Storming the Beach

Sunday at my church, the sermon was about breakthrough. Here are some reflections I’ve had when meditating on that.

Ever notice it’s not called “breakaround? Circumnavigating the challenges and obstacles between us and victory doesn’t work. Strongholds remain alive and well when we avoid them, and they will simply continue to do their job when left unattended. The only way to take back what God intended for us is to battle through them.

I can’t help think about D-Day, June 6, 1944. The best way to get the number of boots on the ground and equipment necessary to take back France and other occupied territories was to storm fortified beaches along France’s northern coast. The Nazis were not going to just step aside and let the allies waltz in and seize the land they thought they had conquered. Operation Overlord, as it was code named, took just under a month before the mission was considered complete and successful. It took planning, full commitment, and an unquenchable resolve to see it through.

Your breakthrough is not going to come without resistance. That resistance is protecting “land” the enemy thinks belongs to him, and he understands its value.

You will know you’re pursuing something of value when you meet resistance. The absence of difficulty should make you wary that perhaps what you’re pursuing is of no consequence to the enemy and value to you.

Remember, prayer weakens the enemy. Don’t go into battle before inflicting damage through prayer. Then, you must decide you’re willing to storm that beach, take on the fire, and advance no matter the cost. All the while, be unrelenting in prayer. That “land” belongs to God, and He has great things in store for you when you take it back!dday.png

The following words are in red letters, spoken by Jesus, and found in Matthew 11:12,

“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”

600 Months

February 25th, 1965. The day I was born. 100 years earlier, Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War were in their final days. But this day would be my first. Because 50 sounds like such a big number for an age, I have been jokingly saying I prefer to see it as 600 months.

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For whatever reason, we measure a baby’s age in months up until they hit 24 of them. 600 months ago, the doctor turned me face down, patted my back firmly, but tenderly, and I coughed up the amniotic fluid that remained in my lungs from my development in the womb. I took my first breath. I was held by my mother for the first time.

480 months ago, I turned 10 years old. Finally, double digits. I could hold up two hands, with all fingers extended, to illustrate just how old I was. For me, this was a signifiant milestone on the road to being a man.

444 months ago, I turned 13. This is a number that, in any other context, has a negative stigma. But when it comes to the aging process, I’m a teenager! Life is going to change with the flip of the calendar! I was in 7th grade. I had my own locker and had to walk from class to class. No more sitting in one room all day, with one teacher. This was like college would be, except mom still had to drive me to school.

408 months ago, I turned 16. Look out, world! That learner’s permit would soon convert to a fully-fledged driver’s license! Possibilities were endless.

382 months and 21 days ago, on April 4, 1983, my life changed forever. This was the day that I willingly and wholeheartedly invited Jesus into my heart. It wasn’t done with any church fanfare. There was no music, no pastors or elders. I was alone in my bedroom. No emotional compulsion. It was the next step for me, and the time was now.

384 months ago, I officially became an adult! As significant a milestone as that is in the growing-up process, an ominous tone was set that I didn’t recognize at the time. Symbolically, perhaps, it was this day that I registered for selective service. The draft. In the event that our country went to war, and it would be necessary to supplement the existing personnel on active duty, I signed my name. Kind of a subtle welcome to the enormity of adulthood.

348 months ago, I was in bible college as I turned 21. Yes, while many of my peers were taking this opportunity to legally consume adult beverages until their bodies forced the contents back from whence they came, I was at the off-campus home of a fellow student, with a group of great friends, as they celebrated with me.

Up until this point, significant birthdays came about every 36 months. But when you turn 21, that gap begins to widen.

240 months ago, I exited my 20s. This was not a happy day. My mom was 29 years old when she had me. Now I’m 30. How did this happen so quickly?

204 months ago, I remember lamenting to my mother that I was now 33. This was the age when Jesus died. I saw this as some sort of sign that any hope of significance was now gone. That was when she gently, and wisely reminded me that this was also the same age when Jesus rose from the dead, and He rose to a whole new significance.

120 months ago, I turned 40. FORTY. I remember teasing my parents about being old geezers when they turned 40. Now I am that ancient. This was not a happy day, but again, I was blessed to ring it in with some great friends.

72 months ago, my mom sang Happy Birthday to me for the last time. 23 days later, she went to be with Jesus.

18 months and 17 days ago, God introduced me to the most wonderful woman. She captivated my mind and heart immediately.

12 months ago, Sarah-Jane came to visit me from Rhode Island to celebrate my birthday. What a special time we had. Introducing her to friends, family, seeing San Francisco, and sharing a sliver of my life with her. It was wonderful. It was also over 70 degrees the whole time. (What I wouldn’t give to have a 70 degree day right now.)

51 weeks and 3 days ago, I embarked on a cross country journey to New England. Leaving behind the people and memories the previous 588 months and 5 days held. But moving forward to pursue what lies ahead.

Today, I have no idea what specifically lies ahead of me. What I do know is that there will be wonderfully happy days, and there will be gut-wrenchingly difficult ones. The earthly life clocks for many will begin, and others will end. Even though there is no way to disguise my age to make it seem less than it is, I believe that by the mere fact that I am still drawing air into my lungs, there are still things to be done. Moments not to be missed. Lives to touch. Challenges to accept. Tears to cry. Joys to behold.

I’m quite certain that the months that have passed outnumber the ones I have yet to live. But whether it is one month, or hundreds, I press on knowing that life is a gift. The closest we get to immortality in this life is in inspiring and blessing others. The people who have come and gone in my 600 months live on in my heart and mind. Their influence lives on in my life because of the things they taught me. The things they gave me. I hope I have been a good steward of those thing by passing them on to others throughout my journey.

For today, the journey continues. For all of us.

Battling through a slump

It’s now October. With that comes the changing of the leaves, crisp fall air, pumpkin lattes…and playoff baseball. As I watch the postseason embark, a baseball-themed life lesson springs to mind.

In every baseball player’s career, it’s inevitable that they will go through periods where Adam Dunnthey just can’t get a hit. Maybe they’ll hit the ball hard, but right at someone. Maybe a defensive player will make a spectacular play to rob the batter of a sure hit. Maybe they just can’t make solid contact for a week or so. These periods of futility are called slumps.

The frustrating thing about slumps is that it’s hard to tell if the lack of success is physical or mental. Or if both, how much of each? No matter, the mark of a champion is to not let difficulties in one area carry over into other areas. In other words, if you’re struggling at the plate, don’t let it affect your performance in the field when you’re on defense. Thinking about the lack of offensive success can cause other significant areas to suffer, if they’re not mentally strong.

There are times in our lives when we’re just not on top of our game. It’s inevitable. It’s hard to tell what the reason is. I mean, we went through our typical morning routine, went to work, did our thing…but for some reason, we’re just swinging and missing. Something just isn’t right. Our emotions are flat. The things that usually make us smile are actually a little annoying. Things we don’t even notice most of the time are now frustrating us.

Just like the baseball player, we can expect periods like this. But also like the ballplayer, we have to fight to not let our slumps carry over into other areas of our “game”. We have to be careful not to let our frustration carry over into our relationships. We may have to grind away at whatever is bothering us, but if we’re not careful, other things…and people, will suffer.

I was in a pretty good funk on Wednesday. The past six months have been a trying period in my life. Then, in a very concentrated period of the last couple months, it was even more challenging. Meanwhile, there were also very good things happening. Finding refuge in the oasis is always a wonderful thing. But then there are days when even it’s raining on your oasis. I know, I’m mixing metaphors. Work with me. This is my brain. I’m just going along for the ride.

Anyway, it can be discouraging when your source of escape isn’t available to you the way you think it should, or as you have come to expect. Yeah, mama always said there’d be days like this.

And it’s okay.

As the day drew to a close, all I could think of was making a choice to not let the slump of Wednesday carry over into Thursday, and certainly not into relationships and my performance in my business. I don’t know that I’ll hit a home run and bust out of the slump on Thursday, but I can definitely make sure that no matter what, nothing and no one else will suffer from it. I will not let my slump cause someone else to have a bad day.

Hurdles are meant to be hurdled

“It’s not meant to be. Look at all the obstacles.”

I have seen far too many people give up on something by caving in with that way of thinking. We sometimes see obstacles as being detour signs. I’m not sure why we expect that God’s will is going to be paved in cashmere with free pizza and your favorite beverage all along the way.

The pathway to God’s will is going to be challenging. By definition, our journey is going to test our faith. It is going to require us digging in, fighting our human tendencies to lose faith. I believe that adversity is God’s way of showing us just how important our dreams are. If they’re not worth fighting for, then they’re not that important to us. If our dreams, if pursuing God’s will for us is really, truly our passion, there is nothing that will keep us from it.

Hurdles If you’ve ever been at, or watched a track meet, you may have seen a hurdles race. You may have even stood next to a hurdle. They are challenging, for sure. Even the best runners get tripped up from time to time. But the thing is, the purpose of hurdles is not to stop you. They are there to be jumped over! They’re not meant to be easy. They should be difficult to get past. But to reach the goal, you will have to go over them.

Years ago, my parents sold their home and most of their possessions in order to move to Costa Rica to start a ministry there. Whether it was governmental red tape, or outright dishonesty and thievery, they met many, many obstacles along the way. It literally lasted the first two years they were there. Uncharacteristically, my dad confessed to me that he was beginning to question whether they had made the wrong decision in going there. In a moment of spiritual clarity, I let him know that what they were doing was of spiritual significance. That means they were in the devil’s crosshairs. If what they were doing was a mistake, he would simply let them go on their merry way. He wouldn’t put up any interference.

I think of the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. After all his brothers put him through, he had a heavenly perspective. When his brothers ultimately and humbly threw themselves at his feet in guilt and grief, Joseph said in Genesis 50:20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.

Are your dreams worth fighting for? Is God’s will important enough to you that you’ll deal with any obstacle that comes your way? No matter what anyone else says or does, do you have the conviction and faith to stay the course? Do you have a heavenly perspective?

Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” -Deuteronomy 31:6

The little within the big

It’s amazing what and who can inspire you, and how quickly it can happen. As you can tell by looking over the very long periods between my most recent posts, my inspiration to write has been scarce. But today, I find myself inspired. For the purpose of this post, how I was inspired is not for public consumption. My muse, God and I know, and that’s good enough for now.

In art, there is a technique known as pointillist. This is the method of creating an entire i-430d212eb0ceb232194fa91bc64ca991-monnier1-1 i-5f7c6bc4cf59a6abb3d959f40281919b-monnier2painting by way of using only dots. Probably the most famous example of this is seen in these photos.

In life, I have found that it can be so much easier and exciting to obey God in the big picture things. Whether it’s taking a new job, getting involved in ministry, moving to a new town, and so on. But what is more difficult, and less glamorous, are the little “dots” that make the bigger picture possible and discernible. These are typically little decisions. Tiny choices. Things that seem inconsequential as compared to the big goals. Yet, in reality, they can make or break the delicate balance required in having things work out with the desired results.

For several months now, I have found myself at an unexpected, and unwanted crossroads.  I, for one, am not wild about situations like that. I am a nester. I tend to resist change. I certainly don’t go looking for it. But sometimes, like it or not, ready or not, it’s unavoidable.

I find myself looking at the potential of a big picture that is very much to my liking. Perhaps something for which I’ve waited and persevered for years. But in order for it to be possible, a series of “dots” must happen first. God is pleased and honored when we are faithful and obedient in the “small” things.

I have found in my life, that some of the biggest decisions I have ever made have not necessarily looked wise on paper. However, those have been the times I’ve been the most at peace. I am not Mr. Super Spiritual. It has nothing to do with my maturity. I cannot take credit for it. It’s simply the presence of God.

For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  ~1 Corinthians 1:25

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.  ~Philippians 4:7

If you’re facing a situation which makes no sense, yet it brings the most peace…don’t fight it. Just keep with the dots. Every now and then, take a step back and see how your picture is developing. But then, get back to the dots. God’s is guarding you as you and He develop your masterpiece.

Rant, Part 2

This is a follow up to a recent rant.

I have no intention to take back my thoughts in the previous rant. I would simply like to add a little texture to it. Though no one has challenged or questioned my thoughts, I think it’s worth my time to add some definition.rant

As I said before, a community, or “village”, is made up of independent individuals. Each person has their own set of skills, experiences, talents, liabilities, and an infinite number of other qualities. It is not the responsibility of the community to provide you or your family anything. However, it is the responsibility of each member of a community to live a life within the bounds of the law. Whether that is in business or in personal behavior. In doing so, each member of the community will prove to be an asset by virtue of their ethics and conduct.

As a member of a community, the things I do for recreation, the things I do professionally, the things I do spiritually, the places I go may lead our paths to cross at some point. If and when they do, I will respect you. I will not use profanity. I will be polite. If I see someone out to harm you, I will do what I can to help you. I will not force my spiritual and political beliefs on you, unless you are involved in an activity attacking them. Then, you will hear from me.

I will not base any of this on your religious affiliation, (or lack thereof), your sexual preference, or your political ideology.

Are you responsible and mature enough to do the same in return, even if you disagree with me?

Has it been 4 years?

Presidential elections. Olympics. Leap year. World Cup Soccer.

These are things that happen every four years. In some ways, it seems like a very long time. But in the case of today, it’s hard to imagine it’s been 4 years.

4 years ago tonight, my mom passed away. It came at the end of an emotional 6 week journey from the day the doctor told her she had stage 4 lung cancer. That, after more than 10 years of living with severe Systemic scleroderma.

Not a day goes by that she doesn’t enter my thoughts. Sometimes, it’s just a fleeting thought. Maybe something I see or hear triggers a memory. Other times, it can be a full blown conversation about her. In almost every instance, I smile as I remember. Other times, there is sadness that I can’t just sit down and talk with her again.

She handled adversity with grace and dignity. She went through life with integrity. She never sought or wanted the spotlight. She was incredibly generous. To this day, most of the people she helped never knew her name, and maybe never saw her face.

Just the way she liked it.

So today, 4 years after she left us in body, she’s active in our hearts. Making me laugh and smile. But also moving us to tears with her sweet sensitivity.

It’s like she never left.

Happy Birthday Mom

It has been some time since I’ve posted here. If I’m only going to write once or twice a year, (not my plan), this is going to be one of those occasions.

Today would be my mom’s 77th birthday.

It has been 3 and a half years since she’s left us. My memories of her bring warmth to my heart and life. I don’t feel sadness. OK, maybe a little. Thankfully, there were no words left unsaid. In the last 15 years of her life, we really found our relationship stride.

I’ve spoken to so many heartbroken parents over the things their children say and do. I tell them of my personal experience. I was never a wild rebel child. But I definitely went through my stages of hyper independence. The sacrificial love my mom had for me went largely unappreciated by me during my teens and twenties. I always loved her. But I didn’t allow myself to marvel at the character of this inspiring woman God gave me as a mom. But I eventually did, and I believe that in a vast majority of cases, the kids do eventually figure it out and appreciate their parents.

There are so many questions I now wish I had asked her. There are so many things I really don’t know about her. But I’ll never forget that one night during the Christmas season prior to my parents 8 year stint in Costa Rica. One night, while Dad was in bed, Mom and I were in the living room. We were each lying on our own respective couches. The only lights in the house that were on were the lights on the Christmas tree that was in the corner, between the two couches. It was this night I asked my mom some serious questions about some of the most difficult days and years of her life. I learned more about her in that one evening than the rest of my life, combined. Not just things about those experiences, but things about her heart. Things about her character. Her strength.

My mom is missed. Not just by my family and me. But even by people who never met her. I don’t understand why things work out the way and in the time they do. But things go the way they go.

Today is a bittersweet day. I’m filled with love and special memories. But I miss her voice. I miss her accidental humor. She couldn’t tell a joke to save her life. But she had an unintentional goofiness to her that was so endearing. She was good at laughing at herself. She had tremendous grace. She was long-suffering. She was patient. She had the gift of empathy. She could feel the pain others endured. She had a way of connecting with people.

Mom, I love you. I think of you every day. Thank you for the love you gave me. Thank you for teaching me how to love properly. Thank you for the things you taught me even when I didn’t realize I was learning. Thank you for the cartoons you drew on my lunch bags in elementary school. Thank you for being my biggest fan, even when I came up short. Thank you for taking interest in the things I loved, even when you didn’t know anything about them.

You are still one of God’s greatest gifts to my life.

Closed minds don’t get fed

I’m sure you’re probably a lot like me and a bit burned out on the Trayvon Martin news and debate. But it doesn’t take much, as I have learned, for the embers of Imageemotion to flare up to full fury even to this day.

Last night, a Facebook friend posted a link to a blog post his nephew posted on the issue. The blogger is black, and pointed his disdain to black Americans who have gotten swept up in the contrived racial firestorm. On Facebook, I entered into the discussion because I saw people perpetuating the misinformation that had been fed to them by those with agendas. During the debate, individuals took the stance that “we all know” that George Zimmerman is guilty of a crime. When I asked them to offer one true fact to support this, the “best” argument I got was;

“He shot an unarmed kid, I said this before on someone else’s status, if a cop shows up, and there’s a dead, unarmed kid, a smoking gun, and a dude holding it, and the cop asks “did you shoot this kid?” and the guy says “Yeah, but I was defending myself”, the correct answer is “okay, tell it to the judge.””

Thankfully, we don’t live in a country where this is the rule of law. Thankfully, despite the outside pressure of certain media outlets, (hello NBC), there hasn’t been a rush-to-judgment by law enforcement and prosecutors.

Three weeks ago, I had never heard of Trayvon Martin. When I was made aware of the incident, I was outraged. I heard about a young boy who was simply walking down the street carrying a bottle of iced tea and a bag of Skittles. I heard that Zimmerman, a white man, singled the boy out because he was black and wearing a hoodie. I heard about the 911 call in which the dispatcher ordered Mr. Zimmerman to stand down and not pursue the kid. I heard the other 911 call from a neighbor in which you could hear someone screaming for help. I was sure it was the young boy in fear for his life. I heard that the police showed up and essentially shook Zimmerman’s hand and let him go home.

I was outraged. How could this happen in MY America?

Then the facts began to trickle out. The facts began to add some texture to what I had heard initially. George Zimmerman is hispanic. He tutored African American children for free on weekends. Not exactly the profile of a racist.

This young boy was, in fact, was 17 years old and 6’3″. A far cry from the mental image that had been painted with the brush of uninformed outrage.

The incident occurred at 3 AM, not during the day, say right after school, as I had assumed. This caused me to call into question what my own judgment might be like were I to see an unfamiliar person walking through my neighborhood which has recently seen a spike in burglaries. I may have made different decisions, but I also may have been suspicious.

I listened to the original 911 calls. I was, and still am troubled by Mr. Zimmerman’s assumption that Trayvon was “up to no good,” and “on drugs or something.” I heard the 911 dispatcher’s response when he learned Zimmerman was following Martin. It wasn’t an “order”, as many have stated falsely. The exact words were, “we don’t need you to do that.” Obviously, as we all know, Zimmerman ignored this suggestion.

Poor judgment, but not a crime.

It turns out the the desperate screams for help heard in another 911 call came from George Zimmerman. Zimmerman’s statement, backed up by physical evidence and eyewitness accounts, were that Martin was on top of Zimmerman, pounding his head into the ground.

When the police processed the scene, Zimmerman was taken into custody and brought to the police station for questioning. After doing so and interviewing eyewitnesses, there was no probable cause to arrest and indefinitely detain Zimmerman for the death of Martin.

The bottom line is, my mind was and remains open to the facts. Many drew a conclusion upon hearing the first bits of information from that tragic night. There was a bounty put on the head of George Zimmerman by the New Black Panthers. Spike Lee tweeted what he thought was Zimmerman’s address, but turned out to belong to an innocent elderly couple. Whether or not the address was incorrect, Lee’s motives can only be described as facilitating a potentially horrible confrontation. Since then, Roseanne Barr tweeted Zimmerman’s father’s address.

The media, the “reverends” Jackson and Sharpton, the President of the United States and other public figures have not only rushed to judgment, but have inspired and perpetuated a racial firestorm that is unnecessary and completely contrived. These are entities with an agenda. The media is looking for ratings. There is a lot of competition with cable news outlets. But rather than report the news, they’re looking to manipulate it. Jackson, Sharpton and the President? Well, when your only tool is a hammer, you need your problems to be nails. So they call Zimmerman a white man, then a “white hispanic”, whatever that is. Then they jump on the hoodie thing. Mentioning that Martin was black and wearing a hoodie was simply a description to enable police to visually identify him at the scene. But making this a racial thing serves a political and social agenda for these individuals.

If the facts prove that George Zimmerman committed a crime, he should pay the price. But our minds must be open should the facts not prove that out. It just may be that it was a case of self defense.

Again, I believe George Zimmerman made some bad decisions. He showed some poor judgment. But from what we know, not to the point of a crime.

Thankfully, in MY America, one is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Not the other way around.