A Dangerous Dying Man

Lane HunterNo one has been a greater encouragement to me in the writing of Finding Your Way Back To God than Lane Hunter.  Lane has repeatedly said to me, “Dave, I need you to write this book for my friends” or “Dave, I think this is the kind of book that will help so many people who feel distant or disconnected from God’ or more to the point, “Dave, get that book written!!!” This is a picture of my good friend Lane Hunter who stopped by COMMUNITY’s Yellow Box today. Because of his friendship and persistent encouragement it was privilege to give him one of the very first copies of Finding Your Way Back To God.

Whenever, I see Lane I always think, “There is nothing more dangerous than a dying man.”  Lane is dying. Lane is dangerous.  Dangerous in a good way. At the very end of the book, Jon and I have a section titled, “Deathbed Messenger” where we tell Lane’s story.  Here it is…

“Eight years ago I sat in Lane’s living room, where hospice workers had placed a bed to make him comfortable for his last days on this earth. He asked me to come over because it was time to plan his funeral. As he told me what he wanted to have said, sung, and celebrated at his memorial, I couldn’t help but think back to just a few years earlier when Lane found his way back to God.

 Lane was a type-A, driven personality who would start his workday at five a.m. and not finish till late in the evening. His obsessive hard work paid off as his company went from being a $100 million business when he started to being worth more than $9 billion when he stepped down because of a terminal illness. The illness brought this ambitious workaholic to a complete stop. When Lane paused long enough to reflect on his life and success, he realized there was something very important missing.

 As a kid, his parents took him to church and he had a genuine faith in God, but Lane realized that in his unbridled pursuit of success God had gradually become a faint and forgotten memory. That was when we met.

 Lane was sick. The kind of sick that would slowly kill him, but until it did kill him, it would torture his body with constant pain sixteen hours a day. The illness was his wake-up call that something was missing and he needed God. Lane told me, “Dave, the best thing that ever happened to me was getting sick. From the time I got sick, it refocused me. It caused me to find my way back to God and feel so close to God. I would give up everything for what I have now.”

 I still have the notes for Lane’s funeral. They have gone unused. It has been nearly a decade since hospice was called, and Lane hasn’t died yet. But neither has Lane been cured. He is in pain every day of his life and only has energy to go out for a meal and spend a little time online exchanging e-mails. Since finding his way back to God, Lane has also found a new identity. He’s not a workaholic creating his own kingdom. Instead, he is a follower of Jesus, sharing his story and helping others find their way back to God.

 The experience of being brought back from dead to alive, from lost to found will do that you!

 Since planning his funeral, Lane more than anyone has encouraged us to write this book. He is still alive and living one day at a time. I asked him what he would say to you and me. Here it is in his words:

I know that life is but a minute in God’s eternity. So we must take the time we have and make the most of it. Each of us has friends that are aching for peace. Each of us knows people who are dealing with health conditions, loss of jobs, divorces, problems with kids—you name it and someone has it.

 Do not be nervous in your efforts. Pray to God that he will use you as his messenger. Ask God to give you the words to write or say. I know everyone doesn’t have the time I do now, but all of us can take time every day to reach out to one person.

 It is my plan to do this until the day I die. If I can help anyone to take that first step back to God, I will. My life seemed good for years, but I was missing that personal relationship with God. Now I have found it and it is so important. My hope is for everyone I care about, everyone I know to find their way back to God too.”

If you are wanting to find your way back to God or you want to help a friend find their way back – join Lane and I on this journey and get your copy of Find Your Way Back To God.

NEW “Finding Your Way Back To God” Landing Page!

FYWBTG landing page

It is getting more and more exciting everyday as we get closer to the February 24th publication of our book, Finding Your Way Back To God! The book now has an official landing page: www.yourwayback.org! The landing page will give you links to everything you want to know including how to purchase the book, a few endorsements (including Rick Warren and Mark Batterson!), some free resources, links to Jonmy websites and access to free sample chapters! Lots of great stuff.  So take a look and share this link: www.yourwayback.org with all your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors!

Introductory Booklet “Can I Find My Way Back To God?” Now Available In 10-Pack!

Book Can I Find My Way Back to God by Dave Ferguson and Jon FergusonA short 60-page booklet titled, “Can I Find My Way Back To God” is available starting today! This is the first in a series of tools surrounding our new book, Finding Your Way Back To God. This booklet is designed to introduce the topic of finding your way back to God. This booklet can be bought inexpensively as a ten-pack and given away to friends, small groups or to newcomers at your church.  You have all kinds of people close to you and that show up every week at your church that believe God exists, but struggle to connect with him. Or they live with the feeling that God has forgotten them. We all have something deep inside us that longs for a connection with God. It’s a part of being human. By sharing this booklet you can help people take the first step toward a life changing spiritual awakening, from confusion to purpose, from regret to love, and from distance to closeness with God. Once people read this booklet they will want to go further with the complete book Finding Your Way Back To God: Five Awakenings to Your New Life.

A Questionable Life

Chad pic Two weeks ago in the café of the Yellow Box I had my very last conversation with Chad Cooke. It was Sunday night before the 5 pm service and we talked about basketball, faith, his girl friend Emily and the not-for-profit Charleston Hope he worked with during the Christmas season. Those were all things he loved. We talked so long I was late getting into church. I always enjoyed talking to Chad.

It was the next Tuesday before Christmas that he was playing basketball with his brother, David and friends at LifeTime Fitness where he suddenly collapsed and died. Chad was 20 years old. Chad packed more into those 20 years than most do in a lifetime.

This past Sunday I challenged people at COMMUNITY to live “questionable lives”; meaning that we should live lives so different than others that it makes them curious and ask questions about us. Our lives should evoke questions like, “Why do you serve like that?”, “Why do you love like that?”, “Why are the quality of your relationships so good?”, “Why are you so generous with your time and money?” and so on. I used Chad as a very positive example of someone who lived a questionable life.

Steve Cochran, the morning host on WGN radio attends the Yellow Box campus of COMMUNITY in Naperville and is friends with the Cooke family. Yesterday he paid a brilliant tribute to Chad that is really worth listening to: Remembering Chad Cooke.  Cochran explained  to his audience how Chad lived a life far different than most 20 year old men. It’s understandable in situations like this to exaggerate the goodness of a life to make for a good and honorable tribute. However, in Chad’s case the stories are no exaggeration.  He was a college student that challenged pastors to join him on a mission trip to Haiti. Rather than entertaining himself, he gave of his time and raised funds for Charleston Hope to make sure kid in local under-resourced neighborhoods had presents at Christmas time. After walking on and making the College of Charleston basketball team he consistently invited his teammates to the church where he was a leader. His teammates referred to him as a “man of God.” Chad would regularly have lunch with a special needs student that others ignored just to make sure he felt included. Like so many, I loved Chad, was saddened by his death but inspired by his life.  Chad makes me want to live a more questionable life!

Catherine’s Story – Finding Your Way Back To God

Finding your way back to GodThis past weekend at COMMUNITY I heard another amazing story of someone finding their way back to God. I’m convinced that God redeems our pain and uses our stories to help other people find their way back to God. One of the purposes of this website is to share stories. Here is Catherine’s story…

I was born and raised in the Catholic church ~ my parents had me baptized when I was an infant; I made my first communion when I was in elementary school; I attended Catholic school for junior high but when it came time for me to be confirmed in high school, I made the first individual decision concerning my spiritual journey and chose not to go forward with my confirmation. I stopped going to church except for attendance on holidays and set my eyes on the ways of the world. I didn’t know Jesus. I knew very little about the Bible and the little that I knew was scary and sad. I believed that God was angry, vengeful and mean. I didn’t love Him and I didn’t believe that He loved me. I believed that when bad things happened to me it was because He was punishing me for being a bad person but I had no idea what I had to do to be a good person in His eyes. I viewed God from a place of guilt and fear rather than from a place of love and grace. Confused, lonely, exhausted and very angry, I gave up on trying to please God. I decided to focus my time and energy on pleasing myself and spent the next two decades locked in battle with a vicious enemy that almost cost my life and I was miserable every step of the way!

During that time, I became addicted to prescription medication. I suffered a near fatal illness. I lost my law license and a law practice that I had build from the ground up. I miscarried twins. I was married and divorced three times. My driver’s license was revoked. I was forced to file bankruptcy a couple of times. I engaged in illegal and immoral activity. I had very few friends and my family relationships were extremely strained. I spent a great deal of energy trying to make everyone think my life was awesome ~ trying to make the outside look perfect while the inside was a cold, dark, desolate disaster. I was incredibly lost. I was completely alone; I hated myself and attempted to take my own life, convinced that nothing could change me, nothing was ever going to be better or different. I was worthless, hopeless, unlovable and beyond repair. I was never going to be able to please God and I was never going to be able to please myself. My life was filled with darkness and despair and I truly believed I would never be able to find my way back to the light.

But God brought that light to me. He strategically began to place incredible, loving, light filled believers directly in my path. Without even realizing what was happening, I literally woke up one glorious day and found myself surrounded by love, grace, unconditional acceptance and His light! God filled my life with believers who were committed to loving me unconditionally until I was able to love myself. These people included my husband, my stepmom and my Dad. It was like they held hands with God and each other as they formed a circle with me in the middle. They created a space that was safe and loving and showed me God. I don’t know any other way to explain it but God is in each one of them and His love, His grace and His light comes from each of them and flows to me. I have been delivered from that desolate, despair and my life has been transformed through God and He did that for me because He believes I have value and He loves me!!

Today, I have friends, I have close family relationships, I have financial security and I have recovery. I have been given a new life and a second chance that I did not deserve. I am committed to using that gift from God to bring that hope and renewal to others who may be in the same place that I came from ~ I am proof that with God…all things are possible!!

On February 24th a new book, Finding Your Way Back To God by Jon Ferguson and myself will be published. This book will include dozens of inspiring stories of people finding their way back to God. If you would like to pre-order a copy of this book for yourself or a friend, you can click HERE.

6 Questions To Create A New Future

FutureFor the last several years I have used the last week of the year and the first week of the new year to evaluate who I am; who does God want me to be and how I am doing. The process has continued to evolve over the years, but much of it revolves around prayerfully working through six questions. These six questions help me discern the God-given possibilities for my life.

There is just something powerful about writing down (or putting it on your computer or phone) your goals and having an intention about who you want to become! I can now look back and remember writing down that I wanted to plant a church; write a book and start a church planting network. Would those things have happened if I had not written them down? I don’t know for sure. I do know that writing these down and reviewing them periodically keeps me moving in the direction that I feel God is calling me. I personally think everyone should do it. So, I would encourage you to get some time alone and prayerfully work through these six questions:

What is my PURPOSE? It starts with a purpose statement. Just write something down. Don’t let this question intimidate you. You can always edit your answer later. Here is how I answer that question now: “To be a Spirit-led leader at home, church, and in new ventures resulting in a movement of people finding their way back to God.” It has taken me a few years of revisions to get that down. It’s a little long, but it includes everything that it is important to me. So take a shot and write down a purpose statement for your life.

What is my PASSION? Next you should list the things about which you are passionate. There are four things about which I’m passionate: Jesus, family, church and new ventures. So, what are you passionate about? List them.

What are the POSITIONS I hold? Next I list all the positions I hold in relationship to the things about which I’m passionate. For example, in relationship to my family I have two positions: husband and father. Another example, in relationship to to my church I have at least three positions: Lead Pastor, visionary and teacher/motivator. List all the positions you hold in relationship to the things about which you are passionate. You get the idea.

What are the POSSIBILITIES for my future? This is my favorite part – dreaming with God about who He wants me to be in the positions He has put me in. This is where I begin to dream about all the possibilities for my life. This is the long view and it answers the question of who I will have been after I have lived on this planet for 75 years. (I’m planning on living to 75 and if I get more time that will be bonus!)

What is the PATH for making that future possible? Now that you have a list of all the possibilities for your life you need to figure out the path to get you there. I have a path that I break into 5 years chunks of time. There are markers that I need to meet every five years if I am going to see those possibilities for my life ever happen. So take a look at your list of God-given possibilities and create a path with markers along the way that show you are progressing towards those possibilities.

What is my PLAN for this coming year? The last question you will want to answer has to do with 2015. This year is the next step on the path to your future. So, write down your plan for this year and make sure that it is taking you towards the next markers on your path to your God-given possibilities.

Did You Find Your Way Back To God In 2014? Share Your Story Here!

Did you find your way back to God in 2014? If yes, I would love to hear your story! In the previous post I shared “Glenna’s Story” – she is a part of this community and left her story in the space provided at the bottom of this page. One of the purposes of this website and my new book, Finding Your Way Back To God is to share stories and encourage each other on our spiritual pilgrimage. So, take a few minutes and share your story with us. I’m looking forward to reading it and with your permission, sharing it. Happy new year!

Glenna’s Story – Finding Your Way Back To God

Finding your way back to GodStories are one of the best ways for helping people find their way back to God. One of the purposes of this website is to share stories. The following story is one of the first of many that will be shared by the community of people who are part of this site. If you would like to also share your story, please use the form at the bottom of the page. Sharing your story will not only help others, but will also help you in your journey back to God. Here is Glenna’s story…

Although, I was raised in a Christian family and my dad was a pastor, I somehow missed the part about God loving me unconditionally. Instead, I understood that it was my job was to live up to a certain standard – obey the do’s and don’t of Scripture and of my parents – and then I would be “ok.” For a number of reasons too lengthy to detail here, I failed miserably at being a “good girl.” As a teenager I decided that I just wasn’t cut out to be a Christian. So from about age 17 to 24, I lived very intentionally, but sadly, far from God. I mainly was trying to find a man who would love me unconditionally, and commit to me for life so that I would feel worthy and finally ok as a person. With my very low self-esteem, you can imagine the men in pain I attracted and hooked up with.

I did make one attempt during that time to come back to God because I knew how messed up my life was. Some family members helped me make what felt like a giant step away from my crazy lifestyle back to Christ. But no one at my church really “got” me, because none of them had been in my shoes. No one knew how to help bring healing to the wounded places in my heart that led to my behavior. Instead, it was still all about “just behave.” But my heart was still longing for love and I wasn’t finding it at church or with my new church family. I continued to fail at living the obedient Christian life. My church actually “disciplined” me and said I could no longer fellowship with them unless I stopped my behavior. I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t.

I turned my back on God and the church once again, and moved even deeper into sin and the most destructive relationship and behavior ever. I got pregnant and had an abortion; this injured my soul so much that I started to cry out for God. My relationship began to deteriorate and I discovered that he was cheating on me. I was so devastated that I again began to cry out to God to help me get out of the relationship before I totally destroyed myself. Somehow God’s grace was at work, and I was able to extricate myself from this very unhealthy relationship. Within a month, my ex was engaged to be married to the woman he was cheating with. I was devastated.

I often try to solve my problems with books, so I went to a bookstore and looked for anything about emotional healing. I found a book by Father John Powell called “Unconditional Love” and realized for the first time in my life that God loved me unconditionally. I breathed deeply of that truth and it found a permanent home in me. That unconditional love changed my life forever, and opened up my heart to the next work that God would do. I found another book titled, “Healing of Memories” and “Healing Life’s Hurts”, both by Matthew Lin and Dennis Lin. I read them both and performed inner healing on myself! Mainly it was all about forgiving myself and the many men who had hurt me through God’s love for me.

The people who knew me before and after this, almost didn’t recognize me! Seriously, I was a completely changed person. I went back to the church that had disciplined me and thanked them. They welcomed me back with open arms and even had a party for me! Several people told me they had prayed for me every day of the 15 months I was gone. I stayed in that church for the next 25 years. We raised our children there and became small group leaders and eventually a staff counselor. God is so amazingly great. As the Bible says, “God restored the years the locusts had stolen.” (Joel 2:25) I am so grateful.

On February 24th a new book, Finding Your Way Back To God by Jon Ferguson and myself will be published. This book will include dozens of inspiring stories of people finding their way back to God. If you would like to pre-order a copy of this book for yourself or a friend, you can click HERE.

Discovering How People Find Their Way Back To God

Finding Your Way 3D (1)It was one of the most exciting discoveries of my life. My brother Jon and I had just finished a whole day listening to more than couple dozen people tell us their story of finding their way back to God. Over the years we had informally heard hundreds of these stories, but since we were writing a book on Finding Your Way Back To God we wanted to dedicate some time to interviewing people about their spiritual journey. One after another they entered the room and allowed us to ask them intimate details of their spiritual pilgrimage. We spent an hour with Aaron who most of his adult life claimed to be an atheist and had no time for God. We interviewed Holly, who saw her husband disabled from depression and her family disintegrate and felt her whole world was collapsing. We talked with Rick, a new husband whose wife had a stroke on their wedding night and he kept asking, “Why?” Each of them and over twenty more told us they had found what was missing when they found their way back to God.

While each story was individually fascinating; together they allowed us to make an exciting discovery. With each story we began to see a pattern in these journeys back to God. With each interview, it was as though every person grabbed us by the hand and took us on the trip they traveled to find their way back to God. After accompanying so many people on this quest a well-worn path became apparent to both Jon and me. It was a path back to God that almost always included five spiritual awakenings. Each of these awakenings was expressed in language such as, “There’s got to be more”, “I wish I could start over”, “I can’t do this on my own” and more. And lastly, it was consistent with what I read in scripture and heard in the words of Jesus. All of this was tremendously exciting because I’m convinced that these experiences and expressions can help others find their way back to God too. For that reason, our new book, Finding Your Way Back To God, is broken into sections consisting of these five awakenings.

Awakening to Longing: “There’s got to be more.”
Awakening to Regret: “I wish I could start over.”
Awakening to Help: “I can’t do this on my own.”
Awakening to Love: “God loves me deeply after all.”
Awakening to Life: “Now this is living!”

We never would have made this discovery on our own. It was through hearing other people’s stories that these five awakenings were revealed. And for that reason I want to ask for your help. Would you please share your story of how you found your way back to God? At the bottom of each page on my website is a form you can use to share your story.

I will be dedicating a lot of space on this blog helping you and me experience those five awakenings. I will also tell stories of people who found their way back to God. Maybe yours. My hope is that you and those close to you will find their way back to God.

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