The O2 Experience in San Jose and Boise

O2 Experience

Last night we arrived back at home in Montana, after two weeks out on the road, with our hearts full of faith and excitement over what we have seen God do. It was also an emotional day for us as it marked six-months since Lenya went home. We were internally celebrating and simultaneously reliving painful memories. That’s just life in this tent–it’s valleys low and mountains high, sorrowful yet always rejoicing, perplexed but not in despair…Therefore we do not lose heart.

The west coast tour ended w/ a bang. God blessed the final of three California dates greatly. It was special being in San Jose as that was where my wife made her commitment to purity in 5th grade–and it was at the same church we held the event in! The Boise event was straight up out of control. So many showed up that they couldn’t all fit in the building or overflow! Then at the invitation the space up front filled quickly as did several aisles, from the stage all the way to the back of the room. When the dust settled, at these final two events we saw 330 respond to the gospel and 1,953 committed their sex-lives to God! That’s in addition to those who watched on line and were impacted.

We ended the tour the same way we always celebrate as a family when someone gives their heart to Jesus at an event. We danced. We threw on one of Lenya’s favorite songs and had a family dance party, rejoicing with those in the presence of the angels in response to all that God had done. I am so thankful for our team’s hard work and dedication in the past two weeks. Not just those who went, but also those who remained behind. Pulling off a national 6 city tour while simultaneously having church in 5 different cities in Montana is no small feat. This is called running with horses.

O2 Experience

O2 Experience


O2 Experience

O2 Experience
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Half a year in Heaven

My heart shattered into a thousand pieces, each shard jagged and razor-sharp … the pain surreal. Deafening. Catastrophic. Six months ago today my daughter died in my arms. Wild panic burnt under my skin and blood hot with adrenaline flashed through my veins. I felt helpless, dizzy, and frantic. Sorrow upon sorrow.  

Never once had I ever entertained the notion that I would have to face the death of one of my daughters. Not that I am in denial about mortality. I’m not. I think and speak of death often. I know I am going to die. Throughout much of my life I have had premonitions of my death and have suspected that it might come for me at a young age, but I never considered the possibility of one of my children dying in Kindergarten. This was unthinkable. 

Yet in the darkness He was there. Invisible yet tangible, God was with us in those desperate moments. The beauty of suffering is that God is near to the brokenhearted. As I sank deep in miry clay Jesus caught me and set my feet upon solid rock. My soul was anchored with living hope.

Yes, her life had ended on this earth but her true life had just begun. It was a commencement not a conclusion. A comma not a period. In God’s presence is fullness of joy and at His right hand are pleasures evermore. Six months ago today my Lenya Lion went Home.

I miss her so much that at times it blurs my vision and makes my face flush. I know I will see her again but the space between is very hard. The last half a year has been marked by ups and downs, tears and (perhaps even more difficult to deal with) the absence of tears. Sometimes my emotions are like a live wire and at other times I feel numb. Yet in all these things, nothing can separate us from the love of God and we have seen Him put to use what He has put us through. 

“For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:25–27)

There’s no such thing as a wireless anchor


The Bible tells us that we have hope as an anchor of the soul. It is both sure and steadfast. Translation: It is unmovable. A permanent anchor that will never budge. We can know this is true because it is Jesus who is our anchor. He is our hope. He has entered God’s presence and has promised to bring us to be where He is. Our hope is not dead either, it is a living hope, because He lives forever.

There is endless comfort to be enjoyed from these truths and the symbolism God employed to help us understand them. Simply seeing an anchor reassures me when I feel shaky. In the last five months since Lenya’s departure I have felt gale-force winds of sadness and tsunami waves of grief crash down on me and yet my anchor holds within the veil.

The great thing about anchors is that they are never cordless. There is always a connection. A rope or a chain. That cord is every bit as vital as the anchor itself. It doesn’t matter how securely that big hunk of metal is wedged into the ocean floor if you’re not tied to it anymore. The leash matters greatly.

Our anchor of the soul is no different, it comes equipped with a mighty chain. The Holy Spirit. Before entering God’s presence Jesus promised to send His Spirit to be our Helper. He is our great rope that cannot be frayed. The one who has lashed our hearts to Heaven. Through the Spirit we have an everlasting guarantee that we are slowly but surely being winched into our true Country. He is the one who groans in us and keeps us from getting too comfortable here on this earth. He is the proof that there is more to come and that death is not the end.

In moments of overwhelming sorrow I not only am strengthened by my anchor, I am given courage because of the chain. Because Lenya is with Jesus and, through His Spirit, Jesus is in me, there is a direct connection. I have mumbled these words to myself in moments of sadness, “She is with Him and He is in me.” And through them, as a family, we have been revived again and again. In a very real sense we are holding hands with the One who is holding her.

This also means that through choosing to be filled with the Holy Spirit we can feel the cord grow taut. Walking in the flesh and choosing to sin puts slack in the line, but honoring Jesus and walking in the light reels it in. The more room we give the Spirit to come upon us and control our lives the more receptive we are to Heaven’s signal, it’s guidance, and the greater peace we will enjoy.

Hebrews 6:19 “This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil …”

A time to cast away stones

We recently came across a pile of stones that Lenya had gathered. All of our girls love rocks. They have real toys too — Barbies, Littlest Pet Shop characters, Disney princesses, and animals of every sort imaginable — yet they enjoy playing with rocks as much as anything you can buy at Target. Especially Lenya, she has loved them ever since she was very young. Whenever we go on a walk or a bike ride they love to collect them to be transferred to their purses, or other treasure boxes when we get home.

When winter loosed it’s grip and spring finally brought us back out to our backyard we made a discovery. On a patio table there was a handful of rocks that had been there since last fall. Alivia and Jennie remembered that Lenya had picked them from our yard and had been playing with them on a sunny day. When I heard this I stared at the rocks and could picture her standing there selecting them. I wonder what they were in her imagination. Rubies, sapphires and emeralds? Pirate coins? Dinosaur bones? Why did she pick these out of all others? What was going on in her wonderful little head that day as she whimsically played?

On that table they sat during the cold months waiting to be discovered as a different kind of treasure. A note tucked in a bottle. Once the snow melted there they were. They delivered both cherished memories and a clear message. Time is short. Precious. Fleeting. You never know when it will run out. There is nothing certain about our life on this earth except that it will end. We must savor the moments. Drink in the small things. Strain to find God’s joy in common occurrences as a tiny stone seen with creativity through the eyes of a little child.

Life rushes by and it waits for no one. You will never find time for the most important things, you must choose to make time. If you aren’t careful the tyranny of the urgent will rob your life of true significance. Jesus and people. These are all that will seem weighty in the final analysis. It is tremendously difficult, especially in this crazy, fast-paced world we live in, but you have to fight to be present and focused for what matters most.

I can’t wait to once again enjoy Lenya’s company in Heaven. I groan for it deep in my soul. I am looking forward to spending time with her collecting beautiful rocks on the new earth. Unlike these ones, they will never need to be cast away.

Ecclesiastes 3:4-5 “A time to weep, And a time to laugh; A time to mourn, And a time to dance; A time to cast away stones, And a time to gather stones; A time to embrace, And a time to refrain from embracing;”

A question I don’t need answered

In this whole process of responding to Lenya’s departure to heaven there has been one question I haven’t asked. That question is, “why?” I have never found my heart bubbling up with that. Even in my darkest moments of unfiltered pain and confusion: “Why did this happen?” or “Why did God let my daughter die?” wasn’t what gushed out. To be honest my lack of thirst for those answers has shocked me a little bit.

I am not saying I have faith made out of steel. I don’t. There have been times of deep, deep doubt. Moments where I have come close to despair. There have been anxiety attacks that verged on total meltdown.

The closest thing I can compare these moments to is having one of your kids get separated from you in the grocery store and that sick feeling of panic when you are running up the aisles looking for them. Only there is no resolution. It doesn’t end, on this side of eternity, you have to learn to live with it. Once I was on an airplane and felt myself slipping. I got so stressed that I thought to myself, “if you don’t get this under control you are going to get arrested trying to open the door or something.” I had to breathe slowly with my head down to stop myself from hyperventilating.

Even in these times of intense doubt I haven’t been plagued by “why?” though. It’s not because I already know the answer. I have no clue. Beyond generally, that all death is the result of sin, I don’t know why my daughter’s life on earth was cut short. Today is my birthday and I don’t know why I won’t get to spend it with her. I believe God could have overridden and kept her here. He wasn’t surprised by any of this. I also believe He could have answered our prayers and brought her back even after she left this world. He’s done it before.

One day I will know even as I am known, but not yet. Right now I look at all this through a dark glass. Not knowing doesn’t change anything for me though. I trust Him. I trust His plan. He knows what He is doing. He does all things well. I don’t have to know all the answers because I know Him. So my heart’s cry isn’t, “give me facts,” but “give me faith,” because even if I did have the information there isn’t much I could do with it.  Even the tiniest measure of faith, on the other hand, can move mountains.

The pain of searing loss

In the movie The Avengers there is a scene where Tony Stark and Bruce Banner are having a conversation. Bruce feels as though being the Hulk is nothing but a curse, a nightmare. He feels exposed, like a nerve, and sees no good in it. Tony, on the other hand, views being Iron Man as a responsibility.

He puts it this way, “You know, I’ve got a cluster of shrapnel, trying every second to crawl its way into my heart. [he points to his chest] This stops it. This little circle of light. It’s part of me now, not just armor. It’s a … terrible privilege.”

The point he is making is one that reverberates through the pages of scripture. Things that come close to crushing you completely can become an integral part of your calling. God has a way of weaving together even the most destructive things we go through to bring about His eternal plans and save the lives of many. He never wastes a trial. He has a plan for your pain.

I think of this scene often. I’m no Iron Man, but the pain of having my little Lenya go to Heaven so young feels at times like a chunk of metal seeking to tear my heart apart. If I had been given a choice between the two I would choose the shrapnel. In a heartbeat. Though it has been over four months now, the sorrow is still very severe. It can vary from a blinding and jolting intensity to a dull, cold, throbbing, like an ache deep in your bones.

I have found that there is nothing you can do with this pain except live with it and keep moving forward. I trust God and pray and read scripture every day. It still hurts. I feel myself getting stronger, but the pain never goes away.

The one thing that brings the most relief, that I look forward to more than anything, is church. Specifically singing. Like Tony Stark’s glowing arc-reactor, I find that when I am surrounded by a throng of God’s people and we are all lifting high the name of Jesus in a worship experience, the pressure inside my chest is alleviated and the sharp barb gets temporarily pulled from my heart.

These are also the moments when I feel nearest to her. Much more so than when I stand at her grave. That plot of earth merely houses her tent, she is in the presence of the Lord. With my eyes closed and my hands raised and the music swirling around me, there are glimpses of God’s glory that transcend all else. In those fleeting moments I feel locked in to the frequency of Heaven and everything else just fades to gray.

2 Corinthians 4:6 “For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.”

Skull Church in New Mexico


In the past 5 years we have had Skull Church events all over Montana, but until last week we had never ventured outside the state. I have to admit there were some butterflies as we packed up and headed to Albuquerque. Were we making a mistake? Would people come? Was this all going to blow up in our faces? Even a few hours before the doors opened I still was dealing with the same volatile pre-event nerves that I always do. There was also last minute drama when a fire alarm was tripped just before we let people in that caused everything to get pushed back 1/2 hour while the building was evacuated.

The good and the bad part of venturing out in faith is the madness of it all. I have learned to lean into the chaos. There are no guarantees. Faith requires uncertainty. There has to be a degree of unpredictability to it all if we are to trust God. Ever since Lenya has gone to heaven, more than at any point in my life, I desire nothing more than to take these gutsy, reckless steps of faith, to reach as many people as possible, before this short life is over.

I have to give major snaps to our team considering the fact that this event came just two short weeks after Skull Church Majestic and Fresh Life Easter. You would never know how tired they were by the way they worked. I have never seen them work harder or more fired up to reach people. I’m not just talking about those who were in New Mexico. While many of us were away we still had worship experiences at all five Fresh Life campuses and those who stayed back are just as much a part of what happened as those who went. It takes just as much dedication and faith to stay as it does to go.

God blessed the event in a major way. In addition to the churches that supported the event, several radio stations — Christian and mainstream alike — got behind it as well. It was an amazing thing to see thousands of people line up to get in and the venue filled up to standing room only and beyond. Best of all, many, many people streamed out of their seats in response to the gospel and made public professions of faith in Christ.

It was difficult to not have Lenya with us at this landmark event in Skull Church history but special to see God continue to expand the platform that we have to reach people with the message of His love and grace. The stories that come in from those impacted are always incredible. None more so than the young girl who wrote of her former suicide attempts and the hope she has now found through the death and life of Jesus. That is what it is all about.

Here is the Skull Church Albuquerque look-book:




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Fresh Life Easter


The promise of the resurrection has never meant more to me than it does today. I have always loved Easter, there is no day like it on the calendar. Nothing even comes close. Ever since Lenya went to heaven, I have been living, breathing and eating the scriptures that describe Jesus’ triumphant victory over death more than at any other point in my life. The message I preached Sunday about Jesus’ resurrection, and the hope that is ours as a result, is one that has been on repeat inside my heart and home nonstop for months. We have comforted each other with “these words” as Paul said we should, and there is nothing that brings comfort when facing the grave besides the empty tomb of Jesus Christ.

As we celebrated the fact that Jesus rose the anthem reverberated across the state of Montana to more people than we have ever had the opportunity to communicate to. We have never undertaken anything quite so complicated or large as what we did Easter Sunday, but the reality of the message merits our doing everything we can to turn up our megaphone. God blessed the event in a major way and we saw many people respond to the gospel and stream forward in Billings, Missoula, Kalispell to make public professions of faith.

Going into the weekend we knew it would be bittersweet. Sweet to celebrate the best news that has ever been preached, like ever. I’m talking about “He is not here, He is risen!” Bitter for Lenya not to be there when I got off stage to show me her Lion mask craft they made in her Fresh Life Kids class. Sweet to hear story after story of life change and destinies being rerouted. Bitter to not get to see her scampering around the lawn looking for Easter eggs later on in the day.

In the midst of these highs and lows I saw something I hadn’t noticed in the Easter story before. Saturday. I tend to think a lot of Friday, when Jesus died. And of course you can’t think too much about Sunday when He rose, but Saturday hit me hard this year. On Saturday the body of Jesus remained buried in His tomb. He was not in His body. He had gone to Paradise. He would rise eventually, but for Saturday His body, which had been shed in dishonor, lay still. Motionless. Dead. Saturday is a place full of waiting. A place of anticipation. A place where promises had been made but weren’t yet fulfilled. To His disciples, who had been left behind, Saturday must have been the hardest part. I realized that we are sort of in a long Saturday, waiting for the promise of His coming, and we must not lose heart.




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Last night’s party


Skull Church exists to communicate to the world exactly what happened at Golgotha, where 2,000 years ago Jesus died for the sins of the world. At all of our events the priority is to broadcast that message, as clearly as possible. Since Good Friday is the day marking Jesus’ death we have turned our annual Skull Church at the Majestic Valley Arena into our flagship event.

It was honestly a bit of an emotional challenge approaching the first Skull Church since Lenya went to heaven. She loved these events so much and would always rock skull jewelry and shirt on the big day, with her sisters and mom. Her absence was amplified but it also intensified my resolve to get the gospel to those who need to know the Savior she is now with.

Thousands of people descended on the Arena, and even the rain didn’t keep people from standing in a line that went on and on. Traffic backed up for miles and we saw the largest crowd we have had in the history of Skull Church. Most importantly, many people responded to the invitation and made a public profession of faith in Jesus Christ!

We got home from the Majestic and thanked God for what He had done in the lives of those who prayed to receive Christ, both in person and watching online. We thought of the verse where Jesus said, “there is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner who repents…” and decided to join in on the party. We put Lenya’s favorite song on and had a dance party in our living room.

Here is the 2013 Skull Church Majestic look-book:




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In the midst of all the pain and chaos of our daughter Lenya going to Heaven just before Christmas there were bright flashes of comfort where God reassured us of His presence. One of those moments of providence came through a worship leader at Fresh Life.

Shayla Smith is a talented singer/songwriter and a joy to have as a part of Fresh Life Creative. She had the idea for a new song kicking around inside her for some time but had been unable to capture it properly. On the morning of December 21, 2012, as though a muse had come, the words and music freely flowed together perfectly. She had finally written the song that had eluded her for so long.

What she didn’t know was that in just two hours she was going to hear the news that our Lenya Lion had gone Home, and that in our house the “ground was unsteady…the world had started to blur”, and we needed to, “know that you’re loved” as she had so unbelievably just written, I believe, through the Holy Spirit.

When we heard the song later that day, it was as though God’s face was shining directly on our pain. It helped to turn off the dark. A small but beautiful reminder of His love. We had Shayla perform the song live at Lenya’s celebration and it is in regular rotation at the Lusko household. (We put it on our Lenya Lion playlist that is full of her favorite songs.) It often makes me cry, but it always blesses me.

I told Shayla that when we release the next Fresh Life music project I want “Loved” to be on it. Until then you can hear it below. Let this be a lesson, when you get the impulse to create you never know what God is trying to do through you!