Monday, September 28, 2009

We took a hike at a State Park on September 26th

It was a blessing to be able to take a couple of hours to get together with our daughters and their men... and the dogs! We drove a couple of hours to a place that was close to midway between where Whitney and Jared live and our home.

We trekked through the woods on a beautiful day. We had a great time.

I confess that this year has taken my emotions by surprise. I have struggled more this year than I have in a long time. I do not really understand it.

We have been blessed to see the Lord do such amazing things in our lives. We have been able to be a part of His ministry, and have seen Him impact the lives of thousands. We are very thankful!

Deanna spoke at a Women's Tea on Saturday, and did an amazing job, from all accounts! I know she was nervous, but sharing her testimony of how the Lord has moved in her life and that of her family, found connection points for many (believers and unbelievers alike). I am so proud of her!

We have so many reasons to be joyful and thankful.

I can only say that my sadness during this anniversary has been profound. I miss him so much.

On his birthday this year (Thursday), Deanna and I intend to go back through the many cards we received four years ago. He would have been 16 then. I am sure we did not begin to comprehend who all we heard from at that time. We have not opened them since. I imagine we will be pleasantly surprised by what we find.

Our minds were too steeped in loss the last time we read these. This time, we hope to read with significantly more comprehension.

I know the Lord will help me push through this. I know many of you have been praying. I do appreciate it. We serve an amazing God, and I know He is in control.

I apologize for expressing my down-heartedness. It does tend to be a reality of experiencing loss... even when great things result. I will, with His help, overcome!


Thursday, September 24, 2009

BJ in Peru with his 2005 team

It seems impossible to believe that it has been four years.

Things have changed so much. It is often unnerving to realize that he does not know so many things that have occurred. We have watched from a distance as those close to him have grown up, graduated, gone off to college, etc.

There are times that bitterness seeks an audience in my heart.

For the most part, it is not welcome. To be honest, there are days when it would seem a more faithful companion.

The impact he had on lives while here, was amazing. I watched him love on people who were deep in sin, encouraging them to leave that life behind. I saw him pour himself into his relationship with Christ.

The worship music beckoned from his room, and as I passed by, he'd be on the floor, in the Word, journaling, or in prayer. He sought the Father's heart. He hungered for intimacy with Him. He made time.

He adored his sisters and was quite protective of them in his latter years. He took long walks with his mother, and spoke the many things on his heart. He loved. He served.

He sought the least noticed in a class or crowd and built relationship. He wanted them to know that they were important. He wanted them to know they mattered to God.

When he told the "short version" of any story, it never was. He was compelled to cover all the details, as he saw them in his mind. His vocabulary was extensive for his age. His friendships, deep.

In the last four years, I have counseled with many students who believe they are called to be martyrs. I never had that conversation with BJ. I would not have been ready. I would have known a few of the "right things" to say, but parental protection and emotion probably would have clouded my input.

He taught me much about the right way to approach many aspects of life.

He taught others as well.

In life and in death, he revealed truths of the Christian life and what it is to be about.

'Dying daily,' is something few of us do well. He didn't always do it well either. In his last year or two of life, I saw a marked change in how he did this. He grew daily in his ability to say "no" to the things of the world that were temptations to him.

As he did, so increased his intimacy with Christ.

This is a significant lesson, whether we look on from the 'cheap seats,' or are truly seeking Him in the Christian life.

Colossians 3:2-3 says "Set your minds on things above, not earthly things. For you died, your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

His life was hidden. Christ was who you saw when you spent time with him. This only came about as he set his mind on things above.

A friend, a couple of years older than he, who had an in depth conversation with him not long before he landed in the hospital, made a statement along these lines: "when you spoke with BJ, it was like he was already gone, and you were talking directly to the Holy Spirit."

Few of us have others saying such things about us. I know people would not speak that way of me. I still have too much invested in the world.

He was not perfect. He failed. He hurt people. He struggled with pride.

As he yielded his desires to the Savior, less and less of him was visible. Fewer and fewer of these issues arose.

He reached a point where the deepest longing of his heart was Jesus. When God spoke to him, he was obedient.

Pride waned. Sin faded. Truth overcame. Jesus reigned. BJ died.

He died, daily. Then he died physically.

When God revealed to him that he would do this for his Savior, he told those closest to him, "I don't know how and I don't know when, but I am ready. Who knows, I could be unconscious in the hospital in a month, and gone in two."

It would come to pass.

When it did, reverberations began to echo.

Darkness, walls and spiritual blindness bow down in the presence of a Holy God.

A laid down life draws us to places of introspection, repentance, and a deeper longing to be one who 'dies daily.'

Less of me, more of Him.

It was reflected in the life of John the Baptist.

It was reflected in the life of BJ Higgins.

Let it also be reflected in me.


Monday, September 21, 2009

Kuna children in Panama

This Saturday, on the anniversary of BJ's home going, Deanna will be speaking to a women's group. I would appreciate your prayer support for her as she does so. I am very excited for her opportunity!

Recently, I've written about idolatry and the difficulties we have letting go of things which have no eternal value, but have become so dear to us, that we cling to them at great cost. We cannot function as the Lord desires because of the power these things have over us.

My church is in revival right now. The evangelist who is here shared a story that captures what I have been trying to convey better than I have been able to. He told the story in brief, but piqued my curiosity. I came home and researched this story for more info and want to share it with you.

In Asia and Africa, tribesmen who survive by hunting, often choose monkeys as their food source. They have developed a method for trapping them that is highly effective.

They take a coconut and drill it out. The resulting hole is small and often conical in shape. It is narrower to the inside of the coconut than the outside. The hole is just large enough for monkeys to get their hands into. The coconut is then secured to a tree with wire or rope.

The coconuts have peanuts inserted as bait. The monkeys smell the combination of coconut and peanuts and descend from the trees to have a meal.

Once the monkey arrives at the trap and inserts his hand to grab a fist full of peanuts, he discovers he cannot get his hand out. His body is crying out for the food he smells. He cannot wait to get to it, and so continues to pull against the coconut.

The simple reality is that all he has to do is release the peanuts and slide his hand out. This thought does not occur to the majority of them. They are then trapped for harvesters to come in and collect them. Their little hands are filled with that which they do not consider letting go of, because of the promise of filling that comes with clutching it. They are said to scream wildly before capture, but will not let go.

To us this sounds foolish.

However, the reality is that many of us cry out to God to set us free from some form of difficulty, while we are guilty of the same thing. We are hanging on with white knuckle grip to that which has claimed our affection and/or attention. We want set free but not at the expense of surrendering whatever we are holding on to.

Our security must be found in Christ alone. It will not come through money, or things or relationships or whatever else we tend to hold dear.

These things we cling to, slow us down. They keep us from attaining God's best. Seldom do we appear to clue in to this reality. Most of us continue to cry out to God for release while we won't do so ourselves.

There is a reason Jesus told the disciples to drop their nets and follow Him.

Once again, we need to consider what is in our clutches that is preventing us from being useful to our Savior and the Kingdom work that needs to be tended.

I'm a little weary of being compared in an evolutionary way, to monkeys. I guess I need to stop thinking like one, if I want to help this change.

God bless!


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Deanna worshipping on a rooftop in Chimbote, Peru

what grip we have on things untold, 'hind calloused hearts within,
once supple skin now rigid firm, err cover scars of sin.
The only way to restore life to hearts that pulse in pride,
the precious crimson tide that bled, One laid down Holy life.

the mourning Son whose loss was great, doth grieve for souls to plea,
His Father too did count the cost, then sent Him up to be
alone upon a muddy hill and tree which clung to iron
hold firm the weight of sacrifice the Father kept His eye on.

unloaded of its quarry, the tree now stained in scarlet,
the Life it once held dear, now placed inside white garment,
tightly snug it clung to flesh, both God and man was He,
the shroud was shed as was His blood to save men, set them free.

much later down a journey road, a young man sent to speak,
too his father let him go, to encourage amongst the weak,
lost were they, no hope in sight, bound by man's religion,
Salvation came a flooding spike, obedience had been driven.

he wrote and penned and inked his love, and grew a man to be,
he shared it with the weak and strong, and sought the China Sea.
the Father would not let him go, he wrestled seasons through,
once again aloft aboard, heads back where llamas strew.

turning home again he came with Muslims on his mind,
a gnarled knot 'neath his arm, a shadow passed in time,
a martyrs song would grip his heart, his path he had foreseen,
untold lives are welcomed home, through blood of his owned King.

now His life keeps drawing souls, his words writ with a pen,
their lives entwined together, has me thirsting more of them.
what day I greet them face to face, celebrations ne'er cease,
father, son with mended hearts, embracing in His peace.

The Fathers Son has mended hearts, embracing them in peace!


Monday, September 14, 2009

young women of Huamachuco...

Yesterday, Deanna and I had the privilege of preaching/singing at Sunday revival services. She did an amazing job. I love to hear her sing!

I remember when revivals used to last for a week. Growing up in Indiana, our revival time was always a highlight of the year, and very well attended.

In the years since, the length of revival's have shortened with decreasing attention spans of those who make up the American church. Pastor's struggle to get their congregations to attend. The messages are no less gripping... life changing... it just seems no one can make time to come.

Why is that? In the last year or two I have participated in several revival's (I always balk a bit at that title, as one cannot orchestrate revival). These have been scheduled for anywhere from one to four days. Just two to five services to allow the Holy Spirit to bring about the change of heart we desperately need.

I know there are many reasons for poor attendance. Most boil down to priority issues.

I wonder, if we are unwilling to allow the Lord access to our hearts to precipitate necessary change, then we are also likely to not allow Him to use us to impact our culture (not to mention those abroad).

If this is true, what is the future of the church?

When passion for Christ drains and fades from the landscape of believers, it has to have been replaced by desires for something else.

Our hearts have been trained to enclose around that which we value highly... like tentacles around prey. What is it that we are embracing? What claims the throne of our hearts?

I spoke to a man yesterday who told me the story about his first wife. Her heart calcified and she passed away.

This shocked me. I did not know it was possible in any sense other than a metaphorical one.

Calcification of the heart implies negative outside influence. Our hearts don't turn to stone in the natural way God created us to function.

While her medical condition is perhaps a rare one, the spiritual condition of the hearts of believers has become far too common.

I often use the phrase "white knuckle grip," when referring to the way we tend to embrace desires that begin naturally and innocently, but when left unchecked find the blood draining from the fingers of ownership.

Those fingers close tighter and tighter, increasing the loss of life in them. The result is a hard case "fist" wrapped around the heart that has become impenetrable to the Savior.

This will not change until we become aware and willing to allow Him access.

I praise God that this past weekend saw the eyes of many open to this truth.

The next step is true repentance. I fear we have gotten too skilled at the "stop, drop and roll" method of repentance. We 'stop' when confronted by the issue, 'drop' it for the moment, and 'roll' on in our way of life only to pick it up again down the road. There is no true heart change.

True repentance brings about a true change of heart.

A resupply of Spirit filled blood begins to course back through old dead fists and fingers, enabling them to cling to the hem of the Savior.

That is where I want to be found... at His feet, listening, worshipping, and obedient!


Thursday, September 10, 2009

Deanna and a Quechua girl

Our time in the mountains of Peru was both dark and rewarding.

The beauty of the villages of Huamachuco and Santiago de Chuco is unique. The former is two or three times the size of the latter. Both are inhabited by largely, indigenous people.

Our team walked everywhere for ministry. Everywhere you walked seemed to be uphill. I still haven't figured out how that is possible, but it sure seemed true.

I've spoken of Huamachuco before. We ministered there a year ago. This is the village that is desperate for the Word, and for a church to begin. Our contact continues to work to facilitate this need. We looked at potential sites for them to meet, while there.

These areas with the greatest hunger for Truth, seemed to usher in the deepest darkness.

We taught this team on spiritual warfare. We taught them they did not need to fear. The Word repeatedly teaches, "fear not." We are not battling FOR victory, but are battling FROM victory.

This dynamic shift in approach and understanding, brings about confidence and reliance upon Christ.

Still, the darkness was deep and thick. There was a day I had remained back to prepare a teaching on the Holiness of God. I was enthused about what God wanted to do.

As my enthusiasm built, several of my team literally began to be carried back to where Deanna and I were at the hotel, one by one... under attack from the enemy, and seemingly rife with fear.

We covered them in prayer, and saw the Lord prevail in each and every instance! We gathered and began to worship Him, as a team. The joy in the Lord's victory was significant. The enemy was unhappy.

That same evening, after dinner, as we were preparing for teaching, the enemy began attacks in earnest. Students were experiencing disturbing visuals that were not physically tangible. While not tangible, they were consistent. The stories (which they had no time to share with each other) were so similar that we knew the enemy was seeking to destroy our faith.

As my leadership team prayed over each student brought before us, and saw the Lord release each one from the enemies attack, suddenly, the lights went out all over the village. The enemy sought to use fear to overwhelm us.

We were high in the mountains, in a village where the city fathers told me they descended from bird gods. As we walked the village, we had seen many birds of prey on tether's, throughout.

These people viewed birds with the kind of defiled hearts spoken of in Romans 1:23.

The battle was real. They needed Jesus!

It was unlike what most of us ever see or experience in our country. Retelling it must generally be done with little to no detail as it has the capacity to strike fear in those who hear.

Why we don't experience it much at home is perhaps a topic for another day... but has to do with our complacency in spiritual matters and our seeming, lethargic relationships with Christ.

The enemy has us believing that more material things will satisfy us. We so embrace this pursuit, that we are largely ineffective in walking in simple obedience to our Savior. Though the Word of God reveals that these battles are taking place, we seldom believe as we have not experienced them. We do not experience because we are not engaged in serving as we should... in effect, we are not dangerous to the enemy... and most of us like that just fine.

That evening was one my students will never forget! The Lord delivered and prevailed!

The following morning, we did another impromptu teaching on "fear." Sometimes, we must experience life in its ravage and rampage before we get the point.

We continued to minister in this city. We had no more episodes that overwhelmed our team. They learned and began to do battle as is required of us who believe.

On the final day in this village, a man I had seen at different ministry sites stepped forward and opened his home as a place for a house church to begin! We praise God for Him!

I know that as a rule, we would prefer to never encounter the enemy in such ways. If, however, we are intimate with our Savior, the battle will come to us, and we must be prepared to fight it. The battle does indeed belong to the Lord. We engage as we are obedient. We become dangerous, as we allow His presence and Spirit to work in and through our lives.

Impotent, anorexic faith is useless... except to the enemy. He has victory when we live this way.

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, "But the righteous man shall live by faith"... Romans 1:16-17


Tuesday, September 08, 2009

my brother, Brad

It has been great to have Brad here with us. I miss him tremendously, already.
When he left this time, he did not leave us alone.

Though it has been a long time, I have spoken before of the time we went to the Humane Society in Indiana. Actually, we visited two or three in the Indianapolis area. We had decided some ten or more years ago, that it was time to have a dog.

As we viewed each dog, and selected a few to take out to the yard to get more familiar with, BJ sat plopped in front of one kennel, telling us, "this is the dog!"

"We want to spend time with several, BJ, to make sure we choose the right one," I replied.

He sat patiently, with his hand through the fence petting and talking to his choice.

Each dog we took out to visit with had one thing in common. They were all more interested in the other dogs, or other people, than they were our family.

The only one who was ALL about us, was... the one BJ had chosen. This dog, six months old at the time, was very friendly, and had an undeterred eye for my family.

We selected him... er he selected us... or something. Anyway, we eventually went home with him.

I trained him to do several 'tricks,' taught him not to jump up on people, and a few other things. He was a very obedient family member.

He and BJ became best friends. He moved with us to three different homes through the years. His first night at each location, was usually a nervous one, as he adapted to his new surroundings.

After BJ passed, the dog often went into his bedroom and sat and sniffed the air... seemingly waiting. It broke my heart. How does one explain this separation to a canine? How does one process this separation, alone?

The days, weeks and months after BJ went home, were difficult ones. I confess that my frustration often overwhelmed me. It was very hard for me to pay the dog any attention. He represented my son in so many ways that I don't know how to convey.

When we moved to Oklahoma, knowing that we would be gone overseas for long stints, we asked my brother to take him. Brad already had a dog of his own. They were similar in size and age. Our dog loved Brad.

Saying Brad's name to our dog would send him running from window to window, whining with excitement! He knew him by name, and could not wait to see him.

Becoming Brad's second dog was most difficult for Brad's first. He was the alpha male and did not want any other not to realize it. They all adjusted quite well. They have been a family for the past three plus years.

Many times I found myself wanting him back. The agony that once made it so difficult to be around him, had ebbed... some. We had made a few acquaintances who suggested they would help care for him when we were out of the country. The time just never seemed right.

When Brad suggested coming with the dogs a few weeks ago, Deanna and I began to discuss the possibility of asking to take him back.

We did not want to upset the balance at Brad's home. We did not want to upset Brad.

Honestly, I don't think it was possible to keep Brad from being upset. He cared deeply for this dog. He loved him with all he had. He has sacrificed to take care of him, over and again.

This morning, when it came time for Brad to go home, we discussed the best way for him to leave without the dog knowing he was being left behind. We focused on that.

Hugging my brother goodbye became tearful. While it is normal for me to express emotion easily, this was different. The moment pregnant with so much meaning, and so many emotions. I felt like I understood the emptiness and hurt he was experiencing. He understood the reasons we were anxious to have our dog back. We each hurt for the other, and we both simply, wept.

He is now traveling a ten hour journey back to Indy, with only one dog.

I miss him already. Having him here is the most natural thing. Having him leave is not easy. Having him leave a part of himself behind, is not easy for him. He is selfless and caring.

So is Dakota... our new, old family member.

I see him doing it again, and it is not easy to watch. He is looking for what he has lost. Sniffing the air, waiting, wondering. We hope to love him through this new separation.

I am sure he will love us through ours!

Thank you, Brad. We miss you!


Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Deanna, Pastor Tito and me (in Chimbote, Peru)

My brother (and his dogs) arrive today. We are excited to have some time with him!
Having family decide to come and spend time with you is always a blessing. I find I long for it in ways I never had to before... at least before we moved out here. There are family members we have not seen in a long time, and this is not easy for us. We hope to work out opportunities to connect with each of them.

Taking a look back at the year thus far, I am amazed at the incredible opportunities the Lord has afforded me. He has seen to it that I have been able to serve Him in seven different countries.

I talked previously about this being a time of reflection. It seems each September comes and brings with it fresh views of past memories. This month brings the fourth time we have done so. Each time finds us dealing with things a bit better.

We have had the privilege of seeing God do amazing and powerful things in the wake of BJ's loss. Lives around the world have been touched by what God continues to do with "I Would Die for You." He has seen fit to pass our book into countries we had no idea it would ever reach. He is calling believers to obedience each time.

Doors are opening before us into worlds we never expected to set foot in. Being able to touch lives in these places is incredibly humbling. It's also intoxicating. We are so thankful that we serve such an amazing Savior.

To be honest, the friendships we have had to leave behind, have not been replaced. As a result, we have grown very close to each other. I sometimes tremble at how much I love my wife, how much we enjoy each others company. The closeness we have before the Lord, amazes me. I cannot imagine trekking through these memories, these new experiences, without her. Our time together is precious to us. We tend to be protective of it.

We are constantly aware of the role the Lord has played in all of this. This is not a path we would have chosen. It is our path, and we seek to bring Him glory as we press through it.

We have encountered so many who are experiencing pain at such deep and troubled places. We do not take them or their issues, lightly.

I am certain that had BJ known how many lives would be touched by his life, he would have been humbled... overwhelmed. Can I just say, so are we. We are absolutely in awe of how God has used his brief life to speak so much truth into others experiences.

The ministry that has grown from his obedience amazes us. The obedience that has grown from his ministry is inspiring.

I have been studying a great deal recently, the issues of idolatry, and how difficult it is for us to fully surrender to Jesus.

As a father who has struggled to understand how his son could do the things he did and lived the way he did in a world that doesn't do likewise, I must say, I see so much Christ in him, and so little of how most of us cope or deal.

His passions, his love, his attitudes, all reflected that he had released his grip on finding his treasures on earth. He understood what it meant to 'store up treasures in heaven.'

He routinely heard from the Lord, because he was not holding onto idols in his heart. He was seeking the Son of God.

Many sons follow in the footsteps of their fathers. Few fathers seek to follow in the steps of their sons. I am trusting that Jesus prints, are beneath them both.