Letters

Waging War With Your Prophetic Words

It was a heartbreaking season in my life.

I’d been given some prophetic promises about an area of my life. God had declared some beautiful things: unity and power and intimacy and victory. Yeah, it was a lot of “the usual stuff,” but it came in a declaration from God. Actually, it came in two or three declarations; this wasn’t just a warm and fuzzy thought from one person.

We’ll pause here for a definition. When I talk about a “declaration from God,” that might be a prophetic word; those are the best, and I give them the most weight: when someone with a known gift of prophecy says, “This is what God says,” and the community judges it to be true (1 Corinthians 14:29), that’s the gold standard of prophetic revelation in my view.

But the idea of a declaration from God includes what I hear God whispering to me, and it includes those times that something from the pages of Scripture leap alive and demand my attention. They include when friends tell me what they hear God saying about me, and when the promises of scripture actually, contextually apply to me.

As I said, I had two or three of these, including both the prophetic words and the whisper of my Father. There was a good bit of unity among the declarations. I trusted them.

And then things began to go to hell. I wish I spoke metaphorically. Without putting too fine a point on it I’ll say that just when I expected the promises to begin to manifest, to show up, just when I expected to see things turn toward unity and power and intimacy and victory, they turned the opposite direction.

It was a heartbreaking season in my life. You see, this was an area that was really quite important to me. This was no cute little bonus.

I ran through the demonic logic tests: Can God be trusted? Is he really a good God? You know that list. They came at me hard and fast, and I threw them back in his face just as hard, declaring God’s goodness, his trustworthiness, and my confidence in Him. I went further and rebuked every demon I could think of from every aspect of this promise. I felt victorious!

I thought, There. That will do it. And the promises down-shifted for better acceleration into oblivion.

My heart was crushed, but still I held on. I began to ask better, more honest questions: Did I assume God had promised this, when in fact he had not? No, he’d been quite clear.

Were the promises for right now, or was I rushing him? That one was tougher, as he’d never actually given a date, but if this trend continued, then there was no chance of fulfilling them later.

Was I imposing my own definition of what these fulfilled promises needed to look like? Maybe the fulfillment was so different than my expectations that I didn’t recognize it. I searched my heart long and hard on this, and I examined the circumstances. No, the failure was real. This wasn’t just my misinterpreting it.

My life was pretty much over. I nearly gave up.

And then something whispered in the back of my mind. It was a quiet little whisper, easy to miss. “I want you to give thanks for my promises as if you were already walking in the fullness of their fulfillment, as if everything I said has already happened, even though you’ve seen nothing yet.”

It took rather a lot to take the voice seriously, and it took even more to do what he said. But I did.

In those days, I took my lunch hours in a remote meadow. I parked my truck, and since I pray best when I walk, I’d worn a trail into the grasses and shrubberies of the meadow.

I began to pace my trail, questioning my sanity, and mumbling thanks for these hallucinations, these promises. I recognized the failure of my prayer, so I began to pray out loud. That was better, but I could tell I wasn’t to the point of actually engaging my faith yet.

So I began to shout. It was hard, and it took me days to get there, but before long, I fairly flew into that meadow, locked up my parking brake, and before the truck had fully stopped, I was on that trail, roaring my thanks for these promises, for the glory of having been my experience, for the power that had been unleashed. I screamed my gratitude for a victory I had not yet seen, and I wept in thanksgiving for the intimacy that I still only imagined.

Over the next days and weeks, I watched several changes. The first were in my heart. Eventually, my empty declarations of faith began to actually fill with faith, and I began to understand that I was waging war with these promises (1 Timothy 1:18). Not long after, I realized that the things that I was declaring that had not yet happened, they were going to happen. I began to expect, not fearlessly, not solidly, but I began to expect to see things change.

My prayers expanded. I spent my spare time thinking of what that will look like when these promises are fulfilled, and I prayed every answer to that. By now, I was thankful that my meadow was remote, and occasionally, I checked the trees near the meadow, to make sure I hadn’t roared their bark off.

And still I prayed. I walked and prayed and shouted and demanded and wept and gave thanks like there was no tomorrow.

And then things did begin to change. It was like lighting a match to the tinder of a well-set fire: the change was so very small and fragile, and the slightest breath would extinguish it. I said nothing of this to anyone, so as to not blow out my precious flame, but I gave myself to serving that tiny, flickering flame, nurturing it the best I could.

But gradually, over months and years, it did turn, and today I can say I’ve been walking in the fullness of many of those promises for many years.

I’ve also noticed a change in me. I’m quicker to give thanks than I ever used to be. I think I like that.
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Letters

When God Paused

There is a funny little verse in Genesis chapter 1: “And God said, Let us make man in our image,…” [Genesis 1:26]

There's so much you can learn when God pauses for a little interjection like this.

This is the first – and only – time that God says this. He never said “Say, let's make mountains.” Or “Let's make some stars” It was only when he made man, that he paused and said “Hey, let's do this. Let's make man.”

Apparently there is something about making man that takes more consideration than when you're making sweet potatoes or goldfish or black holes. Apparently there is something about making man, that makes even God pause for a moment, to think about it before he does the making.

Thus far, God had created everything in the universe, except man. All the stars, all the planets, all the asteroids, all the strange things of space. He had already filled the Earth, with fish in the oceans, animals all over the land, green plants growing everywhere, a healthy weather system in place, to make sure it all kept going well.

And I suppose it's fair to say that when that omniscient Trinity of omnipotent beings pause to think about something, that they do a really good job of thinking. I'll bet it's not a mystery to them, when they apply themselves to thinking about making man.

So he thinks about man.

“Well, if we are going to make men really, actually in our image, he has to have free will. And actual free will means he has authority, like God. Now what will he do with that authority, that free will? What will he do with that aspect that makes him like God?”

And God looked further into the future.

I think what he saw might have broken his heart. After a long time of  naming animals and plants, of caring for the garden,  God watched Eve eat an apple from the tree they were instructed not to eat from, and share it with her husband, Adam. He knew he would need to send them out of the garden, lest they eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever in sin.

And still God looked. And God saw. And God saw Cain and Abel, and he wept. And God saw Enoch, and he rejoiced come with a joy that only a God can Rejoice with. And God saw Noah, and he saw the flood, and he wept some more, as he watched the effects of that first sin poison Humanity.

And still God looked down through the years of History. He saw Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac, and Jacob and his multitudes. He saw their years in Egypt, and he made a mental note to prepare a Moses.

And he kept looking. He saw David, and he saw a succession of Kings. And he saw the Dark Ages, Attila the Hun, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler. Such pain. Such heartache.

And then he saw you.

He saw your birth, he saw the squalling mess of your beginning. He watched you grow up.

And he fell in love with you. And in that moment, that God was thinking about what would happen if he created Adam and Eve, in that nanosecond of applied omniscience, God's thinking changed. God was in love.

And because he was in love with you, he no longer had the option of NOT creating man. Because, you see, if he didn't create man, then you would never be born, and that was unthinkable, even by an omniscient thinker. He loved you, even then.

Before your remotest ancestor was created, God was already in love with you.

But that apple. That sin. That disease that would inhabit these humans. Something needed to be done about that sin.

And God said to himself, there's only the one option. I will take off my divinity, I will conceal my Godhood, and I will become one of them. And God said, but they will kill me. And he replied, yes. So? Do you not agree? And God said Yes. We will become the lamb that is too be slain. We will take away, not just their sin, but their sinfulness.

And God knew that dying for these people, these children, would not, could not guarantee a relationship. He was completely adamant about free will. Without free will, we would not be his children. Without free will, we would be pets, or robots, nothing more.

No, his death for us did not, we'll never, overcome our free will. But it will open the door. When God walks among us, now he can tell us of his love. Now he can show us what it's like in his family. Now we have a chance to join him.


That is the story of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. [Revelation 13:8] That was for you. 
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Letters

When God Paused

There is a funny little verse in Genesis chapter 1: “And God said, Let us make man in our image,…” [Genesis 1:26]

There's so much you can learn when God pauses for a little interjection like this.

This is the first – and only – time that God says this. He never said “Say, let's make mountains.” Or “Let's make some stars” It was only when he made man, that he paused and said “Hey, let's do this. Let's make man.”

Apparently there is something about making man that takes more consideration than when you're making sweet potatoes or goldfish or black holes. Apparently there is something about making man, that makes even God pause for a moment, to think about it before he does the making.

Thus far, God had created everything in the universe, except man. All the stars, all the planets, all the asteroids, all the strange things of space. He had already filled the Earth, with fish in the oceans, animals all over the land, green plants growing everywhere, a healthy weather system in place, to make sure it all kept going well.

And I suppose it's fair to say that when that omniscient Trinity of omnipotent beings pause to think about something, that they do a really good job of thinking. I'll bet it's not a mystery to them, when they apply themselves to thinking about making man.

So he thinks about man.

“Well, if we are going to make men really, actually in our image, he has to have free will. And actual free will means he has authority, like God. Now what will he do with that authority, that free will? What will he do with that aspect that makes him like God?”

And God looked further into the future.

I think what he saw might have broken his heart. After a long time of  naming animals and plants, of caring for the garden,  God watched Eve eat an apple from the tree they were instructed not to eat from, and share it with her husband, Adam. He knew he would need to send them out of the garden, lest they eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever in sin.

And still God looked. And God saw. And God saw Cain and Abel, and he wept. And God saw Enoch, and he rejoiced come with a joy that only a God can Rejoice with. And God saw Noah, and he saw the flood, and he wept some more, as he watched the effects of that first sin poison Humanity.

And still God looked down through the years of History. He saw Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac, and Jacob and his multitudes. He saw their years in Egypt, and he made a mental note to prepare a Moses.

And he kept looking. He saw David, and he saw a succession of Kings. And he saw the Dark Ages, Attila the Hun, Charlemagne, Napoleon, Hitler. Such pain. Such heartache.

And then he saw you.

He saw your birth, he saw the squalling mess of your beginning. He watched you grow up.

And he fell in love with you. And in that moment, that God was thinking about what would happen if he created Adam and Eve, in that nanosecond of applied omniscience, God's thinking changed. God was in love.

And because he was in love with you, he no longer had the option of NOT creating man. Because, you see, if he didn't create man, then you would never be born, and that was unthinkable, even by an omniscient thinker. He loved you, even then.

Before your remotest ancestor was created, God was already in love with you.

But that apple. That sin. That disease that would inhabit these humans. Something needed to be done about that sin.

And God said to himself, there's only the one option. I will take off my divinity, I will conceal my Godhood, and I will become one of them. And God said, but they will kill me. And he replied, yes. So? Do you not agree? And God said Yes. We will become the lamb that is too be slain. We will take away, not just their sin, but their sinfulness.

And God knew that dying for these people, these children, would not, could not guarantee a relationship. He was completely adamant about free will. Without free will, we would not be his children. Without free will, we would be pets, or robots, nothing more.

No, his death for us did not, we'll never, overcome our free will. But it will open the door. When God walks among us, now he can tell us of his love. Now he can show us what it's like in his family. Now we have a chance to join him.


That is the story of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. [Revelation 13:8] That was for you. 
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Letters

Bye Bye, Bogo

Sometimes in Asia, dogs have the run of the town. They don't really have dog catchers like in the West. Many consider it cruel to neuter pets. I mean, lots of homeless cats and dogs, no animal control to catch them, let them roam the streets and starve, get hit, or get attacked by other stray animals—so much more "humane" than neutering pets, right?

That's the world in which Bogo and I met. I named him "Bogo" for this article because, frankly, he didn't have a name. "Bo" is a manly name for "love" and "go" sounds like the Mandarin word for "dog". The name sounds right for an Asian pet. So, this is a story about Bogo, the black mutt who lived on the streets in Asia.

I first noticed him at local convenience shops. He was young and, for whatever reason, never got acquainted with the other dogs. He had no pack. Most street dogs have at least one dog friend, usually a pack of three or even twenty. Sometimes they roam the streets at night, dogs of every breed and size. It's almost like a dog-lover's movie.

Bogo never ran with any of those packs. He was always alone, yet somehow happy.

He was skinny. His ribs were pronounced. He was timid, yet not sorry for existing. When I saw him sleeping on the floor of the convenience shop, I had seen him once before, perhaps. But, that was the first time that we really got acquainted.

In Asia, dogs run in and out of convenience shops all the time. Don't get me started on health code. A dog in a convenience shop is cleaner than most outdoor food vendors. Besides, the germs strengthen the immune system. I never heard of anyone getting sick from a dog like Bogo. But, this was the first time I ever saw a dog sleeping inside a convenience store.

Maybe there just wasn't a safe place for him in the streets. The other packs probably chased him away. Or, maybe he was smart and liked the air conditioner for sleeping during the tropical summer. Maybe the other dogs didn't like him because he was the only canine with a luxury dog's taste for air conditioning.

Bogo seemed to gel well with humans.

After about six months, some things began to change with Bogo. I wouldn't only see him on the street at a distance anymore. He began to get friendly. In fact one time, he let me pet him! That's not normal for a dog who didn't grow up in a home.

He didn't have the best etiquette. He's jump up on me. If I told him to get down, he thought I was either trying to play or hurt him. He was always wild at heart, even though he preferred the company of humans. Bogo was a "spicy-sweet", just as the Taiwanese like their sauce.

Not long after he nosed me and let me pet him, Bogo started following me around. One night, I was at a BBQ with the neighbors when Bogo crashed the party. He was enamored by the fact that everyone was eating, but he rejected the food we gave him!

I finally tossed him a piece of toast. He picked it up, tried to bite it, then dropped it, uninterested. "You have to teach the dog by example," I said to one of the party guests. I scooped up the toast Bogo had dropped in the road, took a big bite out of it, chomped it down, then threw the rest back at Bogo. Bogo stared at me in awe, then picked it up, and ate the thing whole! The Asian party guests were in shock. You mean that a dog can understand humans?

That's the world in which Bogo and I met.

Of course a dog can understand humans. But, Bogo loved humans. So, he started to play bite with me. That sent the party guests on a whole new learning curve about dogs. They couldn't believe the dog was "biting" me, yet I wasn't bleeding.

Actually, Bogo did break the skin just a little on the back of my hand. But, it wasn't anything big. My hands smelled like dog for two days after that. He'd play too rough. When I smacked him for play biting too hard, he snapped back as if he didn't understand why I had just gently smacked his face. Bogo was always wild at heart, a "spicy-sweet" who loved humans.

A few days later, I had to call the police to report a hit-and-run in the parking lot. I had the plate number, hehehe. When the police showed up, so did Bogo the friendly dog. "New chew friend!" he must have thought to himself as he started play biting one of the young officer's hands. The police were quite entertained by Bogo, but not as much as Bogo was enthralled by them. I mean, think of it—more humans who love him.

In the days that followed, Bogo became more and more friendly in the neighborhood. He'd walk right in and out of the local convenience shops, almost as if he was exercising his status to use the automatic door like the "rest" of the humans. Everyone got acquainted with him. He was the friendly local dog.

I'd see Bogo 100 meters down the street and call to him. He'd come bounding to chase me on my motorcycle, all the way home. Quick play bite, a few words of wisdom that he probably couldn't understand beyond, "He's talking to me!" then I'd step inside and close the front door. The last time I remember him doing that, he smiled at me ear to ear and didn't even try to play bite. It was almost as if he just wanted to say, "I get it. You make sense to me. We can play, but I don't have to. I get it. Thank you. I'm so happy that you helped me get it."

I couldn't have adopted him because he was wild at heart. He wouldn't be happy penned up in a small, Asian house. The first time he went inside, he might have gotten scared and then, bye bye, Bogo!

It was almost prophetic, like the foreshadowing of a novel. At least two daily devotionals from different books were about the death of a loved one. It was too depressing for me. Those devotionals had a positive and encouraging tone—they'll be okay, God is near to us in such times, do not despair... But, I still put down those articles while reading because I just didn't want to think about death. What relevance did it have to that particular week, anyway? Why was I getting the "death is natural, don't be sad" message from so many directions?

Then, it happened. I was walking to a local convenience shop and I saw several neighbors out on the street. A dog had been hit in the road. The body was gone by the time I arrived on the scene. It was a small black dog. It made a big, bloody mess. One of the local shop owners had purchased several liters of bottled drinking water to wash the blood out of the street. It left a stain that is still there today.

At first, I wasn't sure if it was Bogo or not. But, he didn't show up the next day or the next after that. Weeks went by and no Bogo. Bogo went missing after a dog died having his description. I know how put two and two together.

I don't get my teaching of the afterlife from myself nor do I get it from other people who get it from themselves. I get my teaching of the afterlife from the Bible. And, I've seen quite good Bible-based evidence that pets might be in Heaven. Animals have emotions which are intangible, a "spirit"; but they are not sentient, so they have no soul. Just as our life lessons and friendships endure, the spirits of animals we love and train will, in all likelihood, see us again.

I'm not so sure that all dogs go to Heaven, only the dogs with big hearts, who loved because they were loved.

Bogo was a homeless dog, but he wasn't friendless and he isn't homeless anymore.

Why did all that happen? Why did a large puppy—Bogo was no more than a year old—suddenly drop in, dog-friendless, sleeping on our floors, befriending everyone, then get run over on a street where dogs never even get bumped? I miss Bogo annoying me every time I arrive at my front door. Why did all that happen?

Did our community not love enough? Did we need a love to lose so we might love each other a little more?

I can't believe we did something wrong to not prevent Bogo's death, especially with all those "don't despair when loved ones die" messages I kept getting the days before Bogo departed. A dog catcher isn't the answer since we never would have known Bogo. I can't blame the driver since Bogo is jet black and so is the pavement. Dogs sleep in the road all the time in that neighborhood and never, ever get hit, making this even more unusual.

I suppose I could blame the other dogs for making him sleep in the road instead of letting him sleep with them, but had he not been excommunicated from "Dogianity" I might have never gotten to know him. None of us would.

This world was unworthy of a dog like Bogo. There was no place for him. Dogs rejected him. He wouldn't be happy in a home. The streets are dangerous for a dog captivated by every human he sees. It just wouldn't work.

For a few days, the other dogs bugged out. No strays wanted to get close to where Bogo got plowed over. I thought they had moved, but you know how territorial dogs are. After a week, the packs were back. But, they were a little quieter. In fact, since Bogo left, everything has seemed more peaceful. Maybe his spirit really does live on.

He loved humans more than other dogs. His last day was his happiest. One night, he was hit by a car. He died surrounded by friends whose hearts he touched. Neighbors held vigil in the street, giving him a human farewell, just as many Asian funerals take place in the street.

So, there we have it. Somewhere in Asia, a dog with a big heart, a big family, and no home died. He was posthumously named Bogo.

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Letters

Declarations: For Yourself or for Others

Here’s a prophetic exercise for you:

Take a week and declare these [all of these] over yourself every day for a week. Then sit down and journal about what effect you’ve experienced.

Alternative: They’re also a great way to pray for someone you love, someone going through hell! If you prefer, declare these every day about someone else for a week.

Then sit down and journal about what effect you’ve experienced and what you observe in them. If it makes sense, ask them if they feel anything different this week from last week, and note that.

Instructions: Declare these aloud about yourself, or about the person you’re praying for. Declare them out loud. Shout them if you need to.

Engage your heart with them: don’t let them just be words. Recognize that you’re speaking both to all of Heaven and all of hell when you’re announcing these truths.

Note: These are things that the Bible clearly says are true. You’re not asking nicely if these can be so. These ARE so, the Bible says so. You’re just announcing the ruling of the King, like a town crier: “Hear ye, hear ye! This is the way it is now! The King has declared it!”

I am [or Suzie is] complete in Him Who is the Head of all principality and power (Colossians 2:10).

I am alive with Christ (Ephesians 2:5).

I am free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2).

I am far from oppression, and fear does not come near me (Isaiah 54:14).

I am born of God, and the evil one does not touch me (1 John 5:18).

I am holy and without blame before Him in love (Ephesians 1:4; 1 Peter 1:16).

I have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16; Philippians 2:5).

I have the peace of God that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7).

I have the Greater One living in me; greater is He Who is in me than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4).

I have received the gift of righteousness and reign as a king in life by Jesus Christ (Romans 5:17).

I have received the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Jesus, the eyes of my understanding being enlightened (Ephesians 1:17-18).

I have received the power of the Holy Spirit to lay hands on the sick and see them recover, to cast out demons, to speak with new tongues.  I have power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm me (Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:17-19).

I have put off the old man and have put on the new man, which is renewed in the knowledge after the image of Him Who created me (Colossians 3:9-10).

I have given, and it is given to me; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, men give into my bosom (Luke 6:38).

I have no lack for my God supplies all of my need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:19).

I can quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one with my shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16).

I can do all things through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:13).

I show forth the praises of God Who has called me out of darkness into His marvelous light (1 Peter 2:9).

I am God’s child for I am born again of the incorruptible seed of the Word of God, which lives and abides forever (1 Peter 1:23).

I am God’s workmanship, created in Christ unto good works (Ephesians 2:10).

I am a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

I am a spirit being alive to God (Romans 6:11;  Thessalonians 5:23).

I am a believer, and the light of the Gospel shines in my mind (2 Corinthians 4:4).

I am a doer of the Word and blessed in my actions (James 1:22,25).

I am a joint-heir with Christ (Romans 8:17).

I am more than a conqueror through Him Who loves me (Romans 8:37).

I am an overcomer by the blood of the Lamb and the word of my testimony (Revelation 12:11).

I am a partaker of His divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4).

I am an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20).

I am part of a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people (1 Peter 2:9).

I am the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:21).

I am the temple of the Holy Spirit; I am not my own (1 Corinthians 6:19).

I am the head and not the tail; I am above only and not beneath (Deuteronomy 28:13).

I am the light of the world (Matthew 5:14).

I am His elect, full of mercy, kindness, humility, and long suffering (Romans 8:33; Colossians 3:12).

I am forgiven of all my sins and washed in the Blood (Ephesians 1:7).

I am delivered from the power of darkness and translated into God’s kingdom (Colossians 1:13).

I am redeemed from the curse of sin, sickness, and poverty (Deuteronomy 28:15-68; Galatians 3:13).

I am firmly rooted, built up, established in my faith and overflowing with gratitude (Colossians 2:7).

I am called of God to be the voice of His praise (Psalm 66:8; 2 Timothy 1:9).

I am healed by the stripes of Jesus (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

I am raised up with Christ and seated in heavenly places (Ephesians 2:6; Colossians 2:12).

I am greatly loved by God (Romans 1:7; Ephesians 2:4; Colossians 3:12; 1 Thessalonians 1:4).

I am strengthened with all might according to His glorious power (Colossians 1:11).

I am submitted to God, and the devil flees from me because I resist him in the Name of Jesus (James 4:7).

I press on toward the goal to win the prize to which God in Christ Jesus is calling us upward (Philippians 3:14).

For God has not given us a spirit of fear; but of power, love, and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

It is not I who live, but Christ lives in me (Galatians 2:20).
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Letters

Kindness Leads to Repentance

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is describing some of the ways that his family is to be different than how the world does things. In the middle of that lecture, he drops this bomb: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

There’s one command in this, and one reason for the command. Don’t be like those people because unlike their father, your Father knows what you need, even before you tell him.

I’d like to share a testimony, if I may.

I was helping someone with a legal issue. This someone important to me, someone who calls me “dad.” And the legal issue was pretty bad. It wasn’t that he had done anything illegal, but he’d gotten involved with a World Class Pain-In-The-Hindquarters. 

The World Class Pain was making his life miserable, threatening lawsuits, threatening huge expenses, and was completely flouting the law on the matter. He was Too Important To Be Bothered with things like that (he is a legitimate millionaire, for all the good it does him), and he does know powerful people who owe him favors.

So we’d talked together about the options open to us. At its most intense point, my spiritual son called me in terror and confusion about the latest round of threats, so I called the Millionaire Pain and explained things firmly to him. I think he’ll be able to use that ear again in a few days. I did not submit to his campaign of terror. I wasn’t rude, but I didn’t let him push me around.

But I pissed him off, so he jacked up the intimidation and threats, and neither my son nor I slept much for a couple of nights.

I wanted to ask for prayer, but I didn’t feel that freedom.

A day later, I realized that when I got in his face, I misquoted some facts to him, so I called him back, and (as expected) he sent my call to voicemail, so I left him a long message. I apologized for my errant facts, explained the situation from my son’s perspective, acknowledged what we understood of his own needs in the situation, and proposed a sit-down meeting where we could resolve the disagreement.

He ignored me, of course. His intimidation continued, but it did not escalate again.

Again, I wanted to post a prayer request, but I still didn’t feel the freedom.

One night it really got to me. I should have been asleep. Instead, I was ranting, my intestines were growling, and my sheets were soaked with sweat. I had acknowledged that we’d probably need to take the Pain to court, but as I rolled it around in my mind, I realized that we couldn’t lose the case. We had him cold! We had documentation of a couple of things that would make this an open and shut case! I didn’t want to go to court (nobody in their right mind does), but if we needed to, we would win.

And then I realized that The Pain wasn’t doing any of this to hurt my son or to hurt me, and he wasn’t doing this to win a court case. He just needed to stay in power in his interactions with other people. He needed to feel powerful, and this whole drama was how he met that need. I honestly began to feel sorry for him. That was actually confusing; he was the reason I was still awake at 3:00 in the morning!

And then Father reminded me of Romans 2:4b: “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” We wanted him to change his mind about the hell he was wreaking; we wanted him to repent. Here, God’s showing me the key to The Pain's repentance: my kindness. Nice.

So I prayed quite a bit; I prayed blessing on this man, on his business, on his real estate holdings. But wait, there's more!

I’d been studying angels in the Bible, recently. My new favorite book of the Bible talked about them: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

So I invited some angels to go visit him and minister the things of the Kingdom to him. We’re supposed to DO the stuff we’re learning, right? And I gave him a new name. No longer The Pain, now he was The Millionaire.

Suddenly, I was tired and I slept.

The next morning, the Millionaire surprised us all. He messaged my son with a remarkably reasonable response. He outlined some things he needed from us (reasonable ones!), and offered some concessions we hadn’t even asked for. Then he recused himself from the final negotiations and he invited us to work with his more reasonable partner. (What? Who IS this guy?)

I wonder if there’s a connection?

I shared the good news with Mrs P, and she admitted that she had been praying blessing on him as well (before she dropped off to a sound sleep several hours before I did!).

I never did ask others for prayer. Our amazing Father really does know what we need, even before we tell him. He’d been answering that prayer long before we got around to praying it.

Then I heard Holy Spirit whisper to me, “I’m serious. It’s kindness that brings repentance. Not power, not strength of will, not even being right. It’s kindness.”

It's kindness that leads to repentance. It really is. 

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Letters

Kindness Leads to Repentance

In Matthew chapter 6, Jesus is describing some of the ways that his family is to be different than how the world does things. In the middle of that lecture, he drops this bomb: “Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.”

There’s one command in this, and one reason for the command. Don’t be like those people because unlike their father, your Father knows what you need, even before you tell him.

I’d like to share a testimony, if I may.

I was helping someone with a legal issue. This someone important to me, someone who calls me “dad.” And the legal issue was pretty bad. It wasn’t that he had done anything illegal, but he’d gotten involved with a World Class Pain-In-The-Hindquarters. 

The World Class Pain was making his life miserable, threatening lawsuits, threatening huge expenses, and was completely flouting the law on the matter. He was Too Important To Be Bothered with things like that (he is a legitimate millionaire, for all the good it does him), and he does know powerful people who owe him favors.

So we’d talked together about the options open to us. At its most intense point, my spiritual son called me in terror and confusion about the latest round of threats, so I called the Millionaire Pain and explained things firmly to him. I think he’ll be able to use that ear again in a few days. I did not submit to his campaign of terror. I wasn’t rude, but I didn’t let him push me around.

But I pissed him off, so he jacked up the intimidation and threats, and neither my son nor I slept much for a couple of nights.

I wanted to ask for prayer, but I didn’t feel that freedom.

A day later, I realized that when I got in his face, I misquoted some facts to him, so I called him back, and (as expected) he sent my call to voicemail, so I left him a long message. I apologized for my errant facts, explained the situation from my son’s perspective, acknowledged what we understood of his own needs in the situation, and proposed a sit-down meeting where we could resolve the disagreement.

He ignored me, of course. His intimidation continued, but it did not escalate again.

Again, I wanted to post a prayer request, but I still didn’t feel the freedom.

One night it really got to me. I should have been asleep. Instead, I was ranting, my intestines were growling, and my sheets were soaked with sweat. I had acknowledged that we’d probably need to take the Pain to court, but as I rolled it around in my mind, I realized that we couldn’t lose the case. We had him cold! We had documentation of a couple of things that would make this an open and shut case! I didn’t want to go to court (nobody in their right mind does), but if we needed to, we would win.

And then I realized that The Pain wasn’t doing any of this to hurt my son or to hurt me, and he wasn’t doing this to win a court case. He just needed to stay in power in his interactions with other people. He needed to feel powerful, and this whole drama was how he met that need. I honestly began to feel sorry for him. That was actually confusing; he was the reason I was still awake at 3:00 in the morning!

And then Father reminded me of Romans 2:4b: “God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance.” We wanted him to change his mind about the hell he was wreaking; we wanted him to repent. Here, God’s showing me the key to The Pain's repentance: my kindness. Nice.

So I prayed quite a bit; I prayed blessing on this man, on his business, on his real estate holdings. But wait, there's more!

I’d been studying angels in the Bible, recently. My new favorite book of the Bible talked about them: “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14).

So I invited some angels to go visit him and minister the things of the Kingdom to him. We’re supposed to DO the stuff we’re learning, right? And I gave him a new name. No longer The Pain, now he was The Millionaire.

Suddenly, I was tired and I slept.

The next morning, the Millionaire surprised us all. He messaged my son with a remarkably reasonable response. He outlined some things he needed from us (reasonable ones!), and offered some concessions we hadn’t even asked for. Then he recused himself from the final negotiations and he invited us to work with his more reasonable partner. (What? Who IS this guy?)

I wonder if there’s a connection?

I shared the good news with Mrs P, and she admitted that she had been praying blessing on him as well (before she dropped off to a sound sleep several hours before I did!).

I never did ask others for prayer. Our amazing Father really does know what we need, even before we tell him. He’d been answering that prayer long before we got around to praying it.

Then I heard Holy Spirit whisper to me, “I’m serious. It’s kindness that brings repentance. Not power, not strength of will, not even being right. It’s kindness.”

It's kindness that leads to repentance. It really is. 

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Letters

Korean Non-Communion

It was at the North-South Korean border. An American military official approached the line, accompanied by one or two South Korean officials. He held a megaphone. Stopping just before the line, he aimed the megaphone over the border and explained that South Korea had found the body of a dead North Korean soldier and wanted information on how to turn it over to North Korea officials. As he spoke North Korean soldiers looked at him through binoculars and scattered about like flies until they finally went inside their building and closed the door.

It is difficult to take it all in. Normally, when you try to talk to someone, they listen, receive your message, and pass the message on. But, the North Korean officials seemed to assume that South Korea had some other intentions, as if the South wasn't saying what the South was saying. That's not to mention that the South had to communicate with a megaphone because no one in the North would receive a simple message.

What was even more startling was how much I kept thinking about communication between different Christian sects and denominations.

In the Church and in America as a whole, communication has a striking similarity. People are suspicious of each other and they don't receive each others' ideas. When a Baptist speaks to a Pentecostal, it is as if each of their friends circle the other with binoculars before silently walking away and closing the door. The only way to talk about even the most basic of cordial concerns is through a megaphone because there is no reception.

By refusing to listen to each other, Americans have adopted dangerous values to a point where North Korean missiles may not be necessary to destroy the country.

But, shouldn't Christians at least act better? Not only should Christians be courteous across their borders, there shouldn't be borders in the Church. It is as if American society follows the example of old-time, denominational, divided "Churchianity".

Unfortunately, the Church keeps the borders they shouldn't while governments don't keep the borders they should. Ironically, removing Church borders and building government borders are equally politically incorrect. Dr. Ben Carson had some words about political correctness.

"...Fix the PC culture in our country, which only listens to one narrative. And if it doesn't fit their philosophy, then they try to ascribe some motive to it... Whenever you are asked a certain question, it has to be answered in a certain way, and if you don't answer it that way, then let's attack. Let's not try to actually understand what a person is saying. Let's just attack, attack, attack. And hopefully, everybody else will look at that and they will realize they're never supposed to say something like that again. That's what the PC culture is." – Dr. Ben Carson

Blame for the nation's division rightly rests at the doorstep of the Church. It's impossible to rule-out that the North-South Korean conflict wasn't influenced by the Church's own division and non-communication. Non-communication is very dangerous. The Church doesn't seem to understand how important the issue of communication has always been. Christians don't even understand what they say to each other, let alone the great dangers that now await them, merely from their refusal to communicate.

So, the Christian and American political scripts are the same: When someone doesn't respond according to the expected narrative, the programmed minions assume that he has some hidden agenda and it is as if they can't hear plain English. continue reading

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Letters

Why I Smile on Airplanes

"Open the door, mate! Please, just open the door."

Knocks continued as I took my shower at the hostel in Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. It's not every day that your shower gets interrupted by a drunken Britt from Birmingham needing to, well, more kindly than he put it "relieve himself".

I knew who the guy was. We had talked recently and I didn't feel in any danger. In fact, danger hadn't even crossed my mind. I have no problem letting a bro into the bathroom when nature calls. I mean, a man's gotta' do what a man's gotta' do when a man's gotta' do it.

"Well, I need a moment." My body was covered in soap and I wasn't about to trudge soap across the floor.

"Please! Just open the door. I just have to take a [leak]. I'm drunk and I gotta' go!"

"Coming." I wrapped my towel around my waist and opened the door.

"Thank you so much mate. Ahhhh..." He probably relieved himself for a good two minutes, almost falling backwards twice.

Again, I really didn't mind letting him in. He had a delightful Cockney Birmingham accent, after all. In fact, so he claims, that driving cap I have was invented in Birmingham and, in his words, "You got to be a Birmie to wear one of those."

How did it all start?

I had walked into the hostel earlier that night to meet Shelly for the first time. She seemed exhausted, yet calm in a charming sort of way. I asked and she told me some of her journey. She had a semi-crazy trip. I'll spare the details, except to say that I asked, "What's a brilliant girl like you doing partying? You should be up at 5:00 A.M. interviewing shop owners, building a contact book, and making a journal of your discoveries."

"You know, you're right, actually," she said.

I gave her the boilerplate advice, which somehow never seems so obvious: Study what you hate, do what you love. It's not always true, but what a resume builder, eh? "I travel the world because I love people, I speak three languages, but I studied accounting and pre-MBA in college to keep myself well-rounded." Who wouldn't hire someone like that?

"I must introduce you to Heather," I said at last. "Heather is from a country right next to yours and she's quite similar. She's traveling with her friend, Brianna, which I can never pronounce to her liking."

Shelly was from central Europe and had just worked for an airline. She told me a story about a tough customer she once had, how airline employees must always wear a smile, even while laying down the law, even while being threatened.

...Airline employees must always wear a smile.

And, that was Shelly. Even after the rough story of travels she had been through, here she was, all in one piece, calm as a cucumber. In many ways, I envy her.

In walked Heather and Brianna. "There they are," I exclaimed. The three ladies got acquainted on the porch that evening in Saigon while I took to the shower. I had an early flight to catch and wanted to get to sleep early.

So, here I was in the shower—kind of—trying to keep a drunk "Birmie" from falling down while relieving himself. "Oh, thanks so much, mate! I'm so drunk."

"It's alright. I understand." We just have to wear that smile no matter what...

I finished my shower and made my way out to the porch to find our Birmie friend chatting it up with the three ladies on the porch. After a minute or two, his other Birmie friend showed up.

"Oh, please," one of the fellas said. "Just a little more massage."

"But, I already gave you three. You're quite relaxed as it is."

"I still want the full massage."

"But, you can't do everything all at one time."

That's very true.

Time to distract. "Jesse, what was it you said you were working on with your website?"

"It was a list of words. Many non-native speakers have trouble with some English sounds..."

"Get off of my bed! I want to sleep!"

"Don't bother Breeann," I say.

"No, no, no! It's Brianna," she corrected.

Her friend piped in. "Yes, there are some sounds that native English speakers have trouble pronouncing in other languages."

Touche.

This was going to be an interesting evening. I didn't dare doze off to sleep. The drunk boys probably aren't all that bad, but they wouldn't let the ladies be. Worse things probably happen in many other parts of the world, especially in so-called "civilized nations".

One guy playfully tosses Brianna on the bed. She objects with dignity. Heather tries to talk some sense into the drunk, but more as a distraction gimmick than any genuine hope of producing change.

As the night went on, the girls did a rather fantastic job of entertaining the drunk boys. It wasn't for any agreement or to join in their rough housing. There just wasn't anything else for them to do. So, they sat and listened to them through the night.

It began to rain. It stopped raining. The floor got wet. Then one of the boys threw Shelly's bag on the floor—right into a puddle of water.

"You can't throw people's things," I kindly explained.

"But, I want to throw things," he said.

Now, there's an indication of insecurity. The boys aren't really bad, just immature and insecure. That's quite a contrast to the girls with whom these boys quite clearly didn't stand a chance of rounding first base.

"You can't throw other people's things, though. They can break. Now, Shelly is sad."

Watching those girls deal with misfits was a lesson in life for me. I don't know where Brianna and Heather will go with their lives, but I'm sure it won't be a waste.

Shelly sat next to her wet bag, poking her fingers at her temples. Then, she smiled. She was tired. It was 4:00 A.M. Her only travel bag was wet—along with who knows what else inside. With her luck everything was probably okay. But, that's not the point.

In that moment, Shelly convinced me that she did indeed work for an airline. You have to have the patience of Job to not explode in a situation like that.

Shelly, I don't know where you will go with your life, but I'm sure it will be amazing as long as you keep going and, no matter what, keep smiling.

So, what happened to the boys? I couldn't stay around to find out. I had a plane to catch. That's another story of patience all to itself. I'll just say that the memory of Shelly kept me smiling.

continue reading

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Letters

Does the Bible Tell Lies?

This is a serious question:

If somebody is telling you a flat-out lie, and I report, “This is what they’re saying,” without describing it as the truth or as a lie, Then am I telling you the truth to you? Or am I lying to you?

Related to that:

If somebody is telling a flat-out lie, and the Bible reports, “This is what they said,” without describing it as either truthful or a lie, Then is the Bible speaking truth? Or is it lying?

Of course, I’m going to argue that if the Bible is just reporting what they said, that this it is telling the truth, even if what it is truthfully reporting is a lie. Even when the Bible accurately quotes their lying words, it is telling the truth, and you can have confidence that they did, indeed, tell that lie.

For example, when Bildad the Shuhite says to Job, “When your children sinned against him, [God] gave them over to the penalty of their sin,” [Job 8:4] and the Bible truthfully reports Bildad’s fake news, then the Bible is still speaking the truth, even if Job’s children never sinned, and even if Bildad can’t tell his sphincter from a scepter.

Or when the Bible accurately quotes a snake calling God a liar, and declaring “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” [Genesis 3:5], then the Bible is still telling the truth, even though the words it is quoting are a flat-out lie, literally straight from the devil’s mouth.

This leads to a very awkward and uncomfortable place. I’m going to say this bluntly:


  • Not everything the Bible says is true.
  • Some of what the Bible says is a lie, because
  • Sometimes the Bible truthfully reports people’s lies.


That’s going to trigger some folks, but take a deep breath and think about it: we’ve just discussed two specific lies that the Bible quotes. The Bible accurately (“truthfully”) reports the lies. But they’re still lies. They’re still in the Bible. The Bible contains these two lies (and many more).

What’s even more challenging is that the Bible doesn’t generally identify whether people are speaking the truth or telling a lie, just like it doesn’t comment on whether what they’re doing is wise or stupid. It never commented that the snake was lying, or that Bildad was lying.

And there are some epic examples of stupid choices and stupid thinking that the Bible reports to us. If you think about it, you can think of several yourself.

“But what about that verse that says it’s all inspired?”

The verse actually says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” [2 Timothy 3:16] Yep. That’s what it says. And yes, this is true!

So yeah, it’s still good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Some of it, by virtue of accurately reporting people’s stupid choices, is particularly helpful for the rebuking and correcting parts! (Yes, David really did seduce his good friend’s wife, and then murder that friend to cover it up. No, we are not teaching that you need to do the same thing!)

In other words, yes, the Bible is still precious, and it is still God-breathed and useful nutrition for saints. But like all nutrition, some of it needs to be chewed well before the nutrients are available to help saints grow.

Don’t just grab pieces and swallow them whole. Find out who said it, who they said it to, and the circumstances they were said in. Learn to chew your food carefully.

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Letters

Does the Bible Tell Lies?

This is a serious question:

If somebody is telling you a flat-out lie, and I report, “This is what they’re saying,” without describing it as the truth or as a lie, Then am I telling you the truth to you? Or am I lying to you?

Related to that:

If somebody is telling a flat-out lie, and the Bible reports, “This is what they said,” without describing it as either truthful or a lie, Then is the Bible speaking truth? Or is it lying?

Of course, I’m going to argue that if the Bible is just reporting what they said, that this it is telling the truth, even if what it is truthfully reporting is a lie. Even when the Bible accurately quotes their lying words, it is telling the truth, and you can have confidence that they did, indeed, tell that lie.

For example, when Bildad the Shuhite says to Job, “When your children sinned against him, [God] gave them over to the penalty of their sin,” [Job 8:4] and the Bible truthfully reports Bildad’s fake news, then the Bible is still speaking the truth, even if Job’s children never sinned, and even if Bildad can’t tell his sphincter from a scepter.

Or when the Bible accurately quotes a snake calling God a liar, and declaring “For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” [Genesis 3:5], then the Bible is still telling the truth, even though the words it is quoting are a flat-out lie, literally straight from the devil’s mouth.

This leads to a very awkward and uncomfortable place. I’m going to say this bluntly:


  • Not everything the Bible says is true.
  • Some of what the Bible says is a lie, because
  • Sometimes the Bible truthfully reports people’s lies.


That’s going to trigger some folks, but take a deep breath and think about it: we’ve just discussed two specific lies that the Bible quotes. The Bible accurately (“truthfully”) reports the lies. But they’re still lies. They’re still in the Bible. The Bible contains these two lies (and many more).

What’s even more challenging is that the Bible doesn’t generally identify whether people are speaking the truth or telling a lie, just like it doesn’t comment on whether what they’re doing is wise or stupid. It never commented that the snake was lying, or that Bildad was lying.

And there are some epic examples of stupid choices and stupid thinking that the Bible reports to us. If you think about it, you can think of several yourself.

“But what about that verse that says it’s all inspired?”

The verse actually says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” [2 Timothy 3:16] Yep. That’s what it says. And yes, this is true!

So yeah, it’s still good for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. Some of it, by virtue of accurately reporting people’s stupid choices, is particularly helpful for the rebuking and correcting parts! (Yes, David really did seduce his good friend’s wife, and then murder that friend to cover it up. No, we are not teaching that you need to do the same thing!)

In other words, yes, the Bible is still precious, and it is still God-breathed and useful nutrition for saints. But like all nutrition, some of it needs to be chewed well before the nutrients are available to help saints grow.

Don’t just grab pieces and swallow them whole. Find out who said it, who they said it to, and the circumstances they were said in. Learn to chew your food carefully.

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Letters

The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·         If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

* I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
* Honor is more important than “the best” price.
* The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.




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Letters

The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·         If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

* I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
* Honor is more important than “the best” price.
* The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.




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Letters

The Test: Do I Really Believe What I Post?

So I posted something on Facebook the other day.

·    If God is really our provider, and that’s not just a religious saying, then why must we always worry about getting the very best price?

This is something Father and I have been talking about. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when he tests me on it.

I’ve been looking for a piece of equipment; my “to do list” has a hot link to a Craigslist search for the piece. And over the weekend some gave me some money, enough to buy the piece. And what do you know: there’s one for sale, exactly the sort that I’m looking for.  

On the way there, Father & I discussed this. I decided that “the best deal” was not the goal, but “the best honor” was a better choice. I had a price in my mind – not sure why it was there – that was well below his asking price.

So looking at the equipment, he offered to sell it for less; in fact, it was the exact amount I had in my mind (and in my pocket). Imagine that.  

But we tested it first. Oops. Not pretty. Needs new blades. He agreed and lowered his price again (I haven’t pushed him on price even once), this time to an odd number. I said no, and insisted on the next higher even number: all I had were $20 bills. He was happy with that.

I got home, tried to sharpen the blades on it: No go. Needs new blades.

Ordered blades from a little shop online. With shipping, that brings the total back up to the number that I had in my mind originally. And in my pocket.

What a funny process. But I think I learned some things here:

·   I really CAN trust Father’s provision.
·   Honor is more important than “the best” price.
·   The path he takes me on may at times be circuitous. But it WILL be interesting.

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