Archive for August, 2006

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God-Forsaken Places

August 23, 2006

Months ago, I read a blog entry about some place referred to by a correspondent as “god-forsaken”. Actually, they used God in the absolute sense, meaning that God had forsaken that city. It doesn’t matter which city it was…all the “sin cities” of the world might apply to what I am about to say.

We were in Las Vegas as part of our trip last week and spent the day there recovering from the first 2,400 miles of the trip. It was Sunday and we took a day of rest and recuperation. I had a close friend question my choice of cities to stop in for a rest. By implication, he thought that my spirit could be renewed much better anywhere else but this “godforsaken” place like Vegas.

There cannot be a place that is God-forsaken. God is the one who promised “I will never leave you…I will never forsake you.” I can hear someone saying “But that refers only to those who have come into a relationship with God.” I’m not sure that is completely the case, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that is true. On the Sunday we visited Vegas and stayed there, we visited the church of a friend of mine: South Hills Church in Henderson. We were so incredibly blessed by the genuine warmth of their fellowship. People really like each other there. As the service went on, they didn’t have this “hiding in a cave” mentality of being a church in Vegas. They love living there and they love the challenge of helping people work through drug, alcohol, gambling and sexual addictions.

Wasn’t Jesus ostracised from the religious establishment because he ate and drank with tax collectors and prostitutes? They enjoyed hanging around with him because He was real and he made people feel like they were important. Can a city be godforsaken if there are people crying out to God for help? It would be impossible.

What would a godforsaken city look like? It would be a city of people who say these three things:

1. God, we’ve got everything in order in our lives and don’t need you. Thanks.
2. God, we can accomplish anything we want without your help. We’ll call you if we need you.
3. God, thank you I’m not like other people who are losers.

Actually, that would be a “forsaking-god” city, wouldn’t it? Vegas is no worse than L.A….their addictions are more obvious. L.A. is addicted to prestige, home ownership, body image and possessions. Sacramento is addicted to the political intrigue, rising home values, mega-plastic churches and hurry. Every city, yours included, has its reasons why it needs God. Vegas is just more obvious.

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Not Deserted

August 19, 2006



The word “desert” comes from the same idea as “deserted”: That is, lonely, desolate and without substantial form. In that sense, we often scorn the desert areas of our world because they seem to be without life and therefore, by implication, without deep meaning.

As I drove across this country and passed through a wide variation of terrain, I realized again that the desert regions are teeming with life. Above is one of the pictures we took while going along Highway 93 in Arizona, just west of Sedona: This parking lot picture features both a saguaro cactus and a Joshua tree (this was taken just north of the Joshua Tree National Forest). During the many hours we drove through desert areas of Western Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California, we were blown away by the teeming of life in these “deserted” areas.

Contrast this with some other scenes we witnessed. Going through Tennessee and North Carolina, we were inundated by tree-filled avenues of Interstate, with rarely a break to see anything. And all of the trees, fecund as they were, had smothering coats of Kudzu hanging from every limb, like a beekeeper covered in bees.

Why do I point this out? Because the desert life seems to live in a symbiosis and a beauty that, though sparse of foliage, seems to make up for it by being at peace. The thick jungles of trees back east seem to be in perpetual competition, totally surrounded by the matting of Kudzu which threatens to destroy the whole ecosystem in just a few decades.

We should take a lesson from this. There is a beauty to not cluttering up our lives with more things and more agenda items for each day. The peace of the desert is a peace of “spreading things out”, of not having to fill every space with something. This is why the songwriter says “In the desert, you can remember your name, for there ain’t no one to give you no pain.”

Some people are going through lonely times, deserted times, failure times, fruitless times. All of this seems like the desert. But it is in the desert that the beauty of life can be examined. I saw every plant, every tree, every stream, every nuance of the desert. I saw the left-hand picture, a thrilling part of the Grand Canyon, miles away but still visible; in the Blueridge Mountains, I couldn’t see any streams even when we were going over them, for the trees had covered every sight line.

Ask yourself this: Are you filling your life so full you can’t see the beauty any more?

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3300 Miles and We Made it

August 16, 2006


It started in Fayetteville, NC and ended yesterday in Sacramento, CA. During the past 8 days, my wife and I flew out to North Carolina to drive back a car that we own jointly with our son who had been stationed in North Carolina with the Army. In some ways, this was a case of “lunchbag letdown” because we had originally booked that time to go down to the Island of Grenada (Map here) to speak onboard a 50 foot catamaran on the subject of “Overcoming Lie-based Thinking”. But because of last year’s extreme hurricane season, they cancelled the school on the ship and we had to figure out another excursion to take its place. Our son had been wondering how he would get his second vehicle home from Fort Bragg, NC and we volunteered to fly out there and drive it back with a trailer attached to haul his stuff.

Over the next few days, I want to go beneath a travelogue version of the trip to some of the deeper lessons that I learned. As those of you who know me, I tend to see meaning and purpose in events that pass by us every day. What I find about most people is that they examine nothing and just allow the meaning of life to flow past like the wind without seeing what it all implies. I hate doing that and this trip was no different.

First about the picture above. I wanted you to see the little U-haul sport trailer that we had attached to the Jetta. It road so well behind us and hardly created any drag. If anyone is thinking of doing a small move (or even a vacation where you need more room for luggage or camping gear), this baby really is streamlined. I doubt our gas mileage knocked down more than 5 mpg with the tow. That really beats cartop carriers and any other higher profile trailer to smitherenes.

Three things happened during the first three days that absolutely showed us the care of God in our lives. First, as we flew out to Fayetteville, I stopped to glance at a tv in the ATL airport. That is when I noticed that a tropical storm warning had been issued for the Windward islands. We would have been there during a tropical storm that dumped 11 inches of rain over the islands. It would have ruined the first two days of a four-day teaching event. Second, we had arranged through Hotwire to get a rental car for the first day in Fayetteville to allow us to register the Jetta and go to the army base while a hitch was being installed to get our son’s last belongings. As often happens, they had run out of full-size cars. This is actually the reason that I always rent full-size cars. Then they will most often give you an upgrade at the same price. They gave us a new Ford SUV. We didn’t see the meaning behind this until we got to the Army base. Our son had vastly underestimated the amount of stuff we were carrying back. A full-size car (think Taurus etc.) would not have been able to handle all of it in one load. As a result, we were able to get all of his stuff in the SUV to transfer to the car when the hitch was ready.

We got to the hitch place exactly as they finished. The biggest problem we had was that the trailer was in Pinehurst, 40 miles away from Fayetteville on back roads. We phoned the Uhaul in Pinehurst and they said they were closing at 5 p.m. sharp with no exceptions. That left us with 32 minutes to get there. There was no way it was going to work. Not only that, but we got lost on the way and arrived at 5:20. For some reason, this gruff old “Bubba” was still there waiting for us. He regailed us with every fishing story he knew and wondered why we wanted to move to California (he couldn’t understand the concept that we already lived there) and didn’t we like all the golf courses in Pinehurst. Pinehurst No. 2 course has hosted the U.S. Open 5 times and it was the area of town we got lost in. Nice course though. He almost convinced me to stay.

So in just over 5 hours, we were able to: Get the car out of storage, get it licensed and registered, get a new battery put in, install a hitch, get all of his stuff out of storage, drove out to Pinehurst to get the trailer and got lost and found again. God is good. All.the.time.

The next day, we drove to Nashville, where we had arranged for a hotel by Hotwire. We got the Radisson for $55! We got the room key and went upstairs. When we went into the room, it took us about 2 seconds to realize someone was already using the room (the underwear hanging in the bathroom and the television blaring was a clue). Not wanting to do our Goldilocks imitation, we went back downstairs and told the clerk her error. She was so apologetic and gave us another room: A mini-suite for the same price, with a Sleep Number bed. That’s right, a Select Comfort bed that allows you to adjust the firmness level individually on each side of the bed. We were in heaven.

As I said, God is good.all.the.time.

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When RL Catches up

August 2, 2006

Some of you have sent me emails the last week or so wondering what is going down with my life. So let me answer a few of the more common questions.

First, I did get my Straterra and it did help a lot. I found my anger level dropped significantly the first day and I feel back to normal again. Thanks for your concern.

Second, our family is still going through a few crises that have captured my emotional harness and directed me away from my normal endeavors. Indeed, I have had to lessen my counseling load considerably as we consider several of our alternatives dealing with the present problems. We could use everyone’s prayers for : a) insight, b) determination, and c) a sense of humor.

I am so blessed to have friends in RL and online who show such incredible consideration and genuine warmth in my time of need.

Thank you to all.

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