Wednesday, July 30, 2008

I was fortunate to be able to spend part of this past weekend with my Mom at her home, the home that my parents raised four children in and in which they have been the only owners and occupants in (other than Love) since it was built in the late 1950's.

It is a scenic little lot full of trees that my parents (and we kids)planted over the years. When they bought it, Mom didn't like the lot because there were no trees but Dad assured her they could plant their own and watch them grow. Like their family, the trees have grown and surrounded the lot with a canopy of greens and deep red that all but block the sun from the yard.

Though the lot looks small now, it never did when we were growing up - it was a place where we spent countless hours experiencing the magic of childhood and the lessons of love and life. It was a massive country for my Matchbox cars with dirt roads winding through the grass and flower beds -- even a demolition derby track for my repainted cars in the middle of one of the back flower beds (sorry Mom).

Love still resides there with Mom though Dad has been gone for 15 years this August. Though the walls are full of memories and it always feels like HOME when I pull up out front and enter Mom's embrace, I know that there are days where the gentle warmth and presence of my Father are missed deeply and that given the choice she would be with him still.

The little college that was nearby when I was a child now virtually surrounds her as a university, with windows looking out on parking lots and dorms rather than the homes of neighbors and friends. The university will gladly receive her house for demolition when she is ready to give it up, but how do you do that? How do you leave the place where you raised four children, hosted grandchildren and friends, shared your marriage for 40 years and the living shadows of it for 15 more? I know the memories that are harbored there for me; for Mom they are multiplied many-fold and it is, by any definition, the home that she and Dad loved into being.

For some it can be just as difficult to look at leaving the world they know behind, stepping away from the "what I know and have some semblence of control over" into the things that they don't know. It can be stepping out in faith into missions, moving to another town to start a new job, or leaving a worldly life full of its "pleasures" for a life lived for Christ and His kingdom. We as Christians must keep this in mind and share with compassion, not pry and tug with crobar and chains.

I know that everyone wasn't blessed with the home or family that we were growing up and I wish that they had been. I can't imagine who or where I would be without them -- as it is there are days I'm not sure who it is that I am. I do know that we all have a home in Christ and that like loving parents, He is there to welcome us into the life, the world, the home that He has for us.

Rest in Him today.


Monday, July 28, 2008

the color of the mountains in Peru

What an amazing summer!Thank you so much for the prayer support you provided. This was an incredible time and a difficult time. One that much needed the prayers of many.

We saw the Lord reap and huge harvest! Thousands responded to the Light in dark places! We have so much to be thankful for!

There were 22 people on my team, ranging in age from 13 to 25. They worked together well, and through their obedience saw God move in power.

It is good to be back with my family. I missed them a great deal. However, it has been such a rewarding, yet exhausting time away.

We had to battle spiritual warfare in ways I've never experienced. The enemy rose up against this team and tried to block our attempts to share the Gospel. The team did not allow the enemy to have victory. At no time in the past have I ever seen the Name of Jesus carry such power!

I learned new things in Christ this summer! I am thankful that we love and serve the victor, because the enemy is truly raising a significant fight against the work of those who follow Christ in obedience.

I will update on occassion and share some of what our team experienced. Truly, they were overcomers! In Christ, we all are!

I am taking this week to rest, and hope to be back in full swing next week.

Thank you so much to Deanna and Brad for keeping things moving here! You two did an excellent job! I was truly blessed by your writing!


Friday, July 25, 2008

Two counselors brought a young man into my camp office this morning. His face was a mixture of uncertainty and defiance as his summer counselors told me that he had something to say to me.

"I want to apologize for what I did to the plants." He said.

I had no idea what he was talking about so I sat down next to him and asked him what had happened. He gave an impassioned narrative of an altercation involving he and his brother and another camper. I asked him how the plant fit into the picture and he told me that he had gotten mad and pulled it out in his anger. In other words, it just got in the way.

I thanked him for his honesty and for telling me about what had happened, and one of his counselors asked if I would like for the young man to help me put the plant back in the ground. When the question was asked I wasn't expecting it for a number of reasons, but it sent my mind racing because it dawned on me what plant he was talking about and where it was located. I told them that I would take a look and let them know.

I didn't tell the young man that the plant he had ripped out was one that I have been intending to remove myself all summer but haven't yet gotten to it.

It was an instant object lesson for me -- how many times do we do something with the wrong motivation, things we wouldn't normally do if we were thinking clearly; actions that harm others or show a lack of respect. How often, I wonder, does God use what we have done to further His purposes in a unique way that we may never know about?

My point is not to equate myself with God but to offer to you that even if you have acted in haste or anger, possibly doing great damage to others (or yourself); God isn't done with you or the situation. He isn't limited to our human understanding. He can take the worst of circumstances, even sin that hurts Him deeply, and use it to further His kingdom. This doesn't excuse our behavior or our actions, but it should remind us that we aren't permanantly seperated from him because of rash decisions we make or actions we take.

Yes, these actions interfere with our relationship with Him but not because He won't forgive us or doesn't love us -- but because we can't forgive ourselves and are embarassed to go to him or let Him see us as we are. This is Adam and Eve in the garden all over again...He loves us unconditionally! Yes, we must deal with the consequences of our decisions, and they may be unpleasant. But the story isn't over and neither is His use or love for you!

If you are weighed down by guilt because of bad choices or inappropriate behavior remember that He wants to weed it out. He can see beyond your circumstances though we usually can't. He sees the potential beyond the sin and is capable of using our mistakes to further His kingdom.

Our mistakes don't stop His love or His work; we can ask Him to help us live so that they don't stop ours either. His forgiveness is there for the asking when we ask with a sincere heart!

Act in His love today,


Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The teams start arriving in Dallas tomorrow night for a few days of debriefing. I’m looking forward to attending – actually, I can hardly wait! Not only do I get to see Brent again and my daughter Whitney, who now lives in the Dallas area, but I get to hear all the wonderful God stories! As I read the Awe Star trip updates this morning, I am amazed and thankful and I’m rejoicing! in all the amazing things God did through the teams. Through many students’ obedience came abundant blessings and many additions to the kingdom, and in some cases, it was no small task. Sunday, our minister to children spoke so eloquently on the principal of blessing follows obedience. We don’t need to pray for blessing, we need to pray to be obedient. So true.

I’m including excerpts from the Awe Star website of the other teams today. Actually, the Chile update is written by Ken Bowie, our missionary contact there. He even makes a list of all the places Awe Star presented the drama. Barbara Ann and Kenny led this team.

Chile: God used the 2006 Awe Star team to crack open many doors that we who have the privilege of working and living in Chile have been walking through ever since.

God has used the 2008 Awe Star team to blow those doors wide open this year and helped us to enter in to many other areas that it might have taken us years to enter without their help!

As you can see by the list below, [see website] over 17,000 people have heard the Good News of the Freedom that our Lord offers us through His son, Jesus Christ. We now have the oportunity to minister to students, parents, teachers, school administrators, community leaders and a host of people throughout those same communites. I do not have the totals regarding all of the decisión cards to date. Many of those cards are in the hands of pastors and church leaders. But I estímate that nearly 80 people have accepted Christ as Lord and Savior as a result of Awe Star’s ministry in Chile this year. I know that might not sound like impressive numbers considering that the message was presented to over 17,000 individuals in just less than 30 days. But 17,000 + seeds have been sown and nearly 80 have already sprouted and are begining to grow. That is 17,000 + more people who have heard the message that alone our churches would not have reached this year with our best efforts and that is nearly 80 people who now know Jesus in a personal way that may have never know Him but for the special presentation of the drama in schools, universities, parks, plazas, municipal auditóriums and prisons.

Phil and Emily led the N. Africa team and they had some unusual hardships. Many times they had to find their own ministry and it sounds like they did indeed. Remember the N. Africa and S. Asia teams have to be creative with the language they use, since they are in closed countries.

N Africa: Today, the team went hunting again at the mall (meeting up with some of the aforementioned friends) and had some great conversations with people from the city. They have developed positive relationships with many people here and have been blessed to see the boss work. It has been a joy to see some of them break out of their shells and ask questions like, “Where can I find a good cup of coffee?” to begin conversations with people. The work that they do with each other has blown me away. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: This team has risen to the occasion. They are the best team I have ever been a part of, and have endured so long for the sake of the boss. I am thankful for and proud of each and every one of them.

While the team was at the mall with the TDs, [Team Directors] Emily and I took a little trip to an island in the river. Here, we met with a shepherd who works with Sudanese refugees. He has asked us to join him in his work on Monday! They provide relief for the oppressed who seek refuge here and teach them to become self reliant by teaching them skills and trades as well as literacy. We will get to teach English courses and serve in a medical clinic while working with them. I cannot wait for this opportunity and to see all that the boss does through it. It is a very significant task, one that I am humbled to be a part of.

Katie and David lead the S. Asia team. Their own plans got thrown out the window many times and they were redirected again and again to what God had for them.

S. Asia: Wow! So many great things have been happening here as of late. The plans that we have never seem to be the ones that He has for us. Coming here with the expectation of doing our camps, we have been more than excited about His intervention in shutting down our goals in order that His great plans would become a realization. We have moved from tutoring in the two-hour afternoon remedial classes and forming small relationships with students to full days assistant teaching in the school and strong bonds with both students and the teaching staff at Hamad school. Consistently, we have been in awe of the obvious and powerful ways He has answered our sreyarp for His glory to be shown and His will to be done.

As our favor on this island has increased, so have the stories and interactions. The last few days have been an incredible whirlwind. The more we have had opportunity to help in the classrooms at Hamad school, the closer we have drawn to the teachers. Our student friends find it “weird” that we spend so much time with their teachers, but we have continued to learn how to balance it. In the last four days, we have had two different scheduled soccer games (Americans vs. Hamad teachers), numerous small setting tea dates, three different meals with a large majority of the school class, and yesterday, an all-day beach picnic with thirty teachers! The soccer games were incredibly challenging as a few of them were pretty good at the sport, but in the end, it was these games that really opened the door to deeper relationships with the teachers. We have discovered that some of the foreign teachers are actually in the Family. Here, the teachers must be at the school by 6:45 am and often don’t leave until the late evening hours. They are not respected in the classrooms and in their own words, often do not have the time to “enjoy themselves and play.” The sarcastic ribbing, good-natured competition, and laughing during the games were exactly what He called us to do to show Him to them. After the games, the teachers taught us to play a game similar to American dodge ball. That was…well…quite funny to watch. It was yet another opportunity to show our joy in Him. Afterwards, one teacher pulled Colin aside and asked him, “Why do you always seem so joyful.” Colin was able to tell him why.

I’m so proud of our leaders. They did an incredible job of leading and updating and taking pictures and dealing with the challenges and many tasks that were asked of them. It was a joy to pray for them and see our prayers make such a difference. Prayer is the backbone of any ministry, it is the backbone of any individual’s walk, so thank you for joining us in praying!

May their stories encourage you today to go out and make a difference wherever you are!


Friday, July 18, 2008

Brent (and others, but mostly Brent) have taken around 20 pages of pictures (I know, he's a maniac - isn't it wonderful?) that are up on the Awestar website. To see them (I apologize, I can't figure out how to copy and paste, but I'm sure you'll start seeing pictures on this website soon...) Again, go to, click on trip updates, click on Peru, you can read the update and to see the pictures, click on picture pages and that allows you to scroll through the pages. We also have teams in Chile, North Africa, South Asia and Panama.

Brent's post from today from the Awe Star website:

Rewarding Journey
July 18th, 2008

Our Father in Heaven is surely pleased with the obedience and effort of the student missionaries on this 2008 Peru team! They have spent significant time in His Word both studying it and hiding it in their hearts. They are beginning to walk in new ways as they see Him as the only worthy pursuit. Many have shed old habits that tend to die hard in the States.

Some are concerned about their return home, that family and friends may try to force them into old molds, that no longer fit who they are in Christ. They have been on a journey with Him and seen His demonstration of power through their lives in ways that previously were far less tangible. Many of this team burn with a passion for Christ that they have not experienced in the past. They have learned to share their faith at the earliest opening, and want to come home walking this new obedience out.

It is crucial at this time that we partner together in lifting up this team…that we receive them as men and women of God, and not as the boys and girls some of them were when they left. God has done an amazing work. We must seek not to undue it, by placing too low of expectations on them when they return. We also must support and encourage them without sarcasm that resides in the arsenal of many. Most of them have become adults, if they were not already. That does not make them perfect anymore than any of us are.

They have a deeper understanding of who they are in Christ Jesus, and they long to fulfill His call on their lives. We can do much to assist them. Please begin preparing your hearts now to hear with eager anticipation all that the Lord has done that has remained unwritten on this site.

They will have stories complete with how God used them to bring many people to Christ! They will seek an audience willing to be encouraged by this. They care less about the sites they have seen and more about the people who know Jesus as a result of their opportunity. They want to see the believers in the USA excited about Jesus and about sharing Him with others.

Body of Christ, this will not occur without significant preparation of our own hearts.

I have seen over and over families who shut down their student when the fire is burning within. I have been the father who would not listen to his son who wanted to tell more and more about what Jesus did on his team. Please do not follow my example. Please be ready to receive your adult family member with a heart that longs for Him and not the passions of the world.

They have learned to serve, and long to be His servants upon their return. Please pray and allow them to share the long version of every story.

Today the team is in Veru, Peru all day, sharing the Gospel with the people of that city. It is around an hour from Trujillo. They are most anxious to see Christ exalted in this city. They are carrying His name to the lost and hungry.

Last evening, they had an incredible spaghetti dinner at Pastor Tito´s house. This has been one of the favorite meals of the team. Most went back for seconds and ate well until full!

After a good nights rest, they were ready early for a long day of incredible ministry opportunities. I am proud of this team and the way they have responded to the many challenges and spiritual battles they have experienced. It is not finished yet, and they are hungry to continue as long as the Lord keeps the doors open.

Please pray for continued health, for the Strength of the Lord to reside within each of them, for team unity, and for endurance to run the race to the finish without distraction! Thank you so much for allowing your loved one to experience this journey. It has had a deep impact on them, and they are most willing to share that with you, soon!

Gloria a Dios!

Kristen Lockwood and Brent Higgins, CC`s.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Words of criticism hurt, especially when it’s directed at you and not in any way constructive. We could argue that constructive criticism has some merit, we’re only trying to help, right? However, criticism just to express your opinion is both selfish and just plain wrong. The Christianized term is “sharing in love” and I don’t really get that because most often love is the furthest thing from your mind.

I’m still trying to recover from a recent “hurt” by examining myself and praying to be open to what God might be teaching me through it. With hurtful words spoken in the past, I learned valuable lessons and was able to reconcile with the people involved. This time I don’t even think the person who spoke these devastatingly critical words thought about it having an impact, if any, on me. Brent and I have often talked about how sensitive we are but I don’t think we are unreasonably so, where every little petty thing upsets us. Not so.

Even the old adage “consider the source” is not particularly comforting because of who it is. The source of the criticism is a respected person in my life. To be fair, I’m sure I have hurt in return with words I have spoken. I’m racking my brain to remember, have I been callous and spoken thoughtless words, judgmental words? Probably and it’s even worse that I don’t remember. Maybe it’s a wake up call for me to be more careful with the words that I speak and the judgments that I make.

Donald Miller is one of my favorite authors, I’ve probably said it before. You mostly laugh, you cry, you relate to what the man says, especially through very simple, everyday things. He seems so down to earth. I don’t even think it would be intimidating to meet him, if I ever get the opportunity.

In “Blue Like Jazz” he talks about many things but this is an excerpt from the “Community” chapter: (I trust Mr. Miller won’t mind me sharing this with you)

“The most difficult lie I have ever contended with is this: Life is a story about me.

God brought me to Graceland to rid me of this deception, to scrub it out of the gray matter of my mind. It was a frustrating and painful experience.

I hear addicts talk about the shakes and panic attacks and the highs and lows of resisting their habit, and to some degree I understand them because I have had habits of my own, but no drug is so powerful as the drug of self. No rut in the mind is so deep as the one that says I am the world, the world belongs to me, all people are characters in my play. There is no addiction so powerful as self-addiction.

In the spring of my year at Graceland, when the ground was beginning to dry at Laurelhurst Park, a friend and I traveled to Salem to hear Brennan Manning speak…

Brennan talked about how an entire town, with their ridicule and hatred, could not keep the little man from oppressing them through the extravagant financial gains he made as a tax collector. Christ walked through town, Brennan said, and spotted the man. Christ told Zacchaeus that He would like to have a meal with him.

In a single conversation Christ had with Zacchaeus, Brennan reminded us, Jesus spoke affirmation and love, and the tax collector sold his possessions and made amends to those he had robbed. It was the affection of Christ, not the brutality of a town, that healed Zacchaeus.

Manning went on to speak of the great danger of a harsh word, the power of unlove to deteriorate a person’s heart and spirit, and how, as representatives of the grace and love of God, our communication should be seasoned with love and compassion.

While Manning was speaking, I was being shown myself, and I felt like God was asking me to change. I was being asked to walk away from the lies I believed about the world being about me. I had been communicating unlove to my housemates because I thought they were not cooperating with the meaning of life, that meaning being my desire and will and choice and comfort.

There was nothing fun about going home that night. I went with new eyes, seeing my housemates as people. For the first time I saw them as people, and I could sense God’s love for them. I had been living with God’s prized possessions, His children, the dear ones to Him, and had considered them a bother to this earth that was mine, this space and time that were mine.

In the short year at Graceland I hurt all the guys at one time or another. Fixing the carnage would take time…

I was in San Francisco recently staying at this bed and breakfast place for people who are in the city to do ministry. It was a small house, but there were probably fifteen people living there at the time. The guy who ran the place, Bill, was always making meals or cleaning up after us, and I took note of his incredible patience and kindness. I notice that not all of us did our dishes after a meal, and very few people thanked him for cooking. One morning, before anybody woke up, Bill and I were drinking coffee at the dining room table. I told him I lived with five guys and that it was very difficult for me because I liked my space and needed my privacy. I asked him how he kept such a good attitude all of the time with so many people abusing his kindness. Bill set down his coffee and looked me in the eye. “Don,” he said. “If we are not willing to wake up in the morning and die to ourselves, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether or not we are really following Jesus.”

Brad's computer has crashed so he is working on that situation.

The Awe Star teams are in their final days of ministry so we covet your prayers for their continued stamina and health. They have seen a bountiful harvest for the kingdom and are full of excitement to share their stories of how God has worked. I hope many of you reading get to hear from them. I know Brent will be sharing here in more detail when he returns. We are rejoicing at what God has done through the challenges as well as the blessings.


Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Flowers in the summer time make me happy. This is the first summer I’ve had the opportunity to plant them, and be around to care for them, since BJs death. I planted them late, after school and after our trip to Indianapolis, so the Oklahoma intense June heat along with back to back thunder storms took it’s toll on all of my petunias in the front yard. They just didn’t get a chance to get established. A dozen of the vincas in the front made it. I was quite impressed with their stamina, as well as the perennial bulbs Brent helped me plant. The back yard faired much better. All of the impatiens are thriving and my two tomato plants are doing well. Yay! A measure of success! The difference had to be the sun exposure – the back yard provides more shade.

With gardening comes the lovely activity of weeding, regularly. Why are weeds so tenacious? It’s absolutely infuriating! They get no special treatment yet they insist on growing and spreading and taking over if you’re not diligent. They don’t mind rain or sun or mulch or even concrete. They find a way to come through despite man’s most violent methods of destruction. And, their roots are incredible. How do they manage the deep and strong attachment to the earth? I don’t mind getting down and dirty, but weeds are definitely not my friend.

Another thing is that weeds are often hard to recognize. At least for me, Brent on the other hand, having studied horticulture, has a better eye than I do. Their appearance sometimes fools me into thinking it’s something I want in my flowerbed… ummmm. I have to check the shape of the leaves compared to the ivy, bushes and flower leaves.

As I am weeding, I liken weeds to evil. Evil is persistent. It comes at us in all directions and in all kinds of ways. It takes no special nurturing for it to flourish. We are inundated with the world and its evil continually. There’s really no escaping it. Some have tried to isolate themselves in temples or communities, but it isn’t at all foolproof and many times it distorts truth, as we’ve seen played out in the media too many times.

Evil is often disguised so we don’t always recognize the subtly of it. At first glance it seems good and looks good. You have to take a closer look, compare it with the truth of the Word, to determine its authenticity.

The petunias and many of the vincas were destroyed by the heat and storms. Some of the vincas plus the bulbs that were underground at the time of the storms survived the difficult environment. The shade provided the needed protection for the impatiens and tomato plants to live and grow.

It’s not too hard to see the spiritual applications here. I think that’s why Jesus told everyday stories so much. His mysterious words could be understood better with a good story about your neighbor or hidden treasure or lost sheep or weeds…

“As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of His kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.” Matthew 13:40-43

Years ago, BJ gave me a heart necklace and ring (that I still wear) along with a poem he wrote. The beginning of the poem is my favorite; I’m sharing it because he talks about weeds: “Mom: You’re the rose in the garden of my heart, with love, I’ll keep the weeds away. In my heart where Christ resides, so shall you forever stay.”


Saturday, July 12, 2008

Showing kindness is becoming more and more rare. When someone shows kindness I am surprised at the unexpected display. Even a smile is difficult to coax out of people anymore.

We are relatively new here in Oklahoma and so our sphere of acquaintances is limited. There are just a lot of adjustments when you move to a new area. I realize that over and over again. We are starting our 3rd year here and so I’m sick of thinking it and my family and close friends are probably weary of hearing it too. However, we lived in the Indianapolis area for twenty three years, the kids grew up there, so you can imagine the memories and ties we have to our “home” town and understand my angst with each new challenge we face.

When Lauren was sick a few weeks ago and needed a doctor’s attention, she was uninsured. With the delay of her insurance effective date, she had not established a physician of yet. We were torn as to how to handle the situation, not really knowing how serious her condition was. With our history, it was all very unpleasant and heart wrenching. Looking back, she had been sick for about a week, yet we tried to go on with life, she and I went to youth camp, thinking she’d be OK. We went to the camp physician three times to no avail. It was eerily similar to what we went through with BJ, so I HAD to get her in to see someone.

Our pastor gave us two names – one of a prominent man in our church and his best friend, a doctor in the area. This same man is one who came to our rescue when we needed chain saw work on our trees after a storm, he’s a real servant, he practices kindness. Anyway, I called Larry who then called his doctor friend. Within 30 minutes we were at the doctor’s office. She got a chest x-ray, was diagnosed with pneumonia, was given some samples of medicine and was to recheck in a few days. We didn’t check out in the usual way, we were not charged for the visit. Wow. Indeed, it was a rare and most generous show of kindness.

I sent Larry and Dr. Roller thank you cards but it seemed lame. Their kind actions touched me so much. Larry called several times to see how Lauren was progressing and that meant a lot too. It was reminiscent of the care we received at St. Vincent’s with BJ. Thank the Lord it was not an outrageous illness this time, but the care of the medical professionals is a fond and precious memory.

Sometimes it cost us something to show kindness, but more often than not, showing kindness blesses the giver even more. Being kind brings healing and hope to our despairing souls. And it doesn’t even matter how big the display of kindness is – a cup of cool water, a smile, a listening ear, an understanding nod, noticing someone needs help and stepping in. At camp, a teenager saw me struggling with my luggage and carried it up the stairs for me.

Proverbs talks about kindness a lot. It turns away wrath, it gains respect, it benefits a person, it cheers us up, it brings blessing and it honors God.

Now you can’t wait to go out and show someone a random act of kindness, right?


Friday, July 11, 2008

I like being told what to least to a point. I've always liked and needed structure in my life to keep a degree of discipline in it and when I find that structure lacking, for whatever reason, I find myself swimming against the tide.

When I started my current job 13 years ago my director gave me a list of tasks every week, sometimes every day, that I needed to accomplish. I thrived with this and it gave me a real sense of accomplishment as I was able to check off the items on this list. At the time the items on the list were often repetative issues that came up here at the camp and since I lived on-site, it was easy to just throw myself into the job and take whatever time it took to get the job done.

Now, well down the road and three directors later I often find myself longing for those "simpler" times. I am responsible not only for getting those jobs done but for generating the list - forseeing the work to be done, budgeting for it, discussing it w/ committees and staff when necessary, getting the supplies and carrying it out.

Responsability. It is a tuff word, a challenging reality in our lives. It is easier, at least for me, to conduct myself by the rules layed out and defined clearly, even if done by someone else. I find it easier to be the doer in most things, not the organizer, not the planner. I'll gladly work longer hours to do the job if I don't have to do all of the planning. Of course, when I'm the one doing both, the less planning I do the longer the job usually takes.

Obviously, I've been talking about my daily work life, which as a single adult male makes up way too much of what defines me in the eyes of the world and too often, in my own eyes. The irony is that in my spiritual life, I have the Instruction Book, know the rewards and consequences of doing or not doing the "work" have had most of my 46 years to get it right, or at least get off of the milk, and I still find myself struggling to do so.

My tendency when I get anxious about something is to focus on the tasks I know best, that I can easily control and work to a conclusion. As a result, the other, ususally more significant tasks aren't getting done and therefore generate more and more stress and start seeming overwhelming in nature and scope. It is paralyzing.

When this happens I have to stop and look at my life and ask just who is in charge here? What or who am I putting my faith in? When I reach the point I have just described (as I did again at 4:11 a.m. today) I am relying on my own strength and understanding to do what needs to be done. But I'm not in charge, I don't exist soley for my own purpose(s) - however I define them. I am a son of the King and He is the one who created me, who knows my real purpose; He is the one who can work in and through the intimate details to use me as He needs, and make me who it is He wants me to be. NO issue is too big for him (thank goodness).

I can do good work when I set my mind to it. I can plan things out when I can get my mind to focus; but my plans, my work, are never as good as they can be if I don't ask for His wisdom and direction in the process. Oh, and if He isn't in the work I am doing, or trying to do - what's the point?!


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Resting is a theme I continue to ponder. Often, I am the “yes man,” a people pleaser, a doer, one who likes to contribute and be on the go. God continues to put up roadblocks to my plans. How dare He! It seems some days that He is just about whacking me with a 2 X 4, the message of rest is so clear.

You know, I’m like many of you – always in a hurry, annoyed when someone turns in front of me without using the handy middle turn lane. Get over so I can get by for heavens sake! It might strain my legs to tap the break. We can’t have that! People do not want to let you in on the freeway. It’s the same deal when we speed up on a yellow light. Our selfish orientation comes out in so many different ways.

Another way we don’t rest is comparing ourselves with each other. Not only what we have but how we look. Why are girls more prone to this than boys? Well, at least usually… I think... Ok some boys primp too.

Some of us have to look just right before we go out and we’re never satisfied with the traits God gave us. I about had a conniption fit one time when a friend told me her aunt “had” to get a breast augmentation. Are you kidding me? God made a mistake? by making us different sizes? God messed up? when he stunted my growth? colored my hair? made it curly? straight? Pleeeeaassee. I own a straightener and a curling iron, so I’m talking to myself as well…

And, girls more often than boys look at each other with a critical eye. Is it jealousy or paranoia? Must we always be looking to be “better than” the one next to us?

We don’t celebrate who God made us to be. REJOICE IN THE PERSON GOD UNIQUELY FORMED WITH YOU! We’re not all the same, thank goodness. The variety makes Him happy. Each of us is special in His eyes. We are loved. Rest it that. If we relax in who we are in Christ, we are better able to look with love and show love to our neighbors as well.

We have no reason to be insecure. It’s nice to be adored by everyone around us but the fact of the matter is, none of us can please everyone all the time, and who wants to try anyway? It’s too exhausting.

There’s always going to be the girl who has everything and the boy who is perfect in every way, but that’s only from a distance. When you begin to look closer, you find that they have their challenges as well. Maybe we’re not all “evenly challenged” but that’s when we have to seek what God has for us. We have to ask, “What is God trying to teach me?” Are you teachable?

I want to believe that I get more and more comfortable with myself as the years go by. Less and less of the time do I want to be someone else.

Ideally, we can rest in knowing God put us together this way for His purposes. We don’t have to try and be someone else. Isn’t that a load off? We can relax and walk with confidence because the Creator took time and thought in crafting each of us.

He watches us closely and cares for us deeply and keeps His hand on us tenderly. We can’t even fathom such care. Thank you Father. Let it be for Your glory. See Psalm 139.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

It’s impossible to explain how meaningful it is to hear from people who have read the book. Thank you for letting us know your thoughts and how it has moved and inspired you. With every account, we are affirmed and encouraged as we know the credit goes to our amazing God. With every account, I feel my soul heal just a little bit more. With every account, I am reassured once again that God is sovereign and can be trusted even in tragic loss. I am thankful you get the point of the book, not to lift up one young person, but to ignite a passion in all of us to love with our life and act on the conviction that Jesus is the answer.

A young life lost makes us wake up a little bit and realize that time is short. We so easily forget that in the chaos of life. We’re so busy going from one thing to another and barely have time to stop and think or stop and rest or just stop. Wow, rest. We strive to rest on vacation or on the weekends maybe. Jesus gives rest every day. We can rest in Him every day, every moment really. How do we rest? Take a moment to sit. Take a moment to turn off the TV. Take a moment (in my case) to stop working and worrying. Take a moment to talk with Him and read His words. My favorite “rest” is taking a walk with worship music in my ears.

Matthew 11:28-30 in the NIV says “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Now, listen to it in the Message (so refreshing) “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to Me. Get away with Me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with Me and work with Me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with Me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

I often don’t rest well. Sometimes I do better than others. I love reading books but I don’t always allow myself the time. There is so much to “get done” that sitting and reading seems a waste, yet I don’t hesitate to watch a TV program or a movie. One of my favorite authors is Donald Miller. I just finished “Through Painted Deserts” about a road trip he takes with a friend, kind of hippie style, pondering the big questions of life. He’s funny and entertaining talking about nothing part of the time! I just love it. He also wrote “Blue Like Jazz” and “Searching for God Knows What” which I have also read and highly recommend.

Even when we don’t understand everything that is happening around us, we can rest in God’s promises. He gives hope to all of us, no matter where we are or what we are facing.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

For the past couple of days my computer has been giving me constant warning messages that it is infected with viruses and that I need to take immediate action. When I click on the icon to run the suggested program it runs through the files in my computer and shows how many infected files I have, but gives no course of action. When I click on their provided prompt buttons to do anything that looks useful, nothing happens. When I click on the highlighted names of the programs are displayed in the box, the names of the spyware systems that are (apparently) allerting me, it describes them as being "misleading applications that may give exaggerated reports of threats on the computer". Upon closer reading, the warning system itself appears to be the virus, or at the very least, a problem.

Now I'm not what you call computer literate and must admit that things like this tend to throw me off balance and just give me something more to worry about. I'm sure I need to do something about it, but I'm not sure what (ignoring it doesn't seem to be a good option).

How like life today in our culture; as we become more and more reliant, accepting or numb to the daily blasts of technology, advertising and encouragement to be open-minded and just accept everyone and everything as it is, we become desensitized to the little voice in our head, that spirit of discernment that the Lord has placed there for our protection. It becomes confusing in the noise of life to know if the little voice we are hearing is that spirit of discernment with the halo or the spirit of the world with the pointy tail. In other words, our warning systems become infected as we become more and more like the world around us and we can come to a point where we've "fallen to the bottom of a well thinking we've risen to the top of the mountain; what if we're knocking at the gates of hell thinking we're heaven bound." (lyrics from "Living Life Upside Down")

This is why we must be in His Word regularly, to have a real familiarity with what He has told us...because He won't tell us something now that contradicts what He has shared with us there.

Praying that your internal warning system isn't a virus,


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A friend of BJs recently let us know (thank you Tara) that Xangaland was revamping and old sites would be deleted, so I went to BJs site, which I haven’t visited in awhile, and started copying all his entries. Quite a project I must say with two years of entries. I started wondering if I would have time to copy the comments too. That project I finished today in two and a half hours – well worth the time. I did get caught up in reading entries as well as the comments so I wasn’t as efficient as I could have been. What was quite sad was that very few people commented on many of his entries. His consistent comments were from his cousin David and his sister Lauren. Many of his friends commented here and there but I’m just saying… Anyway, his posts are very interesting. If you think BJ was perfect, they will blow that perception right away. In his first entry, he explains why he picked the name he did and I don’t remember knowing that. He says:

In case any of you, or maybe just you two, (Lauren and David) were wondering why my username is DeadSilence7 and my "Welcome Message" says what it does, it is because I wrote a song having to do with my fleshly and incessant silence amidst the need for speech, and my complete inarticulation amidst my rare speech. It was contrived from my feeling that I never can say what i mean to, if i say anything at all when i need to, (for instance when I'm sharing Christ with the lost, etc) my cry out to God: change me and speak through me, and my cry to my flesh: go away and stop defiling the tongue upon which God wills to speak . . . The seven is because DeadSilence was already taken, so i decided to chose a holy number to vary my name from the one already taken.

Lauren and I went to youth camp with our church this past week. Lauren and I had to come home early because she just couldn’t kick this bug that she had. After visiting with the doctor, turns out she has pneumonia. Wow, we didn’t see that one coming. She is getting better every day, still sleeping an incredible amount, which I guess is not terribly unusual for her… However, I did get to know some of the students in our youth group. It was fun in an uncomfortable sort of way. I think my life of comfort is over… not really, we’re plenty comfortable, but it often feels like it in situations and places that are unfamiliar to me.

I’m surprised BJ talks about being silent and never saying what he means to when he seems to always know what to say but I guess that just shows how effectively God can work through us. Moses didn’t know what to say, claimed he couldn’t speak; Gideon was the least in his family and his family was the weakest clan (Judges 6); Jehoshaphat faces a “vast army” that sent him into a panic (2 Chron 20). These are some of my favorite examples in the OT of ways God showed His power through seemingly impossible situations and through weak, ordinary people. He is truly all we need. We know He is the one with the power but we don’t act like it. To think that all we have to do is be available, ready and poised to listen and follow His directions. Yet, we forget and get overwhelmed with… whatever. BTW, I learned today that w/e is short for whatever.

I’ve heard from Brent a few times. The team is doing well. You can check, click on trip updates and Peru or whatever team you want to read about. They’ve changed the format and you can also leave messages. I’m sure they’d love to hear from you and how you’re praying for them. The teams all got to their respective countries without incident and are immersed in ministry. Continue to pray for stamina and perseverance, unity and focus, health and rest.