God Works Behind the Scenes

God works behinds the scenes. 

Having chosen teaching as my major late in my college career, I graduated in December.  That created a problem.  The prime season for finding a job in academics is the spring semester, so I was behind the eight ball a bit. 

I had several job interviews in the fall while student teaching, but they were primarily for teachers going on maternity leave.  None of them panned out.  As a result, graduation and the Christmas season were depressing, and moving home was not an option.  I refused to go backwards and become a “failure to launch”.

Fortunately, in that day, East Carolina University had a program where teachers could fill out a generic application to be kept on file.  That way, if schools contacted the education department, they would have plenty of candidates along with their contact information.

After a despairing 48 hours post-graduation, the future principal of Tar River Learning Center contacted me.  He informed me that Rocky Mount, NC was opening a training school for students who had been previously expelled.  The school was the system’s effort to reduce the dropout rate.  He wanted to know if I was interested in an interview.

I immediately said, “Yes.”  My interview was the next day. 

Rocky Mount is about an hour away from both ECU and my parent’s home.  It is a small town with an amazingly high crime rate.  It is known for its drug trade, being exactly half way between New York and Florida on I-95.  It is also traditionally one of the worst school systems in NC.

In my interview, the principal let me know that he was temporary as the school launched.  Also, the school wouldn’t have enough books for every student, and the teachers were required to teach multiple subjects at the same time, even if they didn’t have training in that subject.  The upside was that classes would have no more than 15 or so students. 

I jumped at the opportunity despite multiple friends telling me that I was crazy to even consider it.  Yes, it was the only job offer I had, but that wasn’t it.  Since attending Urbana 90 (a mission minded, college conference held every three years), this was my goal and my target job:  working with at-risk students in an urban environment.

Tar River taught me, perhaps more than seminary, how to communicate and how to get to the basics of any subject.  My classrooms were full of unwilling, and seemingly, unteachable children.  There were bright spots of course, and now, 20 years later through social media, I’ve learned that a few went on to be nurses, graphic artists, and the like. 

Additionally, without taking the job, I would not have met my wife, wouldn’t have been mentored by her father, and I can’t realistically figure out how I would have gone into ministry. 

In graduating late, taking a job that everyone thought was a bad idea, working in a rough environment in difficult conditions, God led me down paths I couldn’t have imagined.  There were many stresses along the way, but I can look back now and see God’s hand in every step.

While we may not always know or trust God is at work, we should assure our hearts that He is. 

Isaiah 45: “Turn to me and be saved,

    all the ends of the earth!

    For I am God, and there is no other.

23 By myself I have sworn;

    from my mouth has gone out in righteousness

    a word that shall not return:

‘To me every knee shall bow,

    every tongue shall swear allegiance

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready. 

If you want to follow more of what’s going on with Gordon, check out the website www.jgordonduncan.com and his recently launched podcast at

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/this-is-gonna-hurt-the-podcast-of-j-gordon-duncan/id13563529 

 

 

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Gordon Goes to Vegas Part Three

Days One and Two of Vegas can be found here and here.

I woke on my day three in Vegas with one of my most look forward to adventures:  Not slots, Not Cirque de Solei, Not Cher.  I was going to go run with new folks.  I met a doctor after my initial run, and he invited me to get some miles early Friday morning.  I met him and his friend at the Casino, and we were off.

New runners talk about one thing: running.  We talked about which races we’ve run, our PR’s, and our overall health.  Eventually, families and faith come up, as did individual business.  This wasn’t a fast run, nor a long one (10K), but running with new friends (which is what people you run with immediately become) is always a blessing.

As my body made the adjustment to the time zone, one thing was clear.  I was starving.  I found a way to get good coffee without waiting in line at Starbucks.  The café near the casino was as good as Starbucks, the line was never more than 5 deep, and they offered free refills, but again I needed food. 

Another discovery was that the Pan Asian place in the food court served omelets in the morning, and they were huge and good.  As I waited in line, I met 3 other 10XGrowthCon attendees.  They found out I was a pastor, they expressed their faith, and we were soon eating and enjoying a little fellowship.  How did they find out I was a pastor?  Well, when folks asked, “What do you,” this is what I say.

“I am a pastor, but I consult in the eye industry and write books because I have 3 daughters who I hope will get married and go to college one day.”

These men worked in the real estate and landscaping industry.  Like me, they were hoping to, “chew the meat and spit out the bone” of the conference.  The time with them was refreshing.  We exchanged contact info and headed on in.  I’ve since heard from one of them.  I hope we keep up.

This day of the 10XGrowthCon was about Marketing.  We heard Russel Brunson speak.  He is the founder of Clickfunels and a master at selling.  He offered a deal to the crowd to sign up for his platform that netted him $3 million dollars in 90 minutes.  Those aren’t typos.

Kerri Kasem spoke.  She is the daughter of Casey Kasem, famed radio host who was the voice of my childhood.  Casey ended each show with, “Keep your feet on the ground and reaching for the stars.”  Her story of perseverance was encouraging and inspirational, especially to young women.

Daymond John of Shark Tank spoke.  Actually, he was interviewed by Grant Cardone.  Daymond’s talk about incredibly practical.  Less, “Go out there and work hard,” and more, “These are the nuts and bolts of starting something new.”  I got to meet Daymond later on in that day, and we spoke of how we both have 3 daughters.  Very nice guy with lots of security.

But the highlight speaker of the day was Roddy Chong.  Roddy is, and has been, the violinist for Shania Twain, Celine Dion, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra.  He began by making 9,000 people do calisthenics and stretching.  He then launched into his story of fighting to get his gigs, culminating with working with Dion and Twain simultaneously.  He played 2 songs for us, and by the end of the talk, everyone gave him a standing ovation with loud cheering.  I spoke to him after the event and told him that when a speaker asks me to stand up or do some other motion, I rarely do, but when he did, I didn’t hesitate.  He asked me why, and I told him that his style made me trust him.  I had the chance to interview with his You Tube channel later on.  It hasn’t popped up yet, but I’ll let you know if it does.

The day ended with a networking party that I was unable to attend because of so many strobe lights.  Basically, I was left with no one and nothing to do.  I stepped into the House of Blues restaurant and chose to eat at the bar because I didn’t want to take up a table for just one person.  I struck up a conversation with a gentleman there and learned a few things.

In this conversation, I learned how things can go wrong in Vegas.  Thankfully, they didn’t for me, but I saw how it all can happen.  This gentleman was in Vegas “entertaining” clients which means paying for whatever they wanted, again which meant doing things that you can only do in Vegas.  By 7:30pm, they were already passed out, and he was waiting for them to wake up to take them out to a concert, drinks, and an adult establishment.  I was invited along.  I saw a few minutes of the concert, but nothing else about that evening held any charm for me.  I was not going to any adult establishments.  Nope.  Ain’t no way.

I walked to my room tired, knowing that the next day for me might very well be 36 hours long.  I was full of thought.  First, the speakers had me wondering if there were ways the church could “market” itself (make people aware of it), without being cheesy or crass.  What are better ways to proclaim Jesus outside of Sunday morning?  I also wondered about the gentlemen I left, and prayed they were safe and not doing anything they might regret.

Day 4 of Vegas plus travel lay ahead.

Gordon

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Monthly Gospel Rich Journal

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready.

Gordon Goes to Vegas Part Two

If you would like to read part one of my Vegas story, you can find it here.  Thanks.

Day One of the conference set a tone.  In light of the recent shooting in Las Vegas, security was high.  9,000 people entered an auditorium and NO BAGS WERE ALLOWED.  The conference gave everyone a drawstring, but that was about all that was allowed.  Some ladies with large purses were turned away.

Attendees entered through an airport type scanner with the command to have everything in your pockets in your hand and held above your head.  Following that, you were then scanned with a handheld metal detector. Then, you went through another area where you had to scan your attendance bracelet.  If successful, it pulled up your name on a screen, and you were finally able to enter the convention.  If you left to get food or drink, you had to go through the entire process again.  While annoying, I didn’t mind the extra level (or 3) of protection in light of the past Vegas (and recent) school violence.

Despite the long lines, no one seemed to mind.  Even after the security check, the same high energy continued.  Questions like, “Where are you from?  What do you do?  What’s your why?”  were prevalent.

The ushers led me up an elevator and to my section of the arena.  I had the best seat in the house.  It wasn’t on the floor.  It wasn’t close to the stage.  In fact, it was as far from the stage as possible.  I was in an upper balcony that provided lots of room to walk around to stretch, and the bathroom was close by and never crowded.  I settled in and quickly met the guy beside me, a young Medicaid auditor named Jesse.  With my insurance filing background, we hit it off.

After an overly long and self-indulgent introduction, Grant Cardone spoke.  Oddly enough, he didn’t really speak a lot over the four days.  He left most of the talks to the other two dozen or so guest speakers.  Of note, the conference was three days long, and you could pay extra for the fourth, but I declined. 

Cardone began with such statements as,

“Meet a new you.”

“There’s nobody pushing you. You can do more. If you know you can do more, you have to do more. If you don’t, you will have this big hole inside.”

The following speaker, billionaire Jordan Zimmerman, continued the theme.  He said,

“Never say I wish I would have. Never say I wish I could have.  Excuses are lies we tell ourselves to feel better.”

I began to think that perhaps the whole conference was going to be a humanistic disaster.  But a few speakers later, Ed Mylett spoke.  Ed Mylett is a performance coach and CEO of World Financial Group.  Ed was different.  He talked about what it meant to be an evangelist and compared the drive and calling of an evangelist to one’s workplace. His faith was clear as a motivator and as an accountability factor for how he did business and how much business he did.  It was refreshing. 

Several other speakers presented throughout the day:  Brad Lea, Forbes Riley, Andy Frisella, etc.  Some were inspirational, some combative.  Whether the people in the crowd resonated with the speakers or not, each challenged the audience to quit accepting mediocrity.  They challenged everyone to seek the best for themselves and their families.  Each appeared to genuinely want everyone in the crowd grow.

I left that afternoon exhausted.  There was so much data to take in, and I had a lot to process through the grid of scripture and prayer.  I met a few people earlier in the day, but having dinner together wasn’t an option.  Two doctors and I scheduled a run for Day Two. 

But what that all meant was I had an evening in Vegas to myself. 

I couldn’t decide where to eat.  There were so many options.  I took a tram over to the Luxor, looked at their options, and still couldn’t decide.  So, I struck out down the strip.  I tried to Facetime Amy and the girls to show them the sights, but I couldn’t get a good connection.  Instead, I called and sent a few pics. 

To be honest, I was lonely, but I did make up my mind where to eat:  Gordon Ramsey Burger.  My household loves the MasterChef shows, and if Gordon Ramsey was going to make a burger, I wanted to eat it.

Located in Planet Hollywood, I stood in line for about thirty minutes and realized that my body thought it was around 11pm, not 8pm.  Lonely, hungry, and tired.  I needed to eat and get home as those three are dangerous combinations in Vegas. 

I was seated at the kitchen bar which basically is a row of seats for people dining alone that looks out over the kitchen (which was a picture of efficiency).  It was good entertainment for this weary traveler.  The menu looked amazing, and something exotic was to my liking.  I decided on the Forest Burger.  The Forest Burger featured tremor cheese, seasonal forest mushrooms, arugula, and duck bacon.  I also went with the Truffle Parmesan Fries which they suggested should be eaten as an appetizer.  The waiter was shocked I didn’t order a drink.  Honestly, I was so tired, I couldn’t imagine anything worse for me at that point.

The fries came out, and please hear me.  If you know me, you know I am given to hyperbole, but this next statement is the honest truth.  Those were the single best fries I’ve ever had in my life.  Don’t get me the wrong, the burger was ridiculous, but those fries?  Forget about it. 

Not quite stuffed, I ordered a Brown Butter Caramel Pecan Shake to go.  “To Go?”  Yes, everyone in Vegas walks around with a drink in the hand.  Mine was probably the only one that was a milkshake. 

On the twenty-minute walk home, I tried to process everything.  Does the church do a good enough job of encouraging people to grow?  We always talk about spiritual growth in terms of prayer, study, evangelism, etc.  Those are good things, but does the church encourage people to grow in their careers and goals to the greatest of their ability?  Have we given these areas of growth to the world for them to deliver the message in their wrapping?

I crawled into bed with a mind that was more awake than my body.  I was excited about running with new folks in the morning, and there were some speakers the next day that were potentially exciting. 

Who knew that the next day would be the day with the most tellable story?

Gordon

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Monthly Gospel Rich Journal

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready. 

Sheep, Wolves, Snakes, and Doves – Gordon Goes to Vegas Part One

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” Matthew 10:16

I spent the last part of the past week in Las Vegas at the 10XGrowthCon.  The 10XGrowthCon is exactly what it says it is.  It is a convention that is supposed to teach anyone doing anything how to they can grow it by 10X. 

The conference was hosted by Grant Cardone, a sales and real estate expert, and included such speakers as The Shark Tank’s Daymond John, Michael Jordan’s coach, Tim Grover, Oprah’s life coach, Tim Storey, and the list goes on and on.  There were no seminars and very few breaks.  From 845am until 6 or 7pm each night, speaker after speaker encouraged, rebuked, inspired, and of course, sold their goods.  Who signs up for that kind of thing?  Lots of folks.  10X’s first year was 2017 and 2,000 people showed up.  Year Two?  Over 9,000.

So, why did this pastor, writer, consultant, etc. go to the 10XGrowthCon in Vegas?  Well, just as being a Christian is not a requirement to being a good engineer, it doesn’t take a Christian to know how to grow something.  Principles of growth in such things as social media, technology, etc are ever growing and rapidly evolving.  What a growth conference in Vegas does require is a lot of discernment.  As a Vegas virgin, I learned a lot.

The first thing I noticed was that everyone, not just people at the conference, but everyone was amazingly honest about what they were doing.  What happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas, but while you are there, everyone’s life is fair game.

Even as I waited at the airport in DC, this attitude was prevailing.  I heard buddies talking about what they would do at their bachelor’s parties.  I heard bunches of ladies talking expectantly about their girl’s getaways.  Some were making fun of the other for what happened last time, and others were saying that they were going to have to look out for so-and-so who gets a little too crazy in Vegas.  This excitement continued upon arrival, people jubilantly disembarked the airplane, and some couldn’t wait to start throwing money in the slots in the terminal.    

Within fifteen minutes on the ground, my Uber driver was telling me about Vegas and his personal devotion to the science of the mind.  When he found out I was a pastor, he opened up about the physical and emotional abuse that he suffered at the hands of the church.  My heart was broken for him, and I expressed as much Gospel compassion as I could after having traveled for nearly ten hours. 

All this, and the conference hadn’t even started yet. 

While Vegas is showy and full of lights, there is one thing about it above all with which I struggled.  The smell.  Casinos allow everything:  cigarettes, cigars, vaping, and even pot.  The smell was everywhere.  On a side note, they even have coffee shops where the grounds are laced with cannabis.  Going up or going down?

Day One of the conference, I woke up at 4am since my body hadn’t adjusted to Vegas time yet, and since my marathon is less than three weeks away, I decided to get my long run in:  a half marathon.  From the Mandalay Bay to one end of the strip is nearly five miles.  It goes further, but the more I got away from crowded neon, the less safe I felt.  I ran the five back, took my photo at the legendary “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, and found three more to finish off the run.  One note:  it’s true that Vegas is the city that never sleeps, but I can attest to this.  The folks walking home at 4:30am might be awake, but they are definitely on their last legs.

Walking into the first day of the conference, I was blown away.  9,000 people, as diverse as the United Nations, joyfully greeted each other.  They asked about backgrounds, professions, and dreams.  It was refreshing and energetic.  Certainly, there were some professional piranhas in the water, but the overwhelming majority were upbeat, encouraging, and offering free, helpful advice. 

And in very Vegas style, the conference began…

Tune in for Part Two.

Gordon

Gospel Rich Books

If you would like to learn more about Gospel Rich books, we offer a host of challenging and encouraging resources.  You can find them below:

Gospel Rich Books Amazon Catalog

Monthly Gospel Rich Journal

Gospel Rich Books Blog

And to enable more writers to publish their works, we offer the BestSeller Template which is a publisher ready resource that authors can cut and paste their works into to make them Amazon ready.