Covered In Prayer

As a kid, I distinctly remember coming into the living room or coming downstairs early in the morning to find my dad, on his knees in front of the recliner, praying. There was nothing odd about it. As I grew up and had to get up earlier for school or work, I would walk into the same situation early in the morning. My father continues to model that lifestyle today. I firmly believe that one of the things he lives out is Psalms 5:3, “O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for you and watch.” I have heard stories about Tiffany’s father, Don, who will wake up early and begin his day with prayer as well. In the relatively short time that I have known Don, I have witnessed him up early (and sometimes late) sitting in his chair, with his prayer shaw over his shoulders lifting up his wife, daughter, sons, grandchildren and even us “in-laws”. Having that lifestyle of prayer modeled to us as kids and as adults is truly invaluable. There are not a whole lot of people that I have met that just absolutely love getting up early. Mostly because they stay up too late… but most people just don’t enjoy it. However, there’s something to it.

Since transitioning out of youth ministry into an administrative role, I have been challenged to wake up early, have my quiet time and pray. My alarm goes off at 5:15am and I do my best to be up. Some days are easier than others. But, in the quietness of the morning, there aren’t any distractions. My 2 boys aren’t up yet, my brain isn’t in a hurry to focus on anything else and I don’t have the pressures of the day to worry about just yet. Psalm 90:14 says, “Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days.” I think that’s just what He does. If we seek Him early, the priorities of the rest of the day are already ordered and fall in place after Him. He satisfies us early in the morning if we’ll just spend the time with Him. I have learned that putting anything else before this time with Him only puts God in 2nd place. If I put Him in 2nd place, everything else is just out of whack all day.

For some reason, it is hard to get people together to pray. I have worked with my father on several different occasions to try to organize specific times of prayer where people can come together and pray for a specific theme or focus. The number of people that show up to our monthly prayer time averages around less than 10% of the total congregation. Less than 10%… In a Barna study, he says that “Americans believe that prayer works. 6 out of 10 adults (56% say they are “absolutely certain” that prayer really makes a difference in their lives. An additional 1 out of 4 adults (23%) are “somewhat certain.” Overall, this is 8 out of 10 people who remain at least partially persuaded that prayer has the power to affect their lives in a real way. Interestingly, one out of five people who pray perceive prayer to be a gamble. They contended that they have no assurance or confidence in the power of prayer to make a difference, but they are hopeful it will work on their behalf. ” He goes on to say that, “For most people, prayer is not a prolonged activity. The average amount of time adults spend in prayer is about 5 minutes. Overall, the study discovered that 1 out of 14 people (7%) who pray claim their average prayer time lasts between 15 and 30 minutes: another 6% stated that they usually prayed for more than 30 minutes each time they pray.” ~ Absolute Confusion, George Barna.

So, 8 out of 10 people say that prayer can change their lives but only 1 out of 14 people spend about 5 minutes doing something that can change their life. Does that shock you, challenge you or make you think about your prayer life? Where do you fit on those numbers? The process of being called to do something like Restoration Farm has definitely challenged and strengthened my prayer life. My time in the morning is split between lifting up my family and lifting up the burden of Restoration Farm and those who need the benefits of what God will do through it.

The bottom line is that prayer is important. The time we spend praying is important. As a matter of fact, in order to get anything done that God is challenging you to do takes a lot of prayer and conversation with Him. Remember what Jesus says in John 15:5 says? He reminds us that “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Remaining in Him happens through prayer. If we begin to believe the lie that we can do Kingdom things under our own power, we begin to stray away from Him. The ultimate result in that ends with nothing.

At Restoration Farm, we want to bear fruit. The fruit we hope to bear will come a little different than most conventional ways to see fruit grow. We want pastors to be able to continue to serve Christ to the best of their God-given abilities and bear fruit in their local churches. We are praying now that Restoration Farm will be the place that brings healing, reconciliation and restoration to lives, ministries, families and congregations. We believe that making sure Restoration Farm is covered in praying BEFORE there is a physical building or property; it will be like waking up in the early morning to start our day off with prayer. This can only result in “remaining in Him” as the days progress. Praying now will help us to stay on target with what Christ wants for Restoration Farm in the future.

So, what does this mean for you? How can you help? We need a group… no, a team of prayer warriors who will join us in doing the only thing we know how to do in this time. We don’t know what the physical next step will be but we know that there won’t be one without prayer. We need you to pray for God-sized doors to open up so that this dream will become a reality. We need you to pray for our family. Pray that God would help all of us to “remain in Him” as He continues to call us to greater things. Pray that finances would be set in place before the need arises. Pray for the lives that will be changed through pastors and families that will come through Restoration Farm. Pray for all that and the many unknown things that will come up along the way. Will you join our team of prayer warriors?

Lord, thank you! Thank you for prayer and the ability to speak directly with a God who hears us, knows us, loves us and cares for us. Thank you for being there, always. You know the desires of our hearts. Help Tiffany and I to always remain in you. You are the source that we need to seek in the now and the days ahead. Help us to put you first. Help our hearts and minds to be one with yours in prayer. Continue to call us and lead us when things seem crazy. Help us to keep our eyes on you as we seek to follow your call and serve others. Help our minds to be focused on your Kingdom and how you desire Restoration Farm to bear fruit and to be a place that helps pastors further your Kingdom in their local church! Keep reminding us that we’re crazy if we don’t follow the dream you’ve given us. We don’t know how you’re going to establish Restoration Farm, but we know you will! Amen!

A Stand of Aspen

Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit a friend of mine who lived in Grand Canyon Village, Arizona. He was the guidance counselor for the Grand Canyon Unified School District. He and his wife had moved from Ohio to Arizona after he graduated with his masters degree to start the job of being a school counselor. He and I were close friends. He and his wife were some of my youth ministry leaders on Wednesday nights and they taught our Junior High Sunday School class. When they left our church, I felt like I had lost my best friend and brother. About a year into their stay in Arizona, he called me with some disturbing news. In short, he told me that his wife had left him. After we hung up the phone, I talked with my wife and felt compelled to go out and stay with him for a while and I booked my trip. Much of the trip was just spent talking about what happened. I did my best to just be a listening ear and to do what I could to walk with my friend through this tough situation. We prayed together… a lot, laughed a lot and just spent some time together. On one of the last days I was there, he asked me if I’d like to go on a hike. He and some of his friends planned a hike through the Coconino National Forrest outside of Flagstaff. I didn’t know what I was in for. A few days before we walked down into the Grand Canyon, but this was different.

As we started our hike, the weather was pleasant and warm. As we made our way up, we had to stop a few different times to layer up. It wasn’t too long until we made it past the timber line and there was absolutely zero vegetation and the air was more thin than I was used to breathing. The view was amazing. As we made it to the top of the mountain, some 12,000 feet above sea level, we noticed there was a storm moving in. We quickly took some pictures (for proof that we made it!) and began the 10 mile decent. It’s crazy what you notice on the way down that you didn’t see going up. As we neared the foothills, I looked out into a clearing and saw a beautiful stand of Aspen trees. I never noticed them when we started. The stand was very tall and thick. The way they were growing looked as if someone had planted them there in the specific location making sure the trees has some boundaries.

Several years went by and I was talking with a dendrologist (someone who has an in depth knowledge of trees) about specific trees. He mentioned that Aspen trees grow through root sprouts or “suckers”. Basically, their root system sprouts a new tree… or clumps of trees. These trees grow from one another creating a very “tightly woven” root structure. This root structure gives added strength to the relatively soft trunk of the tree. Because of their root system, they are rarely uprooted due to wind or storms. However, if a forrest fire moves through, their root system is able to help them reproduce new growth rather than solely relying on seeds to be formed and dropped from a standing tree so that it can be planted to sprout and grow.

As I began to look into how the Aspen trees grow, I noticed that they don’t have a long lifespan compared to other trees. According to the U.S. Forrest Service, “Aspen are medium-sized deciduous trees, commonly 20 to 80 feet in height, and 3 to 18 inches diameter. Trees more than 80 feet tall and larger than 24 inches diameter are occasionally found… Aspen trees usually do not live more than 150 years, though they may persist more than 200 years.” When you compare that to an oak tree that can live some 300-600 years and have the potential to grow to 9 feet in width, the Aspen really isn’t all that impressive in it’s visible size. But its root system is special.

I can’t help but think about pastors in ministry and relate them to the stand of Aspen I saw when I visited Arizona. The average tenure of a pastor in the United States is anywhere from 5-7 years. Many pastors don’t feel like they are connected with a “root system”. In a 2018 study from Pastoral Care Inc. they noted that 27% of pastors report not having anyone to turn to for help in a crisis situation. 70% of pastors do not have someone they consider to be a close friend. 84% of pastors desire to have close fellowship with someone they can trust and confide with. 66% of churches have no lay counseling support. And, 1 out of every 10 pastors will actually retire as a pastor.

In my lifetime as a pastors son, a youth pastor and now being on staff with my father, I have realized that these numbers are somewhat shockingly true. There have been times even for me where I just wanted someone I could talk to, confide in, be honest with and just share my heart. But the reality is that most of the people I would do that with are the people in which I am ministering to/with in the church I am/was serving. And, when you bear your heart with the people you serve, you run the risk of scaring them, cause them to leave the church or you simply tie the noose that is tailored to your own neck.

I believe that what God is doing in my heart and how He wants to establish Restoration Farm, is simply, to establish a root system for the men and women in ministry. I believe that when we work together to support one another, the whole Church and the Kingdom of God wins. If the root system is healthy and linked, the whole “stand” of Pastors is healthy, cared for and supported. Part of the dream that God has given us is to connect pastors to other pastors, retired pastors, counselors and missionaries who have served or are serving in a similar role. Each pastor involved starts to build a root system that nourishes and strengthens the other so that when a “fire” or “storm” blows through, it is harder for the other to give up, “die” or be overcome by their circumstance. Our dream is to use Restoration Farm as the common ground to bring pastors together for healing, support, conversation, counseling and building relationships that keep pastors following their call. I also believe that Satan wants nothing more than the opposite of what I have listed above. Will it be easy? No. Will it come without struggle? Definitely not. Is it necessary? Undoubtedly! Just look at the statistics.

You may be wondering what happened to my friend and his wife. I am extremely happy to say that God has done an amazing work and a miracle in their lives. They got back together several months after I spent time with him. They realized the best thing for their marriage was to move away from Arizona. He got a new position in Texas and since moving there they have gotten involved in serving at their local church, they have 3 kids and God is blessing their marriage! God is good!

God, as I sit and think about the many times that it would have been easy for me to give up and go a different direction, I am so glad I didn’t. You have had your hand on my life in a real way and I cannot deny your grace and mercy. But today, Lord, there are pastors out there who do not have a support system like I had. They have no one to talk to or confide in and they feel like they are alone. They feel like they are doing the best they can and it doesn’t seem like it’s enough. I pray that they find your strength in their weakness. I pray that as you continue to lay out the vision and dream of Restoration Farm in mine and Tiffany’s hearts, you make a way for it to become a reality. I have no idea how you will do it, but I know you will. I know your people will be better served if their pastors have a way to become more like a stand of Aspen, rooted together in You. Thank you for this dream. Thank you for giving us this vision. May it be used to strengthen and build your Kingdom. Amen

A Safe Place

When I was about 8 or 9 years old, my dad was a pastor outside of Cincinnati, Ohio. From my perspective, as a kid, this was a great church. Still to this day I have some pretty vivid memories of the people, the church building, the street the church was located on and even the parsonage that we lived in. Looking back, the church seemed healthy. There were some good people who cared about our family.

While living there for several years, I began to develop friends. I played on a baseball team. Our kids ministry was pretty good on Sundays and there were several families with kids my age. One day, a friend from church invited me over to spend the night on a Friday and my parents agreed. The family had been attending our church for some time and seemed to be a good family. Their son was my age and his younger sibling was just a few months old. It was towards the end of the school year and the weather was starting to warm up. I remember it being warm enough to be on the play set in their back yard until it got dark. They had a newer home that was well kept and nicely decorated inside and out. After we had dinner that night, I had washed up and was ready for bed. Right before bed, my friend and I had made our way to the kitchen for a snack. While we were downstairs, his parents were upstairs putting the baby to bed.

All of the sudden, I heard a loud noise upstairs. (** As I write this and recall those memories, I can feel my heart beat begin to accelerate and my stress level begin to rise.) We ran upstairs to see what was going on. When we made it to the top of the stairs and turned to go into the baby’s room, I remember seeing the mom, holding the baby and getting shoved through the air. She landed on the baby’s crib, smashing it to pieces. I was freaked out! I froze. I then saw a “Little Tikes” plastic hammer flying through the air toward her. Luckily it missed her and hit the wall. It penetrated the drywall and stuck. As my friend and I ran downstairs, I heard his mom yell out, “Call 911!!!”. When we got to the bottom of the stairs we headed into the kitchen. He grabbed the phone, hanging from the wall and called 911. As soon as he started to answer the operator, his dad made it to the kitchen and ripped the phone off the wall throwing it into the dining room and ran back upstairs. We were so scared! The next few moments were a complete blur for me. But, I remember hiding in their coffee table. The coffee table was a bigger, bulky table that had sliding doors on either end that you could store things. I slid the doors open and crawled inside. I don’t know how long I was in there, but I didn’t come out until I heard the voice of a police officer calling my name. Someone notified my parents and they were outside waiting with the police and EMT’s. I was escorted out to the safety of my parents car and we went home.

I don’t remember talking with my parents about that night after it happened. I don’t remember “debriefing” it at all. As a matter of fact, I don’t remember ever seeing my friend again. But the memories of that night, some 30 years ago, are still vivid in my mind.

In that moment of being freaked out and scared, I needed a safe place to get away. That bulky coffee table was it. It was the only place that an 8 or 9 year old could think to hide to get away from what was going on. For pastors and their families, there aren’t too many places like that for them. No, I’m not talking about a bulky coffee table or even a bunker dug into the ground somewhere. I’m talking about a place where a family can get away from the situation they find themselves in and be a family. Sometimes pastors families need to “debrief” the things going on in their lives. Sometimes pastors need a person “on the outside” of their ministry that they can talk and relate to. They need someone who they can confide in and listen to them. As a matter of fact, so does the family.

I believe that is why the Holy Spirit gave the dream of Restoration Farm to my wife and I. We desire for a safe place for pastors and their families to go when the need may arise. We don’t want it to be a last resort. We want it to be something that those who are in ministry can utilize any time. We want a safe place. We have a dream for this to be a place where people can come to and find restoration in the midst of serving the Lord and the people they are called to. Ministry isn’t easy. It has it’s good days and tough days, just like any other job. But sometimes, when pastors go on vacation, they really can’t get away and relax and find that safe place that won’t cost them an arm and a leg. We believe Restoration Farm will be that “safe place” for many.

Lord, today I pray for those families that you will use us to impact. Restoration Farm is bigger than the Dennis family. The impact that it has the potential to make is only realized in light of Your Kingdom. Help Tiffany and I to be faithful to this call that you are leading us to. We have a desire to follow Your lead and go where You will send us. Lord, we lift up those pastors who need a place like this right now. Strengthen and encourage them even now as they serve You. Continue to help Tiffany and I to be faithful to see Your vision through. Amen

The First Of Many

Just breathe…

 “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supplies.” –Hudson Taylor

This is the first post on my new blog. I’m just getting this new blog going, so stay tuned for more. I’m not exactly sure what each post will look and sound like at this point. But, what I do know is that my family and I are on a journey. The journey is to follow as close to Christ as we can and stay in step with Him. We have heard His call and we are following. It’s going to be a wild ride! All my life I have been in ministry. I am a pastors son. I grew up in a pastors home. I have seen what ministry (good and bad) does to parents who are teammates. I went to school to study ministry. I married a pastors daughter… (yup, our 2 boys are doomed!) I was a youth pastor for 16 years and now serve as the administrative pastor at the church where my father is our lead pastor. It’s in my blood. It’s in my heart. Ministry runs deep. So, to say that my wife and I have a heart for pastors doesn’t really say it well enough. Tiffany and I will celebrate our 16th anniversary in 2 days. Around about the time we celebrated our 13th anniversary, God laid something big on our hearts. He wants us to start a ministry for ministers. We don’t have everything nailed down. We don’t have unlimited resources at our disposal. We don’t know what the next step will be. But what we do know is this, “when God involves you in his activity, the assignment will have God-sized dimensions to it.” (Henry Blackaby) We know that the way that we are serving Him now will be completely different in the future. Restoration Farm will be a place of wholistic restoration for a pastor, their spouse and their family. Whether they are going through a moral failure, family struggles or just need some time away, Restoration Farm will be that place. We know first-hand that pastors don’t get paid nearly enough for the time they put in and, in most cases, they can’t afford a family vacation. We have seen how the one place where people should receive Grace (the church) sometimes can become a place where Grace isn’t extended… even to their leaders. We want to be a conduit of Grace and the place and ministry we have a desire to start will be just that.

Does this mean that we are leaving our current place of ministry? No. We will faithfully serve Him wherever He leads us for as long as He has us there. That’s the way it is and has always been in my ministry. Our desire is only to follow in His Footsteps.

So, where do we go from here? That is a great question. I met with someone yesterday to discuss our dream. The first bit of advice he gave me was to surround myself with prayer warriors. If you would like to join Tiffany and I in prayer, we beg you to do so. If you decide to pray for us, please let us know! We know that without prayer, we wouldn’t be where we are today. The second piece of advice he gave me was, “cast big nets”. God’s dreams for us are bigger than we can imagine and casting bigger nets only leads us to His bigger dreams. But, as for now, we will pray, listen, follow and just breathe…

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Who am I?

My name is Paul. I am a man who does his best to follow Christ and His leading. I am married to Tiffany. She is an unbelievable teammate and I can’t imagine doing life with anyone else. We have 2 boys, Vaden and Truett. They are as different as their hair color and both of them give us countless reasons to get out of bed, laugh, get upset and also give us ways to see our Heavenly Father through them each day.

My intention for this blog is to bring you on our journey. We have received a call from God and have chosen to answer that call to go wherever He leads us.

This blog is for anyone to read. But, to fully understand what may be said, I encourage you (if you haven’t) to accept Jesus as your personal savior. To be able to understand what phrases like, “called by God”, or “following His leading” or even “being obedient to His will”, I don’t know if you would be able to fully understand those terms without having a personal relationship with Christ. If you have questions on how to do that, let me know. I’d be happy to lead you through that.