Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Wicked Thing Called Pity

It has recently been in the news that a High Court judge in England granted the parents of a child with a severe disability permission to end her life by withholding all fluids. This case sets a new legal precedent because it is the first time that a child who was breathing on her own and not on life support or suffering from a terminal illness, has been euthanized.  Charlotte Fitzmaurice Wise starved to death weeks later, as all feeding and hydration was stopped. Her mom acknowledges the terrible guilt she feels as her daughter suffered so much being killed in this way. But she felt like it was worth the two weeks of pain to end the pain her daughter was in long term. She went on to explain that her daughter was no longer her daughter, as she was suffering from a post surgical infection; she described her merely as a shell.

As I write this, I find myself shocked to tears. I am outraged, but my outrage is surpassed by the sadness that our world has once again begun killing those we don't find to be living up to our standard of life, or someone's standard of life, anyway. This dangerous place that we are in now is scary, life is no longer sacred, this precedent threatens us all and especially those who are at the moment, weak and vulnerable. There is only one way to stop this, there is only one way to fight any earthly fight. That is to love and honor what God has created and His purpose for each and every one of us.

This group of people that God has hung His hopes on to carry His love to world is the church.  The church is the only group of people who can show the world that God does not make mistakes, that he has a plan for everyone He has made. The church is the only place where we can value all people together.  We must be so careful not to sacrifice the masses who do not fit into the boxes we have so carefully set up to exclude so many. Nobody cared about the sub-human, non-people Hitler killed at the start of his campaign, and no one seems to care about the murder in England that has just begun another campaign, under the guise of the wicked premise called "pity". I often think about those who pity enough to kill today and wonder if they would have killed Jesus before he ever hung on the cross and said it was their job to have mercy and sidestep God's very plan.

Oh God, I cry out to you, to give us courage to stand up for the value of those you created. I beg for us to love those who live in the margins and on the edge of acceptability in our culture. I ask for forgiveness for when we have not stood up for those who cannot speak up themselves. Help us to trust you and the purpose you have for each one of us. Amen

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Blessing: The place for grace, to learn to trust!

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings.” 
            ― Elizabeth Gilbert

   20 years ago, at a camp for people with disabilities in northern Minnesota, my camper David, brought me to meet God in a new way, and showed me my need for more of Him and less of me. That night in the camp chapel, alone with David and God, my life was changed forever. It was the beginning of the journey of understanding just what it means to have more of God and less of me, this gift is His Blessing. 
   To learn to be accepting of Gods provision to teach me to be humble and to depend on His way of molding and shaping me, has been a fight to say the least. One of the hardest fought lessons has been to trust. Trusting God for real, is hard, trusting people feels almost impossible at times, and trusting my self has been practically impossible for most of my life. But even with the struggle, God has been faithful to drag me through, sometimes kicking and screaming. One thing that has helped has been that God poured out a blessing on me while I stood in His presence with David. He showed me things I needed to know would come, in order to keep me moving forward. Things He knew would keep me alert to His purpose , and help me relentlessly move towards His voice, though most of the time I cannot see at all.
   I believe with all of my heart that God has destined each of us with a purpose. He has given us gifts, strengths and weaknesses, that He uses to help us move towards Him and His plans for our lives. Gods blessings to us are typically to help us to have the strength and courage to carry out His purpose in our lives. Over the last few years God has been teaching me much about His blessing. He has taken me down paths I would never journey down on my own, he has shown me mountain peaks that have proven His leading and valleys that have allowed me to prove that I would be led. 20 years ago God showed me things He wanted me to see, and it was a blessing, because it pointed me in the direction He wanted me to go, and showed me I could not go on the journey alone. Through the years He has consistently reminded me He has many more blessings ahead and that He would prepare me for those. 
   So I have thought, prayed and studied blessing. I have asked for blessings, I have even grabbed on to Him and demanded blessing like Jacob did. In the end God seemed to laugh and say, "OK , you want these blessings, than you need to be prepared for them". So, as I have moved through life I have encountered many things that have seemed to be negative, but proved to be positive by their end. Last week many of you walked through some scary days with us, as Karol's health came into question. For many days it seemed that cancer may be looming and that we may be in for a long battle. In the end God showed us that He loved us and had lined up hundreds of His people to love us to. In the process I was once again brought to my knees, not willingly, as in bowing to pray to the king, but doubled over in fear and pain, unable to stand on my own. Eventually, through His mercy, I was able to be on my knees in prayer, asking for direction, asking for courage, and in thanks for His outpouring of love and the plain sight of it. 
   As this period of fear has come to an end, He reminded me once again, that he was providing the perspective needed for the coming journey...from my knees! He is preparing me again for His blessing. He reminded me that in His old testament, a blessing was received while on ones knees. One of the Hebrew roots for the word blessing is literally, knee. Our knees are actually one of weakest point in our bodies, as I found out firsthand only months ago as the doctor repaired the tendon in my knee that was torn off and I was unable to stand or walk. You have heard the term "weak in the knees" referring to being overcome with emotion, shook, feeling like you could fall down to your knees. I felt like this many times in the last week as the prospect of a major health issues threatened Karol. So I move ahead from this time looking back with thanks for the answer to hundreds of prayers Karol received.  God has showed us again He has a purpose in everything, He has brought us to our knees to receive that blessing, a blessing that is the very gift of Hs power to do what is impossible to us, but possible because of Him. He has shown His love to us through so many of His people, that is empowerment, that is His plan, that is His blessing, love is ultimate weapon in the war on sin, against flesh and the devil himself.
   God I thank you for the painful situations that knock us to our knees and for being right there to scoop  us up into your arms from that humble place. I am sorry for my lack of trust in you and your purpose. I again ask for your grace, to trust you more.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Loving Flow

My whole community has been sick since Christmas. Like many, the flu has battered us all, knocking us down and putting us in bed for days upon days. During my own time being sick and in bed, I have thinking much of my brother Dan, and how for so much time during his life, he spent it in a bed, sick, weak, and unable to do to much. I remember the last months of his life and how he became weaker and weaker, and the physical life was leaving him, and how hard at times it was to witness. His suffering was great at times, his pain was evident, his desire to leave it all was sure. But what I also remember was how there was a steady parade of people who came into his room in those months, and then would leave changed. People where saved, ministries began, lives turned around, and focus was brought to Jesus in his room. Where God had brought Dan was to a place of brokenness, a place where he became mostly focused on heaven, a place where there was nothing left to hide, no need to judge others, no way to hide anything. Dan enjoyed others coming in and sharing words when possible, but mostly sharing love for each other and God. It was a powerful time, it changed my life. I left that year changed, but also scared and having a deep desire for the intimacy with God than came in the form of togetherness that I experienced in that time. I have experienced over 2 decades of "Spiritual discontent" to quote author and pastor Bill Hybels. The experience of church, togetherness, His family, or spiritual community, whatever you call it, has been disappointing for me in many ways. I know that sounds so horribly arrogant, but I beg you to hear my heart that it is not. I dare not blame the church, leaders, or anything or one. I believe God has given me this discontent in order to move deeper into Him to fill the hole I feel so deeply.  I yearn for a deeper closeness to God and people. I cry for the opportunity to be in better communication with Him. I ache on the inside to be free of the my torments of the mind and the flesh that bind me and enslave me. Yes, I know this all sounds a little dramatic, but it is the daily wrestling match that goes on in me, my mind whirls and heart is troubled, and I have again sought out counseling to move towards some point of decision that would help me be better focused on the path God is leading me. So I begin this new year not resolving to change anything, but rather to figure out what it is I am searching for, find where I am on the map so I can begin the journey to the destination God desires, and then be able to take part in the loving fellowship with others and Him to full extent that He has called me to. 

So I begin by sharing what I want, a vision of where I believe God wants me to be. This will sound selfish and probably will elicit questions as to my mental stability, but I am sharing it anyway...     I desire to be in spiritual community with people who want to be honest about where they are. I want to hate my garbage and my flesh more than I hate the same of others. I want my moral failures to be not so easy to hide. I want to be free of the slavery that the church I grew up in, bound me with, in the idea that my sins will get found out, so I better stop them on my own. I want a community or at least a few people where I am able to admit who I am at my worst, without leaving out anything. I want to have integrity. I want loving response to my admission of depravity and sinfulness. I want the festering, left over garbage, inside of me, that has been given a less than loving response, so I held it back from my confessions,  to be released. I want to love and build relationships with other broken, battered people, who grab on to each other because they know they cannot make it alone on this sinking ship of a world we live in. I want to be relentlessly honest about whats in me, and ok with that I am broken beyond recognition. I want move forward with others who have failed,  been rejected, and been let down.  I want to approach others knowing in my heart we all have been  hurt so deeply we made the decision to never let it happen again. I want to be with people like me who have been so criticized that we have felt useless and not willing to get involved, and understand that is why we live life so defensively. I want to stop the lie that "I can protect myself by preserving my wounds" as a famous pastor once said. 

Where I am at today, I feel like I am in a log jam, or stuck in a dam that is holding back the water, the living water, that God has for me and for others. I want to flow in Gods spirit from one person to another and join together in little creeks, streams, and rivers and then pour into a raging torrent of a river that finally dumps into the giant sea of Gods love. My good friend Jill named her blog, "Rivers of Joy". I think of those words often. Thats what I want, to live my life in a river of joy knowing I am flowing with others in Gods purpose, moving closer to him on the current of the living water He provides.

If you read this, I ask for your prayer, I love you, Happy New Year.


Tuesday, December 25, 2012

The Best Christmas Gift I ever Received

    One of my closest friends asked me last week about the best Christmas gift I had ever received. I have thought much about this over the last week. I have lived a blessed life and given far more than I deserve and far more than anyone needs. Christmas in my family has always been a giant part of our year. We all tend to decorate early and a lot, we have multiple Christmas gift exchanges with family and friends. This year is no different with us having them on December 23, 24, 25, 26 and the 27! I have been given gifts  on Christmas day that are far better than I would even think to ask for.  So choosing a best gift seemed like it would be impossible. Yet, it is not. One gift given to me by my mother stands out among all I have ever been given. 
    When I was 16 my mom took me downtown to Chicago. As a family we went pretty much every year during the holidays. We looked at the decorated windows at Marshall Fields and Carson's, ate Garrett's popcorn and saw the giant tree in Daily Plaza. But this year was different, mom took me to see relative I had not met before, His name was Carl. I knew of him because my grandma had always referred to him as "the bum" whom she had prayed for regularly. He was my grandmothers cousin, and spent the better part of his life drinking and homeless, even losing his legs due to his problem. Carl had rejected his family, and now at Christmas in 1985, Carl was living in a horrible nursing home, all alone in Chicago. The home Carl lived in was a dirty, old, falling apart building what was was once a city  hotel, turned into a nursing home. As we walked in lobby I will never forget the smell or sights of that place. Carl's room was up several flights of stairs at the very end of a long hallway. When we entered his room he peered up from his wheelchair at us, with confused look. My mom introduced us, and Carl began to cry. We gave him some gifts, and mom made some small talk before we left. Carl wept as we left, something I think of so often. 
    The next Christmas my mom took me to see Carl again and this time my new girlfriend Karol came too. It was hard to go back, as I had then heard Carl's sad story and knew his regrets of life. I had purchased him a gift myself this time, a Chicago Bears sweater, and my mom had brought him some bags of candy. The home where he lived seemed even worse than the year before, almost like something from a movie. As we entered Carl's room, he lit up. We gave him gifts and he told us how the people that worked there would steal the gifts if he left them out so he put them under his bed covers. Again as we left, he cried. That evening as I lay in my own bed I wept. The pitiful condition of Carl's life was heartbreaking. His life's decisions and sickness had destroyed him, causing him to lose any loving relationships he may have had. I remembered the story my grandma told about how Carl's brother Tom had to look for him after their mother had died and  found him passed out, laying in the street. Carl hated for us to leave because he had no other visitors at Christmas or at all during the year. Carl's life was lonely and filled with regret. That night my life was changed forever because of those visits. My selfish, self absorbed 17 year old existence had not counted on being touched in that way. It caused me much pain and even some depression over the next years. While I had no idea at the time, it was the beginning of God implanting a passion for those who exist like Carl. Those who are rejected, lonely, regretful and suffering. I don't know if my mom intended to have a visit with Carl change me or not. I do know that my mom has much the same passion I do, for those like Carl. She is a woman filled with compassion and love, and has always put her faith into action. These few years of visiting Carl are part of the foundation of my life and relationship with God. I know how to serve Him because my my mom showed me, I know how to love the unlovable because my mom did. I know she learned this from her own mother, who always took in people in need. This gift is one I cannot repay, one that I can only pray will help my own children find their path to Gods purpose for them.  It is by far the greatest Christmas gift I have ever received. I have hope that someday I will walk through the gates of heaven and be greeted by Carl, whose life was changed by Gods love, shown in the form of my mother. Thank you Mom for your love for me, and more importantly your love for those people forgotten by the world, who God loves so dearly. Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


        I believe with all my heart that God is always communicating with us, and that His desire is to be in constant contact with us. I also firmly believe He does not communicate in one way, but in many, and we need to stay close to Him in order to hear and understand. For me, leading a ministry and doing God's work requires much communication, with others, and with God. 
Over 20 years ago, God communicated to me in a way that struck me deeply, and has never left me. I was at my brother Dan's memorial service. On that difficult day, we were supposed to be celebrating, yet all I could do was focus on the fact that he was gone. I felt like everyone else understood something I did not; like I was denied some understanding of life, that the rest of my family and friends had received. There are still days in ministry that I feel the same way. I wonder out loud to God "why"; why was DJ taken; why is the camp not yet done; why is this transition so hard; why do I have this burning in my heart to change things; why am I part of this or that? I begin to think others in ministry understand something I don't, or that I am being denied some kind of feeling of security others have. Those are hard days, days when others question why it is taking so long to build Camp Daniel, why we don't have a better ministry structure, why we do camp like we do or why we spend time doing what we do at all, why do I push so hard, why am I so discontented? It is in those moments I can get to questioning and worry about the things we are doing and the things we are not. I can feel like I am unqualified, unworthy and unwilling to be doing Gods work at all. It is on those days I have to go back to what God whispered many years before to know what He wants from me.
I go back the 20 years to the middle of the memorial service for Dan. I heard a whisper in my mind, just a whisper. It said "RIP". My mind answers back "ok... RIP, Rest In Peace, that makes sense, I am at my brother's funeral". Then the whisper said to my mind "no, not him... you!" "My mind said what? I am going to die? "The whisper said "no, from now on, RIP, be Relentless".  "Be Relentless In Pursuit of Me."  After the service we went back to Mom and Dad's house. They gave us short letters Dan had written to each of us in his last days. In my letter, Dan told me to read 2 Corinthians 4. He told me to be focused on the unseen as it says in verse 18. Dan explained that it was my personality to only believe what I see, but he was sure God wanted me to focus on the unseen. Up to that day, God was definately unseen, unheard, and unworthy in my life. But since that day, everything has changed. What is unseen drives everything; what is unseen becomes more important every day. I read The Message version of 2 Corinthians 4 every morning. It is my hope and prayer each day to trust the words there, and live according to them, instead of what the world sees or judges by. On days when I am questioned about what we are doing, or I have my own doubts, I can go back to God's call. and the pressure is taken away.  I know He only wants me to focus on being close to Him, talking to Him, growing in Him, and introducing others to Him. I am thankful for that clear message so many years ago, while I fail constantly at sticking to it, I always have the words to go back to be encouraged and remember God's call for me. I am, if nothing else, relentless, I am secure in this calling for my life. When I don't know what to do or how to act or what to say, I just be relentless. I want to be close to God and eventually my death will bring me right to Him; and when I die It is my wish that it gets put on my gravestone; Here lies Little Tony... he loved God and he was relentless in pursuit of Him right into death...RIP

Friday, October 5, 2012

Our Manifesto

 Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.
   If our Message is obscure to anyone, it's not because we're holding back in any way. No, it's because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won't have to bother believing a Truth they can't see. They're stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we'll ever get.
   Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we're proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
   If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best!
   We're not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, "I believed it, so I said it," we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God's glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
   So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Moving a Mountain

The Man who removes a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.
                                                                    - William Faulkner

   I am blessed to be called to serve people with intellectual disabilities for many reasons. Yet the fact that most of whom we serve need simple, concrete teaching, may be the greatest blessing for me. I also learn simply, and being a visual person, concrete helps me to. I think allot about on how to make the Word and the church, accessible to everyone. My observation of a short 44 years of life in the church, is that we have put much of scripture and our gathering together, out of reach for the majority of people. By using a churchified language, not understanding that the men and women of the bible were just like us, and protecting our Americanized way of life we often create a distance from the spoken Word to the Word lived out in our lives. I believe Gods Word and the examples in it of faith, are as much for today and tomorrow as it was for 2000 years ago. I have to trust in that fact as I work in the purpose God has for me each day.
   I have begun this blog entry 4 times in the last few years, but I posted none of them.  I worry it  comes off egotistical and self promoting. I complained to God about it and the only thought that comes is... "you are pretty ego filled that you are even worrying this in the first place, just do what I ask". So I write these thoughts with a humble heart, knowing God is in control and has a purpose in all He does.
   I believe with all my heart that anything is possible, that God can do anything and does. "Anything is possible" became the motto of the kids ministry we started 5 years ago called MEGA. We believe it, and have seen it happen. We have learned to trust that anything is possible, to the point that it has taken away much fear from what we are doing here at Camp Daniel. Living by this motto has made the work we are doing harder for some to be part of it, because it can seem unplanned, without much structure, and without regard for the norms of building an American nonprofit and ministry. When you say your plan is to trust God while working as hard as you can with the tools and all He has given to us, that can feel out of control and unplanned to others around you.  I know I am unqualified to lead this, I know I am a sinner and I know I cannot pull off what God is doing here myself. I know those He has brought beside me cannot fulfill the vision He has laid on us. So there is only one way to fight this battle and that is by trusting Him, waiting on Him, and believing His Word while using the gifts and talents He has given by working as hard as we can each day. 
   So how can we move ahead like this? The easy part is working hard, even as I sit here with a busted up knee and can't physically work, I can lead with the tools He has given and work still happens. The harder part is to learn to trust Him. One of the many ways early on, that helped me learn to trust was to realize that God actually trusted me. That revelation was,  and is, hard to swallow.  I know what blackness is in my heart and mind. Yet God has imparted a vision, He has given His promises in the Word, has given me leadership over others, and has told us... we, the church... that we are His plan. I daily, feel an incredible burden knowing God trusts me, I desperately do not want to let Him down, yet I do moment to moment. Mother Theresa once said,"I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle. I just wish that He didn’t trust me so much!” I get how she felt in saying that! So my mind says to me, If God trusts me don't I need to desperately trust Him? Yes, I do, and He has shown on a daily basis that my distrust is so stupid as He has provided at every turn and in every situation. We have seen miracle after miracle, we have seen his promises in the Word in real life. This is how He has built our trust. Yet, sadly I must battle daily to continue to trust, and most of the time wish that He did not trust me at all.
   So back to paragraph one and how this comes together in our ability to take Gods Word and make it unreachable for simple people like me. We have understand the Bible is filled with stories of people just like us, the same doubts, the same inadequacies, the same dysfunction, the same addictions, the same sinners you and I are, so were they. The things the heroes of the bible did are not testaments to them, but rather to God and what He did in them. The miracles and the promises in the Word are no less today than they were then. When we began in ministry 16 years ago I believe we had the faith about the size of a mustard seed, it was a small, small amount of faith. Yet just enough to begin the process of building, growth and moving toward a vision God had for us. Along the way I remember someone giving us a bulldozer. I never had even drove a lawn tractor before that, but eventually I learned to drive the bulldozer. Eventually we began piling up top soil as we excavated the property.  We literally made a mountain of top soil. That mountain peaked 6 or 7 years ago. Since then we moved that mountain of topsoil all over the property with other equipment that God made available; a skid steer, an excavator, a dump truck, a tractor, even many wheelbarrows and shovels, and hundreds of willing volunteers. That mountain at one point was so big it seemed immovable, yet God moved it through many different means. We began with just a tiny bit of faith that God moved us to Athelstane to build Camp Daniel and in the process we have seen Him move mountains. Matthew 17:20 says, We can say to this mountain, "move from here to there" and it will move. Nothing will be impossible. How many of us believe this? I know I do! It is part of my non trusting, non believing, negative and controlling character to see this verse in Matthew as describing this only as a mountain like Everest. But God has twice let us see literal mountains moved here at Camp Daniel Should we doubt these experiences as being anything less than Gods promises fulfilled? No!! God delivers His promises. We see it as another of Gods unwavering trust in us to do as He has asked, and so He does what he says. If we have a tiny amount of faith, mountains can be moved.

I write this blog entry with a feeling of heaviness as I so desperately want others to know Gods promises are true, that His Word is real, and He loves and trust us deeply. The   miracles and men of the bible are not some superhero stories meant to make us feel bad about our shortcomings, but rather gifts to show us that God uses all of us, no matter what, to fulfill His purpose and we can have faith in Him and His promise. If we can simply desire to be close to Him, love Him, please Him, and trust Him above all things, than He takes care of the rest and the mountains will literally move. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012


 “In living unreservedly in life’s duties, problems, successes and failures, experiences and perplexities we throw ourselves completely into the arms of God.” 
                                                                   – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

   18 years ago today, God transformed the lives of everyone in our family as my brother Dan's earthly suffering ended and he went to heaven.  I can still sit here and see him, and hear him, as plain as if it was 18 years ago. I miss him, I miss the part of me that existed in our relationship. His not being here can still cause pain, it seems almost foolish after 18 years but I still feel it. I still spend time reflecting back on that day when heaven and Gods presence moved closer in my life. I had always been unsure that God was right there before then, but after that day I knew He was. Before that day I thought little about what Gods purpose for my life and all about my own plans. After that day His purpose is the focus of my daily morning prayers and while I am less than perfect at following Him, it is my hearts deepest desire. So there is fleshly part of me that says that was a bad day, that it was day that brought pain. But my heart knows that it was one that hurt, and was good in Gods hands, as it was a day of transformation.
     The great lesson for me through the process has been that of seeing Gods goodness not as His protection from pain but rather His presence in the midst of it. I believe as a church we spend to much time focused on eliminating pain instead of embracing the pain God allows as a refining fire in our lives. We all know pain, loss, abuse, confusion, fear, and we do not like feeling those things. Much of our lives are spent avoiding, and directing ourselves away from the pain or possibility of pain we may feel. We tend to read books and love sermons that talk about eliminating pain and how that is life, and life lived victoriously. We even will sin to keep the pain at bay. Yet none of that can really stave off the pain that living life brings, it is inevitable.  
    We must come to a place in our relationship with God to understand that pain will come and He has given us tools to walk through it, and those tools will help be better built to grow closer to Him at the end of it. I pray it does not sound like I am trivializing anyones pain, I am not, there are many who suffer greatly, for very long periods of time, and it is hard. I also am not so twisted in my mind to desire pain. But, I know that it will come and I know God is there in it, waiting with open arms for me to jump into his lap and soak up His love for me. So as I reflect on 18 years with out my brother, I think of my loss and my pain, but I also feel how God is so near in the midst of it... that is life lived victoriously.
     Thank you God for Dan, and the 21 years of life and his deaths impact on me. Thank you God for the pain I have felt and still at times feel, that pulls me away from myself and into your wonderful waiting arms. Hug Dan for me, tell Him I will be there some day soon, and if your willing God, I will be bringing an army to meet him!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Remembering DJ, Our Brother and Our Friend

Be sure that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion.
                                                                            - Philippians 1:6

 I write this blog entry with a heavy heart, with an ache in my stomach and my mind whirling. Our brother DJ went to heaven yesterday. God took him home unexpectedly to us here, but certainly in His perfect time. DJ had been feeling off for a few days, but nothing unusually different than from what he had experienced in the past.  But what was going on inside his body was not recognizable externally. I am sure though, that he was ready, when God was ready!
   I looked and saw my last blog entry was many, many, months ago on the anniversary  night of my brother Dan's home going. What I wrote there, seems to be what I want to say here... "we are reminded to be thankful for our family, each member precious, each unique, and perhaps, appreciating our family becomes easier in the wake of a parting, a loss." We have once again have experienced a loss, but knowing DJ has climbed into Jesus's lap helps us rejoice and together we work through our earthly loss and grief. I wrote then that I have been blessed to have the experience many times of that moment after one has parted, when it is just those gathered who feel the love and appreciation for those who are close and also the pain of the loss. That experience once again yesterday was a blessing, yet it hurt, it caused me to doubt myself, it humbled me, it made me focus on heaven, it pushed me to worship God, it helped me love Karol, Jen, Marceaux and Tim who where there, in a new way, in God's way, It made me rejoice in the testimony of God and DJ's story, It made me lead in a new way, It created  a renewed sadness, joy, fear and dependence in me. 
   So now we forge ahead, working the good work, that God began in DJ and continues in us. I will remember DJ as our little brother who became the man and God's minister God created him to be. I am eternally grateful for how he trained us in grace and forgiveness because he was the most graceful man I have ever known. I am thankful because of how he showed us how to be truly dependent, on others and God. I will not forget his how he prayed for all of us each evening for an hour as he got ready for bed. I am am thankful for the years he was my sons best friend and playmate, building robots and musical instruments. I will remember how he was so thankful to God for the opportunity to be a homeowner and created a legacy by putting his fathers name on the home that would be for him and so many others. So the work ahead will be to carry on that work of providing a home and family to others in DJ's house, guided by the the love that what so evident in a grace filled life. I cry as write this because our family has lost a precious, unique member in our daily lives. But in my tears I am so thankful for the growth we all experienced together.
   I have faith in God's plan for our lives, I have faith that Gods plan was fulfilled in DJs life. I can say today that DJs legacy will be that we all will continue to walk together doing the good work in faith and not by the things we see. 
   I invite you to come on Friday evening to The Able Church in Green Bay at 6:30 PM to celebrate   DJ and how God used him in our lives. I also want to offer the opportunity to continue the legacy of DJs life by not ordering flowers, but rather donate to the DJ fund to continue the work that His father and DJ saw as important at Camp Daniel.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The 9-16 Dance

"He whose head is in heaven need not fear to put his feet into the grave." Mathew Henry

When 9-11 comes, my family is glued to the TV. We watch all the shows about the day, the aftermath, and the stories of the families that have happened since that day. When 9-16 comes we have a sense of what those families feel. You see on 9-16, our family remembers the day Daniel died. While I understand that our loss was not equivalent to those loses on 9-11, because we had prepared, said our goodbyes and thought about what 9-17 may be like, those families did not. Yet what I think we have in common is that there has been a response to the loss. From the rubble and destruction that caused death, life eventually springs forth. From the pain and sadness, hope and vision come forth. From what seemed bad, good has come. First we mourned, now we dance!

Kermit the Frog speaks of the response to death of his son to his gathered family as Bob Crachit, in the Muppets Christmas Carol. "Life is made up of a series of meetings and partings and our family has experienced parting with the death of Tiny Tim. We are reminded to be thankful for our family, each member precious, each unique, and perhaps, appreciating our family becomes easier in the wake of a parting, a loss."  Kermit's family then responds quietly, in acknowledgment of this moment of loss, and in love and appreciation for each other. Every year as I watch that scene from the movie, I am moved, as I so know the scene from my own life. That moment after one has parted, when it is just those gathered who feel the love and appreciation for those who are close and the pain of the loss. I have been blessed to experience it many times since. 

As I spoke to my mom this morning, little was said, but we acknowledged how long it has been since Dans has gone, and spoke of the loss of others in the family since. The series of meetings and partings continue, we know we shall be together again in heaven so the sense of loss is lessened. We feel no fear, there are no unanswered questions, death has no grip on us, it is as it says in Romans 8. Ecclesiastes 3 says there is a time to mourn and a time to dance, so we have mourned and some days we still mourn, but now we mostly dance. I believe the dance is the eventual good response to death, to loss.

Pastor Jim Erickson was known to says regularly that we can get bitter or get better. I hope our response as a family has been to get better, to dance, to create more family. Our immediate family has grown, the camps are built on creating family, the camp staff family continues to grow, the church family has grown. Nothing is more important than building Gods family, it is an easy formula really. Knowing that God's family has grown out of the rubble of Dan's death makes it easier too for me. I know Dan would be pleased if he was here, I know doing Gods work was most important to him in his very short life.

So I close this entry by challenging all who read it to build God's family. Be wary of getting caught up in mourning, in pain, in knowledge, in religion, in thought, in anything that sidetracks you from His family. Nothing is more important, as there is nothing God desires more than growth in His family. In the wake of His sons death, I think it is what makes God dance!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Clinging to God

"When Christ calls a man, He bids him to come and die" -Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Yesterday some called me "Missionary Piantine", Sunday I was called "Pastor Tony", today I was introduced to a group as "Little Tony", and my kids call me "Dad". These are titles, something I have always felt uncomfortable with because they often can be misused by people. Titles do not make you into something you are not, they confirm what you are in Christ and can be used to remind you of what God wants you to be. Ministry is hard, in that if you are doing it correctly, you really are no longer you, you become what God wants.

I have always been drawn to the story of Jacob and when he wrestled with the Angel in Genesis 32. In the end, God changed his name, to be in line with God's plan. Jacob spent much of his time acting like Jacob, a man who was messed up and made problems. God needed him to set his mind on being what He needed him to be, which was Israel. God does the same in us, giving us names to help set our minds on who we are to be in Him. This story starts with Jacob spending a night wrestling with an angel, at some point near the morning Jacob grabbed on and would not let go. He clinged to the angel and asked for blessing.

I get Jacob, I am a fighter, I mess up, I deceive, I can get caught up in earthly problems and with people rather than by getting caught by God. I fight God way to much. I know that when I stop fighting and just cling to Him, that is when He works in me. When Jacob was clinging on, asking for blessing, he could no longer fight. At that point God disabled him, he hurt his hip. Jacob was weakened, and at that point was ready to be strong. God then blessed him.

So often our motives are to feel good, to take what God wants and twist it into something we can use. I think we all would like to have a blessing, but usually to be something that makes us feel good or to be strong. While the blessing my mind wants makes me feel good or strong, it pushes me away from God, not needing Him. If I would just learn to stay clung to Him and allow Him to weaken me so He can bless me, I could be so much more effective. His blessing can feel good or it can hurt, it has little to do with me here and now. It has to do with His eternal plan, a plan that takes me to heaven where I will feel good forever! I know I am like Jacob, I attempt to deceive and I hurt others and myself. I so desire to just cling to God and let Him have His way.

Jacobs name change makes much sense to me, The interpretations as to the meanings of the names are many, yet it seems that Jacob simply was a fleshly man that held onto men and their ways but became Israel who held onto God and His ways. I want to accept the name God has given me, I want to cling to God and experience His blessing to help me be what He wants. Weaken me God, so I can be strong to accept your blessing.

Friday, April 1, 2011


"Don't be pushed by your problems be led by your dreams" -Ancient saying

Have you ever dreamed dreams so big that their fruition seem so far away that you may never see them? I do, but I am a dreamer and am used to seeing many things from the sky of unlimited thought and possibilities that a dream frees our creative minds to think from. So I have many dreams, some small, but many that are big. My simple mind can sometimes question whether it is sane to dream like I do, yet God has given me a creative brain for a reason, I believe. Anyway, I say all of that to share that a dream came true tonight for me. It was an incredible, confirming night. One that helps me realize I am on the right path and that I translated what God put into my heart some years ago in a way honoring to God. Tonight we had the funeral for our friend, camper and Able Church member Phil. You might say well that sounds completly crazy... you dreamed of having a funeral??? Well not exactly, let me explain... We started Camp Daniel 15 years ago with a basic concept of seeing campers get saved. So many did in those first few years that the problem of where they would go to church came about. Most did not end up getting connected to a church after they left camp. So became the opportunity to dream a new dream. We started a monthly program called PowerHouse Fellowship in Crivitz. My friend, brother, and fellow dreamer, Pastor John Koch, was instrumental in getting this rolling. Together, we are a dream machine; in fact, people would laugh at many, many of the conversations we have had over the last 10 or so years. We have dreamed up ministry after ministry, one idea leading to another and then on to the next. We have had the opportunity to act on some of these and see them lived out, and that is exciting; and others well, are better left being dreams! So we started PowerHouse Fellowship and eventually dreamed of starting a church for people with disabilities where everyone's gift would be valued and used to grow a family or community of people serving and growing together. During that time we also started Firehouse Fellowship in Green Bay with the help of Nancy List and then started The Able Fellowship in Green Bay. 4 or 5 years ago I really felt that God was pushing us to begin to live out this dream of a church as I described above and we consolodated our fellowships into a church called The Able Church. The concept burned strongly in me, enough so that the push towards it, even though incredibly hard, was worth pursuing. It took its toll; two good friends and board members left as they saw it as something that would only serve to sidetrack me from getting Camp Daniel finished. That was a very painful time of great questioning. Why would God put this dream in my heart and the opportunity to see it through? Why would he take the people closest to me away as I began to pusue this dream? We have pushed ahead with the dream and God has blessed it, and brought along many, many people into my life to be part of it. I began as it's Pastor and God brought Pastor John on full time so I could hand it off to him. From there, John handed its leadership over to Pastor Tim Mandich, whom God has annoited as His servant to lead the church. We have Jen and Marceaux, Molly, the Weidner family, the Woods Family, Wendy, and so many others who work hard in service with their Able Church Family. So even with all God has provided in this pursuit of this dream, I still at times would feel lingering doubts, as the words of my friends who left at the front of this dream would ring in my mind. So all that brings us to tonight's funeral. A historic day in the life of our church family; one where we became a full fledged church, experiencing God in way only a church family can. This is the fulfilment of a part of this big dream of having a church that was recognized as being whole, as being filled with the worlds definition of weak people, and as being a community that would celebrate life and death together. So tonight well over a hundred people joined togther to celebrate Phil's life, His faith, and his chruch. People with disabilities greeted Phil's family and prayed for his friends, worshipped God together, preached about heaven and led us in saying goodbye to one of our own. It was a night I will never forget, one that confirmed the first part of a dream so big only God will be able to see it through. I look foward to how it will all unfold. I stand with my heart full of confidence that God's purpose will prevail, yet I know my doubting mind will question if it was just a dream. Father God, I am thankful for the dreams you have given, and for the patience to help me grow into what you want me to be. Thank you for The Able Church and all that you have done to bring it to where it is today. Amen

Sunday, March 6, 2011


This blog entry is reprint from an article from LIFT Magazine. I have been writing the sibling sideline article for some years for LIFT. You can see this magazine online through this link:
It is for families that experience disability with articles written from each persons perspective in the family. This article was written previous to my last blog post here. I would encourage you to read the entire magazine, which my friends Jim and Rhonette Hukill write for and edit.

“The battlefield is a scene of constant chaos. The winner is the one who controls that chaos, both his own and the enemy’s.”
Napoleon Bonaparte

I grew up on a battlefield, where life could change in a minute. My brother Dan had a physical disability that took his life at the age of 21, just 16 years ago. He battled to breath, to be heard, for equality, and for life. My parents battled to keep Dan alive, to hold together a marriage and family despite the odds, and to make life consistent for themselves and their family no matter the circumstance. My younger sister and I battled to to be seen and heard, and to cope with chaos and change. Our family had stretches of peace and consistent life, where Dan’s disability went unnoticed to us because it was just a part of life. Those regular stretches would get disrupted by the chaos of extreme health issues, hospital stays, battles with the school, and thoughts of death. Life as usual could at any moment suddenly come to a complete halt, changing what was important one minute to became secondary to Dan and his battle for life in the next. Our family marched forward together no matter what the circumstance, and made it through life and death. I have carried the aftershock of the war for the 20 some years of my adult life. The post combat trauma I experienced is real, and the pain has been important to deal with.
I am now 42 years old, I have a wife and children of my own. Disability is still just as important in my life as it was growing up but in a totally different way. My life has been impacted in everyway by growing up with disability. Most of what I am and do can be traced to it. Many of the positive qualities in me are because of the blessing of disability. I have written in past articles here about the many positive characters that are exhibited in siblings of people with disabilities. But it is only recently that I have been able to deal with the negative issues that have affected me because of the fallout of living in the battle of disability. I have been through counseling and have learned to recognize I have been fighting a battle with ghosts and an enemy that only exists in my the scars of my mind. Growing up living in the battlefield made life so often feel totally out of control. I grasped for control in many ways; acting out for attention, eating to sooth pain, showing anger to keep people distant, manipulating to get my way, and taking charge of relationships whenever possible. I have thought that life on the battlefield, one filled with chaos in me and in others, just had to be controlled to be safe. The above quote by Napoleon, describes how I have perceived living for most of my life, but it is wrong thinking. Only in Gods hands is the chaos under control. The battle has purpose if we live it out trusting Him, and the battlefield is not where we have to live forever. The war ended yet my survival instincts, fighting skills, emotional state, and focus have continued in battle mode. While a few of those things have helped me as a leader in my adult life as a ministry director, they have hurt me severely in relationships, self perception, physical health, and my trust of God, myself and others. I have finally come to a place where I have walked off the battlefield in my mind, where I can feel the peace that God has given me for the first time.
In my ministry now comes opportunities to help families that are in the midst of the same battle I grew up in. Offering parents a view from post-battle can help them see better how to help their kids in the midst of what they are encountering. Jim and Rhonette are directing a camp this summer that will be so important in the lives of families that encounter disability. It is a long needed furlough for many on the front lines. A time for parents to stop surviving for a few days and just live and connect. A place where kids with disabilities can grow and learn that they are created by God for a purpose. An opportunity for those kids’ siblings to to realize that although life feels out of control, God has it all under control. I think back to my childhood and wonder if our family had this opportunity, how it would have impacted us. So, lets make sure no one is left behind to continue fighting this war without help, by committing our prayers, funds, and time to help them get this new venture off the ground.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Opposing Forces in a war at 3:07 AM

"What the world needs is more geniuses with humility... there really are so few of us left."
—Oscar Levan

Thursday, 2:14 AM; I lay awake tonight in turmoil... another night of wrestling with my mind. My heart aches with my desires to be like Jesus, my mind counters with the reality of my choices that seam so counter to the desires of my heart. I know what my heart desires but my mind is weak and usually gives in. I try to pray, for help, for others, in thanks, in confession... but my mind wanders faster than I can type those words. So the bell rings and thus begin the wrestling match...
-My heart aches because it wants to feel presence of God so badly. My mind says it wants a sandwich so I can stop feeling anything.
-My heart wants to set aside all the distractions from hearing, seeing, feeling and loving God. My mind wanders as I pray this, thinking about projects, football, how to raise money to finish the camp.
-My heart wants to destroy my ego so I am so humble I can live in thanks to my God who loves me no matter what I do for Him or others, so I try to pray in thanksgiving. My mind discusses with me how I am so talented that I could come up with new and innovative ways to get people to come to church, but it is not worth how hard it is to get others on board.
-My heart proposes to depend on God to the point I would live with nothing in order to be able to rely on Him. My mind is congratulating itself for having so much common sense to never do something so stupid.
-My heart wants others to know God's love so badly that I would sacrifice anything to show them that love. But my mind is excited that deadliest catch will be starting soon and so do football playoffs and it thinks that having a new tv would make it even more fun to watch it all.
-My heart wants to be willing to die for my God because I so strongly believe that being in heaven with Him outweighs anything this life has offer. My mind counters with how stupid those thoughts are because if I was dead it would just drag many others down and little could get accomplished without me.
-My heart strives to believe in heaven and hell so strongly that I lay awake in worry about lost souls. Instead I lay awake worrying I am losing my mind.
-My heart desires to be in community with other Christians so badly that I want to forsake my messed up American values that blind me to what is truly important in this life. My mind wants to demand to be paid for all the work I do for others.
-My heart demands truth so strongly that I would take its consequence before my ego, my power, my self love and my status among other men. My mind likes to speak truth in doses that I can control and prove how good I am.
-My heart wants to be used so badly by God that I stop doing anything on my own to promote myself or my agenda. My mind reminds my heart it sets agenda and that agenda is all about me.
-My heart want to so reflect His love that I strip myself of anything that stands in the way of others seeing His reflection. My mind says that if I am not commended for all I do that I will stop doing it and then everyone will know just how valuable I am.
-My heart wants to be so obedient to Gods words that I would pick up my cross and follow Him even to death. My mind reminds my heart and my body that I am to fat to pick up anything, and that is so depressing I should get out of bed and make a sandwich. I get a drink, go to the bathroom and pick up my computer to blog instead.
- My mind says it is now 3:07 and I am tired so stop blogging and go to sleep.

So now you know the creative process that occurs in me. My mind wins these fights more often than not.

-My heart says to post this so others might recognize the war between the heart and mind is real, and that they are not alone in the battle. My mind says exposing this kind of thing can make me seem unspiritual and I can lose peoples confidence in my leadership, so delete it.

-Tonight my heart wins one, my mind says good job heart... you are really are great, lets make a sandwich to celebrate!

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.