Tuesday, September 21, 2010

wisdom from a 10 year old.

I wish I could say I wrote what is contained herein but I did not. It was our 10 year old (at the time) son writing to his mother just prior to her surgery to defeat breast cancer (nearly 10 months ago). I also wish I could tell you that I was as steadfast as he was. There was no small amount of apprehension on my part surrounding everything. When Lori passed this note onto me, I was struck. Struck at how jaded I had become. My shield of faith was missing. Not the shield's fault but mine for not raising it. The words of this young boy went off like a shot in my heart. He was absolutely correct! The situations in life are mere bumps in the road. God is GREATER. GREATER. May we all have a rock solid assurance in our God.

This is an excerpt of his email, exactly as it came to Lori. May you be upheld by its simple truth. ~john

IT JUST TAKES FAITH AND COURAGE, PRAYER AND NO FEAR. FEAR IS WHAT MAKES YOU WEAK IT MAKES YOU NEGATIVE THATS NOT WHAT GOD WANTS. This situation is nothing but a bump in the ground and another step of faith in life that you WILL GET THROUGH!!!!!!

~jonathan david allison, age 10.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


I have been asking myself, "Would I follow Jesus if it cost me everything?"

I'd like to think I would answer, "yes." But after a year of feeling some major discomfort and loss, I know that I am not eager to lose "it" all. I think that "it" is everything we have made of our lives in America.

For the record, my humanity doesn't want to be bothered. I want a comfortable, blessed, every weekend free, air-conditioned and new car life. Major problem, it doesn't seem to be going that way! Wait, is it really a problem or just a conflict of interest? Maybe I am not supposed to want so much from this life. But honestly, I do.

However, I am suspicious that the more intently I follow Christ, the more distant my affections grow towards the things of our culture and world. I have a decision to make. Do I want to follow Jesus? I mean really follow.

If my answer is truly, "yes" than I must be prepared. Jesus may ask me to do things that have little to do with my personal happiness and comfort. In fact, I am quite certain He will invite me to walk on the water and risk everything.

This month I embarked on a new mission, to serve as a member of staff of World Hope International. By definition, my job will require that I think far beyond my comfort zones and look into the eyes of those I have only the fact we are human as a common denominator. I have never known the level of poverty of those we serve. It feels uncomfortable. I have no other way to express it. It costs.

I'd invite you to visit www.worldhope.org and see if you might find a way to join me on this new journey.

many thanks,

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

puffs of air.

Here I go, struggling again for the world to see! Now in my middle forties, I wonder where life has gone so quickly. I feel the pull of trying to "stay young, hip and relevant." I am now too old for many things in life...I don't even think the Army would take me! How did this happen??? Someone pass me an 8-track or a LP, I want to be young again!

I see it all the time in my work (a Membership/Wellness Director at a YMCA), people working out to stay fit, healthy and straining to hold onto to the vitality of youth. Don't get me wrong, I am straining to...it's why I run. But I see it's ultimately a losing battle. Letting go of this life is a true mark of getting what it's all about. I don't mean to cease caring either.

Let's face it, in our bathtub of life, the drain plug has been pulled! The water is decreasing...for all of us. The sooner we embrace that this life is not all there is...the better this life will become. "John, did you hear that?" [speaking to self]

1-3 I'm determined to watch steps and tongue so they won't land me in trouble.
I decided to hold my tongue
as long as Wicked is in the room.
"Mum's the word," I said, and kept quiet.
But the longer I kept silence
The worse it got—
my insides got hotter and hotter.
My thoughts boiled over;
I spilled my guts.

4-6 "Tell me, what's going on, God?
How long do I have to live?
Give me the bad news!
You've kept me on pretty short rations;
my life is string too short to be saved.
Oh! we're all puffs of air.
Oh! we're all shadows in a campfire.
Oh! we're just spit in the wind.
We make our pile, and then we leave it.

7-11 "What am I doing in the meantime, Lord?
Hoping, that's what I'm doing—hoping
You'll save me from a rebel life,
save me from the contempt of dunces.
I'll say no more, I'll shut my mouth,
since you, Lord, are behind all this.
But I can't take it much longer.
When you put us through the fire
to purge us from our sin,
our dearest idols go up in smoke.
Are we also nothing but smoke?

12-13 "Ah, God, listen to my prayer, my
cry—open your ears.
Don't be callous;
just look at these tears of mine.
I'm a stranger here. I don't know my way—
a migrant like my whole family.
Give me a break, cut me some slack
before it's too late and I'm out of here." (Psalm 39, The Message)

This Psalm says it best. The Bible always has a way of doing that!

a puffy stranger,

Saturday, April 24, 2010

I want to be rich.

I can't lie to you, I want an easy life. Nice house, car, money in the bank...health. No inconveniences. The problem is that my life couldn't be farther from this at the moment. Everything is uncertain except the love of God and my family. As much as I tell myself, "it doesn't matter", I am surrounded by American abundance. Almost calling out to me..."You should have this, if you were successful...you would have this...just look at the TV preachers!" In truth, I know where my affections should be placed. Not on the things of this world. But it's hard isn't?

I listened to Rich Mullins deliver a powerful thought amidst a concert he did just before his death years ago. The truth contained therein cemented for me, once again, that riches are not the marks of God's blessings. I must struggle against this wrong thought. I want to share a quote from Rich Mullins. Chew on it for yourself.

"Jesus said, whatever you do to the least of these my brothers you’ve done it to me. And this is what I’ve come to think. That if I want to identify fully with Jesus Christ, who I claim to be my savior and Lord, the best way that I can do that is to identify with the poor. This I know will go against the teachings of all the popular evangelical preachers. But they’re just wrong. They’re not bad, they’re just wrong. Christianity is not about building an absolutely secure little niche in the world where you can live with your perfect little wife and your perfect little children in a beautiful little house where you have no gays or minority groups anywhere near you. Christianity is about learning to love like Jesus loved and Jesus loved the poor and Jesus loved the broken..."

I think Rich was right. I think he got it on a level that I am just getting. I don't think he feared much in this life because he held so loosely to the things of this life. I want to be like, Rich.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Is God With Us?

Someone recently shared an email with me that had this message (I checked it out and it IS a true story):

"Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approx. 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work.

After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later:
the violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
6 minutes:
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
10 minutes:
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
45 minutes:
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
1 hour:
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.

No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.

This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?"

If you are like me, there is a real temptation to think God isn't at work in our everyday lives. Frankly, there are days when I think, "I don't see God with me." If the above experiment holds a lesson we can translate to our walk with God it may be that He is more present that we can possibly imagine. Present like, "right in front of our faces" and yet we miss Him. Maybe it's religion that sends us to church expecting to "see Him" but in the everyday we disregard Him.

I am coming to believe I have a perception problem. That fact that I "don't see God" in the everyday of my life is not a "God problem" its a "John problem." Like the beauty of the music played and the masterful musician playing it, because it is not perceived does not diminish for one minute the empirical truth that what is occurring is extraordinary.

Because "I" have a sight problem, doesn't diminish our ever present God of the Universe one iota. HE IS WITH US. May we start seeing with the eyes of the children who were struck by the violinist. Kids see Him more than us adults, I am convinced. Time to pay attention and sharpen my perceptions.


Wednesday, March 24, 2010

what a friend.

If you are like me you have known a friend in need. In the height of that need, we spring to action and in some cases; overwhelm them with an outpouring of care. What about after the initial crisis?

I think (and I realize these thoughts are highly subjective) we in America may not understand long-suffering. We prefer things resolve quickly. Who wouldn’t? But what if they don’t? What if we can leave friends in time of need far too prematurely?

Calls, emails, gifts, prayers, etc., perhaps end before the true need of assistance does. It’s the long days after the funeral, when everyone has gone home that the grieving widow may well need the persisting care. A few months after the diagnosis and the swell of care is waning, that’s when it’s needed most. The friend who’s been out of work for not just months but a year, and they feel utterly defeated. I think you get what I am trying to say.

The old hymn says it best:

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

Have we trials and temptations? Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged; take it to the Lord in prayer.
Can we find a friend so faithful who will all our sorrows share?
Jesus knows our every weakness; take it to the Lord in prayer.

Are we weak and heavy laden, cumbered with a load of care?

Precious Savior, still our refuge, take it to the Lord in prayer.
Do your friends despise, forsake you? Take it to the Lord in prayer!
In His arms He’ll take and shield you; you will find a solace there.

Blessed Savior, Thou hast promised Thou wilt all our burdens bear

May we ever, Lord, be bringing all to Thee in earnest prayer.
Soon in glory bright unclouded there will be no need for prayer
Rapture, praise and endless worship will be our sweet portion there.

Joseph M. Scriven, 1855

We do have a friend who sticks closer than a brother. This is true. However, we are not forbidden from sticking close ourselves.


Monday, March 22, 2010


Birds chirping, sky is blue, good relationships, no resistance, job going great…blessed! Right? And we should assume those walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, not so blessed? Right?

I was reading someone’s twitter and they were detailing all the wonderful things in their life and they ended with something like, “ridiculously blessed.” First, I found myself filled with envy. But wait! Maybe having everything going your way is not the greatest indicator of God’s blessings.

What is blessed? Can we be blessed walking through the most difficult period of our life here on earth? Can we be so centered in the loving hand of Father God that all is well even when nothing is going right? Can we say, “Ridiculously blessed!” then?

I am just asking the question.


Thursday, March 4, 2010


I was reminded recently of the need to pray on my knees. As a friend was sharing with me a message he had just heard from a preacher in Atlanta, I felt a wash of conviction come over me. Not, condemnation...conviction. My face flushed and I "felt" compelled to return to a practice I truly believe in.

If you are like me, you may offer flash mental prayers far more than concerted, focused, on your knees and face before God prayers. "Does it matter?" I ask myself. I answer, "yes!" Do I engage in this often? Not enough. Conviction tells me to reengage.

I think you may find this sermon outline from Charles Stanley helpful. I did.

There is a battle raging in this life and I am grateful to my friend for helping me remember to meet with my Creator...on my knees.


Monday, February 22, 2010


It seemed to good to be true! A childhood dream came true back in 1989 as I met my guitar hero, Phil Keaggy. I spent an entire weekend hosting him and it even included the chance to play a little guitar together. I have this old photo to commemorate the occasion and it still makes me smile when I recall that time all those years ago.

Now well into my forties, I wonder if I dare hold on to any of my dreams or is it time to let go? Hmm...

My big adult brain says it may be time to "pack it in" and deal with reality but my little boy heart says, "go for it!" You just never know what God may do to grant the quiet desires of the heart. I am not saying He will but I am saying "leave that for Him to decide."

Honestly, what does it cost us to dream? My guess is we all have burned up more brain cells using our cell phones than we ever have dreaming. So I say, "keep dreaming, keeping dreaming till the day it is over here on earth!"

This is a great Psalm. Think about it. The Psalm I mean. Please read it and let it soak in.

Psalm 126 (The Message)

A Pilgrim Song
1-3 It seemed like a dream, too good to be true, when God returned Zion's exiles.
We laughed, we sang,
we couldn't believe our good fortune.
We were the talk of the nations—
"God was wonderful to them!"
God was wonderful to us;
we are one happy people.

4-6 And now, God, do it again—
bring rains to our drought-stricken lives
So those who planted their crops in despair
will shout hurrahs at the harvest,
So those who went off with heavy hearts
will come home laughing, with armloads of blessing.

God bless you with dreams.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Power of Words

I know that "actions speak louder than words." However, words have inherent power. I marvel at their strength. Words have moved me to laughter, tears and deep thought. Words are indeed life (or death).

To this day there are some words that have been spoken to me that still can carry a sting when I recall them. Conversely, there are moments when another human being has offered such kindness through what they said that in the remembering of what was spoken, I am heartened all over again. It makes me wonder if once we speak a word it somehow becomes eternal.

I truthfully know a good many things I have said that I would give anything to recover and keep forever from departing my lips. It is a painful realization to know I have uttered something to a fellow brother or sister that may have been lethal. For this, I ask the forgiveness of Christ Jesus and I am grateful for having a Savior who forgives my sins.

Proverbs 18:21 (The Message) says, "Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit—you choose."

I want to share a web site with you that contains some gentle words of life. Words that are medicine...they are the very thoughts of my dearest friend and my wife, Lori.

Just a few short months ago, Lori was diagnosed with breast cancer. We set up a CaringBridge web site to help friends and family stay up-to-date with her journey. Initially it was to convey medical updates; however, it has quickly become a source of life for many who read her thoughts.

Cancer is not thought of as a life giver but a "taker." Well in Lori's case, it unearthed an eruption of life in the form of written words. Still waters truly run deep and Lori has a voice and insight into many things. I am grateful for her and want with with all my heart for us to have many more years together. Her words have become more important than I could have ever imagined. I wish to share them with you.

You can visit her CaringBridge site here: www.caringbridge.org/visit/loriallison for a taste of something good.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

God the Father

I am learning that God is a true father. What do I mean? That He is infinitely closer than I realize. Aware, engaged and involved with every detail of my and your life.

As a father, I know sympathetic pain. When one of my children hurts, I hurt. Even when that hurt is caused by their own missteps. My heart is linked to them. I have vivid recollection of traumatic events in their lives. I have wept at times when they have wept. It's as if those moments are forever etched in my mind. I suspect there will be more in the years to come. I think it's my job to be here for them. As long as I can.

God is a Father. He is beyond all that I could ever be as a human father. As our Heavenly Father, His capacity exceeds anything we could imagine with our natural mind. While He does not exist for us, we exist for Him. Our place in history has been purposed. God has a plan and purpose for each of us in this life and beyond. Therefore, I know his eye is upon you and me.

I know not your circumstances but God the Father does. Be it a peak or valley, He is near His children.

I discovered this verse in the Psalms. I commend it to you and may you meditate upon it. May we all find strength in its truth:

Psalm 56:8 (The Message)

"You've kept track of my every toss and turn through the sleepless nights, Each tear entered in your ledger, each ache written in your book."

Rest knowing the Father is directing the affairs of our existence and keeping meticulous account of the details.


Monday, January 18, 2010

celebrity intolerant

I am sorry but allow me to rant just this once. Why do we give such voice to celebrities in America? Talent is not equal to character. Yet we see time and time again the celebration of celebrity and the platform given to “them.” We then gasp in shock when the celebrity implodes under the weight of his or her own bloated fame!

Tiger Woods is a great golfer. Not such a great husband. I know GREAT husbands. They just don’t garner the big endorsement deals. My friend Jim is a great man but you won’t see a line of clothing with his name on it. I am sorry Tiger that we made you such a “god.” Emphasis on the little “g.”

I know that God honors the humble and the truly wise and prudent. The highest award given a man is to hear the God of the universe say, “Well done.” Maybe we have lost our bearings? Perhaps.

We are indeed a broken culture. But I suppose this soapbox will make little to no difference in the world of the famous. I just had to let you know that my celebrity intolerance is worsening with age. I just can’t choke down one more awards show…it gives me a rash. A fast may be in order to restore my system's balance. Oh…and I may have to abstain from Christian celebrities too. Did I say that out loud?

Here’s to all you great men and women out there that this world will never celebrate with riches and accolades. I want you to know that you are noticed and appreciated. God sees your good works and truly a reward awaits you in heaven. And to all you pastors who will never have your own TV show…may your words carry the weight of one having the moral authority to speak. God’s speed to you.

I salute you non-celebrities!

there…I feel better.

Thursday, January 7, 2010


I’ll go out on a limb and say we have all cheated in our lives at some point. Some of us may be cheating right now!

What do I mean? Well, not necessarily what one thinks in the classic sense when one hears the word “cheat.” I mean in a broader context. Let me explain…

Life requires much from us. The responsibilities abound and to shrink back from any one of them is, in principle, cheating.

It is a fact to live well in this body we must eat well. Yet many of us choose to cheat because it is easier to eat conveniently. I have read estimates that the average American consumes about 100 - 120 lbs of sugar annually. Yikes! Reports are that Childhood Obesity and Type 2 Diabetes are at an all time high. And while we search for cures, it’s no mystery why in some cases disease is rampant.

And yes I am going to quote Jack LaLanne again! I heard him say in an interview, “Dying is easy. Living is a pain in the backside you have to earn it!” In other words, “you can’t cheat in life to be healthy.”

I see a great correlation to all this in the spiritual journey. No we cannot earn our way into the heart of God nor can we reach salvation by working for it. His love is a gift and salvation is His mercy and grace. But, we do have responsibilities to live for Him with ALL THAT IS WITHIN US. Living is painful in that it is work. Maintaining love and relationships REQUIRES effort…no…demands effort.

With my best friend in this world, Lori (my wife) having had to deal with breast cancer this year, I have had this wake up call, I DON’T WON’T TO CHEAT ANYMORE. I don’t want to just grab a “handful of life’s cookies,” I want more because I know cheating has a cumulative affect. I want EVERYDAY to count with her and my children. I want to invest in the ingredients of preparing a healthy existence on this earth both spiritually and physically. That is plain old hard work, unrelenting, backbreaking, sweat producing, intentional and no cutting corners living. I know it is worth it! I MUST HAVE IT.

New year. New opportunities.

join me,