A Great Cloud Of Witnesses

Yesterday I made the statement, in my preparations I have discovered how valuable others are who have journeyed before us.  It has been absolutely amazing to me the people I have met as I have begun this journey toward “the roof of Africa”.

I have had divine encounters on airplanes with people like, Lisa Roberts who taught me to give everyone an opportunity to change a life and thanked me for her new “son” that she sponsored at 20,000 feet, and Kendra Gibson-Gegelman and her family who inspired me to share my story and to keep my eyes open for divine encounters in strange places.

On Southwest Airlines you will meet people like Dr. Ben Bobrow who is an amazing medical professional who also climbs mountains.  He not only shared his great wisdom with me on the airplane but our families have now met as they sponsored two children for their children and allowed me the privilege of using whatever I needed from his climbing gear.

On Facebook you will meet African guides like Robin Mountain who, although he is not a Kili guide, has summited Kili 3 times and was full of wisdom and great advice.  The same day I met Robin on line I met Rachael Hall who that day was posting a picture she had just taken from the top of Kili. Rachael, Robin, and Ben have all climbed kili and are all filled with wisdom and knowledge that has helped to alleviate stress and concern.  Conversations with them have also inspired, encouraged, and given me a sense of confidence and added excitement as we set out for the mountain.

I have discovered that I am surrounded by a Great Cloud of Witnesses that have stories and adventures that I can learn from and hang onto that will assist me in getting to the top of Africa. I have also discovered that they don’t have to have climbed Kili to be a witness that can aid me in my climb.  For example through blogging I have met Lesley Carter who writes about Bucket List stuff and has been a huge inspiration to me encouraging me to not sit back and let life pass me by but to live it fully and make a difference in the process.

Hebrews 12:1 says, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

Those who have gone before us on the journey up a physical mountain are of great value.  But so are those who have gone before us and successfully navigated the spiritual mountains of life.  The question is will we encounter them and learn from them and allow them to move us to higher hights and greater depths spiritually.

What I have discovered is we fail to have divine encounters with those who have gone before us because we don’t live looking for them and live expecting them.  Possibly because we sit on the airplanes of life with our headphones on and our eyes shut instead of looking and listening for an opportunity to encounter God in and through the person sitting next to us.

When was the last time you read Hebrews 11 and 12 and listened to those who have gone before you.  Who will you meet today with eyes and ears wide open for how God might use you in their life and them in yours?

Let’s go climb a mountain, enjoy the journey and

change a life.

What is your Kilimanjaro?

SUCCESS – When does it occur

In John Bowlings book, “Making the Climb”, he states, “more than 60% of those who attempt this climb have to turn back. Only a few stand at the summit and look down on the clouds that shelter the vast plains. Soon I will see if I have what it takes to reach the top of the mountain. Either way, it will be all right. I DO NOT HESITATE FOR FEAR OF FAILURE! To make the attempt is to succeed already.

In a conversation with a medical dr on a plane (see blog coincidence or divine encounter) I was talking about how bad I wanted to summit on Kili. He looked at me and said, “no you don’t”. I was a little taken back and said, “that is why I’m climbing, of course I do.” Then he said some profound words, “then you will miss it”. “miss what I enquired”. “the journey” he said. “if you are so focused on submitting you will not have eyes to see what is all around you.” He began to tell me about all the major mountains he has climbed and when he changed his views on submitting. He helped me see that this climb was never about submitting anyway but about the journey and the joy of the journey and the personal growth and life change along the way.

It was just before he boarded the flight and this conversation began that I had read Bowlings words and now realized that I succeeded the day I took my first step. Success isn’t the final step but the first step. Many people miss a successful journey because they never take the first step. The first step isn’t the first step toward success but first step of success. Success is a journey of one success step after another and if in each of those steps we learn, grow, impact the world around us, enjoy the vistas and take another step we have been successful even if we don’t reach the summit.  I also wonder how many people have unsuccessfully stood on top of Kili having missed so much along the way.

But you say, “the summit is the goal and the reason for the climb.” and now I would say, “no Petro and the approximately 70 other children I have helped to sponsor was the reason for the climb and all that God wanted to teach me along the way.” If it ended today and I never boarded the plane for Africa, I would certainly be sad, heart broken and disappointed, but it would have been worth taking that first step. And if I get part way up the mountain and realize that I can’t go on, it will be disappointing but NOT a failure. I have already successfully conquered mount Kilimanjaro. Not by my picture on the summit because fear of failure did not stop me from taking that first step.

I wonder how many mountains win because we are afraid to simply take the first step.

What is your Kilimanjaro?

Coincidence or divine encounter???

On a flight a couple weeks ago I had probably one of the most significant divine encounters on this Kilimanjaro journey.  It was an encounter filled with unbelievable “coincidences” some would say.  I don’t believe it was a coincidence that the man who sat next to me had climbed Kili.  I don’t believe it was a coincidence that he was a medical dr who had answers to many of my questions about mountain climbing. I don’t believe it was a coincidence that he was investigating faith in christ and reading a book given to him by a friend about this.  I don’t believe it was a coincidence that I know his friend and that he is a Nazarene medical dr.  And that he attends a church nearby where i live.  I don’t believe it is a coincidence that he needed me and I needed him on that flight.  I believe it was a divine encounter.  God brought two lives together for each of our growth.

Out of this encounter children will be sponsored and their lives forever changed.

Out of this encounter I was educated on Kili, climbing, altitude sickness

Out of this encounter he received answers to many of his questions on faith

Out of this encounter he made some connections about human trafficking, and the difference he can make

Out of this encounter passion was stirred to make a difference here in USA as well

As our families have dinner together next week it is my prayer that what God started on a plane will move beyond us to our wives, children and ultimately to the world around us that others lives will be impacted and God will receive honor and praise.

I know this, he is excited about sponsoring some children and impacting his world and deepening his pursuit of God because of an encounter on a plane.

When was the last time you had a divine encounter?

Divine encounters are becoming a regular occurrence in my life.  I think it is because I expect them now and am always watching for them.

Thank you Jesus for showing up on airplanes and for another divine encounter.

Divine Encounters – Expect Them

As I boarded the flight I prayed for the person who would “have to” sit by me on this flight.  You see I entered the flight expecting a divine encounter.  Why is it that we are surprised by divine encounters. I love the quote, “where you go the king goes and where the king goes people bow.”  before your head swells, they don’t bow to you.  They have an encounter with the Christ in you and another divine encounter ensues where both parties are blessed and strengthened by the time shared together.

What an Awesome traveling companion God had chosen for me on this flight.  A person who was as much a blessing to me as I hope I was to her.  Who would have guessed I would be privileged to hear the story of a missionary kid who totally understood the value of sponsoring children (which she did shortly after the flight was in the air – thank you Lisa, Elisha’s life will be forever changed).

As we talked about hiking, running, world vision, fresh water, church planting, organic church concepts, spiritual gifts, human trafficking, boarding school, her personal experience with malaria, her job and her journey in life, I realized that this encounter probably wasn’t as much about who would “have to sit by me” but more about who “I would be privileged to sit by.”

It was when she asked me if I had ever asked for a spiritual gift that my life was impacted.  As we discussed the spiritual gifts she took me to James 1:5 and talked about how she had asked God for wisdom and how he answered that prayer in her life and had given her a great gift… The gift of wisdom.  As I pondered this and continue to do so I am reminded of how generous God is and how he desires to freely grant this request.  So again I ask for more.  Maybe I am a little greedy here but I want as much of this gift as I can get.

I am also reminded of how many great opportunities scream past us on our fast paced busy lives.  It is so easy for us to just get on a plane, put on the head phones and tune out the world around us including the divine king who is embodied in the passanger seated in 15E.

Thank you Lisa for what you taught me on this flight.  Hope someday to hear that you are flying planes for his glory bringing a hope and a future to those in need of a divine encounter with the God in you.

God is in charge of southwest seat assignments

Divine Encounters

When you board the aircraft there is always a bit of curiosity, excitement and possibly, if truth be told, fear about who you will “have” to sit by or be privileged to sit by.  I am beginning to think that God is choosing my seat assignment and travel buddies.  On my flight from Dallas to Kansas City I was PRIVILEGED to sit by Jerome and his wife Kendra who were on a weekend getaway. After a great in flight conversation about family, church, god, Kilimanjaro, sponsoring children, golf, and shopping we said our goodbyes thinking that would probably be the last time we saw each other.  That was until the next morning.  Waiting for our ride to pick us up from our hotel a man says, “hey are you stalking us”? Of all the hotels in Kansas city they and their family from south Dakota who they were meeting up with could have chosen was the same as ours.  That was when my buddy and partner John Huddle walked up and I introduced him to my new friends. And John said, “way cool, we were neighbors last night. They are staying in the room next to me.” and then unfolded a great conversation about God, divine encounters, Kilimanjaro, sponsoring children, world vision clean water projects and how god has used an airplane encounter to bring great joy into my life, to encourage one another and to spur us on to love and good deeds.

Thank you Lord for another great seat assignment!

Arby’s Angels – another divine encounter

Four high school juniors walk into an Arby’s restaurant unaware of how a divine encounter would shape the rest of their day, week and possibly lives.  I was also unaware of what God had planned at Arby’s.  As I sat alone in this Arby’s dripping horsy sauce all over the table in front of me the thought occurred to me that not many people frequent Arby’s at 2:30 in the afternoon in McKinney TX.  Then four happy girls walked in and ordered their lunch and took their seats over by the windows behind me.  Because they were to my back I was unaware of the conversation and the nervous awkwardness that was taking place.  “should I…”, “well if you are going to get on with it or sit down… this is getting awkward with you standing there.”  As I finished my lunch and wrapped the horsy soaked foil into a ball it was a now or never moment for her.  As I turned to stand from the booth there she was right in front of me blocking me from even standing let alone leaving.  As I dropped back down into the booth I heard these words spoken with a nervous smile.

“I know this is probably pretty awkward for you and you may find this very strange, but I feel like I am supposed to simply tell you ‘Jesus loves you’.”

Totally caught off guard and as a person who is rarely at a loss for words or a quick comeback, I found myself speechless.   It was an awkward moment for both of us as I mumbled the words, “yes he does and he loves you too.”  Then I paused and said, “I am so impressed, I am a pastor and I … I am so impressed”.
This led to the “no ways” and “how cools” from her onlookers and then entered all of us into a divine encounter, including the fifth girl who showed up wondering who in the world this old man was sitting with her friends.
The conversation included the bible studies they will be leading at McKinney North High School and how they want to make a difference in their school and in their world.  We talked about LTGs (Life Transformation Groups) and the importance of consuming God’s word.   Then we talked about one of the girls desire to make a difference in her world by helping those caught in human sex trafficking in other parts of the world.  What she didn’t know was the reality of that right here in our own state.  So we talked about what this group of girls could do to make a difference right here and impact their world for Jesus.
I thought I was just going to get a quick late lunch… I didn’t realize I was going to encounter Christ in some high school girls.
After about a 20 – 30 minute conversation and prayer together at Arby’s, I left struck by the fact that these girls, united together were serious about their faith and living it outside the walls of their church.
Thank you for the McKinney North Angels who let me know that “Jesus loves me”!
you will be in my prayers as you take Christ incarnate into your school, community (Arby’s) and to the utter most parts of the world.

“This may seem a little awkward but … I just feel I am supposed to tell you, Jesus loves you!”