The Discipleship Do-Over

They say that if you watch baseball long enough, you’ll see something you’ve never seen before. That adage held true in a recent game when the Dodgers faced the Pirates.

In the bottom of the first inning, Pirates rookie Ke’Bryan Hayes, hit a long fly ball to right field that was ruled a home run. Just like that, the Pirates had an early 1-0 lead.

But immediately after the play, the cameras showed scurrying in the Dodgers dugout, followed by the umpires moving to the headsets for an official review. It was unclear why the Dodgers would dispute the ruling as every replay clearly showed the ball hitting the foul pole, which is considered fair territory. There was nothing to argue….or so it seemed.

After a very brief review, the main umpire removed his headset and clenched his fist, indicating that Hayes was being called out. Just like that, the home run was wiped away, the run was taken off the board and the Dodgers were no longer losing.

Things became clearer when the announcers showed replays of the runner rounding the bases. In his excitement, Hayes neglected to step on first base as he rounded the bag. The Dodgers noticed it and the replays confirmed it. Since he didn’t touch all the bags, the home run was negated and the runner was called out.


Incidentally, the announcers explained later, that a play like this, where a home run was reversed because a runner had not touched all the bags, had not occurred since 1971.


Ke’Bryan Hayes of the Pirates neglects to step on first base as he rounds the bag on a home run. He was called out after a challenge confirmed the gaffe.

The cameras zoomed in on a stunned Hayes in the Pirates dugout. At that moment, I’m sure he was wishing he could have a Do-Over.

As we coach and mentor Young Professionals, it seems like we’re often encountering people who wish they could have a do-over.

Many don’t like their jobs or are struggling with their career choice. Others lament the amount of debt they committed to, having believed their education would ensure them a well-paying job that would render such large financial obligations moot.

Unfortunately, we can’t go back in time and change our decisions, but we can seek to leverage our experiences and all of our learning for God’s kingdom purposes going forward.

That’s what our friend Grace is doing.

We actually knew Grace from our days back in Davis when she was an engineering student involved in our Cru ministry. Grace graduated and got a job working as an engineer.

Grace is living in our area and Jen reconnected with her a few years ago when we started ministering to Young Adults. Though Grace had worked for many years as an engineer, she didn’t really like it. When layoffs forced her out of a job, she took some time to consider what she really wanted to do.

I realize that not everyone is in a position to be able to consider a career change, but Grace was in a situation that allowed her to consider what was important to her and how she could best utilize her talents and passions to serve the Lord and make a difference in the lives of others.

Grace is an artist at heart and she’s looking for ways to use her creative abilities to minister to others.

Jen and Grace meet in person for the first time in over a year!

Recently, Jen asked Grace if she would connect with another Young Adult Jen has been coaching. Jen thought it might be helpful for this person to have someone else in their life who could provide additional spiritual input and emotional support.

It turns out this other Young Adult also has a creative bent, allowing Grace to connect with her in a way Jen could not.

Our vision is to help Young Adults thrive spiritually and live with purpose. We want to multiply our lives into others so that we might see an army of Young professionals mobilized to make a difference in their families, their jobs, and in their communities.

We are constantly reminded that ministry is messy. We’re no longer ministering to students who have limited responsibilities and unlimited dreams. Instead, we’re coaching and counseling Young adults, who sometimes are struggling to meet the increased demands of life and who often are facing the stark realty that life is not exactly how they imagined or expected it to be.

Our hope is to help them experience Jesus in their current reality and imagine new dreams that would enable them to make a significant contribution to God’s Kingdom purposes!

Would you pray with us as we seek to see Young Professionals like Grace mobilized to multiply their lives into others?

We are grateful for you!

MacBooks, Craiglist and a Guy on Rollerblades

A few years ago, I listed a used laptop on Craigslist. I got an email from a guy named Hugo and I drove to a Starbucks near him to show him the computer.

A few minutes later a guy comes cruising by on rollerblades, and it turns out, it’s Hugo!

Hugo and I are connected on various social media platforms. Hugo is an active guy, who, in addition to roller-blading, loves the outdoors. 

We sat down and chatted for a few minutes and I learned that Hugo was a UCLA grad who knew some of the same people I knew who had been involved with Cru and Destino at UCLA.

Hugo ended up buying my computer and he and I kept in touch as he would occasionally contact me with computer related questions.

About a year ago, Hugo contacted me again because he had an issue with the computer I had sold him a few years back. We met up and I helped him fix his computer issue.

We were connected on Facebook and I would occasionally see Hugo’s posts about life. In a lot of ways, Hugo represents the typical Young Professional to whom we minister. He loves God and he’s passionate about the underprivileged and less fortunate.

After college, Hugo had to deal with school loans (and is now debt free!) yet hasn’t found his sweet spot professionally. Hugo has struggled to figure out exactly how he can best serve God and fulfill his life mission. He’s not quite sure what His unique calling is or how he can best leverage his talents, experience and passion into a life of purpose and meaning.

When we met up a year ago, I shared with Hugo about our ministry to Young Professionals and some of the specific opportunities we offer, but nothing concrete really materialized.

A few months ago, Hugo contacted me again. His computer had died and I later learned that he was nearing completion of his grad school application and everything he had worked on, including his personal statement, resume, letters of reference and the application itself were irretrievably lost. It was a moment of panic and anxiety as the application deadline was quickly approaching.

Hugo needed a computer fast in order to finish the application on time and he later told me that he decided to reach out to me as a “Hail Mary” attempt at locating an inexpensive computer. It just so happened that I had just listed each of the twins’ old MacBooks (the same model that just crashed for Hugo) on Craigslist. When I told Hugo about the laptops I had listed, he said it gave him a glimmer of hope that this incredibly stressful situation he found himself in might actually work itself out.

When we met up for the exchange, Hugo said, “a year ago, you were telling me about some opportunities you have for Young Professionals and I wanted to hear about those again if they’re still available.”

I was smiling inside because I had been wondering if I should mention to him again about my role in helping Young Professionals.

On Strava, I often see Hugo hiking, cycling and enjoying God’s amazing creation with friends!

Hugo and I have now met a few times for coaching and our conversations have been really encouraging.

Hugo has been very appreciative of the opportunity to connect, learn and grow. I’ve appreciated Hugo’s vulnerability and genuine willingness to allow me to come alongside him as he continues in his professional and spiritual journey.

If you think about it, please pray for Hugo. He’s been accepted into USC’s graduate program on Public Policy but is weighing whether the cost of the program will be worth the benefits the program will provide.

This is a common issue with Young Professionals as they navigate and deal with the high cost of higher education relative to the advantages and opportunities that education provides in our current environment.

I’m continually amazed at the many ways God orchestrates circumstances in order to fulfill His greater purposes in our lives. I love how even random events and situations, like selling an item on Craigslist, can lead to an on-going relationship and meaningful connection!

A Divine Appointment in a Grocery Store Parking Lot

I pulled into the parking lot at Stater Bros., a Southern California grocery store near our house. I needed to pick up just a few items and though I had intended to swing by much earlier in the day to avoid the after-work crowds, I had been delayed for reasons I can’t even remember.

As I got out of the car, I heard someone address me with the question, “Dave Lowe?”

Michael Acuna is a former Cal Poly, Pomona student and current assistant basketball coach at Bethesda University.

I looked to see a guy standing in front of my car wearing a mask, glasses and a hat. I didn’t recognize him immediately with all of his facial features covered. He had recognized me though before I parked because I wasn’t wearing a mask or hat until I got out of the car.

He realized I didn’t recognize him so he re-introduced himself.

“Michael Acuna….from Cal Poly, Pomona Destino.”

Michael is a guy I had connected with a number of years ago when Jen and I were in our Regional positions with the Cru campus ministry.

Michael was a student involved in Destino, our Latino focused campus ministry.

I hadn’t seen Michael in several years but we were friends on Facebook and Instagram and I would occasionally see posts from him online. As Michael updated me on his life, I learned that we live very close to each other.

I gave Michael an update on us, including our transition a few years from ministering to college students to focusing on Young Professionals. As I shared about some of the resources we provide, such as Leadership Development Groups and coaching, Michael’s eyes lit up.

“I could really use some coaching”, he responded.

Michael and I were able to exchange contact information and we’ve connected virtually a few times now to talk about how we can move forward in a coaching relationship.

My encounter with Michael is just another example of how God is always working behind the scenes to orchestrate events and work out His divine plans and purposes.

Michael and I taking a selfie in the Stater Bros. parking lot.

A few days ago I was reading in Mark 1, which starts off with these words: “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ.”

What’s interesting though is that Mark doesn’t really talk about Jesus for another 8 verses. If the gospel is about Jesus and Mark is going to talk about the beginning of the gospel, why does he delay mentioning Jesus and instead spend 8 verses talking about an obscure verse in Isaiah, followed by a description of John the Baptist preaching and baptizing out in the wilderness?

It’s true that Jesus is the central figure of the gospel, but the story of the good news incorporates so much more.

This passage is a reminder that even before Jesus arrives on the scene, God the Father is working behind the scenes preparing people for the arrival of the king.

Henry Blackaby said it well in his popular book and workbook “Experiencing God” when he said, “God is always at work around us…”

It’s true. God is ALWAYS working, often in ways I’m not aware of. He’s orchestrating events and arranging circumstances to accomplish his purposes and ultimate plans.

This is why I don’t believe my chance encounter with Michael was accidental or coincidental. It was providential.

How about you? Who are the people and what are the circumstances God arranged to prepare you for the arrival of Jesus in your life?

If God can arrange circumstances to help you encounter Jesus, how might he be using your current situation and circumstances to  prepare you for something greater that you might not even be able to imagine at the moment?

In Philippians 1:6, Paul said that, “he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.”

Before Jesus ever arrived on the scene of your life, God was working to prepare you. And now that you know Jesus, God is still working in you to bring growth and development and perhaps opportunities that you never dreamed of!

You can read more of my thoughts on Mark 1 on my January 13th entry of my DailyDevo blog. 

A Wise Person Thinks About Death?

A good reputation is more valuable than the most expensive perfume. In the same way, the day you die is better than the day you are born. It is better to spend your time at funerals than at festivals. For you are going to die, and you should think about it while there is still time. Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us. A wise person thinks much about death, while the fool thinks only about having a good time now.  – Ecclesiastes 7:1-4 (NLT)

At first glance, this passage seems kind of morbid. How in the world is it better to spend time at funerals than festivals? Who in their right mind likes going to funerals? With all that’s going on in the world, why would I want to intentionally think about death?

At closer inspection, this passage has profound wisdom that is especially appropriate as we begin a new year.

The author might have communicated his point in a different way, by inviting you to ask yourself this question: when you get to the end of your life, what do you want to be true of you? Or to put it another way, how do you want to be eulogized by others?

The fool only thinks about the here and now (verse 4) and what kind of fun they can have (festivals). But the wise person thinks about what kind of person they want to become (their reputation) and what will be said about them by others when they die.

As we embark on another year, it’s only natural to think about the things you want to accomplish in the coming year. Perhaps you want to lose weight and get healthy. Or maybe you want to advance in your profession or develop yourself educationally.

It’s ok to set material and professional goals but don’t neglect your character and your reputation. The wise person realizes that this is the most important area to think about and reflect on.

What steps can you take this year to move toward becoming the kind of person you want to ultimately be known as? What resources do you need to help you get there?

If you’re a Young Adult, contact us about coaching and other resources that can help you grow and develop in all areas of your life.

Here’s to a Happy and blessed New Year!

Discipleship and Change Through Coaching

Eric, with now wife Suemi, as a student at San Jose State University

I first met Eric thirty-one years ago. I was a brand-spanking new staff member with Cru at San Jose State University. It was a Friday night and we were hosting a Prayer night at the Crusade house where I lived with 12 other guys.

Eric opened the front door and walked in, looking for a friend who lived at the house. He felt like a deer caught in the headlights as he realized there was a prayer meeting happening. To avoid embarrassment, Eric played coy, acting as if he had intended to join.

Later that next week I met Eric on campus and we got into a deep spiritual conversation. Though Eric had a Christian background, he had never placed his faith in Christ, until that day.

Eric, taking time to reflect on God’s Word. As a new Christian, Eric spent the summer of 1990 on a Cru missions project in Santa Cruz getting vital discipleship training.

Over the next four years, Eric and I developed a close friendship as I helped him grow in his newfound faith. Since that time, we’ve stayed connected and remained friends, occasionally connecting as families as the opportunity has presented itself.

Earlier this year, I contacted Eric about coaching. I was looking to gain experience in implementing the training Jen and I had received last fall and I needed people to help me get started.

Unbeknownst to me, Eric had specifically prayed last fall that the Lord would give him wisdom and help him make progress in an area of his life that he’s struggled with for a long time – his health…specifically, his weight.

For years, Eric has tried to gain control of his weight, with very mixed results. There was a certain sense of urgency this time though as Eric’s doctor presented certain health related realities that were a direct result of his weight.

Can you relate? Is there an issue you’ve struggled with for as long as you can remember? It may not be weight or health-related but we all have areas in our lives that seem to hold us back.

Eric in 2002, attending a Sacramento area Cru Vision Dinner.

Eric and I officially began our coaching relationship right before Covid hit and the primary issue we’ve been tackling is Eric’s goal to lose 90 pounds.

If that sounds like a big goal, it is. Coaching isn’t a panacea. It’s not the silver bullet that solves all issues or problems. Primarily, it’s an avenue for self-discovery that empowers those who want to see growth and change make progress in areas that matter most to them.

For Eric, the journey has been long and hard. There have been many ups and downs. But with setbacks, coaching provides a structure for support that makes it a bit easier to keep going instead of throwing in the towel.

Eric has now lost 45 pounds and is half-way to his goal. He feels better, has more energy and is starting to see improvement in some of his weight-related health concerns.

Recently, I asked Eric about the spiritual connections he’s made through his weight loss journey.

Eric and I using Google Meet for a virtual coaching call.

Eric said that he came to realize that losing weight was about more than just eating the right foods and exercising more, as important as those things are.

“There comes a point where you realize you can’t just will yourself to get the results you want to achieve. We lack discipline, focus and will power.” Eric went on to explain that we need help from others, whether that’s in the form of support and motivation or instruction and tools.

What Eric described to me is a picture of grace. Grace is applied when we can’t reach a standard we’ve set on our own and we need help to reach the goal.

Jesus is the ultimate grace-giver. He came to die for us, achieving the standard of righteousness required to experience a relationship with God that we couldn’t meet via our own efforts.

God answered Eric’s initial request from last fall by bringing others into his life to support him in his journey. I’ve been blessed to play a part in helping him hear the Lord’s voice through our coaching relationship.

How about you? What are the areas where you need the Lord to give you wisdom and grace to move forward to see significant life change? Who can you invite into your process to provide support and encouragement?

Coaching is an avenue that can help you gain greater awareness of your situation and provide support and encouragement to help you achieve goals that may have seemed out of reach.

Developing Resilience

What is resilience? Is it a skill? Is it an ingrained character quality?

A Picture of resilience – a lone tree somehow thrives in a harsh environment where plant life is sparse
Photo by Patrick Hendry on Unsplash

Marcus Buckingham, researcher and developer of the Gallup StrengthsFinder assessment addressed this question last month at the 2020 Global Leadership Summit, which Jen and I had the opportunity to attend virtually.

Buckingham and his team of researchers were interested in understanding this quality of resilience that some people seem to have, which gives them the ability to face incredible challenges without breaking or buckling.

Buckingham’s research determined that resilience isn’t a skill but a quality that can be developed. His talk focused on how to build resilience in others and in ourselves. Specifically, he shared 3 different ways we can build resilience in ourselves.

Resilient people have learned the importance of rest and recovery
Photo by Shane on Unsplash

First, Buckingham talked about a concept he called Agency, which simply refers to items we can control. One of the things we can control is the rhythms in our lives. Remember the morning and evening commute? As much as you might have hated that time in the car, it created an obvious separation between home life and work life. For many, that natural break is gone, disrupting the natural rhythm that existed.

The research on resilience, according to Buckingham, suggests that resilient people work hard and then take a break – they recognize the value of recovery. This sounds a lot like the idea of sabbath (rest), doesn’t it?

What are some ways you can create natural breaks in your schedule that would lead to rest, recovery and resilience?

Secondly, Buckingham elaborated on the idea of Compartmentalization, which means that different parts of our lives have different feelings and different outcomes. The most resilient people seem to understand that we have many different lanes in our lives and if we’re not doing well in one lane, there are other lanes. This doesn’t mean we deny the things that are going bad in that one area of life, but it’s a realization that there are other areas where I can see success and progress.

We all have different areas or lanes in our lives. If we’re struggling in one area, we can still succeed and see progress in other lanes.
Photo by Andrew McElroy on Unsplash

Dr. Henry Cloud, in his book Changes that Heal calls this the Good/Bad split, referring to our tendency to look at life as either “all good” if everything is going well, or “all bad” if something unexpected or undesirable happens.

The truth is, life is a mixture of good and bad. Resilient people are able to separate the good and bad and recognize that even when things happen that we wouldn’t prefer, there are often many other things that are going well which we can celebrate and for which we can be grateful.

What are the different lanes in your life where you’re seeing success? How can you leverage your experience in those areas to help you in the areas where you’re struggling?

According to Buckingham, the third way to develop resilience in ourselves is through our Strengths in Work. Resilient people have figured out how to utilize their strengths to derive meaning, purpose and joy from the circumstances they’re in.

Interestingly, Mayo Clinic research indicates that you don’t need to fill up your whole week with those invigorating activities in order to create resilience. If we can fill up just 20% of our schedules with the kinds of activities that bring life to our souls, we can develop resiliency that enables us to withstand the more difficult life circumstances which we may encounter.

What are the things that bring life to you? How can you inject a few of these joy-producing activities into your schedule to help build resilience?

Young Professionals face unique challenges, even apart from Covid, that makes resilience an important quality to develop. Many are struggling to find a supportive community while dealing with extreme financial issues and an uncertain job market.

We’re privileged to be able to help Young Professionals develop resiliency through coaching, Strengths assessments and awareness and Leadership Development.

If you’d like to learn more about resources and opportunities we provide to help people grow in their resilience, please contact us!

The Struggle for Change

I’ve been on a diet since 2005.

At the time, I realized I had gained over 30 pounds since college and I decided I needed to be more proactive about my weight and overall health. You can read about my initial weight loss journey here. (https://bit.ly/Mar05-LD)

Photo by Jamie Matocinos on Unsplash

Since losing those 30 pounds fifteen years ago, I have found that keeping the weight off isn’t easy.

There are so many forces working against us, including, but not limited to donuts, chocolate, french fries, chips, cookies, ice cream, pizza and cheesecake.

Donuts and junk food are just a few of the challenges that face those who desire to get fit!
Photo by Jae Park on Unsplash

There are other non-food forces working against us as well, including lower metabolism and energy levels, slower recovery rates, and of course, Netflix.

The truth is that losing weight and maintaining fitness requires a certain level of surrender. I’m free to eat whatever I want and exercise as little as I want (or not at all), but every choice has its consequences. If I want to maintain a certain weight and fitness level, it will require some sacrifices and some intentionality.

With my 55th birthday approaching, I decided to once again embark on the fitness roller coaster in my attempt to lose 10 pounds. If I’m being honest though, my interest is not just in losing 10 pounds. What I’d really like is to get rid of this spare tire around my waist. I’d like to look different!

I’m doing the work, but so far, I look more like the guy on the left than the guy on the right!
Photo by Renee Fisher on Unsplash

I’m four weeks into this current program and every day I’m reminded why so many people give up. It’s HARD work. And while I’ve made some progress on the weight loss portion of the goal, I’m not sure I’ve made any changes to my waistline as my desired 6-pack still looks more like a keg!

I’m reminded that transformation isn’t immediate. Change takes time.

I think that’s true in our spiritual lives as well.

Years ago, I heard a speaker ask this question: “What do you want to become?”

He said that the choices we make today shape the person we will become in the future. I remember him saying these memorable words, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.”

In Matthew 16:24, Jesus said to his disciples,

If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Many people become Christians because they want forgiveness and eternity in heaven. They want the eternal benefits that come after they die. This isn’t bad or wrong, but Scripture is clear that Jesus has a different purpose for those who follow Him – TRANSFORMATION.

Jesus’ desire is that we would become more like him – that we would be a reflection of His character to those around us. The theological word for this is sanctification, which simply means that over time, my life becomes more and more like the life of Jesus.

Sanctification isn’t easy though, because it requires surrender, discipline and intentionality, just like dieting. This is why Jesus said that those who would follow Him must DENY themselves.  If we want to change spiritually (and physically), we have to deny that part of us that just wants to sit on the couch eating donuts and binge-watching Netflix!

Spiritual fitness. like physical fitness, requires sacrifice, intentionality and training
Photo by Tomasz Wozniak on Unsplash

In 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, Paul compares the Christian life to a race. In order to win, strict training is required. Paul says that he beats his body and makes it his slave so that he might run the race and win!

Paul’s language shows the reality that our bodies don’t necessarily want to comply with our demands for discipline and training. We know this intuitively when it comes to fitness training or other skills like musical talent, but we don’t always think of our spiritual growth in the same way.

As Jen and I continue to minister to Young Professionals, we’re asking them this question, “What do you want to become?”

As they wrestle with the challenges of becoming the Christ-followers they desire, our job is to come along-side them, as coaches, and provide encouragement and support to help them “win the race.”

How about you?

What do you want to become?

How are you doing in this race Paul described? Are you winning or are you finding it to be a struggle?

If you’d like to share your thoughts, concerns or prayer requests, you can reach out to us through the Prayer Tab!

 

Butterfly Photo by Suzanne D. Williams on Unsplash

Covid-19 Photo Gallery

Two weeks ago, I attended the Q Virtual conference (qideas.org). Q is an organization started a few years ago by Gabe Lyons that seeks to “equip strategically positioned Christian influencers to renew the way they believe, think and act in regard to culture.”

Jen and I attended a live Q conference in Nashville 6 years ago and it was there that Jen first experienced issues that initially led to an overnight stay in the local ER, followed by an eventual diagnosis of vasculitis, a rare auto-immune disorder. We missed most of that conference and have not had an opportunity to return, until this year.

This was my view for two days attending the Q Virtual Conference

The speaker lineup this year was packed with a range of cultural and theological leaders, including Tim Keller, Andy Crouch and Francis Chan.

However, one presenter, Sissy Goff, a mental health professional, spoke about “The Psychological Impact of Social Distancing”.

One of the many salient points Goff made regarding our emotional well-being was that in this time of sheltering in place and social distancing, we need to do one brave thing each day. She then asked, “what is one thing you’ve done in COVID that has required bravery?”

For me, I’ve been trying to be more intentional about slowing down, reflecting, and noticing things around me and capturing those moments with my camera. I’ve taken some steps to stretch myself and grow in my photography skills, including taking an online course and submitting some of my photos on unsplash.com. What follows are a number of images that give a glimpse into what we’ve been experiencing these past 7 weeks of the Covid-19 crisis…

When the shutdown first occurred, I was surprised to show up at our local Wal-mart just after 6:00 in the morning, only to be greeted by a long line of people ahead of me, waiting to get in.

The first time I went shopping during the Covid-19 crisis, I thought I would outsmart everyone by getting up early and getting in and out before the rush. Turns out, everyone else had the same idea and I was greeted to a long line just to get into the store.

In addition to long lines, I found the store to be quite barren of products. Most of the fruits and vegetable bins were completely empty as well as pretty much all dried goods (beans, pasta, rice, etc.) as well as meats, bread and dairy products. I found myself grabbing the most random items as substitutes for the items we really needed. In the end, I had to go to three stores just to get some semblance of groceries for the week.

Training never stops for those in the military!

Did I mention that our boys are home? They are still training and they are still eating…A LOT. That has magnified the grocery issues. After the Wal-Mart incident, Jen decided to start ordering stuff online, but that was hit and miss. Then she started using a grocery service, which worked well for about a week, maybe two, at which point, it became harder and harder to find time slots to get groceries delivered.

We finally got a grocery slot one week but we were told that groceries could be delivered any day between Tuesday and Sunday (which was Easter). No groceries came on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Finally, on Easter Sunday we were expecting our food to be delivered and boy did we need it. We had gone nearly 2 weeks without shopping.

Have I mentioned that my boys are home during this crisis? Have I mentioned how much they eat?

About mid-day, we got a message from the shopper saying that the store we had ordered food from was closed. They canceled our order and we were left with nothing substantial in the house for Easter dinner. It felt a lot like one of those cooking shows where they give each chef 6 random food items and ask them to make a gourmet meal out of it. Hmmm…what can we make with a can of sardines, a box of gluten-free spaghetti, a lemon from the tree outside, two eggs, a box of granola and a jar of salsa? GO!

This dirt track has been the only place locally that works for a timed workout. Hopefully, high school tracks will open soon!

Speaking of training, Jacob is a member of the Naval Academy Cross Country and Track teams. Though the season has been canceled, the athletes are all expected to keep working out in order to maintain their conditioning and long-term training cycle. There really is no break for distance runners.

It has been increasingly harder for Jacob to find places to do his workouts. He needs a track about once or twice a week in order to time his workouts. Other days are casual runs anywhere. Most local high schools are shut down with security keeping people from using the facilities. We were fortunate to find this dirt track locally that is not too crowded and has enabled Jacob to continue his training.

Local park playground structures have been closed off with this caution tape, even though parks in general are open

Initially we thought the lockdown might last just a few weeks or maybe a month. Our boys’ return to their academies was delayed by two weeks but then became indefinite.

As things progressed, businesses began to close and park playgrounds were shut down. We were told masks didn’t work and then a few weeks later, we were told we should wear masks. At first, we were told that social distancing was the primary step to curb the virus, but then the lockdown came and people whose jobs were not considered “essential” were urged to stay at home.

One day, while outside getting exercise, I found this sign laying on the ground in our neighborhood. Im not sure if it fell over on its own or if it was removed by someone protesting the lockdown.
One day while walking the dog, I spotted this small action figure lying on the sidewalk. It turns out that during Covid-19, even Action figures are wearing masks!

One of the things we have tried to do regularly to maintain some kind of routine is walk the dog. Most every day, Jen and I will try to get out in the afternoon to take the dog out. We pretty much walk the same route every day. One day while walking the dog, I spotted this small action figure lying on the sidewalk. It turns out that during Covid-19, even action figures are wearing masks!

It’s been interesting to slow down and try to notice things that I never noticed before. It’s amazing how much beauty and creativity is around us that we don’t pay attention to.  Now that it’s spring time, we’re starting to see flowers blooming and plants coming alive.

As I’ve ventured out daily with the dog and my camera, I’m trying to notice the things around me that demonstrate life and bring hope during this challenging season.

Flowers are in bloom, the air is clear and the mountains are majestic.

A few weeks ago, in order to avoid an oncoming dog walker and maintain our distance, we darted to the other side of the street. I was walking down the same street but on the other side, and this gave me a slightly different perspective. Had I not gone to the other side, I would have missed the sidewalk chalk message – “Always Stop and smell the Flowers.” Our dog Scout decided to take the advice!

The chalk message says “Always Stop and smell the Flowers.” Our dog is so smart, he complied with the message!

Attending church activities has been different. We are still able to attend our home group and men’s and women’s groups but everything is online now through Zoom and other video platforms.

All small groups and the weekly worship service are all meeting online for the forseeable future

We’re able to worship as a family by watching the sermon online every Saturday beginning at 4:00 p.m. at Saddleback.org. The worship team records all of their parts separately and the worship is edited and spliced together to give the feeling of a full live worship set. It’s pretty amazing what technology is enabling us to do. Pastor Rick Warren then gives his sermon online as well.

Signs like this, commemorating major milestones, can be found throughout our neighborhood.

There is so much loss during this crisis. I think about all the high school seniors who have missed out on prom as well as all their other senior traditions, including commencement.

College seniors are also missing one of the biggest days in their lives. We know of weddings that have been postponed or canceled, vacation trips that have been delayed or lost altogether.

In addition, I think about all of the spring sports that have been canceled and all of the athletes who had no idea that their seasons were going to be cut short.

What have you lost as a result of this crisis? What are you grieving?

I think about my friends Jim and Charlotte Van Steenbergen, whom I’ve known for many years. Jim has been in declining health in recent months and I just learned that he passed away peacefully on Cinco de Mayo. Normally, I would have loved to visit and honor my friend in his last days. Unfortunately, that was not possible in this current environment. I grieve that lost opportunity to say goodbye and to thank him for the ministry he’s had in my life over the years.

What have you learned from this crisis? What have you found?

Being forced to slow down has its advantages. All those things you wished for in the past that you never had time for are suddenly available. And yet, I’ve learned that I am not always taking advantage of the extra time to do the things I’ve said I would do IF there was more time. I’ve learned that my heart is not always intentional and honest about my true desires and motivations.

While cleaning out our office closet, I found this box that was the container for my Samsung watch.

I’ve learned to see more of the hidden treasures in life.

Recently, Jen undertook the long desired task of cleaning out the office. There’s a lot of stuff that we don’t use but is taking up space. Interestingly, as we’ve cleared out cabinets and purged the overstocked closet, we’ve actually “found” things we didn’t remember we had.

One of the things I “found” was the box to my Samsung smartwatch that I bought a few years ago. About 6 months ago, the band on the watch broke and I had to buy a new one online. I was planning to throw the box away, thinking I really didn’t need it anymore. But I decided to open it to see if there was anything inside. Low and behold, there was a spare watch band. I had the spare watch band all along but I didn’t realize it was there, so I needlessly bought a new band from an online seller.

I had completely forgotten that when I purchased my watch it came with a replacement band. It was a hidden treasure in my closet

We found many more of these kinds of hidden “treasures” while cleaning out our office. It’s a reminder to me that there are hidden treasures everywhere around us, evidence of God’s creation, power and beauty. I just need to slow down and look around to notice.

Like many of you, we are still able to work from our home. We have been working from home for a number of years so the shift wasn’t too radical for us. However, we were used to meeting people at various places throughout Orange County and beyond. In addition, we have conferences and other events we would typically travel to. All of those things have been either canceled or suspended and the bulk of what we are doing now is finding ways to minister to people online.

Dave connecting with the UCLA Cru director and two of their seniors to talk about the benefits of coaching. Dave was able to coach each senior in a short 15 minute preview session.

We continue to coach folks but we do it virtually instead of in person. We continue to lead groups and host groups online. Training and development conferences we are a part of have been converted to webinars and Zoom discussion groups. We’ve pivoted in a number of ways already but we’re actively seeking new ways to minister to people online in this current environment.

We are grateful for you, our friends, family and partners who have supported and encouraged us to press on, especially as Jen has been immuno-compromised due to a vasculitis flare she’s been experiencing.

We would greatly appreciate your continued prayers for Jen and her health and for us as we continue to navigate life and ministry in this new climate of social distancing, working from home and sheltering in place.

Just as I’ve been more intentional about seeking to recognize the things around us that may easily go unnoticed, please pray that we would “recognize” the ministry opportunities God is placing before us.

 

Adapting to New Realities

Jacob (Navy) and Joshua (Army) look on as their former team-mate races to the finish line of the 800m race!

One week ago, with my twins home for spring break, we went to a track meet where I took photos while my boys connected with former coaches and teammates. Everything seemed normal and life was good. We were making the most of our few days together as a family before the twins were scheduled to report back to their respective academies.

Within 24 hours, everything changed.

EVERYTHING!

It was announced that Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson had tested positive for the Coronavirus. At the same time, a member of the Utah Jazz tested positive and the NBA immediately suspended their season. Things escalated exponentially from there.

The next day, Jacob and Joshua were both informed that they were to delay their returns for 2 weeks and that online instruction would ensue shortly. Restaurants began closing and other large events were canceled or postponed. Disneyland closed for only the 4th time in its history. By the end of the week, all major sports leagues had been suspended, most schools had closed, weekend church services were either canceled or moved online and many people were told to begin working from home.

New terms such as “flattening the curve” and “social distancing” have become a normal part of our vernacular while crowded grocery stores and empty shelves have become commonplace. Who would have thought a few weeks ago that toilet paper would be more sought after than gold?

Long lines and empty shelves are the norm now at most grocery stores

What we’re experiencing is unprecedented….at least in my lifetime. How should we respond?

As you know, Jen has been experiencing her own health issues with her vasculitis flaring up recently. She’s been hospitalized, is back on Prednisone and has undergone two different infusions of Rituxan, a drug which is designed to suppress her immune system as a measure of stabilizing the auto-immune flare that is currently afflicting her.

A few weeks ago, Jen spent the day at UCLA, receiving a five hour infusion of Rituxan, a drug that is part of her ongoing treatment in combating her vasculitis flare.

While she’s not bed-ridden and she’s able to carry on most work responsibilities, she’s at increased risk for infections. As a result, we’re trying to be extra cautious and vigilant, but also doing our best not to panic.

From a ministry perspective, we’re still working and actively seeking to minister to Young Professionals. While many of our upcoming work trips have been canceled and events postponed, we’re still able to coach Young Professionals virtually. In fact, we already office out of our home and have been doing more and more of our coaching in a virtual environment anyway, so these latest measures have not been a major disruption to us.

One benefit of having the boys home is the dog gets more attention…but yeah, he’s already a spoiled pup!

Perhaps the biggest change for us is the fact that our boys are home and we are all sharing the same space and needing to get online for virtual classes or online meetings. Our boys are attending class as normal but everything is on East Coast time so they are having to get up at 4:30 a.m. in order to attend their first period classes.

Food consumption has also gone up, which means there are more trips to the grocery store, and more empty shelves and hunting for food and supplies to keep these guys from going hungry!

Though the nation is in crisis, we are trying to rest in the peace that Jesus is in control and we are His.

We would appreciate your prayers, though, mainly to stay healthy and for Jen’s vasculitis flare to become stable so she can begin to taper off of some of the drugs that have such negative effects. Pray too that we would find new and creative ways to minister to people during this time.

We know this crisis is affecting many of you in very real and perhaps devastating ways. We would love to pray for you. Please let us know how we can intercede on your behalf!

How do we Disciple in Digital Babylon?

Over the summer I attended a breakfast at our National Cru Conference that featured a speaker who was talking about the value of coaching. He made an interesting statement that stuck with me. He said, “Growing up in the church I was discipled by events.” He followed by saying he wasn’t against events but that event-oriented discipleship wears out the leaders AND the participants.

Recently, I’ve been reading Faith For Exiles by David Kinnaman. It’s a fascinating peek into current research regarding Young Adults and their relationship to the church. One of the main points of the book, which we highlighted in last month’s Lowedown, is that we’re living in “Digital Babylon.” The idea of Digital Babylon is that people are so connected to their screens that we’re slowly being indoctrinated to the culture’s values by the content we’re immersed in through our phones and other digital devices. I was particularly struck by the statement that “Screens demand our attention. Screens disciple.”

Four Kinds of Exiles, from Barna Research …. Prodigals – those who no longer claim to be Christian …. Nomads – those who still claim to be Christian but are not engaged with a church community …. Habitual Churchgoers – those who attend church regularly but not engaged at church …. Resilient Disciples – those who attend AND are engaged in church and desire to see their community transformed as a result of their faith.

The question we’ve been trying to answer as we seek to resource and equip Young Professionals is how do we disciple this generation in this cultural environment? Kinnaman seeks to answer this question as well, pointing out that “in a previous era, we had some semblance of success mass-producing disciples.”

Our focus in the church has traditionally been on using events to reach and disciple people, just as the speaker at my summer breakfast had mentioned. But the dropout rate of Young Adults who have left the church demonstrates that this method and approach doesn’t work in today’s culture. We need a different approach if we’re going to develop disciples in “Digital Babylon.”

My experience with Young Professionals over the past few years has led me to the conclusion that most Young Adults have been so immersed in event-oriented discipleship through Youth groups and campus ministries that they cannot envision another way to grow in their faith and be connected to a Christ community.

It seems to me that many Young adults bounce around from place to place looking for an event-oriented community experience for people in their life stage. Finding this kind of community has proven to be as elusive for many Young adults as spotting a unicorn. As a result, many Young Adults we know get discouraged and some give up on church altogether.

Jen and I are working with a group of Young Professionals who desire to create Christ Communities among Young Adults where they currently do not exist.

But what if Young Professionals learned to lead themselves, instead of looking for the elusive event-oriented Young Adult community that doesn’t exist?

Kinnaman’s research shows that only 10% of Young Adults who grew up in a church are what he refers to as Resilient Disciples. People in this category are engaged with their church and have a strong desire to see communities transformed as a result of their faith.

Our hope is to work with these resilient disciples and unleash them to create Christ communities among their peers where they currently don’t exist. We can provide “discipleship”, not through highly organized events, but through Coaching, Leadership Development opportunities and connecting them to other like-minded, missionally-driven individuals.

We continue to learn and trust God for this next generation. We are so thankful for you and your part in helping us to disciple Young Professionals in this “Digital Babylon.”