July 4th: Freedom at Omaha Beach (Replay)


This is a piece of personal history I first published just after it happened in the summer of 2010. I thought it was fitting for today as I sat around with my extended family this morning, dwelling on the freedoms that we enjoy, all at the hands of countless men and women I will never meet this side of heaven.

Happy July 4th everyone. Born free, stay free.

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Normandy was our direction, and Omaha Beach, our destination.

To say it’s a historically significant locale would be an understatement. Abounding with monuments, museums, and restaurants like “The D-Day Hotel,” one gets the impression that the boys that laid their lives down nearly 65 years ago would never have imagined we’d be dining on the beach they bled over. But as I waxed melodramatic, my dad–son of a WWII Marine Corps Col.–spoke aptly as he ate his steak: “They’re saying, ‘you better dig in boys; this one’s on us’.”

After wandering the sands of Omaha Beach, we drove up to the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. I can honestly say it’s one of the three most sobering locations I have ever been to on the planet, paired with both Pearl Harbor and Auschwitz.

The biggest surprise, however, was receiving the honor of a lifetime. While walking the hushed pathways through the manicured gardens, a strong American voice behind me asked, “So where are you boys from?”

Without so much as turning around I said, “New York.” It’s not often you here a strong US accent in France, so meeting a fellow American at this memorial seemed likely.

“Well, would you both like to retire the colors?”

As my dad and I turned around, we both realized we were standing face-to-face with the head curator for the national cemetery. I think a “yes” came out of my mouth, but I really don’t remember. In fact, I think I was floating up the rest of the walkway, turning up to the two flagpoles with thousands of crosses now in view; and further, my knees weak as we stood for the lowering of the flags with the color guard to the playing of taps.

Both my dad and I wept as we folded the two flags, the entire cemetery now freezing at attention, watching two pastors from New York retiring the colors.

I thought of my grandfather and his first landing on numerous Pacific Theater islands.

I thought of the over 4,000 men that gave their lives on D-Day.

I thought of the freedom my children so richly enjoy.

And I thought of the privilege it is to be an American, truly blessed by the Living God.

But more than that, I thought of the anointing that I felt on the grounds. An unexplainable presence of the Lord that, in fact, caught me completely off guard. Only later would I learn the reason.

The pastors who live in the north of France consider Omaha Beach their nation’s greatest revival. “I don’t understand,” I said to Pastor Vincent Fernandez. He went on to explain a little known fact about the Normandy Invasion. In an unprecedented move not replicated in any other moment in the war, the clergy on board the incoming ships–cross denominational, and without regard to theological bias–insisted that each young man give their heart to Christ, knowing that their deaths were imminent.

Not only was there a mass conversion of thousands of young allied forces soldiers on those shores, but the cemetery stands as what the French pastors believe is a cemetery of Christian martyrs, dying for the cause of freedom, and that of Jesus Christ. It was a story I had never heard as an American, but is fairly common among believing Christians in that region. And it is a story I will never forget.

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MWIP (My Week In Pictures)

I worked 15 to 20 hour days this week. Sometimes that just happens. But I find there’s a supernatural level of grace in the midst of it, and everyone and everything that needs attention receives it. It also helps that I love everything I do, that there’s a synergistic commonality to every exploit, and I’m surrounded by amazing people. Grateful for the God of time feeling welcome in my schedule; couldn’t do it without him.

Here’s my week in pictures:

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Released a new TV ad for New Life Media featuring my kids.

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Jenny captured a great morning snuggle with Levi.

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A wonderful New Life Board Meeting, which featured my father sharing on the 30th anniversary of his head-on, mid-air collision.

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One if the top four parenting moments of my life.

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Jenny captured “The Boys” moving the fire pit to a new section of the back yard.

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On location at the new Clayton Hotel shooting a new TV ad for Bach&Co with New Life Media.

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Another great, spontaneous moment with Levi.

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Checking in on the amazing buildout of Sprig Studios at New Life.

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Q&A session with Todd Agnew and Unspoken.

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Stag left with Unspoken at New Life.

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The joy of watching Eva spontaneously read her hand-transcribed Bible to her brothers.

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My glam wife all dressed up to shoot a wedding, one of her many astounding talents.

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Congratulations to Costa & Karen, two of our dear friends.

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Gallop Amps

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I was at a friend’s 50th birthday Saturday night in PA, and one of his best friends flew in and surprised him from Las Vegas.

Nice friend.

Don Gallop is a church planter, something I respect highly. And as his tent making, he builds custom, one-off amps. As we talked more, I realized this guy can model any board out there, or build to whatever idea you hear. What a gift! From super quiet circuits, to fat and dirty, he can dial it in.

I was totally amped(!), and thought – shoot, if we’re going to buy amps anyway, why not buy a custom build at a fair price, and support a guy who’s planting a church in Vegas?

Now that’s money well spent.

gallopamps.com

Pass it along.

ch:

Reset

Jenny and I are tucked away from the world. It’s a wonderful feeling. My iPhone is sitting on my bedroom bookshelf back home, enjoying the “off” position. And my brain is relishing the rare state of doing nothing. No demands, no questions, no missions. Just answering How long do I want to sleep? And Where do I want to eat?

I just finished a wild, gritty sci-fi novel by Marko Kloos (my “candy” / Warning: language), and halfway through Culture of Honor by Danny Silk (my “meat”).

Excited for our marriage’s new commitment to the Seven Policy: a date night every seven days, an overnight every seven weeks, and a vacation every seven months. This is on top of getting away with our four minions during the summer.

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YouTube Videos from Rex’Quix

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Today we had the incredible privilege of heading up into the mountains over 5,000 feet and visiting a home which is used weekly for church. The husband and wife, Reginaldo “Canche” and Luky, clear out the few possessions they have and preach the Gospel to those that live in the Mayan village of Rex’quix. Despite their dirt floors and sparse furnishings, the selflessness of this couple is overwhelming, and extremely convicting.

Apart from hearing their story, and experiencing their infectious love for Jesus, Jennifer and I were both captivated by their children. We were there for less than three minutes when I look over and see Jenny holding a little girl. Rebekah clung to Jenny’s neck tightly as my wife wept. It was a precious few minutes that eventually turned into laughter as an impromptu fashion show started.

Shortly after, I jumped in with my senior pastor, Kirk Gilchrist, as he started playing with a small group of little girls that clung to the side of the house, spying on us. His son Joseph ended up filming me as we played, a memory which I won’t soon forget.

My life has already been changed in so many ways, I can’t imagine being challenged even more. But I was today, simply by playing with children in a mountain village I never even knew existed. Such is the Kingdom.

“Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Jesus of Nazareth
Matthew 18:3

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sponsor a child inn ministries

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Exterior view of Canche and Luky’s house.

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Wide angle view of the house and surrounding hillside.

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Interior of their home; room used for church meetings.

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Canche and Luky’s kitchen.

Inn Ministries: How $25 Changed Our Lives

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I’m writing this from the kitchen table inside one of The Inn’s guest homes here in San Cristobel, Guatemala. Tucked away in the mountains, a cool evening breeze is wafting through the windows, which are continually left open; a light rain is falling outside, accented by spats of lighting and rolling thunder; and the smell of fresh flowers and fried plantains is filling the house. All of these sensations are highlighting the extreme emotional tensions that surround this beautiful ministry compound, both a school and a church.

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The large majority of the children in this village live in poverty. They’ve also likely been sexually abused by members of their own families; adolescent boys are encouraged to engage with prostitues, while adolescent girls are abused by male relatives. The tragedy is enough to break even the most calloused heart. Looking at the beauty of these faces makes any warm-blooded human wonder how anyone could endorse such atrocities.

But there is hope for San Cristóbal.

20130323-075301.jpgIn the early 1990’s, God gave a man and his wife an amazing vision to bring life to a dark village, steeped in Mayan witchcraft and suffering from neglect. Michael & LaTonya Lewis have given their lives (and in a few cases, almost lost them entirely) to bring the love and light of Jesus to these beautiful people. Twenty years later, what used to be swamp-land is now a school, known as the most prestigious education in the region, with a reach into the public school system which is unprecedented. Likewise, their church is busy meeting the spiritual needs of their village. It’s truly a remarkable work.

20130323-075251.jpgOver the last two days, Jennifer and I have been able to meet all three of our sponsor children: Cristian, Katerine and Hugo. And as much as we’re told our lives have impacted theirs, the diametric opposite is true: our lives have been radically altered by them. To hug these children is to touch the heart of the Father. They are genuine, sincere, warm and full of life. And they love unconditionally. They have less than I’ve ever had, yet carry more joy than I think I ever will. They are three of my heros.

Our finances go directly to affording our Inn Kids the highest quality education in the region, hosted by an outstanding faculty of born again Christians (both indigenous and foreign) who are professionals in their own right. This means they not only get ahead intellectually, and therefore culturally, but also spiritually, as the Gospel is a part of their life-curriculum.

20130323-075333.jpgJennifer and I are asking you to sponsor at least one child. Your cost is $25.00 USD per month; your benefit is immeasurable. Because you’re literally changing a human life, and affecting an entire people group, as these children grow up to be leaders in their region, sharing the light, love and life of Christ with others.

Please prayerfully consider our request, and ask the Holy Spirit how many children he wants you to support, then contact Inn Ministries’ child sponsorship division today. They’ll help you select your child, and walk you through the process. When you’re finished, please leave a comment back here and let us know the first name of your child so we can be praying for them with you.

And if you ever want to come down to serve and meet your little guy or little girl, you’re always welcome. But just be prepared: that $25 dollars will change your life.

ch:

sponsor a child inn ministries

Guat.Hop

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Our hop over to Guatemala has been eye-opening, heart-breaking and awe-inspiring.

Beautiful people.

Breathtaking country.

Rich history.

Gut-wrenching abuse.

Life-long Christ-commitment.

Sacrificial love.

Today, Pastor Joseph Gilchrist and I had the unprecedented honor of sharing Biblical truths on sex with one-thousand public high school students. The Superintendant of Schools allowed 3 grades to fill a local church in San Cristobel 3 times.

Jennifer sang over them, and Joseph and I presented God’s life-altering perspectives on sexuality and purity. It was a rare privilege, when we get to do one more time tomorrow!

Here are some pics from today, as well as from our time in Antigua and Guatemala City.

Enjoy!

ch:

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Guat.Hop

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Our hop over to Guatemala has been eye-opening, heart-breaking and awe-inspiring.

Beautiful people.

Breathtaking country.

Rich history.

Gut-wrenching abuse.

Life-long Christ-commitment.

Sacrificial love.

Today, Pastor Joseph Gilchrist and I had the unprecedented honor of sharing Biblical truths on sex with one-thousand public high school students. The Superintendant of Schools allowed 3 grades to fill a local church in San Cristobel 3 times.

Jennifer sang over them, and Joseph and I presented God’s life-altering perspectives on sexuality and purity. It was a rare privilege, when we get to do one more time tomorrow!

Here are some pics from today, as well as from our time in Antigua and Guatemala City.

Enjoy!

ch:

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Sitting On Top of The World

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For who do you know that really knows you, knows your heart? And even if they did, is there anything they would discover in you that you could take credit for? Isn’t everything you have and everything you are sheer gifts from God? So what’s the point of all this comparing and competing? You already have all you need. You already have more access to God than you can handle. Without bringing either Apollos or me into it, you’re sitting on top of the world—at least God’s world—and we’re right there, sitting alongside you!

-Paul to the church in Corinth, Greece
1 Corinthians 4:7-8 MSG

I suppose there are at least a few of you wondering what I might say post-China. And even if you aren’t, I am. Perhaps I’ve been reticent to write anything because I’m not exactly sure what to say or where to start. At least not on a profound level.

China is hard to articulate, simply because there’s so much of it. So much to see. So many people. Digesting it all takes a while. Spiritually. Politically. Emotionally.

But I think the one thing that stands out to me the most–and perhaps a good starting point for debriefing any journey–is simply recognizing how blessed I am.

(Is it so self-centered to describe another nation firstly based on what mine affords me?)

I have so much. Because it’s been given to me. I’m sitting on top of the world. And I have the whole world to give away.

I’m admiring cleanness, and the effort it takes to create it, in a new way. I’m appreciating space in a new way. And I’m savoring freedom in a new way.

Thankfulness for the insignificant grants us permission to offer the significant to others with humility.

I’m endeavoring to dedicate myself to be counted among the most grateful people I know. I think this is a noble and worthy pursuit. I have a long way to go, but I’m growing evermore convinced that it’s the only way to adequately suppress pride, and likewise activate the childlike wonder of loving life and loving God.

Post-China begins with taking account of everything I’ve been blessed with, and critically asking myself how I’m using all of my faculties to serve others for the sake of the Gospel.

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China Bound

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Tomorrow morning at 3:30am, I begin the long voyage to China. I’m excited to see a new land, one which I’ve read so much about. But I’m sad to be leaving my family, and will miss deeply.

For the interests of security, my mission will remain simply that I’m going to encourage leaders dedicated to shaping China’s future.

I’ll be back on the 24th, eager to see my wife and kids, and to share all the exciting news from the trip with those nearest me.

“Souls or I die.”

–William Carey

Thanks for lifting me and my team up.

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8th Annual Writers Bootcamp Getaway Weekend

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Eight years ago, my new-found friend, Wayne, and I decided to embark on a mutual dream of forming an Inklings group of our own. But distance was not our friend, he being in Maryland and I being in northern New York. So rather than a weekly gathering in some local pub, we decided upon meeting for a full weekend at a locale halfway between his home and mine.

The result has been a faithful convergence on a poetic (if not sleepy) Pennsylvanian town or city for the last eight years. And what a blessing it’s been for both of us. The mutual camaraderie is immeasurably valuable, as are the long talks concerning writing, plot and character development, theology, doctrines of the faith. Not to mention the verbose amount of gregarious guffawing we engage in.

And threading through it all are the continuous clicks of our laptop keys as we work on our next stories for the world to read. Wayne is working on a new supernatural thriller series called GHOST, while I’m very close to announcing the title and release date of my newest work, codenamed TSR.

Here’s to Inkblots everywhere who enjoy fellowship and the pursuit of the intellectual.

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