Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride

As most of you know, we lived in Southern California for many years and we were just a few miles from Disneyland as our kids were growing up. One of the original rides (from 1955) was always on our “to do” list when they were small (and later, for “memories”…though they are not admitting it). It was Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride. Actually, it was not all that “wild”, but it was dark and it was sure scary for the little ones. (We adults had it figured out). Things looked like they were going to crash into us, doors appeared and disappeared, and narrow escapes were the theme until we eventually burst out into the open…..relieved. The sun was still shining outside, and we were at Disneyland. When this “Journey” began for me in December 2010, so began our “Wild Ride”.  Lots of unexpected turns and scary things jumping out. Quite dark in there.


Strangely, I seem to have popped out into the “light” a few times (Good surgery, clear scans etc)…only to discover later that the ride was not over. My recent discovery made it clear that my Journey would continue for a while. My mixture of inherent optimism, strong faith, and perhaps too much desire to return to “normal” had me planning the burst into the daylight…yes, changed and grateful… but, ready to serve and live and “engage” again. I don’t do “sick” very well as I have spent my life virtually free of any sickness. This is so weird for me, and I think I keep rejecting the thought that I actually got this. And…I look and feel pretty darn good in spite of all the junk and surgery

Then, the Houston trip suddenly and totally unexpectedly redirected us. It was back…in a new place. As I write this, I am pondering and reflecting and listening to the Lord as never before. I now await the next test, and am grateful for the opportunity to attack this newest surprise on all fronts. Medically with the Gamma, nutritionally with immune boosting protocols, and spiritually with prayer and trust in God’s plan and promise.

And yet, I seem to be stuck in the shadows?

We had made our plans to finally be in Hawaii for a EDC/Diamond event at the Ritz Maui. Three years ago, we missed due to the passing of Nancy’s sweet mom. No biggie….we went to Peter Island (just the two of us) after the services etc. and looked forward to the next time in Hawaii. Who knew then that just the next year… we would again be missing the Hawaii trip as we were in the middle of my new “Journey”, and in the throws of surgery preparation, and lots of treatments etc. OK…year two away. Dave and Jules now had entered the world of high achievers twice without us “in the room”.

This year…it seemed we had been given the gift of the possibility to attend. Was I indeed on the “other side” of this battle? Apparently not, and now there were also some new complexities due to the nutritional support I have chosen, and the complexities of travel with so much “stuff’…but we thought it was worked out… and had begun to smell the air and anticipate the golf course.  Hawaii is indeed unique and we never realized how much we missed it. Maybe we took our many, many trips for granted. (Of course we did). Once or twice a year for more than 30 years.

Who's missing in Hawaii?

But the thought of being with our precious little grandkids there, the prospect of enjoying the beauty of Hawaii like never before, the energy and stimulation of re-engaging in the business a bit…the symbolic return to “life” as it was before, and the thrill of seeing what God would begin to show me….all was building up. Then the “reality” set in….we were NOT going! Too many obstacles. The door closed. What did that mean? Two years ago we were seemingly at the pinnacle of our influence and visibility after achieving the 55 FAA award, and even charting the course to 60 FAA. But now we are so absent from the action that we would need name tags to get into the Diamond meetings. How bizarre. All dressed up and nowhere to go.

Mitch Sala in SA

Well, the first thing it meant is that I needed to really pray about the whole thing. It was not about Hawaii…it was about my Journey. Hawaii was “symbolic”. At the same time, I was also again not in South Africa for our annual leadership conference in beautiful Sun City. Jeff Neuber went. RD Saunders went for Network of Caring, which has a very strong response among our generous leaders there. Mitch and Deidre Sala graciously agreed to be my “substitute”, and pour their amazing knowledge and inspiration into all the groups there. The Salas delivered their trademark business wisdom and clarity and their unequalled dream building and goal setting skills. Few in the world can handle such an assignment and with their amazing current results on the front lines of growth in Australia, they were and are perfect for that market at this time.  Jeff met one- on- one with all the key people that I would have met…. to listen and connect and bring back all the “news”. Who is so blessed as to have a business team that can rise up and fill in like this?….. and there is NOTHING MISSING. It’s all working fine.

So, I was not in Europe at the big events, I was not in Australia, not in Asia, not in EDAC (Europe’s IBO council), not on IBOAI in the USA, and NOT in Hawaii. And humorously…I have no other plans right now either, until I learn more about the next steps, and as I dig into my full on nutritional and immune-boosting IV protocols. I seem to be “in the shadows”; “on the side”; “under construction”.

Humorously…as I was reading Chuck Swindoll again…here is what he said:

Trusting God in the Shadows
by Charles R. Swindoll

I want to dispense a fresh supply of hope. To help accomplish that, let me suggest four principles. They may mean more to you later than now—in a time when God leads you to wait in the shadows.

First, when God prepares us for effective ministry, He includes what we would rather omit—a period of waiting. That cultivates patience. As I write these words, it occurs to me that I’ve never met anyone young and patient. (To be honest, I’ve not met many old and patient folks either.) We’re all in a hurry. We don’t like to miss one panel of a revolving door. Patience comes hard in a hurry-up society. Yet, it’s an essential quality, cultivated only in extended periods of waiting.

Second, as God makes us wait, hiding us in His shadow, He shows us we’re not indispensable. That makes us humble. One major reason the Lord removes us and has us wait in His shadow is to remind us we’re not the star attraction. We’re not indispensable. That realization cultivates genuine humility. I’m convinced Paul never once questioned God for having His hand on Peter and Barnabas, rather than on him. In a time when most gifted individuals would have been volunteering at the revival headquarters, Paul willingly remained behind the scenes. All the while waiting for his time—correction, God’s time.

Third, while God hides us away, He reveals new dimensions of Himself and new insights regarding ministry. That makes us deep. What we need today is not smarter people or busier people. A far greater need is deeper people. Deep people will always have a ministry. Always. God deepens us through time spent waiting on Him.

Fourth, when God finally chooses to use us, it comes at a time least expected, when we feel the least qualified. That makes us effective. The perfect set-up for a long-lasting, effective ministry begins with surprise. “Me? You sure You don’t want that other person?

I needed that!

In all my reading, I have been amazed at the amount of “waiting” that God has thrust upon His most notable servants. Joseph famously waited in prison (and the Bible kept saying “and God was with him”). Future King David hid from Saul even after killing Goliath. Moses left the Pharaoh’s privileged circle and waited forty years (that’s 40 years!!) in his desert as a shepherd before leading the people out of Egypt. Then he wandered with them and fought with them (and God) another forty years ‘til the Promised Land. Ouch!

Paul waited three years before starting his ministry…. even after the powerful blinding conversion on the road to Damascus. And even Jesus was made to wait about 30 years before starting his ministry and then 40 days in the desert as Satan tempted him.  Our enemy is always there to discourage and distract and destroy even that which God intends to use as a faith builder. Resist him and he will flee. (that was for me). Faith…. it seems…. only really builds in the trials, and the deserts, and the waiting. Alas…the shadows have a purpose. The more we diminish, the more He can increase. The weaker we feel, the stronger He becomes. The longer we are forced to linger…the deeper He can drive us. “All things work together for the good of those who are called according to His purpose”.

So, you my friends may have your own waiting room. Is it a job you really need? Some financial relief? Is your marriage tired? A goal you want achieved? A health crisis awaiting His hand?…. or a delay/absence in any evidence that God had heard your prayers? (He ALWAYS hears, by the way, and He is ALWAYS able…and He always has the best plan). “For I know the plans I have for you”, declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you, plans to give you a hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11).

I must say that these days I am deep in the throws of such a wait. In the shadows is not where I have ever been. I have for 40 years been in a “leadership” or “full throttle” position. Always engaged, always busy (sorry Lord), and too often in pursuit of what seemed “obvious” regarding my agenda. After all…I am engaged in “good works”. I “help people”. I build things. I give my God the glory. But now, I must find even more clarity for the remainder of my mission. I am finding that in these shadows… as I must now occupy myself outside of any of my “normal” activities; strange new world for me….. All good though.

Imagine what ideas I might get from Him in this “time out”?! My determination to dream and cast vision and lead and serve and give has not faded at all. I am feeling pretty creative as to how I might lead more effectively. I am even finding great joy in certain simpler things that I was unable to focus on before. There are always great blessings in every circumstance if we will just trust and obey. NOT being in Hawaii…or Africa, or Europe, or Australia/Asia may be indeed just what we all need. The global team, and the business side of things, is going stunningly well. Praise Him for that. What amazing people we have surrounding us. Dave and Jules are fully engaged in their own space with mom and Dad at a distance. God’s plan too?

It is still Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride for me (and this time I am the “6 year old” instead of the parent)…and it is kinda dark in here, and the things that jump out are unexpected and scary. Reading about others in the desert, or in the shadows, was “interesting” before this…now it is “reality” and harder (or at least different) to process. I can only imagine how many of you out there are also “waiting” and wondering about your own wild ride. As we “hang on” together (secure in the fact that our Lord has promised to be with us always, in and through everything), we can know that…. like at Disney…..eventually we pop out those doors, and the world is alive and sunny, and maybe next we can head for something fun…. like the “teacups” or just some ice cream. It will taste really great! (I assure you we will “appreciate” our next trip to Hawaii… whenever that might be).

So as I wait and linger here on the side and still under construction, I am finding a new energy to count it joy, because it leads us to stronger faith and new perspectives and humility and patience and “depth”….and all of that should be really really good when allowed to go to its completion. Stay tuned! I sure am.

Book alert!

On a different note…..two absolutely amazing books I have just read.

  1. “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman. Read at your risk, as it is truly compelling…. especially for us “western” Christians. (also on Kindle)
  2. “The Circle Maker” by Mark Batterson. Mark is a gifted writer and has other great books.

One of the things we both have always done is read. I sure hope I can encourage many of you who read this blog to do likewise. Now, obviously, I am reading even more these days…but not that much more. There is so much wisdom, and perspective, and insight available…. and it is so difficult to really grow as a leader or a spouse or a disciple if we are not digging deep into great books and the things that these authors have to share. Reading the Bible is first and cannot be substituted as the Word of God is “living”. It will feed us. But so often we need help in understanding how to apply the promises and teachings, and need help through the lessons learned by others who have experienced our similar trials or triumphs. Both the trials of life, as well as its triumphs, can lead us away from God instead of toward Him.  Toward is good (and safe)…away is dangerous.

Unexpected blessing!

With my sudden recognition that indeed my time will be extended around the base camp in Atlanta, and focused on restoring maximum health to my physical body, I find myself “available” for many things that previously were not. With our full and exciting life of business and reward travel, our beach home, and the many “opportunities” and “obligations” that I enjoyed so much, I was certainly never just looking at a blank calendar as I am at this moment. Make no mistake (this is for my global business family), I am fully engaged with my office and fully in communication with my leaders around the world. So much can be done these days with the phone and Skype and other technologies. The only thing different really is my travel schedule. But with so much more time around the base, I have discovered some serendipities for sure. One of them is the chance to participate in, and even host, the Power Soccer Bible studies on Wednesday nights. At Eric and Abbie’s home.

Bible Study

Usually, about 20 of us gather, and it seems to be getting bigger all the time. We usually have 6-8 of the players, their moms or wives or caretakers, and others who come. We often have Logan Saunders (RD’s son) play guitar for some music to begin, and then have a lesson/discussion/prayer time together to encourage and to grow spiritually. Many who come are new at their walk with God, and we have a great time discovering together the joy of a growing faith and new understanding of the rewards and responsibilities of the real authentic Christian life. We want to be “followers” of Jesus, not just “fans”! (See the book “Not a Fan”). These guys and those who join them are inspiring me in a big way. Their walk and their life stories are so different from ours. Many live with life-limiting conditions, physical disabilities, and lots of financial and emotional scars and difficulties…yet they are the most optimistic and determined and hungry- to- learn individuals I know. Their lives and their attitudes are daily seminars to anyone who meets them. What an unexpected privilege to be able to participate in this weekly gathering and facilitate this mutually rewarding process.

Jerry, Pika and Dustin

Let me give you a peek into this special group of friends that is helping me get centered and showing me how they live in their “wild ride”. There is  Jerry Frick: In a power chair from a life-altering motorcycle accident and spinal injury. Jerry runs our Fernando Foundation Power Soccer efforts with Eric and Dave Ruelas, and he travels the US tirelessly to expand this amazing world to those who don’t know about it. Houston, Minneapolis, New England, Michigan, Miami, New York….wherever there is interest….he drives (hundreds of miles) or flies regularly to start teams, visit disability camps, put on clinics, and all that is required to inspire others to get involved in a “sport” that can literally change their world. Everybody loves Jerry, and with him armed as a growing disciple…he is becoming just what God wanted all along. No excuses, no regrets, just passion to help, and now to learn more about God’s Word and plan for him, and those he puts in our path.

Then there is my newest buddy, Dustin, who is our resident “deep thinker”. He is asking great questions and offering his unique perspective on the big questions of faith and life. Dustin lives with his amazing mom, Nell, and Jujuan (who is also in a power chair). Their life is complex and not without its on-going challenges. But they never discuss that…only share their passion to learn, and to do something that matters. Last week Dustin shared that many people in chairs (from Muscular Dystrophy in his case) ask “why me?”. Dustin said…”Why NOT me?”. And off we went to discuss faith and doubt. You shoulda been there!

My Boys Club

Then there is my friend Pika Durant: Pika is from France, and we “moved” him here to the USA a couple of years ago to add value to the sport, as he is perhaps the most skilled player in the world. Many of you have met him at events here and he is “unforgettable”. He is super smart (computers), but he is also a passionate Frenchman… and his energy on the team and in the environment has lifted the whole sport in the USA to another level. He is irreplaceable! He now works with us at Fernando and travels, and teaches, and inspires all he touches. Now, at this Bible study, a whole new side of him is emerging, and I believe God Himself has a very big plan for this man. (Sorry Pika, don’t wanna scare ya). He asks great questions, and he even offers amazing “answers”. What a gift to have this perspective that he uniquely brings from his life in France, and his journey here to the US… and in the midst of us crazy Christians. God has big plans for this man!

The indispensable Ruelas family

Add in some other young players and their moms, a few “able-bodied” souls like me, Nancy, and the Ruelas family, Eric and Abbie…. and the many “visitors” and drop-ins we seem to have each week…. and we have a formula for a lively and satisfying evening with some of the most interesting people in the world. We spool up Kevin (our chef) to make a feast first (gosh, maybe that is why they come?), and when we finish each week, I realize that this may indeed be the high point of it. This “community” grows out of the “sport”, and the way it connects us and them to each other where there was no connection. New players arrive, new teams are formed across the Southeast, new needs are discovered, and new relationships built…. that ultimately allow for God’s love and grace and joy to become known. And suddenly, because I am “here”….I have bonus time to pause and get deeper. Woulda never happened! Occasionally, yes, but not as it is now.

My sweet wife sent me a verse yesterday that is a great reminder of how we can always trust Him and see His blessings in ALL things.

Bless the LORD, O my soul: and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits: who forgives all my iniquities; who heals all my diseases; who redeems my life from destruction; who crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercies; who satisfies my mouth with good things; so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.
Psalm 103:1–5

David, there, is speaking to his own soul. In effect, he’s saying to his soul, “Don’t be sluggish, don’t be unthankful, don’t be unresponsive. Bless the Lord for all His benefits,” and then he lists in succession six specific benefits.

Number one, the Lord forgives all my iniquities.(sins)

Number two, He heals all my diseases.

Number three, He redeems my life from destruction.

Number four, He crowns me with loving kindness and tender mercies.

Number five, He satisfies my mouth with good things

Number six, so that my youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

So, while He has me “in the shadows” for a while, I am seriously being blessed in many unexpected ways. I am getting lots of time to really look at how I can drive the values and vision that have been such a part of what God has allowed us to do globally in business, and with people, in new and better ways. Ideas are flowing. At the same time I am releasing certain “obligations” and distractions that seemed “necessary”, and finding great joy in simple things that actually refresh and deepen and energize me to a greater purpose.

God’s “waiting room” is an amazing place. If some of you are in there too, I pray you are growing in your faith and forgetting not his benefits and promises. God is never surprised or absent.

And in case anyone is wondering….I am not always so “strong” as I appear when writing. The enemy loves to remind us of all the scary things that pop out in the dark while we are on Mr. Toad’s Ride; The “what-ifs”. I have those moments almost every day…but never for long. Do I feel “out of it”? Yes. Getting photos from around the world of my N21 seminars and the friends I miss is not what I am used to…I send photos…I don’t receive them.

Getting golf and grandkid pictures from Hawaii, and knowing that all my key relationships are gathered and celebrating and discussing things (without us) that we have built our life around for 40+ years is weird! Do I count it Joy? Yes to that too, because we serve the God of Psalm 103 and remember what he has promised. He has me (us) exactly where He wants us.

And never forget that Nancy is on this Mr. Toad Ride as well! Maybe even in a more difficult way. She continues to be the silent hero; always fully supporting and lifting and encouraging (anyone surprised?). But just because she does what we all predicted based on her life example to this point…doesn’t take anything away from what she does. I remember one little boy who was scared and his daddy said to “just turn to God”. The boy said he would, but for just a minute he wanted someone “with skin on” to comfort him. I look to the Lord in all things….but, sometimes I too need someone with skin on…and Nancy is there. Right there. 43 years….and still counting. Getting better all the time.

Pray for good reports soon as I get my next tests. I really am doing great and I have all His benefits. We just need to claim them and see them.


This entry was posted in Jim's Updates. Bookmark the permalink.