Lean Not on Your Own Understanding…

For the past 6-8 weeks or so, the Lord has continued to give Carol, myself and our intercessor the same passage of scripture as we would go before Him.

Proverbs 3:5 (NASB)

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And do not lean on your own understanding.

This scripture always seemed to be present when we were praying about our housing situation.   Every time we would hear this verse we would see so many different ways it could be applied to our search, but we just weren’t getting any further clarity on where we needed to be looking.

A few weeks ago, my business partner asked me if I would consider living in a mobile home and he even went so far as to go on a fact finding mission for me at a local mobile home park.   As doors continued to close in front of Carol and I we decided to explore this option.  Last night Carol and the kids toured several parks, but came away without a real sense of peace about any of the trailers they looked at.   So today, being our only real day to look we decided to go back to one of the parks after looking at some houses this morning that just didn’t fit.

She showed me the trailer she had looked at the night before, but both of us came away with the same sense that this particular trailer wasn’t our answer.  As we were driving away, she pointed out an attractive double-wide that was for sale by owner at the far end of the trailer park.   We called the number on the sign, and low and behold they were home (I must warn you, there is a twist in the unfolding of events…you haven’t solved the case yet Sherlock Holmes).   We went inside and met the owners who were moving due to the husband’s terminal illness and his need for in home care.  As I looked around, the trailer was nice, but there were large gaps between the two halves of the trailer and part of the  ceiling was breaking away from water damage.  This wasn’t it either.

Carol and I left, dumbfounded and asking ourselves “now what?”  As we were driving away, the phone rang.  It was the wife from the trailer we had just been in.   She told Carol that her sister, who had been at the trailer when we were there, had a house on Padre Island that had been wrecked by the previous tenants.  She said that if we were willing to paint and clean carpets she would be willing to reduce the rental.   As we turned back around, I told Carol:  “this sounds like a God thing taking shape.”

When we returned to the trailer, we were met by the sister of the trailer owner’s wife.   She jumped in the van and said, “let me show you the house.”   As we drove towards Padre Island, we learned that her husband had passed away a couple of years ago and that she didn’t want to live there anymore.   She said the previous tenants had ruined the carpets and the walls, requiring a lot of elbow grease.

When we arrived, we found a 4 bedroom brick home with a pool and ample space for our Organic Groups.   The work needed was primarily clean up and cosmetic.   When I asked her what she wanted for rent and she named what our price range was.   When I asked her what the work was worth, she indicated that it was worth at least one month’s rent, but she also stated her need for some rental income from it.  I told her what we were currently paying and asked her if we could pay her that same amount for February and March, discounting for the clean up work.   We agreed to begin paying the full rental amount in April.  She suggested we put it in writing, so on a notepad we drew up those terms and she handed us the key.   No pet deposit, no rental deposit and just what we needed when we need it.

God being the loving Father that He is, went far above what we needed.  Placing us 3 blocks from my favorite fishing spot, giving me a place to exercise daily with my favorite activity…swimming!   And by positioning us on the Island, our ministry now has placement in 3 key areas of Corpus Christi.

God is so awesome…please take a moment and give Him your best “just gotta praise You dance.”

Caution…Contents Under Extreme Pressure!

I have now come to refer to the year 2008 as my year of deconstruction.  It was during 2008 that the Lord took me through the most painful, yet most freeing journey of my spiritual life with one question:  “Am I the Lord of every kingdom of your heart.”   2008 was so painful and so challenging on so many levels that I was ready to breathe easier as the calendar rolled to 2009; however, as we come towards the home stretch of January, I am quickly realizing that there are miles to go before I am ready to fit the vision that God has given me for Simplicity.

We have known for some time that we would need to move at the end of January.   As we have been praying for God’s clear direction for our next place, the suggestions have been many.   Move here, do this, try this, go this way, etc…   Some seemed as though they were of God’s leading, but as we followed their path, we did not find God’s provision at the end.  So here we are 8 days away from needing to move.  We have no clear direction, $60 in our bank account, a vacant house in Pennsylvania and the list goes on.   These first weeks of our business endeavors drain more money than they bring in and our peace has been fragile at best.

Yesterday, as I learned of a costly mistake I had made in our finances, that fragile peace fell apart.  A few more hailstones of bad news were lobbed into the mix and once again, I found myself like Peter, drowning in a sea of circumstances.  It isn’t where I wanted to be…I was begging forgiveness even as I was sinking, because I knew my eyes were off of the Master.   Try as I might, I could not get my eyes locked on, all I could do was gasp and hurt.

Yesterday afternoon, I spent time with some of the wisest men I know or have ever had the privilege of interacting with.  For the past two years, this group of men has walked together, each of us sharpening one another.  During our time, one of my closest advisers, brought our attention back to a passage that has captivated him for years (I’ve underlined the part that was meant for me in these days of refining):

2 Corinthians 1:8-10 (NASB)

8 For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;
9 indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;
10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us,

These words were both comforting and distressing at the same time.  This is the Apostle Paul speaking to us…being very transparent.  In Carl’s loose translation he is saying:  “We were so over our heads, that we didn’t want to live anymore…”  Utter despair, overwhelmed by circumstance and paralyzed by fear…the place I’ve found myself in these past few weeks.

Well meaning people tell you…”just give it to the Lord.”   I’m finding that there are times that you don’t even have strength to give it to the Lord.  This also rang true with me in these words of Paul…it took a death sentence to self to bring about trust.  What I find happening in my life right now seems very similar.  God is putting to death all of the things that I trust in besides Him.  Many of these things I never knew were there, I thought they were conquered.   Unfortunately it takes severe upheaval to flesh those things out and sadly for me, it usually takes more than once.

This morning was no exception.  I awoke, determined to live in God’s peace once again, but quickly found myself helplessly and ashamedly adrift on the same sea once again.  God, however, did something different today as I cried and begged for peace, mercy and new focus.  He didn’t immediately extend His saving hand to me, but instead He allowed the despair to run its course.  From deep within flowed accusations, self righteous defiance, and challenges to God’s love for me.   Even though I knew my words were wrong, I continued to shake my indignant finger and chastise the “injustice” in my life.  A tidal wave of frustration, emotion, rage and fleshly sinfulness spewed forth from deep within the closets of my heart.   I wanted to quit life, quit the ministry, lash out against those who have taken careless liberties with my life…my spirit grieving, knowing these things to be lies from the pit of hell, and yet they were gushing out of my inner man.  As the gusher began to subside, brokenness consumed me, I wept with such pain, covered in the guilt and shame of my fleshly response….that which had been churning below the surface was now in full view and the only choice left was honesty and repentance.

These past few weeks, I have been teaching on Jesus’ interactions with the disciples.  This week it was Peter’s water walking adventure.  When I see Peter’s life, I find myself reflected.  A man who will risk anything for God, but doesn’t always understand the cost.  Why did Peter jump out of the boat?  Because He being with Jesus was worth the risk.  Why did he sink and why did he run?  He wasn’t dead to himself at that point.  Yet, Jesus knew all of this about Peter and these experiences were preparing him for the call ahead.  Jesus was looking for a man who would risk everything to declare the message of Jesus, in Peter He found such a man.  It would take a near drowning, 3 denials and a host of other hits, runs and errors to prepare him.  Add the filling of the Holy Spirit and Peter moved from loose cannon to being the “rock” upon which Jesus established His church.

In that flood of despair this morning came an impassioned confession, that I am tapped out.  My supply of strength, endurance and resources is gone.  I am watching my inner strength flatline, I have no other option, but to allow God to carry me the next step.

Tonight I am seeing things through new eyes once again.   These past 24 hours have truly been a failure of the flesh, but they have also been a victory of the Spirit.  God cleaned out some hidden closets, crawl spaces and attic hideaways today.   He allowed me to crash harder than I can remember in my lifetime.  He has allowed me to see the pain in the eyes of my wife that I could not comfort and the uncertainty in the face of my children that I could not alleviate.  Those things have been necessary to remind me of Paul’s words:  “That we should not trust in ourselves.”

I share these things, not for your sympathy, but instead so you will watch my life to see the One 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us…once again.

From Theory to Reality

I’ve been talking quite a bit lately about the business model that I call Simplicity Solutions that is meant to run along side the ministry of Simplicity.   One of the 4 purposes of Simplicity Solutions is to create business opportunities for those who are getting back on their feet.

There are currently two people that God has put into my life that fit that description.  Both have overcome difficult odds and by God’s grace have made the choice to move beyond the past.   In both cases finding work has been difficult due to transportation, education, related work experience, etc…

Today the Lord impressed upon me that it was time to move Simplicity Solutions from theory to reality.  So I established dealer relationships for both of them with Fuller Brush Company.  Starting next week we will begin canvassing businesses and neighborhoods with Fuller Catalogs working to build their businesses.   It is my responsibility to help them be successful in this venture, so I will work very closely with them in the early stages to get them moving forward quickly.

It will be interesting to see where this part of the journey takes us, but I believe when all is said and done God intends to leave us all in awe of His work on our behalf.

If you would like to see what Fuller Brush has to offer, we would love to have you as our customer.  Please visit www.fullerbrushsolutions.com to see our product lines.

The Wonderful Ways of God

Today my business partner and I met with the factory rep for the Spinner II product that his company sells.   My business partner had asked me at the end of last week if I would change my relationship from that of a consultant to that of a key player in the company.   He and I share the same vision of using commerce as a means of bringing Christ into the market place and furthering the ministry work of God’s kingdom.

I shared with him, that my concern was the same as with my own companies…I can see the future potential, but what do I do to pay today’s expenses.   At that moment my friend said, “I meant to tell you I’m going to pay you the X dollars you need each month to make ends meet.”  I asked him if we could stop right there and I expressed my gratitude to the Lord for His glorious provisions.

I taught Sunday on Jesus feeding the 5,000.  As part of the teaching I talked about the need to look for the places that God is bringing order to the chaos of our circumstances.   For example Jesus instructed the crowd to be seated, but then he had them divided into groups of 50 and 100.   Jesus was bringing order to the chaos as he brought the miracle of the feeding into full view.

I have been watching the Lord bring order to my friend’s business for the past 3 months and have had a strong sense that we were about to see an amazing move of God in it.   Today I am even more convinced that the hand of God will be unmistakable in the days to come.  The Lord has been preparing me this week by having me study Gideon once again.  Gideon was addressed by the Angel of the Lord as a “Mighty Warrior.”   This title was not an accurate description of Gideon at that moment in time, but instead described the man God would transform him into.

The molding of this journey has been difficult, but the crucible is a place of refinement for the fulfilling of our God given purpose.

Out of Gas

You may have noticed that the intervals between my posts has increased.  Life has gotten hectic; therefore, updating the blog has taken a back seat to other things.   In the past few weeks we’ve celebrated Christmas, had Christopher home, had Christopher’s girlfriend visit, launched new business ventures and prepared Elishba for her return journey to India.

This past weekend for me was difficult.  The Lord continues to mold and shape me in ways that are excruciatingly painful at times.   This weekend we learned that our 6th attempt at finding a place of residence in Corpus Christi was down the tubes…now because I don’t have a verifiable salary, weekly paycheck, etc….   This wasn’t a big surprise, when I was a loan officer I didn’t approve loans like that either.     My greater challenge came from the question of why, for the past 2 years, we have been unable to get settled.  There is always something that stops us dead in our tracks.

So the questions began to whirl in our minds…are we even doing the right thing?  One negative thought lead to the next and before long I was ready to throw in the towel, definitely not pretty.   One of my advisers keenly observed that I needed full-time employment, another said I needed to trust God as my source, another said not to lose hope I was sowing seed for the future.

In the days of preparing to leave the church this past fall, I had sent out over 40 resume’s without so much as a nibble.  The only job offer I received was to run a children’s day care program in Florida.   It was during that time the Lord showed Carol and I that He wanted us to live by faith.   Towards the beginning of December, He showed me the next piece, starting Simplicity Solutions and off to the races we went.  I’m currently in the beginning stages of that process, with expenses outrunning profit for the moment.   God has provided every step of the way, the bills are paid and the refrigerator stocked, but in the fog of the moment, I wasn’t seeing that picture anymore.   I just saw no current solutions and many current obligations.

Saturday, we went to see a friend who has offered us space in his home if things were to get really dire.   While we were there, he asked me the question God had been waiting for….”how are you?”   That was all it took to open the flood gates and the tears began to flow.   I poured out my heart to him and even admitted that I didn’t know if really trusted God.   My friend said something that utterly shocked me…he said, “that’s great, you are right where you need to be.”   He elaborated by reminding me of a stormy night when the disciples didn’t trust Jesus anymore.  You see, Jesus was asleep and they were in fear of drowning.   When they couldn’t take it anymore they woke Jesus up and admonished him for his lack of concern over their predicament.  My friend then made this profound statement:  “Since Jesus couldn’t calm his disciples down, he calmed the storm instead.”

All of the sudden, I felt my fog begin to break.   I had awoken Saturday morning with a song in my head:  “My deliver is coming, my deliverer is standing by…”  My wife had shared with me that the story of Ruth and Boaz, the kinsmen redeemer, was impressed upon her and wouldn’t you know it as we pulled up to my friend’s house “My deliverer is coming was playing on the radio.”   Between the reminders of my deliverer and my friend’s counsel that I was in a great place, because I was out of trust…I couldn’t muster anymore.   I was out of solutions, because I don’t have any left.   Now is the time that I need to be looking for my deliverer to speak to the storm.  My friend also reminded me that God had already given me His vision for the ministry and the business model, but now it was time to mold me in such a way that those things can become reality.

I can honestly say, I don’t yet see the solutions, but I am once again filled with peace that my deliverer is coming.   Just in case I wasn’t sure of God’s message for me this week, my devotions are covering the name of God, Jehovah Shalom, the God of perfect peace.

Exciting Times

These are certainly exciting times for me.  Tomorrow we will have our first baptism service since launching Simplicity.  I will have the privilege of baptizing 3 who have put their faith in Christ.  We will be conducting the baptisms at Emerald Beach along the Corpus Christi bayfront.

This week, I finally got my dealership materials to begin the primary businesses of Simplicity Solutions.  Simplicity Solutions is the for profit enterprise that will be used to support my family, fund the work of Simplicity Church Network, help church planters develop businesses to support their families and create businesses for those trying to get on their feet.

After much searching I narrowed down my MLM ventures to four companies that offer a wide range of product:

  • Amsoil – Synthetic oils and lubricants for automotive and industrial applications
  • Aggrand – Organic fertilizers and supplements for agriculture (part of the Amsoil family)
  • Amway Global – They’ve moved beyond soap and granola bars and now partner with mainline stores such as Office Depot, Barnes & Noble, etc…
  • Commission River – Primarily focused on telecom and internet technologies, can be operated e-commerce or traditionally marketed.
  • Fuller Brush Company – Based in Great Bend, KS (where I began my investment firm in 2001).  Fuller Brush manufactures commercial/household care and cleaning supplies.

In addition, we are running a number of e-commerce sites through both Commission River and Amazon.   These include:

  • The Fone Store – Cell phones, upgrades and service through all of the major carriers
  • International SIM Cards – Allows you to use your cell phone overseas(144 countries) with high competitive per minute rates
  • Cardparison – Compare current rates, features and offers from multiple credit card issuers
  • Anglerz Supply – Fishing tackle and supplies
  • Luv My Hog – All things Harley Davidson
  • HealthMartXpress – An online health and wellness shop, along the lines of the corner drug store

The latter three e-commerce sites are affiliate stores of Amazon.com.  Sales made through these stores generate a commission for the sale.  Additionally, any product offered on Amazon.com can be purchased through these sites and also generates commission.

Those who are interested in supporting our ministry in an ongoing manner can simply become customers of the products and services we sell.  Carol and I began this business enterprise by seeking the Lord’s guidance for the portion that was immediately His.  We be giving the first 30% of revenue from Simplicity Solutions to the Lord for the furtherance of His work.

Please feel free to contact me if you would like more information on the business model, product catalogs or to place orders.