Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Friday I was able to spend the day with my sister Lynae and her children. It was a hot day but beautiful outside as there was often a cooling breeze. We spent most of the day in a small community learning how the people spend their time at work and play, what their backgrounds were and how it is that they came to be where they are now.

Despite the hot, humid weather, they were dressed in long dresses and long sleeves even as they went about their business in an unairconditioned environment, inside or out. We got to observe a small classroom in session and had to have the teacher explain the math table that was in use, unlike anything we had seen before. Strict order was the rule of the day in the classroom.

We also were able to visit a farm and admire their large draft horses, the chickens (one of which cuddled up to Joshua and fell asleep), sheep, pigs and cows. We visited with the women in the kitchen while they made fresh apple dumplings over an open fire...they smelled incredible. We helped weed and water their garden where a whole assortment of vegetables and berries are growing. We were able to visit with a blacksmith and his apprentice as they made a whole assortment of items we take for granted. We were even able to sign a petition in support of the Women's Sufferage movement!

Living history museums are fascinating and this particular one on the north side of Indy is representative of the early days of Indiana. We were even able to throw tomohawks at targets in a small Indian Village.

The "residents" are well educated on the history of the time and place and very deep in character. It was fun to try and find out as much as you could about their families, jobs, schools and community. They were so good at playing their roles that we had to keep reminding ourselves who it was that was out of place - who was living in the real world. They would take off down verbal rabbit trails in unexpected directions sometimes and you would think they were out of their "role" only to find that their answer to a follow-up question didn't fit today's world. It was a major disappointment when you realized the beautiful glassware in the general store wasn't really available for 37 cents.

You are talking to actors, young and old, engaged in activities that fill their lives and filled the lives of the average folks of their day. As you visit and watch them toil and sweat at their jobs it adds to the illusion that it is real.

Some of us are just as gifted at acting out roles we have established for our lives on a daily basis. We have developed in-depth background stories that people are challenged to draw us out of because we don't want to visit thosse places that are too real in our lives, maybe painful or shameful for us. Sometimes our background stories become so deep that we ourselves find it a challenge to seperate the reality from the illusion. We don't want people to know who we really are or can't let them get close enough to see who the real person is behind the role we are playing.

Our Heavenly Father knows all of those things about us already and try as we might we cannot hide from Him. He accepts our imperfections and loves us in spite of them. Those who know him are the same way, though imperfect themselves...we are all damaged goods of one sort or another. He can take those imperfections and make something beautiful out of them if we are willing to set aside the role-playing and be ourselves. We all must choose to step out of the role we've been playing, take off the costumes, let Hiim shower away the dirt and then step into the lives He has blessed us with.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

I remember sitting in a restaraunt by myself while I was in college, an unusual event at that point in my life. I was there with a book, whether studying or just casual reading I don't remember but I do remember very clearly the thought overwhelming me that this would be a regular part of my life. I had a sense that I would be live as a single man and to date this has been the case. Whether this was a "revelation" or just a projection because of a lonely frame of mind I can't tell you, I just know that I have never forgotten it.

Some people would call it a self-fullfilling prophecy, others a fear of commitment, still others have various ideas but you get the idea. In all honesty I can't say for certain why I am still single and I don't normally worry about it and often enjoy it. Henri Nouwen wrote that "we are called to convert our lonliness into solitude. We are called to experience our aloneness, not as a wound but as a gift - as God's gift -so that in our aloneness we might discover how deeply we are loved by God."

I believe that singleness can be a gift from God and I have believed that this was the case in my own life. Paul desired it (see I Corinthians 7:7-8 among other verses) for its freedom to be single-minded to Christ. Like all gifts God gives it is given for a reason to those upon whom He bestows it and it is here that I started to worry.

There have been times in my life where I knew that I was able to serve others in a unique way because of my circumstances. When I go through periods of spiritual drought I find myself filled with doubts about where my heart is, whether or not I am living in relationship with my Lord. When I am not, life seems and feels hollow or meaningless. I know that it isn't.

I have enjoyed a degree of solitude for as long as I can remember. My Mom will tell you that I was always good at finding ways to entertain myself. In solitude I have sought the will of my Father and felt tuned to His voice -- I don't always hear it so well in the clutter of life; then, solitude becomes lonliness as our focus shifts from relationship to selfishness.

As Nouwen indicates, solitude can be a very good thing, but isolation from Christ is not. We can seek Him out in quiet places and escape the stress of our lives temporarily by seperating ourselves from our routines. But if we allow ourselves to be isolated from Him we lose our fellowship and our focus. This is my struggle especially now as I get older; I too often isolate myself in my solitude and it becomes lonliness.

Think of it this way: Solitude is like putting a pane of glass between yourself and the world around you. Now paint one side of the glass silver and you have a mirror with which you can see yourself in everything else you try to look at in the glass. That silver paint prevents you from seeing past your own reflection to the world beyond, a world very near that needs His light -- this is lonliness. A mirror reflects light back at us while a window lets it pass through to those beyond ourselves who need it.

Today, let's spend less time in front of the mirror and more time at the window. Better yet, walk through the door and be a part of what you see outside.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

I was blessed to be born into the family I call my own. My parents had 4 kids, 2 boys and 2 girls. I was third in line and as such, there were some challenges in living up to the benchmarks placed by my older siblings along the path to adulthood. I don't recall a lot of external pressure to live up to these, more that internal desire to live up to expectations, real or perceived.

Brent has shared that he was a gifted runner when he was in school and it was therefor hoped by some track and cross-country coaches that I would follow suit. I suffered from shin splints when I ran hurdles and sprints but did ok at distance running thanks to stamina developed from my early morning paper route and trying to keep away from Brent's friends on the football field. They were bigger than I was -everyone was it seemed. However, I lacked Brent's competitive drive and didn't participate in organized athletics in school.

As we have grown into our adult years there are still times I find myself comparing Brent and Brad. I have seen Brent turn into a gifted writer,communicating the love and grace of Christ and to be honest with you, to pick up the pen (so to speak)and try to write in his absence is intimidating to me because I know that there hasn't been the spiritual growth in my life that his reflects, both in words and actions.

The catalyst of this gift for Brent came at a very great price for he and his family and it has been inspiring to see how they each have been drawn closer to Christ in dealing with loss, when many people would be going the other direction. He has invested much more time in his relationship with Christ in recent years than I have and I know that. It serves as a call to arms for me spiritually, one in which I seem to keep failing to take seriously enough

I don't share these thoughts to solicit comment or sympathy but to simply state the situation as it is. I am sure that I am not the only one who finds myself convicted by the wors he writes and I know that this conviction comes not from Brent but from the Lord through my own heart as I read the words He has given Brent to share. There are voids in my heart that long to be filled with the spirit that created me and it is challenging sometimes to find my brother as the tool of delivery. I must admit that there are times I am slow to pull this blog up because I fear the inner ugliness inside of me will be revealed.

Yet what a gift His chosen instruments for our conviction are for us because through them we are shown our weak points. He chooses to show us these things so we can bring them to His feet and offer them up to Him. He takes them and from the debris of our shame and pain he builds a bridge from our heart to His, allowing us free access to the One True God, who loves us in spite of ourselves and desires fellowship with us regardless of how we have (or haven't) met the benchmarks in our lives.

Thank you Brent; Thank you Lord for loving me so much.

In His Love,


Thursday, June 18, 2009

This morning I attended a small breakfast meeting with a local investment advisor who does a call-in radio show here in Indianapolis. It was an intimate setting to discuss the economy and investments and though I wasn't really looking forward to it given our current economy, I found it fascinating. I happened to be there because this is a local service organization I am a member of, not because I have any major investments to worry about (not that this stops me from fretting a bit over the ones I do have).

It is amazing how much more understandable a creative mind can make economics and investments when they have a near endless supply of condiment packs, jelly packets and silverware to demonstrate how our economic system works. When you see Equal packets tipping a spoon balanced on a finger like a see-saw to demonstrate how money poured into the economy by the treasury affects interest rates it tends to stick in your mind more than simply hearing someone talk about things that you would rather not focus on anyway. He lamented the fact that he can't demonstrate like this over the radio. By the end of the meeting it looked like a grocery store had exploded on the table.

Not too suprisingly, many of the projections I heard were not positive for the short-term. As this man shared how he believes we are heading into a depression that will be the economic low point for this generation I was pleasantly suprised that he used this analysis to recommend that those present focus their attention on their relationship with Christ rather than worrying so much about their investment portfolios, because no one really knows how we should currently be apportioning our savings between stocks, bonds, cash and hard assets. There are no guarantees in our economy - ever, and especially not now.

How on target our speaker is! We really have no idea where we are headed in our world/life situation and things that have been sound in the past may not be so tomorrow - or even today, because we never know what the next moment will bring...tragedy, triumph or the return of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. It really doesn't matter how much we have because it may not be there tomorrow; we need to trust fully in Christ to be our provider because in the things that matter most, He will not let us down.

Yes, we may experience discomfort, hunger and "need" that we are't used to...but in the eternal picture of what our life is to be these aren't the critical elements of our existance, our relationship with Him is. Knowing this I still struggle with trust like I am sure most of you do, but I am glad to know that the more I focus on Him, the more the things of this world fade in significance and their ability to generate anxiety in our lives.

"Turn your eyes upon Jesus; look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace." - Helen H. Lemmel

Trusting in Him is the only sure investment that we can make.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Handling Octopus in Peru!

Well the time is here again!!! Tomorrow we receive the leadership for our summer teams, and begin training. We are very excited to have them together to get things underway.

We will spend this week training leaders and then will leave Saturday for Dallas to receive and train the teams. We fly to our respective countries on Thursday, June 25. This summer, we will have teams in Uganda (already there), Chile, Peru, South Asia, and then Panama. All of these teams return to the US on July 22, except for the Panama team. I will take that one two days after returning from Peru. You will be able to follow each team by visiting www.awestar.org and clicking on the trip updates page. There will be photos and written updates.

We are thankful to have heard from many students and parents who were at SuperSummer last week. You have seen several comment here, and many other have friended us via facebook, and told us their stories there. We praise God for how He is using this experience!

Deanna and I have two college students on our team that will serve as Team Directors for us. They are Jordan and Kristin. Kristin, served on BJ's last team in Peru. We are very excited to have the privilege of serving with them, and cannot wait to see the Lord use them in the lives of our team! They plan to update a blog they started just for this trip. You can follow it, if you like, at http://www.peruvianeisegesis.blogspot.com

These two are pretty comical, and as friends enjoy 'testing each others limits.' This should be great for the team!

Deanna and I spent the weekend trying to rest up and prepare ourselves for the teaching/discipleship we will do while away. To be honest, this is one of the parts of this experience I enjoy the most! I love seeing the growth that occurs in their lives! Honestly, I don't know why everyone doesn't want to do this. It is simply amazing.

Our team this year is 23 people. 12 women and 11 men. Their ages range from 13 to...well uhm, Deanna and me. The majority of them are 17 to 18 years old. We cannot wait to see what the Lord has in store for this summer! We will be entering through Lima this year. Each previous year, we have entered through Guayaquil, Ecuador, as it was cheaper... not this year!

I am very excited to return to Huamachuco this year. Some of you may remember that mountaintop village we spent four or five days in last year, where we saw an incredible harvest! Well we are returning to encourage the believers and hoping to see the Lord move in such a way that their numbers are increased! We will also be in Trujillo, Chiclayo, and several areas in between each of these cities. We were supposed to be Jaen and Bagua, on the rim of the jungle, but have had to divert from that region.

We certainly will appreciate your prayer support. I also am hopeful that my brother may have occasion to update here, from time to time. Summer is his busiest time of the year as well, so if he doesn't, we certainly understand.

Once training begins, I will not be updating much.

Have a blessed summer in our Lord! I appreciate each of you who take the time to visit here... both those who comment and those who do not. I pray you spend your summer as missionaries in the places He has afforded you to spend time!

God Bless!


Thursday, June 11, 2009

sunglasses are worthless for his view of a Holy God!

We shared dinner. I know what I had... Shrimp Trio. I don't remember the taste. I don't remember eating the food that disappeared from my plate. I remember having my heart knitted securely to the hearts of my companions.

Deanna and I sat down for this long awaited celebration that our Lord designed.

Across the table, were an Iranian man (a US citizen) and an American woman, who wed just 7 months ago.

He was raised Muslim. She was raised Christian. He surrendered his heart to Christ many years back, and has become one of today's most sought after speakers. She is a labor delivery nurse, finishing her seminary degree.

Tonight was about unity. It was about the celebration of what God does in the hearts and lives of His people. He set the stage for a meeting that will forever impact our lives.

The last time I ate and forgot the details was my first date with the woman I would eventually marry. I got lost in her essence. I would have a lifetime to discover her.

Few times in life are we afforded the privilege of meeting those God has forever bound to us. Together, we covered lifetimes.

Questions. Answers. More questions. More answers. Humility. Passion. Fervency of calling. Truth.

That he was preaching to 2,000 or more students tonight was in the back of our minds... until he did so.

The eloquence with which he articulated the passage from 1 Thessalonians was amazing. His points laid out, poured through him by the Spirit of God, into our lives and those of the students. The crescendo was building to a seeming dynamic call to serve Christ.

Then he began to weave into his message the life of a young man who surrendered his all. He lived in such a way that he compelled others to give their best for Him. The Lord filled the speakers mind with every story we had shared. The finely crafted threads of the writings of this young man into his sermon, were divinely inspired.

He spoke of a boy who prayed at 6 years old to receive Christ, but realized at 8 that he didn't really understand. He said, "then he heard a young, awkward preacher give his first message and the Spirit of the Lord revealed Truth to the boy, and he completely surrendered."

After many stories offered as evidence of what this kind of life looked like, He spoke of the father of the boy and a trip to Kenya, where he would give his favored Bible away to a Sudanese refugee, whom God called to preach.

As he concluded, he would share, "now imagine that young awkward preacher finding out many years later at a time of struggle in his own life, that he had been instrumental in this boys salvation experience. Imagine finding out, that it was me," he spoke with all humility.

He referenced the book that had been crafted about this young man's life, repeatedly. Then just when you thought the altar would be opened for surrender, he carefully shared, "tonight, we are honored to have the parents of this young man among us. Not only that, but my wife and I got to have dinner with them!" He introduced Deanna and me and our live frames immediately appeared on the big screen.

We were overwhelmed with what happened next.

We were not overwhelmed at the idea of honoring the aforementioned parents. We would honor anyone described with such grace and detail. We were overwhelmed at how it occurred.

It would be impossible to choreograph an audience of this size to stand as one. Only the Lord could move in the hearts of men and women to respond in such unity. They seemed to instinctively know these parents sat in the balcony. They arose as one with thunderous applause and turned to face the parents.

To be sure, ALL of the glory goes to our Father in Heaven.

Importantly, the altar did become filled with students surrendering selfishness in view of a call to serve. The aroma of worship was precious.

Later, we would be rapt by a throng of students who would buy every book available and offer some of the most precious words ever spoken to us. This was a camp for young Christian leaders, and it was evident in their words and deeds. Some came speechless, some with tears, some with sobs, many with affirmation.

When all this was over, we were afforded a final few moments with our hosts and new friends. Midnight pictures in front of a glowing steeple were captured. We can't wait to see them. We are busy planning our next time together.

We are most thankful for the hand of our Father in Heaven and how He blesses our lives... we just had to share this night with you.


Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Deanna at Ft. Gibson Lake

When BJ was 6 years old, we prayed together as he indicated a desire to ask Jesus into his heart.

I would later find out that he did so because he had seen many others be baptized and understood this decision needed to be made in order for that act of obedience to happen. This is never the reason, to pray and ask Christ into your heart. At any rate, he wanted to be baptized.

Some time after we prayed, he was baptized.

This story is not new. Neither is the part where at 8 years old, he accompanied me to a youth event. At this event, he heard Afshin Ziafat share his testimony. As you may recall, he is a Muslim who gave his heart to Christ. His story is powerful and compelling and has been told around the world.

He is an itinerant preacher, who travels the country, and the world, to teach about Christ!

Recently, I googled his name, and ultimately made contact with him. I sent him a message telling him briefly about our journey and why I was writing him. I just wanted to thank him for his obedience to the Lord, and to let him know what impact his ministry had on BJ.

I received word back from him the same day. I was tremendously humbled at his gracious response. He already knew our story. He had followed it on this site. He had learned of BJ's illness, and spent time in prayer for him. To my surprise, he seemed almost ashamed that he had not made contact with us.

In the last few years, he married a young woman named Meredith. When our book came out, she bought it and took it home to him. He said they got down on their knees and thanked the Lord for BJ's obedient, surrendered life.

We were moved at their humility and the intensely felt presence of His love through them.

Last week, he spoke at SuperSummer, which is a youth leadership training/discipleship event. He is doing so to a different group of students this week, here in Oklahoma.

I heard from a number of our students who were present last week, that it was an incredible week and they could not wait to get to the mission field.

Tonight, Deanna and I are driving over to have dinner with he and his wife, before the evening message, which we also hope to take in.

In our back and forth correspondence, I already feel like he and Mer are family. There is something about the presence of Christ among believers. In this situation, that connection is significant. I cannot wait to share with them. I feel a bit giddy.

This is another connection that I feel the Lord wants us to make, that I have know idea what He will do with. I only know, I want to put my arms around my brother, who in His simple but radical obedience to our Savior, precipitated eternal change in the heart of my son.

Praise God, for simple but radical obedience!


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

"He must become greater, I must become less..."

What does it mean for Him to become greater? What does it mean for me to become less?

For John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, it meant that all the noteriety he was receiving, all the people that were coming to hear him speak, all who chose to follow him, all he was baptizing...that fifteen minutes of glory had to be yielded to The One, to whom his ministry pointed.

For many of us, great difficulty comes with spending so much time and energy elevating someone else. It is counter to our culture to do so.

We are taught to work our way up the ladder. That applies in most arenas of life. Work hard and gain more. More status, more wealth, more privilege...

There is an interesting dichotomy that presents as a result. For us to be heard on the subject of Christ, we must have platform. We don't just get one of those because we want one. We get one of those because somewhere along the way, our position is elevated... at least within certain circles.

How many business men and women have started in the "mail room," only to one day be the CEO of a fortune 500 company? You know, that place where if you wreck a company you get a multi-million dollar bonus for it?

Within church structure, often times one begins a relationship with Christ, then a calling may come and after time and years of growth, perhaps a nomination to be a deacon. Sometimes, with certain people, one may then be called into youth ministry... and then perhaps an associate pastor... and then one day a pastor.

This is a vast oversimplification and weeds out necessary details of anointing, etc., but the point is, one works with their time and energy and surrender to become someone that other people will listen to. The better we do, and the more time we invest, the higher the position we receive.

It is often taught that the best leaders must first be great followers. This was certainly true of the disciples. At least in as much as they were uneducated men who did not aspire to greatness, but were chosen of the Lord to follow because of their lowly position.

They were raw, seeming intellectual midgets, often misunderstanding the simplest allegories. Jesus was patient and taught them. He poured into them for over three years. Even then, it was not until they were empowered by the Holy Spirit, that they came to understand so much of what He taught.

They did not study for years on end to become the leaders He needed them to be. They were each good at something... but their areas of giftedness were seldom used within the area of calling. Other than in metaphorical sense, what good is it to know fishing inside and out, if you are going to be one who preaches Christ?

Education is good. It is necessary in so many respects. Somewhere along the way, it became part of the measuring stick for whether a man or woman was worthy of being considered for position.

We each want the best for our children. We want them to be educated. We want them not to have to struggle the ways we did. We want them to have "plenty of money" so this will not be an issue.

To be honest, most all of the people I know who have "plenty of money" also have signficant problems or issues that I would not begin to know how to deal with. Perhaps I did not get enough education.

My point in all this, though buried in muddy waters, is that He calls us to Him, and desires that we become less like all of this, and more like Him. When we become more like Him, others are drawn to us for the reasons of need in their lives.

It does not matter what our level of education, or societal position. John the Baptist was considered an outcast by most because of his style of dress and choice of food. However, he was the man God sent to run before Christ, to prepare the way.

He would become less. He would be separated from his head. His life would point many to Christ. When questioned about the Christ and why He was taking over John's baptisms and preaching, he yielded and rejoiced over the Messiah! He sent his own followers to follow Him.

How am I doing at becoming less? How often do I fight for platform? How often do I guard jealously, those who would follow my puny passion?

It is not about me, as hard as I try to make is so. It is about doing all I can to resemble Him. When I do that, I elevate Him. Other desire Him.

When I draw attention to me (which I am gifted at) I drive others away.

I must become less.

I'm gonna go find some leather sandals to untie...


Friday, June 05, 2009

a quiet moment in Mexico

This time of year, I tend to grow pensive. Contemplating all that others are doing for the summer, which sounds like a great deal of fun. Thinking through what our summer will be like. Finding myself wishful at times for things unwritten.

Sometimes I get exhausted thinking through our schedule. Sometimes I am humbled realizing how easy we have it.

I am thankful to realize that our reward is in heaven, and not on a beach or mountain somewhere. There are times I'd very much like to be in one of those places. There are times, I would like to feel less sense of urgency of being about my Father's business.

I find being engulfed in His creation, a sweet rapture.

Still, as I stroll through those places within the confines of dream, I cannot quiet the muted voices of those who are without hope. I hear them calling out, and I see them reaching for what too few are willing to bring.

How does one find rest, when so many cannot?

As a few contemplate upgrades, the masses hunger for a next meal, a cool drink of clean water, a freeing Truth.

Who will speak this into the lives of many, while some bask in the glow of changing skin tones?

Is what I want, what I need? Is it just escape? From what?

Does it restore sanity or just bring deeper longing of what I cannot have?

At what point does the reality of Scripture bring marching orders? Won't it always be easier to assume it was written for someone else, while I cling to the couple of Truths that ease my conscience? If I don't read the Word, will I be exempt from fulfilling it's call? Will I stand before a Holy God and give an account of dollars spent for beaches compared to dollars spent GOing, Sending or Mobilizing?

Who cares? Who really cares?

Many say they do. Few demonstrate action.

I'd like to hoist a spinnaker and run the lengths of the wind. I would feel remarkable for five minutes, and then I'd need to plan to do it again soon, so I had something to look forward to.

Empty promises don't cost much... we just spend a lot to discover them.

There is a time for leisure. I just didn't realize how much time it would take to relax... to find the justification to keep me at rest while others search for fulfillment... which will only come if they are brought Truth.

When Moses descended from the mountain he was radiant. When I return from the beach I look dark, ruddy, and rested. His radiance carried Truth to a nation. Mine fades into an itchy back and peeling pleasure.

Oh well, I can start something new tomorrow. "There is always tomorrow"... except for those who perish, today. Glad I'm not responsible for them!

and the clock ticks, counting the moments until His return, counting the moments of my leisure, counting those who will spend eternity apart from Him.

tick. tick. tick.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

These two young Tepez men, shepherd the cattle and goats and protect them with bow and arrow, in the bush of Karamoja

Our team in Uganda safely arrived in Moroto, yesterday evening. They will spend a day or to in this small base city, before taking the 20 mile trek into the mountains to settle in among the Karamojong. They will hike up with supplies to live there for the summer. This passage will take a lot out of them. It is rugged terrain.

I guarantee there is no place on earth they would rather be! I wish I could be with them! I admit I feel a bit like I did when my daughters headed off to college... except my desire to be along ministering beside them in this land that has captured my heart, is even more intense!

Things went well last night with the youth I was privileged to speak to. I could have taught for hours on this topic... and wish I had the time to do so. I have learned so much and seen so much in the area of Spiritual Warfare, that I never experienced before going to the mission field.

There are a couple of reasons for this. One is that I was too immature to recognize or know how to combat it. Another is that, my walk was not where it needed to be (again too immature) to be dangerous... or a threat to the enemy.

I believe that the Lord desires that we each be so intimate with Him, that He is able to use us in circumstances that arise in the lives of others. Some of you already do this. The deepest longing on each of our hearts, generated from the very depths of our souls, should be to love and serve our Savior.

However, the enemy has defeated so many of us, by getting us to buy into desires we believe to be normal. We are inundated with images from all forms of media. These hi-tech advertising campaigns are a coup for the enemy. We see images that please us. We begin to long for what we see. Soon, it becomes a goal of sorts, and we begin to plan how we are going to get there.

Soon all of our resources begin to get invested into this plan. It may be a vacation, a vehicle, a home, a friend, an even higher education or anything else that we allow into our hearts. We fully embrace these things, not even being aware that we have yielded to the enemy. That he has won a campaign of warfare against us.

As we slowly yield to the desires for these things or people, we invest our time, our thought life, our money, etc. into acquiring that which will never bring us the kind of fulfillment that we expect. Only Christ can do that.

This is one of the primary reasons that we do not engage in the type of warfare in our country that missionaries see on the mission field. We are easily sidetracked and fooled from within our own culture and then defend what we pursue as normal, and the desire of every red blooded American. In most cases, it has become true.

Those who seek the Lord with their time, energy, thought life, and resources, are growing wiser in His ways and His Word. The result is that they are on the front lines, serving... doing battle.

We must learn to not allow other desires to supersede the deepest longing that every believer should have... to know Him, and to bring Him glory!

As we surrender more of ourselves to Him, He empowers us to do things beyond our expectations. There is more than enough of Him to go around. What is often limited is our surrender. The tight grip we tend to keep on our lives and what we will allow Him to have of us, limits our intimacy, and therefore, our willingness to do hard things.

There is so much more He wants us to know and do. Just yielding time to love and grow in Him, will bring fruit that is unimaginable from our current view. There are no shortcuts. We have to give Him our time and our resources. When we yield, He will see that we grow.



Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tyler and Amber at an orphanage in Kampala, Uganda. Today the team left for the 15 hour bus ride to the bush in Karamoja.

I have been invited to speak to a youth group tonight, about Spiritual Warfare.

It is interesting to note what happens in everyday life, as one prepares to teach on this topic. The enemy does not want any of this illuminated, and the battle intensifies. Distractions increase, attempts to harm and/or tempt the speaker (or his family), rise.

When we talk about Spiritual Warfare, there is a tendency in our culture to view this as the dramatic, graphic, satanic attacks that come up against people. Warfare is much more simple than that from the enemies perspective. Any plan to gain and maintain the attention of a follower of Christ, is a successful campaign.

How often do many of us fall prey to this?

The simplest enticements draw our attention away from seeking or serving our Savior. These things are generally found to be very appealing to us...their allure strong. (Never do we see a man in a red suit with a pitch fork). We often give up our attention to the pursuit of these items or situations, and soon find ourselves being assaulted in ways we did not expect, but should have been aware would come.

Other times, the attacks are more obvious. It is if the enemy wants us to know he is gunning for us.

Personally, I prefer these methods, as they are more obvious, and we know almost immediately how to respond. When the warfare is subtle, as it often is, our reaction time is generally slow, and seemingly, lethargic.

There is less fear in the subtle attacks. The often veiled ways they come, tend to catch us unsuspecting and unaware. This should not be.

When we were in the hospital with BJ, I remember one evening, my Aunt Maralyn and Uncle Ray had come from California to visit. They took us out to dinner. When we were walking out to the car, suddenly a man appeared who was out of place and had a psychotic, glazed look in is eyes.

He keyed in on me, and begin screaming. He was dirty, disheveled, with greasy, long hair, and was old. He would have looked "in place" among passed out drunks in a back alley of a dark, downtown area. We were far from there. His appearance and approach were frightening. He was on a mission...and it seemed to be, me.

We quickened our pace to the car. He followed. As we arrived and got in, my Uncle locked the doors, and this man began banging on my window and screaming at me. My Aunt pleaded with my Uncle to hurry out of the lot. The man chased after us...he passed between parked cars to get ahead of us...he seemed to block the way, and my recollection is that we nearly had to run him over to get passed him.

Our collective heart rates were off to the races! How do you process an event like that? What is the purpose or point of such an attack?

We were already in the battle of our lives as our only son lay fighting for his life.
It was difficult to know what to do with this experience. One thing was for sure, we believed it was a demonic attack.

We were already depending on our Lord and Savior for His provision, to help us through the journey. This experience would be no different. Interestingly to me, the only times I ever think about that experience are when I am about to teach on Spiritual Warfare.

With clarity, it seemed that the enemy wanted us to know that he had marked us, and was pursuing us.

Such is most often the case with those who are seeking the Lord with all of their hearts. Seldom are the times that 'lukewarm' believers come under attack. Primarily, because the enemy has or is already, successfully impugning their witness.

Our Lord gives us the tools to battle with. We don't go out looking for a fight. When the battle comes to us or those we love, He has prepared us to engage. We are battling from a position of victory. Jesus wins! We don't have to fight for victory, we are battling from victory!!!

Many are the times that most of us have been engaged. Battling on the Lord's side, with the realization that Jesus reigns, gives us tremendous confidence...not to be haughty...not to be overconfident...but to realize, that He is in control, and we are ready to declare His victory!

We should respect the power of the enemy, but not fear it. The Word teaches us not to fear. The battle belongs to the Lord! Ours to be obedient to Him and to follow where He leads. He will prevail.


Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Uganda Team 2009 in Kampala. They leave in a day or so for the bush.

As promised, speaking to 40 three and four year olds was both challenging and entertaining! Some of them were with me the whole way. Others...I'm not sure they ever knew I was in the room with them.

I did learn a few things about speaking on 'world travel and culture' to young children.

If you are thinking about asking a group this size if there are any questions...resist temptation! They will all raise their hands, and not one of them will have a question. They just want to tell you that they "have been to Oklahoma City."

If you show them the flag of any nation, and ask what country they think it is...the answer is always, "Mexico!"

If you ask who among them has ever been to Mexico, the answer is...all of them...every single one will raise their hand. And if you ask one of them to tell you more, they will say, "I've been to Oklahoma City!"

If you walk into their classroom to speak, and you are carrying a hiking backpack filled with items from around the world, there will be two questions. 1) Why did you bring so much stuff? and 2) Did you bring any animals?

If you happen to be the father of one of the teachers, and the students find out about it, they tend to get preoccupied telling each other, "That's Ms. Lauren's daddy!" Then they will ask you over and over, "Are you Ms. Lauren's daddy?"

In every crowd, there is always at least one who is waaay to smart for their age. These children were three and four years old. About half way through our time, one little girl whose hand was always up, asked me..."have you been to Tibet?"

I fully expected a 2-part follow up question along the lines of, "what do you think of the political climate there and what have you done about freeing the people of Tibet?"

What four year old even knows about Tibet?

When speaking to this age group, expect a parade of potty-goers to file in and out throughout your time.

If you let your reading glasses hang around your neck, they will want to know why you are wearing sun glasses.

If you pass some of the objects around, just know that one child will not get to touch it, and they will cry. If you attempt to console them, they will tell you that they have been to Oklahoma City, and ask if you have any animals in your bag.

If you show them a slingshot from Peru that is used to 'herd' llamas, you can expect one little girl to be near tears, and she will ask "why do they 'hurt' llamas in Peru?"

If you try to explain it to her, she will stop paying attention, and go on a potty break.

If you ask where llamas are from, just know in advance that they come from Alaska...and don't try to tell them different...they have been there and seen them.

If you call small stuffed llamas, "llama puppies," they will believe you.

If you show them arrows made by the Karamojong and tell them they are used to hunt food, they will ask, "what do they do with the arrows?" If you tell them more specifically, that little girl who is now back from the potty, will want to know why they hurt llamas in Uganda?

In all reality, it was an incredible time. The children were great. They have all been to Oklahoma City and Mexico. Their comments are seldom on topic, but such is the mind of many three and four year olds. And remember, if you come back, bring animals...they want to see animals. Oh, and don't tell them that they eat guinea pigs in Peru...bad idea.


Monday, June 01, 2009

Karamoja, Uganda

Yesterday, I spoke at a church in a small town of Oklahoma. The associate pastor here, had just turned 30 years old. While that sounds very young to me today, I remember how traumatic 35 was for me. I can't explain why...it just was!

This young man was a good sport.

After the service started, black and white, helium filled balloons were carried in and set on either side of the platform. When the service was over, a wheel chair was brought down the aisle, as a the congregation waited with a mixture of laughter and congratulations.

The pastor was then wheeled to a waiting hearse! The back of the hearse was opened and this 'birthday boy' climbed in for significant photo opp's.

The hearse then took him to the restaurant where he and his wife were treating us to lunch. The pictures his wife took are priceless! I have no doubt they will soon be displayed on facebook.

All of the foolishness found its way to warming the heart of this young pastor and made him feel wanted and respected. What a blessing it was to him on this day. Even though they celebrated the death of his youth, I know he will always have a youthful heart!

A little later this morning, I am heading to a Goddard School to talk to three and four year olds about cultures around the world. I confess, I am a bit intimidated. I have props and photos to pass around, but keeping the attention of this young age group for any length of time without being able to cavort around the room, is not a skill I know if I possess.

I am doing this at the request of my oldest daughter. She and her co-teachers are doing a summer unit on the World. I don't want to make a career of this. I am more nervous for this than speaking to large crowds on Sunday mornings.

Honestly, I think I will have a good time. I just know the whole thing will be unpredictable.

The one thing most children around the world have in common is their unexplainable joy in touching a bald head. If all else fails, I can open the floor for this.

I think I first discovered this when Lauren and Whitney were around three and five. They would take one of their mother's Q-tips, wet it, and then sneak up behind my recliner and begin to paint the growing bald spot on my head! Then they would flee down the hall with glee, knowing I was coming after them for revenge.

Anyway, it will be an interesting day. I do not get to talk about Jesus and am disappointed by that, but I am thankful to be able to have this platform, and trust He will use this experience for His glory.

I am thankful for the Lord's 'opening of doors' in life, that we can interact with others who are in need. A platform is built over time and we get to speak Truth to them. Not all will receive, but many will and their is joy in obedience and rejoicing in heaven for those who surrender their lives to Him.

Have a blessed week talking about your Savior to others!