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First Lines…

I love the opening line to the book, “Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont.”

“She came from a world of sensible choices…”

The first lines in any narrative, are the introductory bricks in a sidewalk that lead us to the heart of a story. They are the whisper of former, unknown events that give insight into the character we are about to meet.

A first line is a choice.

Do you want to go further?

Are the following lines and pages, and chapters worth your time?

When an author gets it right, the best first lines of books are not a choice at all, but a capturing.

“He began to die when he was twenty-one, but tuberculosis is slow and sly and subtle.”

From Doc by Mary Doria Sophie Russell

“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents, grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.”

From Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

“In a hole in the ground, there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.”

From The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

“Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.”

From Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.”

From Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston

See what I mean? The first lines are curtains drawing upward, the author leading you by the hand forward into a story (but also another world).

YOUR life has an opening line.

You are not the chance product of an evolutionary process. Your story is not the result of an explosion in a paper and ink factory…you were created as the main character…intentionally, deliberately, and thoughtfully.

And you either know this…or you don’t!

If you know that your life is a narrative read by others, you will craft it daily.

If, on the other hand, you are NOT aware that your life is a book read by the balance of those who observe, you will capture NO readers…you will simply type mindlessly upon the page of your existence.

I ask you…what is YOUR first line? What bricks will lead me, and others, into reading your life? Does it influence? Does it draw back the curtain behind which there is a captivating life…or will those who sit in attendance leave after the first act?

Christianity is about influence. And those who wish to have a significant effect on the earth must appeal to a broader audience than the few trapped within the salt boxes we call churches.


The message of the Gospel is not a drab re-hashing of a tired ancient Hebrew text.

It is the telling of a story…the one great story, whose first line is “In the beginning” and whose last line is, ““The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen” (Rev. 22:21).

I urge you… be captivating and make it worth the while of others to explore your life by making your first line extraordinary.

Is your life worth other people’s time? Do they want to go further?

Don’t be ordinary… be uncommon, exceptional and unique.

As for me…I want to be a renaissance man…

A Renaissance Man…

By Doug Pacheco

“I want to be a Renaissance Man…

A renaissance man; renaissance man,

I want to be a renaissance man,

When I grow up one day.

A man who studies sun and star,

Who plays piano, flute, guitar,

Who runs the race both near and far,

A renaissance man I’ll be.

Who’s kind to children, loved by all

Who sees men as equal, big and small

With heroic deeds answers the call,

A renaissance man I’ll be.

A man who others often see

Repairing souls so they’ll be free,

In brokenness on bended knee,

A renaissance man I’ll be.

Who holds his peace ’til he has heard

The arguments of many words.

Whose own desires will be deferred,

A renaissance man I’ll be.

I would not stoop to lowly things

To be a monarch, prince, or King,

A coat of many colors bring,

For a renaissance man like me.

Who shares his wealth to horizons end,

Blessing children, stranger, and loyal friend;

And the widow’s rights he will defend,

A renaissance man I’ll be.

And when at last from earth I’m free,

And my grandchild comes to honor me,

Oh, may he fulfill this prophecy,

And be a renaissance man like me.

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What Will YOUR Contribution Be?

“ I am Shutruk Nahunte, King of Anshan and Susa, Sovereign of the Land of Elan. By the command of Inshushinak, I destroyed Sippar, took the Stele (pronounced STEEL) of Hiran-Sin, and brought it back to Elan, where I erected it as an offering to my God Inshushinak.” Shutruk Nahunte 1158 BC

So begins one of my favorite top 10 films…” The Emperors Club.” A writer named Ethan Canin, wrote a wonderful book called, “The Palace Thief.” it relates the tale of a history teacher at an exclusive boarding school who reflects on the vicissitudes of a lifetime connection with a student scoundrel. A remarkable achievement by one of America’s finest writers, this brilliant volume reveals the moments of insight that illuminate everyday lives.

After reading aloud the statement above, the Professor, Mr. Hundert played brilliantly by Kevin Kline, makes one of the most profound statements of the entire movie,

“Shutruk-Nahunte, behold…his name cannot be found in any history book! WHY?  Because great ambition and great conquest, WITHOUT CONTRIBUTION, is without SIGNIFICANCE!”

He then asks his class, “What will YOUR contribution be? HOW will history remember you?”

I write a lot of books about small, insignificant characters doing things that change their worlds.

In “The Silk Road”, it’s two caterpillars.

In “Crossing The Field” it is about two mice.

In “A Small Fish is Only As Small As He Thinks” it is about Kelly the Krill.

It is ALWAYS the little unknown people who changed history. Think of Jesus feeding the five thousand…and you find an unnamed, unknown boy who gave his lunch of fish and loaves just to help Jesus and we remember him today.

Mary was a woman, probably abandoned by a man…who turned to the only thing she could do in order to eat…prostitution. But after being forgiven, she crawled back on her hands and knees and washed Jesus’ feet with her tears and dried them with her own hair. We remember her today.

An unnamed leper, who was the only one out of ten who; instead of showing himself to the priests, realized, if he didn’t go back and find Jesus and thank him, he would probably never see him for the rest of his life.  Somehow, his return to thank was so significant…that Jesus was moved. We still hear about that man today.


Rather, it is changed by the unknown, insignificant people who somehow cross paths with this man named Jesus. After meeting Him, they want to give back…they want to make a contribution to him for what He did for them.

There is nothing we can do directly for Jesus. He doesn’t need anything. But He DOES point us to His children and says, “Whatsoever you do, to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me.”

He tells us, the best way to serve Him, is to SERVE THOSE WHO CANNOT PAY US BACK. To love them, to lay down our lives for them. It is those who are not looking for notoriety or fame whom God causes to become immortal in the halls of Glory.

I don’t know that anything I have written over the course of ten years will EVER be remembered.

For one thing, due to the very fact that I publicly wrote about the chance encounters, the events with other people…I have had my reward for those. Jesus says when we do something   HIDDEN…THAT NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT…THESE ARE THE THINGS THAT WILL BE REWARDED.

Contribution in the Kingdom has much to with ANONYMITY OF INTENTION and ANONYMITY OF REPUTATION. God wants what we do for others in HIS name to be done out of facelessness and out of a desire for no one to know our names!

I regret, that much of what I have written concerning my daily exploits in life have been made public. I will not receive a reward for those…I have received it already. For anyone who has mistaken my making known the encounters with people in my stories as a form of boasting, I sincerely apologize.

I have sought to use them as a primer…to help others to move out in Jesus’ name. But maybe I have been mistaken.

The greatest of all in the Kingdom is the one who is the servant of all.  The one who washes the feet, and hangs up the cloak of others. They are the ones who are not public, hidden in fellowship hall, cooking spaghetti for church dinners, the one who arrives early in day, before anyone is present, to straighten the chairs, clean the bathrooms and staple the church newsletters.

The most important among us in the body of Christ, will be the little fingers and toes, the earlobes…the hidden inner organs that no one saw, but contributed to the outer beauty of the eyes, face, body and other visible “attractive” members. In fact, I believe THESE will be the closest to the throne.

My mother was one of these. She worked behind the scenes. She would often say to me, because I was a missionary, “I am going to be your wash woman in heaven!”.

No mom…you have that backwards. We who have been visible to others will be cleaning your mansion.

Today, make a significant contribution by loving and serving others without pay and without praise. Do it in secret. Great ambition and great conquest, WITHOUT CONTRIBUTION, is without SIGNIFICANCE!” But, humble ambition with great humility done in secret, is a CONTRIBUTION WITH GREAT SIGNIFICANCE.

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Bursts of Joy

“Joy is not a constant. It comes to us in moments – often ordinary moments.

Sometimes we miss out on the bursts of joy because we’re too busy chasing down the extraordinary moments.

Other times we’re so afraid of the dark that we don’t dare let ourselves enjoy the light.

A joyful life is not a floodlight of joy. That would eventually become unbearable. I believe a joyful life is made up of joyful moments gracefully strung together by trust, gratitude, and inspiration.”

Brene Brown

“But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control.

Galatians 5:22 NASB

There are two things every morning when I wake up that give me a lot of joy…

The first (and this is not gratuitous mushiness) is that I see my wife, Mary Ann, and immediately smile.

The distant second thing is the very first cup of coffee.

Yes, they are simple, but I measure joy by the amount of gratitude I feel every time that joy shows up.

If I go “in search” of some experience that will produce joy…it rarely ever does…show up, that is.

Joy is not a bunny rabbit playing hide and go seek with me. It doesn’t want me to pursue it and find it…because I never will. I will only find its cheap imposter friend…

As Leonard Ravenhill said it best…”Entertainment is the devil’s substitute for joy.”

Rather, real joy sneaks up on you in ordinary day-to-day events of life and can make you laugh until your stomach hurts… or weep with tears of joy.

It arrives the moment when your neighbor’s fourth-grade child innocently says out loud while you are sitting on their deck,

“Dad, I tried coming into your bedroom on Sunday morning, but the door was locked, and it sounded like you and Mom were killing each other in there!”

Yeah, you can’t buy those moments!

It isn’t just the comedy that your neighbor is embarrassed by…it is a pure joy that everyone will remember forever. Joy sneaks up on you like a fourth grader…it sneaks up on you like Dennis the Menace.

Joy comes when, at 64, you see a picture of your son interviewing the Secretary of State…THE Secretary of State in a one-on-one interview. There is so much pride in your heart because you remember that all of his life growing up, he said,

“I want to be a journalist.” Joy produces that pride and thankfulness.

It is always in the ordinary things…in the unrehearsed first day of work, when your new employer says, “You were a good hire.”

It happens when you stand in front of your new house, still under construction, and your wife begins to cry…because it’s your first home…and she already sees Thanksgiving in the dining room ten years into the future.

Real joy hunts you down, like a safari, taking aim at the moment you least expect… like the time your parents told you,

“We’re so proud of you!” for a decision you made, a sacrifice you gave, or an achievement you always wanted.

Joy is never going to come by working those extra four hours when you could have been at your child’s school play or playing a round of golf when you should have been fulfilling a promise to paint the deck or clean the garage.

Joy acts as the satisfaction that you did the right thing.

Joy isn’t bought with dollars…it arrives in the delivery room, shows up as they walk across the stage at commencement, and streams down your face when they make partner in their law firm.

Real joy is a harlequin…it masquerades as one thing while really being the other. It wears tears when it is actually happy. Joy falls like the rain, coming down one second in sheets and the next, showing up after a long drought. Real joy refreshes the heart with the promise…” you won’t be left in a dry and weary land.”

And the rainbow appears.

You cannot go looking for that kind of joy. You don’t choose IT

IT chooses you, and it chooses WHEN.

Joy is the relief you feel when justice comes.

When the unknown wrongs have been made right. Joy opens the prison door for you…it is the sun that shines on your face as you walk out free. It is the change of clothes from your prison garb.

You remember that day…don’t you?

Those brief bursts of joy couldn’t happen all the time. They would, as Brown says, “be unbearable.”

Instead, joy comes sporadically, in doses…like good medicine. And in order to be completely healed from the terminal illness of dreary lifelessness…we must happily take our medicine when it is given…

-or suffer the effects of an existence, deceived into thinking that entertainment was all there was, and miss living altogether.

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Hands Sticking Out Of The Water…

As I sat on my patio this evening, I asked God what this gnawing feeling inside was all about. It felt like a splinter under the skin, but you can’t see it…there is something irritating in your soul


I admit that I wasn’t really expecting an answer. I just wanted relief.

I felt that the Lord said,

“When you were younger, you were so busy doing things and took little time to listen. He continued,

“Now, you have few things to do…but have all the time in the world to listen…and it bothers you.”

That kind of made me feel upset. Here I was trying to get some relief from my inward discomfort, but instead, I got the impression I was resisting something that God wanted me to do. it made me feel worse.

I wrinkled my brow, scowling at the ground.

“Oh…you don’t like that…?” he asked.

I didn’t speak. I just was quiet. There is nothing you can say to God that wouldn’t be prideful at that moment…He likes to test…He likes it a lot.

“You like to talk…but wisdom WANTS to listen so that when you speak, the words will have weight.”

These days I am eyeing retirement, working a little, and writing a lot. But with all of the issues swirling around the world these days, it feels like everything is thrown into a blender and placed in “puree” mode; it is difficult to understand what my activity should be.

But, I think the Lord is taking all of us back to basics. He has taught us (those who came into a relationship with Him a while back… in the Jesus Movement) to swim in placid waters.

Personally, for those my age and older, I feel that I am supposed to enter into the deep water of the personal turmoil of others and give swimming lessons in the midst of a hurricane.

There are many who will not make it to shore if they don’t have veteran swimmers to help them along.

I’m talking about coming alongside others to help them learn to trust Jesus instead of simply getting them saved and leaving them to either swim or drown.

It used to be called discipleship, but that word has a bad connotation these days.

The Christian life needs explaining.

It needs men and women who are humble and authentic lovers of Jesus that wish to serve others by sharing their experiences and helping others become like Him.

I was in the ocean on the outer edge of a hurricane in a dream not long ago.

The wind would sweep me almost out of the water in a circle. Every time it swept me out to sea, I would see a person’s hand sticking up out of the water, and I would grab their wrist, and then the wind would sweep me back toward the shore.

I would drop them off, and before I could stand up, the wind would sweep me back out to the deep where another person’s wrist was above the water.

I would grab them…but just then, a bolt of lightning lit the sky on maybe my fourth or fifth trip around in this hurricane. When the sky was lit up with the flash of lightning. I couldn’t believe my eyes…

I saw thousands of wrists and hands, maybe millions, of wrists and hands, sticking up out of the water. I could grab only one at a time…and every time I made the trip, there were fewer and fewer hands sticking up out of the water asking for help.

I began to swallow water and cough, but I wasn’t fearful I would drown. The Lord kept saying,

“You learned to swim during a time of peace…but it wasn’t so you could show your strokes…it was for this….”

I began to cry out… ”Oh Lord…they’re all going to drown if you don’t sweep others into the storm to help me!” That’s when He opened my eyes.

Another bolt of lightning crackled and lit up the ocean, and there…in the water… were thousands of us…. maybe millions…and everyone had hold of a wrist or a hand, pulling people up from under the water.

When the wind blew me toward the shore, I saw hordes of people on the beach…and people were trying to get them to safety inside. I woke up gasping for air.

As I sat quietly on my patio this evening, the Lord said,

“You can never tell which end is up in a storm at sea…that is why I walk on water…and as long as you look at me and believe, you won’t sink, and there will still be work to do no matter how old you are.”

The lesson the Lord was teaching me was that I learned that following Jesus in the deep end of the pool was not just for me when I was younger…

We learned to swim for others…for the hurricane yet to come.

“Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest?

I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. Even now, the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. Thus, the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”” John 4:35-38

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The First Time I Met Him…

The first time I met him, he was sitting on a park bench with two social workers in my hometown. Here was a nine-year-old boy, with; what I would describe as a short “mullet” looking down on the ground talking nervously to one of the social workers who happened to be one of my childhood classmates.

I have to give you the back story, because this meeting was years in the making.

As a child born in 1957, I was the last born of four children to my parents. I always gloried in the position of being the last-born child and It’s true what they say about us.

Parents have already spent their energies on the first born, instilling all the discipline into them. They make sure every surface of the house is sterilized so if the child puts something in his mouth from the floor, it won’t harm them.  

Suffice it say, my parents spent all of their good-intentioned discipline on the first three, by the time they got to me, I was eating spaghetti off the floor with the dog…they knew it wouldn’t kill me and I credit it with never having gotten Covid. The things that live in my body would resist a space virus.

I was also the one that was allowed to do things that the first three were not.

I got to go out with friends alone at an earlier age than they had, I was allowed to wear clothing that the others had been denied, and my so-called “curfew” was often talked about, but rarely enforced. This royally pissed off my older siblings…but c’est la vie!

 Yes, we last borns really ARE BRATS, and I loved it!

HOLLA last borns!

You can imagine then that I was comfortably ensconced in my position as the last Pacheco of the family.

So, by 1995, it was a forgone conclusion that those included in our tiny tribe of six, my parents and three siblings, was now a closed community.

When you look at the genealogy of Jesus, you must wade through some pretty embarrassing relatives. In His family tree, Jesus was related to a murderer and adulterer, (King David) and Abraham, the first wife swapper (…gave his wife away twice…).

He was related to a guy who had been sold into slavery by his own brothers, (Joseph), and had a very famous harlot, ( a Ho…) by the name of Rahab who had hidden the Hebrew spies when they were doing Recon on Jericho.

Also, for all intents and purposes, Jesus was in the strictest sense of the word, Illegitimate.

Joseph was not his father…and it was a real stretch for anyone to believe that the Holy Spirit had impregnated Mary. So, he had to endure that indignity his entire life…the Pharisees called him a bastard.

In 1993…my brother Greg, who has now gone on to be with the Lord, called me and told me that I was no longer the youngest in our family. He related the fact that my father, now also gone to be with the Lord, (I got to lead him to Jesus before He died,) had fathered a child and of course not with my mother.

Let me say, how very much I love and honor my father regardless of whatever mistakes he made and although it is a dark thing, it still does not do away with the 80 years of faithful love and service he gave to everyone he knew. Many relatives didn’t know about my half-brother, or the true story because when we became his legal guardians, we took him away to Cincinnati with jus where we lived…

But of course, there are consequences to our actions…and I was about to meet my younger brother sitting on that park bench in my hometown.

The social worker informed me that the boy had been carried by a mother who drank heavily during her pregnancy, but by grace, he had only a mild case of fetal alcohol syndrome. When I first met him, I was told that his home experience was one of lice and visits from the police. At nine years old he already had a rap sheet at the local police dept for minor things, but the direction of his life was headed south.

 Here I was, the youngest of my four siblings from the 1950’s and my wife and I could just envision a newspaper headline in the future announcing that a young man in my hometown was dead due to some kind of gang activity. We talked it over with each other and the Health and Human Services people in my hometown and it was agreed by all parties that my wife and I would become his legal guardians.

It was rocky…that’s all I’m going to say about it. Trying to do the right thing in this case was a major rough spot with my natural children and our new son…the same age as our youngest son. But here is the point…

I sleep with the television on…sometimes with scripture on YouTube, sometimes on Prime with a movie playing. I like noise when I sleep…I’m a strange bird.

This morning, at around 2 a.m. I woke up to the movie, “The Blind Side” The story of Michael Oher, professional football player for the Baltimore Ravens. A homeless boy taken in by some well to do family and superbly played by Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw. I watched it for the 30th time and cried again at 2 a.m.  right when Michael Oher at the end of the movie said, “I need a proper hug!”

My half brother grew and joined the Marine Corp. He had a hard time in school and we bumped heads a LOT! But, today, he is married to a beautiful wife, and working as a communications supervisor (His MOS in the Marine Corp.) with a company in Cincinnati.

You and I are also adopted. We were sitting in squalor and destined to be just another casualty of lost humanity, until Jesus came along. Scripture says we are “adopted” as sons and daughter of the Most High, and the Father looks upon us just like He sees Jesus…Holy and Righteous.

We have an abundant portion of the family wealth and are included in His inheritance.

Do we get that?

I don’t tell this story for any pats on the back. There were times I wish I had just turned my back on that kid and walked away. I’m no hero.

For years I hadn’t heard from him. There had been a lot of tension in our family and when he left, he was angry. For years we heard nothing. I went through a divorce and moved away.

About a year ago, after almost ten years of silence…I got a call on my cell phone.

“hey…” said the voice on the other side of the phone.

I broke into a wide grin…there was only one guy in the whole world who had that raspy voice!”

I said, “Hey man!!!!! How you doin?!!!” I was genuinely excited. All the unpleasant memories melted away, there was only gratitude that he had surfaced again. He told me about his wedding, his dogs, his lovely wife, where he lived and what he was doing. He had a good job, and a nice home.

I was thrilled! I have to say, having been separated from him for all those years, I had missed him immensely. He and I had private jokes that we would laugh at.  We of course repeated those jokes to each other and laughed our butts off over that phone call.

And then… and, I am crying as I write this, (my wife just  walked by and said, “You’re a hot mess!”) his voice got serious…and I heard him begin to choke back tears.

“I wanted to tell you…” the words came out slowly…but deliberately.

“I wanted to say, thank you for saving my life.” I had to pull over to the side of the road.  Couldn’t see any more…the tears immediately clouded my vision.

“I wanted to say, I’d be dead…and you changed my life.”  

I gotta say, I learned all about ugly crying right then. I mean…you would not have wanted to hear me. He was crying too and right there in the cab of my truck, on the side of the road, over a microwave signal in the air, my brother and I found redemption.

That’s how the Lord feels about those who are far away from Him.

Even though the angels rejoice when we come home…I think in my own little head…that the Lord pulls over to the side of the road and ugly cries too. He says, “FINALLY…my son, my daughter is home!”

As we ended the call, I didn’t want to hang up…but I heard him say,

“Man, I wish you were here so I could give you a big hug!”

I thought to myself this morning as I watched the end of The Blind Side…

”That’s right Josh….I need a proper hug.”

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Looking In The Mirror

When we are young, we are beautiful people. We are lithe and fast and strong. We climb, we jump we run and our bodies are seemingly elastic. I recall doing things, like jumping from a tree limb, scaling a wall, and other things that; if I did them today, would land me in the emergency room. It’s just incredible what a young body can do.

And…they look good too! It’s why as we grow into adolescents, we look in the mirror so much. The human body in its youthful form is incredibly beautiful. God knew what he was doing when he made us to grow into our youth. In form, our bodies are strong and long and lean. Young men admire a young woman and young women stare wantonly at muscular young men. AND IT’S FUN TO LOOK IN THE MIRROR! I told my son Isaac once,

“Dude, really enjoy your strong body, because the older you get, the more your body will limit you; regardless of how much you stay in shape.”

He kind of stared at me for a few moments while a smirk formed on his face and laughed and said, “Well, thanks for helping me to look forward to that!” I laughed too…what a wet blanket I was!

A publication I read once did a study about selfies that stated while all age groups take self-pictures known as “selfies”, the younger the person, the more the selfies by a significant margin. Although I see plenty of older people placing “selfies” online too.

You’ve seen it… Youth looks good and they like taking pictures of themselves. If I would have had a cell phone with a great camera on it, I would have taken a bunch of selfies in my youth. I’ll be you would have too.

I’m not convinced it is all vanity. You know, I can be as judgmental as the next person, but I want to say that part of the appeal of being young is the ability to attract others and thus propagate the species. Beauty is the attraction of youth. It’s the strong suit…the dominant characteristic that unfortunately we define ourselves by in our younger years. Tragically; however, when we are not so lovely according to the fickle crowd in a society that highly prizes beauty, it is too easy to withdraw and judge ourselves as worthless.

Part of the reason the Holy Spirit wants to interrupt our lives is because as we age, we are able to relate to them and share how God has become so central to us as we have aged past those years of youth.

You remember those days…don’t you? Maybe you were young pretty and popular or maybe you were not the “homecoming queen” and less attractive. God wants to use whatever experience you had in your youth to reach the people He brings your way. The question is, “Will you be ready for Him to use you?”

Janis Ian in the 1970’s wrote THE song that hauntingly tells the story of a girl who understood the value of being young and beautiful called, “At Seventeen”.

“I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired

The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone

Who called to say “Come dance with me”
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn’t all it seems
At seventeen…”[i]

In this song, Ian describes the pain of a self-described “ugly duckling girl” who was deeply affected by not being able to define herself as beautiful. Her words cut us to the core, when she says,

“To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball.”

As I have grown older, suffice it to say, I look in the mirror less and less. It’s because the outward features we fawned over in youth fade in our age. In fact, I believe as we age, we begin to see the REAL person we are… revealed. If we relied on our looks in our youth, but failed to develop the inner person, we discover a void, and an emptiness of character emerges. This is broad brush analysis, and I don’t mean to generalize, but what I wish to point out is that, as we age, we begin to discover other, more enduring qualities that perhaps have been hidden beneath the good looks and popularity that are far more interesting and infinitely more attractive than our fading exterior. I passed by the mirror the other day and said, “Hey, what are YOU doing in my house!” It was as if some stranger was staring back at me in the mirror.

We have all heard about “grumpy old people,” but, I refuse to generalize them just as I refuse to generalize about youth. Not all older people are grumpy. But I DO believe that the reactions of our personalities as we age are either the result of learning wisdom from our experiences in life, or harboring resentment because of them.

From youth and naivete, we grow to understand about being used by others. We learn during the season of raising children, our own selfishness and; if we are submitted to God, we allow Him to change our inner person to one that seeks the best in others. As grow older, we begin to value the contributions of our parents into our lives, and those of others who helped us to mature.

As our children leave the nest, we begin to value our grandchildren and hope to grow into a mentoring role for others. The visits to the mirror become less frequent, and even when we do visit, we no longer admire the reflection for it’s attractive qualities. Rather, if; when we look into the mirror there is kindness in the eyes, joy on the face and peace in our brow, it compensates for ANY wrinkle or weight gain. That’s because whereas in youth we wear our beauty on the outside, in our older years, the beauty of what is inside comes shining through, just as God has designed it.

Also I have thankfully noticed that the Lord uses me in the lives of young people to encourage and love them. He uses the frailties and mistakes I have made in life to encourage them to do better than I did.

It is how redemption works. God takes our biggest messes and uses them like a flashing light to help others avoid the same blunders. The more we expose our frailties; believe it or not, the more useful we become to others. We show the “cracks” in our aging vessels and tell the story of how we got each and every one of them

Let me encourage you to embrace where you are in life. Let others benefit from your life experiences.

This is the season of mentoring, the season of elding. We are elders, and we can demonstrate to those younger than us, how God uses “Cracked Pots,” like the author of the book of the same name says. I may not look into the mirror much anymore, but I pray that the fractures in my pottery can be useful and show more of Jesus and less of me. Don’t hide your imperfections, use them to show that character developed in youth is what will truly be beautiful later in life.

[i] At Seventeen lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC- Janis Ian © 1976 All Rights Reserved

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Broken Messengers

I am a broken messenger. 

I was once a saved, washed and squeaky-clean Christian.

I obeyed every rule that I THOUGHT God had laid down for me to follow. I was a zealot…falling into the category of being strict with people that wanted to follow Jesus and made sure they measured up to my expectations. This former little Catholic boy…a zealot!

I raised my hands and spoke in tongues. I laid hands on people to be delivered, sanctified and filled with the Holy Ghost. I judged people who didn’t follow the same strict rules that I followed.

In other words…I was a real prick.

I KNEW that I was right with God. I pushed through rejection by others and made my way into so called “Christian leadership”. I moved up into the upper echelons (so I thought) of Christian leadership by becoming a missionary.

If you had looked at me from the outside, I was a picture-perfect example of a Christian…at least my church’s brand of Christian.

This is not how I started out.

I fell in love with Jesus when I was 15. I had a hunger for the Bible and loved that I was forgiven. I would sing to the Lord in my little apartment deep into the night, pretending that the pillar in my living room was Jesus and I hugged it. I wanted to be like Him and follow Him forever.

But, believing the message in the early eighties, that I had to “press in” to become more in Christ, I began to conform to behaviors that would tell  others I was a “mature” Christian. I began to “fake it until I could Make it!”

And, while I know it sounds very unforgiving and harsh…just like a small-time thief sent to jail who says, “I had to go to jail to learn how to be a criminal”, I had to go into “fulltime Christian service” to learn how to be an imposter. This is no judgement on other men and women of integrity in full time Christian service…but it was true for me.

But, beneath the surface, there were issues bubbling up that I had not given to God.

I was married but… due to my lack of surrendering all to Jesus, my heritage of family members from generations past, and my uncontrolled libido… I fell into adultery. Not once…but I held the world record.

Of course, it didn’t start out that way…just curiosities that grew into fantasies and then into realities. I had a pornography problem…things were really ugly.

Of course, I had to lie in order to hide my sin.  I had to continue to put on a good front, while living a lie.

No One found out about it. I became so broken and unhappy and convicted… that I simply outed myself.

And, because I had done this while acting as a pastor, it was doubly worse. I had violated and betrayed followers of Jesus who had trusted my integrity. And, because of this…I am never to seek leadership or pastor another church. Some take issue with this, but I know what I know.

There are many who look at the destruction in the wake of my sin, my ultimate divorce, and condemn me to hell. VERY close relatives have separated themselves from me and vow to never speak to me again. I am a curse to them. It affected my children… I don’t blame them. What I did back on those days was horrible.

But, even in my deepest and darkest place…Jesus came to me and forgave me…again.

There are consequences for our disobedience. That Gospel isn’t preached much but be sure that your sin will find you out. It always does.

The more we are entrusted with, the greater the requirement for holiness, accountability, the greater the need for integrity. And I would rather be benched than to miss out on an eternity with Jesus.

And so, I write.

We are all broken messengers. Like Kris Kristofferson says in a song, “Some of us get loster than others.”  But the truth is, we are all broken messengers. However…I know who I am, and WHOSE I am.

I am a forgiven child of the King. I am not and will never be a perfect human being…only Jesus is that. I am a fully restored member of the family of God. You can see my flaws in my writing…I don’t talk like a lot of Christians…I cuss a little and I more than occasionally let my mouth run reckless.

I am not the kind of Christian that asks you to follow my example.

Regardless of how black your sin…even in the midst of the Christian assembly…and others are picking up rocks to stone you…Jesus never throws  a single rock.

I have been forgiven much, and I love much. Jesus is SO good to me…and He picked me up like He did Mary Magdalene and said, “Go and sin no more.”

Today, I am a faithful husband, a loving father and a proud grandfather. My grandchildren actually love me! Can you believe that?!

But I walk with a limp, a very pronounced limp and I always will.

What I want is more of Jesus. What I need is more of Jesus, and who I seek is simply JESUS.

I have tasted dirt from the ground where I fell. And, while I am unlovely and not anyone of note in the Kingdom…I am His… and he is not ashamed of me…OR of YOU.

Regardless of what you have done…Come to the fountain…my friends…run to the fountain. He will forgive abundantly…even a wretch like me. God uses broken messengers the best.

I love you faithful reader…and I do not take you for granted.

Bless the Lord, Oh my soul, and ALL that is within me…BLESS His Holy name.

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The Quiet Storm is Coming.

The Kings of Canaan, rested peacefully in the knowledge that they were the most powerful tribe in the wilderness. No one could come against their city. They were the best equipped, most advanced civilization outside of Egypt. Trained warriors, battle tested with bronze tipped spears.

Their position in the desert was almost impenetrable. In terms of strategic military might, the Canaanites were the top of the food chain and everyone knew it…even Moses.

For years, Moses had traveled in that wilderness. He had been trained both in Egypt and at the base of Mt. Sinai. His military training came from Egypt…a former prince and military general of Pharoah. His battle tactics, which are rarely spoken of, were the experience he had gained from his military background, but his strategy came directly from YHWH. And this, the Canannites had no understanding of.

In war, tactics must follow strategy…not the other way around.

The Canaanites had faith that their numbers, weapons, geographic position and tactics made them secure. They knew they would rule forever!

Moses looked upon the Canaanites city from afar… it was larger than 20 football fields with 8,000 warriors.

Joshua, his main general, stood behind him, observing along with Moses. They were silent. Turning to his general, Moses had made the decision and announced that they would return to the Hebrews encampment and wait…and wait they did…for Two generations!

for 40 years, they trained, battling smaller armies, learning strategy and tactics. Moses knew a blunder in battle could dishearten his rag tag group of soldiers; most of who were merely family men who had dedicated themselves to fight. For forty years, the time of testing for any man or people of God, they grew their numbers, learned to become battle hardened, and developed into a mighty fighting force.

The Hebrews over two generations in the wilderness had become a quiet storm…like the storms that blew in from the Negev.

Now armed with the purpose of God, to take the land and to destroy it’s inhabitants, the strategy was given, the army was ready and the one city that sat in the place that God had given to the children of Israel, was conquered. It is still contested today.

Today, in modern new millennium America, there exists a silent storm that is brewing.

Most Christians have bought the rhetoric that the United States and the West are post-Christian. They feel they are weak in number…that only a small group of rag tag fighters still remain. They look upon the Canaanites of our century and believe they are impenetrable…the secular spirit is “just too strong” for what they have been taught is a weak and docile church. “We look like grasshoppers in their eyes!” they say to themselves. Indeed, they believe they are grasshoppers.

I have NO IDEA who God’s general is in this church age. I’m not sure He has one…He may have just decided to do it Himself due to the divisions and posturing in His church.

But I think not. God always uses someone placed in obscurity so that his rise will be undetected. Maybe a group of people…I don’t know.

But this I do know. There is a quiet storm brewing…and the leaders on the earth know it. They fear it. They do not want to give up power and so, they fight, they deceive, they talk empty words and posture with modern swords of steel and spears of bronze.

I want you to recall these names…

Balak, Haman, Jezebel, Pharoah, Hitler, Stalin, Marx…

They all at one point sought to destroy God’s people. Balak tried to buy off Balaam, who was the son of a powerful Jewish sorcerer and prophet, (how those two went together, I cannot tell you!). But, try as he might, Balaam was first broken, and then ordered to bless. A quiet storm that Balak did not see coming ended his wish to curse God’s people.

Haman, sought to destroy the Jews. He built a gallows where he was going to hang a Jew named Mordecai. Unbeknownst to Haman, a Jewish girl named Hadassah (you know her as Esther),had been placed in a harem she never wanted to be in, in the palace of a King she did not love, and was made the Queen. She was a quiet storm, placed in the highest position next to the King. At her request, risking her own life, she purchased the deliverance of the Jews. Haman was hanged on his own gallows.

Jezabel, lovely in face and form, but a murderess in nature, sought to destroy both the priests of God until Elijah, a quiet storm in his own right, stood before the military might and spiritual underlords, who were the prophets of Baal, and publicly dismantled their power base, by showing Who the real God was. Jezebel chased Elijah , to kill him, and he, like Moses, ran into to the wilderness and then, came back in power. Eventually, Jezebel’s own guards turned against her and she was thrown from a tower and the dogs ate her.

Pharoah…what can I say? He didn’t look like Yul Brenner I don’t think, but he had a butt kickin army!

Chasing the quiet storm named Moses into the desert, Moses lead them into the territory he had spent 40 years in… (which was the strategy)…and along with the economic engine of Egypt, ( which was the Hebrew slaves) he walked them across the dry bed of the Red Sea, after God parted the waters…( which was the battle tactic) and drown the most powerful army on earth! I won’t even go into Hitler, Stalin and Marx, except to say, they ran into their own quiet, unexpected storms. Time is always on GOD’S side! They are no more.

There is no wisdom, no understanding, no counsel that can prevail against the LORD. A horse is prepared for the day of battle, but victory is of the LORD.… Proverbs 21:30-31

A lot of us think these are just cute Bible stories. But they are actually war and strategic history books, giving us Millennial Christians an understanding about how God is in charge of History!

God is forming a church that is battle saavy and wise. He is putting His bride into Crossfit training…because she is going to be a kick butt bride… as powerful as she is beautiful. When she speaks nations will tremble.

He will not return for a weak, overweight, bon bon eating couch potato of a wife! He has too much vision to settle for some helpless wench. His bride is a Proverbs 31 woman…and folks, I’m telling you… she is HOT!

God is forming a quiet storm in this desert…and those who wish to be a part of it, can’t be like the spies who entered the promised land complaining about how weak and lowly the church is. Look I’m not trying to be insulting, but a lot of present day Christians have believed the message that the church is going to lose and like the soldiers in World War II they listen to Tokyo Rose (who has been broadcasting for years from pulpits across America… telling the congregations…

“You are beaten…the church is weak…you poor pitiful believers. Throw down your weapons, quit fighting against the inevitable…”Come into town…I love you long time!!!”

It’s time to stop believing that crap! because the bridegroom is coming, and the church is going into the wedding feast in power! It’s time to double down, pray and believe like never before…The Quiet Storm is going to blow into the earth and shake the hell out of the New World Order!

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Lessons From Homer Smith…

I am an old movie fanatic and…I happen to be a huge Sidney Poitier fan. If you have never read his book, “The Measure of a Man” you are missing out. It isn’t a Christian book, but you need to broaden your reading anyway…

The movie “The Lillies of the Field” was a story that Ralph Nelson a movie producer had run across. He had approached United Artist with the idea, and they said, “Yeah…sure…why not?”

But they didn’t give him much money for the picture. He had to mortgage his own home in order to meet the production schedule. The entire movie was shot in the Arizona Desert in two weeks including rehearsal and actual filming. The entire budget for the film? $250,000.00

Sidney Poitier in 1964 won the Academy Award for the Best Actor for his part as Homer Smith…a drifting handy man who’s car overheated in the Arizona heat and was drafted by five East German nuns to build what they called a “shapel” (chapel.)

Now, I’m not here to give movie reviews but I believe in God calling us when we are stranded along the road. I remember when I was stranded.

Not literally. But I was drifting.

I had injured myself at Indiana University in a gymnastics accident and lost my athletic scholarship.

 Shipwrecked and alone in a small Kentucky town, I had no direction. One minute I was a member of a Big Ten Gymnastics team…and in a flash, I was sweeping floors in a greasy gas station in Owensboro Kentucky. And God, finally had me where he wanted me. Broken, alone and humble. Then he showed up and said, “Okay…you’re ready!”

You have to be at the bottom when God calls you.

You might have all the money in the world and fame and fortune or have absolutely nothing…but you have to be at the bottom…broken, with a broken heart or… Jesus won’t take you otherwise…

He won’t take you if you are self sufficient and proud.

He won’t be able to use you like Homer Smith, until you give in…and give up…and just surrender.

At one point in the movie, a Mexican family donates a small truckload of bricks to help build the chapel.

 Homer is a lapsed Baptist and when this little East German Nun, who has prayed for these bricks greets the truck with joy that her prayer has been answered, Homer chides her and says, “These won’t be nearly enough!” The Mother Superior played by Lilia Skala, responds, “Oh…then we pray some more!”

Your purpose and calling is costly. THE CALLING OF GOD REQUIRES ONGOING CONSTANT PRAYER. You can’t get your first load of bricks and say, “Wow Lord, this isn’t enough!”

We must do the asking…He does the supplying… AND HE WATCHES TO SEE IF WE WILL KEEP ON BELIEVING!

Just because you are called doesn’t mean God is going to do everything! He requires YOU to do the praying, and the persevering and the confessing.

He will do the heavy lifting, but my friend, He won’t do the lifting unless He has a partner who is as committed to seeing the work done as He is! He just won’t!

There is someone reading this who is about to give up. Maybe you have already.

You had some success in your life, but you’ve hit a hard place…everything seems dark…you ‘re broken down on the side of the road like Homer Smith and your radiator needs water. In the moment when all seems lost…when everything you hoped for is slipping from between your fingers…

Your resurrection day is about to dawn!

God builds chapels with people like YOU…the reluctant ones, the ones who have to be pushed and prodded like Homer Smith to build that “Shapel”.

But I am not so sure that the reluctant ones aren’t God’s favorite children!

Because when you finally give in… He knows you really mean it!

When my radiator was empty, God called me to be an encourager. He called me for you…today.

Press on! That “Shapel” is going to materialize…but you need to get up and brush off your backside and just buck up and believe!

Keep going, keep praying, keep persevering.

One day soon, a small truckload of bricks will be coming down the road.

Elijah prayed for rain and all he got at first was a tiny cloud, the size of a man’s hand…but as he continued to pray, the drought that had been over the land for many years, was halted by the flood that God produced due to his perseverance.

Steaming radiators are a sign that you are ready to be used.

And God says, “Finally!”

Happy Easter…God resurrects the broken dreams of the heart.

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“Your Kid’s Do NOT Want You To Be Cool!”

It is an unspoken rule…one which, if broken will immediately make your child or children cringe…right about at the teenage “no trespassing zone.” You, as a parent are not allowed to be “cool”.

Around the age when my children were at the point of “intentional separation” between the ages of 13 through 20, when they were seeking as much distance between themselves and myself, I made the mistake of saying that I liked the artists’ Beck and Jack Johnson.

My eldest, Isaac made the comment, ” A…you need to stay in your lane dad!” Meaning, don’t you EVER try to like contemporary music.”

Music, as we all know is the social barbed wire fence that separates the “old-fashioned” ideals of parents from those preferred by a younger generation.I remember this demarcation zone.

There was nothing more embarrassing than having my friend Kent Tovey over visiting, and then hearing my mother singing a tune by the Cowsills.

“Indian Lake is a scene you should make with your little ones!” I cringed.

First of all, The Cowsills were a group, like the Carpenters that you NEVER admitted to listening to, (but of course you always DID) in the reclusive conclave of your bedroom…(on low volume for fear someone would know you were listening!)

It was also an incredible embarrassment to hear my dad trying to sing, “Hey Jude.”

Didn’t they know? Could they not have read the rule book about how the previous generation was supposed to rail against these long-haired galoots? They were ruining my protest music! Thank God they didn’t know the words to “Four Dead in Ohio!”For crying out loud, go back to Glenn Miller and Shirley Bassy and Ella Fitzgerald!”

It didn’t just restrict itself to music, however. I tried using the term, “jiggy” as in, “I’m jiggy with that!”, and my daughter Lauren rolled her eyes at me as if to say, “Uh…dad, you aren’t black, or young or…well, you don’t EVER use that word in my presence!… Got it?”

I often felt like Austin Powers trying to prove to his son that he was cool because he knew the “Macarena”.

Your kids don’t WANT you to be “JIGGY” with anything! Go back to Iron Butterfly or some old tired music like Led Zepplin or other “baby boomer archaic groups like, “The Grateful Dead or the worst of all… “The Starland Vocal Band…”Afternoon Delight!” (My mother thought that song was about having her favorite snack with coffee in the afternoon.) When my mother had one of her adult friends over to the house, I was thankful she didn’t ask them if they wanted a little afternoon delight! That would have killed me!

How freaking embarrassing. Humming along with these favorites in the family car while they had a friend riding along with us was sure to lose their friendship!

I recall my son Joe saying once, that the seventies music group “Chicago” reminded him “a little” of “SKA” music. When I mentioned that I liked “ska” he never listened to Chicago again!

This brings me to my point about your children not wanting you to be cool. To them, the idea that there exists some music that bridges the generation gap is both confusing and extremely threatening to their independence.

The only example of being cool, and I mean the ONLY example…is being able to say I was alive and actually saw the Beatles first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

This seems acceptable to all generations seeing as the British invasion firmly cemented all generations’ ability to “rock the house” (which is also something you should not say to teenagers in your own home.)

As my children approach their forties, they are now much more accepting of my desire to like “Coldplay”, which; is terribly out of touch these days with the more contemporary singers like Jay-Z, Twenty One Pilots, or Macklemore…(himself a has-been and therefore embarrassing.)

Of course, if you enjoy the idea of distressing contemporary teens, just begin singing a song by …I don’t know…Miley Cyrus… and you will have countless hours of sadistic fun, watching them shrivel up like wet toilet paper and slink down a drain. Getting “jiggy” is strictly out of bounds!