“A life void of service for one’s neighbor is a life in need of transformation.”

For years, the company I ran was a major sponsor of the Operation Overcoat event downtown at the Union Gospel Mission. For years, it was not even on my radar.

Well, it was, but… I was just “too” busy to even notice or make it a priority.

But, something started happening to my heart over the course of those years. Something that I had no chance of skating past.


My daughter started getting involved with the things that matter and in the course of that… I had no chance. Or, as in the words of a great friend of mine, Steve Keels, who looked me square in the eye over lunch one day and said… “Don’t let her down.”

My wife has always had the biggest heart for the least of these of anybody I know. So, I should not have been surprised when this heart of hers, which is a reflection of the heart of His, showed up in the heart of my daughter when she was 6 years old.

Armed with $30 in gift money, my daughter could have done anything with it. I know that when I was 6, I would have.

But instead, she chose to ask for the World Vision gift catalog that they send out periodically throughout the year. Now, in that, she could have bought bunnies, chicks, and a whole bunch of other cute animals that can go a long way towards supporting a family in a third world country. But, instead…

She chose to give her $30 towards children who had been rescued out of the child sex trafficking industry.


When we asked her why she chose that issue to give her money, as an only child, she responded…

“These are the brothers and sisters I don’t have and I need to help take care of them.”

Something started in my life that day that is still coming to fruition in my life to this day, which happens to be 6 years later.

Perhaps this is what transformation looks like?


I remember the first year I had actually made it to the Operation Overcoat event. To be quite frank with you… it brought tears to my eyes at the incredible acts of love I was witnessing.

But sadly, even more so… it brought conviction to my heart that after all these years of financial support, this was the first time I even showed up.

There is something so liberating about releasing yourself to a life being lived out for others more than for you. Only a transformed heart has the power to truly unleash this.

But even still, it is a struggle.


In a day and age where one feels the pressure to hustle themselves to maintain a decent wage to provide for their family, one can easily fall out of step with a balanced life of service.

This is where I begin to understand the difference between a self-willed transformation and a heart surrendered transformation.

Not that they don’t both matter. It’s just, what comes first?


A few years ago, I was asked by my good friend, Brad Butcher, to speak at his fund raising banquet. In the weeks leading up to the banquet, I was led to speak out on these words…

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

I felt so good about myself in deciding to speak at the banquet about these things. But sadly still, I had yet to truly understand that that, which is found in these words, is that which truly matters in life.

Shortly after the speaking engagement, I felt a conviction in my heart. you know the type of conviction you get when you are about to learn a lesson?

“Gunnar, It was sure great that you spoke out on these, but… are you ready yet to see what they really look like… in action?”

You know the old statement, be careful what you ask for?

Try as I might to will these words into action in my life, but to truly see them become sustainable and effective, I needed a heart-surrendered transformation.

Those next few months I felt like my entire life fell out from underneath me. As I read those words listed above that I had spoke out on, I was failing miserably in each and every one of them.

It is an amazing thing to look back at a season of life sometimes and so clearly see where a pattern of lessons began to emerge. Sometimes, we respond quicker than others.

However, I suppose the tougher lessons take more time as our heart, mind, and soul is in need of a deep submergence of the reality of life and the stuff that really matters.

In a life all about ME… the WE suffers.


I am 4o years old now and I am still learning the heart of transformation.

Sometimes, we experience something, read a story, watch a movie, visit a shelter, and we are instantly moved. In this, we see, but for a moment, a glimpse of who we really are in that we have chosen, often times, without even knowing it, to be conformed to the stuff of life that truly doesn’t matter.

I am learning there is a difference between a self-willed transformation and a heart-surrendered transformation. For me, I am beginning to see this more clearly as the difference between forcing something to happen and letting something “to” happen.

As author, Max Lucado once wrote…

“The heart of the matter will always be… the matter of the heart.”

To get to the place of asking what the matter OF our heart is, we must first ask what is the matter WITH our heart.


Where has the journey of transformation led me?

Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

Have I arrived there yet?

Does transformation happen over night?

My friends, I have a long way to go. In this, I simply am seeking to maintain a daily posture of heart-surrender to the One who can lead me to that in life which truly matters. Certainly, there are moments and days that I completely miss it.

But, thanks be to God that I can get back up and try again and that His mercies are new each morning.


It’s funny, doesn’t living a life of service start with knowing what is right and what is wrong and then seeking to do something about it?

Too often, as a man named Paul, once questioned…

“Why do I always do what I know is wrong and not do what I know is right?”

We put this expectation on ourselves of reflecting perfection ahead of a posture of heart-surrendered transformation. All the while missing the point that having a posture of heart-surrendered transformation can very well lead to a perfecting process in the hands of the very One who breathed life into us all in the first place.

I think we all to some extent too often seek to live “perfectly” in a way that too often forces our hand into doing that which we know we ought not to do. If only for what? To “impress” our neighbor?

God give me the grace to do that which I know I ought to do. Regardless of the circumstances. And for those times when I do what I ought not to do… may I have the courage and humility to acknowledge these things in the company of others, make the necessary changes, and move on.

Is life more than just being about living and dying? Or is it all about the in-between and what we do with it?

Life isn’t about being perfect, but reflecting a process. A process that begins with surrendering one’s heart to transformation that leads to a place and posture not void of service for one’s neighbor.

A place and posture that leads to living a life on purpose and within the places that matter.

This is not to be an excuse for knowingly doing what you know you ought not to so that His grace would abound. But, simply a humble posture that will lead one to more significant and fulfilling days.

In a life all about WE, the ME can find a posture of rest knowing that true success does not derive from puffing oneself up, but in puffing up the needs of others, and doing something about it.

Knowing the difference between right and wrong is one thing, living a life that reflects it is an entirely another.


I have ran a company with annual revenues in the millions of dollars. I have also had jobs where I picked up the garbage and went home feeling so lost and purpose-less.

Whether I am rich or poor, the heart of the matter, will always be the matter of my heart.

In the good times and the bad times, the least of these will always be among us. Which will I choose to do? To walk on by or to lend a hand, a shoulder, a voice, a meal, some clothing, some shelter, or some…

This is not about me patting myself on the back for all the “good things” I have “done” but the honest realization and acknowledgment that I was missing something and through this transformation, have begun to find it.

There is a value in serving others that cannot be met by the “satisfaction” of serving oneself. Simply put, one fits in your heart, the other does not.


“Don’t let her down.”

Thanks Steve for those words. They have pierced deeper than you will ever know and I am all the more grateful for them.

The alternative was to keep on “sluffing” away at a life all about ME. How miserable would that be?

For you, the reader who has so graciously given your valued time to read this ramble…

May you find the value in those around you (no matter their circumstances) and go there.

Something sadly has gone wrong and therefore the knowledge of their value has been lost in translation. Sadly the translation has become unclear due to too many words being said, and not enough action being led.

Be alert for opportunities each and every day to share this.

In this, may you find that a life that matters… is a life that sees the values in others and shows them this… in your actions.

A life of service starts with humility. Be no longer conformed to the stuff of life that does not matter and be ye transformed into a person that be of service to that which in life that does.


If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, I would invite you to get engaged in the lives around you. Over the next several months, there are many opportunities to get involved.

Compassion Connect (www.compassionconnect.com)

9/18 – Memorial Coliseum

10/9 – Barnes Elementary

10/23 – Estacada High School

10/30 – Tigard High School

Union Gospel Mission “Operation Overcoat” (www.ugmportland.org)

9/25 – Union Gospel Mission Portland

Stop Child Trafficking Now Walk (www.SCTNow.org)

10/2 – Downtown Portland