Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Experiencing God, living in His community and being transformed into His image

"Beware of no man more than of yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us."
Charles Spurgeon

The last three months have been a time of incredible struggle for me. God has pressed on me in a way I have never before felt. My flesh is screaming, my ego is smarting, my mind is racing. I feel as though I am in the midst of an incredible battle, a war where my flesh is pitted against my soul. I know what I need... to be focused on Jesus. I know what God wants... for me to climb into His loving arms and be close to Him. This may seem as easy as just deciding to do it, yet it is by far the most daunting process of my 42 years. My entry below describes a little of my fight. Starting when I was in Africa and then through the summer of camps I sensed God's presence, differently than ever before, He was asking me for more. It was this question of trust and control that was hounding me. I fight allot with wanting to control my own destiny. My flesh is fighting for all it is worth, not wanting to let go. When I say let go, I mean totally letting go, a free fall. It is a scary proposition, while I grasp onto things from our broken world knowing they cannot fully bring joy, happiness, or contentment, they still bring momentary comfort, the illusion of control, and faux joy.
One of my big problems is my dependance on food to fill moments of pain, boredom, loneliness, stress, or any other feeling I have. So instead of finding God in those moments, Instead of receiving His love and comfort, I have developed "ways" of soothing myself, which is just another way of saying "tricking my mind" for a moments relief. This process, while not always food based, is one human kind has in common. Sin has divided us from God, and we now have our flesh to deal with. Our minds tell us the very opposite of what our souls need. Our minds will even use good things, spiritual things, to fill our aching hearts. I love the movie "The Matrix". Not for the special effects or action, but for the way it describes the battle we have with our minds. The battle we are pitted against with our flesh. Here is conversation from the movie between Neo and Morpheus that describes exactly what I have felt through my life with little understanding of what I was feeling:

Morpheus: I imagine that right now, you're feeling a bit like Alice. Hmm? Tumbling down the rabbit hole?
Neo: You could say that.
Morpheus: I see it in your eyes. You have the look of a man who accepts what he sees because he is expecting to wake up. Ironically, that's not far from the truth. Do you believe in fate, Neo?
Neo: No.
Morpheus: Why not?
Neo: Because I don't like the idea that I'm not in control of my life.
Morpheus: I know exactly what you mean. Let me tell you why you're here... You're here because you know something. What you know you can't explain, but you feel it. You've felt it your entire life, that there's something wrong with the world. You don't know what it is, but it's there, like a splinter in your mind, driving you mad. It is this feeling that has brought you to me. Do you know what I'm talking about? Do you want to know what it is?
It is everywhere. It is all around us. Even now, in this very room. You can see it when you look out your window or when you turn on your television. You can feel it when you go to work... when you go to church... when you pay your taxes.

It is the world that has been pulled over your eyes to blind you from the truth.

Neo: What truth?
Morpheus: That you are a slave, Neo. Like everyone else you were born into bondage. Into a prison that you cannot taste or see or touch. A prison for your mind.

I know you might be thinking I have jumped off the deep end, that I have lost myself in extreme thinking and weird ideas. But I have never been closer to God, It has never been more clear to me what my soul desires and how my flesh is divided from God. I do not want to be a slave to my flesh, I want to live in the freedom of Gods embrace. I desire closeness to God more than ever in my life. I know this road will be hard, harsh and my flesh will battle me at every moment.

I have read Romans over several times, especially Romans 7 and 8. I see the same struggle that Paul encountered, and reading commentaries on it I see some Biblical "Scholars" did not understand the struggle he wrote about. I am at a crossroads most do not turn at in their Christian walk and I understand why...It is hard, bordering on impossible! Yet, I believe with all my heart I am in good place, a place of battle to continue moving towards God. But still, I am in a place where it would be easy to turn back and stay where I was, so I ask for your prayer.

This fall we had a special speaker at our church, she went to dinner with all the Pastors and Elders of our church. She spoke to us after dinner, telling us God had laid a message on her heart for us specifically. She spoke of our need to dismantle our very supporting structure, and be guided solely by God in rebuilding it. That what we have built on is faulty and prone to crumbling, which would destroy us and those working around us. She said we must be in direct communication with God in order to know what to build, what to do, and not to build using formula or any man made concepts. She stressed that we could continue as we are, fixing and patching the surface and be ok there, with minimal results, and always being a moment from collapse, or we could move into a new thing God had for us, which is bigger, better, and would lead to incredible things. She was speaking to the way we "do" church and also to "the church", which is us, each one of us as individuals. Her message from God hit home for me, confirming all that God has been doing in my heart and our church. I look at it as pivotal moment for me, am I ready? No! It is painful, unnatural, and daunting. I feel taunted, pushed down, pained, punched and beat up. It is a never ending tug of war, constant argument in my mind and takes more vigilance than I have to be recognizing my motives, my ego and my wish to blessed beyond anything else. It will become easier I know, the more of the pile of stuff that gets out of my way, the easier it is to see Jesus. The easier to see Jesus, the more I realize my need to be near Him. As Neo began to realize so am I; I am imprisoned by my mind, corrupted by sin, and blinded from truth. As my perspective turns heavenward I see better the world that is pulled over my eyes. As it becomes clearer the enemy is more recognizable and easier to fight.

So to sum up, I believe God is working in me and wanting to build His church. I am working to move closer to God, to experience His presence in me and others. As I relate and love others who are broken and also are being transformed we become more like Jesus, encouraging and being light for each other to continue to move and bring others with us.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Thankfulness... for His blessing?

"Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving."
- W. T. Purkiser
The Thanksgiving holiday has been a time for reflection and thanks. We offer thanks mostly for God's blessings to us. It seems we are always thankful for what we perceive as God's blessing's. I often wonder if I only thank God when sickness ends, when a check comes in the mail, when my kids obey, do good in school, or make me happy. Really thats mostly it...I am most thankful when I feel happy, and that is the feeling I have assigned to blessing. That happiness is also is closely linked to how comfortable I am, and how far I away I feel from loneliness, hurt, anger, pain, and despair. The reality is, my thanks is based in how good my flesh feels, and my flesh wants me to believe that only things that feeI good, are blessings from God. I am mostly controlled by my fleshly passions, doing, seeking, believing and saying things that help make my life work. I read books to be a better Christian, better leader, a better friend, husband and father. When I pray, I ask for God blessings, I want the kind that make my life fall into good order and things to work out for my happiness. I am so easily deceived by a formulated Christian walk in which I believe if I do this, this, and this and hold it up to God, then He will give this other thing I want. The reality is that 99% of my life is spent trying to feel good, make life work, and keep up my end of a man made formula to keep God happy with me so I keep on receiving what my flesh says it deserves.
I know what your saying right now, cmon' Tony, you are being to hard, to negative, you are overstating; you are a good guy, who loves God and He loves you. God wants you to be happy... That may all be true, yet in total honesty I know there is a big dark hole that every human feels and we try desperately to fill it with fleshly happiness. For some, we try to fill that hole with really good things, things that appear soul satisfying, yet we often twist them into fleshly pursuits... serving, loving, caring, helping, prayer, reading. For others, we try and fill it with things like sex, food, drugs, working, or whatever makes us feel a little better, little moments of euphoria that we mistake for real soul satisfaction. Either way it is us trying to plug a hole from our side and does little to further ourselves in the very reason God made us.
The issue in all of this is simply that our flesh blinds to what makes our soul truly happy. True happiness, real satisfaction, genuine freedom, total peace can only be had from closeness to God. Our life's pursuits as Christians need to be, first and foremost a drive to be close to God. At all fleshly costs move towards Him, be with Him, desire Him, and live for His presence. Only God satisfies, nothing else we try and do quenches the burning fire of our souls. Nothing else we use to fill the dark hole works, no formula can force God's hand and nothing we do can get us to place to deserve anything.
So with all that being said, you are probably saying; well this is a downer, you sure are a negative guy Tony! I would agree, yet I know that God has been knocking on my door trying to get me to understand this, and it has not come easy for me. I have spent countless hours doing God's work, giving all I have to further His kingdom. Working as hard as I can, as long as I can, to make sure His word gets out. Yet for the most part I have failed. Failed because my heart was not in the right place, because my pursuits usually are not to move closer to God, but rather to feel better about my relationship with Him. While I truly understand God takes even what we do for the wrong reasons and turns it into good, I also know it does little for my soul.
So I write all of these things to simply say that I ask for your prayer, your love, and your understanding as I move towards just being with God, Doing His work to be close to Him, using my gifts to be close to Him, being thankful for His true blessings (which are things that often make us hurt as He refines us) to be close to Him, and listening and responding to His voice to be close to Him. I have been working to identify areas in my life where I have not put God's agenda first and have done things for the wrong reasons. So no more will I addictivly eat to calm the stress, feel good, or fill an aching hole in my heart. No more will I work as hard as I can using my gifts to feel good about myself, build my ego or seek praise. No more will I give love in order to receive love back, not to feel lonely, or get a result. I could go on and on here, but you get the picture! I am praying for Gods strength to move closer to Him, accept His circumstances, and trust Him, then I will truly be able to give thanks for His blessings.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have been altered" - Nelson Mandela

Last week I spent three days at my families cabin in Upper Michigan. It was a time of rest and relaxation with no phones, TV, meetings, schedules, or demands. I feel rejuvenated and ready for more of God's work. "The Cabin" is a place in the woods near Perch Lake, basically untouched by time and progress. A place that houses our families history and traditions and place that has changed little in comparison to the world in the 41 years of my life. It is a place I can count on, that is "home" to me no matter the circumstances of the world. I can go there and see life in a clearer way and see myself clearer also. It is a place where the haze of living disappears and I see things from a better perspective. This perspective hit me on Friday night.
As I sat on the shore of the lake on Friday night catching crayfish with my son, I looked up to the sky to see the stars. As I panned to the Big Dipper I thought of looking up at the same big dipper that I looked up at as a child, holding my Grandpa's hand, feeling totally secure. I thought of looking up at the same Big Dipper as a teen, with my cousins and friends laughing, goofing around, and feeling like life could not be any more fun than this, at night, on the shores of the lake. I thought of looking up from this same place and looking at the same stars with my new fiance as a twenty some year old, with an unwritten future in front of us. I thought about sitting on the same shore seeing the same stars with my family, after the funeral services of my brother, grandparents, cousins and so many close to me and feeling the grief of loss. As I looked at my son reaching into the lake from that same shore, the quote above came to mind. I began to see just how I have changed over my own short 41 years. It does become easy to see against the same backdrop. We don't often get that perspective, seeing ourselves at so many stages in the exact same place. I became grateful in that moment, to God, for His blessing. The blessing of the continual love I have known from childhood to now.
You see, that night at the lake as I looked back on countless moments from my own life, I realized that in every memory I had, there where other people with me, who loved me. In each memory I had changed, grown, and matured but what was unchanged was the loving relationships I had in each memory. God has always made sure I have understood how unwavering His love is, in the example of a family who has always loved me. I find it easy to trust God's love for me in large part because I have always been loved. I do not have bad memories of feeling alone, or not accepted, I only know the security of God's love, and the security of God's love through the love of the family He has given me. This security has helped me to trust; trust God and the people He has surrounded me with. In that trust I have grown. I believe that trust and growth go hand in hand. As I trust, I move ahead, in that movement comes God's circumstances to create change in me. It is only in the light of God's unfailing grace that I can grow, change, and become a little bit more like Him.
I have quoted my favorite song many times before, but it is once again appropriate for me sing; Tis' so sweet to trust in Jesus... Oh for grace to trust Him more.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hiking to the edge... and jumping off!

First you jump off the cliff and then you build wings on the way down.
- Ray Bradbury
The long hike which is our summer camp season, ended this past weekend, bringing to a close a very long tour of mission work covering three months and stretching from Minnesota, to Chicago, to Africa and back to NE Wisconsin. On this journey we have seen so many saved, so many lives changed, and so much growth in ourselves and those around us. To say I feel exhausted after this long trek is an understatement... I feel totally drained, burned out, and beat up. Yet in the midst of the exhaustion, I feel totally invigorated, God is closer than ever before. I see things more clearly than ever before, and I am excited to move forward into what God has next. God has broken me many, many times this summer to help me see things His way, and not through my clouded vision, and I am thankful He has. In fact, at this moment I feel like I have hiked through valleys, fields, mountain passes, through searing heat, rained swelled rivers and then to the highest cliffs and then been asked to jump off the edge of that cliff, into the arms of Jesus. There is a perspective only seen from the heights that God can carry us to, and only after we jump can God catch us and raise us to those heights. In my exhausted state, well meaning people, warn me that the pace I keep as I hike, is way too fast. But I know God is waiting to refill and refuel me as He is doing right now in this week spent resting with my family. He is making me ready to begin hiking again to another cliff, in order that I may jump into His loving arms.
I am used to being regularly warned by well meaning hikers to take it easy, to watch out for the coming cliffs and pitfalls. So many of those with warnings are afraid to even get close to the edge, so scared of the edge they never even want to to see where it is. These people often are found hiding in the valley, waiting and warning others to be careful of what may be ahead, or what may happen to those who move to fast or far. There are still others who do hike to the edge but are afraid to look at the vista, and others who hike to the edge to look and walk back away from it in fear in order to be safe and secure. They to, often warn of what dangers the edge can hold. Then there are the millions who take the long journey up to the edge and spend a lifetime camped on the cliff, surveying all of God's possibilities, but never jump. These people find connections with others at the edge, but never experience the connection to God that only the jump brings.
All of the places God takes us to as we climb mountains for Him are important steps. We must mark each peak we stand on and remember them as we continue our walk with Him. He has us jumping over small brooks, running over rickety bridges, climbing hills and walking through dark places in order to learn to trust His guiding. We must prepare ourselves to not be afraid to go where He is taking us next, it may mean hiking in the snow of despair, or clinching to a steep face of rock that brings fear, or skipping through a golden field of wildflowers that bring joy, whatever it is, we must continue to walk with Him. But we must not be so engrossed in the hike that we forget the destination. With each step we are brought closer to Him, yet each step God will eventually lead us to the highest cliffs and then expect us to jump into His arms.
So as I look back on the long hike this summer I am more sure than ever that my job is to help others on the hike, and more importantly to help them make the jump of faith. I am thankful for all those on the same journey, hiking to the peak and especially for all those jumping into the arms of Jesus, that encourage me to do the same. As I fall into Jesus arms I look back up and see so many of you on the cliff looking down...Don't be afraid.. he will catch you, I promise... you know who you are!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Africa: perspective

We have spent two days on the girls school worksite now and much has been accomplished. It is a joy to be serving among those from LHC, The group of men from The Agape Church in Nairobi, the Bethany College interns and the locals hired on as laborers. Men become brothers as they work together, serving Jesus. Everyone has worked hard and the heat has been intense as there is no escape from it aside from a 3 minute cold shower in the evening or a cold Coke Tim uses to keep us moving at a lunch of rice and boiled goat stew!

There is a joy that permeates everything that is happening. The vision was cast for us on day one and has been revisited each day, as to what this project will mean to this area in the future as someday so many will be saved here. Dr Kabachia expressed to us the first night that his passion was to reach those who have never heard the gospel. He said that if someday we go to Mars he would even like to share the gospel to those who live there. While this place is as different as Mars to Wisconsin, what remains the same is when God’s people serve Him there is a loving unity that happens like at no other times. My perspective has changed in that the world has shrunk as I realize that people have vision and joy all over the world. Not based in what they own, where they live or who they know, but based in a heavenly perspective of a God who loves us so.

One of the men that has quickly become a friend to me a man named Maina, he is the foreman of the school construction. He lives outside Nairobi but is working here where we are. We have worked together and have talked, and have found much in commen. In his very broken English we work to communicate and have found we are like souls in that we want to find better ways of doing what we do, growing through the investment of family and friends. I awoke this morning feeling some sadness as I missed my wife and kids, as Maina and I began working he told me about his wife and three kids. He got tearful as he expressed that he could not afford to go home to Nairobi to see them and has been gone for a month leading this job. He wondered if it was worth being away and expressed that he wanted so much more for his children than he has. He does not want them to live just “for their daily bread” as he put it. He wanted them to learn and grow and be free not to worry. My perspective quickly changed about the short week I have been without my family.

He lamented about some of the laborers, one that is 70 years old and has been a carpenter since he was a teenager, but has to continue to work just to eat each day. Maina is 41 years old just like me, he has kids the same age as mine. He has dreams and heartbreaks just like me. He feels sadness for those without a vision for more than survival, he feels many men here will not change and grow in order to have a different life. He told me how he has a passion to break the poverty cycle that traps people into not having a vision for something better. We talked a lot about the differences of building in the US verses here in Kenya. He told me he wants to do things better, but that the culture here does not like that kind of change. He finds it hard to lead, as others want to do things the same as they have always been done. He is a man who understands “the best is yet to come” and lives expecting to experience it.

My perspective has changed as God has introduced me to Maina, a man like myself who dreams big dreams, is thankful for his family and yet has little access to the tools I do to make a way for change to happen. What do I do in my own strength to make change? When do I rely totally on God for His change? Maina has no choice but to wait on God, he has no way of creating change other than that. I know I will come home with renewed strength to hear God and respond to His voice rather than my own. I ask for you to pray for Maina and for his family as they spend time apart while he manages the construction process of this school that will change life for so many. I ask for prayer also as God continues to change my perspective, that I would hear Him despite my own loud voice.

Little Tony

Thursday, June 10, 2010


Its 3:00 in the morning on Thursday June 10th. We finished packing the totes with our tools, gifts for the missionaries and other things needed for the trip. We await the rest of the teams arrival at 4 AM to load the bus at and leave to Chicago to catch our plane to Washington DC, then to Amsterdam and on to Nairobi. As I sit I sit in the quiet of the church, I am thankful for all that has led up to this trip. The last 2 months have been a whirlwind of activity, getting much done in a little time in order to make this trip happen.
As I sit here I don't feel anxiety for the trip, as I know this is what I am supposed to be doing. What I am feeling though is incredibly blessed, it is overwhelming right now. God has given me more than I deserve, I am rich in knowing his love. I am so grateful for the love that comes from my wife, children, family and friends. I have been given every earthly gift there could be. God has been so good and I know He loves me and made me for a purpose. There are few things more fulfilling than that knowledge.
So I head off around the world more 8,000 miles away from home knowing God cares enough to break my heart once again in order that I might move closer to Him. I have stopped wondering what God will do on this trip and have accepted that it is yet another moment to kill off some of my flesh and be reborn more like Him. I look forward to all He will do and to how this will change us as individuals and as a group.
I ask for your prayer while we are gone, for courage to follow where God leads and to grow as He stretches us. I ask for prayer for my family, at home who will worry about me and work hard in my absence, getting ready for camp. I ask you to follow the link to the Living Hope Missions Blog that will give updates while we are on the trip. I look forward to blogging here when I get back, but with a new outlook on serving God through traveling this path he has taken us on.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he's wrong."
Charles Wadsworth

My dad turned 70 years old just a few days ago. It has started me thinking about him, what he means to me and the blessing God has given me in my family. Few men have had the opportunity I have had to stand in ministry, working side by side, doing God's work like we have. It is a gift I have both loved and hated over the years, and I am sure he would concur! God put us together in this unique partnership, as together we are more whole than we ever could be apart. God has made it so clear over the years that our relationship of dependance is key to the survival of the ministry we are called to. My dad has always been a rock, even tempered, centered, and very conservative. I on the other hand am artistic, emotional, extreme, and a dreamer. Somehow we meet in the middle and together are much more able than we are apart. My father is very wise, sometimes dogmatic, and has whole lot of common sense. He has told me since I was a teenager that I might not have any sense whatsoever and that I am hardheaded, which is often true! But again, we meet in the middle of this, and become more whole together than apart. My perspective of my father comes from several places; as his son, as his co-laborer in ministry, as a subordinate and at times as his boss. While this could be confusing, it is not, mainly because he remains consistent in every role. So after knowing my dad for over 40 years of his 70, I have learned that the key to much of life is balance. That may make you laugh if you know me, balance is not something that anyone thinks of when they think of me, yet it is something I think of daily. While I am not always balanced myself, it is in community I can be. God created us to be in community, not alone. He has given us spouses who should balance us, kids, families and friends, all who help us be balanced. My extreme gifts are useless with out the balance of a time and place to use them, something other people bring to the table.
As I ponder relationships, it is imbalance that usually creates the issues, the perception of one person giving more, needing more, or not doing their share. It seems to be true in marriage, working relationships, family relationships and really all relationships. God gives us community, each other, in order to bring balance. Our flesh tells us to not depend on others, to keep control and to push our own agenda, it is only through the Holy Spirit that we can be humbled and graceful enough to desire the balance that we need. It is a daily battle for me, and I am thankful for a father to help me fight this battle, as we live in community here at Camp Daniel.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Knot Hole Vision

Many of you who read this may not know that I am getting prepared for a missions trip to Kenya, Africa. Tim and Chrissy have been taking teams to Africa for the last ten years working with friends from their days at Bethany College of Missions in Minnesota, who are full time missionaries in Kenya. This trip is to build a girls school where there is no school for girls, in an area where there are few Christians. If you have interest in learning more, I would invite you to our blog about the missions we are involved in at
We leave June 10th and will be gone over two weeks. If you can help me financially please email me and will send you out a support card. If you will pray for me during this time please email that you would commit to that.

I am getting a consistent question...Why do you want to go to Africa? Don't you have enough to do? The answer is yes, I have enough to do, but more importantly the answer is that I believe this trip will help me grow; closer to God, farther from my "American" candy coated life, and as a servant, a minister and leader. I go on this trip not necessarily feeling "called" but I don't particularly believe that has much to do with anything but my main life's pursuit. Biblically, it says to "Go" so I will. It is hard for others from the outside to see how this lines up in the vision God has given us for Camp Daniel, but it does. My Uncle Jerry taught me many years ago that God always cares more about our relationship with Him than the ministry we are in. It is that basis in which much of the ministry has happened at Camp Daniel. As the servants who carry out the ministry grow, so does the ministry grow. So this trip is vital to the future of Camp Daniel and our growth.
Sue Koch taught taught me a simple yet very profound concept some years ago. It goes like this; Life is like watching a baseball game... through a knot hole in a fence. The game is going on and God is seeing it all, yet we can only see the narrow sight line through that hole. At some point in the game we may see a batter hit the ball up in the air, and a fielder catch it. We may have disappointment because he got out. But what we missed was the go ahead run scoring as it was a sacrifice fly. This has been so profound to me that I have based allot of my leadership on the concept, I am only seeing from my point of view, not God's. So a big part of what I have tried to do is enlarge the knot hole in order to have a wider sight line. That is what this missions trip is all about, enlarging the knot hole to see a broader perspective to change me, the ministry I am involved in, and the way I lead, by seeing from a perspective just a little closer to heavens.
I know that we never see the entire game while here on earth, and that will make it hard to do things right. Yet, I also know God is constantly giving us opportunity to see things from His perspective, we must be willing to look. They are simply glimpses, but they are life changing every time they happen. So I go to Africa knowing I will get a glimpse of what God wants me to see, and that is exciting, yet I go humbly and with a little fear as I know that these glimpses cause us to grow and growth can hurt! So I ask for your prayer as I continue to cut at that knot hole to make it bigger.

Monday, March 15, 2010


When in doubt... sing loud” Robert Merrill - Composer

Yesterday I was talking with my friend George about doubt, I have been thinking about it since. Doubt is a constant companion in my Christian walk. I believe it is the ability to overcome doubt that is key to opening ourselves up to all that God has for our lives. For so many doubt steals away the ability to make decisions to move ahead in life. It forces people to live in a bubble of protection and wall building. It keeps people in the pits when the race is already started.
As I read about the heroes of faith in the Bible I see so many people in doubt... Moses, Gideon, and Peter just to name a few. While Thomas gets the nickname, I think all of us battle the same issue. Often when we say we are praying for confirmation of this or that we believe God wants us to do, but really we simply are in doubt. I believe it is rarely a question about what to do for God, but more a question of if we can overcome the little voice inside to do it.
In church yesterday we learned about the inner critic we all have, and how that inhibits us to truly be free to worship and praise God. We learned that the inner critic grows as we do, in children it is not present, but as we grow up it does too! We learned of this because there will be a new class on Sunday Mornings investigating the development of the different sides of our brains. What an incredible idea, a hands on way to overcome our inner critic to help us to be free follow God's voice! Revolutionary! What if the whole church entered into a class like this, and began practicing this freeing concept, the results could change everything!
Growing up, I was blessed to live in a setting much like this class will be. We learned that children that are encouraged in their artistic ability are more naturally able to sound out the inner critic. I was always an artist, encouraged to create and applauded by the results. So while the inner critic or doubt as we call it, still exists in me I believe it is tamed a little through time and practice. It is often merely by practice that we do certain repetitive actions, this can be good or bad. We want to make sure those habits we have are healthy and bring us closer to God. I have many... many bad habits. Actions that are repetitive that hurt me, stunt my growth and bring me away from God. So it becomes even more important to build up the muscle that silences that inner critic. It is through time and use that it gets strong enough to pull the weaker parts of me along. It is now the muscle that dominates my movement that makes me move ahead toward God and away from myself, my doubt, my pity and my shame.
So as I spoke with George yesterday, we concluded it would better to move ahead in fear, denying that voice of doubt that is always there. I think we both can feel better knowing the company we keep...Moses, Gideon, Peter, Thomas, George and Tony too!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

My reply to the comment by Anonymous on my post below

I am thankful to those who leave comments on this blog, it is encouraging and at times challenging. Blogging for me is putting a little of me out there on display for others to see. I write two entries for every one I post, as I tend to rant about things that hit me. Anyway, I want to reply to a comment from my last entry here in this new post. While I don't like anonymous replies, I do appreciate the reply in its challenge and as an opportunity to open discussion, it is my hope to inspire discussion through what I write here.

I do not feel my Blog entry "What a day it will be" overstated any point. It is easy for us who are not being threatened and killed to feel it is ok to understate the current climate in which we live and die. Statistics prove that as many as 92% of babies who, through prenatal testing, show that they may be born with down syndrome, will be killed. This is the very definition of genocide. Webster defines genocide as the deliberate and systematic destruction of a racial political, or cultural group. Coined in 1944, geno- from latin = race and -cide from greek = kill "genocide". People with mental disabilities are a culture, being threatened with extinction through mass killings. Socialized medicine has been detrimental to people with disabilities through out history. When Hitlers Germany began their attempt to crush people with disabilities into oblivion in 1939, the mass killing went unnoticed and the cries unheard by the world. The killings of thousands with disabilities continued for several years before what is called the holocaust even began. The worlds attitudes have changed little as this culture of people who have disabilities are still unvalued and threatened by this attitude. My use of the words genocide and crushed into oblivion are not thoughtless words of anger but rather well thought out words of taken from history we seem bent on repeating.
Ignorance is never a pass for bad language and hurting words. The language is constant and consistent in the world today. Just recently as I walked with my brothers at a dept store, one of them was called a retard by a teenage boy as he tried to talk to him. So know that people with disabilities are called this regularly, and this is not the only time this has happened to us.
My intent is not to see government change but rather the church. While I do see there have been changes in the last year for people with disabilities for the good, I believe the bad is out weighing the good. When there is a group of people in bondage to a government it cannot end well unless that group is freed. Therefor I believe the church is last defense of those most defenseless. The church is the only place where the culture of people with disabilities can be valued as God values and stand against those who wish to eliminate them in the ways I have mentioned here. I am not one who ever complains with out action, my life and the life of my family is centered in recognizing the value of people with disabilities and forcing the issue with anyone in our path. It is not a pet issue with us, but a life calling that has spanned generations, life and death. I will not rely on my words to try and get representatives, senators and lobbyists to create change, but on God and His church to value and love those He has created, values and loves. We are in the final days where we are not banging our heads against brick walls but rather where bricks are slammed into the heads of those most defenseless... and we must stand up for them. The change that came in Little Rock in the form of desegregation did not come fast enough for those who where lynched, tortured enslaved and killed in the preceding years of American history and change cannot come fast enough for those fighting for life now.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What a Day It will Be!

In Alice in Wonderland, Alice gets to a fork in the road and she asks the cat. "Which way do I go?" "Where are you going?," asks the cat. "I don't know." "Then it really doesn't make any difference which way you go," replies the cat.

White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel recently used the word retarded and the backlash was swift and typical. He apologized to the Special Olympic President, and the movement to end the use of "R" word was hailed by all as the way to bring everyone together in a hands across America moment of solidarity. Almost a year ago we had the duplicate type of reaction which began with President Obama referring to his bad bowling as "Special Olympic". This unfortunate use of the word retarded has allowed me to step back and realize that nothing has changed in the last year for people with mental disabilities. Bad attitudes and beliefs that there is no value in those who have disabilities is what truly is behind ignorant words that people use. In fact things may be a little harder in America today than one year ago for most. Funding has been slashed for many, the health care debate continues to put those with disabilities in precarious positions, and babies who may be born with disabilities continue to be aborted. As politicians use their own ignorance and mistakes as platforms for engineering campaigns for popularity, people with disabilities are being crushed into oblivion.
I recently was blessed to spend much time with disability ministry leaders from across the US while in Florida. To hear about how others are going about reaching the disabled community for Jesus is exciting and inspiring. Yet, I come away feeling like we are walking down a winding path to no where. We seem to have little idea where we want be at the end of the journey. We applaud the good reactions to ignorant statements made by politicians and others who do little to protect the innocent who need protecting. We get excited when "inspirational" people with disabilities accomplish fetes that move our emotions, and we cry tears of pain for the millions who are ignored, marginalized, and killed for having disabilities.
I am unsatisfied with our reactions to these moments. I am angered at our inability for 2000 years to convince the church of the need to complete the body by including those so desperately needed in it. I am devastated at the genocide of people with disabilities here in the US and through out the world. I am ashamed at the lack of love for people Jesus loved so dearly. I am sickened by our acceptance of the crumbs that drop from the tables of the typical church while people starve.
We need to wake up, we are at a point in history where we must fight, we are at a fork in the road and must know where we are going in order to decide which way to turn today. It does matter which way we go because we need to be together on the path in order to get to our appointed destination. We must begin casting vision to the future so we can walk the path in confidence and determination. We must paint a picture so amazing and beautiful that the existing church cannot deny the need to move towards it. We must unify the church in order that the world does not take from us the gift of disability that God has given us. We must be so sure of our calling, we must be willing to risk everything in pursuit of Gods voice. I am ready Lord, I am ready...

So as I begin to ponder what God has in store, I look forward to a future where people with disabilities complete our church bodies and the church finally works as the whole and powerful force that it should be. I look forward to a day when the birth of a baby with Down Syndrome is celebrated as a the rare and precious gift God has bestowed upon our families. I look forward to church services where people with disabilities gifts are on display so God's glory can be revealed to us in ways we never understood before. I look forward to the outpouring of the Holy Spirit which cannot be denied because God has used people without the mental capacity to manipulate or use Gods gift as an agenda to advance themselves. I look forward to walking into the gates of heaven and seeing Paul and Moses and then touching the disabling scars on Jesuses hands and feet as I truly understand for the first time that the last is now first and the poor now rich. What a day that will be!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

We are Strong

One of my favorite movies is "Glory". It is the story of one of the first black regiments to fight in the civil war. It is about a group of men, united in their race, yet different in their approaches to dealing with a world that sees them less than human, without value, and as souless pieces of property. The story is about the formation of a new all black regiment, and their road to becoming a unified and strong group of men willing to sacrifice everything, to have freedom for all. They fought in the attack on Fort Wagner which was a near impossible battle for them to win. Yet knowing they would probably die in the process, they led the charge. The movies final scenes are so powerful, showing the charge up the hill to the fort, and the flag bearer leading the charge. Each time the flag bearer fell to gunfire, another soldier would pick up the flag to show everyone they were still moving ahead. As long as the flag was moving, everyone else followed. The Battle was eventually lost, but politically, it was pivotal in the winning of the war. It exposed the need for the strength of a group of people previously held without value until that time. It showed that the battle could not be won without the full army of men needed to fight. People who were kept locked away in the darkness of ignorance, hate, and fear, finally came to front lines to bring light and carry the flag. It was a dark time in American history, we were more divided than we have ever been. Yet through the sacrifice of so many, the oppresive darkness was illuminated, and America was changed.

We started the Able Church in order to begin a process of organizing a regiment. We are a group finding our way, learning to be leaders, servants, and soldiers. We have encountered judgement, disbelief, and even anger at our vision. Much like the fighting 54th infantry of Glory, we are endeavoring to do things most do not believe can be done, and even fewer are willing to try. We want to lead by holding the flag up high. We want give opportunity for our brothers and sisters with disabilities to use the gifts God has given them to illuminate the darkness of the body, to bring completeness to an an incomplete church. The world has put people with disabilities in a place very close to what the black race encountered in the Civil War days. We kill off our unborn because they may have a disability, we devalue millions of people because they don't look, talk, walk, or live up to bar we have set. We rule people out because of what is seen rather than what is unseen. In the process we are losing a part of our own body, a needed, life giving, and important part.

The church is the only place where this can change, where we can embrace and retain a part of "us" so badly needed. It is a dark time in America, it is a dark time in the church, we are as divided as ever, we need strength now more than ever. We need a group that appears weak and unable to lead to show God's strength, bring unity, and lead a charge.

We are thankful to Living Hope Church, who have embraced us and given us a home, a family, and opportunity to be part of the fight. We will fight the battle along side them, carrying the flag so the world can see our God, whom is our only hope, in this dark world. Together we are learning that We are Strong and if we fight the battles God leads us to then we can help win the war.

Little Tony

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year

Many are the plans of a man's heart but it is the Lords purpose that prevails.
Proverbs 19:21

I have been reflecting on the year of 2009, as many have, entering a new year. It was a good year, a hard year, a growing year, a year God pressed on me to takes steps to move closer to him. This is good... yet growth hurts as it stretches and changes everything.
Our camp theme was "I am God's Plan". The camp theme is a big deal to me. I spend allot of time in thought, prayer and preparation before I present it to everyone. The theme over the last year has helped me to come to a place of acceptance of what I believe God is moving me towards in my life. A year ago as a cloudy vision unfolded, I did not like God's purpose for me and was unwilling to accept it, as I already had a plan. So 12 months later and I have grown and now can see with clearer vision how God will unfold His plan for me and others. I am scared as move forward, I have said before, that the man God has shown me down the road, seems like an impossibility for me to be. I see my self doing things I know I cannot do, nor really want to. But, above my fear and self centeredness is my love for God, and knowledge that He can accomplish anything He wishes through us if we just say yes.
So in 2010 I am resolving to be at peace where God is taking me, to act in His strength as I do the work He lays out, and to be relentless in conveying the message He gives me to share.
I share all of that to tell you our theme at Camp Daniel for 2010..."We are Strong" I know it sounds simple, yet it conveys what we need to believe in order to share God's love in way to shake the world. Our campers must know that they are strong, because God has gifted them with weakness, and it is easier for Him to show His power through already weak vessels. We must come to the church with this message; embrace those who seem weak, those the world hates, because they are strong.
I am, on one hand not looking foward to a year of embracing this paradox. It will prove to be hard, to say the least. But on the other hand I look forward to the challenge of leading the charge. I will, in the coming days share more about it. In the meantime I am thankful to God for His patience in dealing with me yet another year as I pursue my own plans and He laughs as He unfolds His purpose. I sure am weak... I mean strong!