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Posts Tagged ‘Hero’

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Granite Mountain Hotshots

I had the blessing of knowing Ron Merrell as a Pastor, mentor and a friend.  He is a hero of mine. He has since moved on to California and now recently God has him back in Arizona in Prescott at Heights Church. My first reaction to hearing about this was – why Prescott? I have nothing against Prescott. It’s a beautiful little city about an hour north of Phoenix and it definitely has that small town feel to it. But that’s my sin nature saying that God can’t do something amazing in a small town like Prescott. God is always working. 

On June 28, 2013, lightning ignited the Yarnell Hill Fire. Yarnell is small community next to Prescott. Prescott Fire Department’s interagency Granite Mountain Hotshots were there to respond and the fire overran and killed 19 of the firefighters (only one survived) two days later. According to the National Fire Protection Association, it was the greatest loss of life for firefighters in a wildfire since 1933, the deadliest wildfire of any kind since 1991, and the greatest loss of firefighters in the United States since the September 11 attacks (Wikipedia). This was a horrible tragedy and the nation grieved with this community over our fallen heroes.

As horrible as this was, it opened the opportunity for the church to be the church. Led by efforts of Ron and the staff, Heights church was able to provide comfort and love to the families of the victims. They helped organize the memorial services and community gatherings to honor the firefighters. And my good friend Ron was able to lead the opening prayer for the nationally broadcasted memorial service in which Vice president Joe Biden attended.

I love how God works and I love His timing in situations. I love how He gives us (the church) opportunities to partake in Kingdom opportunities that point people to Christ. A lot of things in this broken world don’t always make sense, but knowing God is in control puts situations like this into perspective and gives us a sense of hope. I’m sure even Ron wondered why God called him to Prescott. Six months later, He used him and the church to bring glory to Him in the face of tragedy.

Pastor Ron Merrell leads a prayer during a memorial service for Yarnell firefighters at Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley Arizona

Pastor Ron leads the memorial service in prayer

Ron’s message on the Yarnell tragedy and a promo video for some of opportunities he has had to speak at other churches

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Josh Riebock

Life is a field. You aren’t alone.

I won’t forget tonight. Not only was it Election night, it was PhoenixONE and they had a special treat for us. Josh Riebock is a writer. He wrote a book called Heroes and Monsters and I had the chance to read it over the summer. The book tore me up. It’s a story about Josh’s relationship with his dad who was his hero. Despite the fact that his dad was his hero, he had a dark side to him. His dad was an alcoholic and Josh writes a book on how he couldn’t comprehend knowing who this guy was when he started drinking. His dad was his hero and yet he was a monster to him. It’s a great book on how the events of our lives and how they shape us. It’s about how we can be loving people and then switch and be the ugliest people in the world. It’s about the struggle inside us and how we can find hope in Christ through our trials and pain.

Josh talked about how God wants to take us to the depths of pain so we can learn and heal from it. We like to hide and stuff our junk and God wants to release us from it. He wants to give us freedom from the things we are scared of. I’m so thankful Josh came tonight and thankful to my former Pastor Ron for recommending his book to me. I had been corresponding with Josh before he came and he gave me a big hug when I introduced myself to him afterwards. I loved that I felt like an buddy of his and how welcoming he was. I’m a huge fan of transparent real guys and Josh’s story has been a blessing to me as I have experienced the same father pains as he has.

Andy Cherry led worship and I was able to bring a bunch of my friends with me. We were all impacted by Josh’s talk. But most of all, tonight was special because I got to bring my son. And for him him to hear a talk about father/son relationship while sitting with me was special. He got to hang out with me and my friends afterwards and I even let him stay up a little late even though he had school the next day. I am so thankful to the Lord for this special night for getting a chance to meet Josh and hang out with my son.

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With my bros and my son

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With my hero - Ron Merrell

I met Ron Merrell when a friend of mine ask me to attend Camber (Cornerstone’s young adult ministry) in early 2006. I was months from receiving divorce papers and was looking for something to plug into to make good Christian friends to start my journey with. I stayed after to meet Ron after hearing his sermon and he immediately asked me to lunch the next day. I was blown away by this. We met at Red Robin and we both got the whiskey BBQ burger (which is an amazing burger!). I shared my story and he just listened and showed me love and compassion. He immediately saw my heart to be a better man. What began was an amazing friendship in which Ron helped mentor and disciple me to use my pain and trails to become a Godly man for Christ. Ron became my hero and someone who I have modeled my life after.

I served many years in Camber under Ron mentoring young adult men. Despite the many hardships and difficulties I endured, Ron stuck with me and continued to encourage me. In 2008, Ron was called to ministry in California and I felt that was God telling that it was time to take what I learned from him and move forward in my walk with the Lord. I was on staff and doing ministry and God was using me. Then last Fall, I was removed from staff and was going through a difficult period of restoration. A few weeks later, God provided Ron Merrell as a guest speaker one Sunday morning. Seeing him was like a reminder from God that things will be ok. Just his hug alone brought me to tears and was all I needed from him for encouragement. He didn’t even have to ask to see that I was hurting. God provided my old mentor, my hero for comfort that day.

I am at a point now in my life where some loved ones have stopped believing in me. They have looked at circumstances and forgotten about my heart. Yet I can’t say much because I have found myself guilty of this too. God has worked in me so much lately and I’ve really grown up a lot in my walk and learned a lot about myself. But today was a day I was really needing someone to see my heart and believe in me. I was invited to attend Mission community church this morning by some wonderful friends who wanted to give back to me because of what I have done for them in the past. To my surprise Ron Merrell was the guest speaker today. I was already in tears walking through the door because I knew God was providing for me in my weakness before even hearing the message.

I enjoyed the worship and was pretty emotional throughout it.  Then Ron gave a message from 1 Timothy 4 on discipleship. I’ve discipled many people in the past, but I’m at a place where I am being refined and needing to be discipled to get back to where God wants me. The first part of Timothy talks about how many will fall from their faith after professing their faith in Christ. I know I have slipped in my faith recently and I have to include myself in this. But God wants to be tangible to us and he does that through relationships (v. 6).  Satan wants us to operate independently of God.  Discipleship is about walking together and the doctrines of grace are about bringing us in relation with each other. We need to train ourselves everyday for godliness like an athlete does for a sport (v.7-10). Salvation is both an event and a process. We are then to disciple others and not give up on then (I love Paul’s encouraging words to Timothy in verses 11-16)

I got my bear hug that I needed from Ron and my “It’s going to be alright” from him. I really needed that shoulder to cry on and let go of some of my pain. It was as if Christ just put his arms around me and said “Travis – I know who you are and if you trust me and put in the work, you will be just fine.” I’m thankful for the relationships around me and the outpouring of love I have received during this difficult time. God is working in me and he is giving me exactly what I need to continue moving forward. I’m thankful for good Godly men like Ron who just read hearts and encourages people to be who they are in Christ. And I take this Godly man’s words to heart – my hero, as he told me “Hang in there and keep going. Don’t give up!”

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