family

Adventures in Faith

We Named Our Son White Warrior, Here's Why

God gave Whitney the name Boden for our 1st son in a dream when we didn't know God still named people (it was common in the Bible). 

With our 2nd, Lukas, I simply asked God for a name and got a wild vision and a name.

So with baby #3, we figured we'd ask God and get a name. And we did. 

However, this time He brought us face to face with our sin and tested our faith like never before. Here's what went down...

Months before conception, Whitney asked God why she has a strong desire to have a baby girl. She sensed God saying, "I made you and I put that desire there."

Then, she asked if God would name the child, and He said yes. 

Scarlet popped into mind, she'd never considered it. When she looked up the meaning and saw "fine cloth" she got chills--or years she's had a vision of God wrapping her in fine cloth. 

Could we really know we'd have a girl named Scarlet before we had conceived? This was hard to believe because we badly wanted a girl and feared being disappointed. 

We started to see the name Scarlet everywhere, over 40 times in 6 months, here are a few examples:

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August 31, 2016

I was on a business trip in San Francisco, and Whitney called to tell me about a sense she had that we were going to have a baby girl named Scarlet. I was staying in the Hotel Scarlet. 


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October 7, 2016

I was at a meeting in Atlanta and realized I was in the Scarlet Oak Room. 


At our Church, mid-sermon I sensed Whitney was upset so I prayed, “God please comfort my wife and speak to her right now.”

Just then the pastor said the word “scarlet” three times in a row. Whitney later explained that she was feeling bummed, but when she heard the pastor say Scarlet she was reminded of God’s immense love for her and the vision of being wrapped in fine cloth.


Whitney was praying in bed and asking God for comfort when I song started to play, with the lyrics:

Though our sins are scarlet
You have made us white as snow


I had a pastor friend say to me, unprompted, "I have news for you...you and Whitney are going to have a girl." We hadn't even told anyone we were pregnant yet. 

We asked a friend to pray about the baby and name, and she became so convinced this was from the Lord that she went out and bought us red girls baby clothes!

Even our closest counsel was in agreement with us, we'd have a girl named Scarlet.


A correction from God

With sooo many Scarlet's popping up, Whitney and I asked, "are we being hypersensitive to this name?" But wondered why this didn't happen with the first two when we got their names in advance? 

I prayed for more clarity on the baby gender and name and felt God saying:

God's name is above all names, above ours, above Scarlet. Remember, I am God =)

Whitney prayed and asked God “What if I’m disappointed? What if we don’t have a girl?" and heard God whisper:

My love is never disappointing.

 

The big reveal

We finally got THE email with the test results that included all kinds of health indicators, including the gender. Would we have our little Scarlet??? We expected that to be the case.

Drumroll. We opened the email...and. it. said. BOY

What?! 

We were stunned.

Disappointment and confusion followed, there were tears.

Visions of a mother-daughter relationship, of perhaps a softer more gentler addition to the brood, all fell away...

The very next day Whitney had a health scare involving blood loss. Everything turned out fine but going through it made her realize that, above all, she just wanted a healthy baby. 

Slowly her attitude changed, she even felt guilty about having lamented over the baby God had given us instead of celebrating, and at once she became more thankful and excited. 

 

Getting to Finley

Even with improved attitudes, Whitney and I didn't feel like praying for a new name. Months went by and we'd ask each other, "Have you prayed about the baby name?" We hadn't.

In the fall I started to pray for the baby again. I prayed for hours one day and got a strong sense that this baby would be:

  • a gift to his mother
  • very strong
  • able to absorb scripture quickly
  • tall and holding a large sword

Then we had a confluence of events that, in short order, confirmed a name for us:

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First, we realized Whitney's grandfather's name, Finley, means "White Warrior"

Then, we saw that the verse we had drawn on our kitchen blackboard, Isaiah 1:18, included both the word "scarlet" and "white" in bold. 

We began to feel a connection to Whitney's maternal grandfather Finley (and great grandfather too, also named Finley). His nickname was "Whit," a reference to his surname, Whitfield, and the same nickname Whitney's closest friends call her. 

We requested 12/27 for the c-section, but it wasn't available. Instead, the hospital confirmed December 29th, which we later learned was Whitney's grandfathers birthdate.

Discovering this gave us goosebumps!

And exactly 105 years after his great grandfather, Finley Kennedy Whitfield, one Finley Everett Derfler was born as a blanket of snow fell outside. 

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Focus on Redemption

A simple petition to God for a name became a journey of doubts and confusion. Old ways of thinking about our family deconstructed and rebuilt. God whispered and guided us gently all the while. 

We had to confront the verses that say:

  • God's ways are higher than our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9),
  • He knows how to give good gifts (Matthew 7:11), and,
  • nothing, not even our children, must get ahead of God in our life (Luke 14:26), in new ways. 

If we're honest, going through this process wasn't fun. We still want a girl but trust God for the outcome. 

As we worked through our "stuff," this season taught us to constantly look to God, trust him, and celebrate what he gives us. 

Another Baby?

Speaking of having a girl or another baby at all, we'll end with this "Praise Report."

After Lukas was born, we were told Whitney shouldn't give birth again. Our doctor later refuted that, but doubts lingered about her reproductive health. 

So, going into this labor and delivery much of our prayer centered around her health and safety.

We count it as praise, then, that the doctor's report this time is that Whitney looks great and can "have 5 more kids if she wants!" 

So hey, who knows if we'll have a fourth child or not?

Only God. 

And we will truly, genuinely, be thankful for any outcome. 

A sign we have hanging in Finley's nursery.

A sign we have hanging in Finley's nursery.

Real Relationships

Eye-opening: Learn How Africans Support Moms

A group of mom's huddled together in Gulu, Uganda.

A group of mom's huddled together in Gulu, Uganda.

When I left home for two weeks to visit Uganda, my wife Whitney and I spent a week planning to help her manage the house and two toddlers. We had to because, point blank, we're largely on our own.

To be clear, our parents drive the hour or so to come help if we ask. Our siblings are glad to provide a meal.  Whitney is part of several women's groups at church and they do sweet things for her.

It's not near enough.

When I rolled into one village after another in Uganda I saw the women work together, pass babies, watch after the kids, even breastfeed the hungry together.

I'm not writing this to throw anyone under the bus, but to highlight an ill of our way of life in the United States. And provide a few solutions.

Look, my Mom and Mother-in-law can't help much, they work 9-5's, live an hour away, their pet's need care, and they have busy lives of their own. Most of our church family is a 15-minute drive, and they too work or have multiple kids of their own.

Despite living in a dense neighborhood, there aren't many stay-at-home Mom's within a walk of our house, in fact, there aren't any. Whitney mostly meets nanny's and grandparents at the park. And when she does meet a stay-at-home mom, they typically have an impenetrable routine of activities.

I don't know of any mom's who simply join each other in the monotony and mess of everyday life at each other's homes on a regular basis.

And that makes me really sad.

We work hard (both parents) to be wealthy, we're spread out, we've got all the gear, the activities, the outsourced child care--but @@we don't have the rich and authentic community with our neighbors that African's have.@@

As a result, I believe, we're eroding quality of life, especially for Mom's who bear an overwhelming burden, who dip in and out of loneliness, who have few places they can go without feeling like they have to "get ready."

I'm also saddened by how many people lack empathy for these mom's. Especially a generation of mom's who raised their own children in isolation as a single mom or as a result of living far from family.

The unspoken message is that moms need to suck it up and pull it off like they did it, largely alone. Their @@hearts have been hardened over years of separation from the type of community the Church is supposed to have@@ (read the book of Acts). 

Now look, my blog is all about building up the Church, about solutions; here's what  I've got:

  1. Family, make time. Do you really have to work, or can you make a lifestyle change to be with your family? Can you move closer, even for a week, a month, 6 months? It was a game-changer when my Mom came to California for two weeks when we had our 2nd. This will be one of the greatest mutually life-giving investments you can make. 
  2. Learn a Mom's schedule. It can feel like everything revolves around mom's. Most just keep their head above water and a tight nap and feeding schedule greatly helps with child behavior. You've got to ask questions to understand their schedule and how you can help within it. And be flexible for changes.
  3. A regular presence is gold. Given that Mom's have tight schedules, its a great boost when you committing to some regular, a couple hours every Wednesday, for example. We just had a friend offer to take the boys every couple Friday's, now we plan on getting caught up on that day. It's HUGE for us. 
  4. Give a Mom permission to be herself. In our society, Mom's often feel like they've got to meet a certain standard to even leave the house. The reality at home is much messier, and often they don't want to let others in. Let a mom know you're okay with her and her home, in any state, in advance. 
  5. Look around your neighborhood. Proximity is EVERYTHING, that's why African's can be so available to each other, their village is small and they don't have to load up the car for a visit. Want to bless a mom? Look right in your own neighborhood to ensure you can truly be available. 
  6. Look around your church. In my own church, I'm texting with a few other men who's wives are in the same boat as my own. If you see a young family with their hands full, ask how you can bless them.
  7. Be encouraging, and don't give unsolicited advice. It seems like where help is hard to come by, advice is aplenty! And for a mom who is struggling, the last thing they want to hear is how you were able to figure it out, or about some mom who has it harder. Best to say, "I think you're doing a great job!" or to just keep quiet if you can't actually help. 
  8. Prayer and notes go a long way. Maybe you're too far away to help and can't move. I know Whitney has been incredibly blessed to get a text from a friend saying they're praying for her that day. One time, her own Mom sent a card saying she's doing a great job and when we read it we both teared up. It's still on our fridge a year later as an encouragement to us. 
  9. Be a proactive servant. A lot of Mom's are afraid to ask for help. So initiate and stick with it. We have had two friends recently offer to watch the boys once a week. One came over and jumped in to take the boys to play and later asked if she could fold laundry. Such a simple act, but Whitney and I will never forget her desire to serve us in that way.
  10. Often help = holding a baby. Most baby's want to be held by a human, which is awesome, but it's hard to do other stuff like discipline kids, make a meal, etc. Holding a baby is one of the most peaceful, calming, quiet joys one can have in this frenetic world. I LOVE holding babies now, and I guess I'm just a little surprised there isn't a line of people at our door wanting to hold ours too. In summary, go hold someone's baby (just make sure you're not sick). 
We literally wept when we got this simple encouragement. Words are powerful.

We literally wept when we got this simple encouragement. Words are powerful.

Adventures in Faith

Make A Thankful Tree

My wife Whitney is amazing at celebrating the various seasons of life. She wakes up early to set up a grand entrance for birthdays. Loves fawning over new babies and sending little gifts. With each new holiday approaching, she get's our family into the spirit by playing good music, making festive snacks, and decorating the house. 

I love this about her, the kids do too. 

One activity she planned for us the past few years is the Thankful Tree. And while we do it in November around Thanksgiving, it could work anytime.

It goes like this:

  1. Get a Mason jar
  2. Fill it with sticks
  3. Cut out little paper leaves and string pieces
  4. Every night, write down what everyone is thankful for.
  5. Attach leaves to the branches.

Slowly the tree fills up with all kinds of reminders of how much good there is in life.

And I have to tell you, with toddlers in the house, we have a lot of fun and laughs at what we hang on the tree. For example, Lukas gave thanks for his brother for a week straight, as well as dog slobber. Boden has been thankful for things that have put a tear in our eye.

If you want to celebrate what's good and true and noble, bring the Thankful Tree into your house!

whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
— Philippians 4:8

Adventures in Faith

We Prayed for A Car, This Is Unheard Of (2 min)

In 2013 our 1st son was due in September, and our little 2-door Scion didn't feel like the best family car.

Whitney and I prayed that God would show us the right car to buy, help us with a good deal, and find something that wouldn't give us issues.

Then we visited dealerships, but didn't get a good vibe, or we'd find one we liked only to call and it was already gone.

Here's the list of cars I had been tracking on our spreadsheet (click photo to enlarge):

With the baby due date just a month away, and no car in our driveway, we started to pray more. 

Finally, every car on our list was gone, except one.

On the far right of the spreadsheet is the car that felt least likely to work out since it was far away, and despite being deeply discounted past our budget due to shipping costs. 

Whitney and I agreed to take a shot, so I sent over the offer and the dealership actually countered with a lower offer. I've asked a lot of people if they've ever heard of this happening when buying a used car, nobody has.

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Long story short, we bought the car, had it shipped to us right within our total budget, and found the car better than advertised. Our Subaru Forester has been phenomenal and we are sad to see it go now that we have a third child on the way and need more room. 

You can be assured we're praying God guides the process again!

Adventures in Faith

This is How I Fight for Real Church Community

I want genuine church family. The kind it talks about in the Book of Acts.

People that I know and who know me--strengths and my weaknesses.

People I can repent to, and who will hold me accountable and sharpen me.

People I'm going to support (and by supported by) materially and spiritually.

The kind of church family that I trust to help raise up my kids.

Since 2012 Whitney and I have searched for this, we've looked at lots of churches, big and small. And this type of community is hard to come by.

If I have to point to the top reason why, it's simple, it's not a priority for most people. Instead, we'd rather:

Be in lots of other social circles

Have ourselves or our kids in a bunch of activities

Preserve time to just be with our own family

Work a bunch so we can afford a more comfortable life

Also, for the most part, we pretty much wait to connect with them around church programmed small groups, picnics, or other functions.

The problem is, however, that most of us are pretty much booked solid, and so our only hope to connect more deeply is to either 1. quit stuff, or 2. bring our church family into the activities of our regular life. And I actually propose must of us need to do both!

Make no mistake, I'm guilty of this too. 

The only "leg I have to stand on here" is that I'm fighting this fight. I've quit stuff (watching sports regularly, physical training, hobbies), and Whitney and I are also doing the following: 

  1. We've joined a small group. I meet guys on Thursday morning for an hour to check in on life and typically we're reading through a book. Whitney does the same on Fridays.
  2. I show up at the Men's breakfasts and other events whenever I can. Even more, I've signed up to help out once in awhile.
  3. We've started reaching out to anyone who shows any sign of wanting to connect more. We give them our number and get theirs, then text them. This usually leads to us inviting folks over for dinner, and we take it from there. 
  4. I've targeted specific people to talk to, typically men who exhibit real commitment or wisdom, and ask to have coffee with them just to learn who they are, and figure out ways we might work together.
  5. We pray for people we meet and to connect more deeply, and we sometimes will let people know we're praying and if we've gotten any sense from the Lord about it. 
  6. Whitney and I have couples over for dinner every few months.
  7. We sign up for the opportunities to meet other new members, for example, our church has a "Dinner for 8" program to keep us meeting new people.

Is this a formula for deep spiritual community. Not at all.

In fact, it's going much more slowly that Whitney and I would like. We're a long way away from sitting down with other families to talk about our possessions and what we need to sell to support each other, like it says in Acts 2:45

But we're not giving up, and we're trusting that God is going to provide this in the right season. And in the absence of it, as we've prayed about it, we've sensed that God is saying to us, "right now, I am enough." He's also given us a vision about one day having deeper community, and we trust His promise there.

I'm also starting to get more upfront about what I'm looking for in the church. I've been telling guys that I want to talk about the serious aspects of life, or I just start talking about them myself.

Recently, one gentleman in the church and I sat down and started thinking through how we can challenge more guys to be interested in this kind of community. It's a work in progress, but we've got a few ideas we're going to try.

Adventures in Faith

In Memory of Helen Marie Derfler

At 1:30a on Tue., April 18th, 2017, my grandmother, Helen Marie Derfler, took her last breath. 

What a tragedy--because our original design is not to die, not to be separated in this way, and when a person is here in the flesh one day, and gone forever the next, it is always a shocking reality.

What a blessing--because my grandmother, I called her Nanny, was for years ready to leave this world. She would tell you as much! She missed her husband, John, who passed away more than 20 years prior as a result of a heart attack he had while they were dancing. 

Anyway, let me tell you a bit about my Nanny in a way that both honors her life and also gives you a flavor of who she was:

First, I think it's telling that since I met Whitney, my wife, in 2010, she's heard pretty much every year since then that Nanny wasn't doing so hot and it might be her last year. I don't know how many ambulance rides Nanny took to Pottsville General Hospital, let's just say it was enough to become a little humorous in our family. Maybe also it was because the hospital was only a few blocks from her house, and also because for the most part, whenever we saw Nanny, she seemed pretty strong for her age. I don't think it would have surprised us if she lived to be 90 or even 100. Needless to say, it's kind of like when you think something might happen for awhile, and it doesn't, but then it does, it's almost even a little more surprising.

My memories of Nanny go back to my earliest memories, here are some of the highlights:

As a wee little guy

Crawling around her house as a kid as young as 4 or 5, I remember the turntable, wanting to touch the records and the needle, it was this big cabinet. I remember hiding under her big dining room table, it was my fort!

Getting back scratches! Nanny had long finger nails and she loved to just scratch my back, she'd do it for longer than anyone else too! Just that physical affection stuck out to me from the time I was a little guy to adulthood!

Nanny's love language had to be gifts, because she loved to give them too. I remember getting these little pencils from her that were printed: "You are loved by Helen M. Derfler." 

The gilded age

Nanny in her salon.

Nanny in her salon.

There's a part of Nanny that was all feminine and beauty and glamour. She was a beautician for years after all! She liked jewelry and sitting around talking with the ladies! I always asked her how she was doing and she'd talk about her girlfriends. 

One of my best memories of Nanny was shopping--she loved shopping. And as a kid, that's what we did best. We walked the mall like a pack of high rollers, and snapped up shoes, clothes, games, toys. And this was when Michael Jordan started putting out shoes, so I was an early adopter of the $120 basketball sneaker. After visiting Nanny, I went back to school walking on clouds.

A hobby when visiting Nanny was looking through the Speigel catalogue, and circling the things I wanted, and Nanny would proceed to order those things. A Sega Genesis with games, clothes, you name it. One time we went to the Pottsville Hadestys Electronics store and Nanny bought three of their newest TV's, one for each grandkid. While Nanny had money, she threw caution to the wind and she spent it, and I remember those days with her, and we sure had fun with it! 

As an adult

But when the money thinned out and she was no longer buying shoes for me, she'd send me cards just to say, "I love you." It was never unclear to me, Nanny loved me. She said it so many times.

She'd also call me to leave messages like this one:

A Great Grandmother

Nanny with Boden in 2014

Nanny with Boden in 2014

When Whitney and I had Boden we lived in California, and there was a stretch where I wasn't sure Nanny would get to see her great grandson, the next line of Derflers. When she did though, it was such a special moment for me, and for her too. So much that she really couldn't say anything, she just had this big big smile.

 

My Nanny, in her 88 years of life, gazing upon her great grandson, just 1 year of new life, there's something so striking and rich and sobering about that. 

 

Nanny loved being a great grandmother, in fact, when I spoke with her, we'd mostly talk about the kids. She loved to hear about what they were doing, and she would just make these happy sounds and say things like, "they're so precious," and "he's such a doll!"

Nanny and Lukas in 2016

Nanny and Lukas in 2016

She loved to hear about her great grandkids, it brought her such joy. So, one year for Christmas Whitney and I knew just what to get her, a photo book full of the latest pictures. She told me she looked at it all the time, and showed all of her friends when they visited.

Nanny also left me encouraging messages like this one:

And now, eternity

When someone dies, I think it's natural (or at least prudent) to wonder where they've gone. And we probably all look for some answer that is going to bring us peace, we cling to the good things, we memorialize them. But being a Christian, as I am, there's also this realization that none of us "measures up," none of us are worthy of the glory of eternity in the presence of God. And yet, we have this gift to be able to have that, if in our heart we just accept that, and when someone does, their life should look different, certainly to God, and probably to men too. So let me tell you what I know about my Nanny's faith in Jesus...

I know that we talked a lot about prayer, and she told me that she prayed often, many times in a day. 

Nanny certainly had a lot of the trappings of a Catholic faith, the rosaries, the prayer cards, the candles, the Bible's, and things of that nature laying around. 

I know that she had a good discernment about situations. When my sister was killed and in the years since, we would sometimes have really honest conversations about how people were doing, how they were handling that death, especially my parents, and it occurred to me that Nanny had wisdom and discernment about that. 

While to many Nanny could appear to have a sort of simple, unaffected, even comical exterior, one that would act as if nothing bothered her and things were no big deal with a wave of the hand, there was another side to her, a much more serious and introspective side. In the last five or so years, I started to talk to Nanny about Jesus, prayer, and death, and I saw that side. 

In closing, as I'm sitting here writing this after a solid day of thinking about Nanny and praying for her soul to be received mercifully by the Lord just now, I said to God...

"Dear God, I cannot understand your ways and I do not know how to encapsulate the life of my dear Nanny, I don't know what to say about the most important thing, her soul, her eternity. I don't know how to bring it to a conclusion. And this is the case for me with every person, for who knows a soul but you God alone?! You made her, and in your image, so Father, in this moment, God, tell me something, some whisper about these deep matters that we now ponder over facing her death."

..and just then the lyrics from a song playing in the background ring out at me, and I am warmed over listening to them, especially in light of what I've written here, and I thank God for my Nanny, for her life, and for her eternity. Listen to this song...

Below is a picture of Nanny with her sons (Left of Center, in yellow polo, Jack [my dad], and behind him in the blue polo, is Tom [my uncle]), and extended family.

Adventures in Faith

Conversations with Billionaires: Why Extreme Wealth Can Be A Curse

Over the past few months I've sat and talked with a few billionaires and centi-millionaires. And, I was surprised to hear more than once that such wealth is a curse. And so recently, coming out of one such meeting, I posted this on Facebook:

The comments on this post went back and forth with some identifying with the great challenge of wealth, and others saying that, in fact, wealth itself cannot be a curse with some suggesting ways to handle it. 

Without trying to make a case one way or the other here, I'm going to give more details about where these people were coming from, which will hopefully be of some use to us all.

1. First, keep in mind I was speaking to them about their philanthropy, and each of these folks gives away massive amounts of their wealth, some up to 50% per year. So, by any standard, they are extremely generous, far more than the average person, which is not typical of the extremely wealthy.

2. The principal wealth holder's I met weren't necessarily concerned with their own handling of their wealth, but rather how their family would handle it. In fact, one billionaire said to me that massive wealth almost automatically changes their kids and how they approach work, and not for the better. Statistics show that 70% of wealth is lost by the second generation, 90% by the third, which seems to support this concern. 

3. Even if the principal wealth holder believes that he can handle the wealth, there's a sense that it's not always easy to discern if one is doing so. And, the Bible speaks quite a bit about the heart being able to be deceived with regards to wealth. Does one's resources start to provide a sense of security, provision, and joy in place of where God ought to be? With the onset of massive wealth, this becomes difficult to discern. One pastor, Francis Chan, upon learning that his book would net him millions, set up a trust to ensure he couldn't use it for his personal lifestyle for this very reason (read the story here). 

4. People of extreme wealth are very concerned about their values, and primarily about their values not being upheld by their successors or those they give money to. I've heard this many times, and people have pointed to Harvard, Yale, and Princeton as examples of wealthy families leaving money to educate students with certain values, which are now mostly lost. 

5. The nature of relationships automatically change, where most conversations seem to have a hidden agenda and/or lead to a financial transaction. This dynamic can quickly lead to guilt, family infighting, and abandonment by friends and family who become upset when requests aren't met, and ultimately, a lack of trust and deep loneliness.

6. Everyone seems to have an opinion about how one could or should handle the wealth. Even in the Facebook post I put up, people, complete strangers, right away started providing solutions about how they would handle it, and how they most certainly would not be cursed by such wealth. When one is extremely wealthy, it's almost an invitation for open criticism, whether they give it away or not, just by virtue of them being wealthy.

7. Giving the money away doesn't always feel all that helpful to the recipient. Some folks I'm talking to literally can't give the money away fast enough, and wrestle with the issues that come with giving it away. Individuals and organizations receiving funds sometimes seem worse off than before they got the funding. These kinds of unintended negative consequences are commonplace, and it soon becomes clear that giving money away is, in fact, difficult to do well.  

8. In the USA, we are in a society that values and has more wealth than any society before it. Even within the church, it's often the financially successful who are put on stage. We've witnessed the rise of the "prosperity Gospel" and yet, while the Bible uses the word "blessed" 112 times in the New Testament, it never once refers to material wealth. So, with great wealth in the US comes a certain fame and favoritism that would certainly pull away from, not towards, the key tenants of Scripture. 

9. Keep in mind that, most people who will read this post are actually very wealthy. In fact, if there were 100 people in a line representing the world's population, everyone reading this post would be in the top 5 wealthiest people in that line. Don't believe me, check the stats here at Global Rich List. For example, I'm in the top .08% of all humans! So while it's easy to point to "that millionaire or billionaire," for statistical purposes and from a global perspective, you might as well point to yourself. 

Now, all this having been said...

Is there a way to have wealth and still walk closely with God? Yes. 

Would such a walk be difficult and require one to hold onto that wealth very loosely. I think we can agree that, yes, this is true.

Given that I am primarily interested in building up the Church and providing solutions, do I have ideas about how to do this? Indeed, and if you're interested, you should sign up for my email list to be sure you don't miss out on the principles, tools, and resources that are coming very soon. 

Adventures in Faith

We Prayed for a Cool Home and This Happened

Moving from the West Coast (Silicon Valley) to the East Coast (Philadelphia) was a big undertaking, especially with a 1 month old baby and an almost 2 year old toddler. Needless to say, Whitney and I prayed for God to land us in a place where we felt at home and could be a part of the community in a deep way. What happened is pretty remarkable and has us thanking and praising Him...

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

God Comes Through During Unexpected Pay Cut

This is one of my favorite stories of all, even though it's still evolving.

Get this.... I found out on Wednesday October 29th that effective November 1st as part of a larger restructure my job was being change and a 30% pay cut was necessary. A 1/3rd lopping off in my salary as the sole breadwinner in the most expensive area of the country with a toddler at home and another one on the way, well, it presents a gloomy outlook.

Or does it? 

Since Whitney and I are getting used to the "wild ride" that is a living and active Christian faith, we quickly realized that maybe God was up to something here, and that we shouldn't grumble too much. I'm not going to tell you we weren't pissed off for a couple days, but we prayed hard, and I felt like we just had to find a way to be grateful for what we have each day.

Right away, we began to experience unexpected provision.

First, we had planned to take a trip to Mexico to spend time with the Derfler grandparents. Planned months in advance, we were now forced to cancel--spending any extra money on a vacation was not wise now that our salary wouldn't cover our monthly expenses. 

Yet, when we informed the grandparents about this, they quickly came back and insisted that we allow them to pay for the trip. And that's what ended up happening, we were blessed us with a fully paid vacation that we never expected, and cannot thank them enough for.

That was just the beginning.

Whitney had friends flying into town planning to do a "girls day out" at the spa and for dinner to celebrate a birthday. She woke up and on top of not having the cash to go out she wasn't feeling pretty (a common sensation among new moms, especially pregnant ones!). As I left for work, I knew there was nothing I could do to fix it, so I simply prayed over her, "Lord, shine down on your daughter today, who I know you love so much, she is the apple of your eye, would you show her that today as a reminder?" Then I left for a breakfast meeting a block away.

A colleague and I were meeting with a guy who had lost his wife of 40 years somewhat suddenly and he had come to mind so I asked him to meet with me. I specifically felt like we were supposed to pray together. After catching up a bit, and talking mostly about his wife and his Christmas without her, the three of us prayed and then got up to go. As we did, he reached for his wallet, and my colleague said we wanted to treat him to breakfast. He then replied that he wasn't going to pay, but that while we prayed God had told him to give all the money in his wallet to me for my wife. 

At this, I was immediately choked up, and I told him I couldn't accept it. He insisted, telling me again that God had told him to do this. As I took the money, I held back tears and told him how much it meant. I left the restaurant, walked home and into my home to find my wife. I shared with her what had happened and she was just astonished, and we both cried.  

A couple of weeks later, my wife was opening the mail when she found a letter stating she had unclaimed property. Of course, these are all assumed to be scams, but something looked different about this one. She asked me to look at it, and when I did I agreed that it looked legit. She called the next day to find out that an early employer of hers from over a decade ago had socked away $5,000 for her in a retirement account. This was literally a day after we had been discussing that with our pay cut we were now saving nothing for retirement.

Another tension was how to buy some extra supplies for baby #2. Fortunately, he was a boy so he had all of the hand-me-downs, but there were a few things to pick-up. Whitney entered a contest for one of the items and sure enough, she soon found out that out of hundreds of applicants, she had won! And, she didn't win just one contest, she soon won another contest too. An amazing windfall!

Texts from my wife about one of her contest wins.

Texts from my wife about one of her contest wins.

 

When I filed our taxes, I expected a return similar to what we had the year before, about $2,300. When I filed our taxes, I discovered that due to a change in our student loan interest payments we were to receive more than double the refund, $5,300. Praise God, we were on a roll now, making up for the lost income.

Still, we continued to dip out of our savings account with each month. Very simply, I needed to make more money. Instead of scrambling around in a panic over what to do, I prayed often and felt like God was telling me to keep doing what I was doing. I remembered the prophetic word I'd received a month earlier. Then, I received a call from a busy consultant in Silicon Valley who wanted to hire me to help him on a job and he was going to pay me a generous amount, nearly $8,000 over the course of a couple of months. This particular consultant works in an industry outside of my niche and, frankly, from the outside looking in it could be said he didn't need me. Alas, he had prayed and God put it on his heart several times to bring me into the job. 

All of these things are hard to imagine happening in single, in total, we just continue to realize how much God is providing for us during this time. We do not have an abundance, we're not able to move or add too many things or eat out. We've embraced a new frugality, shopping at discount stores and cutting corners where we can. And yet, we know that God is doing something here, He's leading us, giving us hope, showing us that He provides and often through amazing ways. 

People Getting It Done, Legends

Kent Shaffer: Church Uniter

Kent and I met at a hackathon event in Silicon Valley, put on by Leadership Network. Kent stood out because he showed up early to pray over the space, he was clearly very smart but humble too. He helped me empty the trash and do the menial tasks it takes to run a straight 72-hour event for over 100 people, despite that he was listed as an esteemed mentor. He offered me access to his hotel room for a shower and to nap. Yet, there was a lightness about him too, we had fun together. And before we parted ways, Kent pulled me aside and said he wanted to help me, and encouraged me to think about ways that would be possible.

Kent and I have stayed connected ever since, which is saying a lot since he spent the year after we met traveling the United States with his family packed into an RV, with only occasional stops in one place for an extended time. Kent and his wife Evie felt called to be on the move with the purpose to connect the church, to share resources, and breakdown barriers. Kent's work manifests itself most clearly in two websites he runs, called Open Church and Church Relevance. Or follow his travels and commentary on Twitter here. Evie is a phenomenal artist/graphic designer/technologist and you can enlist her design services online here, and follow her artistic renderings online here

It is a great blessing for me and my wife to know the Shaffer's. When Kent makes occasional trips to the West Coast, we find time to sneak off on a hike up a mountain to pray in the early morning hours. And we were blessed recently when they parked their RV behind our home and we had a few days to have our families spend time together. They are dear souls, salt of the earth people, who you just know are following the Lord wherever He might take them.

Kent and I write back and forth to each other by email and text and an occasional phone call. To know that there is a man out there in the world who I know is following Jesus and who is like-minded, that I can call knowing he will be real with me, this is a priceless gift. When I look back on our relationship and consider how it formed, I know that it could only have happened through the work of the Holy Spirit. People just don't often meet each other, stay in touch via email, and consider themselves to be close as family. Yet, that's what Kent is to me, a dear brother in Christ. 

In closing, in one of our email exchanges where we were discussing a trial I was in the midst of, as he often does, Kent shared an insightful passage with me, this one from an Indian pastor named Abraham Israel:

Eagles are the only birds that love the storm. When all other birds try to flee from the storm and hide its fierceness, eagles fly into it and will use the wind of the storm to rise higher in a matter of seconds. They use the pressure of the storm to glide higher without having to use their own energy. They are able to do this because God has created them uniquely with an ability to lock their wings in a fixed position in the midst of the fierce storm winds.

After a certain period of experiencing storms face to face, eagles love to play in the storms. The storms in life that we as God’s royal eagles face are trials, tribulations, and temptations (John 16:33; James 1:12). As we face the stormy wind of afflictions in life, the Holy Spirit helps us lock our mind in a fixed position with the grace of God through faith in the finished work of the Cross, which helps us conserve energy and just stay in the storm and enjoy the lift and height of heavenly mindedness in a greater and greater altitude (1 Cor 10:13; Eph 6:16; 1 Peter 5:9-10; Phil 4:7).

After a period of time, we start to love the trials because of the positive things of peace that we are able to experience in the storm and the heavenly after effects of being lifted in to a great height of spirituality and ecstacy in believing (1 Peter 1:8), which would not be possible without it. This is the reason Apostle James said,
My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. James 1:2-4

We as a person of royalty need to take a quality decision of accepting trials willingly with joy because it lifts us in to higher altitude of spirituality without us wasting even an ounce of energy. After we start to use all the maneuvers in the midst of storms, we will surely say, “Bring it on!” with a stout chest and our head held high.

Adventures in Faith, Miracles, Most Read

God Brought You to Me

"I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stoneand give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws." Ezekiel 36:26-27

I was traveling on the East Coast, and I took a bite into a Chik-fil-A sandwich. They aren't so prevelant in San Jose yet. I posted a picture of said sandwich, to which a reply was soon posted that I was supporting a hate group.

When I read the message, I had an immediate sense that a serious division was being dropped between myself and this dear brother. I prayed right away. I was in a good place at that time, in the Word, feeling full of peace and love. And so I called this brother, no answer. I left a message. There was nothing to hide, even though I simply like Chik-fil-A's chicken sandwiches, I am full aware of the positions both for and against their Christian stance.

Days go by, no return call. I call again. Still nothing. The weight of division growing wider caused me distress. I decided to pray and fast over it. I enlisted others to pray with me over it. One night, while praying with a friend, the friend pointed out that it was not be who had division in my heart, but rather this brother who did. So we shifted our prayer for the brothers heart, that God would work in it and soften it toward me.

Within 48 hours, I received a call from this brother. It was on Mother's Day, I will never forget it. As I received it, I looked up to the sky through the trees and at the son, and I said that you Jesus. On the phone, this brother said to me that he wants to talk to me when the time is right, but more importantly that he loves me, and that he knows I am a good guy. He was reminded of this because he ran into a guy while playing softball who, after putting "two and two together" realized he knows me, and who then gave this brother of mine unsolicited words about how I am a good guy. These words were received and they rekindled a love for me, and that is why he was calling.

As I heard this story over the phone, tears came to my eyes. I just kept saying in my thoughts, "praise you God, praise you!" To see a prayer work so clearly, so dramatically, so fast, it is amazing to behold! Only God can change hearts like this, without any human interaction between us in the meantime. Where the Enemy (Satan) seeks to divide and destroy, God is all powerful for redeem. 

To top it off, this brother of mine concluded by saying that it was too long since he'd seen me, and that he would book a flight for a visit within a week, which he soon did. This was an amazing turn of events, and I was delighted. Though, mixed with my delight was a growing concern around this conversation I would have with this brother. I knew that he had a firm belief that Chik-fil-A and their Christian stance, specifically in favor of the traditional family, was wrong. And I know he knows that I share the same Christian values, so what would become of our conversation?

Upon his visit a few weeks later, we had a delightful time. There was no early confrontation, and through much prayer and fasting before his arrival, I felt well prepared to talk about anything, especially Jesus! We took a day trip to Sonoma to visit wine country. A great day, but as we left, my dear brother did not stop imbibing on wine. In fact, he opened a bottle in the backseat of the car, and against protests, kept drinking. Soon he was becoming confrontational, angry even. He began to come at me "swinging" for my beliefs. 

The situation became very uncomfortable. I did not want to even speak or rationalize with someone who was drunk. And yet, the tirade had to stop. I raised my voice, "Let me tell you why you are here," I said. I reminded him how a month or so ago he would not return my calls, how he was angry at me because of my post about Chik-fil-A. He said he remembered this. I told him how it distressed me so that I prayed and fasted for several weeks. He was silent. Then I recalled how he ran into someone, quite randomly, who exclaimed my character so that he had a change of heart, and called me, which led him to take the trip to visit. I said, "Can't you see, God loves you, he brought you here!" As I said these words, my dear brother broke down in tears, he accepted the love of God in that moment, I believe, and he even repeated the words, "God does love me, he does." It was a tender moment, we both cried.

I wish I could tell you that the division was eliminated entirely on that night, it was not. After all, drunkenness and shame were still present. The next day, there was a sheepish sense and my brother wanted to avoid me, I think. However, there was no reason for it--that would just be allowing victory to the enemy. And so I sat next to him, put my arm around him, I told him I love him, that we can always talk and even when we do not agree, we will still love each other in words and in action. He apologized for his behavior, and I immediately forgave him. I said we must forget about it, and was determined to move on and have a fun day, after all, it was my birthday!

In conclusion, what I learned most about this trial is that God heard my prayer and fasting brought a brother to me, He changed a heart, put someone in my brothers path to remind him. I also learned that in this case, that far more than words or a carefully constructed argument, it was my life itself that likely spoke to my brother. It was how my wife made such a big deal over my birthday with thoughtful gifts and homemade recipes. It was how we visited an early morning prayer group and the guys were so welcoming. It was how we played golf and a friend stopped to pray before we tee'd off and my pals were fighting over who could pay for lunch. It is the authentic overwhelming love of Jesus, expressed in relationships and community, that draws someone to God. 

Adventures in Faith

The Death of My Sister (and a Heavenly Vision)

But, as it is written, "What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him." 1 Corinthians 2:9

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The phone rang, it was late, I heard one of my parents get up to answer it in the hallway just outside my bedroom door. Then rustling around and footsteps down the stairs. Back to bed, though I didn't really sleep, already eery. Then more ringing, I hopped up and answered, I heard my Dad say come to the hospital. Got Daren out of his bed, into the car, driving and praying, not sure what's going on, hypotheticals in the mind.

Arrive, park, into the building, somehow it seems we know right where to go, people have looks in their eyes like they know something we don't, the hall opens into a lobby, our parents are sobbing, immediately we are awash in sorrow. Not sure what's going on, told it's not good, she doesn't look good, a decision to pull her off support will have to be made, let's go in to see her.

Tubes, machines, swollen, black, blue, a sight i will never forget, make your way to the side of the bed, hold her hands boys, they are so swollen, as soon as we do, she dies.

Everyone crying, doctors, nurses, parents, me. A blur of tears. A blur of everything. Eventually, we exit the building, into the parking lot, the sun is coming up, traffic is building, cool air, the Earth is still spinning, it feels odd that it is.

Drive home...ringing, many phone calls, soon many flowers, it smells like a flourist. People visit, so many people, they bring food. They cry. They sit and talk and listen. So many cards in the mail.

Soon a funeral. A flood of tears, I learned to cry so hard. Damn, man, my sister, my big sister, she's not showing up anymore.

Days, a daze. Enough for me, I need to get back to something. I need to get back to college, my freshman year. How will I sleep? I can't sleep. I haven't slept for a week. I'm going to try...I lay down to sleep, and I do.

And then I'm awake. Oh my God! Hop out of bed, right next to me, there she is, my sister in full color! Immediate tears. I'm sobbing. I wrap my arms around here as tight as I can. Right away I ask over and over, "Are you okay?" She says nothing. I keep asking, she keeps saying nothing.

Then I lift my head and turn right to see her, to verify. I look right into her hair. It's glowing and flowing. Oh my God! She's wearing a red Gap hoodie, the same one she is known for wearing, we buried her in it. This is unreal...even as I type this, the words cannot express the sight, the feeling, the realness.

Then, she asks me one thing, "Where is Daren?" I tell her I don't know, and then, she's gone.

I jerk awake...sit up completely. I am completely shocked. What just happened. My sister is not in the room, but something is. There is a breeze...a poster hanging above my bed has a corner loose, it's waving in a breeze that otherwise does not exist. I wipe my face, which is soaked in tears.

On my God! I notice the time, just after five in the morning. Do I write this down, will I forget? I can't move for an hour. And yet eventually I return to sleep.

The next morning, I get up, shower, dress for school. I go down stairs to leave the house. I walk past the family room, and I see my brother Daren sleeping on the couch. It hits me like a wave...a sense of emotion and peace and understanding and so much more washes over me. Daren, my brother, is known for always sleeping in his bed. Many sleepovers growing up, Daren always retreats to his bed. Many guests visiting the house at this moment, they all insist we sleep in our beds. And yet, there is Daren sleeping on the couch, he's not in his bed, this is completely abnormal. "Where is Daren," the question Danielle asked me now makes complete sense to me.

I walk over to the whiteboard in the kitchen, and I write Danielle is okay, tears flowing from my face.

Off to school, walking on air, because I have an unexplainable sense that my sister, who had died one week earlier (and I would later confirm this vision was exactly one week to the minute after her death) was okay, she was in Heaven.

__________________________

Another week goes by. This time, I'm out driving with friends. This is what we do to "get away," we drive around the back roads of Lebanon County, PA, not caring if we get lost, and it's not too hard to get lost because there aren't many landmarks when it's all fields and pitch black. We just drive, listen to tunes, shoot the breeze. So, I'm driving, one friend up front, another in the back, when I make a right hand turn, and then all of a sudden, it happens.

High above me, and yet visible to me even as I'm driving, my sister, again. She's glowing, she's white, she isn't really a figure anymore, but more of a presence in the clouds. She's clearly in another place, again, words don't work to describe this. And she says to me, I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry this happened. Tell everyone I'm sorry. And then, she's gone. All this while I'm driving, and just when it ends, I look up to see a road marker and realize this all happened right when I had turned onto the same back country road where she was killed, just a mile down the road.

__________________________

These two things that I saw, what happened to me in this story, this gave me the most incredible sense of peace I could ever have over my sisters death. Even more importantly, it gave me a 100% certainty that there is a Heaven. And later in life, I started to work backward from this belief in Heaven to analyze the reality of God, the Bible, and Jesus Christ. Even though I was raised going to church and learned the lessons, it never really sank in to a soul level, it didn't sink in until I later poured over it, questioned it, and experienced it in this way, and many other ways since. Now my faith is central to who I am, I know that even through the death of my sister, God is so good, and his plan is far greater than I can understand. I now believe that God works through visions like these all the time, and he does miracles far greater than we will ever understand. And so, my sister's death, while a terribly sad occurrence that changed my family forever in deep ways, is also part of the foundation of my faith, and in that way, it is among the biggest gifts I've ever received.