Have a GREAT day

Do you believe God wants to do something great in your life today? I do. But many days I go through life thinking that nothing great is happening and that it is up to me to come up with some sort of plan to do a great work for God. This normally ends with feelings of frustration, as most days I feel as if I accomplish very little. I certainly don’t feel as if I accomplish very much of anything that I would call great.

The problem is that my perception of “greatness” is often skewed by the world’s definition of greatness. Greatness is often defined by impressing others with the things we do or acquire. I confess, I usually view greatness in the same manner.

But what is greatness? How does God define greatness? Remember when the disciples asked Jesus to reveal the greatest command? Jesus, who was God in the flesh, sent here to communicate with us for the specific purpose of revealing God’s will, replied by saying the greatest thing you could ever do is to love the Lord your God and love your neighbor.
Is that your definition of “greatness”? Is this the measuring stick you will use to determine if anything great happened today?

I believe God does want to do something great in your life today. But it’s likely not what you think. God wants to draw you into a closer relationship, a love relationship, with Him. He also wants to do the same thing in the life of your family members, your friends, and your neighbors. I hope that today, March 30, 2016, if at the end of the day when you lay your head on your pillow, if you have loved the Lord your God and if you have loved your neighbor, then you can truly say God did something great in your life!

Have a GREAT day!

Palm Sunday

They say God speaks to us in mysterious ways and at unexpected times. Sunday night was one of those times for me. There were no burning bushes or audible voices, we were simply lying in a bed at the Hampton Inn in Bartlesville, Kansas trying to sleep. My wife was sleeping just fine, but I was having trouble. Maybe I was excited about the upcoming event on Monday morning, outpatient surgery to have stones flushed out of my bladder. Maybe it was the Triple Berry Crumb Cake from Chili’s. Whatever the case, I was wide awake well into the wee hours of morning and I was not happy about it.

I decided to attempt to make good use of my time and pray for family and friends. One thing led to another and I began to pray for the upcoming service on Palm Sunday. (I will be speaking at the First Church Of God in Coffeyville, Kansas at 10:30 AM just in case you’re looking for a place to attend.)

While lying there I began to think about the message I wanted to convey to the audience Sunday morning. Typically I will talk about my accident a little bit to new audiences and the struggle to learn to accept and make the most of the unwanted circumstance of being paralyzed. In doing so, it usually leads to encouraging others to do the same thing by learning to see that God may have a bigger purpose for the events of our lives, something much bigger than we can see. We just have to learn to trust that wherever He takes us, whatever He allows into our life, it is going to end up good. It may not look good from our perspective, it may not feel good while we are going through the circumstances, and it may be something that we never really understand or see how it benefits anyone. God may be using it to give us something that will never benefit us here, but will benefit us spiritually forever.

Lying in that hotel room, God helped me see that Palm Sunday and Easter kind of summarize the message I share. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem the people were excited, they thought they knew what God had planned. They thought God was going to deliver them from the unwanted circumstances they were facing. They were tired of being oppressed by the Romans and by the other enemies who lived nearby and they thought God was sending the Messiah to put an end to their problems. It was an exciting day for them on on Palm Sunday. Expectations were high. Life was good.

As the week went on, life wasn’t so good. Jesus didn’t drive out the Romans. He was arrested and crucified. He didn’t even put up a fight. The story symbolizes how God had other plans. Plans the people could not see and that extended beyond their circumstances. Yes, God had plans to deliver them, but not in the way they wanted. Instead God had plans to deliver them in the way that they really needed. God wanted to give them salvation. God wanted to give them something that would last beyond this life, for all of eternity.

You see, God was more concerned about their eternal comfort than He was their temporary comfort. It’s no different today. Do we realize that God has bigger plans and bigger purposes than we can see or imagine? Do we realize that God can take even the worst of circumstances and do a great work in the world, in your world? He may want to do a great work in your life. He may want to do a great work in the lives of those around you. He may want to do a great work in the lives of people you have never met. The bottomline is: He wants to work in you. He wants to work through you. (Personal note to Keith: Thanks for letting me borrow your phrase.)

Remember that whether life looks great (as it did on Palm Sunday) or whether circumstances look hopeless (as it looked when Jesus was crucified) God is not limited. Wherever He takes you remember He has a plan and a purpose for everything He allows into your life. He can take anything and turn it into something good. You may not see it, you may not understand it, but that might be because you are looking no further than this lifetime. God not only cares about what happens during our few years of this life, but He also cares about where you will spend eternity. As we see in the life of Jesus, God will allow those He loves to suffer if it is a part of his eternal plan to bring salvation to the world.

First Church of God
2010 W. 5th in Coffeyville, Kansas
Sunday, March 20 @ 10:30

God is a Loving Father

One of the most powerful pictures of God that we see in the Bible is the one that portrays Him as a loving Father who wants nothing but the best for His children. As Christians, we believe that once we accept Christ as Savior that we are adopted into the family of God. John 1:12 says, “…as many as received Him (Him referring to Christ) He gave the right to become children of God.”

Seeing God as a loving Father, and understanding that a loving Father always wants the best for His children, is fundamental to our ability to know and understand how God wants to work in our lives. I believe it is also the key to trusting God during confusing circumstances. At the First Baptist Church in Oswego we have started a study called, “Experiencing God.” Our focus is getting to know God so that we can do His will. We meet each Sunday night at 6:30 PM, just in case you would like to join us.

I’m going to try and post something each week from our study, and this morning I wanted to begin by sharing this quick excerpt. I hope you find it encouraging today!

According to 1 John 4: 16, “God is love.” This does not say that God loves, though He does love perfectly and unconditionally. The Scripture says that God’s essential nature is love. God will never act contrary to His nature. You will never experience God expressing His will except in a demonstration of perfect love. God’s kind of love always seeks His best for each person.

If we reject His best, He will discipline us. However, the discipline will come from a heavenly Father who loves us and who will do whatever is necessary to bring us to a place in our lives where we can receive what He wants to give us (see Heb. 12: 5-11). God does bring discipline, judgment, and wrath on those who continue to live in sin and rebellion against Him. Even this discipline, though, is based on love. “For the Lord disciplines the one He loves, and punishes every son whom He receives” (Heb. 12: 6).

Because His nature is love, I’m confident that however He expresses Himself to me is always best. Many other verses describe His love toward us. For example: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son” (John 3: 16), and “This is how we have come to know love: He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3: 16). Your confidence in the love nature of God is crucial. This has been a powerful influence in my life. I always view my circumstances against the backdrop of the cross, where God clearly demonstrated once and for all His deep love for me. I may not always understand my current situation or how things will eventually turn out, but I can trust in the love Christ proved to me when He laid down His life for me on the cross. In the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God forever convinced me that He loves me. I choose to base my trust in God on what I know— His love for me— and I choose to trust in Him in the midst of the confusing circumstances I may be experiencing.

What If God Was One of Us?

Back in 1995, Joan Osborne released a song posing this question, “What if God was one of us?” You probably remember the song and like me you can sing along with the main lyrics, “What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us? Just a stranger on the bus, trying to make his way home.”

It was a good song, but every time I hear it, I wonder how many people really stop and think about the implications of that question? And do they realize that according to Christianity, God was one of us?

The central message of Christianity, the message we celebrate at Christmas, the message that makes Christianity different from other world religions, is the message that God was one of us. It’s the message coming from heaven when the angel said to Mary and Joseph they were to name their child Immanuel, which meant, “God with us.”

It’s also the message Jesus, the early church, the Gospels, and the disciples proclaimed and believed. In John’s Gospel it is made clear in the very first chapter that God became flesh and lived among us in the person of Jesus Christ. This is what the disciples believed and taught. John 1:10 says, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.” In verse 14 it says, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us…full of grace and truth.”

Even those that wanted to kill him, the chief priests and teachers of the Jewish law, give us historical evidence to believe this was the message being proclaimed. Remember when Jesus was on trial and Pontius Pilate was debating on what to do with Jesus? He found no fault in Jesus. He was willing to let Him go, but the Jews were outraged because Jesus, being a mere man, was claiming to be God, claiming to be the great “I am” from the Old Testament. According to Jewish law that made Him guilty of blasphemy, which was punishable by death.

This message of Christianity, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the fact that He being a mere man was also fully God, is the message of Christmas. I can’t tell you how many years it took me to really wrap my mind around the message that we celebrate at Christmas. However, I can tell you that once it resonated within me, once the magnitude of this event, once the truth behind the person of Jesus Christ was revealed to me, it changed my life. It became truth that I have decided to stake my future on.

When all the evidence is examined, from both the Bible and history, Jesus either was who He said He was or He lied. So today I want to pose to you the question, “What if Jesus was telling the truth and God was one of us?” What if He came to this earth in the form of a man and tried to communicate with us? Would you care what He had to say? Would you believe His words to be true? Would His words affects the way you live? What if He tried to tell you how to treat other people? What if His teachings went against your selfish nature? What if His teachings went against everything you had been taught, everything you believed to be true? What if giving up your old way of life to follow his teachings meant leaving some things behind?

That is pretty much what happened to this man. If you have time, please listen to his story. If you don’t have time, make time.

September Speaking/Book Signing Schedule

I will be speaking at the American Baptist conference in Parsons, Kansas on Sunday, September 20. I hope you’ll plan to attend. Service will start around 3 PM and I will be speaking shortly afterwards. The service is held at the First Baptist Church of Parsons.

The following weekend we will be in Chanute, Kansas at the Artist Alley Festival signing books. The festival begins on Saturday, September 26 at 9 AM and lasts through the afternoon. Our booth will be located near Total Image Studio, just east of the railroad tracks on Main Street. We hope to see you there!

Help Me Help Others

Across the globe there are hundreds, if not thousands, of people receiving bad news today. Some have lost a parent, a child, a family member or a best friend. Some have been diagnosed with life-threatening diseases and told they only had so long to live. Some have been told they would never walk again or drive again or go back to work. Thousands more are watching as loved ones, friends, coworkers, and patients face devastating circumstances that will change their lives forever.

When we see people hurting, what do we do? How do we respond? We may pray, knowing God is the only one who can truly bring peace and comfort and healing to the brokenhearted, but we often feel helpless, not knowing what else to do, so we do nothing more.

Recently a couple of people have been distributing my books to patients in hospitals and other people they cross paths with who happen to be going through a rough time in life. They see it as a ministry. They often don’t know what to say or do for someone, but they have found that leaving a book is a nonthreatening way to offer someone information that may make a huge difference in their life. Not only are the patients reading the book, but their family members are reading it also.

Today I want to challenge you to think of someone you know that has recently received bad news and buy them a book. Between now and Christmas I am running a special on my books, selling them for $12 each plus shipping. I challenge those of you who can afford it to buy a box of 60 books for $600 and distribute them to people you know, students you work with, family members, friends, people in your church, whoever. Place them in waiting rooms of hospitals and doctor’s offices, if they consent.

Why am I doing this? I was sitting outside today and I felt as if God impressed upon me to do it. I have about 1,200 books in my garage and they were meant to be read. Let me tell you a little bit about this book and why I believe it is so important for people who are struggling with the unwanted circumstances in their lives.

A little over 24 years ago I was told that I would never walk again. The doctor’s diagnosis was hard to accept for a young, hard-working, farm boy who wanted nothing more than to be able to live out his dreams. I suffered with depression, thoughts of suicide, and feelings of worthlessness. I questioned whether God still loved me and often felt my circumstances were unfair. I made one small decision to dive off a boat dock and now I was going to be paralyzed from the shoulders down for the rest of my life? It did not make sense to me why God would allow this to happen. I could not see how anything good could ever come from my circumstances unless God performed a miracle and allowed me to walk again.

As time passed and I began to look for meaning and purpose in my life, God changed my outlook and taught me many important life lessons through his Word, influential people, and some of the most unlikely experiences with children. There is actually a chapter in my book titled, “the Big Things I’ve Learned from Little People.” I challenge you to take this book and, if nothing else, read that chapter. There are life lessons in it that everyone needs to understand. There is a story about a little girl who gave me a Butterfinger. From her I learned that I needed to stop focusing on everything that I did not have, and simply give what I had to give. There is another story about a fifth-grade girl who taught me to look beyond my limitations and see that God can still use me. A third grader riding on the back of my wheelchair gave me a lesson on learning to trust God when we have no idea where He is taking us.

Through my struggles, God taught me lessons that I may not have learned with a fully functioning body. He taught me that this life was temporary and the greatest miracle that can happen is one that takes place on the inside of a person. He taught me that my unwanted circumstances were actually opportunities for Him to work, not only to work in me, but also in those around me.

The title, “Learning to Live with It” came from an experience with my three-year-old brother who refused to wipe a pile of bird poop off my shoulder. He told me I needed to “learn to live with it”. God ended up using that circumstance to remind me of the fact that when we cannot change an unwanted circumstance, we have a choice to make. Are we going to respond by accepting it and making the most of life? Or, are we going to spend the rest of our lives bitter about the hand we were dealt. I like to tell people that our unwanted circumstances will either make us bitter or better. How we respond makes all the difference.

This book is a challenge to all who read it, able-bodied or not, to respond positively to life’s challenges and make the most of life despite any unwanted circumstances. I challenge you to get a book. Get several books. Give them as Christmas presents, put them in waiting rooms at your hospital and at your doctor’s office, take one to the hospital room of someone you know who is hurting and read it to them. There’s nothing magic about this book, but there is something powerful about our God’s ability to work in us and through us!

I guarantee you that you can think of someone right now who needs to read this book. More importantly, you can think of someone who needs to know there is no circumstance that will ever separate them from the love of God through Christ Jesus.

Birthdays – The Good and Bad

I want to thank everyone for wishing me a happy birthday, and since it has been a while since I have posted anything on my website, I thought I would share what is on my mind today.

First of all, I will say that I am happy to be 44 years old. I am grateful for the fact that God has given me some good health in the midst of some circumstances that actually cause many to die early. I will say however that if I make it another 44 years, I will probably be more than ready to go. 😉 The old body isn’t as young as it used to be. I find myself needing naps and coffee on a daily basis. There was a time when I laughed at my grandpa for taking a daily nap after lunch. I totally understand now.

Looking back I have had a lot of good birthdays shared with family and friends. Most of them have been joyous occasions, while a couple of them have been not so joyous. Only two years ago we were planning my dad’s funeral on my birthday and about 24 years ago we were having cake and ice cream in the intensive care unit at KU medical Center. I think I received over 200 cards that day from family and friends and strangers wishing me a happy birthday and a speedy recovery from my accident.

Looking back if I had to pick out my best birthdays and my worst, I suppose the two that I just mentioned would run a close race for the worst. It was hard to watch my dad’s life slip away and it was hard to find any joy in the midst of the news that I would never walk again.

I suppose that my birthdays reflect a lot about how life really is. We have bad days and we have good days. Ups and downs. Mountains and valleys. Or whatever you want to call them. Through it all God has blessed me with many different people who have been there to encourage and support, and I suppose all of my experiences have helped me to become the person I am today. I feel blessed to be where I am, 44 years old, married to a girl I had a crush on back in eighth grade, and perfectly able to enjoy the simple things in life.

Now…the best birthdays!

There are a few birthdays that really stand out. (A surprise 30th party from the people in Fredonia. A birthday cookie from my sister, who misspelled happy birthday.) But if I had to pick the best, the best ones had to have been the ones when baseball is all that really mattered. I remember birthday parties at the farm when I was about 11 and 12 years old. Several of my friends from school, as well as several of the friends I played baseball with during the summer would come out to the farm and we would play baseball all day. Man, those were the days! Watching the Little League World Series this week has reminded me of how simple life was back then! Wouldn’t it be great to be 11 and 12 again! Those of you that remember our 12-year-old VFW All-Star team, I am pretty sure we could have won it all!

I guess I don’t really have a point to my rambling on today. As I sit here today and think about past birthdays, I am reminded of how life does have its ups and downs, its good times and bad. However, it has also given me the opportunity to get to know many great people and I am humbled by the number of you who have wished me a happy birthday today! God bless you and may you find happiness in the midst of your own life journey.

Consider The Lilies

consider_the_lilyI’ve never been a big flower guy. With the exception of a large sunflower or two, my garden was always full of vegetables. The sunflowers I did grow were edible, and they were the variety that would grow 12 feet tall. I suppose it is kind of a man thing to want to see how big some things will grow.

But several years ago, while I was doing the garden at the Cherry Street Youth Center in Chanute, I had the idea that I would plant several different types of lilies and have the children paint a series of Bible verses on stepping stones. As the lilies grew and bloomed each year I would be sure and have the children read the Bible verses lying on the ground beside the lilies.

The stones read as follows:

Luke 12:27-31 (NKJV) ~ 27 Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 28 If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith? 29 “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind. 30 For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things. 31 But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

Every year as the lilies bloom I am reminded that God will take care of us. God is a provider. It does us no good to worry and fret over the details of life. God knows what we need and He knows what we don’t need.

Jesus said we should consider the lilies at times when we are overwhelmed with life. All they do is simply grow in the place where they are planted and display the handiwork of God at the appointed time. God gives them everything they need to fulfill the purpose for which they were created. So today I would invite you to do as Jesus says and, “Consider the lilies…”

Big Things From Little People

Some of the biggest life lessons I’ve learned have been reinforced to me by little people. It was almost as if God used them to put an exclamation mark at the end of these lifelong lessons. Those of you who have heard me speak or read my book will recognize these stories, but I felt compelled to share these with the world this weekend. Please help me pass them on.

Alicia – Give What You Have to Give

It was a struggle learning to live with paralysis. Not only could I do very little for myself, but I also felt I could do so little for other people. This bothered me because I felt I had nothing to give to anyone. I had always based my self-worth on what I could do physically for myself and for others.

During my third summer at home, I rolled down the street to the city pool. My mission was to give out flyers telling about a Bible school we were hosting at church. While I was sitting by the pool, the cutest little eight-year- old girl I had ever seen came walking up to me. She had brown eyes, brown hair, and a smile that made me feel blessed to be alive.

Alicia stood beside me, talking, asking questions, and smiling from ear to ear. We talked for thirty minutes; then she jumped back into the water. I watched as she swam and splashed, but then I looked away to talk to some other kids. When I turned back, she had disappeared. Next thing I knew, Alicia stood beside me, smiling. She had that I’m-up-to-something look on her face. She had slipped a Butterfinger onto the armrest of my wheelchair.

As she ate her own Butterfinger, she seemed to realize I needed help to eat mine.
“Do you want me to feed you?” she asked.
“That would be great,” I replied.

Fortunately, I love Butterfingers, but for her, I think I would have eaten a can of worms. I’ll never forget how special I felt to know that Alicia willingly took some of the money she had been given and used it for me, knowing she would never get it back.

I went home feeling blessed to be alive. Alicia had unknowingly proven to me that life’s greatest gifts are often the small things and that giving what I had to give was more important than what I had to give. I couldn’t give much to others physically, but I could give to others mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.

Miranda – Look Beyond Your Limitations

Although I could never be used for the things I once took so much pride in doing, and often saw myself as worthless, the truth was, I was not worthless. I just needed to stop focusing on all the things I could not do and look for things I could do.

During my first year tutoring fifth-graders, I met Miranda. Miranda had a cute little smile and the biggest heart in town. She also had a sense of humor and a unique way of looking at things.

For her science project, she and I decided to make a solar cooker out of a cylinder-shaped Quaker-oatmeal container. She cut one side of the container off, leaving the two ends and about two-thirds of the body intact. On the inside, she lined it with aluminum foil; and on the center of each end, she poked a hole just big enough to stick a wire through.

For several days, we loaded the cooker with hot dogs and marshmallows. We kept track of the temperature outside, the amount of sunshine, and the time it took to “brown” our hot dogs or melt our marshmallows. We tried cooking with no lid on our oven versus cooking with a lid. Toward the end, we even added a thermometer to record the temperature inside the oven.

As Miranda became comfortable around me, she said and did whatever came to mind without fear that I would be offended. I liked that because I didn’t want kids to feel uncomfortable around me. I wanted them to see that although I had physical limitations, I was just a normal guy.

One day while we were working on her project, the wind blew Miranda’s papers everywhere. I felt helpless as I watched her hurry around the yard picking up papers. She ran back towards me, picked up my hand, and put all her papers underneath it. With a sheepish grin, she said, “You make a good paperweight.”

Finding things I was useful for became a fun game we played the rest of the year. She discovered my lap made a good shopping cart to carry all her stuff. My feet made a doorstop when nothing else would hold the door open.

This was my first experience working with a child on a science project, but we were both rewarded. Miranda earned a gold medal in the science fair, and I learned that if I would look beyond my physical limitations, I could find many new ways to be useful.

Sierra – Trust God Even When You Don’t Know Where He Is Taking You

One positive thing I could see from being paralyzed was that in many cases it actually helped me build relationships with the kids. They were curious to know why I couldn’t feel them touching my arms or legs. Seems like I answered the question, can you feel this? a half million times. They were also fascinated by how I could blow and suck in a straw to make my wheelchair move. They were even more interested when I started giving them rides on the back.

The driveway at Cherry Street was no more than seventy feet long, but long enough to go full speed and give the kids a wild ride. For each passenger, I drove at top speed toward the chain-link gate at the end of the drive. When I reached the gate, I would suck on my straw to stop, then turn around and drive back to where we had begun.

One day as I was giving rides, a kindergarten girl starting running towards me from across the playground. She obviously thought riding on my chair looked like fun, but she didn’t know my rules. I allowed only one rider at a time, and everyone had to wait in line. The girl on the back, Sierra, was older and knew my rules; so when the younger girl got close, Sierra stiff-armed her. I should have stopped or slowed down, but I didn’t. I kept going.

When I reached the gate, I sucked on my straw to stop, but nothing happened. My feet hit the gate, it swung open, and we headed for the street. I didn’t realize it, but while reaching for my chair, the younger girl had grabbed the tube that connects the small computer to my driving straw and pulled it off.

Sierra used to sneak up behind me and turn my wheelchair off just for fun, so I hollered, “Turn the chair off! I can’t stop.”

It was April 1. She thought I was April-fooling her. I panicked when I realized she didn’t believe me. My mother had taught me to look both ways before crossing the street, so I did. I thanked God no one was coming, then swallowed hard. I had no control over where we were going.

Instead of going straight across the street and hitting the curb, my chair started turning slowly to the right. I looked all around for padded walls or giant marshmallows, but the street was lined with cement curbs and vehicles. The only way we were going to stop was to crash, and at full speed we were going to crash hard.

Sierra was still hanging on behind me, but we were now headed up the street, right down the middle. The brick street we were now traveling down went straight ahead for about four blocks before coming to a T. It was not level. It sloped down toward both sides. At the end of the first block was a large drainage ditch where all the excess water ran off. My chair veered to the left toward the opening that led to the ditch.

In a matter of seconds, an endless number of possible outcomes flashed through my mind. The slope of the street caused my chair to veer sharply to the left, and before I knew it, we crashed into the side of my own van. It was a miracle. We were stopped, I was still in my chair, and Sierra was untouched! She was now convinced I wasn’t April-fooling her, so she reached up and turned off my chair.

My footrests had absorbed the majority of the impact. As I looked around to assess the damages, I noticed my feet were sitting nicely on top of the running boards. My shoes didn’t have a scuff on them. Sierra ran back to the youth center for help.

When I went back inside the building, I found Sierra and asked, “Where did you think I was taking you?”

She said, “I don’t know. I thought you might have been taking me to my friend’s house or something.”

As I thought about Sierra’s response, I realized she did not know where I was taking her, but she trusted me because she believed I had a place in mind. I immediately thought of those moments in my hospital room and that inner voice urging me to trust. The lesson for me was clear. I needed to trust God with my life like Sierra trusted me for a ride. I needed to remember He has places in mind, even when I don’t know where He is taking me.

Justin – Live for God’s Purposes, Not Just Your Own

Being in a wheelchair and working with kids was never in any of my life plans, but as time passed, I began to like the many new ways I had found to be useful. God was using me for purposes I never imagined, and I found it fulfilling.

A few minutes into a class I was teaching at Cherry Street, I asked Justin to read the Bible verse in Matthew 4:4 that says, “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” I was shocked when he read, “Man does not live to breed alone. . . .”

I started to correct him, but decided it was best not to draw attention to his mistake. The room was full of fourth- and fifth-graders, and I did not want to spend the next ten minutes teaching them about breeding. Inwardly I was laughing hysterically, but as he read on, the words seemed to be an exclamation mark on the end of a long lesson God had been teaching me. Satisfaction does not come from getting what we want physically; it comes from getting what we need spiritually.

I had always thought living out my dream and having a relationship with the right girl would fill the emptiness in my heart, but I was wrong. In giving up the things I wanted out of life in order to give of myself to children, I had received something in return that I had never had when all I lived for was my own purposes. I received the sense of satisfaction I had always longed for.

So as Justin read on that day, I realized his words were for me; there is more to life than just “to breed alone.” Life is not about my getting everything I dreamed of; it’s about my fulfilling God’s purposes for my life.

Renee – Serve Others Joyfully and Willingly

Being paralyzed and being a youth minister, I required a lot of help from others to do my job. During the four years I worked in the small town of Fredonia, Kansas, I often relied on the kids. Over time I began to see that Renee was one teenager I could count on to help me do just about anything. Never did I ask her to do something and see her respond with anything but a smile . . . except one time.

We were at a weekend youth conference. It was early Saturday morning, and we were pressed for time. After my friend Kevin sat me in my wheelchair, I went outside our hotel room with the van keys on my armrest. My plan was to have one of the kids help me into the van while Kevin finished getting himself ready.

When Renee came out of her room and I saw that she was ready, I asked her to take my keys, unlock the van, and let the lift down. From the look on her face, you would have thought I had asked her to tear down the engine and reassemble it. She reluctantly took the keys and started towards the van. Her friend Tasha walked alongside her. It was obvious they did not want to open my van, and they were whispering back and forth.

I was surprised at Renee’s seemingly bad attitude towards doing this simple task, because she was a great example of what a servant should be. She was a hard worker, she was one of only a few who consistently stayed to help clean up after meals, and she rarely complained. I had no idea what was wrong with her. Maybe she was having a bad day, or maybe I had done something to make her mad.

I watched as they carefully opened my van. Soon I discovered the reason for Renee’s reluctance. She and her friend had put toothpaste on all the door handles. I had foiled their plan to initiate my friend.

I laugh every time I think of this story, but I am also reminded of the huge difference in the way people serve others. There are some people who are like Renee. You can ask them to do something for you, and they almost always do it with a smile. You can tell they really want to help, and they consider it a privilege. But there are also some people who are not like Renee, and they have a bad attitude towards serving. Sure, they might do the task, but they do it reluctantly, often making sure someone hears how much of an effort it was for them to do the good deed.

Through being paralyzed and needing to be served by others, I realized that I had learned how I should serve others. Being a good servant is all about attitude. It involves being humble and putting the needs of others ahead of our own. Philippians 2:5–7 says, “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant.”

When I think of Renee, I’m reminded to serve others willingly with humility, a positive attitude, and a smile—never reluctantly.

Christian – Learn from Your Experiences

In the fall of 1999, I watched a little boy named Christian climb onto the monkey bars. He climbed up the ladder, grabbed a hold of the bars, and “monkeyed” across. When he reached the end, he let go of the bar above him without taking time to position his feet on the bar beneath him. As he let go, his feet slipped and he fell backwards over another bar, scraping his backbone. When he finally hit the ground, he turned and looked up at the bar in disgust. I could almost hear his thoughts: “That hurt. I’ll never do that again.”

At this point in my life, I was working full-time as a tutor and youth minister. My family had enabled me to live in my own house, and I was making enough money to be off Social Security. I had accomplished much since becoming paralyzed, but I had been pondering why some things in life have to hurt so badly.

As I watched Christian experience the pain from his fall, I realized there were a lot of things I’d done that I would never do again because they hurt or cost me something: diving without thinking of the consequences, trying to date two girls at once, hammering a nail into an electrical outlet. My list goes on. I also realized that if some things did not hurt, we would keep doing them over and over and might never learn from them.

Webster’s defines an experience as “the fact or state of having been affected by or gained knowledge through direct observation or participation in events or in a particular activity.” In my book, that means something happened, you either saw it or were directly involved in it, you were somehow affected by it, and you learned something from it. I found it interesting that the definition implies we are to gain knowledge through our experiences.

As time went on following my accident, I began to see that whether something is your fault, someone else’s, or it just happened, painful experiences often serve important purposes. They give us knowledge that we can use to help ourselves or help others.

Sarah – Find Joy in the Simple Things

In the spring of 2005, two neighbor girls were playing next door with the kittens. MaKenzie, age seven, and Sarah, age six, were no strangers to the six-hundred block of South Malcolm. They knew who lived in every house, and they knew the name of every dog and cat on the block. They had never really ventured into my yard to talk to me, so I took this as my chance to befriend them.

They were wearing roller blades, and I knew if they had any reservations about being around a guy in a wheelchair, I could fix that by pulling them behind my chair. A few laps up and down my driveway and I was certain we would become buddies.

Somehow I went from being the “train engine” to the guy who was “it” in a game of tag. The girls were laughing and teasing me, saying, “You can’t catch us! You can’t catch us!” I decided that flattening one of these girls would not help me make friends with them, so I chased them on the driveway, knowing I would always be “it.”

Playing with the girls and taking walks to the park became a daily ritual. There were countless wheelchair rides and more games of tag. Even after they learned I could not catch them, I still had to be “it.” As summer turned to fall, our time outside diminished. Many of our games gave way to paints and colors and animal charades.

When Christmas came, Sarah brought me some drawings and a card she had made. They were not in an envelope. She had wrapped them with Christmas wrapping paper.
The card read, “Dear Kevin, you bring me great joy when you try to run over me. Merry Christmas. Love, Sarah.”

As I read Sarah’s words, I was reminded that it is the simple things in life that often bring the greatest joy.

James: Live with It
I was sitting in the backyard at my mother’s house, enjoying the warmth of the summer sun. My youngest brother, James, was playing in the sandbox beneath a nearby maple tree. As I sat there watching him, a bird flew by and pooped on my shoulder. I was a bit disgusted with the bird, yet thankful my head had not been hit.
Immediately I hollered to James, “Come here!”  He responded like a typical three-year-old and simply asked, “Why?” 
I did not want to tell him, but I did not want to lie either. I knew James loved to help me with things, so I said, “Because I need your help.”
He put down his toys, brushed a little sand off, and waddled over to me. I said, “Do you see that stuff there on my shoulder?”
“Yes,” he replied.
“Will you wipe it off?”
He reached towards my shoulder, and just when it looked as if he was going to wipe it off, he froze. His eyes met mine, and he said, “Kevin, what is that?”
Hesitantly I said, “Uh, well, a bird flew by and dropped this on my shoulder. I’m pretty sure it’s bird poop.”
James jerked his hand back, wrinkled up his nose, and exclaimed, “I’m not touching that!”
I knew Mom would help me, so I said, “Then go get Mom.”
James looked at me and sternly said, “Okay, but if she doesn’t want to wipe it off, then you’re just going to have to live with it!”
Mom came out of the house to remove the mess, but my brother’s words had penetrated my soul. It seemed as if through him, God was reminding me of one of the first things we learn in this world as children. When we can’t change a circumstance, we have to learn to live with it.
At the time this happened, I had been paralyzed for two years. The doctors had said there was no chance I would regain the use of my arms or legs. I had been praying a lot to walk again. I had done everything I knew to do. I had fasted, called for the elders of the church to anoint me with oil, memorized and repeated healing promises from Scripture, called prayer lines, and even traveled to a healing crusade.
Seeing no physical change did not change my belief that God could heal me, but it was discouraging, and I was struggling to accept no. I did not want to learn to live with paralysis. I wanted God to remove my unwanted circumstance so that I could continue living my life as I had planned.
Over time James’ words took on a double meaning. Not only did I need to learn to accept my unwanted circumstance, I needed to learn to really LIVE despite the unwanted circumstance.

Summer Speaking Schedule

I want to wish everyone a very happy Memorial Day weekend! I also wanted to let you know that I would be speaking and signing books at a few places this summer. If you know of anyone near these locations, please let them know.

Sunday, June 14 at 8:30 AM and 11 AM. I will be speaking at the Wesley United Methodist Church in Parsons, Kansas.

Sunday, July 5 I will be speaking in Jupiter, Florida at Tequesta First Baptist.

Sunday, July 12 I will be speaking at the Anastasia Baptist Church in St. Augustine, Florida. They have three Sunday morning services, as well as a Saturday night service!

I will be signing books after each event.