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March 2007
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May 2007

Not So Fast

I wrote my last entry and then got on the plane for Nairobi.  Five minutes before our scheduled departure, they announced that the plane had a cracked windshield and we could not leave.  So they got us all off the plane, we claimed our luggage, they put us on a bus for a local hotel, where there was one attendant to check all 200 of us into the hotel!  I got into my room at 10:30 PM and then came down at 5 am for the bus back to the airport.  Now I am here and there is no one at our gate, even though we are to leave in 40 minutes.  This doesn't look good.  Bad show, Kenya Airways and KLM!

In my 18 years of travel, this is the first time this has happened to me.  I guess it was just a matter of time.  I can't wait to get on the plane, so I can get some sleep!


He Still Won't Spend His Money

I can't get God to part with His money. I arrived at the Kenya Airways counter last night with my three heavy bags. I told them that I was one over the limit and was prepared to pay. The man at the counter said there would be a charge, and made a call to find out now much. When he got off the phone, he said, "No charge!" I still can't get God to part with any of His money for my excess baggage! I also got an exit row aisle for the all-night flight, my sixth all-nighter this year.

I had a great time in England, but only spent one afternoon in London. I did also travel through on my way to and from Birmingham but decided not to press it by going back into the city to see a show. I had some things I wanted to get done this week and invested my time in those projects. I got them done.

Yesterday, I delivered my message entitled "It Takes One To Know One." In it, I focused on the fact that Timothy, according to Philippians 2:19-23, was able to put his own interests aside to serve others. I used him as an example of servant-leadership and made an appeal for more leaders like Paul and Timothy in and out of the church. If you would like to see my slides, they are included below.

It Takes One.ppt


Self Talk

Did you ever notice that you are almost always having a conversation--with yourself! I didn't realize this until I sat for my training at The Pacific Institute. After that, I "listened" to myself talk to me. When I would make a wrong turn, I would think (or say), "You idiot!" When I would make a mistake, I would "ask," "How could you have been so stupid?" As the founder pointed out, if I had a friend who talked to me the way I talked to me, that person would no longer be my friend!

I can see this principle in the Bible as well. The psalmist wrote:

Why are you downcast, O my soul?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.
My soul is downcast within me;
therefore I will remember you
from the land of the Jordan,
the heights of Hermon—from Mount Mizar (Psalm 42:5-6).

He was talking to himself when he was downcast. What he said was important, for it could either pull him out of his funk or push him deeper into it.

How do you "talk" to yourself? If not too well, could this be where you need to work to "renew your mind" as we are commanded to do in Romans 12:1-2? I've had to work hard over the last two years to improve the conversation I have with myself. In other words, I've had to change the way I think.

So listen how you talk to yourself. Could that be the source of some of your discouragement and, if you improve it, could it be a new source of inner strength? It has been for me.

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British Trains

I like riding the trains in England. I think they are reliable and efficient, and I enjoy being able to look out the window as I travel. England is in the full bloom of spring, so the fields are green and the trees are flowering. To get to Birmingham today, I had to take a train from Abbey Wood, then the Underground from Charing Cross to Euston Station and a Virgin Train to Birmingham. I almost always travel Virgin trains. In fact, I have Virgin mobile service and fly Virgin Atlantic every now and then. I like the Virgin brand and Sir Richard Branson, its founder.

I bought a new phone over here yesterday equipped with Bluetooth hands-free technology. Now that I have Bluetooth in the States, I can't do without it over here. I got a good deal on a phone, so I thought, why not? I am sitting in Euston Station right now, waiting for a purpose profiling session to begin. Then it's off to Birmingham.

By the way, I delivered another message on Samson last week while I was at the Cathedral of Life in Providence. The title of the message was "Don't Eat the Grapes!" It is the sequel to my message "One More Time," also focusing on Samson. If you would like to see my main points, check out the Powerpoint below.

Download Slides: Don't Eat the Grapes-2.ppt


But He Chose Not To Spend It

I wrote how I brought over a third suitcase, willing to pay the extra fee because, after all, it's God's money and I'm doing God's work. I got to the Continental ticket counter and they informed me that I owed $135. I said fine. Then they said it was $110 and I said fine. Then they lowered it to $80 and I gave them my credit card to pay. They could not process the card so they told me to forget it, they would just put all three of them on at no charge! It's God's money, but He chose not to spend it.

I had a good flight over. I don't travel Continental Airlines often, but I should. They are a good airline (take note, British Airways). I slept well last night, and I only mention that because I found some homeopathic pills that promise to prevent jet lag. I was skeptical, but I've used them on two trips now and I think they work! What a great discovery! Check out the No-Jet-Lag site to learn more.

I am sitting in a Starbuck's coffee shop in Bexleyheath in southeast London. I have no appointments today, so I am working on some writing projects I have been putting off for some time. Tomorrow I head up to Birmingham to be with my friends Bishop Melvin and Yvonne Brooks at New Jerusalem Apostolic Church. Yvonne is also the founder and director of Women of Purpose, so named after she heard my purpose message, I might add. Then I am back in London through Sunday night. Of course, I will squeeze in a show in London at some point during the week.

I have no Internet connection at the flat where I am staying, which has caused me to face the fact that I am addicted to email! I think the absence will do me good.

The weather here in England is spring-like. Of course, I brought an umbrella with me today since it is overcast. Gotta run. My Internet time is running out!

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It's God's Money

I am packed and ready to head out the door. My first stop is England, where I will be for the next week. Then I am heading to Kenya and will get into Harare on May 7. I don't like the thought of being away from home so long, but I have a full itinerary and will take it one day at a time. That's just a lot of days to apply the one-day-at-a-time mentality.

When I was packing last night, I confronted a mound of stuff I had to take. I have a full set of clothes in Africa but not in England, so I have to take some clothes with me. Most of what I have to take, however, is books, profiles and supplies. I was agonizing over how to pack it all into two suitcases when I made an executive decision. I decided to take three bags and pay to check the extra bag. Why not? After all, it's God's money!

Usually when you hear that saying, it means that someone doesn't want to spend money. They are trying to be a good steward over the resources God has given them, so they are being frugal or careful. There is nothing wrong with that. In some cases, however, you have to spend money to do what God wants you to do. In those times, I need to understand that I am spending God's money. It's His work, therefore, it's also His expense.

I have two sayings that I picked up over the years and I use them all the time. They are:

When it's God's will, it's God's bill.

and

Where God guides, He provides.

There is also one phrase that I made up and use as well:

It's the cost of doing business.

It is God's will for me to go; He has led me to do so. Therefore I am presenting Him the bill for the extra bag. What do I care how God spends His money? That's His business. So I will be taking the extra bag and I have peace.

Are you uptight about spending money, money that you have no choice but to spend? Don't be. If you're doing God's will, then you're spending God's money and He is a good banker, investor, and financial counselor. He's not uptight, so don't you be. And having written that, I am off to the UK!


Birthday Reflections

I just finished celebrating my 57th birthday. It was a nice day, and I heard from all my family. I was a bit preoccupied since I'm busy getting ready for a nine-week trip abroad. As you can imagine, there are a lot of things to wrap up before I go.

This last year was one of the best of my life. As PurposeQuest the business entered its sixth year, the seeds we had sown in the early years began to bear fruit. My training at The Pacific Institute made a profound difference in my life, giving me a systematic, common-sense program to enable me to renew my mind and change. I am enjoying my work more than ever. I have heard athletes say that at some point they stop trying to make things happen and let the game come to them. I think I understand now what they mean. The purpose message is alive and well, and I have been its student for 16 years. That must count for something.

I have more energy than I've ever had to do what I do best. I still haven't figured out how to pack "lightly"; maybe that will come with more time and travel. I have a lot of goals for the year ahead of me and I am optimistic.

So there you have it. I enter my 58th year with new nations to visit and new insights to share. I can't wait to see what lies ahead.

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John, Are You Afraid to Go to Africa?

By now, the world has heard of the tragic events that took place on Monday at Virginia Tech University. As I write, 31 people lost their lives to a crazed gunman. My heart goes out to the parents who thought they were sending their children to get an education, not to their death. May the Lord comfort them and all involved on and around that campus.

When I was in Afghanistan a few years ago, we were in danger every day. Our team assembled every morning and together we read Psalm 91 aloud because we needed to walk in its truth every hour we were there. It states:

1 He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

2 I will say of the LORD, "He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust."

3 Surely he will save you from the fowler's snare
and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.

5 You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,

6 nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday.

7 A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you.

8 You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked.

9 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the LORD, who is my refuge-

10 then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent.

11 For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;

12 they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

13 You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent.

14 "Because he loves me," says the LORD, "I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.

15 He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him.

16 With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation."

When people ask me if I am afraid to go to Africa, I tell them I am not. I am not super-spiritual, nor do I ignore the dangers involved. I gave my life to the Lord 34 years ago. I didn't loan it to Him to put into the deep freeze somewhere so I could take it back one day. Danger is a part of this sin-infested world and I take comfort in the truth found not only in Psalm 91, but also in the verse that says

My times are in your hands; deliver me from my enemies and from those who pursue me (Psalm 31:15).

If you ask me to explain what happened in Virginia, I am at a loss for words. If you ask me whether the people killed were somehow not living in the truth of Psalm 91, I could not say. All I know is that I live in the truth of Psalm 91 and if my life is taken while I am in Africa or while in my bed in the United States, that is God's business, not mine.

Would anyone tell a foreigner not to come to the United States right now? Probably not. We would tell them that this was a random act and America is a big country. That is what I tell people when they hear of something bad in another land where I happen to be. We in the United States know how to put this situation into the proper context of the overall picture. And this is what the people in Africa are able to do as well.

So I am off to England this Saturday, but with a heavy heart for the families at Virginia Tech. I have work to do that hopefully will help prevent these kinds of things from happening, for change is only available to an individual or a nation in the power of God. May the Lord grant my nation grace and heal it of its fundamental flaw and sickness that would provide the context for such a person to do this terrible thing.

Feel free to add your comments to mine on the site where this entry is posted.

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Extreme Makeover

I seldom watch television, usually only having time for watching an occasional sports event. Last Sunday, however, I had a chance to watch the show Extreme Makeover. This shows features a makeover team as they choose one family and rebuild their ill-equipped, often run-down home. On this particular show, the team chose a woman from Mississippi with three children who had a terrible home with no running water. The family was sent on vacation and the team went to work to renovate their home in one week. The house was so bad that they bulldozed it and started over.

When the family came back, they had beautiful new home that the show built and paid off for them. There was a new car, the latest appliances and scholarships for her three children. Then they gave the woman a fully-stocked home business shop. During the show, the team brought in CeCe Winans to do a benefit concert in a local church to give the woman some money. As the woman and her children walked through their new home, she kept saying, "Thank You, Lord! Thank You, Jesus!" I was moved as I watched.

But I was wondering how the woman's church could allow her to live in those conditions all those years? Why did it take a group of non-church people to come in and help her? How could the church have a nice building when one of their members lived in squalor. Throughout the show, everyone kept telling us what a good woman she was. Yet I kept wondering why the church could not have done some of what that show did. Why are we afraid at times to bless other people beyond their wildest dreams? Why can't people walk away from the Church feeling like I did when I finished watching that show?

Isn't that what the church is about? Aren't we to take care of our own and dispense grace? Why did a secular show figure out how to bless someone when the church often can't figure it out? Why do we spend millions on pizza for our youth meetings, multi-millions on air conditioning and coffee shops in the church building, but we can't seem to help people. I don't get it.

It reminded of the time that I bought some dress shirts at a Nordstrom Department Store in San Francisco and proceeded to lose them in the local mall. When I went back to Nordstrom, they gave me four new shirts free of charge! I wrote an article called "A Shirt Tale" describing the incident and likening it to the mission of the Church: to restore what's been stolen and lost in people's lives without assigning blame or guilt.

I doubt if I'll watch Extreme Makeover for the rest of the year, but I won't soon forget the episode I saw. I want to be a part of an organization that is committed to extreme makeovers too, and that organization should and must be the Church of Jesus Christ. We need to stop playing church and become the Church. I only hope the world doesn't do all the good deeds there are to do before we wake up to our mission.

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Comfort Zones

I got back from Toronto yesterday, and not the process of learning all this new technology with its ins and outs begins. I think this is why more people don't upgrade and why I put it off as long as I did. You feel foolish when you step out of your comfort zone. That, however, is where growth comes from, so the lesson is clear. Fear of looking or feeling foolish keeps me from learning.

I am returning to school in August to earn a D. Min. from Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary here in Pittsburgh. There is fear involved with that decision. Will I have the time? The money? Will I fit in? Can I do the work?

The Pacific Institute teaches us how to expand our comfort zones, clearly showing that if we don't, we don't grow or learn. It's not easy and I am glad I learned the principles at TPI to help in times like this. They urge us to make positive affirmations and right now I am saying, "I can handle technology with great ease." My behavior hasn't quite caught up to my affirmation, but it will.

I am off today to Providence, Rhode Island to be with my friends at The Cathedral of Life, pastored by Jeff Williams. I get back next Thursday and then it's off to the UK on the 21st, new phone and computer in tow. It will be interesting to see how all this fits into the UK and Africa when I get there. There are always surprises in store when you realize that something you needed or took for granted is in your other computer back home!

I want to thank Bill Kinnon again for all his help in this latest upgrade. Bill is a media producer, director, and writer extraordinaire, plus a published author. I highly recommend his work in that field, so if you need some video work or consulting, Bill is your man.

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