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When life throws you a nasty curve ball…


When was the last time you went for it and all you had to say when it was over was, “Ouch…that’s not what I had in mind.” Did you notice that I didn’t ask IF it has ever happened? Its happened to every one of us. The picture above is a perfect representation on what I’m stating here. Just minutes before the moment this picture was taken, this player stepped out of the dugout. He envisioned hitting the ball. Let’s just say he envisioned stepping up and hitting a simple base hit to bring in the winning run to end the game. As you can tell by the picture, he ended his at bat with, “Ouch, that’s not what I had in mind.” He ended the game lying on the ground groaning and in the world’s eyes, a loser. And this happens to every one of us. Every one. Some of you might try to argue with me and push back and say that some people just seem to have a silver spoon in their mouth all their lives and everything just seems to go there way. I would like to believe that, but I know, without a single doubt, that is just not the case. Some seem to just be lucky…but really…all the time? Some just always land on their feet all the time, right? The answer again is no. That’s not the case. That seems to only work with cats. They always land on their feet. I grew up on the farm and actually tested if cats always land on their feet. I have done a “clinical trial” on this and its not a myth! LOL. Sorry…back to point.

Here’s the deal. NOBODY! Is the answer to the question of, “Who does life always go well for?”

The wisest man in the world was Solomon of the Old Testament. In the early part of Solomon’s reign as King, he lived such a pleasing life to God that God told Solomon He would give him anything he asked for. What would you ask for? That is the only time in the Bible where we see God playing a role that we’ve all wished would happen to us. The Genie in a bottle wish!!! But this is not a blue Genie…this is God. What a moment for Solomon. I don’t know what you would ask for, but Solomon asked for Wisdom to lead the people that God put him in charge of. What a humble and wise choice. God granted it and was so pleased with Solomon’s request He went ahead and gave him riches and long life to go with it! I tell this story to illustrate that even such a pleasing and wise man like Solomon had a rough life ahead of him. The Old Testament is loaded with stories where things started going really bad for Solomon. Life has bad moments for EVERYBODY.

Why am I writing about this right now? Simply because I have had the most “hellashish” year of my life of the 41 years so far. You know what is really scary? There is never a guarantee that it will get better. I’m not writing this desiring to seek your sympathy. Writing is how I vent. I hope that by writing this, some of you might actually be encouraged by my venting. Sick isn’t it? Some people, in their effort to make you feel better when things are going bad for you, will throw out the cliche of, “hang in there…it always gets better.” or “When God gives you lemons, make lemonade.” or they share the Bible verse Romans 8:28, “And God causes everything to work for good.” or 1 Corinthians 10:13, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” If you are like me, you just want to say to them, thanks, but shut up!” Okay…maybe I’m the only one that wants to say that. I’ll try to only speak for myself. But really…there is a time for those phrases to be thought of, brought up, spoken and studied. But none of them help on the spot or make you feel better when you’ve just been hit in the nuts by a curve ball from life itself. If you are women reading this, I’m not sure what body part is comparable to the pain I refer to for men when we get hit “there.” I think I can speak for all men by asking you ladies to let us know. Don’t play around with us on this one. We really mean it when we say it hurts. I’m not sure you have anything comparable.

Today I got a call that rocked my world…yep…I feel like the picture above. Hence the “hint” of cynicism in this blog post. The call didn’t go the way I planned. The call didn’t go the way I prepared. Maybe it hurts so bad because I literally felt “clarity” from God as to what His will was. So I committed. I went all in. I stepped up to the plate and intended to hit a grand slam. I was so confident that I put all my eggs in one basket. Then came the call. Weird…I had a gut feeling the call was coming today. It did. But when the call was over, my wife left the room because she knew I was going to weep. And I did. The eggs, all in one basket, were mine and this curve ball hit me right in the eggs! When I hung up, all I could do was bend over and cry.

It sucks. I’m writing this blog now, exactly 8 hours after the call that knocked the wind out of me. Its kind of strange. I’m okay. I think this past year and the curve balls that have been thrown at me and I swung and missed….swung and missed…but the ball kept hitting me. Over and over…it has actually toughened me up. I am better from it all. I am wiser. I am smarter. I am more experienced. I am more mature. I am more aware. I am less naive. I am a bit hardened. The hits seem to hurt less and less. I am a bit more sly. I will not let it make me bitter! I actually have landed on my feet!

You see, I am convinced that the world’s perspective says that I failed because the phone call didn’t go my way. I failed because I struck out. I failed because my plans didn’t go the way I dreamed they would. So, the world says that everybody fails. But here is the deal. God does work everything out for good. God does turn things that were intended to harm and He uses them for good. You can make lemonade from lemons. Those phrases have a lot of truth. I still wish people would time the speaking of the phrases with more common sense.

I suppose all of this is about attitude. My identity is not founded in my daily circumstances. The phone call that didn’t go the way I dreamed it would does not define me. That person who betrayed you and you never saw it coming, does not define who you are. Day after day and year after year, the struggles you face do not define you. You are not lucky or unlucky. You are living life. I am living life. And life is daily.

God never intended it all…life…to go this way.

There is some real depth in what Jesus says in Matthew 5 verse 1 and following.

Blessed are the poor.
Blessed are those who mourn.
Blessed are the humble.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for justice.
Blessed are the merciful.
Blessed are the pure.
Blessed are the peacemakers.
Blessed are the persecuted.

Verse 12 says…Be happy about those things.

I say…WHAT? Are you out of your mind God?! Happy about the curve ball that landed where I never dreamed it would? Are you crazy!?

This year has been a year of getting hit…over and over. Yet, above, I just listed a lot of positive traits that have been formed in me. The reality is this. They would not have formed in me had I not gone through some very trying and hard circumstances.

Back to the Bible list above. If I don’t need God then I think I have it all and thus am not POOR. But I recognize that I deeply need God. I am so poor in so many ways without him. In life, poor is rarely about money. I am simply not able without God. The world would see that as poor. God says I am blessed because I know I am poor and need Him. The list says, MOURN. How could I mourn if I didn’t have bad things happen to me or go through tough times? Dreams broken, relationships fractured, plans destroyed. God never intended for the world to be like this. God planned a perfect world. I recognize this now with more clarity than ever. I long for the Heaven that God describes because it will be like God planned in the Garden when He first created it all. Because I know that life will never be perfect until Jesus comes back…it causes me to mourn the loss of what was supposed to be. “Blessed are those who mourn.”
HUMBLE. How could I ever be humble if I have never been humbled. Humility doesn’t come when things always go well. Humility is formed through pain and brokenness. No…the ones that should worry are the ones who are so proud and confident in themselves that they are never humble. Blessed are the humble. HUNGER & THIRST FOR JUSTICE How could you ever desire justice if nothing ever went wrong? MERCIFULOnly those who have been through hardship and experienced pain can have true mercy for others going through what they have experienced. PURE Purity comes through fire. Think of diamonds, gold, sharpening swords. The purity they contain comes from heat, grinding and friction.

You get the point?

Why do bad things happen to good people? That’s such a dumb question! With the fallen world we live in…the real question is…How does anything good ever happen?

So…when we feel like the guy in the picture. The only thing we can do is crawl to God grasping our groin and trying to catch our breath. I want to ask why the bad happened…but it never helps. All I can do is cling to God who loves me. All I can do is think about the good that I have in my life. Dwell on those things that are beautiful. Think about the things that make me smile. Focus on the joy that is around me if I look for it.

Go ahead….Throw me another curve ball. I will never stop swinging. No matter what.

I am blessed.
You are too!
Keep stepping up to the plate and dreaming that you’re gonna connect. The odds are that you will sooner or later connect.
What is your other option?
Trent


Receiver instead of the Quarterback…Parenting 101

The last time you were at a Church service…were you challenged?  Did God speak to you about something you heard while at the service?  It happened to me today.  I was a 2nd time guest at a Church today.  The Church is New Creation Community Church in Anthem Arizona.  Eric Sass is the Lead Pastor and the Church is only about 7 months old.  I wanted to check this Church out because I met Eric and traveled with him throughout Uganda Africa.

Now, understand that I have been a preaching Pastor for the last 20 years and have been doing the preaching nearly every weekend in that same time frame.  I confess that I like the Quarterback side of preaching instead of the Receiver side of preaching.  You get that right?  I would much rather deliver the sermon than receive one.  So many times in the past 20 years of preaching I would have someone approach me and ask if I had a video camera or something in their house because the message that I spoke seemed completely directed at them.  I actually experienced this phenomenon today.  Personally, I don’t like it.  Its too personal.  But, God has his way doesn’t He?

I won’t go into the details of Eric’s 30 minute message today, because like any good preacher…and Eric is good…they will wrap the message up in a take away sentence that is easier to remember.  Eric’s take away sentence is this, “The purpose of parenting is to show the world the love of God in action.”

Dang it!  I had not thought of parenting that way before.  Maybe I’m a bit slow.  But that sentence really resonated with me.  It stirred me.  It ticked me off.  He’s right.  I have said many times that the older my kids get and the more interaction I have with them the more I understand my personal relationship with God.  You get that, right?  You and me…we are Children of God.  God is the ultimate Father.  Need some examples?

When my infant son threw a temper tantrum and pounded his head on the floor until he nearly bled…well…that’s like me as a grown adult going through a tough time and shaking my fist at God and shouting out that I don’t believe in Him anymore.  When my son was throwing his temper tantrum…as his father…I let him bang his head until he stopped and learned his lesson that the only one being hurt was himself.  Just like if you shake your fist and say God isn’t real anymore.  God will let you have your tantrum.  He loves you and will patiently let you learn that the only person you are hurting is yourself.

How about when one of your teenagers gets in your face and shouts you down, yelling with passionate anger; “I hate you!”  Does that action and those words change how much you love your teenager?  No.  So it is with God when our actions to dive into sin seem to shout out to God…”I hate you.”  He still loves us and never forces himself upon us.  Oh…he might punish us…but that is still love.

Or, on a positive note, when my daughter climbs up in my lap and falls asleep…man that is heart warming.  So it is with God when you are laying in bed and reading the Bible and you fall asleep while reading it.  You just fell asleep in your Father’s lap.  (Or are you of the old school that thinks you must feel guilty because you fell asleep while reading the Bible.)  I think that must be a special moment for God the Father.   Have you ever had your child fall asleep in your lap while reading a book together?  Did you punish that child for it?  If you did…you are evil.  Really.  You should go to bad parenting purgatory.

Back to point.  I wish there were a 3 point sermon that gave us all a formula for how to parent.  I wish we could all take a “good parenting pill.”  There is no such thing.  Most of us are trying to figure this parenting thing out as we go.  I personally find it really easy to make commitments to be a better parent…but the follow through thing is a whole different story.

So, I guess I want to leave it vague just like Eric did today.  He gave a sentence for me to remember. “The purpose of parenting is to show the world the love of God in action.”

I think if Eric would have given me 3 points and a “deeper” explanation, it would have left me in a fashion of not thinking about it much more.  But he left me with a haunting sentence that I can’t seem to get out of my head.  I am blogging about it.  I hope to do to you what Eric did to me.  Make me think about it more.  Make me stare in the face of my children and be reminded that my next sentence/action/discipline/facial expression/move, is a demonstration to my kids, my spouse and the rest of the world the very behavior of God in action.

I’ve got to guard this better.  You too?  My everyday parenting decisions and actions is a display of how God is.  That is the pressure of being a Christ follower.  There is no shortcut.  There is no cheat sheet.  There is no get out of jail free card.  This is the real deal.

As I sit at the kitchen table typing this out…I looked up and saw a Bible verse that my wife has written on her dry erase board.  I haven’t asked my wife’s purpose in writing the verse in the kitchen, but I think God had her write it for this very moment.  I think it is the solution to being a better parent, leader, work associate, athlete or just a better person…period.  I paused and took a picture of the dry erase board…see it below…


That picture really sums it up. Parenting…like anything…is a heart issue. Let’s do this. Let’s be a better representation of the Love of God. Let’s be better parents. I pray that one sentence haunts you like it haunts me. I want to show the world the Love of God. Don’t forget that Love is Justice and Mercy. Love is Grace and Discipline.
How I parent….demonstrates…to the world the love of God in action.
Let me be the quarterback at this moment….
Receive this…
The purpose of parenting is to show the world the love of God in action.


Just another day? Really?


This photo is riveting to me. Haunting. It evokes powerful emotions in me. It creates a squeeze inside of me that could only come from the part of my body that is called soul.

I am just one week from my return from Uganda Africa where I met thousands of people just like the child in this picture.

Every time I see this picture I swear I hear God saying to me all kinds of things. Here are a few things that I think God has spoken to me in the multiple times I have viewed this picture; “This world is not about you and your plans.” “You are back home with everything you need, she is still there praying for many things to happen in her life.” “She just wants to crawl up in your lap and be held.” “Its not stuff she wants…she wants to know if she matters.” “She is wondering if she’ll be thought about again.” “She is wondering if you’ll ever come back to see her again.” “I’m not the answer to her prayers, you are.”

So here’s my questions for you and me today…
“Can you lay your life down, so a stranger can live?”
“Can you take want you need and take less than you give?”

Here’s the deal with this little girl in Uganda Africa and the millions of other children around the world in circumstances like hers.

She didn’t choose to be born where she was born. You didn’t choose to be born where you were born. I sometimes wonder if I got the lucky sided flip of the coin that allowed me to be born in a place with ample food, clean water, education and conveniences; “Heads!” And the young girl,in the picture, got the unlucky side as the coin spun on the floor and came to its final rest. “Tails!”

The fact is that I know better. There is no coin toss in matters such as these. God chose me to be born where I was born and to have the things that I have. It doesn’t make me better or you better. It actually puts more pressure on you and me. “To whom much is given, much is required.” I will be held more accountable because of the material I’ve been given and will have to give an account for how I used God’s material that He loaned to me. Will I have used it all on my self? Will I take what I need and take less than I give?

During my life, I suppose that I want to give as much as this little girl gives. When I showed up, she smiled and waved and crawled up into my lap and gave of her love and friendship and affection, her trust. She gave me everything she had. It was a gift for Kings. I felt like a king in her presence. Accepting the presents of her self.

So…now…I’m back home. Her wave goodbye haunts me. I don’t know how you will respond and how you will give and what “sacrifices” you will make to contribute back to the life of this little girl and the millions like her that weren’t born here. All I can do is speak for myself.

I, until God makes it clear to stop, will spend the rest of my life being an advocate for these little ones and big ones who are just like this little girl. I will be asking for your help. Your gift. Your time. Your service. I will ask you to never stop thinking about these. The people Jesus calls, “the least of these.” The people that Jesus says if we invest in their lives we are actually and personally investing in Jesus’ life. “That which you do for the least of these, you do unto me.”

She’s waving at you. You hold the choice to make that wave a wave of Hello or Goodbye.
Stay tuned.
I will ask you someday to respond to the wave of this child. Respond with your money, your time, your talents, your prayers and your heart.

Trent

I


“What should I do God?”

What’s your dream? Don’t hold me to this, but I think the very last scene in the movie “Pretty Woman,” there is a homeless man crossing the street moderately shouting out as he passes by, “What’s your dream!?”

Have you really answered that question for yourself?

What’s your dream?

Makes me wonder, right now, what’s going on inside your brain as I cause you to think about your dream/goals/vision/plan? Are you the type A person right now just thinking to yourself… “Ya…Ya…I’ve got my dreams…come on Renner…get to the point.” Or are you someone who has been bashed by life’s circumstances just enough that you have become cynical and you don’t believe your dreams are possible for you anymore and you’ve given up on “childish” dreams?

I saw this picture the other day on a friend’s website. Its a street corner in Anthem AZ. "The Ultimate Crossroads."
I’m giving a testimonial for just 10 minutes at a Church Service in Anthem this weekend and when I’m up there I want to find this street corner and take a family picture in front of this sign. This sign on that street corner is truly a crossroads that everyone of us face, sometimes daily, in our lives.

How do you decide which way to go? I’ve just closed down an era of my life of being a Sr. Pastor for more than 14 years straight. I’ve been a preacher, preaching nearly every weekend for 20 years now. But now what? I’m staring the next 20 years of my life in the face and its blurry. I can’t get a good look into what its going to look like. And here’s the deal. I think God likes it that way. Does that make Him cruel? No. Maybe I’m too playful…I like to think its a form of the game called “Blindfold.” You’ve played it, right? Where one person puts on the blindfold and has to trust the directions of the teammate and hope not to be led into a wall or hit their Shin bone on a coffee table or fall off a cliff. If God is our guide and He chooses to “blindfold” us…aren’t we still in great hands that we can trust?

I have found that I am more of a control freak than I thought. And I’m actually deeply laid back. If I’m not liking my future being out of focus, then I’m pretty convinced you, maybe not as laid back as me, really don’t like it when your future is out of focus.

So…here’s what I know God says about all this. First look at this passage in Proverbs 16:9 “We can make our plans, but the Lord determines our steps.” (NLT) The NASB version says, “The mind of man prepares the way, but the Lord determines his steps.”

That verse makes me squirm a bit. It makes me think of another game. Tug-O-War…but…Tug-O-War against God. And He’s bigger than me. I love Tug-O-War, but only when I win!

So when we’re at the crossroads of Vision and Opportunity Way…what shall we do? Is this Tug-O-War time? Or…Blindfold time?

I think the answer is found in one Story of the Bible. Its in the Book of Exodus. The key part of the story is in Exodus 14:15. Its up to this point that the Israelites have been led out of Egypt and have found themselves at a dead end. The name of the place is Baal-Zephon, which is literally translated, “God’s Cul-de-sac.” Sounds like a crossroads. A crossroads for so many can be a dead end because the choice to go left or right is too overwhelming so they freeze up and quit. Dead End. Many will fall to their knees and spend hours on end praying about which way they should go and they get frustrated when God doesn’t seem to answer. So…they pray more and nothing ever moves forward. Just lots of prayer. Prayer is good, but prayer only is tragic. Faith is Action. Forward movement. So in the passage I refer to above…God says, “Why are your praying right now.” (Not exact translation, but same thing…agree?)

I think God is saying…”You know me…I’ve earned your trust…I’ve shown you how to live…get off your knees this time and let’s practice praying without words…pray with your actions…I got your back.”

Isn’t it fair for me to say that at this point in the story of Moses…that Moses had already been told how to live and what to do by God? The answer is yes. (God gave Moses clarity at the Burning Bush.)

At this point, Moses found himself in a scary moment and he froze in his tracks and he did only what he knew to do. Pray and cry out to God. And…God told him to “knock it off and get going..just do what I told you to do when I met with you at the burning bush.” (TRVB…Trent Renner Version Bible LOL)

So Moses got up…shook the dust off his robe and held his staff high and put one foot in the Red Sea and experienced an unprecedented miracle.

So…here’s my challenge to you. What do you continually pray about but there seems to be no answer? Maybe God is saying…just move. Maybe God is saying to you…”Pick Opportunity or pick Vision. They both end up in a good place.”

Is it possible that God is not concerned as much as you think about what House you live in, who you marry, what job you do, what car you drive, etc?

And with some things people pray about…give me a break.
Do you really have to pray about leaving your spouse?
Do you really have to pray about cheating on your taxes?
Do you really have to pray about beating that guy up?

God has told us how to live in the Scriptures. We have a perfect road map(Bible) that God laid out in detail about how to arrive at one of two final destinations. Heaven…Hell.

The crossroads and fork in the roads and Cul-De-Sacs, and Dead-Ends are all part of the incredible journey to our final destinations.

What we should be praying about is our behavior, our heart, our thoughts, our purity, our integrity and character, our influence, etc.

When we get those issues worked out and we have our lives spiritually going the way God would have them going…THEN…when we arrive at the corner of Vision and Opportunity…does it really matter to God which way we turn and move forward as a person who is blindfolded and being led by the greatest leader of all time past, present and future?

So which will it be for you this time?
Vision or Opportunity?
Those are great choices!

Pick and then step forward in Trust.
It really will be okay…even if it doesn’t turn out like you think it would.

Trent


“Hi, my name is Trent Renner, Who are you?”

So…you walk into a gathering of people who do the same thing you do. You are asked over and over, as you meet different people, “Who are you?” Sound familiar? Have you been in this situation before? Of course you have. You’ve been asked a thousand times…”who are you?” My question is, “How have you answered?” If I approached you right now and asked you, “who are you?” I know you would give me a smile and your name. The key question is, what would you answer next? I would answer; “my name is Trent Renner and I am the Lead and founding Pastor of Parkway Christian Church in Surprise Arizona.”
That answer seems like a good answer at first. However the problem is this; Parkway Christian Church no longer exists. I merged Parkway with Christ’s Church of the Valley in April of 2011. Parkway was completely absorbed and acquired by Christ’s Church of the Valley in Peoria AZ. Parkway Church doesn’t exist anymore. My leadership of her doesn’t exist anymore. So before Parkway was merged with Christ’s Church of the Valley, and somebody asked me who I was, and I answered by giving my name and Title…well…then looking back…was I giving a good description of who I was? If who I am is based on my name and Title only…then what happens to my identity when that titled is no longer truthful as to who I am? If who I am is based on something that no longer exists then I no longer exist. Who are you? Please don’t tell me your existence is founded on what you do as a job.  Check out this great video clip…it makes my point very well. Anger Management…\”Who are you?\”
If tomorrow you woke up and your job title no longer existed, who would you be? If tomorrow, all the people who followed you, no longer actually followed you, who would you be? If tomorrow you found out that 13 or 30 years of your life blood, sweat, sacrifice, time and energy, just evaporated, who would you be?

Where is your identity? By what do define yourself? Who are you?

I have learned the hard way that I must hold onto everything lightly. Nothing is really mine. You are just like me. So, nothing is really yours. You and me…we are not entitled to anything. Please base your identity on what your Creator calls you and by what He did for you. Everything else is temporal. Here today, gone tomorrow.

Who are you?
My name is Trent Renner…forgiven man of God, temporal husband, father, and spiritual leader. A man who loves the Lord and one who ultimately knows that nothing is permanent.

Who are you? How do you define yourself?