April 18, 2005
The Master's Program
The Point of View - A Weekly Commentary by Bob Shank


Dear Marketplace Friend, 

      I wasn't minding my own business; in fact, I was minding His business. My schedule has been back-to-back, coast-to-coast, jerking my body across time zones and dancing the metal-detector tango with TSA folks in multiple airports ... and then I had a "drive-to" opportunity. Emcee a medical missions conference - and attend the board meeting - for Samaritan's Purse, out in Palm Desert. Spend 48 hours in the wilderness, for Jesus; one might expect divine protection for a trip like that...

      Instead, I had a rude interruption. It could have been dangerous: with traffic in the slow lane crawling at 85 MPH+ - and cars swerving through the right lane to hit the off ramp for the outlet mall and the Indian Casino - you have to maintain your concentration. Tough, though: just past those compelling attractions, the landscape captures your attention with technology. Over the last few years, the Banning Pass - through which one must pass to enter the oasis of the Coachella Valley's resort destinations - has become an orchard of mechanical movement. In every conceivable shape, size and configuration ... windmills dominate the desert.

      I was making every effort to mull and meditate on the ministry before me ... but my mind was taken hostage as these alternative energy generators rotated my thinking to the early '80's. I had just helped to orchestrate my way out of the family business, gaining my professional freedom to reinvent my career life in sync with my calling. There was a gap between my business exit and the point of clarity that birthed Priority Living (the ministry I still lead). During that 36 month hiatus ... I entered the weird zone.

      With my various professional licenses - and a relational commitment not to compete with my former colleagues in my former firm - there was a business opportunity that drew me into its web. It was the era of the Jimmy Carter White House ... Jerry Brown in the California governor's chair ... oil embargo ... energy crisis ... and former hippies, whose VW vans were giving way to diesel cars. A strange time, that birthed strange things. I became a solar contractor.

      Federal and state tax credits - and utility company rebates - made the purchase of a residential solar system a near no-brainer. Free money put an artificial bubble of business into the California construction scene. The "industry" that emerged had Berkeley bumper stickers, Birkenstock sandals, Peugeot sedans, and cockeyed concepts about how to exploit an opportunity. My reputation within the conventional industry - and my business experience - allowed me to join the party and rocket to the top. Within weeks of founding my new enterprise ... I found myself on the state board of the new industry association.

      Solar. Wind. They came together among these "visionaries" with braids. I spent three intriguing years in that outpost before I completed my makeover and pursued ministry. Windmills triggered it ...

      Hundreds of windmills in the Banning Pass. They all look alike ... except, they all act independently.

      Some of them are churning at high RPM's; others seem frozen-in-place. Some of the stalled are facing into the wind; others are 180 off course. A still photo would make them identical; in reality, some are worthless investments, returning no electricity despite their potential.

      Wind? "The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit." (Jesus, in John 3:8) How do you describe the indescribable - the invisible Holy Spirit of the Trinity? Jesus used the wind to make the picture ...

      You can line up the people who claim a common faith in Jesus ... and they resemble those windmills. Some of them are spinnin' fast, producing usable power that changes their world. Some are pointed toward the wind - showing signs of life - but their blades are frozen-in-place: no return on the investment of grace currently evident in their life. Still others aren't even pointed toward the source: they are the phonies - pretending to be productive, but having no capacity to perform. Counterfeits: no life, no output.

      How about you? Are your blades turning in the wind of the Spirit, producing the power that gives light to a dark world? That's God's version of a renewable resource!

Bob Shank


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