Fieldnotes

thoughts of a missionary

Failure

Failure takes the liberty to define us whenever it pleases, so if you wouldn’t mind I’d like to return the favor.  This trickster loves to masquerade behind circumstance and blame, but the Bible is sure to strip its mask.  For failure is nothing more than our realization of God’s sovereignty—when our “free will” crumbles underneath his Lordship’s footstool.  These dark moments only force us to admit that we were never the “master of our fate” or the “captain of our soul”— just a mere vessel caught between two ripples of God’s preordained plan.  Therefore, let this call to repentance allow no one to comfort us with positive words of encouragement.  When we embrace our failures we increase in Christ (John 3:30).  The Apostle Paul commands us to delight in our weaknesses and hardships (2 Corinthians 12:10) for it preaches that Christ is strong in us.  And although there is no wrong when our plans fall apart, the sin is found in not acknowledging how our misfortunes are always used, somehow, to glorify our King.  Have joy in knowing “that for those who love God all things”, our victories and defeats, “work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  So for this reason, if “to die is gain”, then to lose is victory.

Soli Deo Gloria,

Pastor Pete Orta

A Holy Gratitude: 4 Ways to Retain a Thankful Heart

The secular worldview of Thanksgiving is reminiscing over the things we have. The problem lies here… God has always required an offering from His children that is centered around what pleases Him, not what pleases us. This is a form of gratitude that the world is not able to give. A holy gratitude. Here this morning, my intention was to show four ways how we can retain a heart of biblical thanksgiving.  I’d like to suggest for those who might be struggling with disappointment and anxiety this year, to listen in.

 

Happy Birthday In Triumph!

We are excited that today is In Triumph‘s birthday!  Sitting here reminiscing overwhelms my soul.  I am grateful that the Lord has also given my family missionary hearts. It has made their spirits resilient.  As a father I love watching my kids running around and playing on the mission field.  To be so comfortable in a spiritual war zone displays the peace above all understanding that only God can give. And I love my wife as well.  The lack of privacy could have killed our relationship in many ways, but we have become very creative to say the least.  Only God could have prepared my family for this kind of a journey.  Living and working in the trenches could be disastrous in our personal lives, but the Lord protects His will with a mighty force.  I want to publicly give God the glory for not only moving us from strength to strength, but for the flame of Christ that shows no signs of fading.

Soli Deo GLoria!

Spurgeonesque Pulpit Desk

The timing is beautiful.  I believe the timing of things can reveal how the Lord enjoys the process of our lives.  As some of you already know we started a huge window project last year right before the winter hit.  This old hotel, built in 1893, had windows that were exposing us to the outside elements.  The size of hotel windows during this era dwarfed most men, so when the replacement windows were installed they insulated the rooms immediately. 

Without killing your time with trivial details, I’ll just make mention that the foundation that financed this project accomplished it in two phases.  The first grant was for our 4th and 3rd floor windows, and the second grant was to finish off the 2nd and 1st floors.  We partnered up with Brennan Enterprises due to their online reviews and the rest is literally history.  Now back to my story.

After working out the details it took a few weeks to manufacture the windows before I got a call from the installers.  The start date was the first time I met Pancho Peters, the brain and brawn who would see this project to the end.  I heard good things about Panchos’ work so I had a lot of confidence in him.  I instantly liked the guy, his handshake didn’t contradict what was in his eyes.  Like most men, we started off with small talk, but our relationship really started to open up when he noticed a portion of Spurgeon’s Grace for Grace sermon hanging on the wall of my study.  He too is a fan of the “old dead guys”. 

In one of our early conversations Pancho asked if there was anyway he could bless this ministry with his personal hobby, woodworking.  He had no idea that I had been trying to find a pulpit to teach from.  I went all up and down Main Street to find such a relic.  My need came from not having enough room to set everything on while I taught class.  At In Triumph, I teach all throughout the week, and I prefer to use the means of Church History, the Systematics of Theology, and even Christian Apologetics to preach the Gospel of the cross to the Postmoderns that check themselves in.  A pulpit desk seemed to be what could handle my Schuyler Quentel Bible bond by Leonard’s, along with a catechism and a historical document or two that a regular podium couldn’t.  The problem was that today there is no demand for a pulpits, most pastor’s TED Talks don’t require one.  Just a headset, slideshow and a water bottle.  Pancho, understanding the old style of teaching I am convicted to bring, said he would love to construct such a thing in his shop.

I sketch a pulpit desk on Adobe Illustrator for him and sent it to Pancho with an additional picture of Charles Haddon Spurgeon’s old pulpit desk.  He had a few questions concerning my favorite wood and functionality, but other than that, I expressed that I wanted him to take some creative freedom to be an artist.  I wanted this to come from his heart, not from a spec sheet.

Today, Reformation Day, and the last day of Pastor’s Appreciation Month, Pancho delivered my pulpit desk after over 75 hours of labor and love.  This one of a kind piece is solid mahogany that refuses for it’s beauty to be captured on camera.  The pictures do not do it justice.

What a gift.  What a friend.  He not only built a pulpit that functions according to my needs, but he also handcrafted a family heirloom for anyone of my sons or grandsons who is called to preach Christ crucified as well.  I love this pulpit!  A good teacher doesn’t want to abandon his notes.  He works too hard, and prayed all week for them.  Too many hours of research goes into a sermon to just walk away from your pulpit to follow the white rabbit down it’s hole.  The greats always used their notes like a map to stay on course.  To follow suit, I am an expository preacher—an old soul with a new fire.  I think this throwback pulpit desk not only reflects who I am, but it also reflects all those “old dead guys” who inspired me as well. 

Do you know what makes the timing of this pulpit even more beautiful… besides it being Reformation day and Pastor’s Appreciation Month?  Tomorrow I preach on Galatians 1:17-18, where Paul and Peter started an exact friendship as Pancho and I did.  A friendship that is built on our desire to live and die like Christ.  My brother blessed me with a gift that will keep on giving.

Here are a few picture that he sent me afterward he delivered it.

Pulpit Desk in Shop

Top View

And the “Prince of Preachers” Pulpit.

Spurgeons Pulpit

Pancho and I

Pete and Pancho

Meeting Mr. Kohl

Mr. Khohl

Everybody was out on a food run today, so I used my time to catch up on some work.  We are settling in just fine, but people walking straight in to take a look around this old hotel has some getting use to.  Folks pulling on your doors all day just comes with the territory I guess if the building reads Traveler’s Hotel out front.  And besides, if the kid’s didn’t forget to lock the doors from time to time, we’d be missing out on all the crazy stories.

Anyway, when I looked up from my desk I saw a man in his 80’s contemplating whether or not to pull on my office door.  He was 88 to be exact, but he carried himself like a 63 year old—late bloomer I guess.  I got up to meet him, thinking he might be curious about the history of the building.

I opened the door and he said, “Hello, my name is Erenst Kohl, Ernst Martin Kolh’s grandson.  I was named after him, but they misspelled my name on my birth certificate when I was born.”  I was overjoyed.

We sat in my office and he shared his memories while thumbing through the old photos that were left with the house.   He pointed out E. M. Kohl (Grosspapa as he called him) to me in a few of the photos.  He even looked like a German Navy Sea Captain on his day off.

It moved Mr. Kohl’s heart to know what his Grosspapa and Grssmama’s house was being used for now.  Through the years he was always afraid of it being torn down.  I told him that we are honored to carry the torch, and that it excites us to add to the building’s history.

Blessings,
Pete Orta
Founder of In Triumph, at the E. M. Kohl Building

In Forbes

Forbes

So, I had this conversation last week that ended up in Forbes. This was a pleasant reminder of what some of my friends do for a living. Pat Hanlon is my guitar buddy, and I forget at times that he is one of the authorities on branding for some of the biggest companies in the world. I got to know him during my branding days after reading his book Primalbranding that has now become the Bible of brand development.

While on the phone with Pat last week, the topic of conversation was the guitar that his wife recently bought him (Yep, she’s a keeper). Our conversations are always “off the record” but there was one that he thought others should eavesdrop on. The topic wasn’t In Triumph, but he did mention us before he signed off. It’s a fun read, and if you are a guitar player who is not from Texas, you might really enjoy it.

Here is the link: Lubbock, Texas Seen Through The Lens Of Innovation Hub – Forbes

Have a good week,
Pete Orta
Officially, the poorest man ever mentioned in Forbes!

John Billings, The Grammy Man

Photos from the book Portraits of the American Craftsman, courtesy of Tadd Myers

The Grammy Man

Allow me to give you a little backstory on this first.  In 2001 I was awarded a Grammy Award for Rock Gospel Album of the Year (2000) with the group Petra.  A real guitar hero, Steve Vai, presented me with one of the 48 ceremonial awards used every year for the televised show.  But what very few people know is that the moment you walk off the stage, they take that award away (mine was handed to Dave Grohl next), and a newly polished one is handed to you for the interviews and pictures that go on afterwards backstage.  This game of hot potato happens for the next 30 minutes as you work your way through the press, but after all the hype, you do not get to take any of the ones you held home.

The wait is about 6 weeks before you receive your award in the mail.  The possibilities of it being damaged in shipping doesn’t cross your mind until you are about to open it.  But when you open the box, the Grammy is placed in a custom cut foam cube that has the density of a black hole.  As I moved from Nashville to L.A. and then to Texas, that packaging was the safest way to keep the award.

My Grammy right now is in my closet unprotected, because when my daughter was about 8 years old, she took a pair of scissors to the box and made a doll house out of it.  The foam doesn’t hold to the Grammy without the box, so I remember, not too long ago, putting the foam away in a dufflle bag.  But with so many bags and things going in and out of In Triumph, it got lost in the mix, and now I cannot find it.  This was not a big deal until Keith Stancil from Artist Garden Entertainment asked me to be a keynote speaker at their annual artist retreat in February, and his one request was, could you bring your Grammy.

I have never taken my award anywhere, but I know I need to protect it while I fly.  That doll house is recycled toilet paper by now, and some seal overseas is probably choking on the black hole foam as we speak, so I needed another solution.  So my wife suggested that I call NARAS and ask them for new packaging, but I knew they didn’t actually make the Grammys, John Billings of Billing’s Artworks did.

So, I called him up this morning, and the first thing he did was congratulate me for the win, and I thanked him for his craftsmanship.  His awards are one of the very few things still hand-crafted here in America.  After hearing the history of how he got started making Grammys 40 years ago, I explained what happened to my box and black hole foam cube.  He took my address, refused my money, and shipped a new box and protective foam that should be here by the end of the week.  What an honor it was to hear such great stories from the man who is behind this prestigious award.  It’s difficult to describe the tone in his voice when he spoke about designing and making these awards—I will never see mine in the same way again.

Earlier this afternoon, I was shocked when we received an email that Billings Artworks made a donation to In Triumph, our homeless program for young adults.  This was a surprise, because I’ve never asked or even “fished” for a donation in a conversation, I only mentioned (briefly) what I was doing now to explain how my foam got lost.  I was moved because this man, John Billings, who has been commissioned to build awards for those who have been chosen to win, gave today to those who seem, to most of the world, destined to lose.

Pete Orta, Grammy Award Winner

The Grammy work of John Billings

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