Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Song for the Shepherds

"Then Spread my thoughts to olden times, to that first of Christmases...
When the shepherds who were watching, heard the music in the fields.
They sat and they marveled, they just could not tell...
whether it were angels, or if the bright stars were singing.
It was the singing of the angels, it was the comfort of our Lord."
Words from a poem by Robert Bridges, 1913

Some years ago on Thanksgiving night, I had been working very late in the office. I opened to door to walk home and my breath was taken away as northern lights lit up the sky. I have seen the northern lights dancing in the sky a hundred times before, but nothing compared to these. Honestly, the colors, brightness, and dancing was unmatched by anything I had ever seen in the sky in my life, even in the skies above Disney World! I stood in awe. As I watched, I was struck by the thought of the Shepherds standing in the fields of David outside of Bethlehem, on that first Christmas night. As the heavenly host of angels appeared, it could only have been one of the most awesome and magnificent sights ever to be seen on earth.
As I watched the show in the sky, my thoughts ran back to camp the previous summer and a particular chapel service that anyone who attended will never forget. God's presence came down and filled the air in way I have never experienced before in my life. All who were there were so blessed to be in God's presence. To this day people who were there still talk about that service. I have thought often about that night, why would God choose to bring down his power upon the campers and counselors as He did in that Camp Chapel?
My thoughts then went back to to the Shepherds that first Christmas, a group of people considered lowest on social totem pole, unwanted in town, poor and very much on the outside of the culture and community of the town of Bethlehem. Rabbi's looked at their undisciplined lifestyles in distain, so they where unwanted in the synagogue. History tells us that they where not even considered credible witnesses in the courts of the time, because of peoples perception of them. So why would God announce the birth of Jesus to this group of people? Why would God reach down His hand to those considered the lowest, on the outside of the community of the day?
The people we serve at Camp Daniel are so often unwanted, pushed out of town, poor, uninvited by most churches and typical culture. They are very much the shepherds of our day. My experience among people with disabilities has been that God's presence is powerful when they gather to worship Him. They often have little doubt that God is with us, because His presence is powerful, beautiful and humbling and they experience it on a regular basis.
I will never forget those northern lights in the sky, it will always remind me to be waiting amongst those with no agenda, no religon, and pure hearts. I will never forget that chapel service, as my life was changed that night in the presence of God. Oh God help us to continue to push forward, so the church can see you in a way they have not. Help us to embrace those on the outside who are blessed in their gift to be in your presence.
...Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Preach What You Practice

"Faith in the hearer is the life of the Word"
Matthew Henry

For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it. Hebrews 4:2.

I was with a friend yesterday talking about the ministries I am involved in. He said to me, "Tony, I have always admired that you really practice what you preach". I have heard this before and it bothers me every time I hear it. looking back, I find that the times I have found myself in trouble as a leader has been when my ego inflates enough, that I tell others what to do when I am unwilling to face certain things myself. Many Christians find themselves in trouble as leaders, as missionaries, and as representatives of the Gospel by trying to live up to our own words. It can be near impossible, trying to get others to do what we are not willing to do, and is surely a bad way to lead. So I have tried to live by the standard of preaching what I practice. It sounds nearly the same but it is not.

Preaching what you practice is really a testimony to celebrate what God does through your life. Preaching what you practice is teaching with experience behind it. Preaching what you practice pushes you forward to experience more of God, in order that there is more to preach, preaching what you practice is mixing faith to the Word as it says in Hebrew 4:2. While we always should preach the scripture, it becomes much more effective if we are living out the scripture in faith as we preach it. You see, I cannot do anything unless God does it through me, and if God does it through me and I live it, it then is scripture come alive. It is very effective to preach an alive scripture, alive scripture takes faith to live out. Jesus is scripture come alive, He is the Word and lived all the scripture, and was perfect. While we will never perfect, we must attain to be like Christ, who is the Word. So in the end it is important to preach what we practice, to talk what we walk, to have living faith that is guided by the Word and spoken, yet backed up by that faith God has lived out in us.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Creative Extremists

"The question is not whether we will be extremists but what kind of extremist will we be. Will we be extremists for hate or will we be extremists for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice-or will we be extremists for the cause of justice? In that dramatic scene on Calvary's hill, three men were crucified for the same crime - the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. So, after all, maybe the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists"
Martin Luther King

I love this quote. In fact I love just about everything I have ever read that Dr. King ever said. Most of His words are applicable to civil rights, disability rights, the church and to the way we live in America in general. But maybe I like these words because I am an extremist, in some ways I have always been. My parents would get mad at me as a kid as it was one way or another for me. My mom would read a poem to me about Oh Tony, part of it went like this: "when he was good he was very, very good, but when he was bad... he was horrible" . I remember in high school being at party with a bunch of my friends and it getting out of hand and I may have been one of the instigators. One of my friends got really mad as we all where hiding down the block in some neighbors bushes as the cops broke the party up. He said Tony... your problem is you always push everything right to the edge and your not happy until you push one last time and everything goes right over the cliff!
So there it is, I am an extremist, my gift is my curse, as is it is in most people. Some people are accusing and say you are a perfectionist, or you are never satisfied, or you don't know when to quit, but I have never felt like those accusations fit me just right. I just find it easy to push things along and I want the best, especially when it comes to serving Jesus. The part that Dr. King says that is important is; is to be an creative extremist. There are millions of extremist type people out there but pushing the extreme just like someone else; is really just being a follower and has average outcomes. If you can take extremism and add creativity to it I think there is great outcomes to be had. Look back on history, many creative extremist helped change the world; Dr. King, Mother Theresa, Martin Luther, Walt Disney, Abe Lincoln. These people all took what they believed in to far, where never satisfied, and did not know when to quit. But the world is not the same because of them. I hope someday to go stumbling into heaven, tired and exhausted, having been working hard for the kingdom. I do not want to shed tears of regret as I walk through the gates over things unfinished or untried, or over people I never told about Jesus, but rather walk in with tears of joy that my Jesus will wipe away.
I challenge all who read this to commit to being creative extremists for Jesus. We are to be like Him, so we must be extremists. I am sure that Dr. Kings family often said, Martin, you shouldn't have said that, or done that or sat there or prayed for them. But I believe millions upon millions are thankful for his extreme vision,views and commitment to the cause of equality for all people. Lets be committed, like Jesus himself the ultimate creative extremist.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


"A kind loving character is the best tombstone. Carve your name on hearts, not on marble." Charles Spurgeon

Saturday was cousin Kent's memorial service. I was asked to talk a little about him. As I thought about what to say I kept thinking of the days up at the cabin with Tim, Kent and Jeff with Grandma and Grandpa Bruette. Those long summer days where filled with adventure, fun, freedom, love, work and play. My cousins where like older brothers to me and we have shared a bond that goes beyond time, distance or anything measurable. We like to measure things. We get caught up in numbers. We need results in order to calculate success. Kent's life defied those definitions. He was not comparable to other people, he was... well, just Kent.

I don't look back on anything Kent accomplished in the physical world as his legacy. His legacy is in this room and in Cordova Alaska. It is in loving relationships with people. I guess the closest person that I have known like Kent was Grandpa Bruette, a friend to everyone, kind to everyone, willing to help or love anyone. A walking, living, breathing sermon on love and kindness.

As I sifted through memories of Kent, each memory brought me to a place where I laughed or scratched my head. Most memories of Kent I have are like that that though. He often left you scratching your head but he also always left you laughing with a smile on your face.Three random remembrances I had this week are these. Kent laying in the loft in the log cabin and it being 100 degrees and I was laying on top of my covers in my underwear sweating and Kent was in his jeans and sweatshirt underneath one of grandmas wool blankets snoring a way in rhythm with Grandpa who was down below. I remember crawling around the back yard of the cabin picking night crawlers after a two day rain. It was pitch black and quiet except for the occasional yell and curse as Kent had torn every night crawler in half he tried to pick. I remember being about 10 years old, canoeing down the Wolf creek and Kent getting out at a beaver dam and sinking in the muck up to his armpits. As he finally pulled himself back into the canoe he looked at me a said oofda, that was close, if I drowned there you would have had to row all the way back yourself.I have also thought of many, many stories that involved Tim, Kent, Jeff and I that cannot share here as they would be inappropriate!

My last memory I want to share is from the time Kent spent as a missionary in the disabled community in Minneapolis, with Special Force Family Ministry. I believe this time was pivotal for Kent as he came into a loving relationship with Jesus there, and that was a spring board to his time in Alaska. remember going up to visit and Kent was taking care of Al. Al was a wonderful man in his 70's who had CP and used a wheelchair. Al could do nothing physically for him self. He lived in homes his whole life as he needed full care. Al was brilliantly smart and a preacher at heart but was very hard to understand. Al loved God with all he had and was not shy to tell others, Al's main message in life was to have Joy no matter the circumstance, even in the hardest darkest and most painful times that life could bring. In fact the last conversation I had with kent on the phone we talked about Al. Kent expressed to me that Al had allots to do with Kent's acceptance of Jesus into his life. That day, Kent's care for Al was lacking in my mind, Al looked disheveled and messy, a little like Kent himself. I got mad and went in Al's room to tell him not to put up with it. Al got quiet and tearful, and I knew I was in for a scolding. He began to tell me not to be so judgmental, while Kent's care for him was not up to my standard; it was actually above Kent's standard. Al said that Kent took care of him even better than he took care of himself, and that Kent was the most loving a caregiver he ever had.

That was Kent to me, loving, caring, willing to be down in a hole, washing the feet of an old man in a wheelchair. Kent was a man who's standards for love and kindness where more in line with heavens than mine will ever be. Kent, we will miss you. The world is a little less loving with out you here.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Door Openers and Door Keepers

"We must care enough to not throw a drowning man both ends of the rope.” Arthur Baer

Do you remember the old, epic movie about Noah? Noah had built the ark, being laughed at and taunted all along the way. But when the rains came and and God shut the great door, people began to run to the ark and pound on the walls to get in, crying as they realized they needed to be aboard that ark. As a child that scene was scary to me, but also showed me the importance of the church, being an lifeboat to drowning people, something I have never forgot.

Our church has an incredible ministry called the doorkeepers. Doorkeepers greet people as they enter church on Sundays, get to know the new families, and introduce new people to others in the church and pray with them. It is a big responsibility to help new people adjust and become part of the church family on Sunday mornings and also build relationships with them outside of the church doors throughout the week. Their job is really to be lifeline, pulling people into the safety of the church. I believe it is among the most important ministries within the church. Our church is filled with loving people who find relationship to be very important, yet it takes work to be in those loving relationships. This ministry creates the atmosphere to be able to build these type of relationships. It is, in the end, a way to see people saved and to grow, both new people entering the church for the first time and also for those who do the doorkeeper work, to be stretched as they continually encounter new people, which is scary for many people to do.

I attended a doorkeeper meeting last week, trying to learn more, to be able to bring this needed ministry to other parts of our church I am involved in. As I listened, I began to think about The Noah movie and that scene. The picture I had was of one of Noah's sons helping other family members as the ran onto the ark. This is what the doorkeepers do, help others board the ark. I began to think of my own place in our church family, while I am not officially a doorkeeper I must have their attitude of building relationships at all times. I know I must not function independently of this or any ministry in the church. We must all depend on each others strengths and weaknesses to grow. But if I am not a doorkeeper than what am I? I guess I find myself being more of a dooropener than a doorkeeper. Someone who gets out in front and creates new doors for people to enter and others to keep. I believe churches often get focused on the front doors of the church and forget that people are banging on the walls all around the Church desperate to get in, we just need to make doors for them to come in and have people there to keep those doors and help them in. Many times our attitude is negative, believing we need to find ways just to get people near the ark, but the reality is that people are drowning and are desperately looking for loving relationships which reflect the love of Jesus so they can be saved. If we can create doors, keep the doors, and train new keepers and openers, our church family will grow, each of us more like Jesus, focused on saving some more.

It says in John 9, that our time is limited,the day is coming when we will not be able to save any more, when God will shut the door on the ark. Lets get as many aboard as we can before that day, because its raining now, and people are pounding on our walls. Are we there, ready to throw them a rope and pull them in?


Monday, August 17, 2009

Kathy Stank, is singing with Jesus

As I prepared to leave for the cabin and a weeks respite with Karol and the kids this morning, we received a phone call. Our very first camper, our friend , our sister; Kathy Stank died yesterday. Kathy had a massive heart attack and died immediately in her room at the nursing home she lived in.
Kathy had impacted so many lives over the last 14 years at Camp Daniel. She above all people I know, was ready to go, she loved Jesus with all her heart. Kathy's father died just 2 weeks ago, and she was unable to come to camp that week. Instead we where able to arrange for her to be at camp last week. Kathy had a wonderful week impacting her counselor, other campers and counselors and all of our staff yet again. Kathy's family is suffering at these two significant losses in such a short time, please pray for them.
Kathy closed our last chapel on Friday night by once again singing the old hymn "Crown of Thorns" which she has sang every year since she began coming to camp in 1997. I will write another entry here later tonight describing her impact on our ministry. We have all been blessed by her love.
The Visitation is at the Rhoades/Charpata Funeral home Thursday afternoon at 1:30 PM with the funeral following at 2:30. Her family has asked me to do her funeral, of which I could not be more proud to do. I ask for your prayer and for you to join us singing the hymns she blessed us by singing each year at camp on Thursday.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Filled...With Joy

- - the joy of the Lord will make you strong." Nehemiah 8:10b

Each week we press on in the summer, the exhaustion mounts. 6 weeks of hard labor getting the lakefront ready for work groups, shoveling, nailing, moving earth, pouring concrete. Immediately into camps 1 and 2 with only one day off between. Then a week off with 38 youth and workers on the grounds , in our house, and working hard. Then back at camp, we had a day off yesterday afternoon and this morning we began to get ready and counselors and workers here again, on Saturday, we finally can stop for while as Karol, the kids and I head off to our cabin for a week of rest!
I don't tell you this to elicit pity or praise. I tell you this as a back drop to understand what I am going to say. God has changed me, moved me, grown me, and stretched more in the last 11 weeks than he has in the previous 41 weeks since this time last year. Each summer God has done the same in my life, each time I focus on Him, His work, His word, and His direction, He changes my heart. The rest of the year change happens but much less dramatically. Why is that? Is it me, am I different in those times? Does it depend on what I am doing? Am I so tired that cannot resist? I think all of those things are part of it. but I believe the reason more than any is that I am becoming weaker as the days pass by. My defense or my flesh is down, My mind is a bit slower, and my spirit is as open as ever to God's leading, my heart is connected directly to those we are ministering with and to. I know the Bible says that when we are weak He is strong, but rarely do I find myself in the place of real weakness.
I remember when Dan was so weak and sick in his last weeks of life. God shown through him in way we never saw before. As he became weaker and weaker, God's power was more evident in him. Lives where changed in those last weeks, mine included. Jesus, in the weakest position possible as a human; stripped, hanging on the cross, beaten and bloody, changed everything for humankind.
I am told so often from well meaning friends to slow down, pace myself, and don't burn out. I have written before that I want to burn out for Jesus, because I do have faith He will restore my strength. As I empty some of the me, He can fill with some of Him. I am not saying that one should be busy for Jesus, I am saying we should be in His will, doing His work, as hard as we can, as long as we can, as much as we can. That means in every phase of our lives; family, ministry, work, play, rest, whatever. He must be the center in all of those things, one is not separate from the other, it is all Gods work. I know He will work in us, changing us, loving us, helping us, so we can help others change, love, and work for Him. So I write this exhausted, hurting, my heart bleeding, my mind spinning, yet I am filled with joy; joy that God has filled me up with!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

"The best is yet to come" -- Uncle Jerry

Leadership is getting someone to do what they don't want to do, to achieve what they need to achieve.” --Tom Landry

We are leaving to begin our last 2 weeks of camp this afternoon. I am done with preparation, packing, creating, thinking, and all things necessary to put on a camp. In fact we have had such great help this year that I find my self sitting down just 2 hours before we will leave and waiting to go. God has blessed us over the last several years with new staff, coming on board to missionaries with Camp Daniel.
I have been learning to be a different kind of leader this year, I find in order to be more effective I must give away many things I have done in the past. It has been hard for me, I am hands on, I like to do and fix. It is very necessary to step away from certain things and allow others to do them. I like to lead by example, to experience things I ask others to do. I have had to change my concept on leading and try to define more precisely what I should be doing as leader.
I have been blessed over the last 2 years to part of Living Hope Church. There I have learned much on being a healthy leader in an healthy environment. My Uncle Jerry who is Pastor there, has invested much in me, and my ministry. He has shown me how to lead people instead of leading a ministry. His loving concern for each person that walks in the doors of the church has impacted me greatly, first and foremost he wants to see people saved, and then he works to usher them into becoming God's disciples. He often says, "the best is yet to come", and I wonder if many people in the church really understand what that can mean. For all of us it means change, growth, more of jesus , less of us.
It has taken time for me to adjust to where God is leading. I fight change and growth in myself hard, I have gone through many definitions of what I believe God wants me to be. I have mistepped along the way, but God is gracious and patient in remaking me into what He wants. I know that this refining process will last my lifetime and not until I get to heaven will it make sense. What I have come to terms with though is that it matters little what or where I am doing what I do, all that matters is that I am growing and helping others to grow. I love the quote above, it is a job description for me. I was put on this earth to help others move towards Jesus, pushing , shoving, hugging, encouraging, crying and laughing, what ever it takes. I know we all need to grow and we all need to change and God has provided many tools for that to happen. I know God will use whatever means necessary to get us moving. So this is what I do; stretch my self and stretch others so we can all be a little more like Jesus. That is my calling, this is my mission. I know to be relentless in this task, that is what I believe makes a leader; willingness to grow, change, and become more like Christ. We leave for camp in an hour, for two weeks of change, growth and becoming more like Jesus. I must lead this, so I must grow and change, so I ask for your prayer to be relentless in this pursuit, no matter how hard the change is.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

My good friend Linda Howard is a great blogger and has an entry that I think is worth looking at. Linda has been a minister in the mentally disabled community for many years. Linda and the rest of the ministers at The Special Gathering have been instrumental in my development as a disability Minister. They are among the best at what they do and have lovingly taught many people how to minister. This blog entry is about worship in a setting for people with mental disabilities and is interesting if you have ministered to this group in any way check out this link: or access it through my blog list to the right.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

God has a Plan

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." Helen Howarth Lemmel

I have always spent much time wondering, pondering and thinking about why. I am someone who needs answers, I always have been. As a kid I would badger my parents always asking why. I naturally want to question everything, and have have the "veil of things seen and unseen torn away". I remember singing the words of "Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus", in a chapel at a camp for people with disabilities so many years ago. How the fog of the world was lifted for the first time and I understood my purpose on earth. How the pain of not knowing why I hurt on the inside melted away as my heart was looking toward heaven instead of my eyes or my brain looking at he world. I am so thankful that others followed the plan God had for their lives, so I had that opportunity and now can offer it to others.

We have just finished the first 2 weeks of Camp Daniel. Almost 300 people participated over those two weeks. Lives where changed, people where saved, and life will never be the same for so many. The last week was hard, as we dealt with issues of abuse that so many campers live with in their homes on a daily basis, Our campers come and have, for many, the very greatest week of their lives and then we send many back into the very worst of situations where they are abused by evil people. Honestly, it is the one thing that trips me up, causes me to lose focus and begin to ask God WHY? I can be in the middle of the most loving, wonderful place on earth, and still get into a funk of sadness, pain, and questioning. At the end of the week it hit me hard, and after our last evening chapel I was brooding over it all and muttering to God about how I never agreed to this when we started out. But a camper saw that I was unhappy and hugged me and told me she was happy, because she got to meet Jesus tonight. As I walked away from that simple moment in tears I realized I had lost focus, that I had let the things of the world once again cloud my vision. I asked God for forgiveness and thanked him for using a person with a disability to once again minister to me and turn my eyes to Jesus.

I look forward to the last two weeks of camp, ready to face whatever God brings to us. My call is clear and simple; to keep my eyes on Jesus and help others to do the same. God has a plan for each of us and all of us, sometimes that plan walks us through a valley, sometimes it has us standing on a mountaintop, but what we see in either of those places should never change, it should always be Jesus we are focused upon.


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Expecting Change

"Vision is seeing tomorrow so powerfully that it shapes today" Walter Wright

It has been weeks since my last Blog. We have been working from almost dawn to dusk everyday for 3 weeks. We have been working the long hours finishing a huge lakefront, and craft cabin project. Tim has been leading crews tearing out and rebuilding the cabin; plumbing, heating, electrical, rough carpentry, finish, etc... and I have led crews tearing apart the acre of earth around it, pouring concrete roads, retaining walls and filling with hundreds of yards of sand and dirt. The project is huge, everyone that comes and sees it thinks we are a little nuts for undertaking it in the weeks before camp. Yet it is easy for me in that, my mind has a firm grasp on what it will become and be used for. That vision God has given us is what makes it possible to work so hard, sacrifice so much and have patience in waiting for the finish to come. His expectation is only seems to be for us to work as hard as we can for Him and embrace the change in our lives that come from it.

Building Camp Daniel has been a long, long fifteen year process. We shape and change the landscape, build buildings, paths, and gardens and know one day it will be used for its full potential of sharing Gods love with thousands of people with disabilities. The grounds have been transformed into a beautiful place showcasing Gods creation. But there is far to go. It takes many people who are willing to sacrifice, willing to give time, money, possessions and sweat on order for it to happen. Each stage of building often depends on finishing the stage before. Some things that need changing or built, are impossible now, but with time will be possible. We just must wait for the right people or tools. With each finished building we rejoice at a finished work, but walk a few feet away to address the next project. Through it all we build a testimony of how God has provided each opportunity, and all we need to do is continue working hard and walking on the path He has us on.

This process has been important in my life to help me see the way God can work, and has worked in me. He sees what we can become, He looks at the coming battles and knows what we need to be in order to face them. He is willing to work with us, stick with us, and shape us. His focus is changing us, giving us the right doses of love that come in the form of embrace, suffering, laughter, pain, and victory. He knows what is best for us, because he knows our purpose, in fact He made us for a purpose and His plan will help us become what He needs us to be. Sometimes it hurts, being bulldozed or rewired can be a hard process, but we must trust God that He knows what He is doing.

As I type I am finding it uncomfortable as my my hands ache from the onset of arthritis and busted knuckles and fingers. My back hurts, my arms are sunburned, and my muscles are achey. But the pains are good pains because they are the pains of change, being broken into what God wants for me. He knows what I am and how I need to change to become more like Him. I have learned to be in expectation, and acceptance of change, growth and remodeling. I look around Camp Daniel and see so much left to do, and I know that there is so much left for God to do in me.

Thank you Father God for the work you invest in me, to change me, remodel me. I ask for the help I need to do the same for you here at Camp Daniel, so others may know your life changing love and your plan for their lives.

Thursday, June 4, 2009


This week part of our Missionary family has been on a missions trip with another ministry who has camps for people with disabilities in NW Minnesota. Tim and Marceaux are being caregivers to two young men with both physical and mental disabilities.  John, Jen and I are speakers in a chapel service for about 40 campers. This camp has two separate chapels for people with higher and lower cognitive levels. Our chapel is for those with a lower cognitive level.
We must teach in different ways to reach their learning level and social level. We are forced to be slower in our delivery, and simpler in our teaching. We must use very concrete illustrations and make sure to have only one point we teach in each lesson. Our songs are sung slower, with fewer words, and with simpler melodies. All of the people that are in our chapels are adults so we walk a fine line of not ever wanting to be demeaning with child type teachings or songs. So it is a great exercise for us to really plan allot, think allot and work together to minister to a group that is always overlooked. 
There are no discipleship materials for this group, no websites to look up bible studies, or even books to help us to teach a group of people very hungry for Jesus. We must create each lesson, trying to lean on a little bit of experience we do have. Almost all of the group does not attend church, mainly because they simply do not fit into any class, structure, group, or ministry that currently exists in any church. Yet each person in this group has made a decision for Jesus over the years at this camp. 
This group of people are gifted by God with gifts not always seen in the church; they have expressed an unconditional love and acceptance. They have not tried in any way to hide their feelings, their good or bad behaviors, or their intentions from us , each other, or their caregivers; they are honest.  They show us Jesus in way few ever get o experience. 
So how is it that a group of people so full of gifts and love are not using their gifts in corporate worship, discipleship and outreach in any church? I have spent many years trying to understand, and have spent many years hurting for this group. One of the things that has become obvious in our ministry is that a group such as this, understands the concept of being forsaken. Yes forsaken, you know, it is what Jesus experienced on the cross from God. I have no concept of it, I cannot relate: I am loved, I have been adored, I have been accepted, I have been given every earthly blessing and have had every need filled. Those who sit in our chapel understand it though.
Tim's camper Curt has expressed it this week. Generally he doesn't talk, usually no one cares, always he is shunned, yet this week he speaks, this week he communicates, because some one loves him. What a blessing to walk with someone who has such a connection to the cross, someone who relates to how Jesus was rejected;  for us. That is power, that is God working. 
So you ask what am I saying here? is Curt only valuable because he hurts and is rejected? No I am saying Curt is a child of God, Just like me, and he has gifts, just like me. But he is so important to the church because he loves, even if he is not loved by others. Because he has only good intentions and does not want to hurt anyone, even though he has been so hurt. He is honest even though he is lied to, he is accepting even though he has been rejected. those are real gifts, powerful gifts the church cannot be without. I Come with the baggage that can say don't love because others have not loved me how they should, don't give because others have taken, don't be honest because everyone lies. 
Father God help us to find people like this who know you in ways we cannot begin to understand, and help them use their gifts to reveal you in all your incredible glory. If the gates of hell are to be attacked, than the church needs to have its full arsenal. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Walking Through the Brush

I remember as  young boy, spending summers with my grandparents in Upper Michigan. I loved to fish for trout on the streams with my grandpa. We would often walk several miles back into the woods, on what had long ago, been a rail road track or logging trail.  I could never tell where we were, where we were going, and If something happened to grandpa, we would both die because there was no chance of me finding the way home. The only thing for me to do was to stick close and follow Him, because he knew where we where going, he knew the signs to look for that kept us on track. Sometimes we would walk through a swamp, or  brush so thick it could tear your clothes, sometimes we walked in tree plantations, free from underbrush, and sometimes we walked in open fields where lumberjacks used to plant potatoes. Grandpas pace never changed, he moved forward swiftly, it was up to me to keep up, even at 7 or 8 years old. But, I trusted Him to the fullest degree, I knew he would get us to a stream full of trout. The conformation would come as the woods would open up and a beautiful stream would appear, that few had fished, ever!
The last weeks of ministry has confirmed to me to continue on a path. I believe I have been assured that where we are walking and working, is where God wants us to be... right now. Does that shock you? The idea that I am leading a ministry that has existed for 13 years and I am expressing this now? That has been the way of it for the entire 13 years; steps of faith, moving towards what we believe God is pointing to. Then comes a confirmation, yes, this is it, keep at it. Some say that is to haphazard, some say it could lead to many mistakes, some have said its just to much to think about so forget it, some ask, what if we fail, some ask, how do you know? All of these are valid questions, yet in working for Jesus, non of these things matter. 
I have a very small measure of faith, but I don't think think the faith I have is in what  I hear most people at church talking about. My faith looks a little like this: I believe God loves me and He is always good. I believe He has a plan for me. I believe He wants me to be like Christ. I believe He will give me opportunity to grow towards Christ. All I have to do is embrace the circumstance He brings each day, even if it something I don't think I want. Somedays its a hug, somedays a spank, somedays its a gift, somedays its a fight, somedays it hurts bad, somedays it feels great. But that is the way of love, and knowing God loves me makes it all ok. Do I complain, of course! I am a whiner. Do I want it to be different at times, yes. But every time as I turn back to look what He did, it was good for me. That is where my faith is, in that God loves me and wants what's best for me eternally.
God has supplied every need and want we have had over the last 13 years, and we are so undeserving. Thats the beauty of it all, His ways are not ours, He loves us no matter what. We will screw it up, because we are fallin, no good, love rejecting human beings. But, we must try our best to follow His lead and embrace what He brings.
My theology is to simple for most, but I am simple.  It is not a license to do anything I want, but rather a license to embrace anything God brings along. It mostly seems to be a matter of praying for courage and allowing that courage to grow in us. Following Christ is not easy, His pace is quick, He walks us through thick woods at times, but He knows where He taking us is good and that it is worth every step. I look forward to the day when those thick woods clear and we come to that beautiful place where God embraces us and Jesus says, see how wonderful and beautiful, I told you it was worth the walk. I can hardly wait to find Grandpa, on a stream, fishing, I will hug him and thank him for the lessons he gave me walking to a stream.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The greatest preacher I ever met

15 years ago God allowed me to be a counselor at a camp for people with disabilities. I was given a week to spend with David. David is a man who is my age and lives in Minnesota with his loving Christian family. David has Down Syndrome, which has given him a mental disability. Dave prayed for me, with me, one night at camp, long after chapel had finished, and then gave me a two word sermon that are the most profound words I have ever heard. In fact, those two words completely changed my life, and I may think of those words every single day still 15 years later. That night, an hour after chapel ended, Dave led me to the alter, pushed my head down in reverence to his king, and said two words... "More Jesus". Wow. I shutter just typing it. More Jesus, that should be my prayer, that should be my goal, that should be my message. Dave gets it. 
So how do I explain that the most profound sermon I ever heard, the most life changing moment in my life came as God worked through a man the world does not want to see born, that society marks with no value or worth, that is rejected in most churches because he could not take a spiritual gifts test even if he wanted to??? I only have two words to answer that... "More Jesus". In fact I have discovered that is the answer to every question, to every problem, to every situation... more Jesus.
My hearts passion burns for people with disabilities for a few reasons, but mainly because of that experience. Oh how I hurt, because the church misses out on how God uses men and women just like David to change lives. That evening has given me more tools than 15 years of ministry experience, 40 years of being a Christian, daily walking with incredible saints who pour their wisdom into me, than my bible college degree all put together. David uttered the wisest, most loving, most incredible words, not from the pages of a best selling book, not from a shiny acrylic pulpit, but with his head bowed in that dark chapel, in total reverence to His king. I must stop writing now because retelling what God did for me through David, makes me sob, and I cannot type anymore.
Father God, help me... give me more of you and less of my ego, more of you and less of my plans, more of you and less of knowledge, more of you and less of my pain, more of you and less of my ... __________ just fill in the blank.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

My Moms a Warrior

 Mother is not a person to lean on but a person to make leaning unnecessary. 
--- Dorothy Fisher

I began this post on Mothers Day, and did not finish it, so today I posted it a few days late!

Most people would not know it, but my mom is a warrior. In fact, the women in our family tend to be warriors. I have been blessed beyond what I can express to you, with a family that loves God and has encouraged, impacted and helped keep me on the right path towards God. My mom has been and is essential to me being what God wants me to be. She has given up much for her children, she has sacrificed her own needs, wants and life throughout her adult life for us. She has followed God into each circumstance He has created with willingness and faithfulness.
As a young woman she gave my brother Steve to a family in adoption. Steve grew up in loving Christian home, and while we only met a few years ago he has traits that would be recognizable as my brother. Many mothers abort and snuff out a life that God created. My mom endured the pain, and it taught us all the power of prayer as she was relentless in her prayer for him, which God honored, as we found out when Steve found us and shared His story. 
My mom then had me, my sister Lora and then my brother Dan. Dan 's disability made her into a caregiver and nurse 24 hours a day. Her commitment to Dans care was beyond what words can describe, Dan lived the long 22 years he did, because of her vigilance. When Dan pursued his call into ministry, mom was right there, also in ministry, being his driver, roady, caregiver, and agent and never stopping being mom. When Dan died, she grieved and the pain was more than a mother deserves, yet she cared for her children's grief as much as her own. As my sister Lora pursued her calling as a mother in foster care and adoption, my mom has been right at her side every step of the way, helping, loving and mothering.  When we began Camp Daniel, I know mom could have looked toward retirement and rest, but she willingly followed as God took us to Athelstane to begin this work. 
I have never known loneliness, or what it is like not to be supported and loved. I have never known what it is like to not have someone praying for me, I have never been in the trench of the battle by myself, my mom has always been right there, ready to charge. Nothing is ever to bad or hard as I know she is there, praying and prodding me to be the best I can be for God. She is a warrior, as was her mother before her. As I said before, the women in our family are just that, warriors, My sister, my aunts, my cousins, they are warriors for Jesus. 
Father God I thank you for my mom, I thank you for her gift of being faithful to you in every circumstance. I thank you for her love which has allowed me to understand just a little how much you  must love us. Help me to be a warrior, like my mom. 

Friday, April 24, 2009

The Sweet Spot

“In His splendid discontent, God made the world.” --Ela Wheeeler Wilcox

I come from a long line of people who tend to see life from the negative side, we ussually think with negative minds. It is a curse to think in that way, as I am rarely satisfied with things as they are. Over the last few years I have realized that my negativeness has a positive and negative side. Some of what would seem negative, stems from a discontenet that swells from my heart. These last few years God has helped me become very aware of the negativeness of my mind , but has also shown light upon a discontent of my soul. this discontent , I believe, is a good thing God has given to help me serve Him.

The negativeness of my mind is flesh problem, wrapped in ego, pain, and selfishness. It is something I must be constantly vigilant in dealing with, consistently praying for help in and always looking for accountability to guard against it.

The discontent of my soul is usually the sign I need to push ahead with an action or decision for God. It is what compels me to action as I can no longer stand to see things go as they are going. I must be tireless in understanding God's direction by listening to others, reading my Bible, and praying for help.

The battle comes as both voices in my heart and in my head, can be loud. I must be able to recognize the difference in these voices if I am to an effective servant for Jesus. If I ere on the negative side I become a sullen, jaded, angry man with depression nipping at my heals. I have often been that man, and have had to climb out of that pit many, many times. Every day I must be vigilant, and yet still I think I lose the battle more than I win.

The discontent of my soul is sweet spot, it is when I feel most connected to God, and the more I am in that place the easier it is to hear that voice. The discontent of my soul is also a painful place, where hurt occurs, where refining is happening. That is where I need to be, where God can grow me. The negativness of my mind is stunting, it is water on the refining process that makes my heart brittle and hard.

I tend to be someone who is often looking at a picture off in the future. The picture that God has given me of where I stand many years from now scares me. I feel unequipped to be the man I see off in the distance, doing what he is doing. So I must grab on to those things that cause me holy discontent, as those are the places of change where God works to make us into usable clay. I want to be His vessel, I want to molded into what he wants. But the devil is always close, waiting to knock me off of God's potters wheel. What a jerk that devil is, God surely could have done better in dealing with that...there I go again, with my negative mind. O God help me hear your voice, give a discontented heart that crys out to you.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

God Loves you, God made you, God has a plan for your life

Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible." -- C.T. Studd
At the heart of what we do in the many ministries of Camp Daniel,  is our belief that people with mental disabilities are created for a purpose by a loving God, who is good all the time. It is the basis for all our ministry and we believe it is essential to teach these truths for the mentally disabled community to even to begin to  grasp the God they need to accept, love, and believe in. Historically, people with disabilities have been shunned by the church and the world. Bad Church theologies have existed right from the Day of Jesus when we are told the story of the man born blind in John 9. Prevailing theology seemed to be this man had sinned or his parents because he was blind. Jesus dispelled this immediately expressing that God made this man and his blindness in order for Gods work to get done. This man whom was saved that day experienced Gods power, and was used to witness to the Pharisees. 
So here is my synopsis of that story:  A man who has a disability meets Jesus, Jesus is doing Gods work, so Gods power is displayed, man is saved, man immediately becomes a missionary going to the Pharisees and witnessing to them. Man is Jesus' inspiration to say that we must be doing God's work, or be missionaries, while we can.
That is powerful, that is exciting, that is our ministry. Raising up ministers and missionaries amongst the culture of mental disability in order that people would get saved. This is a seemingly overwhelming idea, some say impossible, where do we start?
People with mental disabilities have been put in place to believe that God has made a mistake in  creating them, or because of sin, they are created faulty. How do we teach  those who have this experience,  that the God who screwed up,  or  the God that allowed them to have their “condition”  really loves them as  much as someone who is seemingly more “like” God in most theologies? We teach that everyone is purposely made, that we are all made in God’s image, and like Moses, who  questioned God’s plan, that we must accept God’s assurance that He is in control and has a plan for us.  Some deaf, some blind, some talking, some not, but all are parts of the body that God uses to for His  purpose.
So our first step is to create situations where the truth is being peached. Letting people with mental disabilities know God loves them, by the church loving them. The next phase is to bring people to the feet of their creator so they can be saved and accept that God made them just as they are. Thirdly we must instruct people that they are disciples and that Gods purpose is for all people, to share the gospel and see others saved.
The body is not full unless all the parts are present, I ask that if you read this you would commit with me to making sure the body is full, because as long as the devil keeps us divided we will not experience God's power as He has intended in the church.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

God lives under the bed!

 April 10th is  National Sibs Day every year.  I know they have a day for everything these days, but the fact that it is on Dans birthday is incredibly meaningful for my sister and I. Being a sibling of a brother or sister with a disability is an incredibly unique experience. I have a kinship with most other people who grew up in this circumstance. We deal with many of the same issues, have allot of the same takes on life, and the statistics show overwhelmingly that sibs will spend their lives in the fields that are service orientated like teaching, nursing, social work, working for non-profits and in ministry. I wonder why at times because most of us seem to have issues with the time our parents dedicated to us, having to care give as kids, worrying about things kids shouldn't have to, guilt, control. All things I would think would lead us to places of where these issues would not be present. Yet it is the opposite. I believe that weakness and dependence are two major factors, two qualities God wants from us and many of our sibs have because of life's circumstance. We grew up being taught living lessons of service, faith, hope, love, dependance, and loss of control. Not to say we are better than anyone, I am just saying we have been blessed by the gift of disability. Below is an email forward I received for Sibs Day, it explains some from a sibs perspective on a lesson learned from their brother Kevin.

I envy my brother, Kevin, who thinks God lives under his bed. At least that's what I heard him say one night. He was praying out loud in his dark bedroom, and I stopped to listen, 'Are you there, God?' he said. 'Where are you? Oh, I see. Under the bed...'
Kevin's unique perspectives are often a source of amusement. But that night something else lingered long after the humor.  I realized for the first time the very different world Kevin lives in.

He was born 30 years ago, with a mental disablity as a result of difficulties during labor. Apart from his size (he's 6-foot-2), there are few ways in which he acts as an adult. He reasons and communicates likea 7-year-old would, and he always will. He will probably always believe that God lives under his bed, that Santa Claus is the one who fills the space under our tree every Christmas and that airplanes stay up in the sky because angels carry them.
   I remember wondering if Kevin realizes he is different. Is he ever dissatisfied with his monotonous life? Up before dawn each day, off to work at a workshop, home to walk our cocker spaniel, return to eat his favorite macaroni-and-cheese for dinner, and later to bed. The only variation in the entire scheme is laundry, when he hovers excitedly over the washing machine like a mother with her newborn child. He does not seem dissatisfied.
   He lopes out to the bus every morning at 7:05, eager for a day of simple work. He wrings his hands excitedly while the water boils on the stove before dinner, and he stays up late twice a week to gather our dirty laundry for his next day's laundry chores. And Saturdays - oh, the bliss of Saturdays! That's the day my Dad takes Kevin to the airport to have a soft drink, watch the planes land, and speculate loudly on the destination of each passenger inside. 'That one's goin' to Chi-car-go! ' Kevin shouts as he claps his hands. His anticipation is so great he can hardly sleep on Friday nights. And so goes his world of daily rituals and weekend field trips.He doesn't know what it means to be discontent. His life is simple.

He will never know the entanglements of wealth of power, and he does not care what brand of clothing he wears or what kind of food he eats. His needs have always been met, and he never worries that one day they may not be. His hands are diligent. Kevin is never so happy as when he is working. When he unloads the dishwasher or vacuums the carpet, his heart is completely in it. He does not shrink from a job when it is begun, and he does not leave a job until it is finished. But when his tasks are done, Kevin knows how to relax. He is not obsessed with his work or the work of others. His heart is pure. He still believes everyone tells the truth, promises must be kept, and when you are wrong, you apologize instead of argue. Free from pride and unconcerned with appearances, Kevin is not afraid to cry when he is hurt, angry or sorry. He is always transparent, always sincere. And he trusts God.
Not confined by intellectual reasoning, when he comes to Christ, he comes as a child.

Kevin seems to know God - to really be friends with Him in a way that is difficult for an 'educated' person to grasp. God seems like his closest companion.
In my moments of doubt and frustrations with my Christianity, I envy the security Kevin has in his simple faith. It is then that I am most willing to admit that he has some divine knowledge that rises above my mortal questions.
It is then I realize that perhaps he is not the one with the handicap. I am. My obligations, my fear, my pride, my circumstances - they all become disabilities when I do not trust them to God's care. Who knows if Kevin comprehends things I can never learn? After all, he has spent his whole life in that kind of innocence, praying after dark and soaking up the goodness and love of God.

And one day, when the mysteries of heaven are opened, and we are all amazed at how close God really is to our hearts, I'll realize that God heard the simple prayers of a boy who believed that God lived under his bed. Kevin won't be surprised at all!