Archive for March, 2015

Protecting Your Rights

Monday, March 30th, 2015

downloadRights, rights, rights and more rights, we all want to protect our rights. I want mine and I am sure you want yours. We lobby for them. We fight for them. A few die for them. Some folks want the right to carry a weapon anyplace they choose. Others want to ban guns completely. The Civil War was fought about rights — the right to own slaves and the right for people to be free. Lately the media has had a field day with a new Indiana law that seems to give some their rights to deny a service to folks based on religious beliefs. Of course the folks on the other side are screaming bloody murder because they feel that their rights are being taken away in the process. We all want our rights don’t we?

Andreas Lubitz’s certainly wanted his even though his right to fly a plane into a mountain denied 149 others theirs once and for all.  To demonstrate how selfish we have become here is one for you that might hit a bit closer to home.  At the Bellevue Y we have a very nice elevated track. Thirteen laps equals a mile.  Everybody is supposed to walk or run in the same direction. On MWF we go one way and on SSTT the other. Quite simple really. Friday there was a young lady going the wrong direction.  Frankly when I first saw her I thought, “What is that all about?”

Of course it was not long until someone pointed out to her that she was going the wrong way. I was not privy to the conversation. When the guy who had challenged her got around to me he was all to pieces because she was not obeying the rules. He said, “That is the problem with this younger generation; it is all about them”.  I recognized the guy as one of those who never wipes the equipment down after depositing a big puddle of sweat.  Life seems to be only about our particular rights.

Friday celebrates the day that Jesus willingly gave up all of his rights. His unselfishness makes the rest of us look really small.   It is not just “this younger generation”  we are all pretty much self- centered aren’t we?

Something to Think About

Podcast of 3-29-15 Message  “Rejected” at

http://www.buzzsprout.com/41402

Katrina

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015

KATRINA

katrinaphoto1smFrom my book Unscrewed: Becoming Whole Again. My story of abuse, shame, guilt, addiction, rehab and victory.

Hurricane Katrina was the costliest natural disaster in our country’s history, amassing over 81 billion in property damage. More than 1800 people died in the actual storm and the subsequent floods. Being a weather junkie, I had tracked Katrina on The Weather Channel from the time she had formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005 until landfall near New Orleans as a Category 3 storm on the morning of Monday, August 29. There was cataclysmic destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge. Most of the fatalities occurred in New Orleans which flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed.

On Wednesday August 31, 2005, Dave Robinson walked into my office during a CNN Breaking News segment showing the devastation in New Orleans.  Cathy and I had already made a contribution to one of the Katrina funds; yet, I felt that, as a church, we should reach out financially to aid the victims. At that horrible point in time, I believed that nearly everyone in our country wanted to help, but were unsure what to do.  Dave suggested that we take up a special Katrina collection on the following Sunday. At that time, I had no idea that in four days in a sense I would become one of Katrina’s final victims.

Sunday September 4, 2005 at about 9:55 AM, just before I walked out on the platform to start the service Ken and Craig Adkisson stopped me to introduce, Mr. and Mrs. Jones, a couple who had fled New Orleans because the hurricane had devastated their home. I believe that Mr. Jones was a New Orleans police officer.  I looked for something to write their names on, so I could properly introduce them to our congregation.  I did not have a piece of paper.  Since we were standing in the church lobby next to our bookstore, I reached over and got a paperback book off one of the shelves.

I recall noticing bookstore volunteer and Kristen’s best friend, Pat Perry, staring at me as I reached for the book. I opened it to the last page, which was blank on both sides, where I wrote down the couples’ name. Then with book in hand, I rushed to the stage as the service was starting and I was schedule to do the opening. A few minutes later, I had the refugee couple stand to be recognized. The gracious couple received an incredibly warm reception from our church family and I believe that we collected $5,800 for the Katrina relief effort.

I left church that day thanking God for sending us the couple from New Orleans, because through them, I sensed that we had all made a personal connection with the plight of the folks on the Gulf. Later I would spend quite a bit of my time rethinking the implications of their visit. I can tell you that after much reflection, prayer and therapy I still feel that way. To be able to say that is a gift directly from the heart of God Himself. God is always faithful! But He never promised His faithfulness would be easy or cheap.

My shame-based addiction and dependence on Highland Park Church had grown exponentially each year since our first service, in an almost empty Looby Auditorium. Someplace during the ensuing twelve years, I had gotten to a point in my life that I could no longer recognize the line that separated me from HPC. We became one big glob of cells!  Like every other addiction, a tolerance developed which meant that I needed a bigger hit of Highland Park to keep me high. Therefore, I found it an incredible rush to immerse myself nearly to my eyeballs in “God’s Work”.

In the spring of 2002 when we purchased our office building on Music Row, my church addiction cranked up appreciably; but when we moved into our building on Knob Hill it rocketed into the stratosphere.  Looking back with a well mind, I clearly see things that I never saw at the time. One of them is how unhealthy I had become, both in my addiction to the church and my codependency on Dave and to a lesser extent to his family.  That was my bad. Monday September 5, I rolled out of bed at 5 even though it was Labor Day 2005.   Due to the holiday, the gym was closed until later in the day so I drove directly to the HPC campus. On the drive over, I recall thinking that it would soon be fall because the days were getting noticeably shorter on both ends. After starting the coffee, I made my way to the auditorium where I regularly commenced my work day by having a chat with God. I loved that space immensely. And I used it for much more than Sunday services.

On several occasions, when it was too hot to run outside, I would open both sets of auditorium doors and use the entire building as an indoor track. The design of the building had two parallel corridors, front and back, forming a “U” that lead from the office and classroom wing to the main lobby and the two auditorium entrance ways. It made a pretty neat indoor, climate controlled track. I ran laps many afternoons when nobody else was around. Each morning during my prayer time, I would walk the aisles as I talked to God.  We designed the auditorium with large windows on the western wall that gave us an open feel and appearance, allowing the magnificence of God’s nature to be a constant part of each service. Our plan was that in a few years, they would also form the connection point where we would build a larger auditorium with permanent seating. One Sunday while making a point in a message, I happened to glance out those windows to see a doe and her two fawns grazing along the edge of the forest. As a reflex, I almost said, “Wow would you look at that”; fortunately I caught myself just in the nick of time. Yet, to be alone in that huge and silent room and to be able to observe God’s creation was quite an incredible daily prayer experience for me.

So here I was on Labor Day morning, not still lying in bed next to Cathy, but I was at work, with absolutely no pressing work to do or any good reason to be there. As usual, I watered my “babies”, the annuals that we had in huge clay pots at the main entrance; then I inexplicably washed windows!  I mean how sick was I? It mattered not whether I was speaking on Sunday or buffing the floors on Friday, as long as I was doing church duties I was “OK”. On that hot and humid September morning, when I finished up, the windows were spotless, but I was soaking wet from perspiration. As I was bringing the squeegee and the other equipment inside I got a call from Cathy. “Where are you?” she asked. I recall feeling a tinge of shame/guilt when I told her. I suppose in an attempt to mitigate my foolishness, I suggested that she come by and we would go to breakfast. After we returned from our pancake and bacon breakfast at Wendell Smith’s Restaurant, Cathy sat down in my office. I looked over at her and said, “I have the greatest job in the world”. Again, with a clear mind today, I realize that what I should have said was, “Cathy I have the greatest job in the world and I thank you for making this whole deal possible”. She had done just that twelve years earlier, when she gave up being a stay at home mom to go back to work, so that the six of us could plant HPC. That was an incredible act of self-sacrifice.  Without her there would be no church on Knob Hill, because I would have been unable to work for free for nearly eight years.

Cathy’s part was the critical key that unlocked the door that allowed Dave and me to use our gifts in a very public way to develop HPC. Until I started working on this book, I had never thought to give her the credit that she rightfully deserved.  The day we dedicated the building I thanked everybody from Dave to Arthur Boyd, the Hillsboro High School janitor, but failed to mention Cathy. The Bible teaches that all of us will face a time of accounting for our actions on earth. I am certain that when I come face to face with God, my ledger is going to be chocked full with my multiple failures regarding Cathy and my relationship as it related to Highland Park Church.  Not only did I fail to ever publicly acknowledge her critical roll, but I constantly built up Dave as nearly the next coming of Jesus. Ten years down the road and a much wiser man, albeit a recovering codependent one, I am sure I did things the way I did because, due to my sense of shame and unworthiness, I did not believe I could pull HPC off without Dave Robinson. Most likely, I could not have — certainly not to the degree of success we enjoyed as a team.  But I know with certitude that I could not have done it without Cathy. Yet for twelve years, I gave my friend, Dave, priority over my loving and faithful wife. I knew she would never walk away; I feared that Dave might. If it stopped here it would be bad enough, but it does not. Emotionally, I left Cathy for years as I carried on my salacious affair with HPC. I have absolutely no excuse for my unacceptable conduct.

Finally, there is my sin of total and complete failure in leadership, as I stood by like a bump on a log, and allowed the Robinsons and a few of their opportunistic lackeys to take from Cathy what she had unselfishly put her heart and soul into for twelve years. The cumulative total of my actions put her in that vulnerable position.  My guilt is no less than theirs. In my opinion, their maltreatment of her, while simultaneously proclaiming the love of Jesus with their public lips, were hypocrisies of the ultimate magnitudes!

The Bible pulls no punches in teaching that Jesus hated, with a burning passion, hypocrisy of religious leaders. He predicted with crystal clear clarity the fate of such abject people. They will not get away with it.  I am particularly mystified how easily led people like Terri and Kristen Robinson and Trish Rather turned their backs on their faithful friend, Cathy. It is beyond my comprehension how those three sleep at night. As Cathy left my office that Labor Day morning, I had no idea that 168 hours later, for all intents and purposes, I would no longer have the greatest job in the world.

Entire book for free at

http://johngouldener.com/?page_id=3877

The Flip Side

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

flipside_avatar_youtubeI cannot count the number of times when bad things happened that I have asked God “Why?” That single word is our default lament in the midst of difficult times. Last week, on the very same day, two folks I know were involved in accidents that could have been very serious and possibly even fatal.  In both instances, a bad choice was made that directly led to the mishaps.

One involved a man, who did something extremely foolish. The other involved an innocent child on a school playground.  The kid did nothing wrong; however, a teacher, who was supposed to be watching, did. From what I’ve been told, this bad choice could have resulted in the death of the little boy. The teacher’s bad was simply to not pay attention to the kids for a minute or so.

The man’s was a more deliberate, thought out, dumb decision.  Fortunately, neither was seriously injured.  Both the teacher and the man knew better, but failed when the rubber hit the road. The man was injured in a mower accident, when he attempted to drive a lawn tractor up into the bed of a pickup. He clearly saw the warnings on the truck ramps that said NEVER ATTEMPT TO DRIVE UP THIS RAMP”.  At first all went well, but suddenly one of the ramps fell. The mower turned over and the Superman imposter rode it down holding on for dear life. Miraculously, other than a few cuts and bruises, the biggest to his ego, he is OK.

In both of these incidents, it is clear why they happened, so there is no need to ask that question. What is not so clear is why did God protect both?  Why us and not others in similar situations? That is the flip side of the “Why?” question and one that we tend to forget to ask, but perhaps we should.

Something to Think About

Podcast of 3-29-15 Message  “Rejected” at

http://www.buzzsprout.com/41402

 

Throwing Stones

Thursday, March 19th, 2015

three_throwing_stones01I was talking to a friend last week whom I had not seen in a long time. In the conversation he made the comment that things are not like they were when we were growing up. He said back then it seemed that we were all pretty much on the same page in the USA. At least when we disagreed it was an honorable disagreement rather that the vitriol and outright hate that many Americans seem to have for each other today. There is no doubt in my mind that we are now living in an “US v THEM” culture.   Perhaps it is because almost by default human beings tend to “need” a whipping boy in order to feel better about themselves. As an outgrowth of that kind of screwed up thinking we have come to a point where most of the church regularly accepts certain sinners as being part of US and puts others over in the THEM pot. The truth is that according to Jesus’ own teaching many of the folks, both in the pews and up on the platform on any given Sunday, are openly living a life that Jesus himself called adultery. With few exceptions that is fine with the church folks.

One of the biggest televangelists, John Hagee, who quite often preaches messages that seem to me to be of outright hate at homosexuals, liberals, Catholics and some others is himself openly living in adultery after leaving his wife and young children many years back to shack up with his church secretary. When caught he admitted his affair, resigned his job, divorced his wife and kids, married his adulteress, opened a new church which has in fact grown into a megachurch. His son conceived in adultery occupies a seat on the platform each Sunday, whereas his children from his first marriage are nowhere to be seen.  I find it interesting that the Old Testament calls for the same punishment for adultery as it did for a man “lying with a man”.  It is human nature to throw the stones at folks who are not like us. I find that very sad. Jesus had a word which itself is a very serious sin that he spent a lot of his very limited time on earth preaching against. Here is a suggestion grab your Bibles and see how many times he singles out “hypocrites” as the worse of the bunch.

Something to Think About

Hope!

Monday, March 9th, 2015

hope4I met with a friend who is struggling with a major setback in his life. Right now he is up to his eyeballs in pain, confusion and doubt. As I reflected on our conversation, I recalled a time in my life when I pretty much felt the same way. Although the human journey is unique for each of us, more often than not, it is composed of some shared twists and turns.

Unfortunately, one of the common ingredients is the absolute certainty of anguish along life’s way.  I’m reminded of the words from the prophet Jeremiah in the Old Testament.   Here was a guy whose life was in a tailspin of gargantuan proportions.  For my money he got the blue ribbon for his description of pain when he penned these words: “Peace has been stripped away, and I have forgotten what prosperity is. I cry out, ‘My splendor is gone! Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!’ The thought of my suffering and homelessness is bitter beyond words.”  Lamentations 3:17-19 (NLT)

At the time Jeremiah had seemingly lost it all. He had gone from a hero to a zero. There was a time in my life when I felt the same way.  I expect you can also recall a similar feeling. Each of us has had fingernail days in which we were barely hanging on. In fingernail days there is little hope, but enormous misery. Yet, as Jeremiah was hanging there twisting in the wind God spoke to him some of the most inspiring words ever uttered. “For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope”.  Jeremiah 29:11 (NLT) 

 Are we going to face times of trial, difficulty, pain, and sorrow?  Yep! You can book it!  Are there going to be occasions when you doubt God’s love? Yes, I’m afraid so.  Are there going to be stretches when we feel hopeless?  I hope not, but honesty requires me to say “yes”; some of us may experience hopelessness even today.  Does our hopelessness have to destroy us?   Not at all. I can tell you from my personal experience that hopelessness is never infinite nor does it have to kill you. And it won’t if you are willing to do two things. Do not isolate.  Talk to people, tell them how you are feeling. Tear down your walls. Let them see you; let them love you. Secondly, write that verse down on something and you take it with you everywhere you go.  And never forget it it’s a verse about you.  God has a future and hope for you!

Something to Think About

© 2015 John Gouldener All Rights Reserved

Failure / Success

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

successfailureEver since I was a child in Catholic schools prayer has been my strong rope to God. Even when I took a multi-year sabbatical from organized religion, I continued to pray on a regular basis. Upon leaving the marketplace twenty-five years ago for the ministry I ramped up my praying several notches, but along the way I made a startling discovery.  Often prayer is not enough.

In the late nineties it seemed that things were going great.  Each Sunday a chorus of folks shared how our services were hitting home with them, lives were being changed and people were finding Christ. Then one day, in the midst of what I thought were the best of times, my life took a turn that I never saw coming nor expected. The mailman left one of those old AOL disks. For the first time I viewed online porn. I was hooked instantly.

The guilt was overwhelming. I promised myself I would never do “that” again. But I did. Over a period of a couple of years it became a secret sin that took control of me. I felt like the biggest hypocrite on the planet. I prayed and begged God to help me. Nothing changed. Finally, I promised Him I would do anything it took. He told me I could not do it on my own and that I had to tell somebody.

Obviously, that was the very last thing I wanted to hear from God! However, after presenting my best rationalizations He finally convinced me that He was smarter than me.  I reached out to a friend and my wife. That was the day that I chose to do more than pray.

I saw a counselor who insisted that I get into a 12 step program. I got clean and have been since 2000. By the way if you struggle with pride I recommend going to your first 12 Step meeting.  It’s an instant cure! Why am I telling you this?  Because there are situations in which God requires us to do more than pray about things. Along with the prayer sometimes he requires us to do some of the heavy lifting too. For me I had to swallow my pride and seek help. At that point God delivered me.  I recommend this approach highly. Yesterday, I saw the strangest thing — a  shiny black Lexus with a pizza delivery sign on top. Often the only thing between success and failure is a willingness to do whatever it takes.

Something to Think About