Thursday, May 22, 2008

LA Dream Center 3-2008

The trip was great, urban outreach ministry like I have never seen it. Very powerful: in LA's darkest neighborhoods, mobile kids programs, intern programs, food programs, clothing, groceries by the truckloads. 10 month programs for HS & college age kids, 12 month program for gangbangers, homeless & young men & women who just want out of the old and into something new. The DC Disciple program, yea. Plus a few hundred short term mission group members from... England, Canada, Florida, Georgia, Ok, NC, AZ, Brazil, Texas, all over the place. Texas had three teams while we were there including another from Glad Tidings in Austin. Serving together and getting all trained up. God allowed us to literally take someone off the streets and put them into a shelter and help offer them a bed, food, and some new choices. We saw him in church the next evening. God used John to bend a Muslims heart to Christ. God used me to give testimony and preach at Santa Monica Pier and young Ben Haney gave a few scriptures.

We served & worshiped with the most diverse yet like minded group of people; and the young people are so passionate about the Lord. The mission was clear to all, serve with love, have fun, and invite them to church, worship & pray. They plugged us into every kind of ministry you can think of in 7 days. We TOOK OVER McArthur Park on Friday with every ministry and soul working together to have an enormous block party. thousands came. Food, clothes, bags of groceries, games, prizes, mobile medical clinic, music, kids programs, soccer games, not one interruption or incident, perfectly orchestrated. it was the best organized, reaching the most needy, conglomeration of various different ministries coming together to make a difference in the world TODAY that I've ever seen. The Body in action. A mostly tweenies, congregation who can't wait to worship, arrive hours early, stay late, rush the stage, fall to their knees, rockin out for god, holy spirit worship. The next generation is coming up strong. Revival is not coming, it is here.


DC Disciple program: 12 mo, 15% make it through, some stay for second year or more.
Teen Disciple program: a way out for youth heading down the wrong road
Masters Commission program: 10 mo, college credit courses
Help for the Homeless Youth: a hand out, a hand up, some new choices
Homeless: 80,000 homeless in LA
Skidrow ministry: "to the least of these"
Intern program:
Short Term Mission: hundreds, from everywhere
MetroKids: 'blocked off alleyway to put on kids show' in South Central LA
Bus Ministry: bus em in from target neighborhoodsMedia: cool, youthful, fun, energetic
Adopt a Block Program: Shelly cried for the young man shot in his adopted neighborhood. door knocking. "we're here to serve you""go after those no one else wants"Target specific neighborhoodsSingle focus events, RAK, (random acts of kindness) roll out in forcedaily & weekly, same place same time, they were waiting for usalways relational, always loving, always pointing to HIM

where dreams are made

Off to LA, to that Dream Center Place.
To learn and to serve and to seek His face.
Some of us flew, Some of us drove,
all of us went to share our King’s love.

That Dream Center looked like a broken down hospital
But the light from within of things much greater possible.

Black Tee shirts hiding scars of addiction,
abuse, neglect, despair and affliction.
But the eyes shining bright and the smiles ear to ear.
Our Christ fills the hearts as they serve a week or a year.
Side by side, hand in hand,
these children together with God boldly stand.

Many come to serve there from all over the place
To love on the broken to show Christ in their face.

Homeless addicts asleep in the sand,
dreaming to be reached by God’s healing hand.
Ignorant in the ways of the king,
too angry to praise, too lost to sing.

But God’s Spirit is moving in the hearts of His sheep.
We hurt for those lost - so hard we weep.

Should we wake them or shake them and show them the cross
Or silently pray to our God for those lost.

The light in his children who throw out His love
Christ reining down complete from above.

Bringing hope to the lost, healing & salvation
To the broken and hurting in each and every nation

Father I love you, you’re king of all men,
let me serve you with Joy from now till the end.
I love being your son and calling you friend
serving beside you again and again

Father you are worthy of so much more than I have to give.
So I give you my life that my Savior might live.

That the Spirit may come and pierce every heart.
Not waiting for someday, but NOW let it start.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

To My Awakening!

Mission Trip To Reynosa Mexico June 24 - 29 2006

Reynosa Mexico had always been a place to go party and stock my bar. It was fun for me, but I always got a sense of deep despair & desolation, not far from the mercado. I ignored the hurting of others. When my church Gateway, said 'mission trips', I was not really interested, but when they said Reynosa MX, I felt something. I felt God call me out. He had heard me searching for ways to get closer to HIM. I knew it was a challenge issued directly to my heart and I wanted to prove my obedience. It was a gloves off, face slap kind of a challenge and I accepted. I would go to Reynosa and give back something....I did not know what. I would go and help those people, pray for them in the comfort and safety of 28 believers, some translators, and a Jewish Rabbi.

To prepare myself I asked God to take a 25 year addiction to nicotine from me so I would not be 'wigging' like that skinny guy on the last Survivor. I declared my last cigarette, stated matter of factly that I was just not strong enough to quit and issued a challenge right back to God. “If you want me to go to MX, you have to take this addiction from me.” I have not had a cigarette since that moment, nor a craving, or withdrawal symptom, nor needed the patch or anything else. I was truly set free of it...forever. And I give all the credit and glory to God. HE did it, not me.

My life was not very active since I worked and lived at home, I also asked God if HE was big enough to give me the strength and energy needed to go on this trip and maybe even be a leader of some kind. If you want me to go to MX and work long hours, I will need more energy than I had at home. I gave it to God and not once during the 6 long days, bunk up at 5:45, lights out at 11, not once did my energy wane. I never lacked the strength or energy to do what was required of me. Not even after my first night where I barely slept. I even passed up nap opportunities to be with my teammates.

I was not sure why I was going on this mission trip. I did not know what I brought to the table, what I had to offer the poor people of Reynosa. What can I do Lord? I kept asking. I really wanted to go and do something for someone else, perhaps for the first time in my life - even though I knew that there was something in it for me. I decided to trust Him and just be willing. Willingly Ignorant, I called it. I didn't know why, when, how, what, or who, but I was willing for whatever God had in store for me. I went with a willing heart.

5:45 AM came really early for me the day we left and I was amazed by all the people who came to pray for us and send us off on our journey. Love & prayers of protection filled our Church parking lot and surrounded our vans. We loaded up the trucks and moved our hearts to Mexico for a week. We went to 'work' immediately after meeting our Rabbi, David Shchiff, in Progresso - another border town I have frequented. The 3 blessing exercise forced me to go meet, touch, and bless the very people I was scared of - that I had contempt for.

The first night, I barely slept. The morning came (very early) and I arose with the first of two visions God gave me. It was a mental video of our two youngest members JK and JA, twelve and fifteen. Anyone who knows these two boy/men knows what kind of men they are training to be. JA was walking over a hill backwards with his arms spread out and JK was beside him playing some sort of recorder/flute. They both cleared the horizon of the hill and another, shorter, silhouette, a younger child, rose over the hilltop. Then a few more, then several, then many. Then my view shifted, rose up so I could see on the other side of the hill. I saw hundreds and hundreds of children following them. They were pied pipers for God.

Speaking later to their parents, and getting to know them both some, it is no mistake that these two young men will light a path for the next generation. It gave me peace. I prayed for an army of JK's and JA's to lead our country and to lead our HIM. Not to put undue pressure on these two, but they both ministered to me and I remain in awe of the quality of their character and the Christ Love in their hearts.

At the first ATL (ask the Lord) sessions I thought I was to be physically stretched with construction on the second floor of the orphanage and I wrote that down. It must have been quite obvious that this was not what God wanted, and I knew it was me, not HIM. So I was sent to Cover Prayer to pray for my teammates and the folks they came in contact with. If you can imagine praying for 3 hours....I was not very excited at the beginning. It turned out to be a very powerful period and I must say that I felt so much love and spirit in the air that I cried for about an hour and a half while we prayed. I cried for my brothers and sisters, I cried for Mexico and her troubled people.

We prayed for hours and hours. Not weak, watered down, luke warm prayers, but bold, powerful, out loud, spirit filled, shake your boots prayer. I saw miracles in the room: a man's man broke down and wept and had one of the 'top five' pivotal days of his life. This inspired me in ways I cannot describe. This was not my only 'shift' laying down cover prayer. This process of extended group prayer filled the little room and our hearts with the Holy Spirit. I saw miracles in that room. I saw visions revealed. I saw a man take the burden of back pain from another man not in the room. Later, I quickly went and asked GK how his back was today. My faith was confirmed and strengthened as he said "Praise God, my back is feeling great today." Coincidence? No, Christ Incident!! This was one of many marvelous things I saw in Cover Prayer.

During a cover prayer shift that I was not at, my teammates prayed for me. They wrote down some scripture and some notes and "10%." Later at our debriefing they told me... and we don't really know what the 10% is...but I knew EXACTLY and IMMEDIATELY. WOW, I was scared and amazed at how vivid this was revealed to me. The 10% was what I was holding back from the Lord, it was the last ten percent that I would not submit to HIM. This was BIG for me. This was my struggle with a 28 year pot habit. This was my struggle with Lust. These were the harsh words and thoughts that I say to my loved ones. This 10 percent was my dark dirty room where I kept my sins to myself. Let's just say I had a huge breakthrough in this area.

I had some trouble quieting my internal dialog to hear God's word, so from then on at the ATL I simply asked for the hard thing. Whatever would make me most uncomfortable. The worse it felt, the more I didn’t want it, the more I KNEW it was what I was supposed to do. This theme carries on today. I asked the Lord to allow me to do what was furthest outside my comfort zone. I joked with my team that “I have spent so much time outside my comfort zone, God has helped me redefine the boundaries of my comfort zone and I am no longer comfortable in my old comfort zone.“ I told God that I trusted Him and the crazy Rabbi and I was willing to do whatever they needed. I even asked God to have the Rabbi 'break me' if it was His will. I embraced these hard things with an odd passion. From then on whatever made me feel uncomfortable, I trusted God and willingly did it.

One of the most uncomfortable things was the Prayer Walk. This is where a team went around the neighborhood of the orphanage, our control center for the work days, and prayed. The first teams prayed for the passing people, the buildings, animals, homes, streets, businesses, etc... My first walk, the Rabbi said it was time to meet these people and pray with and for them. Door to door, it just doesn’t get any more uncomfortable than that. We walked and took turns knocking on doors and having our translators tell the people that we were working with Alma and the orphanage and we were out asking the community to support them and then we would ask if they would pray with us for Alma and the children, then we would ask what can we pray for you for?

We stopped work at a woodshop, Suarez Woodworking, and prayed with the owner and his employees for their success and for their families. We met Alphonso, who "knew God, but did not have faith". He did not want us to pray for him. He did not believe God would help. Finally, as I was ready to move on, Wes said, "ask him it if would HURT him if we prayed for him?" And we prayed for him and his illness and for his salvation. He softly smiled as we blessed him and moved on. Mustard Seed!!

Doug stood in the street and stopped a mule cart, boldly, and we prayed for the men in it. We prayed for Ephram for his family, for his cup to be filled so he could share with others. I saw Ephram four more times during that trip and every time we said HEY and shared a smile and our love for God. We met Raul, who was mixing mortar and who would not stop working, but we knew his heart was open for what God had to say that day. We prayed for the labor of his hands and for his family, his sister and daughter in law who was pregnant. We saw 4 little children in a doorway with no adults near. The door was a torn sheet blowing in the wind. We later came back and gave them some food and some more of God's love.

We met Noami and prayed for her and her 3 daughters. We passed an ally, were called to go back, passed a house and were called to go back. Soon Doug was belly laughing with Carmen, which is odd because Doug speaks Spanish like I do. We all gathered around a table in a dirty alley in front of this old house and talked to Carmen. She had 10 daughters, 6 sons, 50+ grandkids....several of them came out of the house to see what was up. We held hands and prayed with and for all of them. What a legacy. We prayed that this family would be strong in Christ and spread his love and light. We were led to go back and take her some groceries. God used us and we let Him - gladly. There are more, many more. We boldly knocked doors and the people never failed to bask in God's love with us.

We were amazed at how open to prayer with strangers these people were. In the end, I prayer walked 3 times. The last time it was FUN. By the last time it was not difficult, it made me happy. These people opened their businesses and homes to us, stopped what they were doing and sought God with us. This last time, I took a big piece of street chalk, about 5 inches long, and drew a circle with a "D" in it with a slash through it as if to say that the Diablo was not welcome here. We declared this God's neighborhood. I wrote it on every corner and in front of every place we prayed. I was silly for the Lord, but perhaps it was not silly at all. At the end, the chalk was barely big enough to grasp between my fingers.

While prayer walking, John was led to go into a store and pray with the owners. Not wanting to crowd the door, I stepped back for cover prayer and accidentally ran into a young man named Armando. I literally backed into him. Our translator was inside the store, so I began my tex mex broken Spanish. Armando spoke pretty good English and I told him about Alma and the orphanage. I'll never forget this part.... As we spoke of the children and of Alma he asked where was this orphanage. He asked again for the address and said "I want to help...because I NEED help." Tears filled his eyes as he began to tell us of how he ran away from his home in Matamoras because he wanted to get away from the drugs. He told us how the guys he was living with in Reynosa were also using and how they came to his job, his day job, and asked for money. He had none, he told them he spent it on food and they told him to get his stuff and get out. He had nowhere to go, except his second job. I wept with him as he told his story. I had a drug problem and I really related to him, to his despair, to his wanting out. We waited for him as he went to get a check from one of his jobs. As doubt crept into my heart, he did come back and he followed us back to the headquarters across from the orphanage. Eddie, Mikey and Malu, our translators, our Mexican friends, our new brothers and sisters, visited with him in Spanish for some time. He poured out his heart to them. They spread Gods love back to him. We fed him and prayed for him. He kept saying he had to go to work and I just wanted to find a place for him away from the drugs.

I remember running to the Rabbi in panic and saying "I'm freaking out, we're losing him..." As the Rabbi made a simple gesture with his hands I said out loud, “peace, patience, faith” and those things calmed my soul. God did not bring us to him for nothing. When I got back on the front porch, he was gone. We got his mothers phone number and he took down Mikey and Malu's numbers. Armando is still on my heart as I await to hear from someone about him.

One day I was at the Detention Center and we were playing soccer with the young boys. They were running, playing, laughing just like all young boys. I tried to keep up, but soon I got my "physical stretching" and did more watching than running. The part of this story that is mine is that I kinda hurt my knee. Just a little tweak, but the next day it was all I could do to walk to devotion at 6 AM. I sat in the front row, hid my face and cried for the entire hour. I don't think I heard one word the Rabbi said and I could not figure out why I was crying. Finally I realized how this simple little pain in my knee was blocking my spirit, it was limiting my choices, it was killing my joy and it was peeving me off! It was just that simple. It was as if He said to me "you must give up your last 10% to hear Me." It was revealed to me earlier and now it was time to give it up and I did, in front of the whole team I gave up smoking, my struggle with lust, my struggle with harsh words.

I acknowledged that smoking pot was blocking my joy, blocking my spirit, deafening my ears to hearing God speak to me, and since I claimed these gifts as mine, this was making me mad. I gave it all up to God, just as I had done cigarettes. It was unveiling of my new body and soul. It was the biggest thing I have ever done, for the Lord. The wise Rabbi prayed for me, but not for healing, for God's will. That day I was limited to cover prayer and took my bad knee, prayed on the tile floor for what seemed like several hours. That day in CP, it's just hard to describe the power of focused prayer. Lives were changed. I saw people pray for those they did not know, as if they knew everything about them. One Christ Incident after another.

Upon leaving that room and heading for my next 'assignment', the orphanage and playing with the children, the Rabbi called me back over and softly asked "How's your knee?" As God is my witness, the pain in my knee had all but subsided. I could move it front and back, side to side where just that morning, I could not. I hollered up at Nate on the roof of the orphanage and did a high kick. I don't think Nate understood, but the Rabbi and I shared a knowing smile. We got to know each other as if we were life long friends, including our hosts, Alma, the children, the boys at the detention center and especially our translators Mikey, Malu & Eddie.

A rumor was started that we were going to take up a collection for Mikey to get his car legal in Mexico. Apparently it is not about good tires, emissions, or safety, it's about giving $300 to the government for registration. The nicer the auto, the more it costs. Anyway, long story short, we tried to collect the $300 and since we were not supposed to bring much money, we only raised enough to pay Mikey's registration AND the young pastor we met who had the same need. Yes we actually raised almost $600. Someone gave the exact amount of $300 to one of our teammates to take to Mexico and use for God's work. We were amazed at how God orchestrated the whole thing. The look on Mikey's face....priceless. When I think of the 20 year old pastor, his wife and 2 month old, the formula and groceries we bought them that day, and the gift of his vehicle registration that we left behind, it's good. All the credit and glory go to God.

SO.... the last day the Rabbi was going around kinda summing up each person and our 'net result' in a word or two and he pointed at me and said "new man". He could not have been any more dead on right. God had made me a new man. This would be a great story if it ended here, but some things happened post MX that deserve a place in this story.
We did not even make it to the MX-US border bridge before Satan started poking at me. I was feeling rushed, irritated; I felt the spirit leaving me. Satan was trying to get me back to business as usual. A curse word slipped out. A racial joke. A harsh word to my sister. A lustful thought. Then we stopped at a rest area just about 60 miles north of the border. As we were finishing and I was heading back to the van, I noticed a Spanish gentleman sitting on a brick wall with his head down. I oddly reached out and touched his chest and he rose up startled. I saw on his shirt a graphic picture of the face of CHRIST, weeping, bleeding as He was on the cross. "Vaya Con Dios" was written on his shirt. I pointed and laughed and said "Jesuchristo - that's my God too." We laughed and shared a moment as my spiritual tank refueled. I had said those words a thousand times, "Go with God" in Spanish, but this time they were for ME! I was reminded how much satan wants to steal, kill, and destroy God's spirit in me. I took it back. I did not allow it.

When I finally got home to Austin, I loved on my dog and found by bed about 3:45 am. I was awoke at 8:15 by one of my friends who prayed for us while we were in MX. I wept with her because I was so glad to be woken up by one of "us"; by one of God's children. This seemed to cement the story of how this mission trip to Mexico changed my life. That day I gathered up all my pot smoking stuff, I blessed my sledge hammer and I smashed that stuff in the name of my God. I burned it in my fire pit because I was free of it. I will never be the same person again.

I will close with the second vision I had in Mexico. The Jigsaw Puzzle of Life. This young man was kneeling down struggling with a huge jigsaw puzzle. There were 2 or 3 pieced forced together and hundreds of pieced laying everywhere. Time went by. His son took his place and continued to work on the puzzle. One day a young boy asked the man working on the puzzle, “what are you doing daddy?” “Son, I’m working on this jigsaw puzzle of life. I’ve been working on it most all my life and I can’t seem to get the pieces to fit. My father worked on this puzzle. He worked close to every day of his life. We just can’t seem to get the pieces of this puzzle to fit together.” The young boy asked, “daddy, have you asked Jesus?” The father, son and wife all held hands and prayed about it. The next morning they awoke and ran into the living room like it was Christmas. There was Jesus. HE had picked up each and every piece of the puzzle and put it into the box top. He looked at them, smiled and threw the hundreds of puzzle pieces into the air with one motion. In slow motion, every single piece of this puzzle of life landed in place, one after another, fitting perfectly together. My next mission leaves in one week.

This story is dedicated to a crazy (for the Lord) Jewish Rabbi named David Schiff, Team MX, Nate our leader, Gateway Community Church, and the Love for our Creator that we all share.

Shalom yall.

What happened Last Weekend 5-16-2008

So much happened, so little time to share.

Here's how I think God might answer the question: What Happened this weekend?

This weekend I blessed my children, especially in Austin Texas. In ONE church alone, I took over 100 men and poured into them training about how to be a man after my own heart. I broke them, I built them up, I used iron to sharpen iron, as I said I would in my book - Glad you were paying attention. I renewed and transformed hearts. Their praise warmed me. They called it "Dudefest" - that name cracks me up. Boys will be boys. New warriors were armored. Some of my 'baby boys' walked for the first time, some ran, some flew. They are growing up so fast. They were "ALL IN" and I really liked that. Later I baptized over 100 from the same community in my special living water. They opened their hearts, and I quickly poured in. They confessed their love to me and I to them. I SOO love a big family. They sang for me, it was Guuuuud!

At the same time, across town, I took a group of 35 or so, mostly my daughters, and used them to serve some of my other children on the poor side of town, who really need help. I stretched them, worked them, broke their hearts, I SHARED their tears and their laughter. I used them to meet need after need. How I loved spending the weekend with them in service. My SON was a server and his heart for service is what I want for my new sons and daughters. Not just to "Go and Do", but to "Do while going - All the time". It's the way I will reach around the world, to each and every nation and people - to every wounded heart.

This weekend I introduced so many to my Spirit, which is alive and working well on earth thank you very much. I showed them new ways to please me, new ways to treat each other, new ways to grow my spirit within them & to help it spread. I trained many disciples this weekend. I used willing hands and faithful hearts to heal, to bless, to bleed for, to serve some of my less fortunate children. I shined bright, DEEP into the darkness, through the eyes, lips and hearts of my faithful children. I matched those whom I have gifted for "such a time as this" with some of those who are lost, flailing in the darkness and need help now. I sent rookie shepards after lost sheep. They did great! Hands crying out for help were filled with hearts ready to serve. It was fun to watch. I answered prayer after prayer in a way that many of them did not even realize that I was using them to answer the prayers and cries of others. It was sweet like honey.

We worked on one of my new "Lighthouses" and stuck a SECOND flag on one of the darkest corners in this city. It's ALL mine, and I'm not just talkin' Austin, but lucifer just does not want to admit that yet. I'm taking it back - "No child left behind" - that was MY idea. Now my children are so active on one side of the street that the dark side is just getting smaller and smaller. Light WILL overcome darkness. I called my kids by name this weekend, and they came! I told them what to do, and they listened and did it - with JOY. I made a plan and a way, they did their part. I was with them the whole time. Hiding, watching, whispering directions, popping out at just the right moments. They're such good children. I love them SO much and I'm SO proud of them. They called it Urban Submersion Weekend, lol - they have such creative names. I simply call it "Heaven on Earth".

All over the world, in practically every city and town, I played with my children, our family is growing bigger every day. It was a good weekend for me. How'd your weekend go?