prayer

I don't know whom I should work with. But God does!

Lately, I’ve found myself praying, “Lord, please don’t let this deal close if it’s not the right partner.” 

That’s a BIG departure from where I was a year ago when, somewhat desperate, I wanted every deal to work out. Left to my own discernment, I would currently be contractually bound to people and businesses that are just not a good fit for what I’m building or what I believe in. 

For example…

  • A business run by a guy whose office walls were covered in porn and who implied that he could get around the law. 

  • Another business leader that, by many measures, is the top in the area but with a self-professed penchant for partying hard at the expense of personal relationships. 

  • One woman, a very talented and growing entrepreneur and an excellent fit for what I’m building, had I signed a deal with her, would have damaged relationships I know I need to invest in. 

Now I find myself asking God to confirm who is the right partner. Just because someone has the finances, interest, or even if they look like a good fit in my own mind, it doesn’t mean it’s the right partner for me.

Here’s my checklist to determine how I should proceed:

  1. Is this a business I want to promote? Someone recently told me I should partner with a divorce attorney, so I started to research who was best. Then it hit me, why would I point people that direction when I could instead lead them to a marriage counselor. Given my desire to, whenever possible, see relationships healed and restored, the latter makes more sense. I now screen against what I want to stand for. 

  2. Do the leadership/staff have integrity? One doesn’t have to share my faith, but I hope to see some indication that they operate with values like excellence, customer service, attention to detail, positive messaging. I’ve opted out of working with a few partners due to observed behaviors that are troubling, at best. This is a fine line because I also want to acknowledge that I never have all the facts and people, including me, have bad days. 

  3. What are we each trying to get out of this, and can I help? I try to sense poor motives, like a company trying to make a quick profit or exploit something or someone. I also need to believe that I can help the business get where they want to go through the partnership. No amount of money is worth taking if I know I don’t at least have a shot at delivering high value.  

  4. What does God want me to do? This is most important, and because I’m a man of prayer, I pray over prospective deals. This is a HUGE ‘x-variable’ because at times I have turned away from sales that made sense in every other regard. I don’t always know why I don’t have peace about the deal, but I serve a God whose ways are higher than my ways (Isaiah 55:8), and trust that he wants good for me (Jeremiah 29:11), so I just do it. 

This discernment, practiced on a daily basis, begins to become refined so that sometimes even in the midst of a conversation I get a sense if it’s a fit or not. Other times it will take weeks or months of prayer, listening, and wise counsel. And it doesn’t just work to screen out deals, there are occasions when it doesn’t seem to make sense that I should work with someone, but I feel peace about it and so continue to pursue it.

Ultimately, this way of vetting deals has been challenging, especially since in my current role I’m looking at up to 10 deals a week and completing 2 or 3. However, the quality is improving, and I trust that these are going to be the right partners in the long run. Not to mention, the anxiety of overthinking and overworking deals is fading away as I trust God. And, I’m even celebrating when deals don’t go through, in the world of sales, this is indeed a peace that passes all understanding! 

FOLLOWING JESUS = SAYING LESS IN BUSINESS

I STILL SAY TOO MUCH IN BUSINESS.

With one verbal chip after another I work to carve a masterpiece, and sometimes see it crumble before me. My sales pitch is often full to the brim with backstory and key updates (at least to me) on traction gained.

In short, with matters of words, I go long.

Commentary as a means of influence, now full frontal from dawn to dusk in real time across a litany of platforms by (often self professed) leaders, has lured me into the never ending truth-telling conjecture.

To be relevant, the world says, I simply must add my piece. And I have.

I realized recently that all this running at the mouth was affecting my business. Fueled by anxiety over deals I wanted too much, I found myself verbally barraging prospects to make my case.  Further, I prayed fervently for each one to come through. Most didn’t.

Quiet time with God helped me see that my anxiety was fruitless, striving foolish, and that one day’s “unanswered” prayer became the next day’s thanksgiving for sparing me from my own request.  

I QUESTIONED MYSELF AND GOD:

1. If I can’t discern what deals I need, why am I praying so hard for them?

2. If I know God is going to provide, why am I acting desperate?

3. What does peace look like in my dealings and how do I say less?

The Holy antidote to my loose lips? Drum roll please... the spiritual disciplines have to be there: prayer and fasting, daily scripture reading, and regular fellowship. Also extended prayer around strategic plans, new clients, and major moves. Perhaps a retreat to learn to enjoy silence.

This feels a lot like “the same old answer” to spiritual growth, but has taken on a new importance for me in the launch of my startup. And while I know the enjoyment in hearing myself make a case will not easily take a seat, I already see that growth in my faith should cut down my word count in these very clear ways.

1. Discernment about privacy

 As God gives ground to my business I am entrusted with sensitive information. A misstep erodes hard earned trust. The old adage “loose lips sink ships” is more true every day and I have to ask God to help me “tame my tongue” to, in some cases, literally prevent death and disaster.  

2. Willingness to wait or stop a relationship

Had I crossed paths with the rich young ruler (from Mark Ch. 10) a few months ago, I would gladly have had him back my business. And yet God desires his peace to rule in our heart (Col. 3:15) where the word rule means “umpire.” God should call the shots on every person we hire or have as a client or partner! We enter endless conversations that should not be simply because we forge ahead ignorant of the still small voice telling us to wait, stop, or go another direction.

3. Guarding against exaggeration, manipulation, and lies

Recently, I got a call from a prospect while on the run and heard myself say that another respected business had come on-board even though the deal wasn’t signed. I hung up the phone surprised at my own fast lie and had to repent. No surprise the deal imploded. Now, I closely examine my calls, emails, and pitches looking for dishonesty to root out and make tweaks on a weekly basis.

4. Comfort-ability with silence in conversations

Wisdom in negotiations says that he who speaks first loses and it has been proven that using filler words in a presentation erodes credibility. But how do we find the fortitude to be such a confident, patient negotiator and presenter? I posit that if our walk with the Lord is strong we ought to excel in our ability to be still and silent.

In summary, it’s become clear—the more I talk the less effective I am and it points to a lack of faith in God about my business. Do I truly believe that if I work hard and seek the Lord I am going to have all things provided? If so, my actions and, very importantly, my words (or lack thereof) ought to show it.

Don’t take my word for it...

“EVERYONE SHOULD BE QUICK TO LISTEN, SLOW TO SPEAK…” JAMES 1:19

 “IN A MULTITUDE OF WORDS SIN IS UNAVOIDABLE, BUT HE WHO REFRAINS HIS LIPS IS WISE.” PROVERBS 10:19

Originally published on Faith Driven Entrepreneur

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.

Adventures in Faith

Unbelievable Confrontation on A Plane

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I had only a few hours of sleep ahead of my 07:05a flight to Atlanta, and wasn't in the mood to talk. When the woman sat down next to me and joked that she was "a whole lotta woman" and that we'd "become close on this flight", I smiled politely then closed my eyes and fell asleep. 

When I awoke 45 minutes later, I was surprised when this same woman turned to me and said this..

"What kind of work do you do?"

I said with some hesitation, knowing this makes sense to almost nobody, "consulting...in the Church."

She replied, "You're about to have an increase. I see a lot of progress coming on deals that you have been working on." 

"Wow, interesting that you should say that, especially now," was my retort. Then I asked, "Why did you just say that?" 

"Because I've been praying, and I feel strongly God wants me to tell you that. I'm a seer, when I pray I see things."

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Then I thanked her, and I told her that it meant a lot to me. As we deplaned, I gave her a big hug as I marveled to her that we, strangers who'd never met, could have this kind of exchange and even call each other brother and sister. 

She agreed, hugged me, and we went our separate ways.

I share this because:

  1. These kind of occurrences, this deeply moving “Intel” and encouragement just didn’t happen to me prior to following Jesus
  2. It happens now, increasingly so, as I grow in my faith
  3. Following Jesus is full of surprises, often from complete strangers who can quickly become your "brother or sister," your family, in Christ.  

Adventures in Faith

I'm Straight and Still Beg God to Reinvent My Sex Life

It started with Miss Piggy and her pretty pink curves at age three.

Then our baby sitter, then Debbie Gibson, a girl in my 4th grade class. I’ve got a list of crushes into the hundreds. From my earliest memories I was strongly attracted to many different women.

My first female obsession.

My first female obsession.

I was not born a "one woman man."

Maybe its genetic, I'm not sure, I just know my attractions, should I follow through on them, is not God's plan for me.

I was born in "original sin." 

In high school I wrote poems about women. In college, I took philosophy of art, beauty, and aesthetics courses and a figure drawing class where I'd sit for hours drawing naked women three years in a row. 

I waxed poetic about the lusts of my flesh as justified, natural, productive, a celebration of God's penultimate creation. 

Despite my parents stern warnings against sex before marriage, the allure of women was too much, my roots in the gospel too weak, and I not only succumbed to a life of sexual sin, I dove in proudly.

My world got ugly fast.

Me prowling the streets of Philadelphia circa 2010.

Me prowling the streets of Philadelphia circa 2010.

Deception in relationships, broken hearts, barely dodging pregnancy and disease, embarrassment and walks of shame, all as I slid into a pattern of companionship that left me ever lonelier. 

I often self medicated to enable myself to do what, in the depths of my heart, I knew was wrong. It was a raucous and wicked downward spiral. 

I had no idea that with each woman I slept with an imprint was being left on my soul that would not easily be washed away.

By society's standards I was a stud, playboy, lady killer, the character many men aspire to be. I fed on the attention.

My sin was about to be exposed.

Then I found a Godly woman.

The high of meeting a good woman, one who seemed to emanate light and goodness, was quickly followed by dread. As I learned of her strong faith and remembered what I knew about the tenants of my own, I felt like a stained rag. 

"What was I thinking?!?" I lamented. The gravity of it all hit me at once.

A long road of pulling myself out of the pit of  doing sex my own way instead of God's way was before me. 

Hard conversations. Shock by her at how calloused I had become. The effects of so many tangled relationships constantly popping up in photos, old social media posts, phone calls and texts I didn't want to get. 

It was a terribly painful process.

I had trouble not resorting to deception or half truths. It was hard to discern what to reveal and when. I subconsciously wondered how I could let the depths of my depravity be known.

We worked through it--this Godly woman and I--as she showed me unending grace. 

Marriage = doing sex God's way! (or so I thought)

Once I entered into the freedom of the marriage covenant with a woman I was wildly attracted to, I finally had sexual freedom! But the twisted tentacles of sexual sin began to pull at my new marriage in unexpected ways.  

As I drove home from work one day, knowing my wife would want to be intimate, I dreaded that I would not respond appropriately.

How could this happen? Never in a million years! This is a curse!

I gripped the steering wheel and pleaded to God, "Lord, please reinvent my sexuality!" Right away I heard God whisper, "Ryan, be selfless and make this about her, not you." 

I was learning how to love in a very different way, my very sexuality being reprogrammed from that of a predator on an unending hunt to someone willing to love unconditionally and sacrificially. 

Encouraging bumper stickers as I worked through my stuff. 

Encouraging bumper stickers as I worked through my stuff. 

Paying for my past.

My old life reared its head with certain triggers, like staying in hotel rooms while traveling, staying up late drinking, seeing old flames around town or online.

They were all major challenges that I've had to attack in repentance, prayer, talking with Whitney and other men who hold me accountable. 

A thousand times I've asked God to wipe clean my memory, to delete the images that are stored in the depths where I no longer want them. Over time, he seems to be hearing my plea. 

I've also found myself incredibly sad for the woman I was with. Many probably have deep wounds I can never fix. Even as I know I'm forgiven, it grieves me to know what I did to these young women who are made in God's image. 

Further, I've come to realize that in my sin my whole way of thinking about sex had become warped, self-centered, and in need of a complete overhaul. 

An awful nightmare woke me up.

The good news is that, as I battle to do sex God's way, the trajectory of my sex life has moved closer and closer to His plan. There was one instance, however, that resulted in a giant leap forward.

I had dabbled in sin, I can't remember what it was, probably looking at porn online.

One night I had an awful dream. I was being seduced by a woman and as I eagerly pursued her I was also aware of my wife calling out in search of me nearby.

I awoke terrified at what I was doing and in that moment God exposed my patterns of deceit, bitterness when I don't get what I want, bartering and manipulation for sex, game playing, all the effects of separation of sex from God's plan. 

I had a wave of fear hit me--fear of the coming wrath of God. So much so that confessing to my wife seemed like the easy thing to do!

The next day, while at work I texted my wife that we needed to talk so I couldn’t chicken out later.

My wife and I have come a long way since we were married in 2012. 

My wife and I have come a long way since we were married in 2012. 

I repented and asked for her forgiveness, and it led to a several week long conversation that was uncomfortable, and yet freeing.

Something changed in our marriage, I couldn't put my finger on it, something spiritual and good and necessary. This ugly sin that was confronted and lifted before God had somehow drawn us closer. 

It's a lesson I haven't forgotten. 

Stopping sexual sin in my family.

I take this sin seriously now, especially since as a society we openly invite sexual sin into our eyes and hearts, and we drift further from God's plan for sex and marriage. 

King David, a man after God's own heart, saw his sexual sin wreak havoc in his family. So I pray over my boys weekly, "Lord, please don't let my sins in this area affect them, please protect them."

I'm much more open about this issue now than ever before (this blog as a case in point). I talk regularly to other guys about this, a community that has bolstered my defenses.

My wife and I actively work to guard my heart, for example, we don't watch racy movies, and she thumbs through magazine's I get and tears out the soft porn that now comes in health, technology, even cooking publications. 

Regular immersion in God's word and in prayer is a hedge of protection. I also avoid the circumstances where I know I am weak and tempted, such as drinking too much, exhaustion, or mindless web surfing late at night.

Victory is possible.

I wish I could tell you God wiped away my whole past, but He hasn't. The pictures in my mind and perversions in my thinking have regularly eaten away at our intimacy.

I have a daily battle to take captive every thought and hold it up against God's plan for my life. Often after months of victory the ugly sin of lust will rear up from out of the darkness to try to devour me. I've had to learn to be vigilant and ready to do battle at any moment.

And yet, I feel increasingly that I'm no longer a slave to my physical urges. I've become mostly rewired to recognize that sex, even in marriage, is not about me, but is as is described in 1 Corinthians 7, where we learn that our bodies are not our own, but are given to each other. 

I yearn for the day when I have complete victory, when the thought of sex outside of God's plan repulses me, and when I see women not as objects for my own pleasure but as wonderfully made daughters worthy of love and respect. 

Even the fact that I can write that last sentence as a goal for myself, and not be so blind to the err of my ways, is a testament to what God has done in my life, and what he can do in yours too. 

And wildly, as God is apt to do, he's taken this weakness of mine and redeemed it as men now seek me out for counsel for sexual sin. Sadly there are so many who are lost. 


A quick guide + a sermon packed with truth.

After talking to lots of men about this very issue I created this short guide on what's worked for me to overcome sexual sin. 

If you want a biblically sound eloquent dive into this topic, watch this sermon by my pastor, Paul Anderson, of Grace Valley Fellowship, framed by his conversations with a gay Texas millionaire.

In closing.

When I first started to get serious about my faith, I remember hearing that some of the guys at church didn’t even masturbate, and I remember thinking, “I don’t think that’s even healthy!”

I never imagined that one day I would earnestly seek to save all sexual energy for my wife alone. And if someone had told me I needed to do that to be a Christian, I might have turned and run.

The point is, this is a marathon, not a sprint. Start by reading the Bible, and pray and ask God to reshape your thinking. Ask him to put people in your life you can talk to about this, someone with a Godly perspective. He answers when we knock.

Over time, through Christ alone, victory over sexual sin is possible.

...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 1:6

Other posts on sex...

Tools That Work

How to Not Have Sex with Your Wife for 6 Weeks

Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church.
— Paul in Ephesians 5

I wish someone told me before I got married there would be periods where for very good reasons my wife and I cannot have sex. 

I'm in one of those periods right now... it happens for every husband and wife after they have a C-section (and many other types of procedures). Here is Whitney's hospital discharge note stating very clearly, no sex:

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Now, as a Christian man, I've contemplated what to do about these trials. In the wake of my 3rd C-section, I feel like God is giving me some wisdom worth sharing. 

  1. Biblical love in marriage is about giving, not receiving. As I serve my wife through her physical and emotional healing, I find empathy and my desire for my own pleasure dissipates.
  2. Just praying for my wife has a way of deepening my empathy for her as well as my own resolve not to sin. 
  3. I guard against moments of weakness, like when I'm really tired or have an abundance of energy that would normally find a sexual outlet. The top 7 tips that work for me to beat lust are in this little guide

Think its impossible to not have sex with your wife for prolonged periods of time?

Consider wise counsel I received from an older man a few years back. He shared with me how his own wife had a condition that made it impossible for him to have sex with her for over a year. I asked how he was able to do that, to which he responded, "I learned to love her like Jesus, without sex."

A challenging lesson, but rooted in Biblical love, I'm convinced. 

Adventures in Faith

Time to stop living on old spiritual muscle.

Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
— Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:24

As a high school three sport athlete and captain, and college wrestler, in my 20's I was in the gym a lot. This muscle foundation lasts to this day; people guess that I work out regularly (I don't).

Me in 1999 after tearing some kid up on the wrestling mat.

Me in 1999 after tearing some kid up on the wrestling mat.

I'm living on past muscle gains.

Those years of conditioning were valuable, but at 36 I can feel my muscle starting to atrophy.  I have to do more to not just maintain my strength, but handle new challenges I face (like child rearing and travel).

For most of December I've been reflecting on my spiritual training and how in various ways, it's not unlike my physical body.

In Silicon Valley, newly married, working for a ministry, for a few years I did spiritual heavy lifting. Bible studies at work, regular fasting and prayer alone on a mountain and corporately. The gains were rapid and opened my eyes to a new capabilities in the faith.

Since then I've let up in my conditioning quite a bit. Sure, the taste for fellowship with God has lured me back for "weekend warrior" workouts, but the hunger to be ready to compete has not been the same.

What does it look like for me in top form? While not a formula, it's typically a regimen of:

  • daily Bible reading on a plan and checking in for context and problem solving
  • prayer throughout the day alone, with family, and close guys
  • fasting one day every week or two
  • retreats to nature to listen for God
  • immersion into Christian community in its many facets
  • quiet time, prayer, and study with my wife

If I have a resolution this year, its to get back into fighting form spiritually. I don't want to live on the big gains I had 3 or 4 years ago, or the little wins I've accrued as a weekend warrior, I want to run this race hard with my face on the ground before Jesus anew. 

 

 

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

Check Out What Praying in Nature Reveals

If you follow my little blog thing here, you know I crave to get away from "it all," retreat to nature, and pray and just listen for God. It's a sweet time alone with the Creator of the Universe, the God of the Bible. 

Aside of the peace and dreams and visions God reveals to me in those times away, my eyes are also opened to the vastness of creation. Here's a sampling of what has come into view--truly amazing!

Adventures in Faith

Here's My Schedule, As Related to Church Priorities

Sometimes I think it's helpful to know, very practically, what people do with regards to their faith.

I remember when I met Francis Chan wanting to just ask him, how much do you pray and when? Where do you go to pray. Real practical details!

So anyway, one thing I've realized about myself is that it's really helpful for me to have blocks of time scheduled in my calendar to pray, read Scripture, and be with other Christians so that God can work through all of those things.

Here's what that looks like right now:


Sunday

10:00a   Get to church 30 min. early to talk to people

All-day   Whitney and I literally block Sundays from work and big trips

Tuesday

6:30a        I hop on a 60 min. call to pray with guys from the Philly New Canaan Society Chapter

5:30p        I hop on a 45 min. call to talk life with New Canaan Society guys from across the country

Wednesday

All-day     I typically fast, replacing meals with prayer

Thursday

6:30a      I meet guys from my church for breakfast and to check-in on life, we also often read a book

6:00p     Monthly a group of guys talks life as part of the New Canaan Society Philly Chapter

Friday

7a   Once a month I grab breakfast with guys from the New Canaan Society Philly Chapter

11a   Every week I hop on a 1-hour call with a dear brother to talk about our ministry in common, writing about our faith journey


Above and beyond this, there is my own unscheduled time in Scripture, in prayer, and in fellowship, which has times of intensity and times when it is less so. I like that it isn't schedule or formulaic, but I also very much appreciate the discipline and rhythm that this schedule has provided for my faith.

By no means am I saying this is the right amount, for some its not possible, for others it wouldn't be enough. I yearn for a time when I do far more, Whitney and I are eyeing volunteering to at church and admire people who are more active in ministry or leading worship and all the extra time that entails. 

In closing, as I've alluded to in this recent blog post about building a deep church family, I think making these kinds of sacrifices of time are essential, not to mention Biblically sound, and I hope this is helpful and an encouragement to some of my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Adventures in Faith

The Holy Spirit Connects the Dots Over Decades

One of the most shocking aspects of hearing from God is the consistency of the message across many people, across Scripture, and even over many years.

I often imagine that God is so good, He doesn't want to confuse us, so for me, he knows I need to see or hear something a few times before it sinks in that it's God's plan for me.

Anyway, I was reminded of this in a very striking way this past week...

A friend of mine is in some deep water. For months now his family has faced one medical emergency after another.

  • His college age daughter threw her back out last week and can't walk days before going abroad.
  • His wife has a debilitating illness that doctors can't understand.
  • Then on Thursday, another of his daughters was hospitalized suddenly.

It's a constant wave of trials and suffering, and right at the time when his ministry is having a breakthrough.

When someone is in such intense circumstances, it's hard to know what to say. I've even given this brother advice, at his asking, that we both quickly realized was not right, it wasn't God's plan.

So, I'm very careful right now about what I say to him, I want to hear from the Lord first, so as not to distract him with something not from God. As I prayed for him this past week, I got this vision of him, and so I sent him a text about it.

Now, you have to realize, I was nervous about sending this, I mean, he's really in a tender place, his daughter is in the hospital. But it was such a distinct vision, I though, man, if this is from God, maybe it will be helpful to him.

So I sent it. 

And then, shortly after, he writes me back to say that, in fact, he's gotten this same vision for over 30 years.

What the heck?!

I mean, seriously, people, this does not happen. Except by the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Adventures in Faith

Why I Vowed to God Not to Drink Alcohol

For many years I’ve entertained the idea of quitting drinking alcohol because the damage it has caused in my life is both well-known and hidden: 

Well-known because I lost my sister, Danielle, to the actions of a drunk driver. And there are a slew of people from the not too distant past, and especially in college, who can testify to the wreckage that drinking caused in my life (I documented some of it in a post here). 

Hidden because I've made so many bad decisions when drinking in my past. And even though the days when that was a frequent occurrence are long gone, it still happens. It's true, even as God has blessed me with a family, children, a great job, and more, if I’m honest with myself, I have to acknowledge that there’s still an unhealthy desire in my heart to “let loose” and not be concerned with how much I drink.

This desire has reared up time and again in small and even some big ways.

Over the past two years in my job there have been functions where I’ve had four, five, or more glasses of wine--well into the state of questionable judgement and loss of control. I've made the excuse that, as a salesperson tasked with "working the room," it's part of the process.

Whitney almost always can tell right away and is rightly angered that I would “let go” in this way. When Whitney and I traveled recently to Nashville, we both saw my desire to drink heavily on full display.

Even in more innocent instances--a couple of Scotches while doing house work on the weekend for example--when I reflect on the motivations of my heart to have that drink, the answers don’t settle well with me, answers like…

  1. to relax more
  2. to have a different kind of energy
  3. to be a little more joyful

The fact is, in each instance Scripture comes to mind that says…

  1. find comfort in the Lord (Matthew 11:28)
  2. God will help me to soar (Isaiah 40:31)
  3. the joy of the Lord is to be my strength (Nehemiah 8:10)

Not to mention Scripture says I’m to be sober-minded (1 Peter 5:8, Galatians 5:21, Proverbs 20:1).

Other excuses I could make are that I like the taste and it’s healthy, but again, as I reflect on what alcohol has profited my taste buds and health in contrast to what it’s cost me, the net result is heavy loss and those reasons don’t appear to be good enough.

And even though I'm in no way saying that alcohol is bad in itself (creating it was Jesus' first miracle, after all), and in fact, I expect that I will have another drink at some point, I can’t kid myself that this is a completely innocent activity.

I can’t act like it’s something I can just do and there isn’t this past shadow that it’s cast on the family. I don’t want to drink when it’s a problem for me, and for so many other people that I know!

As I stated at the start, these thoughts have stirred in my mind for years, but what’s brought it to a head now is a simple prophecy that I received in Atlanta in December 2016. Two people, one a guy I know, and another woman who was a stranger to me came up to me at a church and after praying told me that they believe that God is encouraging me to write a book and tell stories about what He is doing, stories that God is making clear to me and helping me to tell.

Now, when these words were spoken to me I was surprised by them because I have never told anyone that I’ve always wanted to write a book, mainly because I thought it would be later in life. And here were two people poking at this thing in my heart and telling me that, in fact, the time is now!

What does this have to do with quitting drinking?

While I’ve enjoyed writing since I was little and have even been described as having a “gift” to do so, in my mind I’ve often told myself that I write best after having a couple drinks (or more). And frankly, in writing circles, this is actually a common mindset! And so I felt validated in thinking that, saw it come true in some instances, and so have thought it for many years.

The problem is this, with the kind of writing that I believe God wants me to do, there’s a massive conflict in my thinking and in my heart! Because as soon as I realized I am supposed to write a book about God, I prayed to God and said,

“Lord, I am only going to write this book if you write this book, you have to guide me!”

And I know without a doubt that God isn’t asking me to have a few drinks so I can hear the Holy Spirit better. What He’s calling me to do is pray and fast and be sober minded so I can listen better and hear what He’s saying more.

In summary, drinking runs in direct conflict with my desire to learn from my past, my thinking about effective writing, and what God is calling me to write in this season of my life. And so, I’m quitting drinking for the foreseeable future, or at least until the book is written and published.

What would also be a huge help for me is to receive your prayers. I really do not expect this to be easy, I’ve drank for so long, and especially socially. However, with God I know this is possible; and so, when you pray, ask God to draw me closer to Him, ask him to give me grace enough to be disciplined about this, to resist temptation, and also, please pray for wisdom and discernment as I write this book! That would mean so much to me, and by all means, if you get some “sense” or some encouraging thought from God as you pray for me, please do let me know! I’m so thankful for the people who are reading these stories, my family, and the ways God speaks through and sharpens me through you, and anticipate that He is going to increase that in the future!

UPDATE: A brother weighs in...

I've been so encouraged as I shared this with, first, my wife, and second, a dear brother in Christ, who is on somewhat of a parallel journey in that he is also feeling called to write a book.

Anyway, this brother, one thing I love about him is his dedication to immersion in Scripture, and as a result, the great wisdom and counsel that comes from him. Many times, the timing of his calls and the words of his counsel have resonated deeply in my life.

So when I told him about this, what he wrote to me gave me depth to this decision, understanding the precedent for making these kinds of vows, even publicly, and as I read through the Scripture he sent, it all, once again, sank deep into my heart. Here's what he wrote:

1.  Check out the "Nazerite Vows" in OT.  Read the word.  Here's some thoughts on it, too:  Here.  It will encourage you, if you're not aware of it.  

2.  God wants you to write DRUNK and be DRUNK (FILLED) with His Spirit.  It's the only way to write, and live, for God!  A great theme verse for you: Ephesians 5:15-21.  

3.  Great choice, brother.  I trust it definitely has a time and purpose for you and His Kingdom!

PS. Make sure you read John's "vow" announced by Gabriel....  Luke 1:13-17

Adventures in Faith

Bringing Jesus to...a Scammer

So I got a friend request, which I quickly realized was a fake, the latest victim in the Facebook imposter scam. It happened to be right as I was finishing up a time in prayer, and my inclination was to see if bringing Jesus into the equation via prayer might have any affect.

Here's what happened...

Also, hacking is a serious issue, if it happens to you, here's a guide at Facebook to recover your account. 

And if it happens to a friend, here are details on how to report and block the imposter account.

Adventures in Faith

A Word for Those in College Facing Temptation

Galatians Chapter 5

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.