My Relationships and Will Smith

Been thinking about a (supposedly) Will Smith quote today: “If you are not with me in my struggle, don’t expect to be with me in my victory.” Pondering. I know those that have stood with us during our strongest challenges. Sometimes fighting aggressively on our behalf, other times just patiently giving us time to grow and learn, still loving despite mistakes, others stepping in with strong arms that give support. Those people I never ever forget – I could name them for you even going back 30 years. My first book will be dedicated to them.

Those that don’t “stand with” – I can think of two types: the ones that hold back support, for reasons known only to them; and the truly painful – the ones that cause or provoke the struggle by doing harm. Ouch. They most definitely have no place in our victory, but there is also no bitterness in my heart toward them. I know my Father works all things together for my good.

But further thinking – what kind of person am I? Have I stood with others in their struggles? I don’t want to be so self-absorbed, vision blurred by my own battles that I don’t do what I can to help others succeed. I have failed somewhat on that front. Lord, help me to have eyes to see – really see. You love your children so proactively. Please help me to do the same.

Father of the Bride!

Here is the epic Father of the Bride speech…

Yours truly was the photog, but was laughing so hard sometimes (and panicked at others) that there is some shaking… This is classic Peter.

Story-telling is an art. Don’t underestimate the power of your own stories!

Enjoy!

Melissa & Chris, now Mr. & Mrs. Peterson!

Fresh Start

Morning glories are beautiful! They just might be my favorite flower… why?

Because every morning, this is what greets me: fresh blooms…


Morning glories ALWAYS remind me that God’s mercies are new every morning, that His steadfast love never stops…

If you look closely at these pictures from my back yard, you see that tomorrow’s blessings are all ready, poised to unfold tomorrow morning. How amazing is that?

I know this may seem simple, but let me tell you – some of the simplest things hold the deepest truths.

Every single morning I have this opportunity: to take my frustrations and failures from yesterday, and my frightening challenges from today and tomorrow, and place them in God’s hands.

I get to say, “Father, I know these things can seem overwhelming to me – just look at them all – look at this, and that, and how impossible this seems… Look at how so-and-so reacted, and look at that terrible mistake that leader is making… Look at how I messed this or that up. And look at that wonderful opportunity! Father – all this I lay before you and I say I hand you each and every circumstance, concern and dream – let’s make a fresh start of it today! I don’t know what you have planned, but I KNOW you are good and am so excited to walk this path with you! Oh, and yes, thank you for  morning glories…”


The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, His mercies never come to an end. They are new every morning. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in Him.” Lam. 3:22-24

Four Ways That Fear Creates What it Fears

“Never do anything out of a motivation of fear.”
Some of the best advice I have ever received!
Why? Because fear creates what it fears.

  1. Fear of rejection: If you are afraid of being rejected by colleagues or acquaintances, you become clingy and petty – possibly creepy – causing otherwise friendly people to want to steer clear of you, i.e., to reject you.
  2. Fear of losing a lover: If you are afraid of losing a lover to another, you become irrational and  jealous, controlling – potentially driving the person straight into your rival’s arms.
  3. Fear of discovery: If you have a guilty conscience, you become accusatory and defensive, arouse suspicion, and provoke others to dig into your life until you are exposed.
  4. Fear of betrayal: If you fear betrayal, you will consistently  misinterpret actions, become petty and treat others as unworthy of trust – a pattern of behavior that becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy culminating in (you guessed it) “betrayal.”

It’s just how it works. I’m not sure why. But fear does create what it fears.
So now – before I take action or respond in a situation, before I pick up the phone or send the text or say yes or no to a request for help, before I censor myself on Twitter or Facebook – I try to remember to ask myself “why?” Why am I doing or not doing this? Am I acting out of fear?

Just might be the most important question we can ask ourselves today.

Your Voice

[The theme of Voice has been dancing about in my head for several weeks. I ran into this post, written by me three years ago. It is so timely for today! I’d love to hear your thoughts – do you feel you have found your voice, or (like many of us) are you “in process”?]

This post is about your voice. And your seasons.

I am going through a season change… are you? Time to get more involved in some things, and less in others. Can you relate? Thinking through priorities and proportions. This is especially challenging because I am, at heart, both an activist and an artist.

Just what is voice?  It can be a somewhat intangible concept, but by voice I mean the free expression of that unique set of attributes that makes you, you! There is your voice, my voice, God’s voice…

We each have a purpose.  God gives us our voice so we can fulfill that purpose.

I enjoy the gradual unveiling of my children’s voices. And every day I pray that they will learn to hear God’s voice… to love and trust it, to navigate through life guided by it, much as the sailors of old relied on the stars in the heavens.

But the aspect of navigating that has taken me years to learn involves my own voice, and a question (you may find yourself asking the same question): Is my voice effective?

We need to look at all our areas of involvement – at relationships and organizations in our spheres of influence – and ask a fundamental question: Does my voice make a difference? Does anybody hear me? Do they want to hear me?

If I am committed, doing my part, and carefully listening to the voices of others, but having no impact and finding no reciprocity, then that is not a fruitful involvement. It may be time for change. There are likely needs or opportunities elsewhere, just waiting!

Or, it may be time to speak more loudly. But no one likes a shouting match. If you’re in a relationship and have had “the talk” multiple times, to be comforted by a “you’re right” and no change, reconsider that relationship. If you have a friendship with someone who has taken advantage of you repeatedly, and you’ve confronted and received an “I’m sorry” only to be misused again, evaluate if it is truly a friendship. If you’re on a board or team and have expressed the same serious concerns multiple times, to be greeted by “great input” and no action, then reality check. Why force others to listen to you, when somewhere else there is a person praying precisely to hear a voice such as yours? Keep the peace, spread the love… and move on!

Of course, I am not talking about giving up when things get tough… Healthy relationships and organizations will always involve dynamic tension. Love and loyalty are key to managing that tension. But even if you are fighting a fierce battle for social justice, or to grow a business or fulfill a dream, you still have to ask yourself the questions above. Time is short. Before you know it, five years will have passed… and your dreams for tomorrow may have become distant bittersweet memories.

Bottom line today – your voice is invaluable, and there is a predetermined place where it is needed and where there is grace abounding for it to be heard. Relax in that knowledge. Listen, think, pray, speak, be thoughtful about your season change. Then watch that last leaf fall and welcome the new season. And as your senses soak in the change, listen for God’s voice and remember – He is listening for yours!

Do Angels Make Phone Calls?

Today is Sunday. The phone rings at 7:45 this morning.

“Can I speak to Peter Ward? Is this Peter? I don’t know if you remember me. My name is Reggie, from the homeless shelter. You guys used to serve us meals, and you would sit and eat with me.”

Of course, Reggie. Reggie was great at memorizing scripture. He used to run through his verses for Peter as they ate.

“Do you remember last year when I was at the Greyhound bus station, and you were there?”

Hard to forget. That had been one of those very unexpected stories. Peter had gotten back a day earlier from a trip to Thailand. He was completely jet lagged, but needed to leave for Peru in a couple of days, to be there in time for Easter.

He had gone to the Greyhound terminal to pick up some supplies for the team to take to Lima. When he arrived at the pickup desk, the sign read Closed for 15 Minutes.

Just then he heard someone call out from across the big waiting area, “Hey Pastor!” As Peter turned, there was Reggie walking toward him, with the look on his face of a lost child who has found a friend. “Man, God is at work. Of all people to see you!” said Reggie.

Peter gave him a huge hug.

Reggie was feeling overwhelmed. He was a recovering drug addict who had ended up homeless in Miami.  Now he had graduated from the program at Broward Outreach Center and was on his way “home” to North Carolina. Returning to a not very helpful family. To face his old demons.

He was feeling scared. What if he didn’t make it? What if he fell again?

Pastor Peter listened, and walked with him.

“Do you have what you need for the trip?” he asked Reggie. He already knew the answer, he could see Reggie had bare minimum belongings with him. (As Peter says, Hey you know me, I’m African, that is always the first question – do you have what you need for the road?)

“Okay, let’s go get you some stuff.” Peter and Reggie jumped in Peter’s car and headed to Walgreen’s. When they left the store, Reggie had a bagful of toiletries, snacks, drinks and anything else he might need for that long bus ride home. Peter also gave him a twenty.

Back at the terminal they prayed together. Peter prayed for strength for Reggie, reminding him of God’s love and care over his life. Gave him a pep talk, told him to stay on the straight and narrow, to be careful of who he hangs out with. Reminded him of how far he has come, how much he has grown.

They noticed the pickup desk was once again open. Time to retrieve the boxes. Together they loaded up the truck.

Peter gave Reggie his cell number, and told him to call and let him know how he’s doing. Then they said their goodbyes, another hug, and Peter left.

Now this Sunday morning phone call, one year and three months later.

Reggie says he is doing very well. He is plugged into a small church. He works at a halfway house, overseeing one of the homes.  He has to constantly be careful with his friends and family, who are still up to their old ways.  He is strong.

“I just want to thank you for what you did for me that day. That was the greatest miracle that ever happened to me. Thank you for being there. You showed me that God was for me. I just felt strongly I should call you today and let you know you are doing God’s work.”

Smile.

Do angels make phone calls?

(Oh, and wow, 15 minutes can go a long way, can’t they?)

David Wilkerson

David Wilkerson passed on to Heaven today. I am deeply moved. He was a man who gave his life for the hurting and the lost, with such an incredible passion for young people.

I first “met” him through his book, The Cross and The Switchblade, when I was a teenager. It’s his story, the story of sacrificial and daring outreach to teenagers trapped in gangs and drugs in New York City. It had a profound effect on my life – something about the abandon with which he believed God and stepped out in faith marked my spirit.

His legacy has also blessed my family. My mother always attends Times Square Church during her stints in New York, and has been greatly enriched by his ministry. One of my aunt and uncle’s dear friends used to run with Nicky Cruz (the young man featured in Wilkerson’s book) in her youth. Her testimony impacted us.

How fascinating what David spoke to us through his devotional just today:

To those going through the valley and shadow of death, hear this word: Weeping will last through some dark, awful nights—and in that darkness you will soon hear the Father whisper, “I am with you. I cannot tell you why right now, but one day it will all make sense. You will see it was all part of my plan. It was no accident. It was no failure on your part. Hold fast. Let me embrace you in your hour of pain.”

Beloved, God has never failed to act but in goodness and love. When all means fail—his love prevails. Hold fast to your faith. Stand fast in his Word. There is no other hope in this world.

Wilkerson with Nicky Cruz

I really don’t have anything deep to add. I am just so touched by the beauty of his life – and I think what is so compelling to me is the knowledge that, at last, he is face to face with his precious Savior. What peace, what joy for such a warrior to enjoy the Divine Presence in all fullness.

I am so sad for the loss his family is experiencing. I am praying for his wife Gwen, who is reportedly still in the hospital. But to David himself I say, “Well done. You are a father to many. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for such an inspiring life.”

(You can read the rest of David’s devotional, dated April 27, 2011 here).


The Importance of Listening – Stay in Your Lane

This is kind of silly, but it’s real life… I’m going to let you eavesdrop on a talk Peter and I had recently.

We were walking around the track at Relay for Life, lost in conversation, wondering about a dear friend who has been battling cancer. Peter, as usual, was so involved that he didn’t notice he was slowly crowding me.

“Careful, you’re drifting,” I said to him.

“Are you telling me to stay in my lane?!”  he  jostled me, faking annoyance.

“Yes I am!”  I told him, pushing back.

We laughed, then found ourselves on memory lane.

“Remember when those words saved our lives?”

Flashback: We were on I-80 in California, driving home from San Francisco with some friends. Our young children were home with a babysitter. Peter was driving.

Suddenly tension blanketed the car. We all stared as a vehicle ahead of us  swerved across several lanes, having lost a complete wheel. Cars ahead of us were weaving to avoid crashing. We had to maintain speed, as cars beside us and behind us were still going full throttle. We sat frozen – watching the tire fly sideways straight toward our windshield. We held our breath. Peter held the steering wheel, not turning to the left or to the right.

In a second it was over. The wheel hit our front bumper instead of our windshield, and lodged under our car. We made it safely to the shoulder of the freeway.

Peter told us that, minutes earlier, he had heard these words in his spirit, “Stay in your lane.” Stay in your lane? What could that mean? He had dreamed about that same phrase the night before.

He was thinking about it when the accident happened. He knew immediately to follow the instructions. He kept the car perfectly controlled, resisting the urge to swerve as the wheel was about to hit us – and most likely saved our lives.

It is so important to have a listening heart.

The Gift Within You


I love campfires. We were gearing up for the day. I was making coffee on the Coleman.

The night before we’d had a roaring campfire in the fire ring, and had watched it burn out. Now the kids were poking around in the remains with some sticks. To their astonishment, the ashes started smoking.

Peter went over, and showed them how to blow into the embers that were deep inside the ashes – quickly flames erupted. With just a bit more kindling, once again we had a roaring fire.

I told the kids how cool it is that God helps us do the same. We all have gifts within us, and we are supposed to “fan the flame of the gift of God that is within you…” (that is in the Bible, in 2 Timothy 1:6).

You have some very unique abilities and perspectives. You might be feeling insecure, or be afraid that it is too late for you…

It’s not!

Make a plan, share your dream, take a class, break out the study books, do whatever it takes, but blow on what looks like ashes! It’s up to you, and no one else. Put some kindling in there, and just watch – the embers are still hot, they are just hidden!

You can do it. The gift is within you. The world needs to see your fire.

Living in the Now

 

Ever find yourself (or a friend) struggling with unresolved questions? I recently came across this intriguing quote:

“I beg you, have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given you now, because you would not be able to live them, and the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without ever noticing it, live your way into the answer…” – Rainer Marie Rilke

So now I’m thinking about what he proposes. The way I see it, he is saying to embrace the questions, they contain the answers. Give them time to incubate the answers… eventually the answers may in fact reveal themselves. That requires living in the Now.

Hmm… definitely going to meditate on this…