Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thankgiving Traditions

Usually this is the time of year where I start to slide into depression. It's holiday season; mandatory parties where I have to dress up and contribute food items, obligatory random gift giving where no one ever really gets what they want and family time without my family. So many things to get excited about. If you know me you realize that I'm joking about most of these things but it is true that these have often been a couple of rough months for me in the past.

The main thing that I get pulled into is self pity over the fact that I don't have a typical or normal family (in reality the family I want is probably not normal, and my family is maybe too normal for my liking). I'm not getting down on myself for feeling lonely or acknowledging some of the hurt that it legitimately there but I am saying that I don't want to be controlled by my past anymore.

I suppose my family has some sort of Thanksgiving tradition, though none really stand out in my head. Maybe the only one that has been important to me is that there must be really good food to enjoy with those closest to me (particularly mashed potatoes). As I learn and grow I've started to realize that I can start my own traditions. This is part of growing up and being my own person. It's also part of being a man of God, choosing to separate myself from my past traditions/behaviors and move towards what God has called me to do.

I'll keep you posted on my new traditions this holiday season...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Waking Up

This morning I had one of those experiences that I'm sure many of you have had; it feels like waking up from a dream, a moment of revelation and clarity that makes you wonder. As I received God's grace and I was flooded with peace the absurdity of my actions struck me. Why did I stay away from the only person who really gets me, the only One who can truly understand me? He is the Person I can trust more that anyone else because He always wants what is best for me.

Before that moment I felt stuck and miserable and empty and I've been there for a while and I stayed there by choice. I knew the truth but I was unwilling to humble myself to receive that amazing grace. On this side of it I marvel that I stayed so long in such a miserable and yet curable state. Bottom line I'm praising God for helping me to finally see what was going on and go back to His open arms. Praise God for His grace.

I'm still learning about grace. A part of me still doesn't believe. I slipped back into that old rut where I am convinced that something free is too good to be true and love must always be earned. I struggle to know that God's love can be trusted.

Little by little He is showing me that even when I pull back and spit on His out stretched hand He still won't reject me. It really doesn't matter what I do, He will always love me the same. It is His nature to love. Piece by piece He is winning over my reticent heart.

Saturday, October 6, 2012


Gravity by Shawn McDonald was just playing on the radio and his words capture how I feel...

I want to fly
Into the sky
Turn my back on this WHOLE world AND
Leave it all behind
This place is not my home
It's got nothing for me
Only leaves me with emptiness
And tears in my eyes

There really is nothing here for me and yet I live like this world is it. I live for these fleeting moments and feelings that float away and are empty and nothing...

I long to live for more than this. Something real. I hate the fact that I buy into these lies and actually believe that this world is my home. If you look at my actions and study my choices you will find that I've swallowed it all hook line and sinker. I talk about greater things, eternal perspective, hope of glory, future rewards, heavenly mindedness...and I live earthly bound.

Bound is how I feel. Bound by chains holding me down, weighing me with worldly hopes, worries and fears. I'm coated in this filth that has seeped into my pores and weighs down my body. I'm starting to see it for what it is...sin. My lack of faith is sin.

I can't help but see it this way. If I really trusted God would I worry about money? If I know that He cares so much and wants whats best for me wouldn't I spend more time with Him? Would I ever leave His presence? Where would I go? What could be better than spending time with the One who rescued me, freed me, provided for me, taught me, gave me hope and changed my life? Do I really believe that He has done all these things? Do I really believe that He will continue to love me? What other relationship would ever take president? Who would I rather spend time with? Is there something better out there? I must think there is...my actions show that I do...I must think that control, money, pleasure, a relationship will be better...

God please save me from this malaise. I don't want to live slowly dying. I want to believe that You are in reality, God, who can do great things. You are good and You want to bless me extravagantly. A life lived trusting You is joy, peace, hope and full of love. I want to be so overwhelmed by Your presence that everything else is a blur and there is never a moment when You are not at the forefront of my mind. I long to measure things by there nearness to You; Your presence being so sacred that everything else fades away.

You can grow faith in me. You who bought me back and wooed me into the holy of holies. You can light up my soul with Your love.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Over this last week God has gotten a hold of my heart. Conviction and hope have been growing in me along with an excitement to be a more powerful witness of God's love in this world. I was preparing to teach a short devotional for our annual men's retreat. It was only meant to be fifteen minutes but the more I studied the more I wasn't sure what to talk about. Not for lack of ideas. I had a dozen different topics that were on my heart and I had begun studying each one. I probably could have talked for at least 15 minutes on every one of those ideas. The problem was I didn't have peace about any one of them. I also knew that with most of the topics I didn't have much personal experience actually living out what I wanted to say.

God took the whole thing in another direction. He used several different testimonies that I stumbled across in my preparation to reveal my lack of faith. I began to see that this is a major sin issue in my life. I trust God with almost nothing on a daily basis. I am dependent on my own ability and knowledge in almost every area of my life. These testimonies moved me and grew in me a strong desire to be a man of faith who trusts God with everything. The problem is that kind of faith is foreign to me. I don't know how people live that way and how they trust God at that level. I determined that I will start believing that God can change this in me. I know it's going to take a miracle but I've seen Him work in me like that before so I know He can do it again. Yet because of my lack of faith I'm still wrestling with this. It really feels like an impossible change, but God is faithful if we're willing to ask.

One of the areas where I want more faith is in my confidence to love people, especially people that I don't know or who are in situation that makes me uncomfortable. I want freedom to love no matter what. I want a faith that is willing to follow God into chaos or danger in order to love someone. Again, this is not me. I live life in the safe zone. Only God will be able to change this in me.

Then I met Brian, a homeless man who hangs out by the Fry's down the street.

I was at the grocery store last night doing my own thing. I had my ear buds in listening to music. It crossed my mind that if I didn't have my music going I might have an opportunity to engage someone but I was tired and I thought, I don't have time for that right now. As I walked out of the store towards my car there was Brian. It occurred to me to talk to him but I just walked on by. He was heading my direction and I was wrestling with the idea of saying something. I kept thinking, what do I have for this man? While I was putting my groceries in my car Brian called out and asked me for some change. I had a lot of change in the ash tray so I emptied it out and gave it to him.

I still didn't know what to say and I still wasn't willing to step out of my safe zone. Here was one of those opportunities and it was playing out according to my old way to a T.

This opportunity almost passed me by but God did something really cool. As I was giving Brian the last bit of change he said something like, that's a strange license plate, what does "IM A MK" mean? The cars next to mine had a vanity plate on it and Brian didn't know what an MK was. I said, I'm a MK, that means that I'm a missionaries kids. Brian immediately asked if I was a Christian.

God gave me a way in and He set me up to engage Brian. I asked Brian how he became homeless. He told me his story and it was a mess. He's an alcoholic and he needs surgery on two bad hernias but since he won't quit drinking he has too much alcohol in his system and doctors won't operate on him. I believe Brian is saved but he is stuck. I told him that I was in the same situation and God in His faithfulness is pulling me out of my sin just like he can pull him out of his. I was able to love on him and pray with him, we both cried. God used Brian to exercise my faith. What an awesome God we have.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Honduras Trip

You know, I really feel alone most of the time. Ironically I have more friends and close relationships now then I have ever had in my life. I know that many of you were praying for me and thinking about me on this trip and despite the fact that I started out feeling alone I soon realized that I wasn’t. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for being the friends and family that you are to me, loving me, encouraging me, correcting me and simply living life with me, I am so grateful to have such an amazing church family.
A couple months before this trip I started to feel a little off, kind of disconnected, and I was never able to figure out exactly what the roots of those feelings were. I’m not sure I know all the reasons for the feeling, and I probably never will, but I think God showed me a part of it on this trip.
In one of our team meetings before we left we were asked to pray about what God would want us to let go of on this trip. My word was judgment. At the time I was struggling to not judge in several different areas of my life but I really wasn’t sure if that was what God wanted or just the first thing that came to my mind. It wasn’t until the end of the trip that the real meaning of “judgment” would become a little clearer.
Right before we left I started to struggle with fears and insecurity and deep doubt as to whether I was ready for the trip. I felt like I hadn’t prepared properly, I didn’t learn as much Spanish I had wanted to and I wasn’t feeling very emotionally connected. This trip I was supposed to work with the kids and I was afraid that since I have very little experience with kids that I wouldn’t do a good job. I had a feeling of uneasiness as we departed and it lasted several days into the trip.
It was Saturday night at our first team meeting that I finally found peace. Dale Hodgeson shared his devotional and opened it up for people to share what was on their hearts about the coming week (as a side note Dale is amazing and so are his devotionals). I had nothing to say and I was feeling as disconnected as ever, but I listened to what others had to share and I started to be moved. I wasn’t trying to be disconnected, I was trying to be open. As other people got emotional expressing their doubts and insecurities I was able to empathize with them. I started to realize that I wasn’t as shut down as I thought I was. God had been preparing me for this trip and I was a different person then I was the year before. I had grown. I had changed. I was ready to do whatever God put before me. Peace flooded my heart as I let go of my own judgment of myself.  I began to realize that this was what the word judgment represented for me on this trip. It was my judgment of myself that God wanted.
As the trip progressed I was able to let go of my self-judgment and enjoy what God had for me there. As it happens I spent almost the entire time playing and entertaining the younger kids, probably where I should have felt the least comfortable, but I let go of my expectations and had a blast with those kids.
God was so kind to me. I know He always is, but I don’t always experience it like I did on this trip. I feel blessed beyond measure to have been able to go and be a part of what TBLM is doing in Honduras. I am already planning on going on the trip next year and I’m still moving toward a longer term trip in the future. I don’t know what God has in store for me but I do know He has given me a heart for Honduras and a heart for missions.
Thanks you for your prayers and support. I hope you will be willing to join with me again in the future. I can’t wait to see what God does next.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Are my cries for gratitude as loud as my cries for mercy?

This was the title of Pastor Rich's message Wednesday night and it hit me hard. I'm writing because this message impacted me and I don’t want to forget. I don’t want it to be like so many messages that I have gotten excited about in the moment but hardly remember the main points the very next day. I want to be intentional about remembering these truths. They must be remembered. 

This message reminded me of the refrain from one of my favorite Psalms, Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, and for His wonderful works to the children of men! What I hear when I read this psalm is a man pleading with God's people to acknowledge the Lord's grace and mercy in their lives, knowing that this will keep them focused on Him and away from sin.

Pastor Rich taught from Luke 17:10-17. This is a passage where Jesus heals ten lepers and only one comes back to thank Him. As Pastor Rich launched into his message I kept thinking, this is pretty simple, right? Just make sure you say thank you whenever God blesses you and you’re pretty much covered. Not hard to do. As always, Pastor Rich unpacked this passage for me in a way that made it come to life in a powerful and practical way.

First, these were LEPERS who were healed. This is huge. Unclean, unclean, don't come any closer. This could be described as the extent of a lepers public discourse in Biblical time. Lepers were out cast from society and were essential considered dead. There was no moral obligation to care for lepers. The day that someone was declared leprous was the last day of their life. 

Wow! What a hopeless situation. To be cut off from family, friends and society in general. Utterly isolated and alone and having only a slow and painful death to look forward to. 

Pastor Rich compared this to our situation as unbelievers in need of a savior. Before we were redeemed we were in just this state. There was no hope for us. Life had no true meaning or purpose and we were slowly dying alone. This is what we were rescued out of and this is what we have to be thankful for. 

My Saviors continues to give me mercy; but how often do I respond in heart felt gratitude? How often does my response match the intensity of what I have been saved from? The thankful leper understood what Christ had done for him. He knew his impossible state and understood the miracle of his redemption. He responded out of that understanding.

Maybe this is my problem. I don’t understand what Christ has saved me from. I know I minimize my sin all the time. I know I’m not always willing to look at the damage my sin has caused. I often twist reality to make my depravity look “not so bad”. But I want to see more clearly. I want to understand the truth of my situation and respond correctly in light of what He has done for me.

Thank you Pastor Rich for such a great reminder of God mercy in my life. Thank you for continuing to challenge me in my walk through your faithful teaching.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Desert Blossoms

New Guinea trip…

A few things I've learned as I left the jungle behind and entered the desert again.

A hunger was stirred in me. The jungle made me feel so alive. Adventure and excitement surrounded me on this trip and I feel drawn to go back. It's so easy to look at adventure as a place and usually one far from where I am right now. When I was in this grand adventure it wasn't nearly as grand as it appears looking back.

I know that there is a false allure here amongst what is probably a legitimate desire. It seems like I could go live in the jungle and life would be so much better. Reality is, I wasn’t so alive, and I didn’t feel so different when I was surrounded by green then I do right here and now. When I was there I wrestled with these same tinges of aimlessness and emptiness. I know that the jungle has no answer for my nagging question of purpose.

Yet I can’t help feel that I have been built for a jungle. This concrete and plastic world doesn’t suit me. I feel so boxed in. I was made for a place where there are oceans to explore and rivers to ford and mountains to traverse. There was a sense of freedom that was awakened in me. I kept saying to myself, “why don’t I live here?” The Jungles of New Guinea could very easily become my home.

I could go search for my answers there...or I can try and find peace here, in the desert...

Maybe I will be able to enjoy the jungle all that much more if I learn to embrace life in the desert. This is a great metaphor and it also happens to be quite literal. For now the desert is my home and I am learning to see it's unique and subtle beauty. The flowers are much fewer here, but they are just as beautiful, and they stand out all the more when you discover them against such a rough backdrop.

I have not yet fully embraced His reality in my life. His purpose is where there is peace and that is where I know I will find more adventure than in any jungle. I know this is true but the words can feel empty on the page.

I do have a spark of hope and I know it is only the beginning. I know that each flower I am able to enjoy in the desert brings me a step closer to having eyes that see more clearly. Eyes that are able to enjoy life more fully. Each time I choose to look at my surroundings through His eyes I learn a little more about His life. That is my hope and that is why I continue to search for flowers in the desert.