Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Peter Kozo

Peter was three years ahead of me in high school.
Peter was born in the year John F. Kennedy was elected President of the United States of America.
I was born the year Kennedy was assassinated.
His last name came from that proud Eastern European Roman Catholic background. Kozo rhymed with "Bozo". Peter had lots of nicknames... PK, Peety, Pete and "The Koz". But rue the day when that one classmate called him "Bozo." Small in comparison to his teasing nemesis, Peter took this kid out with three quick punches and Peter was never called Bozo again... ever!

Popular with the girls and the boys, Peter was one of those counter cultural kids. He cycled long before anyone had ever heard of Lance Armstrong. He rode his skateboard to school long before anyone had ever heard of Tony Hawk. And Tony loved to sing which made my sitting next to him in the choir "cool." I needed all the "coolness" I could muster when I was in high school and sitting next to Peter in the choir helped a ton.

Back then Peter had long flowing hair. With one of those big combs that everyone used to carry in their back pockets, Peter could be seen frequently combing through the locks that made every girl jealous and every boy envious. Always tanned, Peter's bright smile put everyone at ease. As much as he had the chance to be arrogant and cocky, he was just the opposite - cool, yet humble, gracious, kind and took the time to say hello to anyone who wanted to stop and chat on the quad. Everyone knew he loved Jesus but for some reason that love for the Lord was never a turn off. He was a magnet not a repellent.

No one in his family had ever been to college. In typical counter culture fashion Peter went off to UCLA. We  stood next to each other in the choir on his day of graduation. We gave each other "low fives" because a "high five" hadn't been invented yet. And off he went with his flowing hair matching his flowing graduation robe.

In 1982 I was experiencing my first summer home from college. Little did I know that Peter would be experiencing his last. Having graduated from UCLA, Peter was back home in the summer of 1982. Off to the beach on his bike, heading down Newport Boulevard, Peter was struck by a van and killed immediately. Today we have Facebook and the news would have been spread in a nanosecond. In the summer of 1982 word leaked out slower than molasses. By the time I heard the news I was getting ready to head back for my sophomore year. Peter had been dead for weeks at that point.

It's been 31 years since Peter passed away...

Rest in peace Peter...

My iWitness...

Yesterday I found myself walking around Gray's Lake in Des Moines, Iowa. On the far side of the two mile trail around the lake is a wide pedestrian bridge that is one quarter of a mile long. On the railing of the bridge, every eight inches were small plaques affixed to the metal railing. Each plaque was in honor or in memory of someone. Some plaques had fake flowers attached to them. Others had little stickers with a smiley face or a cross.

About halfway across a name caught my eye and I stopped and stared for several minutes...

Peter Kozo

I have a confession to make. I have never met Peter Kozo. Everything you read above was the making of Peter Kozo in my own mind and fantasy.

What I was struck by yesterday as I crossed the bridge was that people like Peter Kozo were remembered. They were gone but not forgotten. And as much as I made up the story of Peter Kozo, there is someone, there is some family out there that can and would be more than happy to tell you the story of Peter. Their stories of Peter would be much more vivid and passionate than my fictional fantasy. There is someone who took the time to buy a plaque so that their son, brother, boyfriend or just friend would be forever remembered on the bridge at Gray's Lake Park. Whoever they are, I thank them for remembering Peter.

Once again I come around to this point... You make a difference.
With each passing day you write a page in the book of your life. Some chapters are incredibly exciting and others terribly boring and uneventful. Nonetheless, You have a story to tell.
People read the book you are writing. They are influenced by you. They are moved by you. They are dedicated to you. They are impacted in ways you cannot begin to imagine by your life, your love, your laugh. And when you are gone, you will not be forgotten. Your footprints on the hearts of so many that you know and don't know will keep walking long after your journey has ended..

And the beauty of it all is that like Peter Kozo, you have a name. A name that you love to hear being called out. A name that identifies you and separates you out from the crowd. A name that sometimes defines who you are and a name that people love to have on their lips.

Most of all God loves to say your name. He loves to whisper it in your ear. He loves to shout it from the mountaintops and have your name clap in the echoes. I love one of God's favorite sayings...

"Fear not, for I have redeemed you;     I have called you by name, you are mine.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you;
     and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;
when you walk through the fire you shall not be burned,
    and the flames shall not consume you.
For I am the Lord your God,
    The Holy One of Israel, your Savior." (Isaiah 43. 1-3) 

Rest in peace today my friend...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and fear not!

Monday, April 29, 2013

When Grace comes a knockin'

The temperatures in Dubuque, Iowa are on the rise! Warmer temperatures invite people to leave their wintry cocoons and venture outdoors to enjoy the beauty of God's creation.
We live in a great neighborhood filled with children about the same age as Faith and Joshua. The children all get along as well as the parents.
A wonderful sound that we did not hear very often in the winter time is the sound of the doorbell. The kids troll the neighborhood looking for a playmate. The refrain is always the same, "Can (insert name of child) come out and play?" It's a chorus that will be played out many times this summer. I love it!

Last night Grace came a knockin' (literally rang the doorbell). Grace lives over on the next street. As soon as the doorbell rang, Faith and Joshua responded in Pavlovian style and ran as fast as they could to the door using classic Roller Derby techniques to see who would arrive first. Our dog Lily is barking the whole way and mom and dad are not far behind in the rare case that it actually might be an adult at the front door who just might be asking if we can come out and play.

Grace's standard question was met with, "We're sorry honey. It's too late. Faith and Joshua are getting ready to go to bed. (a short protest from Faith and Joshua was met with the Dendy "Don't Disrespect Me Death Stare!" It's quite effective!)

Grace smiled and said, "Okay" and was on her way as the kids exchanged pleasantries.

Grace will come a knockin' again.

She always does...

My iWitness...

I am pretty positive that Grace, Faith and Joshua give little thought to the amount of courage it must take to knock on someone's door and ask them to come out and play.

They do it so effortlessly and with full confidence that the child on the other side of the door will be ready to run outside and play at the drop of a hat.

What would happen if every time they knocked on the door the ready response was, "I'm sorry. We are too busy to play." How many knocks would it take for them to simply stop knocking?

One of my favorite images of Jesus is found in the book of Revelation...

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelation 3. 20)

Jesus stands at the door of my heart each and every day and knocks gently, repetitively, relentlessly, courageously and lovingly offering His grace saying, "Can you come out and play?"

How many times have I said, "I'm sorry Jesus. I am too busy today. Perhaps tomorrow."

And tomorrow comes...

How many "tomorrows" have passed and will pass with His gentle knock that I no longer even go near the front door because I know He is there? I begin to hide in the recesses of my own home only to become a prisoner in the very place I seek to find freedom.

Oh... will you excuse me please? I need to go answer the door.

Grace has come a knockin' again...

He always does...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and fear not!

Sunday, April 28, 2013


My friend is an alcoholic.
My friend has read my iWitness blog before and if this friend reads today's blog, my friend will probably pray for my alcoholic friend, never believing or even thinking that this blog is about the person that my friend sees in the mirror every day.
I will not even delve into the ins and outs of the why's and how's of Alcoholism.
Let's just all agree that it is devastating, destructive, divisive, denial producing and down right damning for every person whose life is touched by its long reaching tentacles.
My dad was an alcoholic. For how long? I don't know but I would venture to guess for about the last 62 years of his life. Highly functioning and yet, he lost his business, his marriage, his friends, and his standing in the neighborhood and community. I am grateful for the friends and family that stood by him even when he couldn't stand by or for himself. You know who you are... THANK YOU!

You know my alcoholic friend. It could be you. It could be your mom or dad or brother or sister or son or daughter or your business partner, or boss or husband or wife. It could be anyone...

I wept over my friend today. My friend didn't know that I wept. And if my friend would ask me why I was weeping and I gave a straight answer there would be a fight, a screaming match, a slamming of doors, a full onslaught of denials and accusations. It would not be pretty. It would get ugly fast. The tension scale would go from zero to sixty faster than a Porsche 911. The very thing that has held our friendship together would snap in an instant causing irreparable damage.

And here's the tension. There is so much invested. There is so much to lose. There is so much to gain. There is so much at stake. There is so much love and there is so much pain. And the question hits me like a "two by four..."

"What's the right thing to do?" 

I know what Jesus would do...
Can I do the same?

There will be a temptation for you and others to flood my inbox with suggestions. Please refrain. I've heard them all and tried them all. And that's another reason it's so damn frustrating. Until my friend decides to do something, nothing can be done...and nothing will be done, other than my friend's life spiraling further and further out of control...like a whirlpool sucking everything down into its unrelenting vortex.

I have another friend who is a recovering alcoholic. Emphasis on the word, "Recovering!" This friend will read this post and this friend will "like" it on my Facebook page. And because my friend is going to "like" this post, I will get to see my friend's face on my Facebook page... my friend's beautiful face with a beautiful smile exuding the joy of life from a lovely heart. And the reason that I will smile and probably shed a tear is because I can vividly remember when my friend's life was on the brink, on the edge and now my friend is back, back to being the better self, with the family totally intact and life moving forward in all sorts of incredible ways. I love stories like this of restoration and redemption!! Praise the Lord!

My iWitness...

I have talked about two friends...
One is an alcoholic.
One is a recovering alcoholic.

What's the difference between the two?
A world of difference!!
One is recovering. The other one is not.
One grabbed God's loving hand and is spiraling upward.
One let go and is spiraling downward toward a rock bottom landing.
They both make me cry... but for a host of different reasons.

"O gracious and loving Lord. There are so many things in my world that I have allowed to have control over me. Help me to be bold to recognize and call them by name those things that have taken over my life and my world. Help me realize that I cannot overcome these vices, these demons, these destructive behaviors without You. I can do nothing without you.

And for my dear friend and friends who are being held captive by alcoholism...O Lord... my heart aches, my eyes weep. Open their eyes and allow them to see life in a new way, that being dependent on you leads to freedom and being dependent on alcohol leads to enslavement and destruction."

Don't raise a glass for my friend...
Raise a prayer instead...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7. 21-25)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Paper Chasers

Overlooking the "quad" yesterday at UD, I watched an incredible scene unfold right before my very eyes.

A student was sitting on the bench underneath the Bell Tower. She set her three ring notebook off to her left side. She turned to view something on her right. Her left forefinger drew an "S" on the left side of her face to draw her hair back behind her ear in the afternoon breeze. Her gaze became fixated on the object to her right.

Then it happened. And when it happened, it happened with full force.

Like a Vegas Casino card dealer, the wind grabbed the unsecured papers in the three ring notebook and began dealing them with such rapid force and pace that by the time the student turned to see what was the matter, more than 50 pages had been "dealt" to the waiting hands of the green bladed grass.

She jumped up quickly as the papers ran away from her with the erraticness of a two year old toddler. She grabbed a paper here and a paper there. But in her haste she forgot to secure the rest of the notebook. As much as she was chasing papers in front of her, she was being assaulted by flying papers from behind.

That which was such a bucolic scene became pure chaos in no time!

Here's the even more amazing part of the story. As the papers flew away from this student, unbeknownst to the papers four students were running toward the papers and in less than one minute had them all corralled like sheep in a pen.

In less than 90 seconds life had gone from calm to chaos back to calm again.

My iWitness...

There's an abundance of angles to talk about with this story.
Here's my iWitness angle for the day...
Without the help of four other students, this student would have spent a long time getting her papers back in order.
The winds of chaos blow through our lives everyday. Let's get used to it.
But life can be much more calm when we have friends, helping hands around us to handle the chaos.
We don't have to go at it alone. That is what Christian community is all about.
Helping, supporting, praying, lifting one another up, offering a hand and collecting the runaway pages of life and helping each other put them back in order again.

Let me offer this last observation... Some of the most rewarding times in my life have been chasing down your pages. And some of the most meaningful times in my life have been allowing you to help me chase down mine... Thank you!

Let's keep chasing!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it."
(1 Corinthians 12. 27)   

Friday, April 26, 2013

Open Doors

A little after 5:00 pm I walked up to the front doors of the elementary school where my children go to school. They were in "aftercare" - a YMCA sponsored after school program that is offered for parents who are not able to pick up their children right when school lets out.

As I approached I noticed a couple looking through the front doors with cupped hands around their faces. They proceeded to push the intercom button. Quickly the lady pulled out her cell phone and started to dial the school's phone number. The husband kept rhythmically "bobbing" back and forth from looking through the glass and looking at his wife.

My stomach went into a bit of a panic as I thought perhaps I had shown up too late and "aftercare" was over and my kids had been shipped to DHS. I got to the front doors, looked at the couple and then proceeded to say, "Are the doors locked?" At that moment I placed my hand on the door handle and pulled...

Voila!! The door opened!
The man looked at me as if I had some sort of super power and the lady quickly put away her "flip" phone. His comment was an instant classic - "I thought the doors were locked. I never actually tried to open it."

I smiled and said, "Come on in."

My iWitness...

How many times have I heard someone say something to this effect, "Well... when God closes one door, He opens another."

After yesterday I am starting to rethink that old adage.

What if there were lots of doors that God provided for me and I never went through those doors for the simple reason, "I thought the doors were locked. I never actually tried to open it!!!"

Perhaps today we might want to try and open some doors that God has placed in front of us and actually "go through" those doors and start a new God endorsed adventure!

Or perhaps we can stand outside and huddle together, with our cell phones out, looking through the glass, impatiently waiting and wondering, "How much longer until God opens the door for us?"

And that's my Iwitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Jesus said, "I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10. 9)

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Giant and the Dwarf

Her name is Santana.
She's blonde...
She has a contagious laugh and infectious personality.
Her smile lights up the room.
You can't help but notice her when you walk into a room where she is present.
She's ten years old.
She's in third grade.
She's a dwarf.

Last night, the church we attend had rented out the local Roller Skating rink.
Put me on a set of "quads" and watch out!!
Literally, "Watch out!"
I love roller skating with the music, the disco ball and people of all abilities out on the rink making their way around the rink in a counter clockwise fashion.

I was flying down the backstretch with my orange wheels whirring and I noticed Santana in the far corner standing next to her mom.
Our eyes met
Her smile widened
And her little arms stretched out as far as they could
Her hands were opened wide shouting, "Grab me! Hold me!"

How could I resist...
Compared to Santana, I am a giant.

And there we were... hand in hand, laughing, skating and at one time tripping and falling all over each other. Several times Santana fell and several more times my big hands and strong arms kept her from falling.
The giant and the dwarf...
I loved it!
And so did she...

My iWitness...

I am a dwarf...
God is a ginormous gigantic giant!

And yet...

That doesn't stop Him from reaching down, extending His big hand to hold my little hand and go skating with me through life.
There are times when I stumble, tumble and fall.
There are more times when His big hands and strong arms keep me from falling.
There are times when I want to skate alone.
There are times when I want to skate along.
There are times when I want to skate with someone else.
And yet, there He is, the Giant, always near by with hand extended desiring to skate with me.

What will the day ahead bring?
I have no idea other than this I know...
I will put on my skates, listen to the music, stand in the corner and patiently wait for the Giant of Giants to come and take my outstretched hand and hold me for the ride of the day!
As I hold His hand, I know that He holds mine!
The Giant and the Dwarf...
I love it!
And so does He!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"You make known to me the path of life;
     in your presence there is fullness of joy;
     at your right hand are pleasures forevermore." (Psalm 16. 11)

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Impacting others...

Yesterday I had the privilege of wishing a close friend of mine, "Happy Birthday!"
I noticed on my friend's Facebook Page that she was also wishing her daughter, "Happy Two Year Anniversary!"
That's right! Her daughter got married on her mom's birthday.

My friend met her daughter for the very first time two years ago at her daughter's wedding.
Her daughter was 34.
My friend was 54.

Do you remember when you were 20?
Do you remember where you were when you were 20?

At age 20 this dear friend of mine gave birth to a baby girl.
For 34 years she wondered about and prayed for this little girl.

Two weeks before the wedding date of April 23, 2011, my friend sent me a message asking for prayer. She was nervous about going to see her daughter for the very first time. She knew that she would be the outsider at the wedding party in Tennessee. She was scared.

Here's what I wrote back to her... (I have changed the names out of respect for their privacy)

"Mary! I am thrilled for you and this great opportunity. Will you be nervous? Absolutely! Will you be scared! no doubt!! Will you come through this with flying colors! You bet your bottom dollar!!!! You will do great! Be your wonderful, happy, funny, serious, outgoing self and be the woman God is calling you to be at this wedding.
Remember, just in case anyone forgets, that that wedding would never, and I mean NEVER be taking place if it were not for you!!  Cindy's mom may have given her life, but you my dear Mary gave Cindy that which no one could ever give her... you gave her breath! Without breath, there is no life, without life there is no bride and thus no wedding!! Everyone gathered together at the wedding will be there because of you!! You are the reason they are all gathered together from near and far. Sure... they have no idea who you are, they don't know you, they will simply nod and smile at you, but make no mistake young lady... everyone in attendance is there due to your invitation to invite this beautiful young lady into this world so many years ago!!
Praise the Lord for you Mary!! If anyone should make you feel uncomfortable at the wedding, please get their name and address and let them know that some boy from Southern Oregon is going to track them down and kick their ass!!
I love you Mary! You are an incredible child of God and this journey you have been on for so long is coming around the home stretch to meet the one whom you gave up out of great love!!

Go get 'em girl!

Well... the wedding went great and the reunion was blissful and two years later they have become great friends...Praise the Lord!

ps - I didn't have to go to Tennessee and kick anyone's ass much to my disappointment!! LOL!

Do you sometimes think that your existence, your decisions in life, your very presence in the midst of others does not have an impact?

Let me invite you to think again...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and fear not!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Burying it in the trash

It's an almost daily occurrence...

You did it. I did it.

And now my kids do it...

They bring home food in the lunchbox that they didn't eat for lunch at school. It might be a little snack bag of carrots or half of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or as was the case yesterday - "orange slices."

Our children haven't figured out yet that it would be in their best "self-interest" just to throw the food away at school and then we would never know that they weren't eating what was packed in their lunch. I'm sure they will figure it out eventually.

Nonetheless, Faith brings home a sandwich bag of orange slices yesterday in her lunchbox and upon arrival declares that she is "hungry." Any parent in their right mind knows what the next comment is going to be (reason being... this is what our parents said to us!)  "Well, if you had eaten all of your lunch you wouldn't be so hungry right now."

The plan of action was for Faith to eat her orange slices before she could have anything else. Protest ensues, lawyers are called, ACLU website is bookmarked and the drama begins. Mom holds firm and leaves Faith by herself to eat the orange slices. 

A few minutes later Faith says, "I'm done." 
There's just something fishy going on here.
Julie looks around. No baggy of orange slices to be found. No empty baggy. No sticky fingers. No hint of the aroma of an orange. Julie pulls out the trash can. No baggy. Julie digs deep into the trash can and "Voila!" there's the baggy of orange slices. Can you say, "Busted!"

My iWitness...

How full is your trash can?

How deep do we go to bury the things we don't want to deal with, hoping and praying that by burying it, it will simply go away.

I have a trash can...

You have a trash can...

I wonder how many times God looks at us and chuckles to Himself, "Really? Are you going to try and bury that again?"

And we do... because burying it is easier than bearing it or baring it.

I wonder what would happen if we set aside some time to let God sift through our trash, all the stuff we have buried through the years. I have a feeling He wouldn't say, "Busted!"

I have a feeling He would sympathetically and kindly and lovingly say, "Oh yes... I remember this one. That was such a difficult time in your life." And, "Oh yes, here we go, I remember how much I longed to hold your hand and hear your voice. You were hurting so much, I reached out to hold you and protect you, but I am pretty sure you didn't realize that I was there." And finally, He might mention, "Oh my dear child, hiding these things only compounds the hurt. Let me take these things and wash them clean and make all things new. Just so you know, I love your trash, because I love you and no matter how big or how deep the trash can is, it cannot separate my love from you! In fact, nothing can separate my love from you!"

What will you find in your lunchbox today? 
Sit and sup with the Savior! 
Savor the meal.
Let the Messiah help you clean your plate...and you won't go hungry again...

"For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 8. 38-39)

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Monday, April 22, 2013

Anticipate Miracles

My dear friend, the Reverend Doctor Dave A. Peterson preached his last sermon as the Senior Pastor of the  Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church (MDPC) in Houston, Texas. He is now officially retired after serving the Memorial Drive Church for 18 years and after serving churches from Elko, Nevada to Grand Haven, Michigan to Spokane, Washington for the last 41 years!

I was there for his first sermon at MDPC... so sorry I wasn't able to attend his last. While he was preaching his last sermon, I was preaching my first sermon in a Presbyterian Church since leaving the First Presbyterian Church of Klamath Falls, Oregon in March of 2012.

Dave Peterson is one of the main reasons I was able to preach at all...

My iWitness...

Dave Peterson always ended the worship service with this benediction...

"Expect the unexpected... Anticipate miracles... And know through God all things are possible."

The years between  1997 through 1999 had to be the most turbulent years of my life. Outside of meeting Julie during those years, my life was a complete mess...

In my Presbyterian circles I was unacceptable and unlovable and undeniably an outcast. My future looked quite bleak within the Presbyterian Church.

There was one pastor who opened his arms, his heart, his life, his office and his love for me during that time. His name is Dave Peterson.

It would take volumes to share with you how my life has changed since those early years of 1998. But let me say this... He got me back up on my feet again and walked with me in a new direction of life that allowed me to preach again, be accepted again, be lovable again and basically be included in the loving arms of the church once again. With his arms wrapped around me my shoulders...

I began to "expect the unexpected..."

I began to "anticipate miracles..."

I began to and actually believed and then joyfully experienced the unexpected miracles that God, and only God makes possible!

And you can too!!

In Dave's honor,  "Expect the unexpected! Anticipate Miracles! And Know through God all things are possible!"

Thank you Dave!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4. 13)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

The Father's Arms

I first noticed him Friday night at the Water Park.

His board shorts were pulled up high over his waist. I thought perhaps he was in fourth grade or so. But he had a mustache type growth of hair on his upper lip. It looked like the mustache I tried to unsuccessfully grow one time. Obviously he wasn't in elementary school.

His arms were extremely thin along with his legs. And then I noticed his hands. They looked like no hands I had ever seen him before. There were maybe three digits instead of five. His right pinky looked more like a long thumb. His toes were extremely curled under his feet. His eyes were distant. His steps halting. He was mentally and physically challenged.

He descended the steps into the enormous amoeba shaped hot tub. With each step he stopped... turned his head as far around as he could and looked for permission and approval from his father who sat not too far away. With each look the father gave "the nod." And with each "nod" the son took one more step into the hot tub. The whole process must have lasted six to seven minutes. Once he was fully in the water, his flat facial expression never changed.

Saturday morning Faith and I were climbing the steps for the indoor Water Slide. With the "double inner-tube" in hand we noticed that this boy was in front of us walking up the stairs holding his father's arms. We arrived at the launching platform and the young boy's feet dug into the planks below him. His back arched. His arms stretched out wide. He leaned back with all his might. He was not about to go on this ride.

My iWitness...

It wasn't more than a few seconds later that the boy was on the inner-tube making his way down the 500 foot slide. Faith and I were not far behind. As we made our way out of the wading pool we fell in step with the boy and his father on their way back up for another ride.

This time his facial expression was all smiles! That expression never left his face for the rest of his time in the Water Park.

Do you know why he was smiling? At the launching pad the father reached over and reach around with his strong and loving arms and held his son reassuringly. The father whispered into the son's ear as the father's arms lifted the son into the water and into the inner-tube. With another "nod" the father's arms pushed the inner-tube and off the son went on a most thrilling ride!

Our time at the Water Park had come to an end and we as a family had checked out and were walking down the hallway. That "father" was walking about twenty feet ahead of us. I called out, "Excuse me sir. He turned around and I walked up to him and I said, "I really enjoyed watching you and your son interact with one another today. It was a joy for me to watch you with him." He shook his head in a humble way, shook my hand and said, "Thank you, my name is David." I said, "Mine too!" We laughed. I reiterated my appreciation and he started to walk away. I asked him, "What is your son's name?" "KJ" was his reply. He went on, "It stands for Kenneth John, named after my grandfather and my father." I said, "That's a great name." We caught each other's gaze one last time and then we went our separate ways.

Kenneth John is in for the ride of his life!

Do you know why?

Because of his father's arms...

And we can enjoy this ride called life too, if we will simply and profoundly trust the "Father's Arms."

"The eternal God is your dwelling place,
     and underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deuteronomy 33. 27)

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Bucket of Grace

Welcome to the "Tundra Lodge"! This is a great lodging experience that boasts a three story, 30,000 square foot indoor Water Park . The Tundra Lodge is in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Good thing we were inside since it was snowing outside. Across the parking lot is the legendary "Lambeau Field" - home of the mighty Green Bay Packers!!

Our table and lawn chairs were positioned against the wall but near the "spray zone" of the intricate maze of the indoor play structure with all sorts of water coming out of different nozzles and sprinklers. Atop this massive structure was "The Bucket".  This "bucket" holds about 400 gallons of water and sits off center on an axle of some sort. It is continuously being filled with water and every three minutes (like clockwork) it tilts and dumps 400 gallons of water all over the play structure. Where we were sitting we would receive a few drops every time.

I was fascinated by the response of the kids of all ages to the "Bucket."

**Some people would watch for it, anticipate it and run right to the spot where they would feel the full weight of this dumping deluge.

Others hid themselves strategically under a bridge or in a box where they would watch the water cascade around them but not really get wet. They were ironically close but at a strategic distance.

Others would be walking by "innocently", unaware of what was about to take place and upon hearing the "whoooooosh" of water they would jump out of the way, avoiding the spray altogether. They would instinctively let out a scream as they avoided the avalanche. (I thought to myself... It's a Water Park. You're supposed to get wet!)

Others were pulled into the "splash zone" unwillingly. More than once I saw a boyfriend pulling his girlfriend in the "zone" and watching her jump to the tip of her toes as she got drenched. Amazingly both parties involved ended up laughing like crazy afterwards.

Then there were those like myself, at a safe distance, purposefully avoiding the Bucket but experiencing and enjoying the occasional drops of water that would find their way over to me.

It was a great night to people watch.

My iWitness...

Let me invite you to return to the above paragraph where you see the two **. Start reading from that point and as you do this time think of The Bucket as the unending, eternal Bucket of God's grace.

Let me know if the same "people watching" observations don't apply when it comes to the bucket of God's grace... which is poured out for us every second of every day...

"And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions...
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."
(Joel 2. 28, 32)

The Bucket of God's grace! See you there!
Don't forget to wear your bathing suit... we're going to get drenched!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Friday, April 19, 2013

What do you buy into?

I overheard someone say yesterday, "I don't buy into that..."

I am always amazed at what statements and/or images can stick with me for long periods of time. Yesterday,  "I don't buy into that" stuck to me like peanut butter on the roof of my mouth.

We do we buy into? What do we not buy into?

Do we buy into that it is our right to "life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness?"

Do we buy into philosophy of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party?

Do we buy into everything the media shares with us is objective and true?

Do we buy into the ideal that the local church is the hope of the world?

Do we buy into the Warren Commission's report on the assassination of President Kennedy?

Do we buy into any of the conspiracy theories surrounding 9/11?

In light of the Boston Marathon Massacre do we buy into the idea that there is good in everyone?

Do we buy into Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream?

Do we buy into the American Dream?

Do we buy into the old adage that "anything worth doing is worth overdoing"?

Do we buy into the notion that feelings follow actions or that actions follow feelings? Which one do you buy into?

Do we buy into the hope that everyone goes to heaven no matter what? Do we buy into the idea of a heaven at all? What about hell?

Do we buy into the fact that there is nothing that I can do to make God love me more and that there is also nothing that I can do to make God love me less?

My iWitness...

Here's what I buy into...

I buy into the fact that I was bought into...

I buy into the fact that God loves me so much that He went to the extreme act of offering up His only Son so that I could have eternal fellowship and life with Him.

I was bought with a price. I come with an expensive price tag.

Obviously, I was worth the price.

And so are you!

Do you buy into that?

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"...You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God with your body."
(1 Corinthians 6. 19-20)

Thursday, April 18, 2013

David against Gorilla!

Last night Faith and Joshua had their newly designed race cars participate in the Pinewood Derby last night.
As I wrote previously, we took them over to Mr. Johnson's "Mini Home Depot" shop on Saturday and had these blocks of wood transformed into racing cars. The cars were designed. The cars were painted. The cars had little "Lego" people on them to add an atmosphere of authenticity. All that was left to make the cars a finished product was to put the axles and the wheels on the cars. Faith and Joshua went to bed on Tuesday night with the full anticipation of seeing the complete product when they woke up the next morning.

We put the kids to bed, retreated to the kitchen, caught up from the day and about 9:00 o'clock the "simple" procedure of adding the axles and wheels began. You know where this is going don't you!!

I was quite proud of myself that at 9:28 pm I had admitted defeat and called Mr. Johnson. He chuckled and said something about that this "sometimes" happens. I thought to myself, "No it doesn't. It only happens to me." As expected, he offered great advice and I was off and running, well actually "continued stumbling."

Mr. Johnson mentioned that after securing the axles in place, you might want to add a little glue for extra security. No problem. Julie brought out a brand new package of "Gorilla Glue" that had never been opened.

I ripped open the package, twisted off the cap and squeezed the bottle. It was hard as a rock. Julie forgot to mention that this new bottle was a few years old. Not to be deterred, I grabbed the power drill and made an opening... in the side of the bottle! I began to squeeze and out this glue came, dripping everywhere... all over my fingers, the counter top and eventually made its way to the axles and after 20 minutes the project was complete.

All ten fingers were as sticky as they could be. So sticky they were, they started to literally stick to one another. I quickly turned on the hot water, rubbed some soap in there and grabbed a paper towel. My fingers were just as sticky. The situation was growing worse rather than better.

I asked Julie to look up on Google on her iPad, "How to get Gorilla Glue off your hands." Her response was classic, "Are you serious?" YES, I am serious. I stood over the kitchen sink, with fingers spread, awaiting the answer.

Julie found the website and then began to read the instructions. She got as far as..."Don't use hot water..." and then started laughing so hard all I heard was something about "sandpaper, olive oil, pumice stone, exfoliation, don't use gasoline and should your "digits" get stuck please see a doctor."

Doubled over, Julie found a pumice stone and a bottle of olive oil and there I stood for the next 30 minutes trying to sand down the Gorilla Glue off of my fingers and yet at the same time trying to keep my God given unique fingerprints intact...I looked around and Jesus was nowhere to be found as I think I lost him somewhere between the second and third axle! I think he was off somewhere laughing too...

My iWitness...

Is this not one of the reasons we don't get involved in other people's business and lives?

People and their lives are like an unopened package of Gorilla Glue.

We notice they need help. We offer assistance. Or they ask us for help. And we are happy to respond and before we know it, we are stuck in a sticky mess that we cannot get off of our hands. The more we try to assist the stickier the situation becomes.

Here's the axiom of the day... People are sticky. People are messy. People can be a real pain. People take time. People don't easily wash off of our hands or our hearts.

Here's the second axiom of the day... People are worth helping. People are worth investing in. Messy, sticky fingers is a small price to pay for helping someone run the race and receive the reward of crossing the Finish Line.

After all, Jesus knows all about getting stuck. He got himself stuck to a cross in order to make sure we could run the race set before us and not only run... but to cross the Finish line.

At the end of the Pinewood Derby Joshua had won one race. Faith stood next to her trophy for most creative car. The smile on their faces and the joy in their heart was worth the sticky fingers.

It always is...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

The Parable of the Good Samaritan...
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him and departed, leaving him half dead. Now by chance a priest was going down that road and when he saw him he passed by on the other side. So likewise a Levite, when came to to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.

But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.

He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him. And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'

Which of these three, do you think, proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers? He said, "The one who showed him mercy." And Jesus said to him, "You go, and do like wise."
(Luke 10. 29-37)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stay with me... Pray for Boston Part 2

His name is Jeff. He works at Costco, plays guitar, sings and is a good athlete as he has played hockey, baseball and basketball.

His name is Carlos. He loves to wear his cowboy hat. In 2004 Carlos' son U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Alexander Arredondo of Bangor, Maine was killed in Iraq in 2004 during his second tour. Seven years later Carlos' other son Brian, committed suicide after battling depression for years following his brother's death.

Jeff and Carlos have never met.

Until yesterday...

Jeff Bauman Jr. was at his first Boston Marathon cheering on his girlfriend at the finish line. Moments later his legs were blown off below the knee.

Carlos Arredondo was standing at the finish line passing out American Flags to five marathoners who were part of the "Run for the Fallen" to support fallen servicemembers from Maine who died in battle.

After the thunderous blast, Carlos without hesitation ran toward the blast to help the victims. He saw Jeff, tried to staunch the bleeding, helped him into a wheelchair and darted off with Jeff and two others as Jeff tried to remain conscious from the shock and blast. The photo went viral on the internet immediately.

As Carlos wheeled Jeff for help he kept saying to Jeff, "Stay with me, stay with me..."

My iWitness...

There's a Father who has lost a son. His only son. This Father knows something about loss. This Father understands when we experience loss. This Father can empathize when we get our legs knocked out from underneath us. This Father has loving legs that run to us.

This Father has only one request.

"I am with thee... Stay with me...Stay with me..."

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"I am with you always, to the end of the age." (Matthew 28. 20)

Pray for Boston!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pray for Boston

In the summer of 2010 I found myself to be out of shape and very over weight. One of my best friends in the whole wide world is Father Mac. He is an Episcopal priest from St. Helena, California in the heart of the Napa Valley. Cycling and running are a part of his daily regimen as he winds his way through the finest vineyards in the world. He loves Jesus with a passionate fire that is unquenchable. I love Father Mac!

In June of that year Father Mac "forced" me to sign up for the Napa Valley Marathon which was to be held on March 6, 2011 (One day after I would tun 48). He has a big poster in his office of him and his very good friend John Livingston running the Napa Valley Marathon. He's run the race about a dozen times. Mac has even run the Boston Marathon. He encouragingly told me, "David, it's an easy marathon."  I had nine months to get ready to do something on my proverbial "Bucket List"... run 26.2 miles. I had never run more than 6 miles at one time ever in my whole life.

Needless to say the training was brutal and the weight loss of 30 pounds was welcomed. At the time I was living in Klamath Falls, Oregon at 4200 feet elevation once the real training began, which just so happened to be right smack in the middle of winter!! (Not a very smart idea!) Several things remained constant throughout my training. I never ran in the daylight (runs starting at 5:00 am). I never ran in temperatures higher than 30 degrees. I never ran in the rain. Snow was a constant threat. I even ran over 13 miles (a half marathon) on snow pack one day.

The day of the race finally arrived. It was 56 degrees and it was raining! Oh boy!! Father Mac picked me up in his truck along with our friend Phil. We drove over to another house and picked up Martha and Christine who were experienced marathon runners. The five of us huddled together in the truck and we prayed and Father Mac served communion to us.

The race began and four hours, twenty six minutes and twelve seconds later I crossed the finished line into the waiting arms of the love of my life Julie! Wow! What a day!!

The Boston Marathon was held yesterday as it always is on Patriots Day. I learned mid-afternoon that the two bombs that had been detonated near the finish line caused carnage and chaos beyond belief. I felt an immediate need to call Father Mac. We talked and we consoled and we wondered about the motives of someone or some group that would find the perverse and twisted pleasure in ruining so many lives in less than 10 seconds.

Then Mac shared this... "We haven't heard from Christine." (One of the ladies that was in the truck with us). He continued, "Yes, Christine was running the Boston Marathon today and no one has heard from her yet. Her boyfriend is going crazy over here. He can't get in touch with her and doesn't know if she is okay."

This news brought the Boston Marathon Massacre from a distant tragedy right into my own backyard.
I told Father Mac, "Please let me know when you hear something."

My iWitness...

The scriptures allude to life as running a race, really a marathon. We run this race with our eyes on the prize of the one who runs with us, beside us and waits lovingly for us at the finish line... Jesus!

How many of us have been running along through life and a bomb is detonated knocking us to the ground, bloodying us, ripping us and causing severe damage?  I can name a few to get us started if I need to...

These bombs impact us. They scar us. They scare us. The threat of other bombs down the road test us.

But one thing we do... We run! We don't stop! We don't quit! We don't lay down and curl up under a blanket and watch the world run by us. No! We keep going. We persevere! We run the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith... Run baby run!!

Keep running the race my friends. The reward far outweighs the risk!

By the way... Father Mac called me about an hour later... Christine checked in and she is just fine...

Pray for Boston...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God."
(Hebrews 12. 1-2)

Monday, April 15, 2013

Brennan Manning

I found out yesterday that Brennan Manning died at the age of 78.

My iWitness...

It's a real easy question.

Who influences you?

Who has influenced you in the way you think and act?

Who has influenced you in the way you think about God and Jesus?

I do believe God puts certain people on our journey that alters the way we view the landscape, walk the trail and smell the roses.

For me, one of the most influential people who has helped shape and form and transform how I view myself and how I view God is Brennan Manning. I guess I could go on and on about him, but I wouldn't be able to capture the amazing depth and breadth of his impact on my life.

Suffice it to say I thank God for Brennan Manning and today he rests in the strong grace filled arms of his Abba who loved him with a furious love while on this earth and now holds him securely, tightly, lovingly and eternally...

Below is one of my favorite videos of Brennan and in it is one of my favorite quotes that has shaped my life.  It's only 3 minutes long and I watch it often. This profound quote comes at the very end...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"...a bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not quench."
                                                                                              (Matthew 12. 20)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pinewood Derby time...

After church on Wednesday night the kids came home very excited with a clear plastic bag. Inside it was four nails, four plastic wheels, stickers with numbers on them, a piece of paper with instructions on it and a rectangular block of wood. The accompanying little postcard was announcing that next week the kids would be involved in a Pinewood Derby experience at church with food, fun and fellowship. Faith and Joshua looked at me with such great expectations to help them form this block of wood into a "race car"!

I grew up with an incredible array of tools in the garage at the ready for crafting incredible projects. I had a hammer, pliers, a saw and a screw driver. What else would one need? Needless to say, I am "all thumbs" when it comes to wood working or any other kind of "handy man" project. I am thrilled when I can change out the air filters in the house and hang some pictures!! I was feeling pretty pathetic as a father knowing that I was useless in helping them with this project.

Fortunately for Faith and Joshua at the bottom of the postcard in 10 point font, there was an offer to come on over to the Johnson's home on Saturday morning for "Mechanic's Day" and Mr. Johnson would help you make your Pinewood Derby car.

I immediately put that on the calendar and circled it in red!! Only a funeral would keep me away from this appointment and the funeral would have to be an immediate family member... that lived in my house.

Yesterday we made our way over to the Johnson's home. Handwritten instructions welcomed us in the driveway telling us to follow the orange cones through the garage and down the steps in the "Mechanics' Shop." We came down the steps, turned the corner and what to my wondering eyes should appear.... "Handyman's Heavenly Haven!" My jaw dropped, my feet did a little happy dance, my eyes darted to and fro and up and down and my heart started beating faster and faster as my palms got sweaty. Of course no one noticed because my exterior body language was one of "Oh, nice little shop you have here..."

Here was this two car garage that had been transformed into a "Mini Home Depot!"
Every tool you can imagine Mr. Johnson had not just one but several of each kind. From corner to corner this place had it all... Table saw, Drill press, Miter saw, Jig saw, Scroll Saw, Planer, Sanding machine, Belt sander, Drills, air compressor and more stuff that I didn't know the names of...

I couldn't even speak. Next thing I know the block of wood is out of Faith's bag and Julie is talking to Mr. Johnson and they have penciled out a design on the wood and before you know it the table saw is whirring and sawdust is flying and the smell of fresh cut wood with a high speed saw filled the air and I just stood there making sure my kids didn't lose a finger in the process.

An hour later... Done! How Mr. Johnson took these two pieces of blocks of wood and transformed them into race cars is beyond my level of competency. Mr. Johnson didn't just work on my kid's cars, other kids were in the workshop as well with their parents. It was quite the scene. Once we returned to the car I made the kids show me all ten fingers and all ten toes just to make sure we were still intact!

Faith and Joshua are thrilled with their cars and can't wait for Wednesday's Pinewood Derby race!

My iWitness...

If my memory serves me correctly I believe in the comic strip Peanuts, Lucy used to call Charlie Brown a "block head."

Well, just call me a "block heart."

In the heavenly workshop I am amazed on a daily basis with the precision and craftsmanship that God employs to shape my heart from being a block of wood and molding and chiseling and sawing and drilling and sanding it into something that is usable, serviceable, available and lovable.

What tools does God use to refine us, shape us, mold us and transform us into the unique children of God that we are and will continue to become?

I guess the answer is, whatever tool necessary to make us into that which God desires. He loves us that much, not to remain a block of wood, but rather a work of art!

You are a Masterpiece!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"But now, O Lord, you are our Father;
     we are the clay, and you are our potter;
     we are all the work of your hand." (Isaiah 64. 8)

"For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord." (Malachi 3. 2-3)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

79 days and counting...

Yesterday, the University of Dubuque held its first Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance in the brand new Heritage Center. It was a worship service designed to remember members of the UD Community and family who had passed away within the last year.

It was a beautiful service. God was honored. The good news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was proclaimed. A colleague of mine's wife was honored and remembered. As her name was read a member of the choir struck a hand bell whose note soared through the auditorium, piercing the silence with a soothing tone that slowly faded over the next five or six seconds. Her whole family arrived from all different points on the map. Even her college roommate made the trek. Needless to say... tears were shed.

As of today my friend has been without the love of his life for 79 days and counting.

I have had the privilege of sharing prayers and tears with my friend. The grief process hurts. There are three key words in that last sentence..
It's grief...
It's a process...
And it hurts...

My iWitness...

As a follower of Jesus I can add one more key word to that sentence (And so can my friend!).

The grief process hurts with hope!

I love how the Apostle Paul puts it... "But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope."
(1 Thessalonians 4. 13)

I, along with Paul readily acknowledge and confess that when a loved one dies, we GRIEVE! We hurt, we cry, we anguish, we despair, we lament, we regret, we pray, we wonder and we do a lot of other things as well.

But, and this is a big BUT!
We do all of those things with HOPE!

We know that God is in control. We know that Jesus has prepared the Way for us through His death and resurrection. We know that God is faithful to His promise that "though we die, yet shall we live again." We know that there is a destination for our loved one and for us that offers peace, life and complete joy. We know that with each passing day we move one step closer to a heavenly reunion.

For my colleague? He knows he is just "79 days and counting" away until that sweet reunion takes place once again...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Five minutes and thirty-two seconds...

Five minutes and thirty-two seconds...

That's how long the conversation lasted.

I heard someone say the other day, "I hate conflict."
Me too...

Before the phone call took place yesterday, my prayer felt weak and feeble, "Lord, I know the next ten minutes are going to be quite painful. Please watch over me..."

And indeed it was...


My iWitness...

I am an easy going guy. Just go with the flow. And yet, there are times when you have to take a stand and let the current buffet up against you. And with that current comes sticks and stones and words that will hurt you.

In his book, James writes... "Count it all joy my brethren when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1. 2-4) 

"O Lord, can't I just skip the trials and be perfect and complete some other way?"

Jesus asked the same question in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before He was crucified.

I know the answer...

And so do you...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Showing Up...

I think it was Woody Allen who was credited with coining the phrase, "90% of life is just showing up!"

My iWitness...

I was in the Seminary Chapel yesterday and the preacher talked about Moses and God's call on his life at the "Burning Bush."

I have talked before in my life about "three powerful words..."

Not long ago I blogged that the three most powerful words are... "He is Risen!"

Here's a few more...

I love you...
I forgive you...
Please forgive me...
I am sorry...
You are forgiven...
I accept you...
Jesus is Lord...

At the "Burning Bush", which is not consumed by the fire, God calls Moses and Moses' response is deep and profound, "Here I am."

"Here I am" is another set of three words that are powerful beyond words. In those three words we find a certain kind of vulnerability, availability, readiness, openness, power and humility.

I talked with two of our Seminarians yesterday who are getting ready to graduate in the next six weeks and are currently waiting on God to issue a "call" to a church to become that church's pastor.

Basically, both of them are standing before God saying, "Here I am ." "Here I am ready to serve you wherever you would send me."

By just "showing up", this is what we might hear...

"Here I am... available to you, willing to follow you, opening myself to you..."

"Here I am... with all my warts, with all my vices, with all my foibles and faults..."

"Here I am... with open arms to accept you, to love you, to forgive you, to cherish you..."

"Here I am... I've missed your voice, your smile, your laugh, your quirkiness..."

I know some people that I wish I could shout from the mountaintops on this day, "JUST SHOW UP! MAKE YOURSELF AVAILABLE! UTTER THESE THREE WORDS...


Just showing up just might make all the difference in the world today... maybe an even 90% difference!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"When the Lord saw that he turned aside to see, "God called to him out of the bush, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am." (Exodus 3. 4)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


"I started a diet this week!"

How many times have you said those words? How many times have I said those words?

That's a rhetorical question. But, the reality is that I did start a new diet program this week. I started on Sunday and as of this morning I have seen some pretty positive and dramatic results. I have found myself the past couple of days sharing the good results with others. Their discouraging comments have carried a consistent theme... "It's just water weight! Don't get so excited. It's just water weight." 

All of me wants to shout, "If that's the case then praise the Lord! Because it's water weight that's been hanging around for a long time that I have not been able to shake for months and months!!"

Comments and inner thoughts aside... I wonder how I would be feeling if after three days of dieting I had not lost any weight.

How would I feel three days into this thing if there were no tangible, positive weight loss results...?

My iWitness...

I have a feeling that I would "chuck" this weight loss program if I didn't see any immediate results.

This raises an intriguing question for me...

"How do I feel about being obedient to and following the way of Jesus if I don't see any immediate results to my behavior and life?"

I have had a few conversations as of late that have had one central theme... "David, I am tired of always doing the right thing. I don't see what good it is doing. I always do the right thing. And look where it has gotten me. I want to venture out on my own and do my own thing that feels good and right to me."

Not only can I sympathize, I can also empathize with my friends. I have been there many times myself and I will find myself in that same place somewhere further down the road. For all I know I might be saying the same thing tomorrow or next month or next year.

Continuing the "diet" theme let me say this... When I do my own thing, when I go out on my own, when I do that which feels good to me with no regard to others... guess what? I get all out of shape. I don't look good and I don't feel good and typically I don't have the energy to be good for other people.

I have never forgotten this great quote from C.S. Lewis - "Discipline before emotion." (Not that I have always followed that quote, it's just that I have never forgotten it.)

There's another favorite quote of mine from the Apostle Paul that has sustained me during those seasons of frustration...

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith." (Galatians 6. 9-10)

My dear friends... continue to do good!

The immediate results might be minimal or even minuscule...but the ripple effects are meaningful and potentially miraculous.

Keep the faith and continue to be faithful to the One who is faithful and good to us whether He sees immediate results in us or not...Do not give up on the One who has never given up on you...

I am comforted and thrilled by these words... "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1. 6)

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

ps - After I have lost all of this "water weight" I will let you know how this diet thing is going about a month from now...

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


As I write this morning, flashes of lightning light up the darkened sky allowing me to see the homes across the street for just a moment before they disappear into the dark again. The Thunder echoes off the house as if clapping for the light show just demonstrated by its fraternal twin, Lightning. The house shakes and rattles, the pitter-patter of the rain dances on my rooftop and in the middle of all that, the robins sing sweetly and softly, "Good morning world!"

This morning, in the midst of the storm I received an email from my dear friend Miss "M", who finds herself in the eye of a storm. Let me enumerate the basic contents...
1. Her brother's wife suddenly died while on vacation with the family yesterday.
2. It was one year ago yesterday that this same brother lost his son along with the son's fiance.
3. Her sister is in need of 24 hour care and the question of "who will pay for such things" has dominated the recent discussions.
4. My friend has been dealing with some serious health issues of her own.
5. Her daughter is expecting a baby - any day now!!
6. My friend has a new "Scooter" that she can't wait to ride, but it has been raining recently in her part of the country which has prohibited her from putting on her helmet and going out for a nice ride.
7. My friend's hope is that everything that is going on above will point all the players involved to one person and one person alone... Jesus!

My iWitness...

Toward the end of my senior year at Davidson College I received a notice from the Registrar's office that I was in need of one more "Individual Physical Education" class in order to graduate. At Davidson College we had a number of "Team" and "Individual" Physical Education courses we had to complete as part of our College educational experience.

I discovered that the school's photographer was teaching a class on Juggling. We met every week on Monday nights from 6:00 to 7:00 for ten weeks. At the end of the ten weeks each of us in the class had to put on a performance exhibiting some basic skills and adding a little flair so that the class would be entertained. Of course, I wowed the class with such brilliance that Barnum and Bailey Circus was willing to invite me to jump on their train and go on tour!! However, the calling of God was much stronger and I went to Seminary instead.

How many "Balls" would you say Miss M is juggling this morning?

I counted seven. And those were just the seven that were enumerated in the email.

How about you?
How many balls do you have up in the air?
Better yet, how many balls are you trying to keep up in the air?

Here's the one thing I learned from my juggling class...

It's easiest to juggle just one ball!

With just one ball my focus is laser like. With just one ball I am not distracted by other balls. With just one ball I don't have to worry too much about expending an exorbitant amount of energy and worry about "dropping the ball." Juggling one ball keeps things simple.

And this is the beautiful thing about Miss M. With all that is going on... with all these balls up in the air...  her focus will be on just one ball... God.

God is the master juggler. God can handle more balls in the air than we ever will.
So today, I do believe my dear friend Miss M will take these balls and lay them at the feet of our Lord and say, "Here you go! Do you mind juggling these for me? Because there are too many for me to handle."

And God's response will be swift and sure..."No problem Miss M! Blessed are you my dear child for you have done the one thing that is needful. And that is to focus on Me and I will take care of the rest."

ps - We will be praying for you, my dear friend and your family counting on God to calm the storm...

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."
(Luke 10. 38-42)

Monday, April 8, 2013

The End of the Ride...

At Disney's Blizzard Beach, which is this huge water park, I sat in the bleachers at the end of the inner tube ride called "Runoff Rapids" and watched people make their final turn and come splashing into the large pool of water that signified that their ride was over.

As I sat there for about 20 minutes, without exception, each person came flying into the pool on their inflatable inner tube with laughter in their voice and a huge smile on their face.

My iWitness...

To watch such exuberance and joy at the end of the ride was certainly a testament on how much of the ride was enjoyed before their big splash at the end.

It got me thinking...(which is always a scary thought)

How will my ride in this life end? How is my ride in this life going right now?

I can say with full assurance that I am having a blast on my "Runoff Rapids" right now. The twists and curves and sudden drops are full of adventure, mystery and delight.

Will there be times where the water runs dry? You bet!

Will there be times when my inner tube tips me over and I almost drown in the rush of water coming down from Mt. Gushmore? No doubt!

The comfort I find is found in the Architect of the "Runoff Rapids."

God created the ride and now I will hold on tight and experience the journey... not by myself... but with God's strong hand comforting me the whole way through no matter how many twists and turns I have to face.

And as this ride meanders its way to the big pool, my hope and prayer is that we can come to the "end of the ride" with a huge smile on our face, with great laughter in our voice and with our arms spread wide and make a big splash as we embrace the strong arms of the Creator, the Redeemer and the Sustainer!

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it." (1 Corinthians 9. 24)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Fast Pass

In the Magic Kingdom at Disney World the powers that be have come up with an idea that will help shorten your wait in the long lines for the different rides. It is called the "Fast Pass." It's like a Short Cut!

Here's how it works...
Let's say you walk up to the roller coaster ride called "Space Mountain" at 11:00 a.m. and you see that it is going to be a 110 minute wait. You think to yourself, "I don't want to wait 110 minutes." You look over to the "Fast Pass" kiosk and see that you can get a "Fast Pass" for Space Mountain and bypass the 110 minute wait... but you have to come back and ride "Space Mountain" between 2:20 and 3:20 pm. 

You decide to get the Fast Pass. At 3:00 pm with 20 minutes to spare you enter the Fast Pass lane and ride Space Mountain with only about a 15 minute wait. Not a bad trade off at all. Had you not come back at the allotted time you would not be able to go through the Fast Pass lane.

My iWitness...

This is an ingenious idea... at first glance.

Yes, you get to ride the ride of your choice with a minimal wait in line. Thus freeing up more time to enjoy the  Magic Kingdom.

Here's what I discovered. Once I obtained the Fast Pass my whole day and mindset revolved around the "return" time. What I thought would free me up actually enslaved me. I became obsessed with the time, the hour, the minutes and the distance I would have to travel across the Magic Kingdom in order to make it to the ride on time.

There were times that I bypassed a ride or an attraction because I didn't know if I would get out quick enough to make it to my "Fast Pass" ride in the time frame that I was given. As mentioned above, if I don't make it to the ride within the specific hour given then I miss out completely.

All that to say, I became so focused on the "Fast Pass" that I missed out on other things along the way. I missed out on other attractions. I missed out on casual conversations. I missed out on taking in the full Disney experience and the Disney surroundings and "smelling the roses" because the destination became more important than the journey.

Many times, we as Christians are so excited that we have a "Fast Pass" to heaven with our trust and belief in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior. The trap is troubling... if we are not careful we focus so much on the destination that we miss out on the journey.

And for some of us the greatest lessons we have learned in life have come through "waiting on the Lord."

Short cuts have no place in this great roller coaster ride called "Life!"

"...but they who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength;
     they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
     they shall walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40. 31)

And that's my iWitness
Laugh often and Fear not!

Saturday, April 6, 2013

110 for 3...?

Life at Disney World is full of waiting.

They have made it easier for people to decide if they want to wait in line for a ride or not.

At the beginning of every line is a sign that tells you approximately how long the wait will be.

Many times I saw this... "Wait Time - 110 minutes"

This gave me pause... "A one hour and fifty minute wait for a three minute ride?"

It just didn't make sense to me a lot of the time...

My iWitness...

The cost/benefit ratio comes into play at Disney World at almost every turn. Was the three minute ride worth the 110 minute wait? For some they would say, "Yes!" For others there would be a resounding, "NO!"

Let's think about this for a minute or maybe even for 110 minutes...

You wait 110 minutes for a 3 minute ride.

What if it was like that in real life? You wait 110 years on this earth for 3 years in heaven?
That just doesn't add up.

As always, God turns things upside down on its head.

In God's economy, just the opposite is true...

Wait 110 years on this earth for an eternal ride in heaven!! One hundred and ten years compared to eternity is just a blip on the radar. If your time on earth is shorter than 110 years... even better!!

Praise God that what we endure in this long line of life is but just a minor bump in the road in exchange for the ride of eternity in the Heavenly Kingdom.

"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For the light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal."
(2 Corinthians 4. 16-18)

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Ponchos in the rain...

One of the striking things about going to a Disney theme park is the amount of different colors you see. Oh sure, there are all sorts of colors on the buildings and the foliage in the landscaping. But the colors I am talking about are on the clothes that people wear. Color of clothes mixed in with the color of skin and you get some brilliant combinations showing off the unique properties of fashion, culture and taste.

It started raining yesterday at Hollywood Studios and everyone ran into the plethora of gift shops to buy ponchos. We were no different. There are six of us in our party and we bought four adult ponchos and two children ponchos. Hollywood Studios must have sold 400,000 of them!!!

Within ten minutes of walking out of the store with our "Disney Ponchos" covering our bodies from the thighs on up a fascinating phenomenon appeared.

Everyone was the same color!

No more red shirts, blue T-Shirts, black blouses, flower print midriffs. No more cultural differences in fashion preferences. No more good looking outfits or very distasteful outfits. Everyone looked the same. And in looking the same, everyone lost their identity, their uniqueness, their special imprint on society.

It was an amazing and yet sad sight to see as the rain came pouring down, washing out the very God given identity of each person...

My iWitness...

Each of us has been uniquely crafted and molded and shaped by our creative Creator. He has knit each of us together in our mother's womb. In each of us He created a "one of a kind"! The mold has been broken after each of us is born.

I am the first one to say that we are all equal in God's sight. I am in full agreement that we are to treat people the same, without prejudice or false judgment.

However, we are also called to treat everyone with respect to their color, character and culture. When we see everyone as "the same", we strip people of their uniqueness, their beauty, their God given estate.

Take the ponchos off! Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain. And may the rain of God's grace and mercy wash away the ponchos we have put on people that make them easier to recognize but much harder to know, appreciate, accept and love....

"For you formed my inward parts;
     you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made." (Psalm 139. 13-14)

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Thursday, April 4, 2013


They met 28 years ago in New Hampshire at a summer camp on Lake Winnipesaukee.
They were both Camp Counselors for the summer.
They are one week apart in age.
Mary taught Tennis all summer long and had a cabin of seven and eight year olds.
Julie taught Gymnastics all summer long and had a cabin of twelve year olds.
The whole camp had to wear blue and white clothes. Any combination of blue and white.
This was a sports emphasis camp.
Mary was from Michigan.
Julie was from Wisconsin.
The parents of the children at the camp would drop their kids off at the beginning of the summer and then come and visit them one time during the summer. (You read that right - One time during the whole summer the parents would come in for a one day visit.)
Mary is tall and blonde. Julie is short and brunette.
Julie was at Mary's wedding to David Thomas.
Mary was at Julie's wedding to David Dendy.
They formed a bond twenty-eight years ago that has lasted to this day and I am sure will last to the day that they are both at a retirement home.
Yesterday they were together for the first time in seven years.
The dynamic between them hasn't changed. They both laugh about old times. They both got their umbrella drinks. They both test their memories of events and people. Between them five children have come under their tutelage and protection. They both talk honestly and directly to one another.
Together they sat in the chaise lounge chairs. Everyone else went to the paddle boats. What a joy to watch them interact from the paddle boat. I couldn't hear a word they said, but to just observe them was a real treat.
They have both had their share of roller coaster rides through life in the last 28 years.
One thing remains true - they stick by each other, through thick and thin, through the ups and downs. Neither will abandon the other.
Julie and Mary love each other...
They are friends forever...

My iWitness...

True friendships that last a lifetime are hard to find. Hard to maintain. Hard to keep.
There's one friendship that is a guaranteed "forever friendship!"
It is the friendship between me and Jesus.
Life is indeed a roller coaster ride.
And yet, Jesus remains true through thick and thin, through the ups and downs. Although I will abandon Him at times, He will never abandon me.
I couldn't ask for anything more. I couldn't ask for anything less from the One who calls me Friend.
Thank you Jesus for being my "forever friend"!

"This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you." (John 15. 12-15)

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Letting it all hang out

I spent seven hours at Blizzard Beach yesterday. It is a Disney attraction that is basically a glorified Water Park with all sorts of water features - wave pools, rafts going down tubes, slides down Mt. Gushmore and the like. It was a blast!

Everyone walks around barefoot and in their bathing suits. Someone mentioned to me that you could tell who the European men were because they were the ones wearing Speedo bathing suits. I saw more people in bathing suits yesterday than I have in my whole life combined... And I grew up in Southern California!!

My thoughts about the experience changed throughout the day.

At the beginning of the day my thought was, "Most of us look better with more clothing!" (myself included!)

At the end of the day my thought was, "Here we are! Letting it all hang out! And no one seemed to mind or care. It was quite liberating in fact."

My iWitness...

How rare it is to be so "exposed" in our world today.

Sure, you can go to Blizzard Beach or any beach for that matter and see lots of exposed skin.

But, what I am talking about is much more rare and that is exposing our very selves, our very souls.

How many layers of clothes, pants, scarves, jewelry, blouses, shirts, sweatshirts, fleece and shoes do we hide behind?

Granted, I have been blessed by having a calling in life that gave and continues to give me the privilege of seeing people spiritually exposed.

In fact, I have gotten so used to it that it has become so obvious to me when people cover themselves up with all sorts of make-up and clothing.

Let me encourage you to "let it all hang out" with someone. Not just anyone. But someone you cant trust. Someone who will value you, honor you and care for you... for who you are and not for how good you look with all your politically correct fashion wear.

The good news is that we always have that "Someone" close by. God sees us for who we really are. And the better news is that in spite of all that... He loves us still!

"Therefore accept one another, even as Christ has accepted you for the glory of God."
(Romans 15. 7)

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

The Same...

Twenty years ago I visited Disney World.
Eight years ago Julie and I visited Disney World. It was February of 2005. After years of trying "everything under the sun" to get pregnant Julie and I had just been blessed with securing an Open Adoption with a young woman named Barbara. We knew "Faith Louise" would arrive in three months. On February 8, 2005 while sitting in a "rocking glider" at "Baby's R Us", Julie looked over at me and said, "I don't feel so good." I appropriately responded, "I'm sorry sweetie." Then she looked right at me and said, "I think I'm pregnant." I looked right at her and said, "By who?"

God does have a sense of humor. Three months later Faith arrived and eight months later Joshua arrived.

Lest I digress...

Twenty years ago and eight years ago I spent time at Disney World's Magic Kingdom. Yesterday, I spent the day at the Magic Kingdom once again.

Here's my observation...

Nothing has changed!! The buildings are the exact same color. The flowers are the exact same. The rides were exactly the same, with the same music, the same characters.

In the Magic Kingdom everything was, and is and will be the same!

My iWitness...

There is something very comforting in the familiar.

No surprises! No letdowns! You know exactly what to expect.

I love the fact that our God is the same yesterday, today and forever!

His mystery, His love, His grace, mercy, forgiveness, His ways, His profound and furious love and desire to be with His children is the same yesterday, today and forever.

I never have to worry about God changing His mind or His ways.

His promises are sure.

He is faithful.

He is the same...

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." (Hebrews 13. 8)

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Where dreams come true...

We drove under the "Welcome To Disney World" sign this morning. The tag line underneath the aforementioned phrase stuck with me all day yesterday - "Where Dreams Come True"

I must have been in a cynical mood because my first thought, dripping with sarcasm was, "Oh please!"

We went to the Disney Wild Kingdom Animal Park today and it was a great day, full of waiting in lines, nausea producing roller coasters that went forward and backward, Daddy Dendy making three baskets in a row with a regulation size basketball going through a barely wide enough hoop to win two stuffed snakes for Faith and Joshua, going on a safari ride, dancing with African street dancers and spectacular people watching opportunities.

Our last event of the day was "The Festival of the Lion King." It was majestic. Brilliant costumes, incredible voices, perfect timing on the choreography, audience participation and the great songs we have come to love from The Lion King like "The Circle of Life."

As the show was about to end everyone was singing "The Lion Sleeps Tonight!" The monkeys were jumping around, the actors on stilts were dancing, the birds were flying and members of the cast went into the front rows and grabbed some children to walk around the staging area in a circle. All the kids were smiling and laughing and dancing.

Then I saw the little boy. He couldn't have been any older than seven or eight. Confined to a wheelchair, he looked like he suffered from cerebral palsy. His head had been gently wedged between two pads to hold it still. His arms and legs were motionless . A zebra (woman dressed up like one with a huge smile on her face) was pushing his wheelchair around the circle along with the other children. The smile on this little boy's face was unmistakable, uninhibited and downright unforgettable!! He couldn't stop smiling! He wouldn't stop smiling!

And that's when it hit me like a ton of bricks...maybe, just maybe his dreams came true today! Tears filled my eyes as I watched his dreams come true, if only for a few moments. And then I suddenly realized that I was watching my own dream come true...

My iWitness...

There it was...

The Circle of Life with Jesus as the Ringleader inviting everyone to "come on in!"

Able bodied and disabled bodied people were part of the show.

People of every race and color were accepted.

There was No fear. No judgment. No bias. No dysfunction. No problems.

Everyone sang.

Everyone danced.

Everyone laughed.

Everyone smiled.

I have to say it...

"It was a dream come true..."

And that's my iWitness...
Laugh often and Fear not!

"Then I saw "a new heaven and a new earth," for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away."

He who was seated on the throne said, "I am making everything new!" Then he said, "Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true." (Revelation 21. 1-5)