Archive for September, 2009
Tuesday, September 29th, 2009
As I contemplated going to work for a Toyota Dealership I looked back over the years of my own car buying experiences. I had purchased a lot of cars in my lifetime. When I was 17 years old I was ecstatic when buying a 1970 Volkswagen Beetle.
I have bought cars from individuals, dealers, and yes, even off of Ebay! Each time I experienced my own internal battle to find something I felt comfortable with at a price I wanted to pay. I can also remember many of those times when I bought a car I really couldn’t afford.
I have wondered if the challenge of buying a car stems mainly from our own discomfort - with either parting with our money - or not having enough money to buy what we wanted. None the less, it came down to making a decision that would potentially impact many years of our life financially and practically.
I had a customer recently named Shelly who was interested in buying a fun little sports car. She test drove the car. At the point of trying to make a decision she said she wanted to talk about buying the car. So we moved to my desk and I got out the paper work.
At this point, I realized how many times I had sat at that same desk in my own lifetime.
Does this picture cause any car buying trauma?
They all look alike. Small, three chairs, inside a little cubicle often full of intimidation and fear. Our internal process begins; “How much can I afford? How much will they sell this for?” Most of us are familiar with the battle for the win! We want the best car for the best price. The owner or dealership wants the best price too; the one where they make the most money. Everyone is after the same dollar in the middle of the deal.
It is at this point where we have likely already found the car of our dreams and we tend to want it at any price and are willing to compromise some in our own checkbook to get it. We will even begin to make bargains with ourselves. “Hum, maybe I can eat out less or buy less clothing this year”, our thoughts ramble through possibilities. “How can I come up with the extra $30 per month that I need to get this car?”
As Shelley sat down I tried to put myself in their shoes. I tried to relate to her experience and be as honest as I could with myself. As we wrote up the deal the afternoon had already moved close to the dinner hour. Shelley told me that she had a special place to be at 5:00 and had scheduled to meet with friends that would be waiting for her.
The mangers tried to remind me that we needed to get her to a decision and completion of the deal. I understood their point. But I was in conflict with how inconvenient it was at times when I was trying to buy a car. I didn’t want to pressure her to make the deal even if it would compromise her commitment to another person. I remember a time when I had to call someone to opt out of something I had made a promise to attend because I was sitting in the sales cubicle myself.
After a quick evaluation of my own life experience, I related to Shelley that I fully understood and that I had no intention of holding her up so as to make her miss something she had committed to. I freed her up to come back the next day to complete the deal. As you might imagine my managers were confused that I let her go but I had a higher calling and purpose here.
I made the relationship with Shelley more important than buying a car right there and then. In my mind, if I was successful at showing her I could relate and I was as committed as she was to other relationships, then maybe I would not only sell her a car but she might tell others about me for their own car buying needs. I found that in the end, Shelley didn’t buy the car because she also had higher values. She did not have the budget to buy a car at that time. She said she would be more ready next year after paying attention to some current debt.
Maybe next year Shelley will be in a better position to by a car with more confidence about spending the money. Maybe next year I’ll find that by building relationships through actively listening to others’ needs will pay off multifold!
I want to be respected, believed, and valued so I want to treat others that way too. I wouldn’t want my customers to leave after a grueling and postponing experience with buying a car. I’d rather have them say that I was one salesman that respected them all the way through the buying process.
I was told when entering into this job that relationships sell cars. After being there for only two weeks, I am not sure they really meant what they said. At least not in the way I try to value relationships. The higher calling is to put this world and its idols out of the way and value what God does – people.
Friday, September 25th, 2009
Reaching Out Around the World
I recently met a man from another country through reading a magazine article written about his ministry. I am impressed with his commitment to reaching the lost and estranged with the Love of Jesus. He goes into gay bars in his city to engage in what ever the Holy Spirit is doing. He sends me weekly reports of what is happening so that I can pray for him and for those he is getting to know. As you read the excerpt below, you will notice that he does not put names, rather he puts initials.
For some this method of outreach may be controversial. As I read Andrew’s weekly reports, I often get tears in my eyes as I think of the love he has for these people and the way he touches their lives in such a personal way. We will not see this full picture until the other side of our lives. But Andrew is sowing seeds of kingdom value for sure.
He is practicing the principles of The Journey of Thomas in his outreach. He is honest enough with his own life and has confidence in who he is. He listens to the heart cries of those he is getting to know and they feel respected and honored by their relationship with him. It shows in their response.
Last night ended up both very cold and long. Sadly BA was drunk again, at least he was happy drunk. He proudly presented me with two raffle tickets he had brought for me and the family along with a telescope he had purchased himself and has been unable to use.
I turned up at bar at about 4:45 and had a bit of a chat with BG about faith. Andrew, my friend, turned up to join me at about 5:45 P.M. and soon he was chatting to KA, a lady (or transsexual) who I have never met and is about 6’6”.
Andrew also had a long chat with GR, who told me as I was leaving at 11:15 P.M. that he really like Andrew and thought he was a good bloke, he also said a heartfelt thank you to me for being there.
In some senses the night was fairly quiet until about 9. Andrew got to meet most of the usual suspects and we all talked about various issues.
A short plump lady walked up to me and told me she thought I was sexy and put her arm around me. She asked if I would buy her a drink as the bartenders had refused to sell to her as they thought she had drunk too much. I told her I was a priest (in Christ I am, I use it when convenient) and that I wouldn’t feel right about doing so. She then questioned me a bit more about what I had said and whether I was gay, she was convinced I was up until that point (she probably wouldn’t have been so provocative otherwise as she wasn’t heterosexual herself) and then said she really wanted to talk with me about some Christian stuff.
It took awhile to really have a good chat with her as she was very flighty. I offered to pray for her before I left. Well Andrew got away and I ended up sticking around til just before closing time as BE shared about her Christian mother and grand-mother along with her own desire to really live her life God’s way. She shared of her lesbian desires and the confusion they caused her and asked if there might be any help for her. I offered her my phone number and assured her that I would be willing to walk with her and pray with her further if she really wanted to live a consecrated Christian walk. I also shared that there were other ladies I knew who would also be happy to help her.
She talked of her sexual abuse as a child and her early attempts to try and gain the attention of female teachers when she was 8 and 9. We finally prayed and she was so receptive and desirous of God’s help. With many hugs and thank yous I finally managed to get away. The very next day, today, I received a text message asking when I could catch up with her and again thanking me for being willing to listen to her and take the time for her.
We still haven’t managed to key in a time suitable for her as she has some family and other obligations she needs to attend to. But again, please uphold BE in your prayers as she starts to look again to the God she trusted as a child. Pray that she will have the courage to keep on pursuing her healing and making the effort to push past the difficulties that will inevitably stand in her way as she seeks to meet with me again.
It has been an awesome week on a number of fronts, last night just capped it off. Sharon (my wife), previously during the week, shared with me a conversation she had with our eldest son who told her of how he was now joining his work-mates at the local pub after work where often they want to engage him in conversation regarding issues of faith. As they say, “Like father, like son.”
Please pray for Andrew. Pray for protection, annointing, Holy Spirit intervention in the lives and souls of those he speaks with.
Thursday, September 24th, 2009
When I entered into the business of selling cars I had the opportunity to test drive most of the models available. I developed an awareness of sensing my environment and as I drove each one. I asked myself how I felt about driving a particular car. I was in a Toyota Corolla and got back to the car lot telling myself, “This car wants to drive. It feels like I am riding a frisky colt”. The next car was a Prius, which incorporates the latest in automobile technology. As I finished my test drive, I looked around the car and said, “Now this is 21st Century experience”.
A Camry brought me to say, “Wow, pure luxury at a price you are willing to pay”. As I went through each car I found something I could use to introduce each car by asking myself how I felt driving them personally. I was amazed how my life journey led me to sell cars but even in this experience I could see the application of the Journey of Thomas to be utilized in such a variety of ways.
When showing a very nice Toyota Venza with leather interior and lots of bells and whistles a gentleman, named Len, wanted to test drive the car. So, with a “Smart Key” in hand, the doors automatically unlocked as we walked up to the car and Len got into the driver’s seat. Before he pushed the “Start” button on the dash board I stopped him for a moment. “Len, before you start the car, I want you to take a deep breath, calm yourself and look around you. Take in the environment, the gauges and the features. Look into the mirrors. Feel the leather seats underneath you.” I informed him that I wanted him to feel as comfortable as possible with the car before we began our test drive. I reminded him of my own experience test driving cars and how uncomfortable I was moving out of the lot onto the street before I was ready to do so. I mentioned to him that I wanted him to get the most out of his test drive so he wouldn’t forget it when it was finished.
Much to my amazement, Len turned to me and said, “John, I ….. Like….. Your….. Style.” He went on to tell me that he had test driven a lot of cars but NO ONE had ever asked him to stop, breathe, and get comfortable. Our test drive was a harried experience for me because he had become so comfortable with the car that we were truely “experiencing” not only the car, but Len’s natural driving style! With all of the accident prevention features, we made it back to the dealership safe and sound.
As I looked back at this situation, I realized that several facets of the Journey of Thomas were at work in me and in my customer that night. Discovering our feelings personally, being honest with how I felt in the past and sharing this with Len, and Len finding his own authenticity as a result of my giving him permission to relax were fruitful in a successful test drive of this amazing new car.
I believe this led to the potential of Len and I never forgetting our shared experience. At least, since he was one of my first customers, I won’t forget Len! God is at work in and through our souls in amazing ways each day. I am prepared to see Him more clearly along the way.
Monday, September 21st, 2009
As I reflect on my recent blog about Sabine Ball and the Lord’s land, I want to share about the most special “Lord’s Land” moment of all, my engagement to Vileen.
Vileen and I had dated for about six months when I moved to California in December of 1986 to volunteer for Love In Action. Leaving Omaha was a challenge and a freedom. A challenge for Vileen and I since we had grown so close. A freedom because our relationship had become strained due to some of my fears of opening up to her further in our relationship. It offered a break from the intensity that seemed to be looming over us.
When I left Omaha, in my mind, our relationship would be in the background of life and I was focused on the new ministry I was working with. We stayed in contact with each other but through a safe mode of telephone calls and letters I found free again to be open with her. However we still seemed to be in limbo with moving forward in the relationship.
After about six months Frank Worthen basically exhorted me to #$%& (not his words) or get off the pot. They felt concerned for Vileen’s heart and my lack of commitment to engage further into the relationship. I saw the wisdom in their counsel. So, with great fear and trembling I went to Omaha with the plan that I would break up the dating component of our relationship.
So, while we were out to dinner, Vileen started the conversation. “John, the Lord told me that I was to let you go and that we were to no longer be in a dating relationship” What?? “Well, Vileen, the Lord told me the same thing.” I came back to California free of the burdens I had carried. Interestingly enough, we continued on with our phone calls and letters.
Vileen knew how much I loved the Faith Cabin at The Lord’s Land. It was a really special place for me to sleep and spend time with the Lord. I had sent her a picture of this favorite place and she took notice of my heart in it. She decided to consign a friend of ours to paint an oil painting of that picture for me as a Christmas present. Vileen didn’t know what to do with the gift considering the change in our relationship. She didn’t know whether to give it to me or keep it. She liked the painting so much she toyed with the idea of keeping it.
When Christmas came she had second thoughts and went ahead and sent it to me as a present. When I opened the gift something changed in my heart. I could see that Vileen cared about what I cared about. She knew my heart’s desires. I began to reflect on our relationship and realized that I did truly love her and that God had led the woman into my life that would become my wife.
The Faith Cabin oil painting showed me Vileen’s heart. The Lord’s Land became the place of our engagement. The Faith Cabin is one of the safe places in my heart I visualize to spend with the Lord!
So, shortly thereafter, I asked Vileen if we could start over and rekindle our relationship. She agreed so we moved forward into a rediscovery of our goals. I decided that I would ask her to marry me that summer during a trip she had planned to bring my daughters to California. I was enthused about her coming and the plans I had in my heart so I wrote a letter to my sister and included in it that I was going to ask Vileen to marry me.
Well….. I had said some other things in the letter that I wanted Vileen to read and absentmindedly copied the whole letter and sent it to her. Little did I know that she now knew my plans but didn’t tell me that she knew.
When the trip came about, we travelled to the Lord’s Land to spend a few days away from the ministry. My kids were there and we began to enjoy the wonderful place that Lord had set aside. I had planned on asking her to marry me there. Vileen loved the sunsets on the ocean which was only a few miles from where we were staying.
In my desire for complete obedience to the Lord, I made a deal with Him. I said, “Lord, if there is a sunset on the ocean, I will know you are in agreement with me to marry Vileen.” The day I was planning on asking her was overcast, dreary and wet. I woke up with FEAR in my heart. “Oh, no, what will I do now?” I just kept praying, Lord, help me, I want to marry her but without a sunset on the ocean – it is off!
As the day progressed I remained focused on my plan waiting for the Lord’s will to be made known. At 5:00 PM we drove to the ocean view. As we got closer something became clear – a sunset began to shine through as the clouds and fog lifted. Wow! This is amazing. God has moved and we are free to go forward.
So, as I planned, I wanted my daughters to feel included and yet we needed some privacy. So, I asked them to take the camera across the road so that they could take pictures of me asking Vileen to marry me. They did and we have a picture of the exact moment!
With the ring, the commitment, and the future before us, Vileen and I married six months later on December 10th, 1988.
The painting has hung in our bedroom since our marriage as a cherished memory of the vehicle the Lord used to draw us together.
Wednesday, September 9th, 2009
Sabine Ball passed away in July.
The Lords Land Photo
She was in her early eighties. Sabine was a type of “Corrie Ten Boom” for many of us. After a burning desire to help the troubled kids in the Haigh/Ashbury district in San Francisco, the German born, Sabine Ball sold all she had to purshase 126 acres near the Mendocino Coast of Northern California. She desired to help them live healthier lives through natural living. This was the late 1960’s.
As they pursued a better life, Jesus showed up and called some of them to know Him personally. As this continued, Sabine, somewhat disgruntled about these changes, began her own search. Traveling to find her own “faith” through Eastern Mysticism, she finally returned to “The Land”. She describes that a “brother” sat her down one day and very specifically told her that there was no other way than Jesus Christ. Although she was battling her own self will and pride, she submitted her life to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
The Land, then became the Lord’s Land. The annointing of salvation and healing laid heavy on this 126 acres. She was living on alimony from her marriage and the Lord spoke to her to say He wanted her to sell some of the land to Georgia Pacific and that she was to stop receiving alimony. In faith she obeyed fearing the rumbling of lumber trucks carrying off the beauty of the trees to the mills. As of the last time I heard, no lumber had been cut from this land and Sabine lived in the provision of the Lord until her death.
Her Return To Germany
In the middle 1990’s Sabine felt the calling to return to Germany. Her desire was to minister to the skin heads and punks in Dresden Germany. Through a coffee shop and second hand store Sabine set up a powerful ministry to the lost children of the streets of Dresden. Her ministry was so well respected that the city of Dresden financially supported her work. Her friends supported the store through giving high end clothing and the local cafe’s provided day old pastries and baked goods.
Sabine’s gift to love the challenging folks of our world led many to the salvation of Christ. Her life was dedicated to others, living selfishly with little.
Hundreds of men and women found God’s freedom through the vessel of Sabine’s life.
My Experiences With Sabine
Formany years, each January and December, 25 to 35 men would set aside a four day weekend to begin and close out a year of Christian discipleship through Love In Action. It was at The Lord’s Land where God met me in some very personal ways during my some 20 times visiting there over the eight years I lived in the Bay Area. The foundation of hearing God and receiving His love into my life began at The Lord’s Land.
I think to a large extent, the vision within “The Journey of Thomas” for loving people, relating to them in authenticity, and shedding our masks of fear came through experiencing Sabine, the staff of the The Lord’s Land over the years, and the incredible holy ground of that place. Every structure was hand built by the rough hands of skilled artisans and dedicated to the Lord and the fellowship of believers.
I have several photo albums of pictures from the Lord’s Land experiences that are among some of my most prized possessions. Largely because of the relationship memories I have with other believers and with God! Singing around the stone fireplace, eating dinner around the raw redwood banquet table, and listening to crushing life stories of hundreds of men come to life in my heart as I think of the times I spent there.
First Snow in 15 Years
One December was particularly memorable. It was cold and we all bundled up to go to bed in our heavy sleeping bags. We awoke the next morning with the most incredible snowfall I have seen in my 55 years of life. Four inches of snow covered the redwood trees and the hand built redwood cabins and fences. The sky shined in the most beautiful shades of pink, green, blue, and white that I have ever seen. Memories of Mendocino with snow on the Victorian homes and waves of the crashing icy blue ocean in the background will never leave my mind.
One year, knowing she would leave us one day, we had asked Sabine to share her story. We recorded it and had it transcribed. I have what is possibly the only full life story spoken personally by Sabine. I have often wondered what I should do with this treasure.
Vileen…. Will You Marry Me?
In 1988, another incredibly memorable event occurred at the Lord’s Land. It was my engagement to Vileen, my wonderful wife of over 20 years. I had chosen that place to begin my new life with her because it was such a holy place in our minds. We have a hand painted picture hanging in our bedroom of my favorite cabin there called, Faith Cabin. To this day I meet with the Lord in my prayer life with the Faith Cabin in my mind as a venue for my Father and I to have personal talks with each other.
Of all the places on the earth that I would like to be able to go and smell the aroma of the Lord, it would be The Lord’s Land. I guess today, I’ll have to travel there through the pictures in my albums and the memories in my spirit.
Things have changed. Youth With A Mission now is the proud curator for the Lord’s Land. Through their website it appears to have kept the spirit of the Lord in tact and the cabins in place. But, it is hard to replace Sabine. Her snowy white hair, perfect peach skin, German accent, and a halo of God’s love surrounding her will always be remembered by so many throughout the years. I look forward to reuniting with her in our Father’s house. Hum, I wonder how many punks and skin heads will be surrounding her in heaven alongside me. Surely many.
Sabine wasn’t perfect any more than any other human being. But later in life than many, she chose to submit her life to Jesus Christ. Her remaining years rival most Christian’s I have known. Her continual submission to Him is certainly being rewarded today as she sups with Him for eternity.
All honor and glory goes to the Lord, my thankfulness remains for Sabine’s life.
Wednesday, September 2nd, 2009
How did I end up selling cars?
A while back as I was praying about how God might be able to provide a living wage for my family I was reading a magazine that showed an ad for a new car called the “SmartforTwo”. The ad mentioned a dealership in Memphis so I opened my eyes to the possibility of selling Smart cars because of their unique design and market. I thought surely this might be an open door to an unseasoned sales person.
So the next week I got ready to apply for a job and went to the Mercedes dealership where they said they were sold. When I got to the desk I mentioned why I was there and the man standing by returned my comment with a strong response, “NO, we don’t sell Smart Cars. WE TURNED down that dealership.” I wasn’t sure how I had offended him by my comment but there was something under the rug in his world for sure.
As I was driving away I asked God why in the world He led me there as I knew He did. My own thoughts wondered if it was just a test of obedience. I felt relieved because I really didn’t want to work there anyway. So, while I was out I went to two Starbucks coffee shops and gave them applications. They seemed more to fit my schedule and need for benefits.
A couple of weeks later I heard an advertisement for sales help at a local Toyota Dealership on our local country music station. I felt strongly that I was to go and apply for a job there. Maybe God had prepared me earlier in my heart by sending me to the Mercedes dealership.
Since I didn’t have a resume’ I quickly prepared one and got dressed in respectable clothing and went to the dealership. I handed my resume’ to the lady at the desk and she asked me to fill out an application. She said I would likely have an interview right away.
I was introduced to the General Sales Manager who was kind and affirming of me and of my skills. He assured me I would do well at this job. He handed me off to the Sales Manager who likewise was very affirming and said that due to my history I would likely be in management in a short amount of time. He said that he wanted me to interview with the General Manager of the dealership so off I went to another office. His first question was, “John, do you like to read?” He recommended that I read a book on leadership called “Built to Serve”. He thought I would enjoy reading it and after a few other affirming words sent me on my way.
I had gone over in my head many times my insecurities about applying for a secular job. After 22 years in ministry with a sexual recovery program and having never gone to college, I certainly didn’t have the cutting edge for getting a good job! I couldn’t imagine why someone would hire me. But in these three interviews, each person mentioned my resume’ and my job experience with positive reactions. They actually said that these tools showed them that I was exactly what they were looking for. One man said, “John if you can work with sexual recovery, you can surely sell cars!” It was apparent that God was in fact opening up the door for me so I continued walking through it. I had no idea what would happen next.
That fateful day, I was offered a job selling cars virtually on a silver platter. I returned in two days to accept the offer and a week later I began my training. I moved through several courses in Toyota University and asked a lot of questions of the others I encountered. I also heard a lot of comments about life as a car salesman. Most mentioned the “dog eat dog world” and the extensive hours spent at work.
Along the way my energy towards this job waned. Each person in their own way told me of how they had to often console their wives due to the time away from home. They spoke often of how some people were honest but others would go out of their way to get the next sale even it meant running over someone else to get there. Well, this is what I expected so I wasn’t surprised, just shocked that I was moving into something that felt like I was being swallowed up by a beast!
A bright spot during my training was when the sales manager told me to go get the keys to the cars and drive them! “You mean I can drive any car I want to?” I was in seventh heaven that day driving numerous cars to my heart’s content.
When I was released to sell cars the second week I felt comfortable and enthusiastic about this part of the job. I loved people and enjoyed cars. It seemed to be a good combination. I mean, if you have to go to work, it just as well be something you are familiar with and this seemed to fit the bill. My first and second customers were really enjoyable. I took some test drives with them and it seemed I was catching them with my knowledge and my intuitive ideas.
Well, after a couple of days my sense was correct, I was being swallowed up by a beast alight. I was drowning in the belly of a whale and didn’t know how to get out. I felt trapped by the job and drained of my heart. I had nowhere to turn but to the Lord. As I have prayed many times in my life, “God get me out of this!”