A Pivotal Moment

Do you remember the words and kind acts that encouraged you when you were young? Who was the adult that spoke into your life? Hopefully, they spoke words of love and acceptance that encouraged you to explore an interest or talent that is uniquely yours.

This is the question Wess Stafford, President of Compassion International, posed on the Compassion Blog this week.

It brought to mind a pivotal moment in my life. I recall the impact my Aunt Mitzie had on my life. It's something I never actually told her about.

I was 10 years old and had read a Robert Frost poem in school. We were studying the poets and for some reason his poem Fire and Ice just spoke to me. I remember we had to break the poem down and write what it meant to us.

I decided to try my own hand at poetry. My Aunt was staying with us at the time and I showed her my poem. She praised my youthful attempt and encouraged me to keep writing poems. I began writing more and more poems and giving them to my Aunt Mitzie. She would continue to build me up with each poem I gave her.

One day she asked me to put one of the poems I gave her in a drawer for her. When I opened it up, I saw every poem I had given her. She kept them all. I remember how taken aback I was, but also how loved I felt. She never said a word about it but occasionally I would peek into the drawer to see if they were still there. They always were.

My desire to write increased and over the years I moved away from poetry and began writing devotionals, articles and now conducting interviews with others.

It all began with a word spoken in love.

I should call my Aunt.

That's my story. What is yours?

Compassion International's President, Wess Stafford, would like to hear your story. You can read more about what he is looking for on their site: Tell Us Your Story.

You can also watch Wess Stafford on this You Tube video


I Drew My Shoe!

Back in the 5th grade, our art teacher decided the students should draw their shoe!

Now, I can't draw. My daughter is quite the artist but I peaked at stick figures and never really progressed beyond that. I knew this project would be a challenge for me.

Each student took off one of their shoes and popped it on the desk. For the next few days we each struggled to make a rendition of our footwear of choice.

I knew the stick figure approach wouldn't work here.

So I drew, I erased, I drew some more. It seemed as if I took 3 lines fw and 2 lines back as I tried to make an accurate copy of my Nike! After finishing my project I presented it with joy to my teacher who rewarded me with an A. (I still have that drawing!)

Now, as I watch my daughter draw...I see the same persistence, the drawing and erasing as she seeks to create a masterpiece.

God is an artist as well. The masterpiece He is creating is our life.

Jeremiah 18:1-6 talks about the Potter and the Clay and how the Lord can shape Israel the same way. I look at those verses and think back over my life. I can see where the Lord also shaped me, molded me, rubbed out the rough spots, carved out some really bad spots, etc. I am not egotistical enough to think He is done.

Yet I know He is creating a masterpiece with my life. The erasing, the rubbing is painful at times. Yet ultimately He will receive the glory!


5 Questions with Dr. Kevin Bales

Welcome to 5 Questions With.....

Today's Guest is Dr. Kevin Bales. An expert on modern slavery and President of Free the Slaves, Dr. Bales lives in Washington DC. Free the Slaves is the sister organization of Anti-Slavery International (the world’s oldest human rights organization). He is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at Roehampton University in London, Visiting Professor at the Wilberforce Institute for the Study of Slavery and Emancipation, University of Hull, as well as serving on the Board of Directors of the International Cocoa Initiative.

He is the author of Disposable People: New Slavery in the Global Economy and numerous other books on the subject of slavery.

Here is my interview with Dr. Bales:

Hi Dr. Bales,

Question 1: What was the catalyst for you co-founding the non-profit organization
Free the Slaves?

When I published my first book on modern slavery, Disposable People, it seemed to set off a chain reaction. Many people have said that the book introduced them to the existence of contemporary slavery. I had served on the Board of Anti-Slavery International in London (the world's first human rights group, founded in 1787) and I had come to wonder why there was no broad-based anti-slavery organization in the United States. So, when I came over on a sabbatical and book tour just after Disposable People was published, I was asking everyone - "Would you be interested in an American anti-slavery group?".It was through this book and book tour that I met Peggy Callahan and Jolene Smith. They contacted me after reading it, and together, we envisioned a global organization that would raise awareness about modern day slavery—and work to eradicate it. We sat around a kitchen table in Oxford, Mississippi, where I was teaching at the time, and hashed out the blue print of what became Free the Slaves. We officially launched in 2000.

Question 2: Your website says: We don't waste time debating which kind of slavery is worse— brick kilns or carpet looms, sex or domestic, new or old—it's all horrible. Do you feel too much time is spent debating the issue?

For those of us who live in freedom it is absurd to make invidious comparisons about different types of slavery, we simply cannot fathom the reality of slavery. For the person who is enslaved, no matter what kind of slavery it is, it feels like the worst kind. And slavery can take almost any form. As long as there are communities where there is corruption and failure of the rule of law, there will be slaves. As long as impoverished people are driven away from home in search of work, there will be people vulnerable to traffickers. Slavery is the end result of a complex web of “push factors,” specific to each community it occurs in. So it is a mistake, I think, to only focus on the end result—this or that particular kind of slavery. To eradicate slavery, we have to work to stop the conditions that cause it to happen in the first place.

Question 3: What kind of work does Free the Slaves actually do?

Our work can be put into three main categories: the absolute core of our work is liberation and reintegration of enslaved people - everything else is aimed to support this work and it is where we spend the majority of our funds and the majority of our energies. I am proud to say that if you look at how our staff is divided, for every person in the office there are ten liberators on the ground getting people out of slavery. We can achieve this remarkable ratio by partnering with organizations around the world to do the frontline work of rescuing and rehabilitating victims of slavery. To support liberation we also raise awareness about slavery, and educate the public; and we influence policy and legislation. We also look at supply chains. There is slave labor behind many commonly used goods, like the steel in our cars and the minerals in our phones and laptops. We work with industry and policy makers to eradicate slavery in supply chains.

In our frontline work, our approach is to work with local organizations. Free the Slaves doesn’t believe in parachuting in and calling the shots. Slavery looks different in every community. So we find organizations that are plugged into the local communities, and have a track record of bringing people out of slavery, and guiding them into full emancipation. We also look for an organization’s ability to nurture a free community—to eradicate the push factors that create a population vulnerable to slavery.

We also give out annual Freedom Awards to organizations and activists who exemplify the most successful anti-slavery methods. Most of these awards go to survivors of slavery who now dedicate their lives to bringing others to freedom. These survivors are the leaders of the anti-slavery movement.

Question 4: How big is the current problem of slavery?

There are 27 million people enslaved in the world today, more than any other time in history. But as Bill Clinton said in a speech last year, this is actually a very small population of the world—less than half a percent of the world’s people.

(Here is footage of Bill Clinton’s speech: http://ftsblog.net/2010/09/24/bill-clinton-on-ending-slavery/)

Slavery is not an insurmountable condition. If we all work together, we can end slavery in our lifetime.

Question 5: How can people help? Specifically what can the church today do to help?

The first thing anybody should do, is educate yourself. Learn how slavery affects your own community. Many common household items have slave labor in their supply chains. Find out if there are any local organizations that specialize in human trafficking and slavery. Many rely on volunteers for their day to day operations. Organize fund raisers. It is a little mundane, but one of the greatest needs of the modern anti-slavery movement is stable income as opposed to one-off grants that come and go. Liberation is a 24/7, 365 day a year job - and we need a stale reliable income - so we urge everyone to make a small (painless!) direct payment to their favorite anti-slavery group - something like $10 per month. These are some of the ways that you can get involved in the anti-slavery movement.

Some good resources: the Free the Slaves website and blog:



A good resource for finding leading anti-slavery organizations:


My thanks to Kevin Bales and the staff at Free the Slaves for participating in and helping to arrange this interview.

There you have it. It would also be worth mentioning again the Freedom Awards, which Dr. Bales spoke about. They are taking place November 7 in Los Angeles. It is the biggest anti-slavery awards show in the world (possibly the only one, at this moment!). And tickets are now on sale.

You can find more information on the Freedom Awards here: http://www.freetheslaves.net/Page.aspx?pid=542

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.


Top 10 Facts About Modern Slavery

Today I want to draw your attention to Free the Slaves.

Free the Slaves is an international NGO and lobby group, established to campaign against the modern practice of slavery around the world. It is the largest anti-slavery organization in the US. It is the sister-organization of Anti-Slavery International (the world's oldest human rights organization.

As any reader of this blog knows, I have posted on here before about slavery issues. One recent post brought my blog to the attention of Kevin Bales, the founder of Free the Slaves. I checked out his website and wanted to point out 2 things in particular:

You can also view an awesome interactive map of where modern slavery exists around the world:

Free the Slaves - Interactive Map

Check it out and if you come back on Monday you can read an interview with Kevin Bales.


5 More Questions with Kary Oberbrunner, Part 2

Welcome Back to Part 2 of an interview with Kary Oberbrunner. Youc an read Part 1 here.

Kary Oberbrunner founded Redeem the Day, a movement connecting people to a process that ignites their souls on fire. Author of Your Secret Name, The Fine Line, Called and The Journey toward Relevance, Kary earned a Doctorate in Transformational Leadership and a Master of Divinity. Besides life coaching, he serves as a pastor at Grace Church in Ohio.

Let's resume the interview:

6. Yesterday we talked about some of the criticism you received due to this book. How are you handling the criticism?

I believe God is telling me to roll with it. I think the world is full of many broken and hurting people who wear their Given Names every day. These are the people I pursue, not those who throw stones. These people take up too much time.

7. Why is this book so important for church leaders to read themselves?

Church leaders set the pace. If church leaders prefer wearing masks and posturing for position, than the non-leaders are even 10 steps behind them. Church leaders must model what it means to live freely as the people of God who've discovered how to walk in their New Names.

8. Are there any resources that go along with the book to help leaders implement it into a ministry context?

I wrote Your Secret Name with the church in mind. In fact, I have a whole page on my website devoted to Pastors, Teachers, Leaders and Counselors. They hold a special place in my heart.

I also wrote Your Secret Name with small groups in mind. It's why I:

  • created a page for small group leaders with some special tips and tricks.
  • made a video to help kickoff your group’s first night.
  • wrote a Secret Name test so group members could go deeper on their own.
  • asked people to share their Secret Stories so you could witness the impact of the book firsthand.
  • just uploaded a sample chapter so you could read it and decide for yourself.
  • included free discussion questions in every book so the group leader wouldn’t have to over-think it.

I hope pastor's tailor the message of Your Secret Name to their unique context. I'd love for them to preach through it in their own way. After all, it's the biblical story of Jacob discovering his Secret Name.

9. What do you hope to accomplish with the book? What's the take-away for the church?

I hope to spread the message of hope and freedom that Jesus offers. A take-away for the church is to realize that there is a huge group of people in need of discovering their New Name. The target audience of Your Secret Name has evolved into what I call the 3D's.


DEPRESSION – According to the World Health Organization (WHO), depression is 1 of the leading causes of disability. The National Institute of Mental Health states that 18 million people suffer from depression in America. Among teenagers 20 percent will suffer from depression by the time their adults.

SELF-INJURY – Experts estimate that 4% of the population struggle with self-injury (biting, cutting, burning). Many write words onto their bodies.

ADDICTION – Each year only 10 percent of Americans who need alcohol and drug treatment get the help they need.

SUICIDE -- The WHO predicts that by 2020 the rate of death will increase to one suicide every 20 seconds.


According to the Gallup Organization* =

· 29% of the U.S. working population is engaged in their lives.

· 55% of the U.S. working population is not engaged in their lives.

· 16% of the U.S. working population is actively disengaged in their lives.

These 16% actively disengaged, are set on sabotaging their lives, jobs, and families. (* http://gmj.gallup.com/content/379/Passion-Work.aspx)


Those without a past relationship to the church are called unchurched, but there are many with significant past church involvement who are exiting-the de-churched. The de-churched are guilty of a false gospel of “moralistic deism,” which believes that if you obey God’s rules he will bless you with what you desire.

The problem arises when God’s blessing doesn’t come—or doesn’t come in the form we want. Divorce, illness, poor grades, failed relationship—virtually any hardship has the potential to destroy one’s faith in Christ and the church that represents him. People walk away and enter the ranks of the de-churched.

Another group within the de-churched population have simply lost confidence in the institutional structures and programmatic trappings of the church. For them the institutional church is not an aid in their faith and mission. Rather it’s become a drain on time, resources, and energy. It feels like a black hole with a gravitation pull so strong that not even the light of the gospel can escape its organizational appetite.

(*Excerpt from Skye Jethani) (*Matt Chandler on the De-churched = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XzTm3W2Ai7s)

10. What's next for you? Any other books coming like "Your not-so-secret-or-important middle name?"

I hope to walk in my New Name and the calling surrounding it. At this moment, my church has joined me in an Outreach to the 3D target audience. God's brought a super cool team together, committed to helping others discover their Secret Names and who God created them to be. Here is a website with more information. http://yoursecretnamesaturdaynights.eventbrite.com/

Thank You Kary for doing this. I appreciate you and your book very much

Thanks so much for your kindness.

That concludes my interview with Kary Oberbrunner. I hope these past few days have peeked your interest enough that you will go out and get a copy of Your Secret Name today!


5 More Questions with Kary Oberbrunner, Part 1

Welcome to 5 More Questions With.....

Today's Guest is Kary Oberbrunner. Kary did an interview with me back in July 2009 and has returned for a follow up discussion regarding his new book, Your Secret Name. This will be a 2 part interview over 2 days.

Kary Oberbrunner founded Redeem the Day, a movement connecting people to a process that ignites their souls on fire. Author of Your Secret Name, The Fine Line, Called and The Journey toward Relevance, Kary earned a Doctorate in Transformational Leadership and a Master of Divinity. Besides life coaching, he serves as a pastor at Grace Church in Ohio.

He and his soul-mate, Kelly, have 3 kids. In his free-time Kary enjoys reading, the outdoors, and playing disc golf.

So let's get to the interview:

1. Kary, how this book came about--what was the “reason” behind it?

I guess growing up with a girl's name (Kary) left me perpetually wanting more in the whole name area. You might say I was "name deprived." I've always been utterly intrigued with the verse in Revelation 2:17 about the new name written on the white stone. Like most people though, I never knew what this verse meant. To me it sounded like fiction. And let's be honest most people don't know anything about this verse. Even as a graduate of two seminaries with a Master's and Doctorate degree, I've never heard one single talk on this verse. It's kind of like God hard-wired us to desire a Secret Name and put a verse in His word about it. Strangely, for the most part, church history has left us in the dark about it. So by accident I set out on a task to explore the epic truth surrounding this concept of Secret Names.

2. Names were very important in Bible times, are they still important today? In what way?

We've lost a sense of who we are. And so we're on a quest to discover our true identity. There was once a world without names, but one single choice in Eden changed all that. Ever since the Tower of Babel, we've been trying to make a name for ourselves outside of a relationship with God (Genesis 11:4). Our experience with names is incredibly impoverished comparatively speaking, but our need to discover our true name is just as poignant as in Bible times.

3. The book is very real, you don't pull any punches, was it a tough book to write--especially considering the personal nature of the book?

I remember early in the writing process sitting on the floor in my basement staring at my computer, with my medical/mental health/counseling files spread out in piles all over. This book took a real chunk of me with it. In some respects the book is my heart and my life. I didn't hold anything back, including my detailed struggle overcoming an addiction to self-injury, even while functioning as a pastor. I couldn't have written this way seven years ago when I wrote my first book because this process of removing my mask has been a slow, but rewarding endeavor. Emerging into freedom always is.

4. How does knowing your secret name change your life?

Every follower of Jesus has 3 types of names:

Birth Name–the name assigned to you when you arrived in this world.

Given Names–the names you inherit while walking in this world (positive and negative).

Secret Name–the name granted to you by the One who made you.

God’s whisper alone satisfies your soul ache because God alone knows you better than you know yourself. Until we learn our Secret Name we’re either a mass of frozen potential yet to come alive, or we come alive prematurely, acting out our Given Names because they’re the only names we know. When you discover Your Secret Name, you also discover your divine destiny.

5. You've faced some criticisms about this book, what's so controversial about it?

Humans fear what they don't know and because most of us haven't grown up knowing the story of Secret Names we're afraid. This is a tactic of the Enemy. His mission is to steal, kill, and destroy. He wants to keep us in the dark regarding our divine destiny.

Many of us fear the possibility of being powerful, the possibility of actually kicking back the darkness. And so we prefer living small, because it's safer.

Most people also don't know that Jesus has a Secret Name (Revelation 3:12 and 19:12) or that His followers will have His name on their foreheads for all eternity (Revelation 22:3-4).

The bulk of us exchange a life of bold adventure for a predictable, bland, and dutiful religious one.

The truth is that the story of Secret Names is found throughout the Bible beginning in Genesis and ending in Revelation. The truth is that this epic tale resides in us all.

We know this. We feel this. And we taste this. As a result, we kill the one thing that could set us free. We'd rather be slaves to our Given Names than liberated, walking in our New Names.


This will conclude part 1 of my 2 part interview with Kary Oberbrunner. Come back tomorrow to read Part 2.
In the meantime, check out the Your Secret Name website and order a copy of the book today.

To see past 5 Question guests, check out the rotating interview links on the sidebar.


What is Your Story?


Molested and Suicidal

Manic Depressive



We all have stories and people are sharing their story on the Your Secret Name website.

The beautiful thing is that it doesn't end there. These people are being vulnerable, but they have also either discovered their Secret Name or are well on the way to discovering it.

We all have stories. I was angry and bitter due to the names I was given on my journey through life. I remember the feelings of rejection I struggled with and how my identity was wrapped up in that and other names I had picked up.

I found Hope. I found out what my name truly was. Loved. With my new identity in Christ I began the daily process of walking in my new identity.

Read the stories, take the test, read the book...let God transform your life.


Your Secret Name

If you read one book this fall, please do yourself a favor and make it Your Secret Name.

Kary Oberbrunner has written what is surely his Magnum Opus. This book is an eye-opening look at the story of Jacob. Interspersed with his own journey, Kary leads you on a Biblical discovery of your Secret Name.

We were all given names at birth. From there, as we journey through life, we are given other names as well. Some of my given names were klutz, rejected and fearful. It took many a year before I discovered my Secret Name. This is why I find this book to be so powerful. Kary doesn't shy away from the pain of his own journey.

I cannot accurately describe how blessed you will be by reading this book but I want to encourage you to check it out for yourself. You can also go over the books website and take the Secret Name Test.

Watch this video and then go check out Your Secret Name today.


Ecstasy and the Love of God

I knew the punch was coming before it was even thrown.

After he hit me in the chest 3 times, I was able to convince him to sit back down on the sidewalk and sip some coffee.

With that, my day had taken an interesting turn.

When the guy had wandered into my store 20 minutes before, he plopped into a chair and began to drift off to sleep. I encouraged him to wake up and come outside with me. As we sat on the ground, he told me he was tripping on Ecstasy. He might have been...I really don't know. I do know he was not with it. I also know I felt God's presence.

Years ago I would have avoided these situations like the plague. I never used to feel comfortable around people who were "tripping." God, well He had other plans. Instead of fear, trepidation or general anxiety, I felt an overwhelming peace and genuine care for this guy having a bad reaction to something in his system.

Philippians 4:7, "and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."

I knew he needed to be in a safe place, he was liable to hurt himself or others. While getting his coffee I asked one of volunteers to call the police. He needed to be off the street, for his own safety.

As I walked back out and set his coffee down I immediately knew the blow was about to come. After his 3 quick hits, I asked him if he was ready for his coffee. Then I sat with him as we sipped coffee and chatted.

After a time (still waiting for the cops) he began to put his hand close to my face and started to tap me on the side of the head...I looked at him and said, "You can stop now." With that he lowered his hand...a bit...

He then began to curse some more...and then he said something else..."Why are you an Angel. Why are you being so kind to me."

"Jesus loves you and I care...you are obviously in a bad place right now and I don't want to see you get hurt."

He shook my hand and got up to leave...spewed a few more curse words, then began to stagger towards the road.

He walked right into the arms of the police and quietly let them handcuff him and take him away...

Whatever happens next, I thank God for His peace, His protection and His Love. While this guy was tripping I felt love, while he was smacking me in the chest...I felt love, while he was cursing me and raising his hand to my face...I felt love. Loved by God and love for this stranger.


Holding My Tongue

Sometimes it is better to leave things alone.

I learned that recently when an issue of gossip cropped up on my radar. Keeping the details sparse, let me just say this:

Things were said about others by others and it got back to them. As it came up at work, I tried to speak into the issue and see if it could be resolved and the outside rumoring stopped. I thought that by going to the source, I could bring resolution.

Yeah that didn't work. Mushroom clouds were fairly obvious and it only created more issues.

I think it's under control now...

But I learned some lessons...

"Whoever guards his mouth and tongue Keeps his soul from troubles." Proverbs 21:23

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." Ephesians 4:29

and the best answer of all:

"In everything set them an example by doing what is good. In your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us." Titus 2:7-8

Needless to say, even though I was not involved in the gossip, only trying to bring resolution, I will be seeking to guard my tongue as well.


It's the little things - Just A Thought #46

As I woke this morning to a house that was almost too quiet, I struggled to wipe the sleep from my eyes, poured myself a cup of rapidly cooling coffee and let the dog out. Praise was the furthest thing from my mind.

Psalm 150:6, "Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD!"

I wasn't feeling too spiritual. It has been a rough few days. I was a bit taxed mentally from some job stuff and as I found my attention shifting, I noticed my personal time with God was waning as well.

Saturday was kind of a breaking point for me. I struggled through where I was at and ended up sitting on my couch in exhaustion both mentally and spiritually. Why was I doing all these mental gymnastics?

Oh yeah, I wasn't living out of my identity! I was back to trying to solve the worlds problems in my own strength.

Thankfully, God used these last few days to bring me back to reality.

In the stillness of the dawn, in the midst of a 9 hour power outage, God spoke to me in the darkness. It wasn't an audible voice. It was a gentle nudge. A nudge to His Word.

1 Thessalonians 5:18, "in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."

There is something about a house without power. There was no hum of background noise. I couldn't "distract" myself with TV or the net.

It was just me and God.

So I gave up.

I let go of my strength..

I listened...

Now, as I sit here writing this, I feel like a boxer after 15 rounds. I am tired, exhausted....and free.

Thankfully God was here all along, waiting for me to rediscover who I was meant to be. A child in His arms!