Why We Moved

In October of 2010, my wife and I partnered with a core team of people in the Coachella Valley in Southern California to begin Desert Foursquare Church. This is the first time in my life that I’ve lived further than 10 miles from the hospital where I was born. It’s the first time we have uprooted our children from their cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents and the school they’ve attended since they were three and five years old. It doesn’t take an expert to do what we’re doing; it takes a calling.

II Timothy verse 2: “To Timothy, my dear son: Grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord”. Grace, mercy and peace. You’ll need those in abundance, regardless of the path God chooses for you. Here’s how God is choosing me.

In the summer of 2009, I was working for Cascade Christian Schools as the Director of Development. A wonderful, secure, comfortable job with phenomenal people (that I miss terribly). That summer I had a $250,000 construction project that I was overseeing. The sports fields improvements were entirely donated, and I had a responsibility to our donors to ensure that things went according to plan. When my window for a vacation came up, my wife and I booked our trip and hoped on a plane two days later. It was a high of 116 degrees for each of the seven days we were in Palm Desert. It cooled down to 100 degrees at night.

At the end of our stay, I was really looking forward to coming home. We didn’t know anyone in the desert, and I can’t say that I have a natural affinity for the area. I like cool weather, rain and the rich green of the Northwest. Driving towards the airport, my wife began to cry. “It feels like we’re leaving home!” was all that she could say. I couldn’t understand that at all.

Over the course of the next several months, we began to pray about whether or not the Lord was calling us to something new. By October, we took our second trip down to the Coachella Valley. Several friends came with us, and we met up with some friends that had just moved down to Palm Desert. After several days of seeking the Lord, fasting and praying in the Spirit, we knew that we knew. We flew back on Saturday and I submitted my resignation on Monday (one of the toughest things I’ve ever done).

Because of my involvement in several sensitive areas of work, we chose not to announce my departure until January. Even my children weren’t aware of our decision until after Christmas. Of all the things I’ve ever achieved in work, leaving CCS under the best of circumstances, with the best possible hand-off to an incredibly anointed successor was my greatest career highlight.

There was never a single moment where I felt a call to “do” something in the desert. I had a lot of ideas… ways to make a living, things to accomplish, etc. The best way I can sum up our journey to La Quinta was that I was searching for who God wants me to “be”. This radical expression of our faith in God’s leading has been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. We could not have scripted what this would look like when we started, but now that we’re here, I wouldn’t trade the adventure for anything. My purpose, meaning and identity are more complete in my weaknesses, which Christ is using for HIS purpose. That’s who Christ wants me to be. More dependent upon him and less on myself.

The story is just beginning, but the thing I am most grateful to God for are the relationships he’s orchestrated in ways we never could have anticipated. My closest friends are people I either didn’t know or barely knew just two years ago. Cheryl and I are much more dependent upon one another; more connected than ever. My children have a greatly increased appreciation for their family relationships, especially for their grandparents. Our lives are greatly enriched through our church relationships. We need lots of grace, mercy and peace, and we are increasing in our ability to be who God desires us to be.

I am burdened for the people of the Coachella Valley. Watching people come to our church and seeing them grow closer to God gives me an incredible sense of belonging. I wouldn’t trade my experiences with Rooftop 519 for anything. Thank you Jesus for your divine leading. May I continue to be your willing servant.

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Happy New Minute

As I write this, the fireworks and screams have already begun around the world. 2011 is here for more than half of the earth’s population. I can already hear the sound of resolutions giving way; like a semi-breached dam preparing to shatter.

The problem isn’t making a resolution. What I have noticed is that it is really hard to suddenly stop anything when you get really good at it. For instance, I am a really good eater (and I don’t mean well-mannered, unless my manners will increase my access to yummy calories). My first resolution ever was to give up ice cream. I was 13 & pudgy, and I finally figured out that chicks don’t dig pudgy unless you’re a puppy.

How did I work up to my resolution? I practice my craft. 6 ice cream bars latter, I made my vow to never again have ice cream, and I really wasn’t even tempted to have any until at least a day later. You know what I did.

That experience with my resolution helped me to see how fruitless a sudden and sometimes whimsical resolution can be. Resolutions do work when they are a part of a disciplined lifestyle. When we demonstrate faithfulness by the moment in our godly disciplines, we are much more likely to truly resolve to do the right thing. There is very little power in a resolution by itself. There is great power in tenaciously seeking God in the seconds and minutes of our life.

“He will die for a lack of discipline, led astray by his own great folly.” Proverbs 5:23. We all know people like this. I’m sure they make new year’s resolutions, maybe several of them for each December 31 that rolls around. We do not often enough live in the moment; disciplined and steadfast in our resolve for righteousness. We wait for something big to be our catalyst for something better. Unfortunately, the big things in life usually uncover our deficiencies rather than strengthen them. Take Peter, for instance. His embarrassing denial of Christ was preceded by at minimum four smaller failures.

Peter lacked discipline. Christ told Peter that he would deny Jesus three times, but he was very overconfident. Then Peter fell asleep when he should have been praying. In Gethsemane, Peter chopped off Malchus’ ear, a reckless and grossly undisciplined act. When Peter followed Jesus into town, he kept his distance. He already denied Christ in the proximity he kept. How could he resolve to do something like claiming allegiance to Christ when he’d practiced the exact opposite?

The Holy Spirit is in the moment. He is here, now, initiating with us to make the best choices we can. He doesn’t want us to wait until the new year, new day, Sunday, a retreat, a wedding or the birth of our children or grandchildren to do what he wants us to do right now.

“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other… Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” Galatians 5:16,17,24,25

There are many distractions to our discipline. Cut them out. If TV, facebook, Xbox, cars, or needlepoint get in the way of your daily devotion and discipline, wean yourself away from those things. They are not sinful in and of themselves, but they rob you of the moments that you could do something actually meaningful. Do things that resonate with your purpose and identity. Delve into your passions and discipline yourself in the gifting you have. Resolve to do what the Holy Spirit would have you to do this minute. Here’s what’s at stake.

Annual resolutions:

  1. Have a very high failure rate
  2. Lead to spiritual and intellectual frustration and apathy
  3. Don’t help you to develop your purpose and generally lack meaning
  4. Are forgotten by the following year

Resolving to give the minutes to Jesus:

  1. Have a very high success rate
  2. Lead to spiritual and intellectual fulfillment and engagement
  3. Help you to develop your purpose and meaning
  4. Are experienced at the end of your life, and remembered daily until then

What if Peter had been faithful in the moments preceding the cross? What if he had accepted his initial rebuke, prayed with Christ, disciplined his anger and taken the faithful steps of a friend? Peter went on to give all of himself to the Kingdom, even his life. I am sure if he had a mulligan, he would have the internal fortitude to live with Christ in the last minutes he spent walking this earth.

If you read this before the New Year, don’t wait. Give this very minute to Christ. If you’re reading this after the New Year, do the same thing! Joshua 24:15

Vision Goals

Vision Goals

We’ve just presented the strategic plan for the next 2.5 years of Rooftop 519. There are a lot of back-stories about how Rooftop 519 formed, how God anointed our board members to their respective positions, and all of the legwork we’ve put in to making this movement glorify God, but for today, I’d like to tell you what we are agreeing to be.

I asked one of our board members (the youngest guy on the board by about 10 years), Ryan Hart, what he took away from today’s meeting. “We have the best foundation possible for this organization”. I’m pretty sure he’s right. I know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men, and I know what Proverbs 19:21 says, “Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

We’ve poured over and prayed over our goals. I told my friends, this board of directors, that we would only give organizational resources to things that are within the goals, and we would guard against things that might sound like good ideas but are not in the plan. This conversation lead us to make a list of things that we called “inactive vision”; things that we might include in a goal at some point, but we’re not willing to put into action right now or possibly ever. We’ll review these things at our annual retreat in February (and possibly at other board meetings when needed).

Here, in draft form, are our goals:
1. We are engaging one million advocates to advance our cause by December 15, 2011.
2. Our model for inbound medical services is the premier model for bringing children from one country to another for severe illnesses and injuries by December 15, 2011.
3. We create the employee team and operational procedures that enables us to practice a standard of excellence in processes and efficiency, and develops a culture that lives our organizational values by March 31, 2011
4. We build the Crisis Response System for Complex Humanitarian Emergencies worldwide by January 1, 2013
5. We locate our corporate offices in a location that best suits the needs of Rooftop 519 and the constituencies we serve by May 1, 2013

My wife really cares about #5, and I don’t blame her. I’m figuring that it we focus on what the Lord has directed us to do, where we live will work out OK.

We don’t want to try to do too much. There are a lot of really good ideas, and some organizations who start out doing one or two things end up doing five, ten or a hundred different things. Jack of all trades, master of none? I like Jim Collin’s hedgehog. We do one thing, and we do it to the very best of our ability. What we do is vision goal #2.

Our inactive vision is as follows:
1. Sending medical teams abroad
2. Training other surgeons and medical professionals out of country
3. Sending children to other countries for treatment
4. Treating children in the U.S. for illnesses and injuries
5. Disease prevention education

I’ve already heard from a lot of people who make suggestions like, “What about kids here in the U.S.?” and, “What about helping more kids by sending doctors over seas?” While these are both noble, important and totally aligned with our mission, they are not something we can do right now. There are also a lot of really great people who are doing those things (from community children’s hospitals to Doctors Without Borders).

Our Board Chair, Greg Abell, made a comment today that really puts it in perspective. We need to spend more time on our knees than developing the plan. That’s what we’re attempting to do. If you’ve read this far, I would ask that you pray for us as we seek God’s direction, discernment and wisdom. God expects this of us. Broken kids are counting on us.