Friday, January 30, 2009

'Dude. That's Not My Car.'

After an exhilarating day of studying the books of 2 Peter and Jude in Cornerstone School of Ministry, we paused from our rigorous studies to break bread together. Or rather finish the day by having a pizza party to celebrate my 40th birthday. Well, unbeknownst to yours truly, some professional pranksters slipped out of the fiesta early to "decorate" my car. So as the party wound down and I headed up to the parking lot, imagine my surprise to find the birthday boy's car all gussied up. Crepe streamers were all over the car and written on the windows were "Happy Birthday Pop" and "Over the hill" and my personal favorite (loosely quoting from a passage in Song of Solomon) "40 with carved ivory abs and inlaid sapphires."

It was an extraordinary sight. One problem, though. That wasn't my car. It was a Toyota, so they were close. Sort of. The car belonged to another student in the class, Gail Winterscheid. Now to avoid some serious embarrassment to the perpetrators (I mean, I park my car in the same place every day and I can't tell you how many times I've pulled into the school at the same time as the anonymous pranksters.) I'm not going to name them. I'll just give some subtle hints: The head honcho's name rhymes with "banana" and her 5-foot co-conspirator's name rhymes with, um, well ... (Somebody drop me a note if they can think of a word that rhymes with "Ahnalise." Thanks.)

Anyways, I don't think I've laughed so hard in many, many moons. When I was retelling the story to Julie on the drive home I just about had to pull over because I nearly peed my pants. The best part about it is that the night before they took a midnight drive over to the house we have been staying at to decorate my car, only to be foiled when we had surreptitiously slipped out a couple days earlier to stay at some other friends' house to watch their kids. Well, Gail took the blunder in good spirits and thanks to the "Toyota Terrorists" for making my 40th birthday very memorable.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

What's 5 more kids?

Tomorrow I hit 40 and I'm happy to report I've found my calling. Or rather we've found our calling: moving into someone else's house and watching their kids. This week we've settled into an old farmhouse and are watching five kids. If my math is right, that makes 17 kids under the age of 19 under one roof. It's kind of wild, I must admit. There's a dog involved (he goes by the handle of "Rufus") a 600-lb. sow named "Sister" that lightened her load earlier this week by 14 piglets (11 of whom are still living and suckling tonight), chickens, cows, miscellaneous cats and who knows what else. There's some serious food being put down in this house, I can tell you that.

The back story is that we got our start in this endeavor back in November when we watched two kids for some good friends who had to leave town in an emergency. We're also lined up to watch four kids for a weekend for a couple heading to Texas in February. Since we left Virginia in September, we've become a mobile family. We're permanently living with friends in Philomath, at least until we head back to Virginia in June, but are pretty much nomads of Oregon, making the rounds of Bend, Canby, Philomath, Corvallis ... we've pitched our tent with all sorts of family and friends. As Pastor Chuck Smith says, "Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be broken." We're blessed to help out our friends and blessed that they for some reason think that inviting a family with 12 kids over to their house to watch their kids is a good thing. So if you're looking for someone to watch your kids, give us a shout. We're ready to mobilize.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Knowledge, understanding and wisdom

Our class at Cornerstone School of Ministry was treated on Tuesday to a teaching on Proverbs by an elder in our church. We were looking specifically at Proverbs 4 and a question came up about the use of the words "knowledge," "understanding" and "wisdom." We had a discussion on what each of those words means and after hearing an excellent, enlightening explanation by one of our brightest students (Editor's note: Didn't you say Brenton offered the explanation?) I thought of it in the context of my life. Specifically last Saturday afternoon when I resorted to my knucklehead tendencies.

Eli had been throwing a fit (Shocking but true: Our resident 4-year-old can throw some real humdinger fits.) and after he finally settled down -- with the aid of our friend "Mr. Spoon" -- it was time to say sorry to the person he wronged. I was in the process of taking the kids for a walk in the neighborhood and was getting kids ready to do that and to confound matters there was a dirty diaper involved. So I got slightly distracted and lost track of whether or not Eli had actually apologized to the aggrieved party. I asked him twice to do it and went off to change a diaper. We were outside in the garage and I was loading up kids in the jogger/stroller when Julie appeared. "Did Eli say he was sorry?" she said. I didn't know the answer to that. Soon we learned he hadn't, even though you'll recall I had told him twice to take care of it when we were still inside. Silly me assuming my 4-year-old would handle this, eh?

Frustrated, I growled at Eli, "Get your butt in there and apologize." At this point I was called out by my 15-year-old son, Ethan. "Dad!" he said. Needless to say, my knee-jerk reaction didn't go over so well with Eli and he started throwing another fit, creating more problems. Here's where knowledge, understanding and wisdom come into play. `Knowledge' would be knowing that saying, "Get your butt in there and apologize," to Eli wouldn't go over so well. `Understanding' would be seeing that the words would cause more friction and damage and would be ineffective methods of conveying my desire for him to apologize. Or in other words, I would understand what a stupid thing it is to say to my 4-year-old. Now we come to wisdom. `Wisdom' would be holding my tongue and saying something else to him. Such as, "Eli, let's go inside and apologize to (so-and-so)." Knowledge, understanding and wisdom. May the Lord grant me the wisdom to understand this concept.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

A Christmas Story

It's nearly a month after Christmas and I'm still occasionally humming a carol or two. It's kind of weird, at least in my book. After delving into the deepest reaches of my psyche (Editor's note: That took what, about a second or two?) I believe I know the answer to why I'm humming, "It Came Upon The Midnight Clear" and etc. See, I pretty much missed out on Christmas this year. My family was here in Oregon and I was in Virginia working for the Daily Press. So yeah, I missed out on Christmas. But you know, I don't want to sound bitter. Or depressed. It was just kind of odd to wake up Christmas morn to the sound of silence. No pitter-patter of little feet, no sounds of little hands trying to sneak a peak in the wrapping paper, no kid asking if I'm awake yet. I thank the Lord I could work, thankful that I got to spend Christmas with good friends in Virginia, thankful for my family's health and so many other blessings He's given us. All in all, I've had a worse Christmas. Which turned out to be my best Christmas.

Christmas Eve the morning of 2000 broke cold and foggy in Corvallis. Maybe it was cold and misting. Pretty safe to say it was either of those two options. We were past the point of no return on a "remodeling" project on a house on Lewisburg Road that I'm positive took at least 2.3 years off of my life. Very likely more. We pretty much bought a beater of a house, stripped it down to a few studs and chimney (You should've seen the look on the county inspector's face when he came to see our "remodel" project after we poured the footings; let's just say he wasn't happy.), then essentially built a brand-spanking new house. But on Christmas Eve morning I awoke stoked about celebrating the birth of Christ and having a big dinner and exchanging gifts. Nosiree. I threw on some work clothes and went out to tear subflooring off the old house to get ready to replace rotted floor joists. At this point we were living in a barn on the property (That's another story. Look for it soon on a blog near you.) so there was a wee bit o' pressure to get cracking on a house that had, among other things, running water.

This particular spot I was working was right next to a large square section of newly poured foundation that doubled as a swimming pool. That's sarcasm. It wasn't really a swimming pool. Recent rains (Imagine that. Rain! In Corvallis!) had filled the approximately 100 square foot section of foundation with water. The water was oh, a foot or two deep, muddy and cold. I remember fishing a dead mouse or two out of it. Maybe they were voles. Whatever they were, they were way past treading water. Well, I bet you can see what was coming. As I was using a long pry bar to try ripping up the sub floor I lost my balance and very ungracefully took a flying leap into our new pool. "Kerplunk," I went. You know how when you get doused with cold water it takes your breath away? Man, I sucked in some filthy rainwater when I gasped after doing a belly flop. It wasn't pretty. I came up sputtering and cursing ... oh I was hot. Well, cold actually. Cold, wet and very unhappy. Here I was, living in a barn with seven kids and a pregnant wife (Go figure. Julie was pregnant.), my remodel project was months behind schedule, the money for the project was going fast, it was the day before Christmas and I couldn't afford to buy presents for one kid let alone seven ... I wasn't taking it well. I stormed into the barn and the killer part of all this was I was shivering cold and really didn't have a prospect of heating up. See, some wonderful friends of ours had parked their fifth-wheel trailer on the property but it had this itty bitty propane water heater that produced a minute or two of hot water for a shower. That didn't help my disposition.

Somehow Julie convinced me to go to church and I remember in the parking lot seeing my buddy Matt Fields and his family. Matt hollered out a greeting and I distinctly remember not even answering him. Just scowling. Julie was so embarrassed. I'm lucky we didn't have a wooden spoon in the van. She probably would have used it on me. For good reason. I'm sure I stayed sour through the whole service and even afterwards as we headed back to our van. We got to the van and I flung open the big sliding door ... and the seats were full of presents. The van had so many presents in it there was no room for the kids. Toys for every kid, clothes for all of them (right down to the correct sizes) ... it was unbelievable. The kids were freaking out, as you can imagine. I had to drive the van home, er to our barn, unload it and come back to pick up my family. To this day I don't know who pulled that stunt because no one at Calvary Chapel Corvallis would ever own up to it. They'd just smile and say, "Praise the Lord!" I'll never forget it, though. And I'll never forget how small I felt as well. What a butthead I had been that day. I asked the Lord to forgive me. I'm sure I apologized to my family. There's probably some big, profound lesson in here somewhere. All I know is God took what I had made bad and made it good. Just like Him, eh?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

A Prophecy? Nah.

Twice in the past two days, two of my instructors in Cornerstone School of Ministry have referred to my 13 kids. I don't know what's up with that. We only have 12 kids. There's part of me that thinks, `Oh, cut 'em some slack. I mean 12 or 13, what's the difference, right?' Really, what's one more at this point? People with 1 or 2 kids, or even 3 kids, frequently say to us something along the lines of, "I don't know how you do it." To answer that question, first off I say we're living proof there's a God in heaven. That's plainly obvious to anyone who would try to raise, feed, diaper (see yesterday's informative post for more diapering insight), put in braces, not leave any at rest areas on 3,000-mile cross country trips and generally survive having 12 kids. Or 13 if I've lost track. (It actually kind of got me wondering if Julie had slipped one in on me. As a general rule of thumb I try to keep pretty good track of these things. Or at least thought I did. Have I been that busy with school?)

The other thing I tell people, after God is good and always provides for us, is that when you have 1 kid and go to 2, you've just doubled your kid population. When you use the words "double" and "population" in such close proximity, that qualifies as an explosion. In every sense of the word as parents can attest. Then when you have 2 kids you generally think, `Sheesh, one kid was a piece of cake.' If the Lord blesses you with 3 kids, you think how easy it was with 2 kids, but again you've increased your house o' kids by50 percent. That's still a big number, percentage wise. Now, I'm not saying when you get to 12 you think, `Wow, 11 kids was such a breeze.' Even though, of course, as a percentage you've only jumped 9 percent, which is obviously a much smaller number than 50 percent. (I'm not sure what I proved by throwing around all these numbers. If felt good because it made me feel like I really do have a left side of my brain. Anways, maybe a math whiz can tell me what all the numbers mean.)

Getting back to these instructors telling me I have 13 kids...someone said it's prophecy. Now that I take issue with. Prophecy should generally be reserved for divinely inspired predictions. Like what you find in Isaiah 53 (For example, "And by His stripes we are healed." That's a clear reference to Christ's crucifixion and how he saved us from our sins.) and a multitude of other examples (Such as Psalm 22:1, "My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?" Which are words uttered by Christ on the cross). Predicting Julie will bear another child is hardly prophecy. Talk about an easy kill. Isn't that more of a `fact'? Doesn't she have a fairly decent track record of having a fruitful womb? I mean for 12 out of the past 19 years she's produced a kid. No, prophecy would be something like a prediction that Julie won't have more kids because the Lord has something else for her. And you know what? That would be hard for me. I love our babies. All 12 of them. Or 13, whatever the count is these days.

Friday, January 16, 2009

My Best Worst Diaper Story

We've been changing diapers for 19 years. That's 19 years straight. Surely that puts us up in some sort of record category. A lot of that time we've had two cute little rumps in diapers. I tried to do the math on it and by my calculations (Warning: I'm a journalist whose last dalliance with math was as a high school sophomore, so any mathematical undertakings are subject to ready suspicion.) we've changed in excess of 60,000 diapers.

I'm going to let that marinate for a minute. Ruminate on it even. Sixty-thousand. Diapers. Probably more.

I work at home so I've changed diapers in a pinch while writing articles on deadline, interviewing sources, even while telling my editor why I might have gotten something wrong in a story I just filed ("Dude, I was changing a diaper. Cut me some slack, eh?"). I'm not sure what size of dumpster 60,000 diapers would fill, but I'm sure it would be an extraordinary sight. In a disgusting sort of way, I reckon. With a 9-month-old and an un-pottytrained 2-year-old in the house, we're still going strong diaper wise. I've got plenty of bad diaper stories. What parent doesn't?

But here's my best `Worst Diaper Story.' We got married at the onset of my senior year of college and lived in this drafty shack, er house, in North Portland. It was a tough neighborhood. A few houses down was a 24-hour pharmacy, or a `drug house' as some people call them. We were in a cloth diaper phase (Hey, we were young, had no money and concerned about the environment. We got over it.) and we stored the diapers on the back porch in a plastic 10-gallon pail with a lid on it. It worked out ok until February, when an Arctic Blast hit Portland. We're talking sub-zero wind chills. Inevitably, we ran out of cloth diapers. I bundled up, trundled out to the porch and grabbed the pail and headed down to the basement to the washer and dryer. The washer was a top-loader and when I went to dump the diapers in the wash, out came a ... frozen solid brick of diapers. "Clunk," it went on the washer.

When the initial shock and horror wore off, several thoughts went through my head. "Do I get a blow dryer and thaw it out?," was my first original one. "Grab a hose?" was another. I was at a loss. This wasn't in my parent handbook. I couldn't Google "brick of diapers" and "how to thaw out" because Al Gore hadn't even invented the Internet yet. Let alone Google. I looked around the basement. Hmmmm. There's a hammer over there. I grabbed the hammer and went to work, taking apart that brick one whack at a time. The worst part about it? The frozen slivers of, well, you can imagine what that went flying. After the first whack or two I was shielding my face with my left arm and swinging away with my right. Needless to say, it wasn't long after that experience that we changed to plastic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

`We Count Our Lives Dear'

"But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." -- The Apostle Paul, as recorded in Acts 20:24 (NKJV)

The day after Thanksgiving, my Christian brother Josh Baley awoke in Jos, Nigeria, nearer to heaven. Hundreds of Muslims armed with machetes, bows and arrows, knives, farm tools and even guns were rampaging through the city that sits at the crossroads of Nigeria's Muslim north and Christian South. They had arrived at the compound where he was staying -- Josh was on leave from his church in Abuja, where he is an assitant pastor, worship leader and children's ministry leader -- and were trying to scale high fences while chanting, "Jihad! Jihad! Jihad!"

Josh had been sent out by Calvary Chapel Corvallis (I first met Josh probably in 2000 while we both attended the church, before I moved to Virginia in 2004) to the mission field in Nigeria in 2005. On Wednesday morning, while on leave from the mission field, he shared his testimony of persecution with our class at Cornerstone School of Ministry at Calvary Chapel Corvallis. "They were going to kill us," Josh said. "Wipe that whole place out. Because we were Christians."

Josh recounted how he remembers telling God his life is in His hands. If it was his time to go, he couldn't change that. Helpless, Josh nevertheless felt a surge of overwhelming peace. He told us he'll never forget saying, "God, you have to move. There's nothing we can do." Miraculously, the mob became distracted and dispersed enough for Josh and others in the compound to make an attempt to flee to safety. As Josh reflected on that morning in Jos, he spoke of how Paul went to Jerusalem, certain that "chains and tribulations await me." (Acts 20:23, NKJV) "You may have to lose your life for Christ's sake," Josh told us. "Are you willing? I believe Paul was at the point where, `If I die, I die. I'm going to go be in a far better place with Jesus."

Josh described how he made it to safety and how gunshots preceded the dispersal of the Muslims. The rampage claimed about 500 lives, Josh said. Throughout the ordeal, Josh became closer to God. "I learned of God's nearness, his closeness through it," Josh said when he spoke to me later. "You honestly forget about everything else and your focus is on the Lord. You forget about physical things. God is really near during those times."

In class, Josh said Paul always talked about finishing his race. "Man, I want to finish my race, but in order to finish my race I can't count my life dear to myself." Is he prepared to die for his faith? "Honestly, I can say yes," Josh said. "These fierce Muslims that are running around killing people, they need Jesus. I know if they got Jesus in their heart they would change."

Josh told our class he was called to the mission field in 2000, while attending class in the School of Ministry. Perhaps some of the 20 of us in class will enter the mission field in a place like central Nigeria, where martyrdom may await. Will we be deterred by Josh's diagnosis? "The problem is," Josh told the class, "we count our lives dear to ourselves." Josh's stay in the U.S. ends January 24th, when he returns to Nigeria with a "burning heart for the people," he said to me later. "Because they need to know the truth, you know? It comes down to I could lose my life -- well, I could lose my life here -- but these people, if they're going to die, they're not going to be with Jesus. We know where they're going. If I die I'm going to meet Jesus."

Monday, January 12, 2009

When Queen Elizabeth Came To Town

Today we get a special treat. Or maybe not, depending on your sense of humor. In May 2007, Queen Elizabeth II visited our neck of Virginia as part of the 400th commemoration of the arrival of English settlers in 1607. My employer, the Daily Press of Newport News, Va., commissioned me to write a welcoming article. Or something like that. I took a slightly different tack and somehow it got published anyway; you wouldn't believe some of the hate mail we got in the aftermath. Here it is, in all its glory. Good luck with the quiz.

Welcome, Queen Elizabeth II! So glad you could make it back after all these years. We're still not sure whether we should shake your hand, bow, or what, so we'll just wave. Anyway, as you know, some of our ancestors here in the great commonwealth of Virginia used to be your loyal subjects. Well, not yours personally. You're not that old. So to help our loyal readers who might be out of practice as subjects, we've come up with a list of questions, facts and even little-known items that will help them get to know you better ... without actually having to meet you. We knew you'd like that.

How much do you know? 1: How many children does Queen Elizabeth have? (Bonus points for naming her husband and one or more kids.) 2: Name one sovereign state Elizabeth holds the title of queen in. Besides the United Kingdom, dummy. (Bonus points for naming all 15.) 3: Which of the queen's grandsons recently broke up with the daughter of a commoner? We'll give you a hint: His first name is Prince. (Bonus points for naming the female commoner.) 4: Is it OK to marry a cousin? 5: What tourist place in Virginia should Queen Elizabeth visit above any other? 6: If Queen Elizabeth wanted to taste original American fare in Virginia, where should she go?

Answers:1: Chuck (Prince Charles), Annie (Princess Anne), Andy (Prince Andrew) and Ed (Prince Edward). Phil (aka Prince Philip) is Elizabeth's loyal spouse. 2: Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, Saint Kitts and Nevis. Is that 15? No? Oh yeah, almost forgot. Canada. 3: Prince William. He's the first son of Prince Chuck. Willie's ex is Kate Middleton. 4: Sure! Elizabeth did. In the interest of full disclosure, however, Philip is like a distant cousin. Second cousins once removed, to be accurate. That's pretty distant. Right? 5: Surrender Field, Yorktown. If the Americans, with some help from the French (Wow. That's got to hurt, eh, Lizzie?), hadn't kicked some serious Lord Cornwallis butt at Yorktown back in the day, we'd all be speaking English now! 6: We suggest the Hardee's drive-through in Gloucester Point. A Thickburger tastes best when you have a commanding view of the Battle of the Hook battlefield. That's where American and French (Aaaargh! Stop with the French!) cavalry and infantry units beat the tar out of England's Lt. Col. Banestre Tarleton on Oct. 3, 1781, effectively hemming in the British forces at this little port called Yorktown. Days later, white flags were en vogue (pardon our French!) in the British camp at Yorktown.

`You're What?'

We get lots of questions about this whole 12 kids thing. Like, what's that all about? Believe it or not, when I was romancing Julie way back in the day I didn't sweep her off her feet by telling her it was my deepest heart's desire to sire enough wee lads and lasses to fill a 15-passenger van. The truth of it is we were just as surprised as anyone to get to just three kids. It's true. We were just going to have two kids. So much for our plan, though, as things quickly seemed to get out of hand.

We were living in Ontario, Ore., a dusty outpost of 10,000 souls hard against the Idaho border in Oregon's desolate outback. I was a sportswriter for the local daily and when we hit town in late summer 1992 we had two little boys -- Brenton, 3, and Taylor, who had been born in April. We thought it was perfect: Two little boys three years apart. They'll grow up to be best friends, just one more trip through the terrible twos, we won't have to get a minivan...all the important reasons to get out of the `having kids' business. Somehow, however, Julie got pregnant when Taylor was just 5 months old. I was flabbergasted and Julie was quite puzzled herself. She was still nursing Taylor, had not started her cycle and we were under the impression that she couldn't get pregnant. Well, we're here to testify she can.

When Ethan arrived in July 1993, we were living in Prineville, a cowboy town in the shadow of towering rimrock smack dab in the center of Oregon. I distinctly remember holding baby Ethan one night in my arms and walking around our two-bedroom, 900-square-foot house and thinking that if we had our way we wouldn't have this little treasure. Though we dabbled with birth control after Ethan was born -- rather ineffectively I might add -- God was changing our hearts. In May 1995, God brought us another little treasure in the form of Claire. These four little kids were all so beautiful and perfect and we couldn't imagine life without them. At that point we decided to leave our family planning up to the Lord. And we know how He feels about that. Try Gen. 9:1 on for size, where God said to Noah and his sons: "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth." Or turn to Psalm 127 where the psalmist talks about children being a heritage from the Lord and the fruit of the womb is a reward. "Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one's youth," he writes. "Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them."

We're not sure where we'll end up in the final tally. That's in the Lord's hands. But we're so richly blessed and are so grateful and honored the Lord changed our hearts and has brought us seven boys and five girls. Or more.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can I Go Too?

We were somewhere in the bowels of southwestern Virginia, hurtling down I-81 at 75 mph, 13 of us destined -- we hoped -- to reach Brentwood, Tenn., sometime that day. It was Sept. 13, the first leg of our Oregon Trail journey to Corvallis where I would begin the Cornerstone School of Ministry eight days later. We were about halfway through the day's trip of 700 miles when Ezra had an epiphany. Our resident 2-year-old had figured out this wasn't a shopping trip to Wal-Mart. We weren't heading to church in Williamsburg either. This seemed much bigger than that. He just didn't know what it was we were up to.

"Where are we going?" Ezra said. Claire told him in an excited voice that we were going to Aunt Jami's and Uncle John's house. We would spend two nights there before continuing on to Oregon. She was doing her job to take Ezra's mind off of the monotony at hand and get him thinking about the prize at the end of the day's trip. It worked. Apparently Claire's excitement was contagious because Ezra exclaimed: "Can I go too?"

That brought a good laugh in the van. A few days later, perhaps in the cornfields of Nebraska, or maybe the chlorophyll-free high plains of Wyoming (I confess I can't be sure exactly where my epiphany occurred; I just know it happened), I just thought, `Wow, what a great heart.' Ezra was right on the money. He didn't exactly know what the journey held. He didn't know how long of a ride he was in for, or what he would have to endure. He knew the destination though, and that was enough for him. And what struck me was how accurately that portrays what this life is like for me and my family at the moment. I know the Lord led us to Oregon for me to be better equipped to handle God's word. I don't know what travails lie ahead. Or what we'll have to endure, other than it's a year of sacrifice. But I can cling to the words the Lord spoke to me about heading back to Oregon in August, when He spoke to me in the book of Jeremiah, chapter 15: "If you return, then I will bring you back." That said to me the Lord was with us in our endeavor. Jeremiah continues to describe how people will fight against him but they will not prevail. "For I am with you to save you and deliver you," says the Lord. Whatever comes our way, I can rest in that.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Cardboard Testimony

This morning was awesomely powerful in Cornerstone School of Ministry. Brother Walt opened the morning with a devotion that reminded us all to never miss an opportunity to share our testimony. His presentation included a snippet of video from the Dec. 21 service at Calvary Chapel Corvallis. Here's a link to it:
Just click on the Dec. 21 message.

Afterward two of our students shared their testimonies and what a powerful work of God that ensued as we gathered around one of our sisters and lifted her up in prayer. It was awesome how the Spirit was moving.

Watch the video. So what's your testimony?

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A night with JFK

My trip home from three weeks in Virginia over the Christmas/New Year's holidays was, let's say, eventful. My connecting flight getting into NYC was late Monday night, then sat on the runway for 30 minutes ... just enough time for my flight to Portland to take off without me. Nice. So went my stint in JFK International in New York City: A night in the airport. But God has these things all figured out, right?

I spent about 2 hours in a CNN bookstore talking with a Navy dude named Cameron. He's assigned to intelligence and stationed in Virginia Beach. I asked him what sort of intelligence we were talking about and he said something to the effect of, "Without getting too specific, we look at what other people are doing." If he told me much more than that he'd probably have to kill me. Which wasn't really an option for me, seeing as how I was really looking forward to getting home to my wife and 12 kids. We chatted about all sorts of things and he told me he had a Catholic background. He had a bunch of questions and misguided observations and we started talking about the Bible. I got to share with him the deity of Christ, why some books are in the Bible and others aren't and a bunch of others aren't and a bunch of other stuff I learned in my first term of studies. Cameron was on his way to Naples, Italy, and may God bless him and I pray some seeds have been planted in his heart.

The next morning I made it to Salt Lake City and on the next plane to Portland I sat next to a woman from Salem and wouldn't you know it we started talking Christianity. She made a comment about how she doesn't believe in the Trinity and whoa! I walked her through how the Bible lays out the Trinity from the first verse in Genesis all the way through, including the gospel of John and on and on and on ... again maybe some seeds were planted. I think my enduring memory is landing in Portland and knowing what awaited me just outside the security area: Julie and 9 of my kids (the oldest three were already in Corvallis at the church for classes). I think I'll always remember striding toward the security area, breaking out in a big ol' grin and laughing.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy Birthday Julie

I met Julie the night of April 30th, 1989. My buddies Mark and Bob Webber had gone to high school with Julie and the Webbers and I ended up at the University of Portland, where we were on the cross country and track teams together. School had just finished but the three of us were still running track so I was staying with them at their house in Canby. Being typical lads, we were making the rounds of the local populace and the Webbers were introducing me to their friends. Funny how all of them were young women. So we ended up at the house of Julie Young ... who was 8 months pregnant.

They had told me the story of how when she got pregnant the father ditched her. They were good friends with her and they made it clear she was a sweet girl who got caught in a bad situation. Well, we'll see, I thought. That night we had a great time. We laughed a lot (back in the day I knew a few good jokes) and I remember when I walked in the door and met her thinking, `Sheesh. If she looks this good this pregnant she's a keeper.' Two hours after we left Julie went into labor. In the morning, voila: Brenton was born. The Webbers and I went to visit the two of them in the hospital and I was the only one of us who held the baby. What a guy, eh?

Julie and I started exchanging letters, then in the summer I'd drive over from Bend to visit ... by July I remember telling my buddy RB I was going to marry the girl. He gave me this look like he thought I was stark, raving mad. So call me a prophet. On Sept. 1, 1990, Julie and I were married at a church around the corner from her house in Canby. You know how I said earlier she looked awful good at 8 months pregnant? Well, our running joke is that I've kept her pregnant ever since. But let's be clear here about something. I'm not the one always getting pregnant ... that probably didn't go over so well with the women in the audience, eh?

God has blessed me beyond measure. She loves the Lord with all her heart, strength, mind and soul. She is kind, patient, giving, loving, has really nice long legs, is faithful, lovely and so much more. Her inner strength is amazing. It's a strength she draws from the Lord and I'm always amazed by it. We're 3,000 miles apart today, Jan. 3rd, her 40th birthday (I started this post on Jan. 2, hence the date at the top of the post). I love you and I'll see you Monday night.

Let's get started

It's true. My wife Julie and I have 12 kids. Yes, we know what causes that. Next question please. Oh, don't bother, I know what it is: You're wondering what we roll in, right? We have a 15-passenger Chevy Express van. It's a great ride, even when it's almost full. Basically we live in the belief that children are a blessing from God. See Genesis 1:28 and Psalm 127:3-5 for references. At this point in our lives, we're living a rather nomadic existence. See, we live in Gloucester, Va., but we're about 1/3 of the way through a 9-month stint in Oregon where I'm attending Cornerstone School of Ministry at Calvary Chapel Corvallis. You've heard of going postal? We're going coastal ... come along for the ride.