In the depths of the city, diverse with anger
My heart turns cold, my humanity’s in danger
I came to make a name
I came to change the game
I came to claim the fame
I came to clear my shame

In the depths of the city, billboards promising new life
My mind’s spinning fast, rejection cuts like a knife
I’m here, but don’t know where to go
I’m here, but lost my way to the show
I’m here, but haven’t found my song
I’m here, but not sure for how long

In the depths of the city, success ‘round every corner, not far ahead
I’m almost there, I can see it now, but traffic light is stuck on red
I’m making good time, but getting quickly passed
I’m pretending to be first, but in reality last
I’m wide awake, but can’t wake up
I’m dry with thirst, but have no cup

Dreams, they make you
Dreams, they break you
Dreams, they mock you
Dreams, they take you to places unknown

Dreams, they shake you
Dreams, they fake you
Dreams, they shape you
Dreams, they take you to places unshown

In the depths of the city, invisible, masses drown my being
I’m shouting out loud, waving my hands, but can’t be seen
I’m rare, I have to remind
I’m unique, one of a kind
I’m one in a billion
I’m lost in the million

In the depths of the city, our eyes look away, as bodies collide
Fake smiles, firm handshakes, while fear works hard to hide
Look at me, I’m fine and strong
Look at me, I can do no wrong
I turn away, I’ve got regrets to bury
I run away, tired of burdens I carry

In the depths of the city, I’ve found my breath, I’ve found my voice
I look past the shallow, I see behind the curtain, I rise above the noise
Weariness my invigoration
Brokenness my declaration
Woundedness my inspiration
Confession my liberation

Dreams, they make you
Dreams, they break you
Dreams, they mock you
Dreams, they take you to places unknown

Dreams, they shake you
Dreams, they fake you
Dreams, they shape you
Dreams, they take you to places unshown

I have found the key to success is a journey of faith
I have found a journey of faith comes one day at a time
I have found one day at a time only matters if you do it with friends
I have found friends are God’s strength while pursuing dreams
I have found dreams only come true when we walk with God
I have found when we walk with God, he focuses on developing our character
I have found that developing our character is the key to success

Dreams, they make you
Dreams, they break you
Dreams, they mock you
Dreams, they take you to places unknown

Dreams, they shake you
Dreams, they fake you
Dreams, they shape you
Dreams, they take you to places unshown

“Now glory be to God, who by his mighty power at work within us is able to do far more than we would ever dare to ask or even dream of—infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, or hopes.” Ephesians 3:20

A Leader’s Lament


Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
I beat the drum often, not wanting others to forget
Not sharing in my passion, they insincerely acquiesce

Only a few things matter, yet my brain is scattered
One word of criticism, and my worth is shattered
When it comes to living, when it comes to teamwork
Everyone talks the talk, but the walk is misgiving

“We” are stronger than “I”, as long as “I” gets the credit
My humility most impressive, I’ll tell you all about it
I want the truth, desperately seeking transparency
Yet words are guarded, dishonesty flowered deceptively

I’m here for you, I’ve got your back
I believe in you, there’s nothing I lack
Unless someone disagrees, unless someone moans
Then I need to step away, I need courage on loan

A fish out of water, is a fish out of air
I have something in common, it’s something I share
Take care of my cause, take care of my needs
Then I’ll let people know, you are a wise man who leads

But leading isn’t popularity, it isn’t first to please
It isn’t taking polls, it’s not putting people at ease
It means having deep convictions, having secure beliefs
It means staying true to course, not taking relief

The hill I climb is lonely, often feeling stranded
The hill I climb is baren, often taken for granted
The hill I climb is noble, the hill I climb is inspiring
As long as it does not get in the way of your living

Females raped and murdered, where is the rage?
It seems important, but message gets back page
The church is the answer, the message of justice we bring
But the words get muted, arguing over the songs we sing

Children die before 5, $20 is the solution
My debit card is low, comfort my main concern
I have the money, but I’m keeping up with the Jones’
Car, House, Boat, busy paying off the loans’

The world needs billions, seems overwhelming
Billions would not compare, if Christians were tithing
I can’t do it all, but I can open the door
If I learn to say “No”, I can do so much more

Boys without role models, absent of fathers
They are not on my block, so why even bother
But the needs are great, the opportunities do not lack
I am the change I pray for, but my schedule is packed

Options are good, until there are too many
Poverty cries out, “I don’t have any”
America the beautiful, everyone given equal chance
Unless born in the hood, equality becomes a fat chance

More concerned about position, more about my security
My dreams are much more daring, as I live in my safety
Been told to be quiet, told “balance” is for the wise
There’s no more heroes, “well rounded” is our demise

I check my heart, I check by pride
I check my will, putting desires aside
I live in abundance, my challenges are few
When I say I have problems, I ask, “Compared to who?”

People want the world to be like them
I say, they should want the world to be like HIM
As soon as I say my theology is a lock
I have just put God right in a box

My faith is bigger than Republican or Democrat
My faith is stronger than where the world is at
Jesus created this world, then gave his life
He asks me to love this world, then give up my life

Sometimes I care too much, my ego trumps reason
Sometimes I don’t care enough, it depends on the season
But one thing I know, one thing I am sure
That loving orphans and widows is a religion that’s pure!

THE 6 C’S of CHANGE (Part 2) Finding Courage in a Modern Day Crisis

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Esther was a Jew who grew up as an exile in Persia hundreds of years before Christ.

King Xerxes was the powerful King at the time who ruled over 127 provinces.

Queen Vashti was the beautiful wife of Xerxes who refused to show off her beauty in front of King Xerxes party guests which set in motion the rise of Esther.

Mordecai was Esther’s older cousin.

Haman held a royal title with the Amalekites, who were long standing enemies of the Jews.

These are the characters of an epic story that brings us from a wicked, evil plot to a risky, life-saving commitment.

At the end of a 7 day binge party, with the King’s judgment impaired by alcohol, Xerxes makes an arrogant and voyeuristic order to have Queen Vashti, his extravagantly beautiful wife, to parade provocatively in front of all of his guests.

Sadly, the Persia of Xerxes’ day was much like what too much of our world is today. Women were used, abused and exploited with very little rights.

She refuses to do it, which infuriates and embarrasses the King and she is banished from his presence, demoted and no longer queen.

The King begins to look for a new queen.

Those who become candidates to become the new queen have to go through twelve months of beauty treatments before being seen by the king.

Esther becomes one of the candidates.

And because of her beauty Esther is chosen by King Xerxes to become queen.

Meanwhile Mordecai, Esther’s older cousin, saves the King by alerting him of an assassination attempt on his life. This heroic deed is recorded in the record books, which becomes an important part of this story.

At the same time, Haman is given a high position in the kingdom by the King and becomes annoyed when Mordecai refuses to kneel down to him. Haman’s anger leads him to plot the execution of all the Jews of the kingdom.

Here’s the CRISIS: The extermination of the Jews.

To try to stop the execution of all the Jews, Mordecai calls on his younger cousin, Queen Esther to intercede to the King.

There are two problems to that request.
One, the King does not know that Esther is a Jew.
Two, she could be killed because it was illegal, upon penalty of death, for anyone, even her, to appear before the king uninvited.

As a Jew, Esther is convicted to do something, but there is much risk to actually following through.

And here we have this very familiar, human tension: We have CONVICTION, but will it turn into a COMMITMENT to act?

In the words of Thomas Carlyle, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into commitment.”

Esther is queen and she knows the right thing to do. But life is good, life is comfortable and here in lies the tension.
Have you ever known the right thing to do, but you are comfortable, and to do the right thing might inconvenience you?

Mordecai is concerned about this tension between conviction and commitment and he sees Esther’s reluctance to approach the King so as an older cousin he challenges her with some stern, challenging words.
“If you keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver the Jews from some other source, but you and your relatives will die; what’s more, who can say but that God has brought you into the palace for just such a time as this?”

With these words, Esther makes the COMMITMENT to appeal to the King.

And the COST is she could be demoted as queen
The CONSEQUENCES could be she could be killed.

Before she approaches the king, she asks Mordecai to organize a time of prayer and fasting for her. She is well aware that she needs God’s favor if she is to succeed.

She needs another C word: COURAGE

To do anything significant and worthy we must allow courage to win over fear.
In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”

The great 20th century theologian Karl Barth is famous for saying, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”


Meanwhile, Haman’s hatred for Mordecai is growing so he has a special gallows built beside his house on which to hang Mordecai.

At the same time, King Xerxes cannot sleep and asks for the record books to be read aloud to him. (I could think of better bed time reading material.)
But while the record book was being read out loud the deeds of Mordecai in saving the king in the past are read.

In an ironic and almost humorous twist of fate, the King asks Haman what should be done to a man who the King wants to honor and Haman, in his arrogance, thinks the king is referring to him and advises a lavish display of wealth and praise to be bestowed on the man publicly.
The King orders Haman to do this for Mordecai. Imagine the shock and humiliation Haman must have felt,

COURAGE: Esther finally goes to the King and reveals that she is a Jew and Haman has plotted to kill them all.

CHANGE: The kings responds by not killing Esther, but honors her request and save the Jews and Haman ends up getting hanged on the gallows he had built for Mordecai. (That is the definition of irony!)

God brought Esther into the palace for such a crisis as this so that the Jews would be saved, but she had to go through the 6 C’s of CHANGE, where a conviction had to move to a commitment where she had to count the cost and be willing to face the consequences.

It’s an amazing story of a crisis that led to a miraculous change:

But there is another CRISIS I would like to talk about. It’s a modern day crisis that you and I are in the middle of.


There are 163 million orphans in the world and counting

Every 14 seconds a child is orphaned by AIDS

There are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster system

There are over 100,000 children in U.S. foster system waiting to be adopted

An estimated 80% of children who are sex trafficked come from the U.S. foster system.

When children “age-out” of orphanages around the world they often become homeless or become part of the slave trade or sex trade.

My nephew and niece, Jacob and Kelly Ricketts adopted two beautiful boys, who were 1 and 2 years old at the time and the boys had already been in 8 different foster homes.

The plight of abandoned and orphaned children in our world globally and locally is the CRISIS of our day.

CONVICTION: From the teachings of the prophets to the teachings of Jesus and those who followed him, the scriptures have been very clear that we should live with a deep conviction to be a defender of the orphan.

“Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families.” Psalm 68:5-6

“Defend the cause of orphans…” Isaiah 1:17

“…speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.” Proverbs 31:8

“Pure, unstained religion, according to God our Father, is to take care of orphans and widows when they suffer and to remain uncorrupted by this world.” James 1:27

“Rescue those who are unjustly sentenced to death; don’t stand back and let them die. Don’t try to disclaim responsibility by saying you didn’t know about it. For God, who knows all hearts, knows yours, and he knows you knew! And he will reward everyone according to his deeds.” Proverbs 24:12

And here we are again at the tension between CONVICTION and COMMITMENT.

COMMITMENT: God is asking those of faith to move from conviction, knowing the right thing to do, to commitment, actually doing the right thing.
God is asking us to get involved in another C word, and that is to CARE!

Change the future of a vulnerable child.
Accept an orphan or vulnerable child into your family.
Reinforce orphans and the families who have accepted them.
Energize others to care for orphans.

Change the future of a vulnerable child globally by sponsoring a child through Compassion International, by supporting a home that rescues girls from the horrors of sex trafficking or invest in an orphanage where abandoned children are given love and support.

Change the future of a vulnerable child locally by being a mentor through Big Brothers, Big Sisters, or volunteer at a local Boy’s and Girl’s Club or sign up to be a student leader at your local church.

Accept an orphan into your family globally by adopting the most vulnerable and at risk children.

Accept an orphan into your family locally by adopting or fostering a child or becoming a SAFE family.

Reinforce orphans and the families who have accepted them by taking mission trips to orphanages and supporting adoptive, foster and SAFE families. Become a CASA. (Court Appointed Special Advocate)

Energize others to care for orphans by sharing with others what you have learned, being a voice and an advocate to get those around you involved.

What will this commitment cost us?


But I don’t know what could be a better investment of these things?

Jesus said, “Don’t invest your time, talents and treasures in temporary things that are fragile and vulnerable to going away.”
Jesus gave great investing advice when he said, “Invest in things that will outlast this world. Invest in heavenly treasures where the dividends continue to pay throughout eternity.”

ORPHANS are those eternal treasures he was talking about.

If those of us who call ourselves followers of Christ lead the way humbly, we can change this crisis.
Imagine if every person of faith made a COMMITMENT in this CRISIS to CARE?
Hundreds of millions of volunteers using their time, talents and treasures would be mobilized.

If 1 out of every 3 churches in America would find 1 family to adopt 1 kid there would be no orphans in America.

History has shown that people of faith have tended to be late to arrive to the major crises of the world, but it’s not too late.

There is a Chinese Proverb that says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The next best time is now.”

If the 138 million Americans who call themselves serious, committed followers of Jesus would engage locally and globally in this CRISIS, we will begin to see some miraculous CONSEQUENCES:

The consequences in the words of the prophet from the 58th chapter of Isaiah will be, “Those of us of faith will be known as those who can fix anything and we will be known as restorer of old ruins and re-builders and renovators who are making our communities livable again.”

Jesus said that when we have that kind of reputation, then God will be glorified.

And the orphans and most vulnerable will be the leaders of CHANGE:

Dr. Scott C. Todd gives us some prophet words when he writes,
“No major spiritual, social or economic change of any significance can happen in this world without the permission of children.
We tend to think of children in terms of needs and vulnerabilities. They need guidance, education, nourishment, and protection from the evil threats of this world. Absolutely true. But we also need to recognize the catalytic power in children for change. They are God’s agents and opinion-shapers. We need to engage, invest, sacrifice and re-focus and recognize the power of children to change the world.”

It will take COURAGE and CARE.

You may be wondering why I shared with you the Esther CRISIS before I shared with you the orphan CRISIS.
Well, one reason is because it’s a powerful study of COURAGE, but the main reason was because Esther was an ORPHAN and her older cousin, Mordecai adopted and invested in her.

I wanted you to see the power of an orphan.
An orphan saved an entire nation, but it took someone believing in her.

History is full of orphans who have made this world a better place.
Moses, who left a comfortable, safe life and led Israel out of slavery, was an orphan
Esther, who had the guts to stand up to a king and risk death to save a nation, was an orphan
Saint Nicholas, the patron saint and protector of children, was an orphan
Founding U.S. father, Alexander Hamilton and two U.S. presidents, Andrew Jackson and Herbert Hoover, were orphans.
Nelson Mandela was an orphan.
Eleanor Roosevelt was an orphan.
J.R.R. Tolkien, author of Lord of the Rings and the key to leading C.S. Lewis to become a follower of Jesus which led to so many important Christian writings, was an orphan
Musicians, Louis Armstrong, Ray Charles, Johann Sebastian Bach, Ella Fitzgerald, Faith Hill, Tina Turner, were orphans.
George Washington Carver, scientist, inventor, was an orphan, and if he really invented peanut butter, then I owe him an eternal debt.
For all of you addicted to your cell phones, Steve Jobs was an orphan.

The power of an orphan! The power of a child!

God leads by example on this because spiritually, we were all orphaned, and God adopted us.
“His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by sending Jesus Christ to die for us. And he did this because he wanted to!” Ephesians 1:5
And when we defend and adopt, we are being exactly like God.

He doesn’t want us to defend the orphan out of guilt, but out of love, because like God, we want to.
This is not about obligation but about opportunity.
This is not a burden but a blessing.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the numbers and statistics. Just take a step forward and do what you can.

“I am only one. But still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something: Yet, just because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something I can.” Helen Keller

MAY WE HAVE THE COURAGE OF ESTHER TO DO SOMETHING TRULY GREAT! May Esther 4:14 be paraphrased for our generation.

“If we keep quiet at a time like this, God will deliver defenseless orphans from some other source, but our spirits will shrivel and God’s credibility will die; yet who can say that God has not brought us, our global knowledge, our compassionate hearts and our blessed resources into this generation to defend the orphan and change the world for such a time as this?”






Songs That Make the Whole World Sing

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Songs have a way of marking the seasons of our lives.

From cheesy love songs during our teenage years to one hit wonders that we can’t get our of our minds to songs of healing and hope during tough times to songs that challenge us to live more courageously, music is a powerful source of motivation, entertainment and influence in our lives.

These are some of the “Worst” and “Best” lyrics that have motivated, entertained and influenced me.

Best “Picture of Heaven” lyrics

Earth Wind & Fire “Wonderland”

Come on in and enter as a child
Always wear a smile
Love and laughter here all the while
The flag of salvation waves around
Freedom here abounds
The joy in the sound
Calls my name – on this day

Leave behind your shame and your disgrace
Here they have no place
You will wear the garment of His grace
The rising sun will never set again
Sorrows at its end
And every word that spoken shouts amen
Take me there

Best “Challenge to Live Life at its Fullest” lyrics

OneRepublic “I Lived”

Hope when you take that jump
You don’t fear the fall
Hope when the water rises
You build a wall

Hope when the crowd screams out
They’re screaming your name
Hope if everybody runs
You choose to stay

Hope that you fall in love
And it hurts so bad
The only way you can know
Is give it all you have

And I hope that you don’t suffer
But take the pain
Hope when the moment comes
You’ll say…

I, I did it all
I, I did it all
I owned every second
That this world could give
I saw so many places
The things that I did
Yeah, with every broken bone
I swear I lived

Best “Sarcasm About Religion” lyrics

Eagles “Frail Grasp on the Big Picture

And we pray to our Lord
Who we know is American
He reigns from on high
He speaks to us through middle men
And he shepherds his flock
We sing out and we praise His name
He supports us in war
He presides over football games
And the right will prevail
All our troubles shall be resolved
We have faith above all
Unless there’s money or sex involved

Frail grasp on the big picture
Nobody’s calling them for roughing up the kicker
It’s a frail grasp on the big picture
Heaven help us

Frail grasp on the big picture
All waiting for that miracle elixir

Best “Honoring Of Fallen Heroes” lyrics

Bruce Springsteen “Into The Fire” Tribute to 911

The sky was falling and streaked with blood
I heard you calling me then you disappeared into the dust
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need your kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

You gave your love to see in fields of red and autumn brown
You gave your love to me and lay your young body down
Up the stairs, into the fire
Up the stairs, into the fire
I need you near but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

May your strength give us strength
May your faith give us faith
May your hope give us hope
May your love give us love

Worst “Love Song That’s Really About Stalking” lyrics

The Police “Every Breath You Take”

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you

Every single day
Every word you say
Every game you play
Every night you stay
I’ll be watching you

(Very creepy!)

Best “Promise Of God’s Healing” lyrics

The Reel “Come Back Home”

It’s hard to come back home
when you’ve never really had one
never really had one

Is that why you
keep running from love?
You never really felt it
cause it never really lasted

The very hands that held you
Only let you fall

Love is reaching out
with His arms now
strong enough to hold your pain
His hands won’t let you go
no, your not alone
He won’t ever walk away
His voice is calling out
with a love you’ve never known
“Come back home”

Best “I Was Born To Give You My Entire Life” lyrics

U2 “Magnificent”

I was born
I was born to sing for you
I didn’t have a choice but to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to
I give you back my voice
From the womb my first cry, it was a joyful noise …

Only love, only love can leave such a mark
But only love, only love can heal such a scar
But only love, only love unites our hearts

Justified till we die, you and I will magnify
The Magnificent

Worst “Pick-Up Line” lyrics

NSYNC “God Must Have Spent A Little More Time On You”

Your love is like a river
Peaceful and deep
Your soul is like a secret
That I never could keep
When I look into your eyes
I know that it’s true
God must have spent…
A little more time
On you…
(A little more time, yes he did baby)

Best “Lifting Children out of Poverty” lyrics

Audio Adrenaline “Kings & Queens”

Little hands, shoeless feet, lonely eyes looking back at me
Will we leave behind the innocent too brief
On their own, on the run when their lives have only begun
These could be our daughters and our sons
And just like a drum I can hear their hearts beating
I know my God won’t let them be defeated
Every child has a dream to belong and be loved

Boys become kings, girls will be queens
Wrapped in Your majesty
When we love, when we love the least of these
Then they will be brave and free
Shout your name in victory
When we love when we love the least of these
When we love the least of these

I would love to hear some of the “best” and “worst” lyrics that have influenced your life.

Violating Jesus


33% of American women will experience sexual violence in their lifetime and very few will ever report it.

The brilliance of women is astounding and motivating.

The oppression of women has led to a deeply broken world.

It is very clear that in our day young girls and women who are experiencing sexual violence and slavery through sex trafficking qualify in the words of Jesus as “the least of these.”

Which means when we rescue these girls, we are rescuing Jesus.

It also means that if we allow the violation of these girls to continue, we are also violating Jesus.

True words if we believe what Jesus said in Matthew 25.

It seems obvious that if women were liberated from these atrocities that we would be following the mission of Jesus as broken hearts would be healed and captives would be set free.

Sex trafficking and all the darkness that goes with it is our holocaust.

Human trafficking generates $9.5 billion yearly in the United States. (United Nations)

Approximately 300,000 children are at risk of being prostituted in the United States. (U.S. Department of Justice)

The average age of entry into prostitution for a child victim in the United States is 13-14 years old. (U.S. Department of Justice)

A pimp can make $150,000-$200,000 per child each year and the average pimp has 4 to 6 girls. (U.S. Justice Department, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children)

The average victim may be forced to have sex up to 20-48 times a day. (Polaris Project)

Fewer than 100 beds are available in the United States for underage victims. (Health and Human Services)

One in three teens on the street will be lured toward prostitution within 48 hours of leaving home. (National Runaway Hotline)

An estimated 27 million people are held in slavery worldwide, meaning there are more slaves in the world than were taken from Africa during 300 years of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

More slaves are alive now than at any other time in history.

What will history say the church did about it? What will be our legacy?

We can change this.

And we can do this in our generation!

We have the resources.

Americans spent an all time high 53 billion dollars on their pets last year. I love my cat like most people do, but c’mon!

We have the talents to attack this problem both from the preventative side and the rescuing side.

But do we have the will?

A note to pastors and church leaders:

Your church cannot fight sex trafficking by putting an announcement about it in your bulletin or on you website.

Your church cannot fight sex trafficking by setting up a booth and having a once a year awareness campaign.

In order to do stop this atrocity, you must talk about it all the time.

We must convince followers of Jesus that we are ALL called to enter into the fray.

Pastor, your heart needs to break and you must lead the way by becoming an expert on this subject.

This should keep you up at night.

This will be difficult.

This will be messy.

This will be uncomfortable.

This will be hard.

This will be heart breaking.

But this will change you, and it will change your church.

This will be a new era of energy, purpose and blessing.

It will be scary and rewarding.

You will discover passionate gifted people at your church coming forward.

You will also lose people.

But the people you keep and the people you gain will be so generous you will never want to go back.

Jesus said the gates of hell will not prevail which means the church is supposed to storm the gates of the hell of sex trafficking with justice, mercy, courage and humility.

We need an epidemic of churches storming the gates of hell and in order for this to happen pastors have to have the courage to tell their congregations to “Go to Hell” and pastors, you must go first!

May this be our legacy.

@CourageToBeYou @IJMHQ @half @kenburkey

It Is Time To Decide!

One day a hopeless alcoholic named Bill W. makes a choice, “I will not take another drink. If it kills me, I will not.”

He has made a thousand promises before, but this time he decides, “Whatever it costs, I will pay. However I have to rearrange my life, I will rearrange my life. Whatever help I need to get from beyond myself, I will get. I’ve decided.”

That one choice led to the birth of Alcoholics Anonymous and has changed the lives of millions of alcoholics.

Henry Nouwen was at the top of his profession: “Everyone was saying I was doing really well, but something inside me was telling me that my success was putting my soul in danger. I found myself praying poorly, living somewhat isolated from other people, and very much preoccupied with my ego and self-image. I woke up one day with the realization that I was living in a very dark place. In the midst of this I kept praying, ‘Lord, show me where you want me to go and I will follow you, but please be clear and unambiguous about it!’ Well, God was. In the person of Jean Vanier, the founder of L’Arche communities for mentally handicapped people, God said, ‘Go and live among the poor in spirit, and they will heal you.’ So I moved from Harvard to L’Arche, from the best and brightest, wanting to rule the world, to men and woman who had few or no words and were considered, at best, marginal to the needs of our society. It was a very hard and painful move.”

Nouwen went on to say, “It was hard, but over time I re-discovered my faith, I regained my soul, and I discovered a joy and a peace and a contentment that was no where to be found in my previous “successful” world.”

One of Nouwen’s most motivating quotes was, “When we become aware that we do not have to escape our pains, but that we can mobilize them into a common search for life, those very pains are transformed from expressions of despair into signs of hope”

Choices. They shape us and make us.

One of my heroes in my life is a guy named Dave.

Dave had retired early from a successful career and was living the comfortable, American retirement dream.

Yet God was going to ask him to make a decision.
“Will you live the rest of your life, comfortable and safe, or will you take an adventure of a lifetime, that will be anything but comfortable and safe?”

On a short term mission’s trip to Baja Mexico, Dave encountered a church that was trying to feed children breakfast every morning before they went to school.

The Mexican government had closed down a Tijuana garbage dump, covered it with a couple of feet of dirt, and divided the land into lots, and sold them to the poorest of the poor.

This is where the church existed.

If a child is born there, and lives there his entire life, their life span is somewhere around 35 years.

The toxins are deadly. You cannot grow food there.

This church was trying to feed children with limited resources and a few volunteers.

They needed a leader. They needed someone whose heart was being called by God to make a radical decision.

Dave, who knew very little Spanish, who knew very few people, who knew not how hard this would be, moved to Tijuana and began to lead and build up the breakfast club.

A few years later, 300 plus breakfasts are being served daily, children are being helped to enroll and stay in school, families are connecting to resources and the church, a lunch program has started, medical attention has happened, families are getting their very fragile homes fixed and hope is beginning to flood this toxic valley.

Children now have an advocate and Dave’s plan is to get them educated and move out of these closed garbage dumps and live productive lives.

All of this, while finding out that God loves them and has a plan for their life.

Here is an excerpt from Dave’s latest blog:
Maribel’s Story:

It was a number of months before we ever met Maribel… It was her children Armando and Ariana who first captured our hearts. They would show up at the Breakfast Club and could easily eat several portions each morning.  So we would send some food home with them during the week.

As time went on, we were able to find out where they lived and went to visit. They live in one of the worst sections of the Canyon. In order to get your vehicle there, you have to drive through a cemetery covered in refuse, broken glass and smoldering fires. This is where they burn items in order to get the metal out of it to recycle it for money. This was why the kids were always covered in black soot when we saw them in the mornings.

And this is where we first met Maribel. As I shook her hand, I noticed her arms were completely blacked all the way to her elbows. Her hands felt like broken concrete. Her house had caught fire and burned while preparing a meal. They had made a make shift shelter out of old sheets of plywood with a tarp for a roof and a cloth over the door opening. It was only about 4 foot high, so you had to get on your hands and needs to get in. This was their home….

We invited her to come down to the Breakfast Club each day for her meals and some food to take home as well as some clothes we had at the Church. When she did come to visit, there happened to be a visiting Pastor there who heard the story and took them to the store to get some items and had one of his team members drive up and build them a small house with a real door and window in it.

Slowly, over many months, Maribel came to visit us more often and eventually asked if she could help clean up after the breakfast. She knew that we all went to Church service each Sunday and one week, I felt someone tugging on my shirt sleeve. And there was Maribel, with clean clothes, her hair done and both of the kids in tow.

Today, Maribel is one of our most active Church members. She is one of the cooks for the Breakfast Club, she attends every Church service, she helps with every community outreach project the Church is involved with and helps lead the NA group meetings which are held every night.

C. S. Lewis once said, “The only thing Christianity cannot be is moderately important.”

I was recently flying out of Heathrow Airport in London on a 747 and I have noticed that when a 747 starts to take off, there is a point of no return, a speed threshold at which the pilot is powering up and at that moment the plane either has to take off into the air or face a certain crash on the ground because it’s going too fast to stop.

There are tens of millions of Americans sitting in pews or padded chairs (or in Green Valley’s case, plastic orange chairs) weekend after weekend, hearing sermon after sermon, and they have been sitting on the runway for years.

Some have been revving their engines for years but have never taken flight.

Has there ever come a point in your life where you made a complete, whole hearted, unreserved, without hesitation commitment to your creator and His Son, Jesus Christ, and said, “God, I’m going to decide to live my life the way You want me to live it.”

I don’t know how long you’re going to live. You don’t either. But choose to make it count.

I love what Wes Stafford, President of Compassion International says about his travels: “I go to parts of the world that are hurting and broken and I ‘comfort the afflicted.’ And then I come home and try to ‘afflict the comfortable.’ And I have to try to love them the same way.”

Bill Hybels challenges us with these words, “Life is too short and the world too compassion starved for you and I to keep subsisting in situations that drag us down and curtail our potential to help advance the Kingdom of God. There’s too much at stake. Eternity is at stake!”

Your choices make you and shape you.

It’s Time To Decide!

Read more of Dave and the Breakfast Club at http://breakfastclub.vpweb.com/default.html

The Definition of Courageous

The definition of courageous is “not deterred by danger or pain; brave”.

I met a truly “courageous” person when I traveled to New Delhi, India during the summer of 2011.

Her name was Surinder Kaur

I was there to help raise awareness and money towards fighting human trafficking.
Specifically, underage sex trafficking.

She was there to stop underage sex trafficking even if it meant giving up her life.

Human trafficking has become the third largest illegal trade in the world, behind illegal arms and drugs.

In New Delhi sex trafficking is a growing industry where young girls are being held as slaves to make huge amounts of money for brothel owners.

It is an atrocity that is hard to describe.
It is an injustice that many are still ignoring.

Underage girls being sold into prostitution because of poverty, greed and pure evilness.
The younger the girl, the more money they make for the brothel.

I took a photographer with me and walked through New Delhi’s largest red light district—G.B. Road–home to over 2000 prostitutes, many who are underage.

While walking the road you can look up and see young teenage girls beckoning you up to their rooms, hoping for business, hoping to suffice the anger of their madams when business is slow.

Many of the young girls were holding babies.

It was the most emotionally nauseating walk I have ever made. The spiritual darkness was so heavy it was hard to breath.

Seeing western business men and local men in their forties, fifties and sixties walking into those buildings made me want to throw up.

There was an impulse to grab them, shake them and ask them if they were proud of what they were doing.

My guide could tell how much I was disturbed and told me to pray. Pray for the girls. Pray for the police. Pray for India.

After the devastating walk, my photographer and I met this woman of courage, Surinder Kaur.

She was the local police chief, known as a Station House Officer, and she was new to the area. She had just received the International CNN Hero of the Year Award for fighting sex trafficking.

Her first impression was that of beauty and grace, not of tenacity and courage. But we soon learned that those things are very powerful together.

As we sat down in her office, she told us that the police station she was now in charge of had existed since 1954 and the police chiefs over the years had been men who were bought off by the brothel owners.

Surinder was the second woman police chief and while the first one was intimated to fight, she said this was why God had created her, to fight injustice, to stand up for children.

She had set up a make shift bedroom attached to her office so she could be on call for these girls.

“I do not want any underage girls working here. They are children. My goal is to shut this district down.” Kaur told us.

Since becoming officer in charge of G.B. Road two years ago, Kaur has rescued over 100 minor girls. Before she was there, only 4 or 5 girls had ever been rescued over the previous 5 decades.

She told us that, “In the past, everyone knew the police were involved with the brothel owners…so no one passed information to the police. When I got here, I took the challenge. I developed trust with the public. Now we are working together.”

She went on to say, “It is an everyday challenge filled with physical danger, death threats and wondering who has taken a bribe and who can you trust. The hard part is that it is not illegal for women 18 and older to be prostitutes, but many are underage and most are illegally trafficked from other parts of India and Bangladesh and Nepal. My focus is minor girls. My mission is to rescue them all.”

A few weeks before we arrived, Kaur and her team had raided a brothel on G.B. Road after being tipped off that minors were working there. They rescued 9 girls. 5 were under age, one was 10 years old.

Since the 2 years Kaur has been working the G.B. Road, they have arrested 27 brothel owners, a number unheard of before she arrived.

Some good news on this very dark subject is that rescue efforts are becoming more common in India as awareness goes up and police make them a priority.

Books like “Half the Sky” are raising awareness about human trafficking. http://www.halftheskymovement.org/ @half @NickKristof
An organization like International Justice Mission is rescuing children all around the world. @IJMHQ http://www.ijm.org/ @garyhaugen

The police have also become more sensitized toward prostitutes and are now seeing girls as victims rather than criminals.

Kaur told us, “Why would a girl want to be rescued and then prosecuted as a criminal. That is why girls won’t reveal their real age. Once they know that they will be treated as a victim, they are much more willing to be honest about their age.”

Just before our time was done, Surinder told me something that made me smile, while putting a chill down my spine,

“When I started here at the G.B. Road station, I went to all the brothels and told the madams that I wanted to talk to the girls. I told the madams that they could stay in the room while I talked.”

Then Surinder Kaur, this beautiful, 50-something Indian woman looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Ken, I put my phone number up on all the walls and told the girls that if they wanted to get out to call me and I would get them out immediately. And then I looked at the madams and told them, ‘And if you take my number off the wall, I will kill you.’”

Looking into her eyes, I believed her.

“Rescuing children has become my life’s calling,” Kaur told us, “It is this century’s demand that we have to change.”

Sadly, since my visit, Surinder Kaur has been transferred to another area of town, far away from the G.B. Road.

Hmm? I wonder why?

Courageous: “not deterred by danger or pain; brave”

The Opposite of Fear is Love

My son goes to school in Southern California and works for a grocery store chain.

He was working late one night when a man came running into the store, past my son, turned around, about twenty feet from him, and started shooting in his direction.

The man was actually shooting at a policeman who had run into the store, but the policeman was right behind my son, so the bullets were flying towards both of them.

My son lunged to the left to avoid the bullets, but the policeman lunged left also.

There was a Doritos display between the shooter and my son so as he was diving out of the way, shards of nacho cheese Doritos were flying everywhere. The sliding glass doors at the front of the store where shattering from the bullets also.

My son said everything moved in slow motion, but the noise was deafening.

Long story short, my son(who we call superman now) was actually faster than the speeding bullets and as he avoided the bullets, the cop began to shoot back and eventually shot the man.

My son was shaken up a little, and had to spend some time getting nacho cheese chips out of his hair, but overall was fine, but he had to sit in the police station all night giving reports about what he saw.

While he was at the station, he met an interesting couple.

This couple was from the state of Washington and the man was a professor of accounting at Washington State. They were in Southern California because the university my son goes to was interested in hiring him.

The man had always wanted to teach at a Christian college, but his wife was nervous about moving to California because it seemed like a dangerous, wild kind of place.

The University said, “Why don’t you come down and just check out the place.” So they did.
They landed at the airport and while driving to check into their hotel, they decided to stop by a local grocery store to pick up some snacks.

When they drove in front of the store, bullets started hitting the side of their rental car. Yes, the same bullets my son was avoiding inside.

This couple had been in California for 2 hours and their worst fears were coming true. They had become a part of a Hollywood movie.

The couple was uninjured, but they had to go to the police station, and this is where they met my son. When they told him the story, my son was thinking, “Well, this is the last time they will ever come to California.”

After giving reports to what they saw, everyone left the police station going their separate ways.

About three months later, my son was working a late shift at the grocery store and he turned around and there was this lady from the state of Washington.

Bonded by flying bullets my son ran and gave her a big hug and asked her what she was doing there and she said that they had decided to take the job and move to California.

She told my son, “We were not going to let some random act of violence keep us from doing what God was wanting us to do. We were not going to let fear have the last word!”

I love that couple!

Fear takes away the gift of today, and robs us of God’s dreams for us for tomorrow.
Fear stops us from doing great things.
Fear stops us from seeing miracles.

The Apostle Paul faced all kinds of life threatening situations yet said, “The Lord has not given us a spirit of fear, but he has given us a spirit of power, love and a sound mind.”

The fact is you can’t remove all the risks out of life.

Life is composed of a series of risks, being born, leaving the house, driving, making friends, getting married, having kids(that is a real scary one), careers, health, eating sushi, being a Sacramento Kings fan, going to the broken places of this world.

Why has God put us in this kind of world?
Because He wants His love to triumph over our fears.
He wants us to experience His miracles.
He wants His miracles to bring Him glory.

The children of Israel were getting ready to pass through the Red Sea and experience a miracle, but they responded in fear when Pharoah and his army had them trapped.

Fear makes us sarcastic, “Moses, did you bring us out in the desert to die?”
Fear keeps us in unhealthy situations, “Moses, let us go back and keep serving the Egyptians.”
Fear makes us very short-sighted, “Moses, it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than die in the desert.”

At Disneyland there is a ride called Space Mountain.

When you are standing in line there are warning signs that tell you why you shouldn’t ride this ride. “If you are pregnant or you get dizzy or you get bloody noses or if you have a bad heart or back, if you have bad breath, bad fashion, hemorrhoids, back hair, a bad comb-over, a mullet, or a fanny pack you should not ride this ride.”

The list disqualifies most Americans.

While you’re waiting, there are about five or six turnouts, where you can chicken out and get out of line. But there is a point, when they strap you into that little bobsled, where there’s only one way out. You’re going to have to take the ride.

That is what I call the moment of truth.

That is where the children of Israel were at the Red Sea.

And they had an opportunity to believe, to have faith, but instead, they respond in fear.
They have just spent four hundred years in slavery.
They have been beaten, mistreated, abused, killed, starved, and overworked for four hundred years and now they’re saying, “Let’s go back.”

God will constantly put us in scary situations where it will be tempting to play it safe rather than go forward into uncertain territory so that He can do a miracle.

How do we overcome our fears?

Psalm 56:3 says, “When I am afraid, I will put my confidence in God… Yes, I will trust the promises of God.”

We often think that the opposite of fear is courage. But the opposite of fear is love.

When we experience and receive and begin to live in God’s love, we become less fearful people. The apostle John said it like this, “There is no fear in love. Instead, perfect love drives fear away. Fear has to do with being punished. The one who fears does not have perfect love.” 1 John 4:18

How do we overcome our fears?

We must trust the promises of God (Psalm 56:3) and we must allow His love to drive out all of our fears.

My son returned to work the next day. His manager was shocked. “Why are you here? I thought you would be afraid to come back. I thought you would need some time off”.

Well, let me speak for my son. I believe that he trusts that his life is in God’s hands and that love, not fear will have the last word.