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Prophecy, Most Read, People Getting It Done

Shandy Showed Me My 2015 (End of Year Update)

***Now that 2015 is complete, I decided to go back and report on how this prophecy panned out, as in, how accurate was it... See the end-of-year updates in bold below.

The more you believe in and listen for God, the more you hear His voice, which means you get supernatural guidance, even prophetic visions.  

Sounds crazy, but its happened to me many times. Just click the Prophecy tag in my archives to read all about 'em. But for now, I have to tell you about what happened to me last week, when a bro approached me with a bunch of fresh info for my days ahead.

It was a normal Tuesday morning spent praying with guys in Silicon Valley. Afterward we had breakfast, and then I headed to my car. One of the guys was parked in the same direction, so we walked together. As we did, he piped up and told me that while we had prayed together, God gave him a vision for me.

Now, this isn't just any bro, Shandy Pekkonen, is a guy I've prayed with for over two years, and I know that he both loves Jesus, pursues him anyway he can, he believes God's promises, and as a result, God uses him to do cool things like share a vision of the future.

So I was curious to hear what Shandy had to say. He started out by saying that God was looking forward to creating with me. That he say a large black wall and the two of us, God and I, were throwing ideas on that wall to create a vision for my future. Shandy said that God was really looking forward to that time with me.

Whoa, right away I was hit by what this brother was telling me. For a month I had a strong desire to get away for a day to pray and brainstorm with God on a whiteboard. In fact, there is a friend of mine who has a house overlooking Silicon Valley where I sometimes go to pray, and he had just put a new office on his property, and I specifically wanted to go to that location to have my brainstorm session with God. I had a hunch (which I later confirmed) that instead of a whiteboard, his "brainstorm wall" was currently black.

Update: I ended up doing this within a week of Shandy's prophecy, and it served to orient my thinking. The time played a part in a web of actions that led to my getting a consulting job in Philadelphia where I met with a guy who hired me, resulting in our move to the East Coast. 

Next, Shandy told me that God showed him grass that was about to sprout from the ground and that it was going to start growing. This was a result of seeds that I had been sowing. 

Update: Shortly after I started my new job at Geneva Global, I learned that there were many people in my network that unbeknownst to me had connections that would serve me in my new role. Without realizing it, I had been sowing seeds for my future work without knowing it, to the level that I've been traveling back to Silicon Valley almost monthly to continue to cultivate those seeds.

Even more, he said, while my wife was largely not involved in my work in this most recent season (ie. few years at my latest job), that was going to change, and she was going to be involved.

This choked me up right on the spot. I never felt like my wife was fully included in my work and that was a missed opportunity to me. I wasn't blaming anyone for it, I just knew that I wanted her to be a part of my life more fully, including my work, because I know she has so much to offer any situation, and plus we're just better as a team. My dream job, in fact, no matter what it is includes working with my wife. 

Update: Whitney has been welcomed by my new company with open arms. Geneva Global made extra efforts to ensure she was cared for by having insurance and doctors in place. They provided full-service movers to lighten the load on the move. The COO asked me weekly how my wife was doing, and helped us find a pediatrician when we landed on the East Coast. Whitney felt a real warmth from this extra attention and care, and brought the kids to the office to meet people, and was warmly greeted. People passed the baby around and wanted to know more about her. Our CEO has asked to have Whitney and I over for dinner at his home, and Whitney received a personal thank you from him for making sacrifices to enable my work at the firm especially the travel. At the company Christmas party Whitney and I were invited to sit at the table with the CEO and his wife and managing director and COO. This has all served to welcome Whitney into the company in a way she has never been before. and now that we are moving to a house just a mile from my office, I forsee Whitney stopping by to say hello more than ever before.

Shandy started to tell me about changes coming in my current role at Cityteam, but I had to leave our conversation, because (TMI warning) all the coffee from breakfast had caught up with me and I urgently had to use the bathroom. But I needed to hear the rest of it, so we agreed we'd talk more by phone. 

I soon called Shandy back and I wasn't sure how much more God could have given him in this vision. I also know that one moment of vision with God can fill volumes of book, He sometimes paints an entire story with so many details in a single moment (yes, this the same God that breathed into existence all Creation, so its no surprise).

Turns out Shandy had a lot more. He asked me about my parents, and specifically our relationship. He called out specific issues that were affecting us, and he was spot on. The good news, he said, is that there was healing in store for the year ahead. As he was telling me this, I was full of emotion, so happy inside, praising God.

Update: Who knew that we would move back East and that we'd get to spend significantly more time with my parents, which has been truly wonderful, especially to see them with the kids. My Mom drives down to play with the kids every other week or so. I talk to them far more than I did while on the West Coast. We Facetime with the kids more. We've had a number of really constructive conversations. All in all, I definitely feel like we're growing our relationship.

Then Shandy asked about my brother. Wait, did I even have a brother, he asked? Yes, I do. Well, he said, your brother is an amazingly magnetic person, isn't he? Yes, Shandy he is. He is really good speaking to people, connecting with them, delighting them, helping them. Yes, he is all of those things, I reported.

Well, he said, your brother was given a pastoral gift by God, he was made to be a pastor and to speak to people to restore their souls. That is his calling, and there is some history of this in your family (I'm not aware of it, have to do some digging to confirm it). Without going into the details, the things Shandy said about my brother, a person he never met, in fact, he never knew I even had a brother, they were just incredible, true, so good to hear, again, I was ecstatic.

Update: I decided to relay this to my brother, and we've talked about it a couple of times since. The reality is that he is really gifted with people, he connects with them easily and is genuinely interested in their retirement security. I've been sharing with him how, due to this prophecy and continued prayer, I believe that he has an ability to help care for people's eternal security. And I'm so pleased to say that these have been great exchanges. Even more, I later realized that the "history" that Shandy talked about was referring to my Dad and his calling as a pastor. I relayed this to my Dad and ever since have seen it confirmed over and over. He's a "man about town" who knows many people in his town, is often sought out for counsel, and has a heart to help people. We've been discussing that there is perhaps another level of help he can provide, actual healing, casting out demons, speaking life and truth. Again, these conversations are undoubtedly positive, well-received, and on-going. 

He concluded by telling me how even though there would be tough work ahead, that the tide was about to change for me and my family. The things he said were such an encouragement to me that I got off the phone, I thanked God for his encouragement, and put my Bible app onto reading mode to sit and listen to Scripture as I drove.  I couldn't wait to tell my wife later that night about this encouraging report, and the rest of my family too. 

Update: Reading this prophecy now, at the end of the year, literally has me choked up. There was tough work, leaving a job well, leaving an area where I had made great friends, moving across the country with a 5 week old and a toddler, living in transition while we look for a home, starting a new job with 2+ hours of commute time, struggling to be disciplined in my faith with a lot of obligations and a lack of sleep. But the overwhelming sense is that the tide has changed in a BIG way, that is literally how I would describe it. It never ceases to amaze me that God speaks to us, often through other people, to guide us and at times even show us a glimpse of our future. 

So, what does your future look like? Do you get reports on it, either small details or a fuller report like I got? You must know that it is possible, that truly all of the days of your life are written in a book held by a good, loving, and just God who desires to show you.

Shandy is available for coaching and ministering to people--reach him here

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

A Near Death Birth Redeemed by God

Just a heads-up this post contains some graphic details of the birth--if you get queasy around medical stuff, you might want to skip it. 

Look at the circumstances, the excruciating labor, emergency surgery, near death of the baby, scary hours after the birth, one might find it tough to understand how Whitney and I could say God redeemed the birth experience for us, and yet, that's exactly what happened.

For context, the birth of our 1st son Boden was rough. 30 hours of labor, head was stuck, wife's cervix swelled, heart rate dropped, an emergency cesarean delivery required. The baby ate every hour for weeks = serious sleep deprivation. The recovery for my wife was painful and in many ways robbed her of the joy of being a new mom. A month after we took him home our landlord went through a divorce, had to sell our condo, and we were evicted without any family around to help. 

So, for nine months leading up to the birth of baby boy #2, we prayed "Lord, please redeem this experience for us." Midway through I got an overwhelming sense in prayer that God was going to do just that. Not wanting to be wrong I was tepid to report this to my wife; but, I kept getting it so eventually I told her this time it's going to be different.

With every doctors visit, my wife Whitney and the baby were the picture of good health. And yet, the doctor had to tell us about the risks of a natural birth after a cesarean (known as a VBAC), the possibility of a ruptured uterus, and worse. 

Her belly grew ever larger and the idea of birth pains gave Whitney anxiety. I knew that this pain could not be avoided, so I asked God to draw her close and grow her through it. In the week or two before the delivery my wife told me that God had given her a song, she even began to refer to it as her birth song--here it is:

The day after her due date, Whitney began to have contractions. Excitement--the time had come! We prayed as a family in the living room--thank you God for the medical care, for my mom who flew out to help with our toddler, for giving this son a name, and so much more.

Whitney labored at home as long as she could; we expected her to get to a few centimeters dilation and when she could take the pain no more, we went to the hospital. In the five miles between our house and the hospital she had a few more contractions--they picked up in frequency and ferocity fast--she writhed in pain with each one.

Upon arrival she asked for an epidural--the nurses scurried around in preparation. They reported she was 8cm dilated, very close to birth. The heart rate monitor put on her belly revealed a baby inside with a low heart rate. This coupled with her more complicated VBAC delivery led the nurses to move her to the operating room (OR) for delivery. As they wheeled her away, the doula (a birth coach we had join us) told me that this was all normal, that as the baby enters the birth canal and is squeezed the heart rate often drops.

I was told to "suit up" so I could enter the OR for the birth, which I did quickly since I was an old pro having done this once before. I ensured my phone camera was handy to capture those precious first moments of life.

Nurses entered and left the operating room in a flurry, then one came out and said that a c-section was going to be required. I could hear my wife groaning in the room and the news hit me with a wave of concern. What happened? I thought she was ready to push the baby out? Our doula looked upset. 

Then I stopped hearing Whitney's groans and instead I heard another nurse request a "crash cart." What was that, I asked the doula? Again, her look said it all, then her words confirmed, it wasn't good--it's used to resuscitate a baby. I became confused, it didn't make sense, God told me everything would be okay, He even gave me a name for this baby. If the baby died, I would be left with so many questions, it wouldn't make sense.

I was numb with emotions. Still holding onto the hope that God had given me, yet now also fearful with the reality of what was happening, feeling foolish for having already documented the story about God naming the baby, terribly concerned for my wife--was she okay, was she in pain, was she hearing all of this and afraid? I couldn't even pray in that moment, thankfully our doula began to pray and I listened to her and agreed with every word she said.

Then we heard a crying baby--the doula broke out in praise to God. She told me this was the best possible sound--I praised God too. They brought him to me and congratulated me. I walked with him to the nursery, and the details about what the doctor had found began to emerge.

I learned that the baby's heart rate dropped again and did not rebound. For six minutes it was under 50 beats per minute, a grave concern. The epidural Whitney received did not take effect quickly enough for surgery so she was put under general anesthesia. When she was opened up, they discovered that her uterus was in really bad shape, stretched as thin as a sheet of paper, so much so it was translucent and the doctor could see her instruments through it. Even worse, the baby had the umbilical cord wrapped around his neck and there was what's called a "true knot" in his cord. The doctor later described this as a "triple whammy." 

I learned that a true knot is rare and often deadly. They're formed early in the pregnancy when the baby is small enough to swim around to tie a knot. They are one of the leading causes of still born babies. In our case, as the baby was being born and pulled down the birth canal the knot tightened cutting off his blood and oxygen. One of the nurses later fetched the cord and showed it to us, several standing around remarked that they'd seen only a few of them in their long careers. Then the nurse who was holding it in her hand had me put a glove on to feel it and she said that even with the knot the cord has a spongy covering over a smaller life delivering tube inside, which serves to protect against these kinds of things. She concluded by saying, "Isn't it amazing how God designed all of this?" 

In the nursery, Lukas went through his first weigh-in, bath, and warm up under a heater. A special doctor was called in to review his blood gas scores. For babies who face the kinds of challenges Lukas faced, time without adequate levels of blood and oxygen, they have to determine what the effects will be. She explained to me that Lukas was on the borderline in a couple of categories, but that they were hopeful he'd be 100%. Then she remarked that if we had come to the hospital even a few minutes later it could have been a very different outcome--you had a guardian angel she remarked. 

I hadn't heard an update on Whitney yet. When our first son was born I wasn't in the nursery near as long before we were ushered back to meet mom. I felt like my new son and I were missing the most important part of our family. I asked a nurse and she called for an update, then she passed on that Whitney was still in the OR. It seemed strange to me that over an hour after the birth she'd still be in that room.

I kept praying, "Lord, save Whitney...keep her in the palm of your hand." The thought crept into my mind that nothing is guaranteed, maybe she was in trouble, then again, wouldn't they tell me? There was nothing I could do except embrace this little miracle baby in my arms and pray and trust God.

Both Lukas and the reality of what happened settled into me. The news kept coming, I learned that our doctor didn't make it to the hospital in time, the procedure was so urgent the nearest doctor was called in. One nurse remarked to another something about good thing the small hospital started keeping a doctor round the clock just a year ago, had she not been there, who knows...

Just then the operating doctor came to see me--before we went to see Whitney she wanted to tell me that we would likely not be able to have children again. Whitney's uterus was too fragile, she'd never seen anything like it, a miracle it didn't rupture, and had she delivered the baby naturally it most likely would have had to be removed. I was just glad to hear she was alive--thank you Jesus, the rest would all be dealt with later. 

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
— Matthew 6:34

We walked to see Whitney and she was loopy from a concoction an epidural, spinal tap, and general anesthesia. The nurse reported that the first thing Whit said when she woke up was, "How is my baby?" When she saw Lukas she cried, moved slowly to put him on her chest, and he quickly burrowed in and began feeding. I was choked up. 

The nurses kept checking my wife. One tried to take her temperature and seemed frustrated. Then she asked another nurse to help because the thermometer wasn't registering. They realized her temperature was under 94 degrees--too low to register. They fetched heated blankets and switched her to a warm intravenous drip. Due to the drugs her body couldn't regulate itself--they said the baby on her chest would help to warm her too. 

Eventually Whitney warmed up, we moved to a room to recover just as the workday began. The full picture of what had happened over the past few hours sunk in, at least for me. I started to tell Whitney the details and I got choked up over it. I thought to myself, why can't we have a normal delivery without all of the trouble?

And yet, as Whitney recovered, amazingly she said to me later that she felt as though God had redeemed the birth experience for her. I listened carefully to what she had to say knowing that in this moment I would learn something from my wife about the deep things of God. As she was wheeled into the OR writhing in pain she prayed and God whispered to her, it will all be okay and He gave her great peace. Yes, she said, God had comforted her despite the pain and the turmoil around her and now she felt much better than she had last birth. She felt so bonded to the baby, she couldn't wait to hold him next. Then she told me that it was as if the baby saved her, his heart rate dipping to avoid the natural birth which would have most certainly caused many more problems. 

Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4:7

I considered her words carefully. Here was this brave woman who had gone through so much, and while on paper it looked like this was a far worse experience than our first birth, God had changed the whole conversation. While I understood what she was saying and I was elated that God had drawn her close to himself all the way through, the drama of the night before stuck with me. I decided that, yes, God did redeem the birth experience because if that's what my wife felt then I would believe it too. I thanked God and adopted a celebratory attitude despite not feeling it 100%. 

In the day that followed we had sweet visitors who offered up prayer for us. One, a dear friend to Whitney, in her prayer she thanked God for having Mom and baby to work together, to preserve them both. Another, a dear friend to me, prayed a blessing over the family and asked for healing and thanked God for what he had done. Friends brought sushi and candy and a gift for big brother Boden. Another stayed for many hours and took beautiful photos some of which are included in this post. My mom extended her stay to help care for Bo so we wouldn't have to coordinate for his care. Whitney's regular doctor came to offer encouragement that it might be possible to have children again.

A day later Whitney posted on Facebook that she was so at peace, and I knew that behind that post was so much prayer, great trials, but an even greater move by God. He had done something amazing in our midst, even more than deliver a miracle, he had taken my wife through her greatest fear and he spoke to her and delivered her on the other end full of strength and peace and with a wonderful testimony about how great God is, something she and I both know full well she could not have done on her own. 

In conclusion, as I sat in the recovery room holding my precious newborn son in my arms and basked in the reality of a redeemed birth experience I prayed and had a revelation that brought this birth into the light for me. The Lord reminded me of one of the most telling prayers I've ever had for my wife, a prayer that lasted hours while at Bethel Church in Redding, CA. While there, the Lord showed me how he wraps my wife with love and gentleness like a soft warm blanket. That prayer has stuck with me and I've attempted to emulate the approach, which has proven effective and to speak deeply to my wife's soul. I saw that through this pregnancy, through the labor and delivery, God had done just that--he swaddled her tight and cozy and warm to insulate her from all that was happening around her. It was so clear now, from the peace of the worship music in her heart and the whisper going into the OR, the warmth of the baby on her chest, the rest and sweet visitation by family and friends, and an extraordinary bonding with baby Lukas, who Whitney in turn wrapped in a blanket of love herself, yes, it was clear that God's redemptive cover had fallen on my wife and in turn enveloped our family.  

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

God Named Our Son (Again)

For those of you who know Whitney and I well, you've likely already heard the wild story about how God named our first son, Boden. The story is documented here.

Well, back in November, while flying home from a family vacation in Mexico, I was praying on a flight and decided to ask God for a name for the second son, and He did not disappoint.

I think once you hear the details you'll find that what I heard and how it immediately was confirmed once we landed on the ground and looked up the meaning is extraordinary.

We're just super thankful that God gave us another name, and we're encouraging others to consider asking God for a name for your next little one in addition to the baby name books--He might have something to say!

A few days after I produced this video, the story continued...

You'll notice in the video that I talk about how even though what I heard from God in my time of prayer was the name Luke, my "response" back to God was Lukas. When I later told my wife what I'd heard, she also said she liked the name Lukas.

But, do we really want to deviate from the exact name God had given? All I had to go on to make the decision is that when I "responded" back to God in my thoughts, I didn't hear or feel any objection.

Well, I received a prayer letter via email from a guy named Jim Yost that answered the question! Jim lives and works in Indonesia. Everyone I know who knows Jim loves him and says what a Godly man he is and how God works through him mightily. I've been blessed by his email updates about the work he is doing caring for children, even adopting many into his home, as well as helping to respond to disasters and build the community where he lives.

This latest letter, though, was especially impactful because he starts with a Bible verse from the Book of Luke, only he has spelled it "Lukas."

This gave me a warming confirmation that perhaps Luke and Lukas are interchangeable after all. Praise God for that, because I want to listen to and obey him even in the details, and I'm grateful that God is interested even in the details of my life, after all, he knows every hair on my head (Lukas 12:7). 

2nd birthday update

At the two year mark we are really starting to see Lukas' personality, and it's uncanny how it aligns with his name and the vision God gave me of him. For example:

  • Lukas is unafraid of lots of things like climbing high places, picking up spiders, things like that. 
  • He runs toward trouble. We play this game sometimes where I hide and jump out, and where other kids turn and run, Lukas instinctively runs toward me eyes wide open on high alert. With the fight or flight response, Lukas is a fighter.
  • He picks people up, it's an interesting combo but one that aligns with the vision I got of him picking people up. When his brother gets hurt lately, Lukas runs over to give him a kiss or even help him get up.
  • He's a light. In our family, Lukas has a certain lightness about him. His smile is infectious, even strangers comment on this. He lately laughs out loud on purpose.
  • He follows his own path. At the playground Luke does his own thing, he is definitely not a follower, he is not easily persuaded. We anticipate that being a defender of the Kingdom of God is not going to make him popular, and God has designed him to be okay with that, he doesn't need the affirmation of others. 

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. 

Prayer, Most Read

Prayer Changed My Home In A Big Way

Recently, I knew something was bothering my wife.

I had clues about the reason--a recent cut in pay, a second baby due to be born in a few months, a list of things we wanted to accomplish that wasn't getting shorter, not to mention the aches and pains of the third trimester after long days mostly alone with a toddler. No shortage of possibilities here.

But what could I do about it? How can I help? This was the question I posed to God while driving home.

God gave me this right while I was driving (as in, this thought popped into my mind and it made a lot of sense, gave me peace, and would not be something generally that I would thing): He told me to talk with my wife and write down all the things that were concerning her or needed to be done, big and small. Then, pray for those things and trust Him.

I've had enough of these thoughts sweep into my head in prayer before to believe right away it was from God, and it immediately lightened my spirit and made me excited to arrive home.

Once inside I initiated the conversation with a question, "Honey, what are the things on your mind, tell me everything that maybe concerning you?"

She opened up quickly, and the first few were directed right at me. A less grown version of me would be defensive or discouraged, yet I was almost excited! The sense that God gave me in the car established my foundation; I began to write the list:

A brief interpretation of this list goes like this...

1. Man Up - when the baby comes, I need to be stronger. I can't repeat some of the antics from baby #1, such as telling my wife to "suck it up" or wonder aloud how women without modern conveniences "do it."  

2. Hear + Wake Up - my wife is concerned that when the baby cries, I won't wake up, and she'll be left handling both the toddler and the newborn all the time. As a deep sleeper, I need to be more sensitive to getting up.

3. Be Joyful - when I help out with the kiddo in the morning, I tend to walk around like a big sleep deprived grump, and my wife, whether she feels good or not, is always joyful. She does this, she says, so that our children are shaped by our joy. I need to adopt that approach.

4. As we talked about the birth, it became clear she felt alone the last time around. I wasn't much help, as I was concerned for her and not great at the techniques we learned in class. Could someone else like a family member or doula be in the room to help out? 

5. The last birth was a tough healing process, all kinds of soreness and flare ups. Let's ask God for a better time around.

6. It's hard to find people to talk to, that listen, don't continually add their own stories, know when to encourage, and so on. We want that person for Whitney here.

7. Could Whitney's family be here to help? That's the prayer.

8. Could my family come out to help afterward too? We hope and pray.

9 & 10. We want a safe, secure, organized space for the baby, which we don't have now. 

11. Lord, let the feeding be easier this time around. Boden, our first, had a number of issues that caused both he and mom a lot of pain.

As this list came out of our conversation, I felt that I was gaining understanding of where my wife was physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Immediately I prayed over this list and the results were incredibly fast! Literally that same night I saw the whole tone of the conversation shift from one of being anxious to hope.

We started to explore in conversation how we could make things work. On the back side of this paper, I began to write down tasks to move things forward. By the next morning, several of the larger issues, such as feeling a weight that we needed more space, even a new place to live, had melted away. Within two days, as I began to finish some of the tasks, we began to delight in our existing place and didn't want to move if we could. Within a week it was a new narrative altogether, and I found extra energy to tackle the list of tasks, skipping weekend naps to be productive, which impressed my wife.

While one might point out my extra effort as the reason for the lifted anxiety in our home, I know that it started in prayer in my car lead by the Holy Spirit to a solution I would not have thought of on my own, gave me a resolve to see it through even when I had to take some criticism, and propelled me forward with a new energy. This is the hand of God and as I look back I stand in awe that God could do so much so quickly in our hearts, marriage, and in our home. 

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.
— Ephesians 5:25

Tools That Work, Most Read

An Old Pal Meets Jesus On Facebook

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People talk about how Facebook is evil, and I'm like "yeah right, i'm making disciples up in there!" 

Seriously, I've connected with a bunch of people that has led to us going deeper in the things of God. And what's crazy is I never go looking for it, in many cases people will write me with questions, for advice, or in response to something I've posted. 

I have one pal from high school who reached out to me just to check in and I dropped a quick note that God was good and it has evolved into a journey of exchanges (chats, texts, phone calls) for over a year.

He sends me questions and answering them teaches me. He sends me updates on what God is showing him and it encourages me greatly. 

Here's how it started and progressed thus far:

I think there are a few tips buried here that might help you make disciples on Facebook (or any social media platform).

1. Don't be shy about how God is present in your life.

2. Don't be a religious drone, simply spouting or reposting what other people say. Have your own material. Talk about the personal ways God is speaking to YOU. If you are on social media then invest the prayer and time to do it for the glory of God.

3. Avoid the crazy issues that get everyone inflamed UNLESS you commit to A. learn about the issue from various viewpoints and B. pray a ton about it and get direction from God about what to say.

4. If someone writes you a note to say whats up, drop a little spiritual bait maybe, a note about how God has blessed you or offer to pray if it applies (then actually pray for them).

5. Once people reach out to you, you gotta respond. Don't get nervous about it, their eternity doesn't rest in your hands alone. The Bible says God is drawing them, and that the Holy Spirit teaches them. So proceed in a lighthearted yet intentional way.

6. Don't bombard people with all your favorite books, songs, a free copy of the Bible, and more. I used to do that, it didn't work. Someone else's faith is going to be different from yours, which God will reveal to them in their own time. Not saying don't send ideas now and again, just don't deluge.

7. Let people respond, and a bunch never will after that first interaction. But some definitely will, and its glorious not only for them but for you. 

Consider that your Facebook page (along with everything else in your life) is useful to God for drawing people to himself. Are you tuned in to allow him to do it? Go for it.

Come, follow me, and I will send you out to fish for people.
— Jesus in Matthew 4:19

Real Relationships, Most Read

A Woman I Met Once Impacted Eternally?

 

Essential to walking in God's will is that you become interruptible. God will do it OVER AND OVER again. You have your day or your hour planned out and then you get presented with an opportunity.

  • It could be someone sitting next to you in the coffee shop or on the bus who tries to strike up a conversation.
  • It can be someone who catches your eye that you KNOW you should go talk to.
  • An email that looks too long but you probably should read and process it.
  • A prayer you know you need to do now and should not put off.
  • A favor someone asks of you that is terribly inconvenient but that you can do.

You get the point.

This happens to me ALL THE TIME. Why am I yelling you ask? Because even though it happens to me a lot, and I have learned to (mostly) go with it and trust God, its still very often an internal struggle, its gut-wrenching, I don't want to do it lots of times.

Then things like this happen. Check out this email I got from a woman who stopped by my office at Cityteam to drop off clothing. Mind you, its not my job to greet people who drop off donations. The woman at the front desk was new and she didn't know who else to call, so she called me to the lobby to help this woman. When I saw she wanted to donate clothes, inside I was thinking, boy, I got up from my important time-sensitive work to do this??? 

But I saw something in this woman's eye. God told me to engage her. And so I did, and one thing led to another and we poured our hearts out to each other, and we prayed together, and I think we were both choked up and really encouraged. So much so, she sent me this email later:

Hello Mr. Derfler:

I don't know if you remember me, I was in a couple weeks ago to donate some clothing and gowns. We spoke regarding the gowns being used for the Ball which makes me so very happy. My friend would have been so glad they were being put to good use and I am sure she is smiling down from Heaven.

I do apologize it has taken me so long to get back to you. We also spoke about my brother, who is homeless and mentally ill. I wanted to take a moment and thank you again for your kindness. Not many people want to hear about this topic or are very understanding.

You took the time to speak to me, give me information and most importantly, pray with me. Noone has done that before and you need to know how much it was appreciated. Such little acts of kindness can go a long way.

Please keep up the good work you and City Team do, the community is blessed to have you! Sincerely, Lisa S.

 

Now, is it just me or is it CRAZY that NOONE has ever prayed with this woman? I mean, she just lost her best friend (who's gowns she was donating), she has a homeless brother, and I'm sure a ton of other burdens she is bearing in life. And nobody around her has prayed. 

We have work to do church. Listen for God to whisper in your ear who you gotta talk to. Take time with people. Pray with them. That's how the Holy Spirit moves y'all.

Peace and love to you from me.   ~R

Adventures in Faith, Most Read

God Gave Me A New Brother

While attending the New Canaan Society 2013 Washington Weekend, I had a thought to invite a guy to attend with me the following year. He kept coming to invite. 

I left awash in a sea of new ideas and yet the thought to invite this guy stuck with me. The conference was a year away, I wasn't even sure if I would go again, the cost is over $1,000 and I was not in a position to pay for this guy and I didn't want him to have to pay either. Finally, I wasn't so sure how he'd feel amongst 800 guys who raise their hands in worship of God while singing and tend to be very transparent in their conversations. All of these were not small details, and yet I decided to invite him anyway expecting God to work out the details if it was his will.

When I did invite him he said he was interested, so I told him not to worry about a thing, that I'd take care of it all. Knowing he was in the military I applied for him to get a scholarship. The conference planners said they'd know closer to the date if someone would pay for him. Months passed and as the conference came back around I learned that someone would pay his full fee to attend.Praise God!

So we were all set to attend together and share a room and it was going to be a great chance to get to know this guy better. The day before the conference I drove to meet him, and right away I could tell his family was beyond busy, organized chaos even. Not only did he and his wife have two young children, they both worked in high-level demanding jobs and were both getting a Masters degree at the same time. So it was understandable that they were often running at 100%.

As we drove to the conference together, I could sense that it would take time for this guy to wind down, with everything that was going on in his life. I wondered if we'd get a chance to really connect on a heart level. Even more, I could feel a sort of pull to keep him away from the conference altogether. 

We arrived, had dinner together, and settled in for the night well enough, but without "breaking the ice" to deeper conversation that I desired. Even more, I knew he was getting texts that were concerning him and had him contemplating leaving the conference. 

The next day something happened that changed our trajectory. We listened to Erwin McManus preach a great sermon.

When he was done, Dudley Hall stood up to transition to the next speaker. Before he did, he said he had a sense to stop and pause and give guys a chance to stand up and be ministered to if they needed it. With his invitation, the guy I was with stood up right next to me. I was caught off guard but I stood up next to him and put my arm around him. Soon a few other guys huddled around us and we prayed together. Several of us were choked up with tears.

From the moment we sat down, I could tell everything was different. Our conversation had a lighter quality to it. We snuck off to talk more personally. At a reception later that night, I saw this guy talking amongst a small group and when i walked over to listen in, I heard one former war veteran encouraging him to let go of some of what he had encountered at war. I knew that these were divine connections being made. 

That same night, as we laid down to bed rich conversation ensued, in fact, we stayed up until after 2 in the morning talking about our faith in Jesus, questions, things that don't always make sense, our perspectives. It was amazing and I was so blessed to see our relationship open up even more. 

As the conference came to a conclusion, I was full of emotion over this dear new brother, not just a friend now but someone with whom we had discussed the depths of our hearts. We worshipped the King together, made new connections, and we left feeling as though we had a few new ideas to consider. Miraculously, this guy even shared with me that he felt as though he was healed in some way over the weekend.

And yet, having gone to these things before, I knew that it can be a challenge to go back into a busy home from a "mountaintop experience" to a spouse and kids who have missed Dad. Even more I believe these reconnections can be wrought with attack from the enemy to prevent unity and progress. So I prayed that this guy would find a way to get away from his busy schedule to spend intimate time with his wife, share some of his experience, and even bring her to the mountaintop too. I asked my wife to pray the same thing, and we were astonished when just a short time later, we saw that this couple had posted online that they had found a Christian retreat center to visit in the mountains where their pets and children would be cared for so they could connect one-on-one. My wife and I were so excited about this announcement.

Going into this conference, I thought in some way that I was maybe driving some kind of progress, that I would be responsible for getting us there, diving into the heart issues, cultivating the relationship. Looking back, I can see that yes, there was a role for me to make and follow-up on the invitation, but everything was out of my control and firmly in God's hands. After the conference, the things I thought I might do to keep us connected, this guy beat me to every one! He suggested that we talk regularly to pray, he's sent me notes, small gifts, he's inquired about life even though we live in opposite sides of the country. It reminded me that God draws people to himself, the Holy Spirit teaches, my role was just to be obedient to one little piece of the puzzle to make the invitation and follow through to get us there.

Adventures in Faith, Miracles, Most Read, Prayer

I Found A Homeless Woman Outside My House on Christmas

Whitney and I settled in to watch a movie after a Christmas dinner with our pastor and his family. As Whitney turned on the tv and looked for a festive flick, I took our pacing puppy Archie out for a pee. He tugged toward the front yard and then let out a low growl. "It's okay, Archie," I assured him--a cat was lurking I assumed.

Though, right after I said these pacifying words to the pup, I felt a tug in my gut that something was up. Literally up. I looked at the high wall that separated my yard from a business park next door--then I had a sense to look over it.  I stepped onto an oversize flowerpot and peered into the darkness. Not much visible, just a dumpster to the left and what appeared to be a pile of trash to the right.

I continued to the front yard; but still, the pull in my gut persisted, as if to say look again, and so I did and once again found nothing.

Archie did his business, but I had a nagging sense that mine was not finished. I walked around the wall into the business complex to look from another angle. Again, nothing out of the usual.

Back around the wall I went to my house to watch a movie with my waiting wife, who was most likely wondering where I was. But this hunch in my gut wouldn't quit. So, for a  fourth time I looked over the wall, and this time I called into the darkness, "is somebody there?"

"I'm here," a head popped out of the pile of trash. "I'm here too," another head lifted next to the first. A woman had responded first and she immediately began to explain that she and her friend were not doing anything, that they were in separate sleeping bags even, it was just so cold that they needed to be close.

Carol's sleeping location.

To ease her fear that I would call the cops, I said, "I work for Cityteam and we work with the homeless." Her reply to me was, "God sent you to me!"

Her response struck me. As a Christian, on Christmas, a woman just outside my door sleeping in a pile of trash, saying I was sent by God?? What's going on, I wondered?

"Merry Christmas," I said. "You must be cold, can I get you something warm to drink and are you hungry?" I asked.

"Yes, yes I am hungry," she said."

Okay, let me get you something to eat, I'll be back soon."

Back inside the house, I saw my bride ready to snuggle but it would have to wait. I filled her in and she snapped into action preparing dinner and a bag of provisions.

Back outside, I walked around the wall and knelt down to the two sleeping bags. I learned their names were Carol and Bill. I prodded to learn more about how they ended up in this place on Christmas Day. Carol told me that she has been homeless for over 15 years, a severe alcoholic unable to stop drinking. Living in fear for her life every day from either lack of alcohol, medical issues, or violence on the streets.

She was in this place, she said, because her camp next to a creek was burned up with all of her possessions a few days prior. As Carol talked more about her life and her children, I had a strong sense that this was a heavy spiritual battle and to tell her that she needs Jesus, and so I said just that.

After a pause, Carol said I was right. She even knew something about Jesus, but I could tell her mind was not clear enough to have a spiritual conversation. I asked if I could pray, and they both said yes, and so we held hands and I prayed. I prayed that God would move in that place that very night, and move in Carol to take away her addiction, and move in her in such a way that she could not deny it.

All while I was praying, I envisioned Jesus coming into the world in conditions similar to the encampment where I now kneeled.  There was power in that prayer--I felt it. When I was done, Carol told me tearfully that she wanted to change, she was sick of her life, she was sick of being unable to help her children who had also fallen into addiction and trouble. I told her I wanted to help.

I returned to the house to gather up the food, sandwiches, chips, fruit, vegetables, homemade hummus, candy, two Target gift cards, and more that Whitney had assembled. When I brought it all back, Carol was thankful, we talked a bit more, and then I left her with my business card and a challenge to call me the next day if she was serious about wanting to make a change in her life. This was not my first time making this offer to someone on the street, and I knew the chance of a call from her was slim.

The next day, Carol called...and she kept calling. When we spoke, she confirmed she was ready for change--but what should she do? Seeing that at the time I worked for a company that operates addiction treatment centers, you'd think I would have a fast answer. But I needed to inquire with colleagues about how best to proceed, so I started making calls. I learned that in San Jose the best way for Carol was a medically supervised detox and then a long-term recovery program, which I hoped would be faith-based given my sense this was a spiritual battle. I passed on to Carol the number to call and encouraged her and prayed with her again.

Every couple of days, Carol called me with an update. She started to tell me that something was strangely different in her life. In one call, her exact words were, "ever since you peeked your head over that fence with your wife's hummus and prayed with me, something is going on, you changed my life!" I told her it was not me, but the Holy Spirit of God inside me that made me look over that wall four times, and that God himself moved in her when we prayed.

Listen to one of the many messages Carol left for me.

The entrance into the San Jose program requires patience and persistence, especially for an addict. Carol had days where she was ready to give up, she would yell on the phone, and I would encourage her and remind her I was on her team and then she would calm down. It was also during this time she introduced me to Bruce, a friend who was helping her--he let her use his phone, would drive her places, buy her food and other supplies. Bruce had been through recovery himself several years prior and was now eager to see Carol do the same.

One day I got a call from Carol with a report that she was officially on a waiting list to enter a clinic for detox. Great news! She had anywhere from a week to ten days until she would be admitted. I knew there was going to be a fierce battle for Carol's soul, satan wants nothing more than to keep her trapped in the gutter, the darkness, wet and filthy, on the brink of death. I began to pray for Carol even more than I had previously, Whitney and I prayed for her at each meal.

A few days later, to encourage Carol, I asked her what she needed to make it until she was accepted into detox. She said she needed gloves and socks and a few other things, including a Bible--I was surprised by the request. Whitney and I went shopping for the supplies. When we found Carol's tent tucked in the back of a vacant lot next to a Safeway grocery store, she was clearly drunk. She rifled through the bag of goodies, not seeming all that grateful. Then she pulled out the Bible, and perked up and she exclaimed, "You brought me a Bible!, you brought me a Bible!" She held it close to her chest, and I thought to myself that I had never seen someone react to receiving a Bible like this, and that God was surely up to something in drawing this woman.

Carols Tent

Then, one early Tuesday morning, as I gathered with a group of guys to pray as I often do, I had a hunch to have them pray for Carol. These men love to pray and when we do together we have seen miracles happen! And so when another guy in the group mentioned an encounter with a homeless person, it reminded me to mention Carol, who was impatiently awaiting admission to a clinic. We prayed that God would open doors for Carol that very day.

Later that day, as I laid down for a nap the phone rang. I recognized the number and picked up just before I fell asleep and would have missed the call. It was Carol and she was overjoyed to tell me that she has just received a call that the next day at 11 a.m. she was to be accepted into a six month detoxification and addiction recovery program.

I told her that that very morning I prayed for her with a bunch of guys that God would open doors for her, she couldn't believe it. Ecstatic is an understatement. She said things like: "no way!," and "this thing God is doing in my life is....I can't knock it out....its undeniable," and "God is amazing, He is changing my whole life."

To top it off, she told me that it was her birthday. I asked her about her favorite cake (it's cinnamon coffee cake), and Whitney and I bought one and dropped it at her tent to celebrate her new life.

Birthday cake and card for Carol

Make no mistake, all of this was a miracle. That a woman who has been homeless for over 15 years living in the largest and most violent encampment in the country would be found by me on Christmas Day due to a nagging sensation in my gut, and after a powerful prayer over her that night she would call me to report an unmistakable draw on her life to beat addiction and homelessness, that she would then jump for joy upon receiving a Bible, and now, on her birthday, the same day 15 guys prayed for an open door for her, that she would get a call to enter a program.... these are the ways of life that cause people to throw their arms up and say PRAISE GOD! Any one of these events is unlikely, together they are so far beyond coincidence as to become certainly the hand of God working in a supernatural way.

I kept praying: Lord, keep Carol in the palm of your hand, be her strength amidst her weakness as she heals from years of destruction, and Lord, destroy the enemy, that dirty devil, from having any way in her life right now. Amen.

Again, I just knew that Carol was going to face a battle in this next big step. But I knew that I could not force Carol, she had to choose to show up for detox. I resolved to simply pray for her when the time came to go to detox at 10 a.m. the next day. And at 9:50 a.m. my phone rang, it was Carol, and she said she was not going. My heart sank, and I inquired how this could be. Carol told me that she needed a certain kind of drug to aide her detox, and if she didn't have it she would die. Someone had told her this on the street, and it became the absolute truth to Carol, despite the detox facility telling her otherwise.

Carol said she could not go without this medication. Her plan, she told me, was to go to the Emergency Room to get a prescription, and then she would return to detox as planned. I told her to hold on the phone while I asked a colleague with decades of experience on the streets if this was realistic. What I learned is that this is never done, I urged Carol to go to detox, and she promptly hung up the phone.

Not even two hours later, Carol called me back, she had her prescription and was back to detox. She thanked me, she said she was scared, but she was going to do it, she was ready. I told Carol that I was proud of her, and that she had to know it was going to be difficult, that she might even face spiritual attack, but that she should just open her Bible and read it, or pray to God like he is her friend sitting next to her. Then I hung up the phone and I praised God for opening doors for Carol that nobody thought possible.

For the next week I got an occasional report from Bruce about Carol's condition. He visited as much as they would allow, and said she was doing well. Seven, eight, nine days went by--Bruce was delighted, I could hear it in his voice. She was making it. He revealed to me that he too believed God was behind all of this too. I asked him why and he explained how that as he went through the Alcoholics Anonymous program, he used to read his AA "Big Book" next to a lake, and where the book says to believe in a "higher power" he often saw geese flying over, so he made the geese his higher power. It worked for him, he said, and when he dropped Carol off, just as she walked into the detox center, a flock of geese flew over and he broke into tears.

On the tenth day, Carol left.

Why? Bruce said that Carol was waiting in a van for a ride to the hospital for a check-up and a woman in the seat behind her freaked out and started kicking her seat, and she couldn't handle it, so in that moment of weakness she left.

When I spoke to Carol, she was angry, trying to explain and place blame. I encouraged her to try again, to pray, to tap into that pull in her that changed her heart. She didn't want to hear it now, she shouted into the phone, we parted ways. I knew I could not force Carol to do anything, I resolved to pray for her more but it sank in that ultimately Carol had to choose God back. He moved in her and opened doors so clearly, but she had to accept him and turn to him when things got rough.

My time watching Carol's life change so clearly through things that cannot be explained by worldly measures, that happened against all odds, despite the outcome it gave me a renewed sense that God hears our prayers. And seeing the outcome reminded me too that we have free will and ultimately a relationship with God, like with any other person, to flourish it has to be reciprocal.

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened." Matthew 7: 7-8

Tools That Work, Most Read

I Love to Pray this Prayer by Jack Rase

I've prayed this prayer and have spoken aloud the declaration many times and have found it to be powerful. The guy who wrote it and introduced it to me said that speaking it aloud is important. For the backstory on my meeting Jack Race, click here to read more. 

 

Adventures in Faith, Miracles, Most Read

Revival at Denny's

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Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” -Luke 10:38-42

I was invited to a gathering of pastors at a local Denny's. There were about 20 in attendance, someone spoke for 10 minutes, then we broke into groups of 4 or 5 to see how we can pray for each other. When they got to me, I went on a rant about how God is flooring me and how I don't know what we are doing as a church and why haven't we reached out to pray for our server already.

Minutes later, the server, a skinny 20 –something year old Mexican kid who is all disheveled comes to our table—and a guy at our table asks him, "can we pray for you?" To which he responded: "I wanted to ask you guys for prayer, but I thought you were too busy."

Jaws dropped.

The server followed up by dropping to a knee and saying tearfully, I want to give my life to Jesus, but I can't. We asked him why, and he said because he smokes too much pot. We prayed over him something fierce, one pastor was literally hooting and hollering, another spoke in tongues (I think it was a first for me to hear).

I got his cell number so I could follow-up.  A few days later, one pastor forwarded me his weekly newsletter, detailing the story of Oswaldo at Dennys. How much do we busy ourselves with ministering to those of faith while missing the lost literally right at our table?

As a follow-up, I followed-up with Oswaldo shortly after our encounter and learned the number he gave me was no longer working. So I went to Denny's to see him in person, but he wasn't there. I left a note that another server said she would pass on to him, but I never heard from him. A year went by, and Oswaldo popped into my mind once in awhile.

Then, one of the guys at the table, the one who'd spoken up, he sent me a text message to report that Oswaldo had called him, but he was in the hospital with his wife and couldn't call back. Excited, I called Oswaldo and he answered, there he was. I quickly learned that his English was much easier to understand in person. It didn't matter, I asked how he was and went on to tell him what I thought about him, relaying the truth of God to him. His only response was something about how I had no idea how powerful this call was to him, how important. 

I wish I could say that Oswaldo and I have connected more, we have not. He has never called me back, and I have only prayed for him occasionally. And yet, I trust that seeds have been planted and I pray they will be watered, and I know who to trust for the growth (1 Corinthians 3:6). Even more, given the way this story came to life, I trust that it was a genuine move of the Holy Spirit. 

Adventures in Faith, Most Read, Miracles

A Moving Experience

"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths." Proverbs 3:5-6

Whitney and I were limping along--she recovering from major surgery and post-pregnancy, both of us more sleep deprived than we dreamed possible--absorbing the responsibilities of caring for a newborn baby. Boden turned one month old, I returned to work. I received an email notice--we have 60 days to vacate our home, a place we had just turned into our little predictable, cozy, safe nest. I became nauseous. 

The nausea turned to fear and desperation. How would I tell Whitney? I had to be strong and encouraging, we would be just fine, but I felt like, in fact, we would not. This might do us in. We already felt "done in" as it were. My reaction in the midst of the chaos was to pray, "Lord, help me, help us. Father, please do a miracle, strengthen us, assure us you have us in your hand."

Then I called Whitney. In addition to the email a letter was dropped at the house. A knock on the door, a quick check of the place, baby secure, body parts covered, peeking through the port hole, nobody there, open door, letter drops to the ground. 

She already knew. Like me, she was sick. Unbelievable. How could we do it now? How could she [our landlord] do this now?

We prayed together on the phone. "Lord, help us." We prayed that night, and the next day too. Amazingly, within 48 hours, our hearts began to change. We've seen God work too many times before, we trust Him, we thought that maybe He was up to something, we began to expect a miracle or at least personal growth and spiritual sanctification through this trial. 

Still we were faced with the reality of the Silicon Valley rental market, currently ranked by many sources as the most brisk and expensive in the country. I snapped into action, enlisting prayer support by colleagues, close friends, folks at church. I reached out to those knowledgeable about real estate and began to search listing sites. "Lord, I trust you to provide, but please don't let this down to the last minute like you did with our last move," I asked. 

A couple weeks go by, nothing. One night, late at night, in between feedings and diaper changes and soothing the baby, I feel compelled to check Craigslist from my phone. I rarely do this, as navigating real estate listings with all their details on a phone makes for too much zooming, scrolling, squinting.

There at the top of the search is a place that is.... a block away. Clean. Updated. Slightly larger. Ground floor, better with a baby. Same price as now. It would totally work! One problem...the ad ends with the following: ABSOLUTELY NO PETS!!! We have two, a cat and a dog. 

I decide to call and go see it anyway. Two days later, a block away, we enter to meet Hank. A pleasant guy, the place is better than advertised. It would work. We want it. We tell Hank the same. Hank asks if we have pets. I respond that we have a dog, he's a great dog, house trained, small and clean, minimal shedding, I show him pictures. 

Hank says he likes us, but he has many who are interested, and if another equally likeable couple surfaces without a pet, he will chose them. Understandable.

We depart, and immediately realize that, as seems to be occurring often lately, our minds are not working clearly. We did not communicate that we also have a cat. Our hearts sink. We forgot about our cat. It is plain weird to forget about your cat, but lately, we forget how to pronounce common words. We pray on the way back to our house, "Lord, we want this house, please give us favor."

We know that we have to call Hank and tell him about our cat, which is just a weird conversation to have. "Hey, so we just met you, and by the way, we have a cat too, we just forgot about him." Seems shady, but that's what I did, Hank seemed to understand, he hung up. I told Whitney we most certainly lost that opportunity, she replied that it was in God's hands. 

Later that day, our landlord came by to inspect the property, figure out what needed to be fixed before selling. By now, we had no bitterness toward her, God did that in our hearts. When she arrived, we were pleasant, we showed off how well we thought we had taken care of the place. She agreed--she was delighted. She was eager to list the place soon, and asked how quickly we could move out to which we replied it would likely take us the full 60 days, given the baby and all. Plus, we had no strong leads at the time, just the place we'd seen earlier, but there was the pet problem. She asked if she could call the landlord of that place, to tell him how great of tenants we were, we obliged, and she made the call on the spot. 

We engaged in conversation, which led to her telling us that she had to sell because she was embattled in a divorce, had to liquidate everything. It was a tragedy to her, our condo she had planned to keep for her autistic son so he could eventually live there. Everything was in shambles now. Seeing now that this situation was so difficult and painful for her, we told her we'd keep her in prayer. She left.

Forty-five minutes passed. I went to the mailbox. Oddly, the landlord was still outside, standing next to her car speaking with the real estate agent. "Ryan," she called, "would you come here?" She told me how grateful she was for us, how she wanted to help us even more. She offered to pay for our new place so that we could move in effective immediately, give us all of our deposits back, including the non-refundable pet deposit, and pay for a mover to help. Wow, this was becoming surreal. 

I marched back to tell Whitney the good news about our landlord, and then with another call to Hank with the news, we received confirmation and a key to our new place, a block away, within just a few days. After a hard few weeks of moving, unpacking, and reestablishing functionality in the home, we came to appreciate our new place that offered more space, first floor living (a bit help with a baby and a dog), and a little side yard. 

A stark contrast to our first home search in the Bay Area that went right to the wire, this move during a tough time as new parents was clearly blessed by God as we look back on it. Through prayer we saw our hearts shifted, were able to encourage our landlord, made a stand to be honest with our new landlord, got favor with him, and through much prayer, we saw a new, better place emerge with surprising speed and circumstances. Praise God for that!

Adventures in Faith, Miracles, Most Read

God Named My Son

"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

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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.

Adventures in Faith, Miracles, Most Read

I Was Healed Over A Gin & Tonic

By His wounds, we are healed.
— Isaiah 53:5

Maybe like me you've wondered why you don't hear about or even see people getting healed. Jesus did it, so did his disciples, so what's going on these days that's preventing it from happening around us?

I'm here to report that people are still being healed, and I know this because I am one of them!

I was surveying the room while sipping a gin and tonic at the 2013 New Canaan Society Washington Weekend. I was looking for a familiar face when a young Naval Academy Cadet stepped up to say hello. We got to talking and soon an older man walked up to say hello to the cadet. Then another cadet joined our little circle of four. 

After the cadet and the older man exchanged greetings, the man looked at me and introduced himself as a healing pastor. To this I jokingly replied, "really, that's interesting, any chance God told you to heal my neck?" 

The man with the cane looked at my inquisitively, and he asked me if there was something in my life that was a pain to me, maybe a soured relationship. At the time, I had been struggling to see eye to eye with a someone and so I mentioned that, feeling slightly foolish that I had made a joke. 

He asked if we could pray together, right there. Sure, I said, so the man, who was now known to me as Reverand Nigel Mumford, put his hand on my shoulder and told the cadets to do the same and he began to pray.

While he prayed, he asked me a few questions, specifically about an area of sin in my life, and he asked me if I realized it was forgiven. I said yes, and he asked me to really believe that and repeat it with him. I did.

Then he asked me if I had taken a train into town, and if I was struggling with lust. I said that didn't resonate with me. He concluded his prayers, asking for healing. When he was finished, as we stood around, one of the cadets had a sheepish look on his face, and he piped up that he had taken a train to the conference, and that on the way he was talking to a woman on the train, and he had been tempted to leave to meet up with her. 

While this cadet talked I quietly rolled my head around to see if there was any chance my neck was healed. For several years it was such a constant low pain that I just became used to it. And whenever I rolled my head in circles as my ear touched my right shoulder there was a crunching popping sound at the same spot where I felt a deep strain. I'd had it worked on by massage therapists, tried chiropractors, bought and hung on an inversion table, and more--nothing worked. 

I couldn't believe it at first, by my head rolled smooth as if it was on a new set of ball bearings. I snuck off and made my way into the next room to grab a seat for dinner, rolling my head the whole way. Could it be possible? But how?

All dinner long I kept trying my neck out, in quiet disbelief. Smooth as could be. Still, like many miracles in the early days of my walk with God, I didn't see it right away as a miracle. I realize that sounds dumb to write, but I was just skeptical. And, in fact, a day or two later, the crunching came back ever so slightly. At that point, I thought that maybe I just needed to believe in God more, and I prayed and fasted to tell God that I really did believe. And the problem went away, and it has stayed away ever since.

Once it sunk in that I'd been healed, it changed me and the way I read Scripture, the way I pray, the way I believe in God. Stories of healing were received by me not with skepticism but rather an internal praise to God that it was likely true and even if it wasn't I know He is healing people all the time. 

Like all things in God's Kingdom, there are no formulas, so we will never be able to go out and heal people en masse, not until Christ returns that is. But we do have the option to believe and to listen to God for promptings about how and who to heal. That alone has since led me to many other encounters with healing, which is just an incredible way to live life. 

By the way, I later looked up Reverand Nigel Mumford, and sent him a note to thank him for what he did with my neck. You can follow him and his work online here: By His Wounds Ministry.

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, Miracles, Most Read

Miracle Boy: Ben Pessah

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Through the Legends group in Menlo Park, I learned about a tragedy where a young man named Ben was shot in the head in San Francisco at a Halloween party. It turns out that Ben was friends with a colleague of one of the guys in the prayer group. Actually he was friends with a colleague of the host of the group, and that colleague, knowing that there was a group of men who came to pray in the office Tuesday mornings, asked the group to pray for Ben, who was in deep trouble.

I got a text while at the New Canaan Society weekend retreat in San Francisco, just a day or two after the shooting, that invited a group of guys to go to the hospital to pray for Ben. A car picked us up and off we went to pray for a young man none of us knew personally. On the way to the hospital we received a text from the colleague that Ben's condition had worsened, there was some kind of infection so that he was put into a unit we could not enter. The best we could do was pray in the hotel lobby.

And so we entered the hospital, got as close to Ben as we could in the Intensive Care Unit, and we began to pray. Pastor Shodankeh Johnson was with us--a powerful man of prayer I wrote about here--and he led us in prayer. We had prayed for five or ten minutes when a few young adults walked by us. I can't recall how the exchange happened, but we learned that among the group were the siblings and a close friend of Ben. We shared that we were praying for him, and they said they might be able to come back later to have us go in to see him. 

We prayed maybe ten minutes more, and then we left and went back to the retreat. Then the amazing reports began to trickle in...

First, an email from the colleague that said,

"Great report.  The initially diagnosed "highly contagious bacterial infection" somehow"came up negative" today."  

Then, a few days later, a note:

"a good report re Ben this afternoon. Fluid in the lungs receding. Doctors are optimistic on his prognosis!!!"

A week or so passed, and another note:

"Thank you so much for your prayers and support!"

I am so happy right now I am literally crying. Ben is now awake and is able to move around. His voice is faint (given all the tubes he has had for the last several weeks) but he is able to comprehend and keep conversation! The power of prayers.

I cannot express how thankful, happy, and relieved I am. I have so much to be thankful for this thanksgiving.

Please pass on my thanks to your prayer group and the priest that went to the hospital.

Then, we received an update that the press was beginning to cover this miracle: 

Check out the links below. It's not only us who are declaring this a miracle! Local news is also reporting on Ben's recovery.

Man's miraculous recovery from coma

Holiday Miracle as Man Awakes From Monthlong Coma