IABC Was Fun

The International Association of Biblical Counselors (IABC) conference was fun. Attending these meetings was one of the reasons we went to Colorado. Of course, doing the Hillrose Church conference was the other.

  • I spoke six times at Hillrose Church.
  • And I taught four times at the IABC Conference.

IABC asked me to open the conference by speaking at the leader’s luncheon on Thursday afternoon before the “official” conference began that night. I taught the ministry leaders on how to have an online ministry in an ever-changing culture. The responses from the folks were good.

I spent the next three days talking to different individuals about aspects of what I shared during the luncheon. One pastor asked me to review his personal ministry blog, which I did. It was a pleasure to walk through his website, making suggestions about how he could make it more efficient and usable to his audience.

He was grateful.

I’m glad they asked me to do that specific training. Though Christians are doing better at the “redemptive use of technology,” we’re still a decade (or so) behind our culture in making the most of this “means of (common) grace.” We can do better than that, especially in light of our message. There is not a more important one out there.

IABC also asked me to lead an interview for The Mission House team during the main general session on Thursday night. That was a great experience. I got to meet Oliver Haywood, Matt Perkins, and Jim Tracy, all leaders of that ministry.

We had been emailing back and forth prior to the interview so they would not be surprised by my questions. Typically, when I interview someone, I give them the questions ahead of time so they will know what’s coming and not be surprised during the interview.

The next day I interviewed Oliver for our Life Over Coffee podcast. He’s a cool dude. I also interviewed Julie Ganschow, who leads a counseling ministry in Kansas City. I wish I had more time so I could have interviewed more folks. Perhaps next year.

The two workshops that I did were on “How to Make a Decision About Anything” and “How Do You Preach the Gospel to Yourself Practically.” Both of those were well-attended.

And we laughed a lot.

The children were great at managing our ministry booth. We had the green screen up and running so the people could stand in front of it to have their picture made. We dropped different backgrounds behind them, i.e., Niagara Falls, Yellowstone, Pikes Peak, New River Gorge bridge, and New York City. We took some of our best travel photos to use as backdrops.

We also had a “spin the wheel” game where folks could spin to win one of our 20+ books. Most folks enjoyed that, though some of the “spinners” were a bit tentative about what it all meant. The kids were great at walking a few of the older folks through this newfangled technology thing.

Can’t wait until next year. I hope that some of our students–grads and current–will be able to attend. That would make it even more special.

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Glen Eyrie

Contiguous to the Garden of the Gods public park is Glen Eyrie, which is part of the Navigators organization. The Navigators headquarters is on the other end of the property. There is so much property that you have to drive to see the offices, which we did.

I wanted to see where Jerry Bridges hung out and pay my respects to a wonderful human being. He is on my list of top ten favorite writers. Jerry went to see Jesus a few years back. I’m glad to have met him over lunch with a few friends. It was memorable, and one of my life highlights.

We spent nearly all our time on the Glen Eyrie side of things. The name comes from the idea of eagles in a glen. There is an old eagle’s nest near the front, though I was not clear if it’s inhabited currently. But there are eagles, elk, bobcats, bears, and other wildlife that roam the property. A bobcat walks through the compound on most afternoons, typically right down the main drive. He’s all full of himself, apparently.

Respect.

They found a bear in the kitchen a while back. He was lifting a large salad bowl up to his hungry head.

Got to respect that too.

The Navigators

Years ago, the owners of the property asked Billy Graham if he wanted it. He declined. Then Dawson Trotman–who led the Navigators–stepped in, and they sold it to him dirt cheap. The Navigators worked with Billy, which is how Dawson found out about it. It’s a gorgeous property, though not anywhere as popular as the Garden of the Gods.

The original owner did a lot of good work in Colorado Springs and built the property for his family. The centerpiece is a small castle. (Small when compared to the Biltmore House in Asheville, NC.) It is wonderful to see, though.

You can also rent a room, even the honeymoon suite on the top floor. All glass. Score! During the winter months, the rooms run about $100 per night. Not bad.

Glen Eyrie is also an exceptional place for group retreats, conferences, getaways, and personal retreats. If I were closer, I would be there often. It’s a great place to walk, pray, refresh, (or do training).

Providential Tour Guide

To get a tour, you need to call ahead. We did not do that, so we were at the mercy of whatever would happen after we drove on the site.

We did walk around, and while sitting in a video room, a fellow walked in asking us questions. I told him where we were from, and he asked me to read his name tag. Underneath his name, it said he was from Landrum, SC, which is next door to our town.

One thing led to another, and he said, “I’m not doing anything right now, so what if I give you all a tour?” (He was a tour guide, FYI, not some random stranger like us.)

And thus he did.

That guy was quite talkative (informative). He took us to the castle, gave a lot of backstories, and let us go wherever we wanted to go.

He lived in SC all his life, but while visiting his daughter in Colorado Springs, he went to Glen Eyrie. They said he could work there if he wanted to, and through a series of providential circumstances, he and his wife quit their jobs in SC, moved to Colorado Springs in an RV, with no promise of work.

The Navigators did hire him eventually, and that’s that. He is a wonderful man, generous, kind, happy with Jesus, and glad to be doing what he’s doing. And he did it well.

Glen Eyrie is a must see if you’re in Colorado Springs.

The Air Force Academy

The Air Force Academy is in Colorado Springs too. I did not realize how popular this place is until tooling around the city a bit. We went a couple of times to the Academy.

The main thing we wanted to see was the chapel. It is a large pointy structure that had a ton of character. The first time we went, it was too late to go inside.

The second time, we went inside the tourist building and the chapel. They were close to each other so that we could walk from the tourist center to the chapel.

In the tourist center, we watched a short video about the life of a first-year cadet. The presentation was interesting and well done. I was hoping it would appeal to my children, and it did, right up to the part where the upperclassmen were banging on the newbie’s doors at 5 AM. That pretty much sealed the deal for my children; they will look at other colleges.

The chapel was well worth the visit. It’s too much to talk about in this post, but you can Google it to read all about it. I did a Facebook Live detailing some of the architecture. Really cool.

I also had a nice long chat with the tourist guide who was hanging out at the front door. He was a nice man who liked to talk. That was easy. He gave me some inside intel about the chapel and the grounds.

I left the Academy appreciating our military, all over again. I have much respect for them, as well as our law enforcement officers. Anybody willing to put their lives on the line for our safety is worth the highest respect.

Something that I found ironic was the requirements for getting into the Air Force. In the video that we watched, the narrator said the requirements were different for males and females. Ladies did not have to do as many push-ups, pull-ups, or throwing a ball as far as the guys. There were other differences too.

And I thought we were all the same. It seems discriminatory to have one set of standards for the guys and another set for the gals. I left thinking that our country practices selective discrimination. Or, maybe, there are actual distinctions between male and female. Shazam, Gomer! I’m sure after our lefty liberals find out about this anomaly, they will jump right on it to tighten this thing up a bit.

Focus on the Family

We were in Colorado Springs, so we had to visit the Focus on the Family campus. In the broader expanse of Christianity, Focus has done a lot of good work for the cause of Christ, mostly with social and political inroads. They are still carrying some weight in those areas.

As a courtesy nod to their good work and curiosity about how a large ministry functions, I wanted to visit their campus. I also have a sentimental affection for James Dobson. Before my theology became more precise and while I was scrambling for truth in a barren Christian culture (fundamentalism), God used Dobson to help me.

The Focus ministry is much smaller than it used to be. One of the four buildings on campus is no longer in use due to downsizing. The ministry has lost a lot of strength. I have not kept up with them, so I’m not aware why they have not been able to sustain the ministry.

The one building we could visit was the visitor’s center, which was a fabulous facility. The workers were great. Personable, happy, courteous, welcoming, helpful, and passionate. They are the kind of folks you want on the front line of a ministry. And the building was fantastic, especially the kid area, which was on the bottom floor.

A few years ago, a couple visited Focus, and while there, they asked a tour guide if all the visitors got in the way of Focus doing their day-to-day work. The guide said it was a problem. The couple donated 4,000,000.00 to build a visitor’s center. Boom!

And that is how I pray. Some day, somebody will love what we do so much, ask what we need, and they will make a game-changing donation. Some day.

Adventure in Odyssey

We also got to do an Adventures in Odyssey show. We were not too familiar with that program, so the most embarrassing moment was when the producer asked us about one of the cardboard cut out characters on the show. It was a prop in the studio. None of us knew the character’s name. Embarrassing.

We wanted to do the show, which presumes we know something about the show. Oh, well. The producer was a bit surprised, as in, why are you here if you don’t know anything about us?

Anyhow, the show we did was great. It was also good to see how the team produced a program, the sound effects, the set-up, etc. It was all good.

Speaking of not being familiar with their ministry, I was putting pics of Whit’s End on Instagram. I hashtagged it “whits-inn.” I thought it was “inn” instead of “end.” Fortunately, you can edit Instagram.

The Takeaway

My top three takeaways from being there were,

  1. Gratitude for how the Lord has used this ministry.
  2. Seeing the facility, which is a solid representation of how Christianity should look to the world, i.e., professional, happy, clean, and not weird.
  3. Wondering what we need to do to redefine ourselves, so our ministry does not lose traction.

The last takeaway about “redefinition” is something I think about all the time. K-Mart, Blockbuster, and Radio Shack have disappeared from the corporate landscape. Our ministry will go that way too if we are not evolving (or redefining ourselves).

I have been praying for my replacement since the first day of this ministry. I believe in what the Lord is doing with our work and would like to see it advance into the future, long after I go to heaven. Being aware of how to connect with an ever-changing culture without compromising the gospel is vital for redefinition.

Garden of the Gods

The Garden of the Gods is a small city park in Colorado Springs. And it’s free. The man at the tourist center said that so many folks visit, they are going to have to do some expansion work, i.e., parking, rules, hiking, etc. These new travel apps give it high ratings, mostly because it’s free, so a lot of folks are visiting. We went there a couple of times, and it was busy both times, but not unbearable.

It’s a collection of red, flat rocks jutting out of the ground, which gives it character and uncommon beauty. You can drive, walk, run, or bike. There are a few roads and a lot of hiking trails. There was a climbing instructor there too. You could pay at his store, wherever that is, and he would belay you as you climb one of the long, tower rocks.

That was cool.

They had a trading post with a lot of stuff in it. I bought my Colorado hoodie souvenir there. And that was cool too. It was in that store where I met the young dude from the UK. He said he liked America better than his homeland because things are big here, you can go anywhere, and we can have guns.

Interesting.

He plays Polocrosse, which is something I have never heard of; it’s a blend of polo and lacrosse. Interestingly, we saw him and his team two weeks later at the Denver airport. They were leaving the same time as us.

I spoke.

He remembered.

Back to the Garden

We chatted up the Forest Ranger. Her name was Stephanie, and the horse she rode in on was called Cody. I love Forest Rangers. Most of them are too “tree-huggy” for me, but I love their passion. I appreciate folks who know what they want and make sacrifices to get it.

I’ve talked to a lot of Forest Rangers in my adult life, and all of them are about the same. They love what they do, are kind to strangers, and will chat you up about God’s creation (my words, not usually theirs).

There is also a “balanced rock” at the Garden. It looks–sorta, kinda–like a big spinning top that is upside down. Everybody wants to sit on it and get their picture made.

So we did.

Then there are the “kissing camels.” Near the top of one of the outcroppings of red, flat rocks were two rocks touching at one point, and just underneath where they touched was a hole. It looked like two “rocks kissing,” I suppose. Or it did to someone, so they called it Kissing Camels.

We stayed in Kissing Camels Subdivision, and there are shirts and hats and things that have “kissing camels” on them. God bless America; we know how to market stuff.

I did not see the two touching rocks as camels, but not to be an aggravationist, I went with it. They did have lights shining on it at night, which was cool.

The main thing about the park is that it’s a place to hike around a bit. The rocks are full of character, and, of course, with a “general revelation” presupposition, it’s another opportunity to appreciate God.

So I did.

Hillrose Community Church

What made Colorado ideal for me is the people that I met. I loved the sites. Yes, I did. I always enjoy being in different places around America. There are many wonderful things to see and do, and we did that in Colorado. But the thing I love more than anything else when traveling is talking to the people.

I’m addicted to the story, an individual’s story. When we were at Focus on the Family, I found a worker that I could talk to for an hour, accumulative. That was more memorable than Focus (and Focus was great). While at a tourist shop, I ran into a boy from the UK. It was his first trip to the US. He came with his polo/lacrosse team. He was super-interesting. When we were at the Garden of the Gods, I talked with a Ranger on a horse. At the Air Force Academy, I found a tourist guide and chatted him up for thirty minutes. When we took the Celestial Tea tour, I found a Yankee from New York, who now works for the tea company, and got up in her story. All of these people were uniquely interesting.

The difficulty in finding folks to talk to in Colorado Springs was what made it less appealing to me. Besides being claustrophobic, everybody seemed to be going somewhere and “striking up a conversation” was a challenge. Hillrose Community Church turned the tide. They did not provide sites to see but people to enjoy, and that made all the difference.

Hillrose, as far as I could tell, did not have a paved road in the town. All dirt. Every road was dirt. It would not take a lot to up-fit the community for a circa 1870 western. It was that throwback. If a person goes to Colorado, they will see Denver, Vail, Colorado Springs, and the Rocky Mountain National Park. And they should. There are many beautiful sites and adventures in those venues.

But if you want to have transformative memories, go to Hillrose Community Church. You’ll find people who love God, struggle with life issues, hunger for solutions in God’s Word, and they are appreciative of anyone who’d come and share the practical gospel with them. That is why Hillrose was so much better than the “touristy things” in Colorado.

Though I had stimulating conversations with “tourist people,” which was a notch better than the sites we saw, the folks at Hillrose went beyond “tourist talk.” They hungered and thirsted for righteousness. I taught six times in three days. It was painfully hard with my back revolting many times but the joy of the engagement compensated nicely.

We stayed with Matt and Brandi Huerta. Brandi is a graduate of our mastermind program and is doing an excellent work at their church, under the leadership of her pastor. She has been teaching my material to the ladies of the church for about a year before our visit. That was a huge help. The pastor also had been digging into our content, which made what I did that much better. It was not like me coming in “cold” and then leaving. In fact, after we left, Brandi had several folks contact her for follow-up discipleship care.

In one sense, I had been there months prior, and the residual of our visit will carry on for months afterward. That is the way to do a conference. The “old-time evangelist” blows in, blows up, and blows out. It’s nice at the moment, but the long-term effect is minimal. When you (1) teach a year in advance, (2) bring in the teacher for dedicated intensive training, and (3) plan follow-up discipleship, with more teaching in the future, you have your best shot at changed lives.

I will remember the beauty of God’s creation in Colorado, but the thing that I will carry in my heart are the people of Hillrose Community Church.

Thank you for allowing us to serve you.

Colorado Springs

We spent most of our time in Colorado Springs. It was about 2 hours from the airport, heading diagonally southwest. And about 2.5 from Hillrose Community Church, and 1 hour from Westminister. Those are short drives in our world, so it worked out well.

Dave and Lorra Beth Forbes–members of our site–put us up at their place. Their home was large enough to where Lucia and I stayed at one end of the home, and the children had a comfortable spot in the basement. I set up my podcasting equipment and workstation in the TV room. It was super quiet, much like a recording studio. Perfect.

They live, literally, across the road from the Navigators, Glen Eyrie, and the Garden of the Gods. They were a few minutes from Focus on the Family and the Air Force Academy. Pikes Peak was the view from their deck. It was 13 miles away, though the 14,115 feet summit was so imposing that the distance looked much closer. It was right there, man!

Colorado Springs is butted up next to the Rockies. There were a lot of roads. A bit claustrophobic. It did not appear to be a “socially inviting” town. I could not get into the social vibe. It felt detached relationally. There were plenty of “tourist things” to do, but there was something about the town that made it mostly unappealing to me. I’m speaking on the relational side of things.

Maybe it was just me, but we’ve been in hundreds of towns, and this one was different. From a tourist perspective, it was awesome and gorgeous but “things to see” is not at the top of my list. Connecting with the culture is.

The elevation was 6K+. The oxygen was about eighty percent. We had chapped lips without balm, and we had to drink a lot of water. I did not sleep well, probably due to the altitude. The first few days I had headaches.

On the upside, the weather was super. We wore hoodies, which is standard for us when we go out west. After we leave the humidity of the Carolinas, things feel cold to us. But it was great. There were no bugs, especially mosquitos, which is a pleasant summertime relief. And I’m not sure you could improve on the scenery.

The mountain range changed every few minutes depending on the sun, clouds, time of day, and rain. It was superb, always revealing the mighty power and majesty of God.

Springs used to be a “religious town” with over 60 ministries in the area, many of them well known. Today, it’s a post-modern city where marijuana is legal, and God is in the rearview mirror.

A nice place to visit.