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Jul 28, 2011

In Search of Praise

Tomorrow they roll into Omaha! The finish point of a long, arduous, and sweltering ride from The Paul Anderson Youth Homecampus to Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska; 1500 miles of pedaling, praying, and perseverance; 1500 miles of adventure, courage, and memories; hills to climb, hot pavement melting bike tires, white chipped limestone reflecting heat off the Missouri Katy Trail into perspiring faces and bodies, some spills on the ground, skirting floods, and even a ferry across the swollen Ohio River; sleeping on floors, cots, couches, and sometimes, rarely, a bed; meals provided by numerous loving and serving hands in diverse settings; prayers for safety and success from many who followed online; the heat setting records throughout the Midwest; and now, tomorrow. . . . . . MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!
In Omaha there will be no welcoming crowds to meet them, no jubilant fans to acknowledge their accomplishment. Paul Anderson was familiar with such acclamation; cheering spectators at the Melbourne Olympic Games and the World Championships in Munich; the shouts of awed Russians in Moscow’s Gorky Park, and numerous other international sites. But even the Strongest Man in the World was not noticed when he rode into Omaha in the middle of the night fifty years ago. His wife Glenda remembers when he reached Father Flanagan’s Boys Town completing the long ride, he put his bike into the back of the van she was driving behind him and immediately they headed home to Vidalia. No acclamation, no media coverage, no cheers from admirers. But there was the beginning of a home for young men that would touch and transform hundreds, thousands when families are added, over half a century. The world did not notice then; God did.
Those who have observed or experienced the adoration of fans, the acclamation of the masses, the notoriety of whatever “stage, also know its addiction. The center-of-attention-addict demands continuing adulation and never knows the joy or satisfaction of being pleased with his effort even when no human sees it. Praise, no doubt, from our fellow man is something we instinctively crave, even when we vigorously deny it. We want people to acknowledge us and speak of our accomplishments. We hate to do or make something and receive nothing but silence in return. Yet any wise study of man’s praise will uncover its pernicious faults. Eventually man’s praise is fickle, deceitful, and even destructive to your soul. Man did not make you, neither will his praise sustain or reward you. Happy is the man who does not require the praise of men.
So when these young men ride into Omaha what is their reward? Will the silence of Omaha and the world speak to the value of their accomplishment? Absolutely not! They will have accomplished something very special, very unique in their life to this point; something that had never before even entered their imagination; a mountain they never believed they could climb. This is an accomplishment which is potentially life changing. If it does not lead to a greater dependence on the Living God, drawing nearer to Him, and the knowledge that in Christ they can tackle the world, the flesh, and the devil, the trip may ultimately be in vain for them. Tomorrow they will know that they have done what they never thought they would or could. And they will know that God provided them the cover of safety, a willing heart, a persevering body, and an indomitable spirit. Such does not just happen; it is of God and His mercy. And He was with them all the way!
Neither they, nor we require the praise of men, which passes like a vapor. The praise of God, the knowledge that He is pleased with them, that they have pushed their bodies which He created to the limit, and He sustained them, is everything. No one can take this achievement away. The silence of men means nothing. The praise and glory of God to us is everything. He knows what you did, and He never forgets. I pray He does not let you forget.
Well done, Paul Anderson Youth Home bike riders!


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Jul 21, 2011

We Have Him!

He had now been missing three hours without a word. No calls, nothing. Our worries plummeted to a new lower level. We began to envision the worst. What had happened to him? Where was he? How would we find him? What do we do next? The police had been notified in three counties. We were filing a missing persons report in one of those counties and an Amber Alert request was in the works. Every car available to us was searching back roads and highways where we thought he might be. But there were too many of them.
You will remember from last week that six of our young men at the Paul Anderson Youth Home along with an alumnus, three bicycling staff, and three staff in a van with a big trailer began a 1500 mile Bicycle Challenge to repeat Paul Anderson’s bike ride fifty years earlier from Vidalia, Georgia to Omaha, Nebraska and Father Flanagan’s Boys Town. We were nine days into the trip. Despite the horrendous heat wave in the middle of the country, everyone had performed beautifully; displaying stamina, perseverance, positive attitudes, and can-do spirits. Then in rural Tennessee one of our young men, in a combination of quirks involving a staff member stopping briefly to help one of the others with a flat tire, went straight where he should have turned, pedaling harder to catch up to the group who had been just in front of him moments before, but now were not; and ended up lost. Keeping a good head about him he tried to find his way back to the group. Unfortunately for us, it took him four and a half hours; those hours for us were a nightmare, as we searched high and low, and became increasingly worried. The one whose confidence in God was most visible and a testimony to the rest of us through these hours was the one who has been at this work for fifty years, including every kind of experience in parenting hundreds of young men who had come to live at the PAYH: Glenda Anderson Leonard.
Earnest, pleading prayers ascended to the throne of God from all of us, as every minute passed and we had no word. The fact we had received no phone call brought increasingly greater fears. The word had gone out to many others back in Vidalia and around the country. We really never knew how many were praying for his safe return. And then the call came from one of the Court Houses in a small town we had visited earlier explaining our plight. He was seen by a deputy biking into that town and they had him stay at the Court House with them until we arrived.
Now some of you who have had similar experiences will be able to imagine the overwhelming joy that flooded our hearts when we got the word over the phone, “we have him. The knots and pits in stomachs disappeared. The relief, the joy, the exultation was beyond words.
This is the joy, an ecstatic, spontaneous, tearful emotion of joy, which Jesus describes in the parable above by those in heaven when one sinner repents; one sinner who had been lost, and is found. It is the same joy the father of the lost son expresses in the same chapter of Luke. His son he thought dead, is alive; he was lost, and now is found. Just as I am trying to do now, you cannot explain it satisfactorily in words; this has to be experienced!
Dwell on that joy the next time you consider someone you know is lost, needs finding, and who needs you to be engaged in it. There is definitely something of the same intensity and focus which was exercised above in finding our lost biker, which you must apply to see your desire for their salvation come to fruition. Here is a joy which will forever make its imprint on your soul.


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Real Teens Talk
Jul 15, 2011

Real Teens Talk: Pornography Part I

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The use of pornography among teens is on the rise.   It is a topic that most would prefer to steer clear of.  But if we don’t talk about it…who will?   With the use of technology on the rise and the accessibility to the internet everywhere, it is only a matter of time before your child is having to make grown-up decisions about the content that they are viewing.   In the video below, real teens talk about how they were introduced to pornography and the affect that it had on them.


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Real Teens Talk
Jul 14, 2011

Pornorgaphy Part II

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In this segment of Real Teens Talk: Pornography Part 2, young people talk about the affect that pornography has had on their lives.  It is not a simple problem with a simple solution. The wounds that occur from viewing pornography go deep…often deeper than one would think.

These youth have experienced first hand the way that pornography can change the way that you view women and relate to those around you.  It often dehumanizes women and causes shifts in the way that they are able to relate to people of the opposite sex.


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Jul 14, 2011

Life Changing Acheivement

When my 94 year old father was a lad of 9, he and his brother and a few of their childhood boyfriends met a tall lanky young man walking along Sunset Cliffs in San Diego only a few blocks from Dad’s home. The man carried his lunch with him and would walk for hours with the boys tagging along and engaging in friendly banter with the amiable visitor. His long daily walks on the edge of the cliffs aimed to increase his endurance for staying awake for long stretches of time. Nearby at Ryan Aircraft his plane was being custom built for an attempt at a first ever achievement. After about two months in San Diego the young man took off in his new plane, observed by the boys and my grandmother, stopping briefly in St. Louis, then on to New York, where he took off across the Atlantic Ocean to Paris and into history. You have guessed by now that the young man my father accompanied as a boy along the cliffs which were Dad’s playground intermingled with the beaches below of the Pacific Ocean was none other than Charles Lindbergh. It was one of those encounters a boy never forgets. And Charles Lindbergh’s achievement made him a household name around the world redirecting the rest of his life.
Likewise, Paul Anderson’s Olympic Gold Medal, world weightlifting championships, and later incredible, unmatched back lift of 6,270 pounds brought world-wide notoriety in places as far away as Russia. Mongolia, and Iran. It is not as well known that in 1961 to announce the opening of the Paul Anderson Youth Home (PAYH) Paul rode a simple one speed bike barely holding his 350 pound body 1500 miles from Vidalia, Georgia to Father Flanagan’s Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska. Monday six young men of the PAYH, along with one alumnus, one volunteer, and two staff began a repeat of this journey on their bikes fifty years after Paul’s feat. This is the sixth annual PAYH Bike Ride. The first five were all 500 mile trips in and around Georgia. They were mastered by young men who had never previously attempted any physical achievement like it and were uncertain they could do it. In the lives of these young men with a troubled childhood and past, in many cases this accomplishment became life impacting. This year the challenge is three times as great and is taking place in the heat and humidity of a very hot summer. The combination of strenuous preparation physically and spiritually, rising to the actual challenge, and the final accomplishment of this feat should create life changing qualities in these young men’s lives. Such testing of their bodies and spirits will, we pray, call for a greater reliance upon Christ as they pray and peddle across parts of eight states, with the awareness of Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. It is always the desire that such an achievement will plant this truth in the heart and take root.
The Apostle Paul writes of the value and spiritual analogy of athletic competition and physical achievement. Descriptions and lessons of integration of body and spirit in man are found throughout Paul’s epistles. It is the Word of God alone we read in Hebrews 4:12 by which one may discern the mysterious division between the spiritual and physical makeup of man; nevertheless, it is this Word which indiscriminately judges the thoughts and attitudes of every individual and unique heart. Achievements in our life we thought improbable if not impossible may indeed become a catalyst God uses to make a change in us that will never see decay.
Please pray for these young men and staff of the PAYH for transformation, safety, and for the awareness of the PAYH to proliferate because of this challenging ride to the praise of God’s glory. You can follow the ride at www.payhbikeride.com.


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Real Teens Talk
Jul 13, 2011

Real Teens Talk: Drugs Part III

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We are all very good at convincing ourselves that our problems “aren’t that bad.”  For these Real Teens, the drugs that they had become dependent upon took them to the bottom.   Using drugs makes you become a person that you no longer recognize, and that you no longer can identify with…but a person that takes over the very essence of who you are.

Hear their stories of how they overcame the drugs that had taken over their lives.


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Jul 07, 2011

Written In The Stars

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A few nights ago I lay down on my back in a high mountain valley of the Rocky Mountains and stared through its rarified air into the incredible expanse of the heavens. It is a sight urban dwellers never enjoy unless they leave the bright lights of the city and head to a place like this. Pictures or planetariums are a vastly poor substitute for this naked-eye-view of the sky rendering the beholder speechless before an infinite panoply of stars and planets stretching from horizon to horizon. At such a moment you know absolutely how the Milky Way received its name, when you see the dense swath of countless stars spread like a massive brush stroke above the earth. No description will do justice; this must be seen to be believed and captured in the memory.
One of the bright, shining “stars in the march of the church through history wrote, “God writes the gospel not in the Bible alone, but on trees and flowers and clouds and stars (Martin Luther). It is truly said that nature is the art of God, and who but a dunce can argue that no greater work of art has ever been painted, sculpted, designed or brought to be, than what the Almighty God has presented us in the universe He made. At one time in human history the night sky was the family’s joy and entertainment once the sun set and darkness enveloped the earth. They gathered on the flat roofs of their simple homes and learned and studied the heavens, watching the stars and planets in their courses and deciphering their language, while relishing the glory of God (see Psalm 19). Coupled with the specific revelation of God’s prophets, the gospel is never silent in His creation.
The knowledge and observation of the stars and their constellations led the magi to Christ; they prophesied the Messiah; they depicted the fall of Satan; they illuminate the “morning star which rises in your heart when the Savior resides in you; they display the countless host of believers, the true sons and daughters of Abraham, just as the sands of the seashore; they are signs of the seasons, bearers of the message of the rainbow, and trumpeters to the return of Christ. The greatest star in speaking forth the majesty and power of God is the sun, set in the sky to warm and energize our home, the earth; to provide life to its inhabitants; and most enlightening of all, it is nature’s picture of our bridegroom, rejoicing to run His course on our behalf (Psalm 19:5), and to present His bride (you, the church) radiant and pure to the Father. These stars, the sun, and the moon are analogies, real in nature, living pictures, which God has given you to better understand His own nature and the nature of His Son in the work of redemption. We do not nearly reflect on them often or deeply enough so we might know Him better and enjoy Him more.
George Washington Carver said, “I love to think of nature as an unlimited broadcasting station, through which God speaks to us every hour, if we will only tune in. And with Thackeray’s eloquence we are reminded, “And lo! In a flash of crimson splendor, with blazing scarlet clouds running before his chariot, and heralding his majestic approach, God’s sun rises upon the world. Is this how you see each day, each night? For those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, look and listen with curious faith so as not to miss creation’s voice emanating from the heart of the Father and the Son, by the inspiration of the Spirit. Every day and night you have the opportunity to look, listen, learn, and enjoy. . . . . . and give Him glory.


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