Here is a piece I wrote in reflection of a young person that I know is struggling…

Daddy, Daddy,
Look at me!
Look at me!
Don’t look down that bottle again.
Don’t squint your eyes in anger.
Look at your son.
Can’t you see me?
I’m still a boy in this big man’s body.
I’m still waiting to hear you say,
I love you.
It’s just that I want to be you.
Think your thoughts,
Walk your walk,
I watch your every move.
So when you say right is wrong,
Up is down,
I believe you.
When you say jump I’ll jump,
Run, I’ll run.
Even if the destination is destruction,
I’ll still believe you Daddy.
It helps me to cling to those times when you speak up instead of shut down on me.
Those memories help me gloss over the times when you disgust me and make me feel ashamed and afraid.
When I realize that this man is not defending this house,
Just sucking it dry.
When I see the reality, past your half-truths and empty promises.
After I have bit my tongue for the hundredth time as you lecture me on being good and responsible only to see you sink back into the couch, out of my way, into the background.
I want you to show up, I want you to be the hero but your every attempt at saving me just masks the fact that you need the saving.
That you are missing something too as your brokenness spills out through your fatherly facade.
But I don’t accuse you, not to your face at least.
I just harbor bitter regret, silent stubborn anger year after year.
I protect your image Daddy from the outside world.
I would rather keep you hidden away in my house, it’s easier that way.
I can handle this on my own. It’s no big deal. I’m ok I say.
But I wonder if God knows about you.
About me.
Could He do anything about this?
I don’t know.
Haven’t asked him yet.

I was just in ten years old when you came into my life.
You were the loner of the group, just like me.
I recall not knowing how to take care of you.
One day I wondered if you were cold so I placed a dish towel on your back while you slept.
You really liked to sleep.
I loved it when you would curl up close to me.
I hated to move because you seemed so peaceful.
Your little nose nestled in between your light brown ears.
But it isn’t just those quiet times that I remember.

You had a wild streak in you too.
You could find just the slightest crack to slip through as we opened the front door,
and woosh, you would be gone.
Sometimes I tried to chase you down.
Other times, you were so far away that I had to get in my car to find you.
And you loved to dig, but not in the planters.
No, you would jump up on the bed
and at a moments notice start pawing away at any random spot you found.
I loved watching you play and have fun.
You would even try to dig me out from under the covers when you thought I was trapped.

What a loyal do you were.
You always cared.
Even when life moved on and I moved away from home,
you would be waiting to greet me with your little tail wagging away.
But you especialy liked me when I had a “cookie” for you. 🙂
Though I know it wasn’t just because we let you out when you scratched,
filled your bowl when you were hungry,
or rubbed behind your ears when you were lonely.

It’s because you were family.
Part of the Hartsell history books.
For 17 years you lived with us and loved us.
Well, thank you for being a good dog.
The best dog I have ever known.
My companion through all these years.
Tootsie we love you and we will miss you.
Rest in peace and go with God.

I’m free.
Now I can see so clearly.
Not with remorse, pain or stain
But with joy, love and peace.
Thank you Lord, for you have set me free.
Redemption
Reconciliation
Reconstruction
have replaced
Reservation
Restriction
and Regret.
Father, thank you.
Now I know you have healed me,
Severed those ties that tangled my mind up these past two months.
Now I see the good in what has passed and not just the bad.
Now my heart is happy almost ready to hope again that something could resurrect.
But again I’m reminded of the mission
And I get grounded back in reality.
She is not for me.
My heart Lord is yours, for you have sealed it, sealed it for thy courts above.
There to behold and worship you today, tomorrow and forever.
Thank you Lord.
Here I am, whole again.
Happy again.
Free to walk forward and face the things which I alone must face.
Thank you Jesus for walking every step of the way with me.
I wouldn’t want it ANY other way. :>)

What a fool I am.
What have I done?
Claiming to be your son.
But acting like a heathen.
Someone who asks for truth
But doesn’t act on it.
A man capable of much evil.
Thinking he can just do what he wants when he wants
A brute beast, carnal, wicked I can be.
Without you I am nothing,
A force for evil instead of good.
God, how do you still love me when I’ve betrayed you?
It doesn’t seem right.
Week after week I ignored you,
Wanting only what I could take for my selfish gain.
God, I am sorry.
Crush this rebellious spirit,
Resurrect one that seeks you first and obeys you always.
God, out of these ashes would you please make something soft, moldable, usable in your hands.
Would you look again at me and smile?
I want your face to shine on me again.
I want you God in all your glory.
I want nothing less than your best.
I love you Lord.
I do.

Slippin’ Away

(Written about a Club Christ student named Allen on 4/20/2007)

It’s sad to see him slip away,

It started so subtly this spring,

One day went by without a hi,

Then another and yet another still.

And I can’t say that I didn’t try,

I did.  At least I tell myself that I did.

I knew there was something going on,

Something painful and dark was there,

Behind his door, between his absence.

As one with spiritual eyes can see,

This boy is chained, not free.

Held down by insecurity,

Locked up by an illusion,

He thinks he must fight his fight alone,

So he foolishly falls face first,

Over his misplaced faith.

If he could only see that what he runs from,

Could set him free.

For if the Son has set you free,

You are free indeed.

So please, please Lord take the lead.

Let him feel the fall as he hits the wall.

Will I be there Lord to help him up,

To dust him off and point him up?

For you alone can save him.

You alone.

Welcome Home Allen

(Written on 08/03/2009)

“It’s like I know of God, but I don’t know God,” Allen shared with me on the car ride home.  They are the words of realization that every youth worker longs to hear.

Especially from this kid.

Man, the effort, the energy spent reaching out to him.  The knocks on his front door to see if he was going to come to Club Christ today.  The “pulling you aside” conversations that led to nothing. The prayers pushed up amidst the series of disappointments.  The two hour long car drives to Caliente to get just two minutes with him.  The looks Candace and I exchanged when we found out that he wasn’t gonna show up that day.  Yet there was something about that kid that left room for hope, for that “I’ll keep trying” attitude to stick around.

So when he told me that he wanted to commit his 15 year old life to Christ, it made sense in a strange sort of way.  There he was, humbly saying that this was what he wanted.  He wanted that peace that he couldn’t find in his heart.  He wanted that joy that would carry him above all his hurt.  He wanted that love that would accept him for who he is and who he isn’t.

He wanted Jesus.

The one who has led this pursuit.  The one who bled to do what no one else could do.  Not you, not me, not anybody but Jesus.  He held the keys to Allen’s heart.  He has set him free.  He has given him life.  He is worthy of all the worship.  He deserves all the glory.  For this young man named Allen now knows his daddy loves him.

And I hear that proud father of us prodigals saying, “We had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.”  Welcome home Allen!  Welcome home : >)

God, I want these things to flow… the leadership that leads, the management that inspires, the responsibility that gets the job done, the heart that isn’t divided, the vision to see change realized, the perseverance to continue when it’s hard, all the right things at the right time in the right way for the right reasons.

God, I know what I need to be doing… so often I fall short.  The organization is still going forward… but it is hurting b/c of my laziness, my lack, my failure…  Jesus, what is it that needs to change, how can I sustain that change, what needs to happen next?  Here I am again, facing the reality, not wanting to slip back into the ordinary, the familiar, the stagnant… Lord, push me forward, onward, straight ahead to the destination prepared for me… Let my mind be focused, my heart set free, my will crushed, my soul prepared, my body made ready, my work made holy… Awaken me God to what is right there in front of me, the things that I cannot see, the future that is beyond my reach… For here I am Lord, waiting for the world to change, while watching myself repeat the same mistakes over and over… Please Jesus, propel me, break me, shape me and set me on fire for the things that please you Lord… You are my success, you are my victory, you are the thing that I need… all glory and honor be unto you sweet Jesus forever and ever and ever.

Some say they have never really had even a conversation with their pastor, but I have never known such a thing.  For the past seven years almost to the day, I’ve known Pastor Bret as a friend first and then as a second Dad and also a brother in Christ.  From the prayer walks through UNLV to the ones through the streets of Africa, what a remarkable seven years it has been!

I had hoped for seven more years.  I had hoped that he would be the one to marry me and my future wife, to dedicate my kids to the Lord, to teach me about doctrine and truth and love and life.  And yet I am beginning to see that future erased before my eyes.  I want to believe that this is all some sort of mistake, but it is too late.  He has already tossed in the towel, turned over a new leaf, let go of the reigns, walked out the door, and left.  A moral failure is the reason he gave.  His saddened voice explained that this needed to happen for healing to come.  And he exited the stage for the last time as my pastor.

Do I blame this man, point a finger, and scoff?  No, for he knows where he has failed and has been honest enough with the world to own his sin.  This just shows me his character.   He still inspires me even in the midst of this mess.  My God, my God, have mercy on the man who has taught me how to be a man.  Have mercy on the church that has blessed me a hundred-fold.  Have mercy on those who now grieve and weep for the story told.

And let us look to the place where forgiveness is found in the midst of pain and powerlessness.  Let us look to the cross of Christ to find hope.  For God is not finished here in this Henderson church.  He has only just begun.  For we will continue in our Pastor’s footsteps to make Jesus famous in Las Vegas and to the ends of the earth.  So help us God.

For more information on the resignation of Bret Johnson from South Hills Church visit http://www.south-hills.org/transition

“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.   He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  -Mark 4:37-40

Jesus brought his disciples right out into this storm for a reason. It was an opportunity.

The disciples spent all their energy trying to weather the storm on their own, rowing away, and attempting to keep the water out of their boat. But all their efforts didn’t work. They assumed Jesus didn’t care. They thought they had to do this on their own, that despair was the most logical emotion. But they were wrong.

Can’t you see their opportunity here? I sure did this morning. God is speaking right to me in this storm. Let me explain by using a Charles Spurgeon quote I found:

“I am inclined to think that the secret of weak faith in God is our having a good deal of self-reliance; but when you cannot trust to yourselves, then you hang upon Christ, and to cling to him as your only hope, then you give the grip of a sinking man, and there is no hold like that.”

There was a spark that caught our attention

It glowed bright enough to ignite our affection.

We fanned the flame with intimate conversation

As our hearts broke out in celebration.

So we began our treasured collection

Of answers to each curious question.

But there was also baggage from its conception

That we dragged along without reflection.

Then God broke through and caused a disruption

That quickly doused that flame of passion.

So we both embraced some intimate intercession

And desperately sought a safe solution.

We wondered whether this was all an illusion

Asking God to clear up the confusion.

Realizing now we must take the keys from the ignition.

No more daydreaming or anxious anticipation

For our futures are beyond recognition.

So all we can do is trust and stick to our mission.

For God knows our unique situation

And he will be there through our sanctification.

May all glory be given unto God,

Our hope and our salvation!

The New Landsman Learning Center

The New Landsman Learning Center

Fresh paint, fresh faces, freshness is in the air.

New center, new name, newness is near.

We are about to see change happen

One day at a time

In one little neighborhood nearly no one notices.

In the lives of kids that none of us know.

Not yet at least.

Haha, I have to laugh at the absurdity of it all.

How one year ago it was just a dream,

And know we got the keys.

We got the plan.

We got the vision.

We got the money, well some of it at least.

But what we lack in finances we make up in heart.

Because no matter rain or shine,

Success or defeat,

Trial or triumph,

We won’t leave till our job is done.

Till every last man woman and child there has tasted and seen:

God in flesh, Immanuel.

Moving in their lives in a fresh way, in a new way.

There is freshness in the air.