fellowship in West Palm Beach Florida, Calvary Chapel Port St. Lucie, and Calvary… Full Story

Thanks, Calvary Church

I'm so thankful for Calvary Church in Jupiter, Florida. Calvary is where I served for ten years in ministry before jumping on board with Shepherd's Staff Mission Facilitators. I live and raise support as a missionary and Calvary has been a significant underwriter of my ministry from day one. Thanks so much, Calvary family, for all you support and prayers and friendship.

Here's a video they played last weekend at their church to help raise support for my family.

Christmas Offering Missions Spotlight - Bryon Mondok from Calvary Church on Vimeo.