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 www.handsonchristian.com, 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.
So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Colossians 3:12-15
An old pal from college calls me, I'm not even sure if he's a Christian. Doesn't matter, I love the guy. Anyway, after pleasantries, our conversation went something like this:
Him: I need help man, my marriage is in trouble.
Me: Sure, what's up?
Him: It started small, I can't even remember the fight a month ago. Now we can hardly look at each other. If it wasn't for the kids, I'm not sure if we'd stay together.
Me: Alright, bro, well, look, I've been there. I know what its like. The difference is, as you know, I believe in God and the Bible and its a great tool in a time like this. So my answer is going to come from there, you know that, right?
Me: Alright, well, here's what you do. Take your lunch break at work tomorrow, a good hour at least, and sit quietly and pray. I know you're unsure about God, just pretend you believe and that He's there and he's your friend. Ask God to show you how He sees your wife because he made her and he sees her differently than you do right now. And if over the hour of just listening, if God gives you any thoughts about your wife, write them down. Then go to your wife and tell her the things that God showed you as a way to break through the downward spiral. Do you think you can do that?
Me: Alright bro, can I pray for you guys too? Prayer is powerful.
I got off the phone and we didn't talk for at least a month. I had no idea what happened, but I prayed for him once or twice.
Some time later, he calls me just to catch up. I had actually forgotten about their fight. He brought it up, telling me that I was a lifesaver during that time. He said he did what I said and God had given him things to share with his wife, and that it got things moving in the right direction, and everything was going much better now.
You can imagine how encouraged I was to learn that he went to God in prayer, that despite his unbelief God revealed himself to this friend of mine, that through it all the division between him and his wife was overcome by love. This is the God of the Bible that I serve.
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well." Psalm 139: 13-14
It's true, God gave us the name for our son, Boden Wiley Derfler, before we even knew he was a boy. But before I get to that, I want to share the real, practical ways we felt God's presence in the pregnancy that led up to the naming. My wife, Whitney Elizabeth, was born to be a mom. As a young girl, she carried baby dolls around the house as a pretend mother to them. She played house, like many girls do, but she gave extra care to it all. Through her school years and even while entering the working world, her desire was always to be a mom. She became a nanny to two small children for a few years and exhibited a natural instinct with them. And so, that she got pregnant right away was a miracle itself, any woman who has struggled to get pregnant would attest. God was fulfilling His plan and design for Whitney on the first try!
But, before we knew that a baby was on the way, and a week before any kind of test could verify the pregnancy, Whitney got a loud and clear confirmation one day. She sat on the floor praying for her friends, and right in the middle of it all, she heard in her thoughts, "You're pregnant." Whitney rarely makes firm statements like this. For example, she would say "maybe I'm pregnant," even if she took a test and it said she was pregnant she wouldn't be so sure. So the fact that what she heard was matter of fact, it helped her to know it was not her own thoughts. A test a couple weeks later, on Christmas Day, verified that what she heard was true.
Newly pregnant, both Whitney and I could hardly contain our excitement. And yet, we waited a few weeks to tell anyone to allow it to be special news for just the two of us and to wait until the chance that the baby could be lost was lower. Yet, before we told anyone, our neighbor approached me while I was walking our puppy Archie and excitedly blurted out "Whitney is pregnant," through a heavy Iranian accent. My puzzled look back to her as I wondered how she could know this was met with a follow-up, "I had a dream and I saw this." Back in the house, I confirmed with Whitney that she had told nobody--we were the only one's that knew, or so we thought.
A couple months into the pregnancy, we weren't thinking too much about names. And, the names we did toss around for ideas were for girls, because we mainly thought it was going to be a girl. Then, one night, Whitney woke up and heard the word "Boden" three times, not audibly, but as clear as day in her mind. Her first thought was, "What?" Because she didn't know it was a name--she had never heard it before. The next morning she looked up the meaning and it gave her goose bumps. You see, Whitney had been praying for this baby all along for all kinds of things such as that s/he would be healthy and strong, kind- hearted to people and animals, social and funny, and much more. When she saw the meaning of the name Boden on the computer screen--shelter and messenger--she was immediately struck that God had taken strong qualities of our two characters. Whitney, with her care for all living things--be it people or pets or plants--and her nurturing way, combined with my social nature, love of hospitality, and desire to share stories--the perfect name blending our qualities was this one that meant shelter and messenger. God had provided a name that was better than she could have imagined and she loved it!
It was a couple of days until Whitney came to me with the news. And when I heard it, my first thought was that it was unique for sure, and then I wondered what kind of nickname he would have. Then, a light went off in my memory! A couple weeks prior, we had gone to hear a band called Need to Breathe, and the lead singers are brothers named Bear and Bo. As we drove home from the concert, I remarked that if we had a son we should call him something manly like Bo, because that would have a ring to it, Bo Derfler. Whitney squashed the idea. Well, now that we had this name Boden, I pointed out that our son would be called Bo for short, just as I had wanted. She agreed that, yes, he could be called Bo, but her nickname for him would be Bodie.
Mind you, all of this happened before we knew we were having a boy. And, I should add that our experience was that when it became known we were pregnant, almost everyone (family, friend, and stranger alike) started to weigh in on the sex of the baby. And a large percentage, I'll say 75% or more, were telling us they thought it was going to be a girl. They would say that they could see clearly that the baby was sitting in the belly a certain way, we spun a ring above her belly and it spun in such a way that indicated a girl was in there. But this name Boden, which we were increasingly feeling like it was from God, wouldn't work for a girl. So, this story about getting a name from God was not one that we were telling to anyone, not wanting to look like a fool should we be wrong. Also, neither Whitney or I were of the understanding that God was in the habit of naming babies nowadays. Sure, in the Bible He clearly did, but we just hadn't heard much about it happening anymore. That all changed very quickly.
A few weeks after the name was revealed, I attended the Silicon Valley Prayer Breakfast. Modeled after the National Prayer Breakfast held in Washington D.C. each year, it's a big deal in the San Francisco Bay Area, often attracting well-known speakers like Condolezza Rice and hundreds of attendees. You can imagine my surprise when the keynote speaker, Hollywood producer Mark Joseph, spoke about how God had named his daughter during his speech. Did God reeaallly name my son? It began to look more and more like a possibility.
Then, within another week, as I shared the story with a colleague at work, he quickly remarked that God had named two of his children. And He had equally amazing stories to tell me about it. As I heard them, it was solidified in my mind that God had named my son Boden, and I then knew with 100% certainty that we were going to have a son. At this point, I began to tell the story. I now had complete faith that this was all from God, and I just had to share it. We found out a month later via ultrasound that we were due to have a baby boy.
God names children, I am not sure why He does with some and not others. But this much is true, He does it and in our case it was such a comforting experience. After all, if God names a baby, then there is a reassurance that His hand is on that baby through the pregnancy and that was so helpful for us since we navigated this our first pregnancy on the opposite side of the country from our family and friends.
God continued to provide peace of mind to us. Even with His confirmation in prayer that we were pregnant and with a name given to us, we still had anxiety about the delivery. About five months into the pregnancy, a friend casually suggested that we might come meet her doula, who was going to help her through her delivery. We didn't even know what a doula was, but we went anyway, and we met Tara, who would greatly impact our peace of mind about the birth, in a most remarkable way.
Tara, we learned, was a Christian too. Even more importantly, she has a really calming presence and she knows a whole lot about giving birth, the mother of five herself. When she came to our home to get to know Whitney and talk about a birth plan, we were surprised that our puppy Archie didn't even bark when she came in the door. In fact, he ran right up to her and licked her foot--pet owners might appreciate such a vote of confidence. Long story short, the idea that we would have Tara in our corner to help us through the delivery gave us a peace of mind through that pregnancy that made things seem safer. Also, Tara, who normally charges over $1,000 for her services, informed us that she would not take our money when we asked her about the payment details. She told us that in our case, God nudged her to provide her services to us as a gift and she wouldn't budge.
There is more to our feeling blessed through this pregnancy than is even captured here. For example, toward the end of it I kept coming across the verse Psalm 139, which included the verses 13 For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
These verses were presented in a Bible study one night, then it popped up in conversations, and when I opened my Bible randomly for inspiration, there it was. I find that for me, God often works by putting the same verse in my path repeatedly to truly write it in my heart.
So, all of these occurrences gave us a strong sense that God was involved in this pregnancy in a very personal way. It left us feeling compelled to share this story with you, because it is so important to us that He gets the glory for this baby boy in our life--we thank Him all the time; and we relay to you son, dear Boden Wiley Derfler, that you are blessed, that God named you, and we pray that He continues to bless you, establish your ways, and grow you as His very own shelter and messenger.
"Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:38
As I was driving into Washington D.C. for the New Canaan Society & Wilberforce Conferences, I called Michael, who I was set to room with for the night. Michael had planned for a nap, he said, and my arrival was set to be right in the middle of it, so would I mind delaying a bit. "No problem," I responded; and I thought to catch up on work in the business center. Minutes after the call with just a few miles to the hotel, I found myself driving along beautiful Rock Creek. I felt like I should pray at that moment, so I pulled off the road, hopped down the bank, and found my way to a large rock in the middle of the creek. There, I threw up my hands to God and admitted to Him that my heart was not "in" these conferences...I saw them as a work obligation, not as a chance to praise and glorify Him. As I sat there feeling spent, I told God that I talk enough and would He please put something on my heart...teach me! Minutes passed by...so did joggers...I soaked up the sun and the sound of the rushing water. Then, right before me, a great message was delivered in the form of two currents that ran counter to the creek. Literally, two sections of water ran back against the flow--literally uphill--to create a small pool right at my feet.
As I saw this I received with it the lesson that God's design is so high, so Holy, so Perfect, that it must be trusted fully. God is in control and, most important, it can be terribly inefficient in a worldly sense. In the end, the creek runs exactly where God wants it to run. Holding up efficiency as a grand measure, as I often do, was not an across-the-board virtue, at least in God's design, that much was clear. This came all at once in a remarkable way, so much so that I took out my phone and videotaped the scene.
This was to be a private lesson just for me but then on the last night of the conference Michael introduced me to a friend of his who spoke about his difficulty in always wanting to be efficient. I found myself blurting out that I think God gave me a lesson for him, and at the risk of looking foolish, I showed him my little creek-side video. It resonated with him for sure, but there watching next to him, Michael remarked that it had a strong application for him too. The next day, as we talked more, Michael added that perhaps this story should be shared with our team at work at an upcoming retreat.
I have taken the core message from this day to heart, that I must focus my vision on God's design and not worldly design, and certainly not on what appears most efficient. I have since balanced research and strategy development with seeking God's will in prayer, fasting, reading the Bible, and seeking council from other believers. As a result, I have become more patient, understanding, and gentle in handling times when I face inefficiency.