Monday, July 31, 2006

I don't know how to not be sad. I can fake it pretty well, as most of us can, but I don't know how to not be depressed. Keeping busy helps, diversions help, spending money seems to help, at least temporarily, but only temporarily.

Brent and I are living out why it is difficult for couples who have lost a child to stay together. It's easier to be angry with each other. We have kept the anger somewhat under control in that we just don't talk. Sometimes the discouragment we feel is directed toward the other in a subtle comment. You know subtle. It's in our society everywhere - half truth jokes, half hearted attempts at kindness.

Is it because we're tired of trying? Tired of crying? Is it because we've said all that can be said? Is it because we just don't want to move on? These questions among many others we must figure out.

I think we're afraid. I know I am. Yet I know who to turn to. I know the Savior is there waiting for the dawning of our dull and impatient minds to remember that God is with us. He's holding my hand every step of the way. He's shown His graces over and over. I have to keep looking for them. We know He directed us here to Tulsa. He prepared and walked with us in N. Africa. We know these things yet we doubt. We hold on to our fears. We hold on to "this is just not the way it should be." I don't know how to let go. It seems so wrong. Everything is wrong about life without him. I know in my mother's heart I will always miss him and I feel that a part of me died with him.

We continue on. We must. I don't want to continue on in a cloudy haze, going through the motions of life in a paralyzed state. I don't want bitterness and anger and regret to be my choice. I've always thought of myself as an encourager and I want to be that again. I know I can't do it on my own.

As He always does when I take time to look, Jesus gave me a scripture to hold on to for today and when the sad moments threaten to overwhelm. Isaiah 30. The heading in my Message Bible is "God Takes the Time to do Everything Right" God, the Master, The Holy of Israel, has this solemn counsel: Your salvation requires you to turn back to me and stop your silly efforts to save yourselves. Your strength will come from settling down in complete dependence on Me... God's not finished. He's waiting around to be gracious to you. He's gathering strength to show mercy to you. God takes the time to do everything right - everything. Those who wait around for him are the lucky ones. Oh yes, people of Zion, citizens of Jerusalem, your time of tears is over. Cry for help and you'll find it's grace and more grace. The moment He hears, He'll answer. Just as the Master kept you alive during the hard times, He'll keep your Teacher alive and present among you. Your Teacher will be right there, local and on the job, urging you on whenever you wander left or right. This is the right road. Walk down this road.

Right now I have time to read and relax as I wait for what He has for me here in Tulsa. Brent and Whitney are gone right now and Lauren and I are free! It's a rare time for us. I am prayerful that we savor the moments and stay present for each other. Thank you Father so much for this time! Take the anxiety away and replace it with trust in You, once again.


Early tomorrow morning I leave for a Peru Missions Conference in Atlanta. I will return Friday evening. I do not know of computer accessibility during this time, but my family told me they will post.

Whitney left for Dallas this morning, where she will spend a couple of days, then she's off to Florida with friends. Deanna and Lauren will be here in Tulsa, and will spend some time with two of BJ's Peru '05 team.

Change seems to have become our closest companion, but I can tell you honestly, not our dearest friend. Returning from Africa has been a blessing, but I must say that for so long, much energy has been gone into preparations mentally, emotionally, spiritually and otherwise, and now that it is behind us, and our girls are preparing to leave once again, we are fighting sadness.

Seeing what our Lord did is such an encouragement and has blessed our team. Returning to Tulsa and not having family close has been difficult. The people here in Tulsa are incredible, but family has been our support system for a lifetime, and we want to share with them.

We plan to travel back to Indiana (Lord willing) August 14th, for a week. Time with our loved ones will be so benenficial.

Being able to share with you has been an encouragement, and we appreciate your prayer support and notes. I will post from Atlanta if the opportunity is available, otherwise, it will be next week.

God Bless you each,


Friday, July 28, 2006

Growing up, he was always the younger brother. At times living in the shadows cast by his older siblings. Yet he was always set apart, unique in good ways. Though he would not think so, he is the outgoing one in our family. He relates better with others than most of the rest of us.

In situations with new people or reaqauinting with old distant family he is the one who has much to say, and puts them at ease. He endears others to himself, though he would say he is awkward around them.

For as long as I can remember, he has been the writer. Since he usually had a camera in his hands as well, he combined these gifts, and has made his own cards for special occassions. Though his printing is too small for my naked eyes to read, his message is one that tugs at the heartstrings, and pierces the lonely moments with gladness.

He always remembers what is important. He draws the giftedness out of others. He is an encourager. He loves with his whole being, and genuinely knows how to express this to those close to him.

He is willing to take on tasks that seem far too large to handle, and completes them with grace and integrity. Perhaps he doubts himself too much, but he is humbly available to be used by the Lord, and then gives Him credit for tasks accomplished.

He is an amazing uncle to his family. They love to be in his presence. He gets to their level and plays whatever game is appropriate, a constant reminder of his father, who did likewise. He is the one most turn to when in need, because he had learned how to meet them and love you in the process.

He reflects his Father's passion in all he does. He learns a little more each day, that he is a reflection of Him. He reveals this, not through overt, in your face ways, but through serving and loving in spite of his own needs and desires.

He was always at our side through the darkest days in the journey of recent past. He loved unselfishly, and met the needs of those who were hurting all around us. His Father uniquely equipped him to do so. He is making his Father and his father proud. He is making his mother proud. He has made his sisters proud.

He is one who sticks by you closer than a brother, but he is also my brother. I love you Brad, and I cannot thank you enough for tending this soil. You raised this site to a new level, and I am very proud of you! You are gifted.

Thank you for always being present to help me move, to move my heart, to embrace my pain, to encourage my soul. You are your Father's (father's) son.


Thursday, July 27, 2006

We had been in NA for couple of weeks or more and discouragement was trying to devour our team as we were not seeing any tangible fruit. We sent them out to prayer walk (PW) the village that morning. In their time doing so, God began to open some amazing doors, and reveal to each person some amazing things.

They returned to us excited about what God had done in their brief hour or two PW. Upon their return we debriefed the walk, celebrated what Christ had done, and then shared a meal. After this, I set out on my own for one the only times I would do so.

I PW'd the village, and walked a ridge above the city. It was during the hottest part of the day, and the sun beat down intensely. I had my I-pod along and was listening to BJ's song (one of only a few times I would do so while there). I began to pour my heart out to the Father.

As I prayed, I was watching across the valley to hillside across the way. It was a cemetery. Hundreds, perhaps thousands were buried there. Not a single believer found their final rest in that place. My heart was broken and I wept for the people as I watched a grave digger preparing a spot for another who had passed.

The Lord revealed to me the need for workers to come to this land. I saw more clearly than ever what my son would have meant here. He was conversational, and nearly fluent in French. This is the business language of this country as they were formerly occupied by France. On our team we had one who spoke a bit of French and we often relied on him.

This young man, Jason, was revered by those we met because of his ability. It was a bit embarrassing to not be able to speak to those we came to minister to. The Lord still moved, but the need for someone fluent was realized early on. BJ would have been sharing with everyone. He would have had many conversations we could not, because he had taken the time to learn the language. Oh how I missed him.

His song played on. Before leaving for my PW, I had a conversation with one of the young men on my team. It was a "corrective" conversation, but the Lord had anointed the moment and we related beautifully. His reaction was humble and cooperative.

The words from the song seemed to cry out in my ears... "my life has never been this clear, now I know the reason why I'm here." The Lord opened my eyes and heart to those words, and spoke to me saying, "You are here for me to show you that I have called you to pour into those I put in your path."

He showed me in such brilliant fashion that He had called me, and affirmed my calling in these moments. My many times of desperation and discouragement were to be tempered with this firm word from the Lord.

I pleaded with the Father to reveal His hand and to show the students His glory. That evening, they young man I had counseled had the opportunity to lead the only person to Christ, we would see make a decision on this trip. It was truly a celebration! Many of our team had poured into this new believer before he surrendered. God showed us that it was a team effort, and that many of us played a role in winning him to Jesus.

This is the way we should view every decision for Christ. It is never one person who has done the work, but a team of ground breakers, prayers, seed sowers, waterers, and finally those who get to reap the harvest. Every role is equally important.

Those of you who lifted up this trip played an enormous role in this journey, and in this young man's decision for Christ! Praise God! I Praise Him for each one of you who have been faithful to Him through prayer. You have blessed His heart, and ours!

Be encouraged!!!


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Last Father's Day BJ was in Peru. You may recall he left me a gift... a pink dress shirt. It has become a very special gift in many ways. This Father's Day, I had no expectations as we were going to be in training at Awe Star University (ASU).

I received a card from my family which was very special. I also received cards from several other students who have taken to calling me "dad." That was a blessing. My lovely wife had gifts for me which I did not deserve.

That evening at ASU I was very surprised at what they had orchestrated. During the day, a journal was being passed about to the different students who were present. They wrote diligently. Some penned many words, while others were short and to the point.

I did not know anything about this. I did not see it being passed about. When one of my new daughters slipped and spoke of it, it did not realize or understand her inference.

That evening, I was called to the front during one of the sessions. What followed was precious to me. Barbara Ann, one of BJ's Peru '05 teammates, and one of the leaders for our Chile trip this year, came up to where I was and began to speak.

God gave her the most peaceful and gentle words, and the most gracious spirit as she spoke of my son, and then of me. The intent of this evening was to honor me on my first Father's Day without BJ. They presented me with a journal that most of them had written to me in. I cannot convey to you how humbling it was to have this event occur on this day. It was such a significant blessing, and I was moved deeply.

At the conclusion of her kind words, the whole of Awe Star, students and staff came to the front and offered up prayer on my and my families behalf. I want to thank each and every participant for this memorable event!

As I wiped my eyes and returned to my seat, I heard a student say to me, "Did he speak to you?"

I did not understand the question. I turned and looked at him and said, "What did you say?"

He repeated his question. I said, I am afraid I don't understand what you mean.

He said, "Your son, did he speak to you while we were praying?"

My mouth fell open, and I uttered something unintelligible.

He responded, "I thought I saw him up there while we were praying, and I just wondered if he spoke to you."

I had no words. I was simply bewildered. I have no idea what he saw, but the thought of Beej being present even in spirit was joyful and sad at the same time.

I will not soon forget Father's Day 2006. The year many new family members began to call me dad.

brent (dad)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The first leg of our flight was from Dallas to London. Once in London we had to take a bus from Gatwick to Heathrow (both airports in London). Our faithful leader had reserved a bus for us to catch once there. My job was to find the bus, and get all of us on it.

Upon arrival, I began what became a somewhat frantic search for this transportation. It was nowhere to be found. I went to Airport Information. They had never heard of this particular bus line, but gave me a number to call. The bloke on the other end of that line had never heard of them either. We made other attempts at finding the bus but knew we working against the clock as we had a flight to catch at the other airport.

Finally we got in line of the only bus company that was represented in Gatwick. I shared our story with him. He was sympathetic, but had never heard of the other bus company either. Soon we rebooked with him. The cost was much greater than expected! I asked if there would be a discount if we went ahead and rebooked the return service as well (we had to do the same thing when returning from NA). He gave us a discount, which I was thankful for, but it was still too expensive.

We rode the bus and caught our flight to NA. Once in NA, we worked our way through customs. The plan was they would be waiting right outside customs for us, and we'd load our gear into two awaiting vans. They were not there, and neither were the vans.

I got on the phone and tried to call them. Our phones would not connect. I called our office and was told that they would try to contact them. They tried repeatedly and failed. One of the young men on our team who had been here two years ago when Awe Star came, said this was not uncommon, and not to worry.

We waited for two hours, and noone arrived to pick us up. Finally, our office had obtained another phone number and reached our hosts. They were waiting for us in a different city, four hours away. It was getting dark, we were in a foreign land, and it looked as if we had no hope of making our connection on this night.

Suddenly my phone rang, it was the office. I was being told that they had our hosts on the other line and they were saying to run to the train station and we might just make the last train. You must understand we had full backpacks on our backs, full small packs on our fronts, and several trunks and a portable sound system all in tow. Sprinting toward and unknown train station after dark was not my idea of how the trip was to go.

We sprinted! I wish you could have seen these students in action. 19 of us running to an unknown destination with the hope that our last possible connection would not leave on time so we could be on it.

Praise God! The train was not even there yet! We slowed down when we saw and realized we had cleared that hurdle. Laughter even filtered through the group as we contemplated our situation.

We entered the train and took off for our next destination. Another city where we would once again have to catch the last train. Anticipation filled my mind. Upon arrival, Rachel and I lept off the train and ran to the ticket counter. That was much more difficult than it sounds. We went over and under other trains via stairwells... running with full packs, desperate to connect our team to that last train.

The ticket booth guy sent us back to the train and told us through fragments of french and broken english to buy our tickets on the train. We sprinted back. We ran up and down the median looking for empty cars. Most were full.

Just then, we were summoned by the conductor to come to an area we thought was first class. We had made the last train! God had held up two trains just to make sure we found our way.

I collapsed into my seat with a huge grin and inner laugh replacing my stressed demeanor. We were actually going to connect with our hosts. Yes, it would be the middle of the night, and once with them we still had an hour drive left, but God had delivered us.

I laughed aloud as I could see in my minds eye the hilarity of our "Amazing Race" type journey upon arrival in NA. I confess I could not laugh until I knew everyone was safe.

I would have many more moments of intesity over the next 4 weeks. My God delivered us each and every time. He answered our prayers instantly on virtually, every occassion. He amazed us at His provision. We were overwhelmed at His grace. We rejoiced in His presence, and though the land is dry and desolate in spiritual terms, we worshipped His majesty, and were blessed by His presence with us.

Through disappointment and discouragement, God reveals to us things about ourselves that need growth and development. I had to grow much this summer.


Monday, July 24, 2006

We arrived late at night, so my first morning to awake in-country was unusual. I had not seen the terrain, or any sights by the light of day. The sun rose early... 5:15 or so. I awoke to the sounds of donkeys braying, and roosters crowing. I literally felt as if I was on a farm.

I walked to the window and was overwhelmed at the sight. From my second story window, I could see that we were surrounded by mountains. We were nestled in a valley, and the village had sprung to life at this very early hour. The dirt street was laden with donkeys carrying huge capacities of mint, straw, and many other goods. The men who were tending them rode sidesaddle, and were clad in old clothing which looked as if it had been discarded years before.

These same streets were lined with buses, trucks, cars, and mopeds. Men were everywhere, women were unseen. Shop keepers were hosing down the dusty road and walks so that patrons would not stir up a haze as they came in. Storefronts were tiny and dirty. Signs in Arabic cried out to my deaf ears. The only one I could figure out was "Coca-Cola."

The beauty and sorrow overwhelmed me simultaneously. This land was not my land. I did not recognize anything about it. I felt very far away from home.

We assembled as a team at our missionaries home. The first thing on our agenda was to drive then hike up into the mountain above our host city to have a special service for BJ.

The Lord had provided safe passage for his remains. They had been divided into small containers provided by Deanna's mother, and parceled out to our different backpacks in the hope that if they were discovered in one place they would be safe in another. God blinded the the eyes of the guards to these small packages which held such valuable cargo.

We drove as far as we could up a mountain dirt road. No guard rails, just a sheer drop as we ascended. When we got as far as we could drive, all 19 of us plus our missionary hosts, and another 6 summer missionaries from another team started the trek up to the chosen final resting place.

It was beautiful! Pine trees above, and a view of several mountain villages below, with our host city in the distance. Minarets from the area mosques were in clear sight from this panoramic view. Shade from the pines and a gentle breeze eased the heat of the day.

We gathered in this small natural amphitheater, and entered into a time of worship. After offering praises to our King, one by one, all 27 of us spoke a few words, read scripture which was meaningful to us personally, and then each layed a large river boulder into a small pile. (this can be seen on the Awe Star website if you go to trip updates, then view the NA2006 trip pictures)

I went first. I spoke about Beej's Christ centered desperation to see the lost come to Christ, his call to North Africa, and related Scripture. Then I layed the first stone, and poured out his remains onto it. The breeze kicked up, but left his ash alone. Each person then added to this, and completed this mountain rest.

Here, where the Lord is working and moving in and among these villages, we believe the Lord ordained for his remains to be.

Yes, we shed many tears. We heard many wonderful affirmations from this body of Christ. BJ would have been embarrassed, but we his family were very thankful for the selfless participation of each team member.

This is how we began our journey in North Africa.

On our final day in country, our host took us back to the site, along with BJ's best friend from his last trip to Peru, DJ. The site was thought secure, and figured to go undisturbed, but that was not the case.

In this land, riches are thought to be found in the mountains. If one suddenly becomes successful in life, all believe he has found wealth in the mountains. One such searching soul was looking for the same under this pile of stone.

I trust he found the wealth my son had in life. I trust he is on a path that leads to Christ. Truly, what was buried beneath the stones in this Carn was a treasure, but it is stored in heaven.

Graciously, though a wind and uncommon rain storm had besieged the land the night before, his ash still rested on the bottom stone. As the family watched, and through my blurry eyes, I rebuilt the pile, much more secure, and with the tender care I wish I could once again embrace him with.

A sentry stands above this land. Keeping watch over the work of the Lord. Promising Truth that is being sought through bondage.


Friday, July 21, 2006

A crescendo of sunlight builds behind the mountaintops then explodes over the peaks to warm the morning air by 20 degrees, instantly. The multitude of flies who reside in Morocco immediately recognize this daily occurrence, and begin landing on every available sleeping, uncovered face. Many learn to sleep with sheets pulled over their heads to ward off these pests.

This land of red and brown and green is the most unusual place I have seen. It's beauty is secure, and each landscape resembles the word pictures portrayed in the Bible. Even with the 120 degree temperatures, and brilliant sunlight, the darkness is embedded deep within the souls of the lost. Bondage is reflected in the many covered faces of the women, and the filthy children that run the streets without regard for safety.

The love these people have for outsiders is humbling. They do not reject us on appearance alone. They invited us into their homes and embraced us for being simply, people. We could learn a lot from their hospitality. The food served was far from anything I knew, but it was delicious, and in abundant supply.

The women of this country work extremely hard, while the men relax and enjoy tea at cafes throughout the day. They do not complain, they simply work to keep their families fed. There are few heavy people in Morocco. Food is not as plentiful as was prepared for us "rich" Americans. Many grow their own and try to sell any extra for a few dirhams (to pay for the tea their men drink).

Many people own and ride donkeys... sidesaddle. They can be purchased for around $85.00. Mopeds are the most popular mode of transportation. Cars, buses and trucks will yield to dogs and cats (mangy ones) but run down mopeds or pedestrians.

Here resides Islam. A religion with a powerful hold on unsuspecting people. The people group we worked with are the Amazighe's. They populate much of North Africa. They are also known as Berbers. There is a move among them for freedom from Islamic rule, and a desire for land and rights. The unique fit of our team coming to do a drama for them about "Freedom" was not something that they took lightly. As we traveled all over the southern part of the country, we were repeatedly asked how it was that we had a drama with this name, when they were seeking it so diligently.

Their children sing songs about it. The adults perform traditional Ha'washes or dances to drums and wood flutes. It is quite a fete. We were priviledged to take part in many of them. Our Savior opened many doors for us to share our faith across the country as these questions were asked. Many great discussion resulted. Many seeds were planted. Even one young man gave his heart to the Lord! There is much to tell, and plenty of time to do so.

Our team of students were incredible. They were very mature spiritually, and all passionate followers of Jesus. The light of Christ was reflected through them even when words were not allowed to be spoken. There is a difference in this group of young adults. And it was apparent to all who met them.


Thursday, July 20, 2006

We are home and safe!!! What an unbelievable journey we have had! We have reassembled as teams who have spent our summers all over the world. God reigns, and is present with us as we worship Him, and spend time in debriefing preparing hearts for their return to this culture, which is much harder than you might think.

While away, we have not been able to read this site or e-mail, so we have much catching up to do. For security reasons, we could not open messages or visit web-sites that could compromise our trip or our the missionaries we worked with. The government there reads all of our messages once opened, and monitors our web visits, and all of our activity. We had "national police" (their version of the FBI) following us and sleeping in the same quarters we slept in. It was a bit unsettling to say the least.

We will share much more as we have time. For now, thank you so much for the prayer support. We would not have survived without it. The spiritual darkness and oppression was so severe that just waking some days and feeling like you could face the world was an enormous effort, and had to be prayed through. Your support has been a huge blessing. I cannot wait to share more.

I love you,


We are fortunate to love and serve a God who doesn't need our burnt offerings. Instead, He wants my broken spirit and broken and humbled heart so that they can be molded and shaped into something new, something useful for Him.

Satan often lulls me into mediocrity and reasons me into a foggy harbor. But the Lord is the keeper of the Light and only He can guide me out successfully. Satan's only goal is to seperate me from Christ, he doesn't care how he achieves this goal. As C.S. Lewis indicated in The Screwtape Letters, " the gradual slope to hell is the best one to use because it is the least obvious to the Christian." As Peter instructs in 2 Corinthians 10:5, I must make every thought captive to the obedince to Christ - every thought.

Lord, pleast grant me a heart of love, a sense of urgency about helping others and a joyful spirit that will encourage others and convince them of Your presence in my life. I don't want it unless it is totally real and completely of You. I need to bring joy to others, may I be bold in faith while understanding in heart. Let others see You in me, every day.

The team has returned safely to the States and is defriefing in Dallas before heading their seperate ways to serve and share in their hometowns. Thank you Lord!

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

If you want a very abrieviated version of scripture look to John 13:8b where Jesus is speaking to Peter during the last supper. "Unless I wash you, you have no part with me."

Isn't this the essence of our part in knowing Him? It doesn't matter what else we do, what effort we put forth, if we do not allow Him to wash us we haven't really allowed Him into to our hearts and lives. It isn't enough to simply "believe" because even Satan and his legions believe in Christ and know who He is (better than any of us), but they do not call Him Lord of their lives, they will not allow Him to wash them and make them clean.

If we say we believe, yet we don't truly allow Christ to wash us; if we simply accept a premise that "yeah, I believe in God but the Bible isn't necessarily all truth, or the only way to Christ...but He was a good man" etc., etc. We aren't really getting it. Our most important relationship is the one we establish with our Savior - and allow Him to develop while we make real efforts to learn more about Him, to draw closer to Him through study and prayer. There aren't shortcuts to knowing Him. Regardless of what else we do with or in our lives, if we do not know Him, it is all meaningless - even if it is "good" in the eyes of the world.

We can't just seek until we find a version of faith that makes us feel better about who we are because we are nothing without Him in our lives. His word shouldn't be altered and manipulated to meet our view of life, it is we who must be shaped and bent, even if it means giving up the one thing in our life that means more to us than anything else. Nothing is worth giving up our salvation - the opportunity to spend eternity with the Creator of this amazing universe.

Think of the things of earth that "wow" you the most...the towering mountains and waterfalls, vast lakes and oceans, incredible sunrises and sunsets; laughter of children, beautiful music and art. Those are gifts He gave us here; can you imagine what majesty is in store in His home? Can you imagine knowing nothing but love? no sadness, no grief? No cancer, no diabetes, no heart disease or plague...just eternal joy and fellowship with our Lord.

Lord, I pray this morning that we would each be willing to give of ourselves whatever "it" may be that stands in the way of truly knowing you, or knowing you better. The greatest saint wasn't perfect - none of us can be and that isn't what you ask of us. But Lord I know we often don't make the time for you that we do for the news, for our televisions or books, our work or our families. I know that some of those things are very important, even to you, but they are nothing without you, so help us to allow you first priority in our lives. Help us to seek you and allow you to develop the closest of relationships with us.

Lord, provide a hedge of protection over Amy's family and deliver them through this terrible time. Please give all of them peace and assurance that you are there amidst the storm. We pray for the people of this region that know little peace, many of whom know so little of you though they walk the regions that you did when you came to us in human form.

Help us each to know you as and call you Lord of our lives. In Jesus' name, Amen.

In Him,


p.s. I haven't spoken w/ Brent since they left NA but I am sure he and the family will be sharing again very soon...I know they have much to share!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Recently I came across a quote from a woman named Gladys Aylward:

"The eagle that soars in the upper air does not worry itself how it is to cross rivers."

I don't know the intent or the context of her quote; some would argue that this is simply a practical statement of fact - if you fly, you don't have to worry about the details of maneuvering over or around earth-bound obstacles. Others might see this as the essence of faith - when enabled to fly you shouldn't worry about all of the details of how and why you are doing so, or what it is that lies below.

If you are the eagle, it is a practical statement because flying is your thing, it is what you do. However, if your primary means of transport is walking, and yet you are enabled to fly, well - then it is truly a matter of faith. Most of us aren't eagles - we aren't even birds, and acting in ways contrary to our nature can be tricky. It is one thing to fly when you have the inate ability to soar for miles without moving your wings, simply riding the currents and enjoying the view; it is quite another thing to jump off and not worry about crash landing, or getting picked off by some larger predator that calls the air currents home.

We are earth dwellers who are generally not gifted with the natural ability to fly. Yet by faith we are enabled to fly, to "soar on wings like eagles" (Isaiah 40:31). Should we choose (that choice thing again) to keep our feet firmly planted we cannot fly. If we have faith enough to fly, the Lord promises to sustain us. Of course, knowing this and acting on it are what differentiate us as Christians...the most vibrant Christians I have known are those that have "flown" in their faith.

I am not saying that we must all leave the ground to know Him, but when we step out -or up- in our faith and let Him sustain us, we get to see things from a different perspective; a higher one that is maybe a bit closer to His. Me? I'm like a canary with clipped wings, making a lot of noise and jumping around a bit now and then but rarely taking full flight.

Some of you are saying - and rightfully so - that we don't all share the same gifts; some of us are better equipped to swim than fly. But if you think about it, swimming takes similar movements to flying - you're just moving through a much more humid environment.

Heavenly Father, please help us to overcome our attraction to this earth so that we are willing to look up and leap into your arms of sustaining grace. We love you and we praise you for your protection and provision while loved ones have been serving you, both nearby and far from home. Thank you for loving even the emu and ostrich, and the canaries with the clipped wings.
In Jesus' name, Amen.


Sunday, July 16, 2006

It was a blessing today to be able to worship with (relatively) new friends at First Baptist Church in Mooresville - Brent & Deanna's church before their move to Oklahoma. My cousin Lyn and I visited today and were able to see and speak with a number of the "angels" and friends that the Lord sent in to the Higgins family's lives.

Today they were celebrating the return of 17 of their number, primarily youth, who had been in Toronto serving the Lord by reaching out to those in need. In watching the slides and videos that Pastor Larry shared, I couldn't help but notice the "Pray for BJ" tees a couple of the boys were wearing any more than I could ignore the fire in the hearts of those who went that took them to Canada in the first place. I'm moved every time I see one of these, especially on young people.

I know that there are many others out there who have loved ones just back or returning shortly from similar experiences - Cousin Beth and Marti Pieper among them. What a powerful impact and testimony these young Christians can have and what an example to us "oldsters". Special blessings for those who shepherd these young people on these trips should be a part of our prayers tonight.

Pastor Larry reviewed what he had learned from the teens on this trip, and one of the supporting scriptures he shared was Philipians 2:3-4 which talks about selflessness. I would like to share verses 1-4 because they speak also to the unity that was so much on BJ's heart on his ride to the hospital last August:

"If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care -- then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other , be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand." -from The Message

As we enter a new week let's pray for the Lord to call up more and more of his soldiers to share his word in loving, showing, non-violent ways to a world that is lost, often full of hurt and hate. Pray too for the safety of the Amy's parents (of "Amy andNate", faithful bloggers) who live in Beirut, Lebanon and are trapped by the fighting that has been unleashed there. I can't begin to understand the anguish and concern that are overwhelming she and her family right now. Pray for the final days of travel and sharing for the NA team, and all the others who are out there serving on the front lines.

Have a blessed evening and day tomorrow,


Friday, July 14, 2006

Brent called this morning and reports he is having a hard time getting an internet connection at the cyber-cafes to update the web site but says that all is well, today they left the mountains and they expect that their last opportunity to perform the drama will be tonight. Their schedule has varied a lot from their itinerary but as they have gone village to village the team has worked well together and continued to support one another. They have been passing a flu bug back and forth but hope to lick it before their return to the States. He also reported that they had seen their first statement of faith, so we can praise the Lord for that!


Without a doubt one of the hardest things I have experienced was watching Brent's family go through the ordeal that would ultimately lead to BJ's death. "Death"...such a hard word, final and ugly; yet his witness continues to reach out to others and lead them toward Christ, as do the lives of so many others who were motivated or convicted as a result.

(Never do we want anyone to think that glorifying BJ's life and death are the purpose for this blog, they only served as the catalyst. We continue this blog to offer encouragement and hope and to help point you toward Jesus Christ - there is no other point.)

As days turned into weeks, weeks to over a month, and a trip to the emergency room to a journey to Heaven, there was so much going on in the hearts, minds and lives of his family and friends. Brent and Deanna, as would have any loving parents with the ability to do so (and with the understanding of some terrific employers) stuck to his side for the 40 plus days he would survive. They only left the hospital on occasion to eat - with Deanna spending one night at home with the girls after 2 plus weeks at the hospital - but only one night. Friends were everpresent with many others longing to be there to show their support firsthand.

Lauren and Whitney tried hard to get through daily "routines" that included work and ministry, but nearly every extra hour was spent at the hospital. As the days added up so did the stress of the situation. No matter how hard you try to be there for each other you ultimately each experience it for yourself and must deal with it in your own way, only "together". Our Heavenly Father was there in a real way through the lives of friends and aquaintences, family and co-workers, hospital staff and blood donors, and of course - providing an inner strength. This helped keep things in some perspective during a time when nothing else held the importance that it had before. (In fact, several days after Hurricane Katrina had hit the Gulf coast I heard newscaster talking about "Katrina" and had to ask who "she" was).

There were times of great frustration - bred of little sleep, too much stress and not knowing what was going to happen. There were highs and lows constantly swapping emotional dominance as BJ and the staff fought so valiantly through so many procedures, surgeries - all done in his ECMO unit room because he was too weak to be moved and the equipment was to large to be moved. With each surgical "victory" hope would build but the next setback was just around the corner. This process, day after day, was terribly draining on all levels as any of you who have experienced similar situations can attest.

Brent and Deanna were at BJ's side when Whit moved into the dorm for her first semester of college - it was difficult for her I know (as it was for them to miss it) but she handled it with grace. Trying to start the school year, or do anything else for that matter was very difficult for both Lauren and Whitney. Even getting out with friends on occasion for a break could do little to shift their thought patterns.

Lauren also returned to school during this time while her focus was on her brother. She at least was a returning student with a good support system in place - not to make it sound easier for her than it was because it was anything but. Some of these same friends drove her back to the hospital from Marion hours after she arrived to be with Beej just before he met Jesus.

Other than going out to eat, the only time I remember Brent leaving proved to be one of the hardest things for me to understand throughout this period. A nationally syndicated Christian broadcaster out of a city just north of Indy had invited Brent to come to be interviewed about BJ's story, along with one of his pastor friends. Brent really didn't want to leave the hospital but eventually did agree to do so. After arriving at the studio he and the pastor were turned away because they apparently weren't dressed to the satisfaction of the broadcaster. While Brent was there, Deanna and the girls shared the last moment when Beej would became aware enough of their presence to respond to their questions with body movements. Needless to say, Brent was heart-broken but this too was handled with much more grace than I could have mustered. He helped me keep my actions in check, knowing that nothing that could be said or done would change anything.

Throughout this trial in our lives I saw the Lord working in and through their family in amazing ways. I saw them stepping up to the challenges and in retrospect, saw them being prepared for the next phase of their lives. They are all human and there were times it seemed one more thing would be too much. But over and over I saw the Lord provide more grace and more ...just more.

I'm sorry for the rehash of what most of you know, but I know there are new people all of the time and, well, needed to share this. Just know that however difficult life is, we do choose how we will react to it. But the closer we are to the Father, the more of Him others will see in our responses to adversity. When those we love are going through extreme circumstances we need to give more grace, more prayer and more of ourselves (which I saw demonstrated daily from so many - I literally was in awe of the support I saw for the family).

May God truly bless all of you who have played a role in this wide support system for my brother's family, and for us his extended family as well. It has been a greater blessing to them, to us, than any of you can ever know this side of Heaven (where I trust it will become clear).

In Christ,


Thursday, July 13, 2006

I had so much on my heart I wanted to share this morning but it has been one of those mornings that shakes things up and turns your thoughts to mush. I had an early meeting downtown this morning and when I stopped back by the house to pick up some notes, I found that Lauren's car had been vandalized. She had left it at my house before she and Deanna left for Tulsa in June.

Someone had gone to the trouble to carry a large rock to my driveway and heave it at the car's rear least that is what it struck. It hit with enough force that it bent the inner steel frame of the hatch as well and enough did enough damage that the deputy who responded to my call thought it was a meteorite. I pointed out that a meteorite hitting the car probably would have gone through the seat too (at least) and wouldn't have had bird poo on one side of it :)

Because Lauren was virtually "homeless" when she left here, leaving for Tulsa, Africa, then Tulsa again until she returns to go back to Indiana Wesleyan, she had a lot of stuff packed in her car. Praise God there was no evidence that whoever heaved the rock actually tried to get into the car and as far as I could tell, none of the contents had been disturbed (and yes, it is all in my dining room now where I should have moved it earlier once my lifting restrictions had been removed).

I'm hoping to be able to have it handled before she gets back in-country, but I haven't found out yet how or if my homeowner's insurance will cover this or not - or if it will have to be filed with her's. If that is the case, I don't know that I can file a claim on her behalf, but probably not. Anyway, it could have been much worse all the way around.

I hope your days have started out better than this, but I also thank the Lord for his provision, even in times like is only a "thing" isn't it? Tomorrow maybe I can reorganize myself and share some of the things I thought I would just wasn't the right time!

Lord, thank you for watching over us all the time, and for your protection even when we aren't thinking about needing it. Thank you for your provision when we don't see the purpose or need for certain events in our lives, and thank you that in the big picture of our lives events like today's are not important. In Jesus' name, Amen.


Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Have I said before that I love being near a body of water? I don't need to be in it or on it, just to look at it has a way of calming me, soothing my soul and drawing me closer to our God who created it. I tend to become reflective, but also feel more energized and in touch - with myself, with Christ and the world around me.

A few years ago I was able to spend a couple of weeks with Lynae and Rich, my sister and brother-in-law. They were living at the beach briefly while the house they were purchasing was vacated. I got to spend a good deal of time watching Joshua and Emily, their two little ones (Arianna wasn't yet a blessing in their lives) running and playing on the beach and it was as if my own spirit was set free along the surf and over the sand.

Among other activities we built sand castles, which can be wonderfully therapeutic. We would use shells as ornaments or tools, depending on their size and shape. It is interesting to note the joy with which the kids planned and built, and the greater pleasure evident when it came time by some unspoken agreement to destroy what they had built with a few well-placed swings of the hands or feet. How temporal their handiwork and how full of life lessons it can be watching one wave come in and erase any evidence of hours of work.

The building of sandcastles occupies the hands and mind in constuctive futility - building a structure that by its very nature will fail. This is fun at the beach but dangerous in our lives. How like that our lives can be as we busily go about building illusions of security and prosperity while ignoring the real issues of life that at any moment, could sweep in and overwhelm our monuments to ourselves and leave us prostrate on life's shore amidst the scattered sand and broken shells.

But look closely at those broken the water washes over them each small piece has intricate form and beauty, especially when wet with the ocean spray. Like them, the Living Water can wash over us, make us beautiful even in our broken form. And the sand can be reformed, built up on a Firm Foundation away from the destructive waves of life.

No matter how broken and useless you feel, know that our Lord loves you and desires to return you to a beautiful, useful form - maybe not in body, but in spirit. Submit yourself to Him and see what beautiful castles he can build from that same brown sand. Let His water renew your soul!

Trusting Him,


P.S. A week from today Brent, Deanna, Lauren and Whitney will return with the rest of the NA team to the States. I praise God for the work He has done in and through them, the seeds planted and confidence built. I look forward to hearing about their trip and hopefully seeing them before too long. Please keep the entire team in your prayers throughout this final week and pray that upon their return they won't find their zeal doused as they try to re-assimilate to their lives here, but that it is infectious to those around them.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

On my trip to Stonington, Maine last year I was able to visit several of the churches in the village. One of them, the Nazarene church hosted a total of 9 of us the first morning service I attended there (not counting the kids in the basement for Sunday school). The pastor, a dear man named John Hawkins welcomed me warmly after the service and visited with me briefly.

That evening at the Lenten Service at another church in the village (they rotated the evening service from one church to another during Lent) Pastor John invited me to sit with he and his wife Falene, which I was happy to do. At the conclusion of that service we were talking again and he leaned into me to deliver what seemed a very personal message..."Love is the key. The lonliest man on earth is the man who can't or doesn't love others."

We had been talking and discussing the plight of the lost, but this message seemed somehow different from the thoughts just concluded. I couldn't help but sense a whisper from the Holy Spirit through his humble servant John, a man of passion for the poor and lost who hadn't let a slight stutter keep him from becoming a minister of the Gospel. I was a single man on a somewhat remote island about as far off-season as I it could be, maybe he assumed I was running from something - God, myself, I don't know, but the statement hit home and I know I left the church with a vague, uncertain smile on my face not knowing for sure what to say in reply.

That comment, or challenge, set the stage for one of the best months of my life as I experienced not just the place, but the people of Stonington and Deer Isle. I went to their meetings, worshiped and sang with them their choirs, visited in homes and shared meals and generally experienced love in a whole new way in a village far from home and anything, or anyone that I knew.

Being basically an introvert and homebody, I do have problems reaching beyond myself unless it is with family or close friends. Had I spent the month as I had anticipated, isolated in a cabin reading and writing or just photographing the beauty of the area, I would have missed out on so much and I would have truly experienced little.

While there are times in our lives that we need this down-time to recharge, reset priorities or seek direction - don't be closed to the Lord's leading or you might just miss out on the best time of your life - and miss the chance to make some wonderful friends. Had Rev. Hawkins not "challenged" me with those words - whether that was his intent or not - I would have seen a lot of beautiful places, but would have missed the true beauty of the region, its people.

Act out in love today!


Sunday, July 09, 2006

On a Saturday afternoon late in July of 2004 my cousin Gregg (or "Blues") and I shared some rare time together (he lives in California) walking from our rented cabins near Baraboo, Wisconsin to Devil's Lake, where our family had gathered for a rare family reunion. We were looking for Nina and Devin, his wife and son, who had set out ahead of us.

We walked and talked, enjoying the Wisconsin summer and the beautiful scenery around us, including the lake surrounded by bluffs. Gregg is one of my favorite people, we shared so much growing up together in Marion, and then every chance we could after his family moved to Michigan - we spent many hours of our youth staring up at the sky as we talked, pondering the mysteries of life, so it was only appropriate to revisit that pastime while we had the chance.

A night or so before this we had stayed up late (he later than I) listeneing to BJ recount his first trip to Peru - he had only been back a few days before making the trip up with Deanna to my Dad's hometown. Included in this "conversation" with BJ (we did ask some questions) was the previously shared experience of his very real transformation, spiritually and physically, from childhood into adulthood while preparing for and completing this mission trip. It was that experience that had precipitated the gift of a sword from his parents to mark this significant transition in his life, or "rite of passage" as Dr. Walker Moore aptly refers to it.

Anyway, Gregg and I were sharing about what it means to be "men" in our society, how we attain it and the lack of any real event or ceremony that serves most of us as this point of transition into adulthood. I shared my own feelings of doubt as to whether I had actually ever passed this point, even in my 40's. We talked about some of the associated frustrations - feelings of inadequacy, lack of confidence and a resulting lack or fear of taking on any real leadership role. In looking around at many churches today I am not alone in these shortcomings.

Oh, there are many who talk about becoming men after their first sexual conquest or visit to a bar, but anyone is capable of these things - there is no real significance to them in terms of who we really are. Anyone can choose to act on physical impulses or social pressures, there is no special ability or depth of character needed to do so. And chronology really means little as we mature at much different rates - if we ever do.

Gregg and I didn't solve the world's problems in our youth or on that walk - we didn't even find Nina and Devin as I recall, but we had a valuable time of sharing honestly with one another our doubts, concerns and dreams and that was very important to me.

As Biblical Christians, I believe we recognized that the answer, or key, is more of a spiritual one than a physical one; a spiritually intellectual transformation (does that make sense?) more than a chronological one; or in BJ's words (and remember he was the youngest on his team):

"For too long I haven't really been able to take myself seriously, and only saw myself as a boy, and was just a boy. Through being in the drama (the primary method of drawing people in to share the gospel with during his trip with AweStar), feeling still like the little kid standing in for someone, and through just seeing my actions, I realized I was just a boy, and couldn't see myself or believe myself to be on a mission trip, much less lead as I know God has called me to. So, during worship, I prayed that God would transform me up to lead as a man."
- excerpt from his mission journal as he prepared for his trip with Awe Star

I Corinthians 13:11 says that "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man I put childish ways behind me."

Lord, help me take to heart what BJ did at 14 - that with a faith that remains childlike to put my faith and trust wholly at your feet, and let me accept your outstretched hands and follow your lead, overcoming all of my childish fears. In Jesus' Holy name, Amen.

God bless,


P.S. My apologies to Walker Moore - I need to read your book!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Tina, know that we continue to pray that God will work miracles in Ty's life and body and we believe that anything is possible in terms of healing and recovery because of the endless ability of our loving God.

Amy, tell Nate we are praying for him too - I remember well his discomfort, and his presence at the hospital in spite of it, when you made one of your many visits to St. Vincent's while BJ was there. I am so sorry to hear that this has recurred and while my surgery was up a lot higher, I have experienced the blessing of symptom relief that comes with a fusion. I haven't listened to Larry's message though I would like to soon.

Lord, we are so grateful that we can come to you over and over again with our petitions, and we lift these up to you and pray for your intervention in their circumstances and the best possible outcomes in accordance with your will for their lives. Provide every need Lord and if it is your will, heal these men and restore them to good health. In Jesus name we ask, Amen.

For most of my life music has been important to me in one way or another and certain songs have always served as instant time machines back to particularly happy, sad or poignant moments that my mind somehow associate with the particular tune in question.

During BJ's hospitalization there were a number of songs that became bookmarks in that part of my life. Many of you shared song lyrics with us to encourage us through those difficult days as is interesting how we can find some degree of solice in the words born from the trials of others. For me personally the song that instantly pulls me back to August and September of last year is "Lifesong" by Casting Crowns. Carol, a co-worker of mine had given me a copy of the CD and a copy for Brent and Deanna. It took up residence in my car's CD player and was almost always what I listened to each day going to and from the hospital. Since that song is the first track on the disc, I heard it at least 80 times while driving during those weeks.

I also heard it in the hospital - either from the laptop on the desk they graciously accomodated our taking over (an unused information desk for the floor BJ was on) or from the player in BJ's room, though this was usually reserved for "his" music and this cd was released after he was sedated. Every time I heard this song I realized just how it fit Beej, his lifesong was singing to hundreds as he lay their unconcious, pointing them toward Jesus Christ. He was still planting seeds and going about his Father's business as he lay there "useless" in his illness and sedation.

There were other songs that make up the "soundtrack" of that chapter of life, songs by Billy and Cindy Foote, Mercy Me, Natalie Grant (oh how we didn't want that one to "fit") and others. There was almost always worship music playing in his room and at the desk thanks to a very accomodating medical staff, even during some of the surgeries. This song will always be special.

Of course, our lives are not movies and don't really have soundtracks as such, but there are "tells" in our lives that reveal parts of us to ourselves or others when they become known. And since music is a gift from above (well, some of it anyway) as well as a form of praise - I pray that the songs you identify with, or that mark the pages of your life, do so in as clear and positive a way as this song does with BJ's life.

Let your Lifesong sing to Him today,


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

This morning I was reading in John 11 about the death of Lazarus, his family's grief and that of our Lord over the death of his friend. As I was reading verses 38-39 the words struck me in a different way than they have before, as often happens when I am reading God's word:

Jesus, once more deeply moved, came to the tomb. It was a cave with a stone laid across the entrance. "Take away the stone," he said.

"But this time there is a bad odor...."

Martha thought she had good reason to keep the stone in place and it would have seemed from our human persepective that she was right, but this is Jesus asking!

What are you keeping entombed behind a heavy stone? What from your past have you buried and left to rot, feeling it is too awful to be exposed? No matter what it is that you think is too far gone, to putrid to be revealed, He can take it and give you new life. Maybe it isn't your past, but your can be easier to leave the large stones blocking our path in place and rationalize moving forward. There too, He goes before us and prepares a way. We must trust Him if we are to be of use to him.

I just had opportunity to speak with Brent, the first time they have had phone service in quite a while. They have been deep in the desert but will now be heading back into the mountains. They have been in heat as high as 120-130 degrees. The team split up yesterday and went in 2 directions; Deanna's team visited a fossil museum in the Sahara that holds the fossils of sea creatures dug on-site, certainly evidence for Noah's flood. Brent's team went into an area where the dunes tower overhead are very high and the sand too hot to walk on.In spite of bright sun, high heat and very dark spiritual forces in the region Brent says the students have been very resilient and that he has been very impressed with them and blessed by them. He feels most of them can be leaders. The team members are getting a lot of one-on-one time with the locals and he said many seeds have been planted. He tearfully shared that he is having the opportunity to see many things he never thought he would be able to and that the Lord is really evident.

Lord, thank you for your provision for your people and for being bigger than all of our problems, but gentle enough to meet us where we are.

God bless you today,


Monday, July 03, 2006

Yesterday I had the opportunity to spend much of the day with my good friends (and prayer partners) Keith and Robin in close proximity to one of the few waterfalls in Indiana. It was a beautiful, hot day and we were there to celebrate a birthday, spend time with family (Keith's) and enjoy the scenery that God has created. I had never visited this site before and while it isn't exactly Niagra Falls it had its own charm and beauty and I really enjoyed it.

Keith and Robin are one of those wonderful couples who don't let the fact that I am single affect their interest in including me in their lives and considering me an extension of their "family". It was fun to picnic, hike, throw a frisbee and watch the kids explore the wonders of the natural environment - all within hearing range of the rush of falling water that is always somehow soothing and cleansing to my soul.

When they found out that Brent and Deanna were going to be moving to Oklahoma and realizing that this would have an impact on me due to our relationship, they spoke up quickly and reminded me not to forget my "other family" who would still live nearby and would be happy to help me through the transition time. Not only have they made a point of staying in contact with me at least once a week, Robin has gently reminded me to make/keep in contact with members of my actual family at times and I am sure she does this at the prodding of the Holy Spirit.

They- like many of you- have been a very real part of my support system and I am so greatful that the Lord brought them (and you) into my life. Being single it is especially easy I think to be selfish in a lot of ways because our natural tendency is to think of your own situation because, after all, you are responsible for your own interests. It is therefore important -as it is for all of us regardless of marital status or age- to let others into our lives and (gasp!) urge them to be honest with us with what they see in our lives, the good and the bad. It is important to both reach out to others and let others reach in to us.

Like so many of us Keith and Robin have family health issues on their hearts so please make them a part of your prayer time.

Heavenly Father, thank you for friends and family whose impact and presence in our lives helps to stabalize us, point us toward common goals and keep us accountable. Help us to be sensitive to other's needs as these friends are sensitive to our's. Let our ears be tuned to the whispering of your Holy Spirit and may be quick to act on what we hear. Please be with Corbin's family and friends today as they remember him and celebrate his life. Continue to be with the missions teams spreading your message around the world and even though we don't always know what is going on, we know that You are with them and they are in your hands. In Jesus name, Amen.

P.S. Since tomorrow is the 4th of July I would like to suggest that you read about the freedom that no man or men can give us in Romans chapter 6 - an even greater cause to celebrate! I'll share just a portion here, but urge you to take the time to read the entire passage.

"But now you've found you don't have to listen to sin tell you what to do, and have discovered the delight of listening to God telling you, what a surprise! A whole, healed, put-together life right now, with more and more of life on the way! Work hard for sin your whole life and your pension is death. But God's gift is real life, delivered by Jesus, our Master." Romans 6:22-23

P.S.S. Happy Birthday Becky (tomorrow)!