Origin Story Of The Blog

This has probably taken too long to come about, but alas we are here with an origin story of the blog.

Well, more an origin story of the name. This is more exciting than a story of why I jumped into the trend of blogging.

I love dialogue, and I love questions, so there we go with the ask part. Oh, maybe we should give a better picture than a word by word understanding of my nature and values.

The title flowed out of a posture I took many years ago while leading a young adults group. Maybe I should phrase the term beginning a young adults group rather than leading one. The group started mostly out of my passion to connect with young people in the area. We had a couple or three or four besides my wife and I in a healthy vibrant mostly young families church with a strong Hispanic mix.

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Our church building was basically around the corner from the local community college, Saddleback College, which claimed some 10s of thousands of students. My passion for these students grew as I took the bus in to work each morning. The bus I rode into work stopped at the community college only a couple of stops ahead of my stop for the church office.

These young people were in that wonderful time of early adulthood, a time full of possibilities, loaded with potential, energy and availability like no other station of life, and fraught with insecurity, drama, and the unknown. This is a wonderfully unstable time of life as young people want to be significant, part of something significant, going somewhere and pretending they are somewhere as they figure out where and who they want to be. I simply love it.

My heart broke for these students. How could I connect them with the story of God and what he was wanting out of their life. What more could be done? We did not have any students from the college among the few young adults we had at our church. And I wanted to get out of the office and into the community.

It was like a match made in heaven. But what to do to connect me to this beautiful and open field for conversations.

Through several brainstorming sessions with my pastor and I, we came to the conclusion, I needed to get on campus to make connections. I could enroll as a student in some fun class like pottery, a language arts class, creative writing, or something else. In the end, I decided to go straight out for my purpose, to connect with students as a local pastor, graciously, noncombatively, relationally and open-handed. However, as a blind person, I struggled with how I would connect with students. What might I do?

The strategy took form.

I would take a sign with me. A sign inviting conversation.

A sign to let people know I am blind. For me, people often miss my blindness as I have eyes that look normal. And with sight for 20 years of my life, I still look like I see with them even as I don’t. More importantly, a sign would help me as I could not simply observe who might be open to a conversation. Furthermore, I wanted students to engage me, and not to perpetuate the stereotype that witnessing is getting up in people’s business.

My sign took various adaptations but primarily read, “Ask The Blind Pastor Anything About God” The key was Ask The Blind Pastor. About life, about doubt, about anything at all.

I placed the sign on a table or in anything near the bench I sat on in the quad. And this created space for conversations.

This sign started something for me that helped me engage with people, people outside of church, something that has turned into a blog and constantly learning, listening and dialoguing. I went a couple of times a week, week-in-week-out. This became my passion. I made sure my office assignments could be flexible, so I could be out in the community. If anything, I did not want to be stuck inside the office as the world went by outside. The world often gets neglected as we pastors stay in our church work bubble, and when we forget the importance of modelling a missional posture to the world, it is no wonder evangelistic engagement slips in our churches.

If we wonder why the church is struggling to reach the world, we must ask is the church attempting to reach the world? Some are, some people are, and some churches are doing exceptional at this commission from God. However, too many are simply leaving the task up to someone else, up to the professionals, up to God and his sovereignty, or simply worrying about other things. And with the gravitational pull of working in and for the church, it is easy for leaders to simply stop being present in their community, their neighborhood, their city.

For me, I created an opportunity to dialogue, and I learned a lot about those who were not in church, their values, their passions, their reasons, and simply who they were. I loved it, and I have never forgotten the importance of listening and dialoguing with people outside of the church.

What are ways that you engage with those outside of the church bubble, outside of your bubble?

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Clinging To Hope

We had a glimmer. A glimmer of hope. We felt we heard a word, a word that gave us hope to keep holding on.

Holding on like one day those Cubs will win it all. As a Cub loyalist, you get used to saying, maybe next season. Maybe

Maybe next time.

This is what it is like when you are trying to get pregnant, when getting pregnant is not easy. We often said, Maybe next time. We waited and hoped and waited longer as merely one couple who had difficulty in this area.

There are a multitude of reasons why couples struggle to have children. Some are easier to diagnose than others. For me, I had a low sperm count, so each cycle we hoped, maybe this time. The hoping and waiting can really tear at the fabric of your humanity. We are created to reproduce, so what do you do when that doesn’t happen? We even met with a fertility specialist, a doctor in Thailand while we were living there. He helped us try some interventions short of IVF, but each time fell short. However, on furlough from our mission’s assignment, we thought, let’s just take a break. Let us simply let the stress of wondering and hoping and yearning to get pregnant not be a part of these three months of crazy schedules and travel. Let’s take not only take a furlough from the work in Thailand but also a furlough from working at making a family.

We were six years into our marriage, and the question of when are you going to have a baby seemed to hit a little harder. The answers strained a bit more to come out.

‘It is all in God’s hands’

‘It is up to God’

‘We’ll see’

And so on.

The emotional pain ground at our soul as we navigated our friend’s desires for us to have children. We were now two-and-a-half years into trying. Trying to do what should be natural. What should be God’s design for marriage, for family. But still nothing.

In all of this, we held onto a promise. A promise we received around our first anniversary.

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We were at Foursquare’s Missionary training in Los Angeles at the Historic Angeles Temple property.  We were soaking in the history of our movement, and the heritage to disciple the nations. In the two-week intensive, we found our heart growing in our desire to fulfill our calling to mission.  At this point, we had no idea that Thailand would be our destination, but we were grabbing our destiny.

At the conclusion of the training, they had a commissioning service in which they prayed over each of the candidates for missionary service. For this divine moment, they had invited a special guest to pray over each of us. One of the pillars of our movement, Gene Darnell, began praying over the different couples who were preparing to go overseas to far flung shores or lands. We listened intently as she prayed prophetically over each person. As she drew near to us, our hearts raced in anticipation of what she might pray over us. We hoped for a word of how God would do a mighty thing through our lives in the place we would go, wherever that was to be. We wanted to hear of the divine purposes God had over our life. As twenty-something’s, we knew the world was at our fingertip, and we knew God had big plans. And His plan would overshadow our biggest dreams.

When she came to stand in front of us, we couldn’t hide our eagerness to hear what God would say through her, even as we stood stoically ready to receive a word.

And we could have never anticipated what she would say next.

We would have never guessed it in a hundred years.

Not ever.

She said that she did not have a word for us. But… those words faded off as my heart dropped. God did not have a word for me in that moment. Wow, oh wow. Talk about feeling deflated, letdown, or having the rug pulled out from under you.

But she did have more for us.

well not us.

She said that her word was not for us. However, she had a word for our son. Inquisitively, she asked if we were expecting. Quickly, rw replied, nope, we were not even trying at that point, not even imagining a child as we were still newlyweds in our minds. The little glint of a baby was not even in my eye.

Nonetheless, God had a word for our son and for his future ministry.

Wonderful as having a special word for our future son was, we didn’t give this word much thought over the next couple of years until…

Until having a child became difficult.

Now, back to our furlough, our time in the US after three years in Thailand. After much discussion and inner-turmoil, we decided to let go of the stress of not getting pregnant for a few months before reassessing our plans going forward. To make a long story short, in that break, God blessed us with a miracle. We found ourselves pregnant days before returning to Thailand and couldn’t have been more ecstatic and nervous. We didn’t want anything to go wrong since making the first one was such a slim shot. I didn’t have confidence to say, I could just make another one.

We were blessed in March of the next year with Eliana
 who is now four and as rambunctious, curious, and sweet as could be.

Yet, we still had this promise, this word, this hope for a son. In no way did this diminish our love or joy for the miracle that was Eliana. We knew God blessed us richly with her and would be satisfied if we only have had her.

But a glimmer of hope began to peak up in our hearts. We thought about having two children, maybe more depending on how God blessed us. And so we started trying again, and again, and again.

Quickly, we were back in that old pattern of saying, maybe next time. The pain of waiting 27, 28, 29 days only to have the cycle start again. I held out hope, optimistically believing this could be the month only to have those empty hopes come crashing down again and again.

But we had a promise. We knew that word had come from God. I am not sure how, but we knew that word resonated in our hearts as from God. But now we were nearing our 10-year anniversary. This word was becoming faint as it was nine, long, pain-filled years old.

The picture in my mind of how this word even came at that meeting many years ago was becoming blurry as old memories do. The word and promise was fading, but I was ever-clinging to hope. This thing called having a baby happened once, so surely getting pregnant could happen again. Couldn’t it?

Anything is possible, right.

At the point where hope feels so dim, and you are only reminded of it every 28 days, you start ignoring the longing to have a another child the rest of the time.

I still remember that night when Tina came to me on the couch to share the good news. Since I thought we were waiting one more day before testing, so the surprise pretty much bowled me over. I was speechless and elated all at the same time.

The promise was being reborn in me as the baby was beginning its life.

At the big ultrasound, we found out that this baby was going to be a boy. And the promise was going to be fulfilled, even if it took 10 years. God is not slow in working, but time sure seems to move slow in waiting for God’s timing.

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On April 9, 2015, our little boy was born, healthy and beautiful. We waited to name him until we met him, but there definitely was one name that had to be the one for him—Zachariah Kenneth Opie. Zachariah means God remembers which couldn’t be more true to our story and waiting. Our clinging to a promise.

Are there things in your life, you are still waiting to see take place.

A Life Well Lived

Last week, we celebrated a life well lived at the Foursquare Convention in Anaheim. And as I know this man well, his life has left behind a wake of God’s touch on the world and waves and waves of impact in a family with ongoing influence through the generations.

And this is as good of a reason as any to get back into the swing of blogging after an extended hiatus. His heritage has left a huge imprint on his family.

One of the sweet things I look forward to each year at convention is when our movement pauses for a moment to honor those who have served in ministry for a lifetime (50 and 60 years). I love stopping to say thank you to those who have stayed in the game for the long haul. These men and women are the people I want to live like, far more than the convention speakers.

On Tuesday morning of the Anaheim Convention, Tina’s grandfather, Gary Robinson, was honored among these pillars of the Foursquare Church. Each and every one of these people have given of their life and served people and followed Jesus’ call day-by-day with the longview in mind. They not only started strong but finished well. From my vantage point, that matters far more to me than someone who burned bright momentarily only to burn out. I respect them all, but this year there was one of the honored elders of our movement that I had a special connection to as I have gotten to see his life from an inside view.

To me, he is one of my heroes. Why? Because he lived like his faith mattered.

Over the years, I took Gary on as my own grandfather as he loved me like his own grandson. As I got to see him as a person, I grew to admire Gary more and more for his passion. His passion for the Lord was not just a thing seen in public but a thing he carried deep in his heart. His faith, his relationship with God simply exuded from his being. When you spent time with Gary, you knew you were with a man who spent time with the heavenly father.

But it didn’t start this way for Gary.

As a young man who grew up as a thug street gang leader in the 40s, God and godly living were not on his mind. The great story made short goes like this: God got a hold of Gary and never let go. Once this teenage hooligan decided that God was right and true, he gave his whole life over and never looked back. He determined to live his life like it counted. He decided either the stuff in the Bible is true or it isn’t, and he decided to live like it was true. And he saw God show up again and again in powerful, powerful ways throughout his life.

He has incredible stories of the miracle-working God.

Listen to this great message he recently gave sharing the stories of a man of faith. Click here for podcast.

  • He saw God stop the rain.
  • He saw God raise a dead woman when he laid hands on her.
  • He saw God do extraordinary miracles such as: Blind eyes seeing, crippled walking, the sick being made well, and many, many more.

Gary lived a life of faith with God showing his faithfulness time and time again.

Legacy

But to me, the most impacting and powerful story of Grandpa’s life is his legacy. A man who grew up far from God without family or friends with a godly heritage. All of that changed when he determined to live a new way with Jesus as his Lord. He married a beautiful woman who was saved off of the street as a child. Together they saw God transform their life and their families trajectory. They determined to live full on for God, to live with abandon in the way of Jesus with no holds barred. This was not a life of faith exhibited for public or only on Sunday morning but a life of deep faith at home.

His story has been shared again and again as it gets passed on through his children and grandchildren.

His son followed in his footsteps and has pastored for decades, well on his way to a 50-year pin.

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But the best of all is what you could see in the picture here (not including one grandson who had to leave early). Gary had two kids and four grandchildren. Each of his grandchildren are serving God in ministry. My wife, his eldest, and I were missionaries and serve on staff at a local church. The next granddaughter serves as an executive pastor. His eldest grandson is on a pathway to plant a church in the near future while his youngest grandson recently came back from two months in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya for a medical mission.

The family gathered to celebrate a life well lived, but the reality is that his life will continue to live on in his grandchildren and great grandchildren. We love you Grandpa.