In July of 2008, Josh Hamilton performed one of the most amazing things I ever saw in sports. His performance in the Home Run Derby that All Star weekend was nothing short of spectacular. He didn’t win that derby, but he stole the show. When I saw him hit those 28 home runs in the 1st round, it was like time stood still, and I was watching a movie. There’s some great fan videos of the event on YouTube if you want to relive it.
I had read a story about Josh in ESPN Magazine just one year before, that absolutely captivated me and led me to start following him one year before this event. Josh’s story is incredible, and while the article is a good summary, reading his book is even better to relive the gut-wrenching story of a life gone terribly wrong, and how his life, relationships, and career was restored.
A little over a week ago, another amazing feat happened that some people are describing as one of the most remarkable performances they have ever seen by a quarterback. The QB was Michael Vick, and he had one of the most dominate nights offensively in the history of the NFL. The Eagles led 35-0 after the first few seconds into the second quarter, they scored 59 points on a pretty good defense (on the road), Vick finished with 20 passes for 333 yards, threw 4 touchdowns, rushed for 80 yards, and ran in 2 touchdowns of his own.
Now Vick, as you recall, has been publicly humiliated and found guilty of running a dog fighting operation. Vick, the last couple years, is someone no one wanted to be around. Someone who was considered an awful human being and another has-been on the garbage heap. Yet here he is, back in the spotlight and suddenly riding a wave of new-found support. Vick will likely win the NFL’s comeback player of the year award, and may also have a shot at the MVP if he has a great December.
We love riches to rags to riches stories, don’t we? We love to worship and celebrate a hero when they are on the top of the world and entertaining us, then we really enjoy knocking them down when they stumble and fall, then we forget about them for a while – long after the jokes, stories, and tabloids get shelved, and then we rediscover them after they put their life back together and suddenly we consider these guys “ok” once again and we begin to celebrate them all over again.
With Hamilton on top and Vick climbing his way back up, isn’t Tiger Woods not far behind? I mean, Woods has hit bottom, don’t you think? Having a line of women form and accusing him of all kinds of things, losing his wife, and becoming the butt of jokes all over the world – isn’t he ready for a time of being forgotten (thank you, Brett Favre) and preparing for his triumphant return?
I guess I’m feeling a little cynical about this. I get a little queasy seeing Josh Hamilton get invited to speak at big mega-churches now. They draw a big crowd, talk about his story, and then brag on God for turning the man’s life around. I know Vick has found the Lord and his relationship with Tony Dungy had a lot to do with that. I’m sure we’re going to see churches rally to get Vick on stage too.
Here’s what is making me a little sick.
If Josh Hamilton, high on crack cocaine, dirty and covered with his own urine and feces had stepped into these mega-churches in 2002, 2003, 2004, or 2005, would they have any room for him? What if he walked into the sanctuary and sat in a seat and was having an episode right there? What if Michael Vick walked into a church 3 years ago, fresh off his public trial and sentence? What if he sat there, hoping to hear a message of hope? Would anyone welcome him? What church would welcome Tiger Woods in without creating a big issue of it right now? What about Brett Favre?
Sadly, I don’t think any of these men would have a fair shot or would be welcomed at all. In the case of Josh Hamilton, the ONLY people that loved him unconditionally and stayed with him through the mess was his grandmother and amazingly, his wife. Everyone else abandoned him. I’m sure Vick had some friends, but I’m touched that Coach Dungy was there for Vick with a spirit of forgiveness and love for the man and walked through the humiliation with him.
Does Tiger have a person like that? Don’t know.
None of us should be surprised that Josh Hamilton or Michael Vick have been restored. That’s THE work Christ does. Many think Christ’s work was done, and he’s now sitting down next to his Dad, watching things unfold down below. While I believe Christ is resting and back with Father, he’s not retired. I believe that Christ is CONSTANTLY restoring ALL THINGS to himself. His #1 priority since the beginning of time is to restore all things. His whole life is about restoring ours. So why are we so surprised when the Josh Hamilton’s and Michael Vick’s of this world go from the top, to the bottom, back to the top?
Better question: Why do we assume Christ cannot restore all the crap and mess we’ve made with our lives?
Why do we dismiss and leave people “to the enemy” as lost causes? Why do we shun people who are desperate, living without hope, slaves to their problems, and appear to be filled to the brim with evil?
Of anything God has shown me lately, it’s that he absolutely loves taking HOPELESS people and giving them hope. He takes a person who everyone has dismissed as a lost cause and promotes them to a higher place. When I see people running into the darkest places on earth and bringing freedom to them with a message of hope, that’s just amazing.
Don’t you dare sit there in self-pity and believe the lie that your life is a mess and cannot be fixed.
I don’t give a rip how complex and big your problem is. Christ can restore anything. For your sake, he went to hell and grabbed the keys, and then locked the door from the outside!!! Who else has been to hell and back and lived to tell about it?
I also challenge myself, and everyone that is reading this, to stop and consider who we’re loving. Are we just loving Josh Hamilton and Michael Vick circa 2010? Would we even stop and glance at them in their shame a few years ago?
Who are we ignoring right now in our life that Christ is pushing us to stand alongside of without judgement or condemnation?
Whose life is a complete train wreck right now – someone who is constantly making bad choices – is filthy, unholy, and pissed off at God?
Is there a person who you see, pass by, used to be friends with, or just popped into your life that God is telling you to go love that you’ve been ignoring?
Is there someone in pain that is clearly in a mess right now that needs someone to dare walk up their pile of garbage and show them love?
Don’t wait for everything to be clean and tidy before you celebrate a person. Celebrate them for how God sees them, and join him in the process of restoring them. From listening to Josh Hamilton tell his story, that’s what he wants you to celebrate – not his recovery and rise back to fame – Josh Hamilton wants you to celebrate Christ’s work in him and the hope that what he did for Josh can happen for anyone.
Matt and I are always humbled in responses we receive to our posts. As I said before, putting our hearts out there on display is quite a theraputic thing for us. We hope that in our sharing, we can expose you to Father’s heart and encourage you with experiences and life examples. We feel that once you are FREE and you are RESTING in Father’s love, you will be better prepared to run a business and be ready for the fire that throws at you.
Many of you responded to my series of articles on “The Year Of Being Reborn“. I had great comments via email and on Facebook. Thank you!
But one person in particular had a really heartfelt response. He wrote to tell me about it, I responded, and then he had an amazing transformational moment Father. I’ve asked for his permission to share it with you. His name is Greg Mann, and I think you’ll love this exchange…
My name is Greg Mann. I live in Newark Ohio. I’m 52 years
old. I read with great interests your blog posts on “The
Year Of Being Born”. I just felt impressed to write you
and let you know how much I appreciated you sharing your
Over the past couple of years I’ve found myself going
through some major transformations and looking back now, a
large part of it is the “burning off” of religious ideals
and ideologies that had permeated my “life view”. Also in
just the normal day to day stuff, I find Papa gently (and
sometimes not so gently) restructuring the way I look at
things such as finances, family etc.
I’ve been “self-employed” so to speak, but the truth is
I’ve given Papa the reigns of my business/life, the
responsible thing to do! I’m involved mostly in Web work,
seo, marketing etc. Over the past year, I’ve utilized much
of the Lance Walnau material and really let God begin to
speak to me concerning callings and vocations etc, and
help me to discover who I am, why I’m here, how I’m wired.
I’ve been a musician most of my life but not much beyond
the “hobby” stage, though I gig regularly and have for
decades, I’ve never really viewed it as a sustainable
revenue source to support/raise a family of 8, although
the last year some incredible things have come together
that I had nothing to do with. Complete autonomous moves
of God. I got hooked up with some major music industry
people in Nashville, got hooked up with a business dynamo
here where I live (I really question my business acumen,
and had asked God for good people around me, and was hired
by a very long-lived regional musical group without them
ever even hearing me play.
Today I again found myself in a place where it seems I’ve
been frequently for the past 2 years. hitting a financial
brick wall, bills all due and overdue, phone ringing with
folks looking for money, business not sustaining us, and
me going to God with the same old question “What am
*”I”*going to do?”
This morning I read your blog posts “the year of being
reborn” and our Papa spoke to me through those. I guess I
just needed reminded of some of those things. He’s right
in the midst of my situations, He’s got my best interests
at heart, (as opposed to comfortability, ease of life,
etc), He’s in control, and of course.. He loves and cares
for me so far beyond my human comprehension.
In the hitting of the very familiar “brick wall” , and
going to Papa completely broken, dazed and confused, after
reading your posts, this is what come away with: He’ll
part the red sea, he’ll probably insure that the
“stonings” don’t kill me, he’ll send angels into prison
and unlock my shackles, and it might be today, and it
might not, but at the perfect time good things will happen.
And in the midst of all the pressures and turmoil, I
believe I hear that still small voice saying “make music!”
It doesn’t make much sense but I suppose it didn’t make
much sense either when Jesus told an experienced second or
third generation fisherman to let down his nets on the
Thank you for your heart, for in the pouring out of it,
our Papa spoke to me!
Hi Greg. Thank you for writing.
This life is a mystery. We’re so swayed by circumstances aren’t we? Even as
I sit here today, I’m up one minute and down the next. I don’t know what to
work on next. I want to get things done, but I want to just rest. It’s
maddening sometimes. Part of this roller coaster is me getting unplugged
from religion. I’ve got a solid 35 years invested if you count the teaching
I got in Sunday School and Christian School until 1987. My wife and I
resigned membership from the only church we’ve ever belonged to just last
week. We know there’s more to Father than attendance, leading, and being
busy in the Kingdom. So yeah, I’m still out there with you going, “Ok, Papa,
what’s next?”. It’s not a great place for a Type A, leader, planner,
entrepreneur to be, but I’m learning.
Your story is great, Greg. And I’m hearing variations of it more and more.
Either we’re special, or Father is shaking up everything. It makes no sense,
does it? You’re heart is music. I know that Father put it there. But you
can’t possibly see how this can provide the means to feed your family. One
time, someone prayed with me, and she received a word from Father. It was,
“What you are doing is enough”.
Another time, I was praying with a guy and Father told him to tell me,
“Don’t worry about what you will eat. That’s my job”. As the provider of my
family and my business, that was hard to hear, because I thought it was my
God-given responsibility to feed these people. Papa’s been showing me that’s
not my job. My job is to love them and nurture them, he’ll take care of the
feeding part. Wow.
The posture to take is to let him sort out the details, and when you see the
waves part, take a step of faith. It’s not what we’re taught, but I’m seeing
that what we’ve been taught ain’t necessarily right. He has an amazing way
of sorting out the mistakes and struggles in our lives into something great
if we let him.
Keep me updated, bro. I’d love to hear what happens next for you.
Just wanted to touch base with you this morning.
For me, yesterday was a “line in the sand” day as far as some very important
dollars were concerned. Over the past several days, leading up to yesterday,
I did all of the things that “church” had taught me… I bound, I loosed, I
proclaimed, etc etc etc. Yet yesterday came and went and the money didn’t
come in. For the last few days I had sort of a low grade headache (I NEVER
get headaches) and the pain at the top of my neck and shoulder blade had
become very intrusive, I’m sure all stress related.
This morning I had to get up around 4:45am and take my son to work as his
car wasn’t running. My mind was just swimming with all kinds of thoughts, so
when I got back home, I thought it a good time to spend some time with Papa.
I had a lot to say to him, the kind of things you preface with: ” I’m not
complaining but..” I remember these words coming out of my mouth.. “You said
to be a seeker of your kingdom first, and I have been”… and then it hit me
that it goes on to say “and of His righteousness”. At that point I began to
see something. His righteousness is all about His love and passion and grace
for ME, basically all of things a father is to his child. I’m not sure that
I’m getting into writing the scope of all this but, all of this “father-son”
stuff just started to bubble up in me, and I realized it was Him holding me
in his arms comforting and caressing me.
In my efforts leading up to yesterday, I realized that I resorted to
“religion”. I hate it. It has robbed me of years with my Papa.
This is all about a Papa being crazy about his son, and his son (me) being
crazy about his Papa. We “talked” for probably an hour, and I don’t mean I
heard an audible voice (except for mine). There was a lot more to our time,
but what came out was this and I realized that this is where HE has been
trying to get me to go: There is no higher joy for a father, than to give
his child the freedoms, the disciplines and the wisdom necessary to live out
of, and pursue his inner passions and dreams, and until the Body of Christ
gets this, we limit the expression and manifestation of HIS being in our
world. “Religion” had taught me otherwise. We HAVE to be true to our
Papa used a very hard time for me, to expose his “fatherhood” to me, and my
sonship to him.
Out of it, I penned the following:
You peel back the layers of our onion-skinned lives
Exposing fortified walls standing guard in the night
A treasure chest lies at the heart of this scene
With a padlock of steel, bursting it’s seams
Filled with feeling and emotions, though valid, but old
Once vital and living now hardened and cold
And under those treasures lie the dreams of our youth
Like a heart pumping blood down into its roots
Never to die, only lived or denied
A seed in the soil longing to rise
So rain rain rain
A few minutes later I left to go on my daily 5 mile walk. The headache and
the neck pain were gone. The concerns and thoughts of the finances had
melted away replaced by a confidence that can only come from a trusted
friend, and the only English words that I could get out of my mouth were
“Papa, oh Papa, thank you.”
Before I arrived home, it started to rain
This is the final installment of a 3-part story. I hope you’ve enjoyed my Year Of Being Reborn series.
The following is an unedited message I wrote to my staff on July 20, 2010. It was written after a very vivid experience in my office one afternoon. I hope you find encouragement in this. It describes a moment in my office with Papa, and what I can only describe as a prophetic flow as I describe the future of the business to my staff…
This might be heavy. I want you to know I’m sober, hopefully, happy, and peaceful as I write this. I need to share with you what God has been saying to me this week. (Yes, I hear God. No, he does not sound like George Burns or the actor in the Ten Commandments movies. It’s a still small voice that comes when I sit still or when I run. It’s not audible, it’s like a thought, except I know it’s not mine. It’s available to anyone who believes they can hear it. It also comes in dreams and other amazing ways I won’t get into. But I didn’t hear him like this until I went through “the episode” last fall. Everything changed for me on September 28).
So at the risk of freaking you out, but fully trusting you guys to see this with me, here it goes….
Remember when the Israelites were pinned between the Red Sea and the armies of Egypt? God impressed that picture on me today.
The Israelites had 4 choices:
#1 Swim – Only a small percentage of people would make it, the rest would die, and they’d lose all their stuff. Not a good plan.
#2 Fight – None of the Israelites were trained to battle. Bad idea. The men would have been slaughtered and the women and children and their stuff would have been dragged back to Egypt
#3 Surrender – Give up and go back to Egypt, I’m guessing the work would have been exponentially tough and they would have been beaten daily, never to leave again. Not good.
#4 Trust – I don’t know if any Israelite saw this as an option, even given the butt-kicking God put on the Egyptians to get them out. Moses turned to the sea and lifted out his arms to the sea, and God held back the army and drew back the sea for them. God purposely led them to a dead end so he could demonstrate his power to the people of Israel and to the people of the world (I bet this story got a lot of play for generations).
You all might think I’m nuts, but I firmly believe that God is doing and preparing something so amazing, that he’s led us to a dead end, just to show us his power. What he has planned for us in the future is so big, we could not do it on our own. Therefore, we need to learn TRUST before he can allow this to manifest.
Isn’t it actually laughable how much has gone wrong in this past year, and just in the past month? We had to laugh today at the sheer number of vendors and situations that just simply vanish into thin air. It’s really amazing. Unless Matt and I have totally forgotten everything we learned about business and marketing, there cannot be another explanation. Yes, I know it’s tough out there for many, many people, but I think he’s using that as well to allow us the joy of trials to firm our foundation. And don’t give me any lines about the devil. Don’t even go there. He’s been defeated, all he’s got is deception.
I’m going to do something totally out of my character and something I have failed to do for 16 months. Wait and Trust. For the first time really since we started to hit financial issues in March of 2009, I’m totally at peace with what’s happening here. It’s totally against what any guru would tell you, but I am going to stop striving to make this work. In Jesus sermon, he says, “Blessed are you when you are at the end of your rope”. We’re not out of clients or opportunity, but we’re running on E and the gas station is nowhere in sight – yet, I am totally believing that’s where God wants us and is just waiting for us to get off the treadmill and wait for him. If you look at my schedule, God isn’t even allowing me enough time in my day to worry about business. It’s funny. I’m busy taking care of the kids and the house. I have to be very creative to find large chunks of time to concentrate.
The fact that we are still in business after everything is a miracle.
The fact that Matt and I are going through this without any major conflicts between us is a miracle. We should be arguing daily about the struggles, but we don’t.
No one has prayed longer and harder for things to turn around. But God showed me today that my prayers are AGAINST what he’s preparing for us. I failed to seek his heart about everything, and simply asked for rescue and “to go back to Egypt” (the way things were). He told me that he wouldn’t allow it. It’s not part of the destiny. Stop praying for me to rescue the business and figure it out, and start praying for the future to manifest according to his plan. Starting praying for peace in the process so that I can endure and understand. Rescue is not a prayer he intends to answer, but reinvention and restoration is a prayer he’s in the middle of answering.
God has assured me that his hand in on this business. That does not translate into profits, in case I need to remind you But what it means is, is that he is controlling the situation, and arranging things according to what’s best for each one of us and for those we will touch in the future. This business has a destiny, and so does each of us. I don’t know the specifics, but God is starting to show things, and it not only is amazing, it totally explains years of experiences and trials I’ve endured to be ready for it. He’s got a tremendous call for this business that is so unlike anything you would expect, it has to be hidden and refined to make it ready. It’s about restoration and revival of people and ideas, and it’s going to capture the hearts of thousands. Money will not be the goal of the business, but money will come and it will be in abundance so much that it will pay off the debts of the business and restore the personal accounts that have been depleted over the past few years.
It will be wildly successful, but it will not define us. It will be defined for how we restore and revive people and ideas, and for how much affect this has on those that work in it. It’s going to be something that churches have been called to do, but never figured out. It will at times seem like ministry, and other times be just business. It will be so unique that people will flock to it and really not understand it, except for what it does for them. People will find their purpose and rediscover what was lost. This is not fluffy life coach stuff, this is real – solid advice and solid strategies to turn a life around and the business as well.
Here’s the cool thing – I don’t think he’s going to just show me, or just show Matt what this is. He’s going to also show you guys things that you will bring forward to enhance the mosaic that’s being built. So start asking God to show you this, and bring forward what’s on your heart. And even if he tells you your season here is over, don’t worry, it’s part of the plan. But if he shows you something and you see it as part of this business, bring it forward.
It’s very key for us in this time to stay positive, stay hopeful, and find joy. I can’t stress that enough. When we fret, worry, strive, or try to do this on our own power, it will derail us. We must not fear. Fear will suck us into places that are difficult to escape from. It’s got to be about staying in the place of TRUST even when the army is bearing down and the sea is so close our sandals are wet. Even then, the best option is to trust.
I hope this encourages you more than it freaks you out, but I’m just sharing what I am hearing and seeing. it’s clearer to me than looking out the windows here. It will be great, and I’m going to accept and enjoy the process until we get there.
After writing this note, I called Matt and explained to him that I was absolutely sure that there was going to be something big happening the very next week. It seemed perfect, because both Matt and our PM Justin were out of town. I was absolutely sure something was going to happen the next week.
Here’s what happened just 8 days later, on July 28 (You see how Daddy keeps doing things on the 28th for me? Strange, huh?)…
I was having an awesome phone conversation with my friend, Jim Robbins. Jim and I were talking about a number of things, but mostly focusing on some really frustrating things happening in our lives and businesses. We both had opportunity to encourage each other and that is why it’s awesome to have Kingdom friends. They reveal Father’s heart to you.
After we hung up, I checked email, and Matt and I received a message from a former client that we completed work for in 2008. I am going to call him J. Matt kept tabs with J since then. J decided to take a copywriting position with a very prestigious and well-known information publishing firm (a firm that does a solid 9 figures in revenue and one we’ve always studied and admired as a model info-business.) In this email, J revealed that he introduced a marketing strategy Matt and I had been using for our clients to his boss. They liked the idea and began using it. Turns out that this little strategy we showed J made his new firm several million dollars!
Needless to say, this firm was ecstatic. So much so, that J’s boss wanted to speak to us, and hire us to come in and work with them to develop more strategies.
Within 14 days of this call from J, Matt and I had a signed contract from a firm that we had only dreamed of working with, had never sent a single piece of marketing to, and had to do absolutely no “selling” to come to an agreement on a contract.
Now, what does that say about Daddy? He reveals to me that he wants to show me his power, and that I am to sit and wait for him to do it. 8 days later we hear from J who we worked with 2 years prior and is getting us connected to a firm we absolutely would have died to work with. One in which we had to do no marketing, no selling, and no negotiation.
This is the Daddy we have. He loves to do things for his kids. Did I do anything to receive this gift? No. I was not fasting. I was not naming and claiming it. All I did was come to the throne room as a broken, humble child, asking my Daddy for help. He chose to do this, and his requirement was to wait. I cannot believe he acted so quickly, and acted with such extravagance. All we can do is humbly thank him, and go work on this project with all our gusto.
So 2 days ago, I was sitting in the amazing boardroom of this client, celebrating a high point which a year ago was a low point. It just so happens September 28 was a perfect day for this client to meet. (Of course it was J )
Let me tell you. It was a phenomenal day. We did great work together and put together an amazing plan with this client. I am loving what Daddy is doing, and can’t wait to see what else he has planned.
I hope this story reminds me to not strive in the future. I hope I remember that my Daddy loves to work for me, and it’s not even work at all to him. If I just rest in what he’s doing and run where he’s made a path, I will find abundant joy.
I hope you’ve been inspired by my story, because I am. It’s not boasting because I have nothing to do with it. I cannot believe what my year has been like, and I just know the years ahead will be full of joy as I walk out my life with Father.
While this is the end of this series, the story is still unfolding…and certainly, to be continued.