Category Archives: People

Finishing Strong! – A Tribute to Mike Pohlman

When I think of my friend, Mike Pohlman, the one thing that I am sad about is that I didn’t get to spend more time with him. I wish I had gotten to know Mike sooner. I wish Mike had lived much longer than his death early this morning.

A beautiful soul in God’s kingdom, Mike was a rock for his family. His big bass voice was a calming influence to those who knew him. If you met Mike, it was hard not to like him. Even on his death bed, Mike remained hopeful, trusting in the faithfulness of God. A few days before his death, I visited Mike. I went to encourage him, but I left the one encouraged. I had gone to bless him, but Mike was the one blessing me.

What a beautiful life! It doesn’t really matter how we start life. Even what takes place in the middle is inconsequential if we end strong. How we finish is everything, and Mike ran the race with vigor to the end. I am reminded of the verse that says, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7). Mike, buddy, you finished strong and your life is a testimony to us all.

I wrote the following poem tonight as a tribute to my friend.

What A Beautiful Life!
To the end, you taught us all how to live well.
A perfect pitch, a proper tone, a new song in the midst of pain.
While others fret, you never worried.
You gently said, “God is in control.”

To the end, you never gave up hope.
Whether in life or death, you resolved to glorify Christ.
A steady rock for those who knew you,
your pitch pipe will be missed,
it helped keep the rest of us in tune.

To the end, you sprinted toward the finish line.
While others may have seen your sickly body as a sign of weakness,
those who know you saw a spirit that never lost its purpose and strength.
Full of vigor and a countenance of praise,
you followed the example of Jesus who was no stranger to sorrow.

To the end, you encouraged those who came to cheer you up.
Imparting one last moment, word or gift,
you made the most of your final days.
While others asked hard questions,
you simply believed knowing that one day you would receive a better resurrection.

To the end, oh, what a beautiful life!
I will never forget you — Mike Pohlman.
How I wish that I had known you sooner and longer.
Dear friend, my solace is that you are in a better place.
You are whole again, singing in a choir beyond compare. Amen!

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Compassion for the Lost – Praying the Emotions of Jesus Day 1

Mark 6:34 (NIV)
When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Prayer

Jesus, May I see people with Your eyes of compassion, not with a judgmental attitude. Erase the emotional distance between me and those You have called me to love. May a passion burn in my heart to see the lost come to saving knowledge of You.

May I never be overwhelmed by the sheer numbers in need. In the midst of the crowd, may I identify the individuals that I am destined to connect with in order to share what You alone can do. There are many who are lost and need direction to the truth. The lost go about life blind to the reality of their need for You. They do not recognize the loving arm You extend to them. They have followed blind guides and have listened to the wrong voices.

As I share the Good News, may I never become proud. I am what I am by Your grace. In humility and compassion, may I share Your truth out of a sincere heart of love. May everything I share be said in love with genuine concern for those who don’t know You.

Amen!

Beyond Talk, Forget Excuses

Jesus sometimes spoke very strong words to His followers and those who expressed a desire to follow Him. From calling people to be perfect to saying that the crowd should eat His flesh and drink His blood, Jesus knew how to challenge everyone outside of their comfort zone. He harshly rebuked Simon Peter on a number of occasions. Jesus continually pushed the disciples to new places of faith and self abandonment.

Jesus told people to take up their cross and follow Him, a concept that would have seemed more repulsive during the first century than it does today. When one man asked for time to bury his father, Jesus said that the dead should bury their own dead. Jesus called those who followed Him to put everything else below their devotion to God. There are no excuses or reasons to shy away from God’s call. Either you are in, or you are not. There is no middle ground. That is where the double minded live, and they are unstable in all that they do.

Why did Jesus seem to set the bar so high? I think Jesus did this because He knew our human tendency to look for ways to get out of what we know we should do. The truth is that we do what we want to do. We have all the time we need to do what matters most. But all too often, we say something is really important and ignore it. We have lied to ourselves. And until we realize that, we just won’t change.

Anyone who is a Christian should hear the call to abandon all and trust God with everything. This requires us to go beyond talk and good intentions. We have to act in faith and divine empowerment as enabled by the Holy Spirit.

Check out this related devotion at http://utmost.org/the-go-of-renunciation/

Drivers Ed Class

Have you ever felt like you were living through a Saturday Day Night Live sketch? I felt that way today as I attended a court-ordered driving improvement class in the Mechanicsville area. I went to help erase my recent speeding ticket (first in my life).

I dreaded going. I figured it was going to be a waste of eight hours. In some ways, it was. I probably could have learned everything in half the time. But then again, those “wasted” moments is what made the entire ordeal worthy of a blog post.

I have changed names to protect the identity of the innocent, notorious and downright unforgettable. But I promise that all the stories are mostly true. I may have not gotten all the dialogue 100% right.

The class started out with Larry telling everyone before the class that he was there because he had fallen asleep behind the wheel. He then proceeded to doze off about six times through the eight-hour course. There was one time that his eyes rolled back in his head while he was sitting straight up. I looked at the older gentleman next to me, Roy, who motioned to his daughter, Connie. We all looked at Larry and rolled our eyes as if to say, “There is no way this guy should be behind the wheel of any vehicle.”

Students started to fill the small classroom. Then, our instructor, Bart, proceeded to give a quick intro to the course and ask each student a few questions. Bart wanted to know our name, why we were there, and our job. One of the first guys he asked to respond was Larry. He responded by telling the class that he had just got out of prison for a six-year term. He then detailed his crimes of writing bad checks, his legal proceedings, a short comment or two about his former career as a tradesman, and then described his recent wreck. The woman sitting next to Larry moved over a bit as soon as he admitted his recent stent in jail.

The rest of the introductions were fairly normal. There were a few family members who attended. One mother/daughter tandem came together. The 17 year-old girl, Lisa, proceeded to rat out her mom (Mary) as a speeder. Lisa admitted that her father had signed them both up for the class to reduce their insurance costs since they had both recently received speeding tickets. Lisa told how her father was just as reckless as them, but he never seemed to get caught by the cops.

Lisa commented how she had been a fairly safe driver all her life. The entire room erupted in laughter when Bart said, “All two years you have been driving… right. I know that seems like a long time. But Roy back there has been driving a lot longer than you have been alive.” Roy was in his late 60s. He said that his last ticket was 30 years ago.

Lisa’s youth and inexperience became a running joke for the group the entire time. She proceeded to explain that she was safer than most of her friends who thought she was a kill joy. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was saying these things because her mother was sitting right next to her. Bart told a few blond jokes through the lesson. She never got em.

Then, there was the film student from Boston College, Julie. She had recently moved downtown. She asked the best question of the day. With a completely straight face, she asked, “Some of my friends told me that the reason the state troopers always put their hats on when they get out of the car is that they can’t write you ticket unless they have their hat on. Isn’t that a strange rule?”

Bart said, “That is a new one. I never heard that before. I can assure that there is no such rule like that. Are you sure that your friends weren’t trying to pull a joke on you?” Julie responded that she had been told that by ten different people and that they were very serious. I asked, “Did these people also ask you to go snipe hunting?” She had never heard of snipe hunting either.

The entire room had a good laugh.

When Bart made fun of my salad for lunch, Julie mentioned that she was a vegan, which completely astounded Bart. He couldn’t understand why somebody would not eat meat. I agreed and said that I like both meat and salads. I especially like salads with meat. Anyway, throughout the class, Bart tried to convert Julie to the dark side of the meat eaters. She stayed a vegan and even talked about eating rice milk flavored icecream substitute. Yuck!

Bart showed a number of videos and did a good job of covering the basics. He even offered to show us his certificates because he knew that somebody as rough looking as him seemed to be an odd character to be teaching a driving school. Bart was funny and kind of raw. He’s the kind of guy that I would picture one day on the Blue Collar Comedy Tour.

His stories about the horrors of insurance, stupidest things he had seen in his driving experience and how to talk to cops was worth the price of admission.

Later in the day, Bart allowed us to try on goggles that demonstrated how your vision can be impaired when you are legally drunk. We all marveled at the effect. All expect for Larry. He said, “Wow, that ain’t nothing. You should see what happens with your driving ability when you are lit up on crystal meth!”

To which, Bart said, “What did you just say? No, never mind. I don’t want to hear it.”

Another fond memory occurred when Lisa tried to blame her speeding habit on her parents. She said that she picked it up from them. Bart responded, ” You can’t inherit bad decisions from your parents like you do hair color, facial features or height. Those decision belong to you. Sure, they may not have provided the best example. But you have to take responsibility for your decisions.”

Bart got Lisa to semi admit her guilt. But I still think if she was honest, she would point as much blame back at her folks.

Those were my funny moments from the driving class today. My experience convinced me that there are a lot of characters on the road today.

Are You Living in Your Divine Calling?

While in discussion with some students at The Mix tonight, I noticed how they all seemed to think of the term “calling” as it relates to their future job or career. We were discussing God’s callings for our lives. It was a fairly open context. But the discussion tended to gravitate toward skills, interests and careers.

Sometimes we tend to think our call is just about what we do as a job. But it is so much more than that. It really touches every area of life. Our calling is really whatever the Holy Spirit is directing us to do at the moment. I believe that our calling is both a very complex and simple thing. Really, our calling can change through the years as we transition through various phases of life. What we do when we are sixteen is not likley to represent our life 10 years later, 20 years later or 40 years later.

Yet, as a Christian there are some callings that I believe are not unique to me. But they are part of the calling for every true believer. All Christians are called to love God and live for His Kingdom and glory. We are all called to be witnesses of Christ’s message and be connected to a body of local believers. We are all called to pray, read the Bible and seek to know God better.

Thinking about my own calling, I am reminded of what the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart ten years ago when I went out to Kansas City to pray at IHOP just as the prayer center was getting its start. I believe God placed the following four key calls on my life: 1.) Seek God’s face in a personal, intimate relationship, 2.) Write revelation that God reveals as I seek His face, 3.) Pray for those God has called me to love, 4.) Disciple the remnant.

The first part of my calling is very generic. All Christians are to seek Christ. But the second was unique to me. I was to write the revelation that the Spirit showed me as I seek God. The third connected to the fourth. Prayer was to fuel my ministry to disciple and train up future leaders in God’s Kingdom. All of these callings developed through the years. For example, I came up with a pretty well developed sense of what God meant by remnant.

I am seeking all four callings in some respects in my life today. None of these callings are directly related to my job as a journalist and publisher serving the forest products and logistics industries. My job provides me the resources, time and flexibility to carry out these callings.

It seems that sometimes when people are young they get all worked up over what they are going to do with their life. My suggestion is to simply give it away to God. Realize that your career path may change, but your identity as a Christian doesn’t – in time you only get to know the real you better.

I believe that more than worrying about your future career, the best thing to do is to make sure that you are living for God today. Focus on whatever path you are on to live as much as possible for God. Sure, you can prepare, study, and make smart education and lifestyle decisions. Education, training, hard work are all good things. You should think about the future. But you should not get so worked up over your decisions that you fail to realize how you walk down whatever path you take is as important as which path you choose to take.

Are you living in your divine calling? Stop to ask the Holy Spirit today to help you get to know the real you.

Mosque/Islam Center Near WTC Site

It isn’t every day that I find myself agreeing with Harry Reid. But I do today based on his recent comments about building an Islamic Center two blocks from the World Trade Center site. Senator Reid called for the building’s organizer to find an alternative location in another part of Manhattan further away from the World Trade Center site. This entire thing has become too political and won’t do much to improve relations between Muslims and the average Americans.

While I agree with President Obama that the organizers have every right to build this facility since they meet all local zoning and other laws, it isn’t wise if the stated aim is to build bridges and allow for healing between Muslims and those of other faith/worldviews. According to the Associated Press, the project is headed by the Cordoba Initiative, whose aim is to improve relations between Islam and the West. This organization wants to host leadership conferences for young American Muslims, organizing programs on Arab-Jewish relations, and empowering Muslim women.

The imam behind the project is Feisal Abdul Rauf who leads a mosque in the nearby Tribeca neighborhood. He has worked with the U.S. government to improve relations with Arab countries around the world. Yet, he is also a contoversial figure for his statements.

In a CBS News interview shortly after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Rauf said, “United States policies were an accessory to the crime that happened.” In a radio interview this year, he refused to call the radical Islamic group Hamas a terrorist organization, saying “the issue of terrorism is a very complex question.”

You can see why some might not like Feisal building a mosque/Islamic Center in this area. Nobody with any real concern for our religious freedom is seroius about stopping this project by legal means. That is why it is odd that President Obama would focus on the constitutionality of the issue when the real concern is the message it sends.

It seems that this may be the wrong place, the wrong guy, and the wrong time. Any consideration of opening the facility on September 11 is very bad form. And it seems to run contrary to the stated purpose of the organization behind the project.

As a staunch supporter of religous freedom and property rights, I would fight for the right to build this facility even though I think it is a bad idea. If I were a political leader, however, I would have the guts to say both of the above things. I would support the project against any efforts to stop it all the while trying to work with the organizers to find a more suitable location.

True, there are other mosques in the area. True this is far from completely “hallowed ground” since there are fast food restaurants, a strip club, off-track betting parlor, and other small shops in the area. But it wasn’t a Dunkin Donuts delivery guy who flew a plane into the World Trade Center either.

This is all about sensitivity. Just as Muslims expect us to respect them, there should be some concern for how locals in New York City feel. While this is mostly a local issue, it is also a national one since we all felt the weight of the towers come down in some respects.

So how far is far enough away? I don’t know. Maybe 4-6 blocks. Maybe more. That really depends on the people of New York City.

I think finding a location further away from the WTC site would be the best thing to meet their stated goals. This would also really help the healing process. At the same time, I recognize their right to freely meet and do whatever they want to with properly zoned private property.

My primary hope is that Muslims in other countries will start affording the same kind of protections to Christians, Jews and other faiths. My experience so far traveling to both the Middle East and Africa has been that Muslims are not very tolerant of other faiths. This is especially true when they are in the majority and in control of the political system.

May we be better than that in this country.

Broken Knee Cap and a Burning House

Have you ever stopped to think about what it takes for you to change? Are you the kind of person who needs to experience severe pain to change? Does a disaster drive you to God or away from Him?

A friend recently told me that sometimes it takes a tragedy for him to change. He said the biggest obstacle in his life to change and more reliance on God is his success and affluence. He said that his walk with God would likely improve if he drove home and found his house on fire and hurt his leg getting out of his vehicle. I joked that I would be willing to break his knee cap and set his house on fire if that would help.

My friend has a good point. One of the biggest challenges that American Christians face is our wealth. Even in the current economic downturn, we are still better off economically than most people on the planet. When things are going well, we can relegate God to the edge of our lives. We put necessary changes on the to-do list and never get to them.

Honestly, I find that I am a lot like my friend. Pain can be a great motivator to do things and refocus my attention on God. May 2010 be a year of personal discipline and proper priorities for me without requiring a tragedy to spur it on.