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. 


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 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


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:


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. 


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


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, " 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."


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

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

My Jewelry is All About My Wife


I met this morning with a guy who, despite only sitting in-person with him 2 or 3 times, he is very dear to me, or as we Christians say, he's my brother in Christ (Matthew 12:48-50). And the cool thing about the body of Christ is that God gives spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12), and this particular brother, he has the gift of prophecy. This means that He get's "words" from God, and here's what he said to me this morning, as we chatted at Harvard Business School...

It went like this, after chatting for 45 minutes, I asked him if he had anything I should write down, meaning, is God giving you anything for me?

He said that he was given a picture of the meaning of my ring as symbolic of the bond that Whitney and I have together, which is very strong, and has God at the center. He asked me if that had any resonance with the wedding ring that I wear. 

I told him that, yes, I had selected this design for a very strong exterior (tungsten) with a beautiful interior (rose gold). 

But even further, I told him, shortly after I met Whitney, while we were still dating, I had a piece of jewelry designed to represent our union. The charm melted down a lot of my old jewelry, representing a new beginning, and the gold was formed into the letter "W" for Whitney and "R" for Ryan interwoven, with a diamond at the center, representing Jesus.


And finally, I added, over just the past week, I've been thinking "in the back of my thoughts," really in my soul, about what it would be like to love Whitney more fully. To hear her, love her for who she is, devote myself more fully just to her and to knowing her. Nobody knew about this conversation, and here was this brother with this word from God encouraging me forward in the strength of this union.

This was a fun start to my day in Boston, and another example of how fellowship with believers brings about a "different world" that is encouraging as it shapes in truth and molds one into the image of Christ.

Adventures in Faith

God Spoke to Me Using Soccer Metaphor and It Changed My Life

A "Christian brother" and I fasted for one day and agreed to pray for each others "business," and this is what happened.

This impacted me greatly, as I processed what I heard God say to me so clearly. It opened my eyes to the glut of "training resources" and the shortage of Christians stepping onto the field, so to speak.

What I heard made so much sense that I began to share it to anyone who would listen. I realized that the times where God was speaking most clearly to me was when I was living it out on the field, I was doing something about what He was telling me to do.

I saw a way to help guide people into taking action with their faith, in fact, my job at the time for Cityteam was to do just that! I bought a web doman, set up social media handles, and even started working on a video to capture the message. I wanted it to be perfect so I worked my way into the Major League Soccer (MLS) Earthquakes stadium in San Jose, CA! 

This revelation then led to the creation of a concept to coax people onto the field. Being in Silicon Valley at the time, of course this ended up being conceived as a technology platform with gamification elements to drive outcomes and was communicated in this venture capital (VC) style pitch deck ;)


Soon two others were attracted to this vision, it resonated deeply with what God was telling them to do, and the three of us together set to work to build out a minimum viable product (MVP) of this concept over the course of 90 days. It was an impossible task by any measure, even for a 17 year Apply veteran, and skilled community pastor, and I, but we embraced the reality that if it was God's plan, it would work. Ultimately, we couldn't find a way to solve the problem in a way that would generate revenue and we all got job offers that took us away from the project. 

But what I heard from God on that day stays with me, and I continue to examine whether I am just training more, or if I'm actually on the field with regards to my faith. The pull toward the former is so strong.

In fact, the whole purpose of this blog is to encourage others to step out of their own comfort zone to take practical steps in their faith and their attempts to know God and Jesus.

And, I still have it in my sights to build something to this end--something that provides a trigger point to unleash people into the active practical aspects of their faith. My hope and prayer is that in late 2016 / early 2017, this vision might become realized.

To think that this all came from that vision God gave me in prayer during the World Cup in 2014, it's truly amazing how when we seek God in prayer, He can speak to us and inspire us, that in a single moment of quiet time listening, He can direct in such a rich way so as to literally change the way we think and even the trajectory of our life.