Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Sound of a Heavy Rain

"Go and look toward the sea."
~Claude Monet: Water Lilies 1916
We purchased this oil reproduction from a consignment store over a decade ago. It came from room 1122 in the Waldorf. The hotel had sold a stack of these during a major remodel. It has hung over our fireplace in three separate homes. It has always been one of my most prized possessions.

I have spent a significant amount of time gazing into this waterscape, allowing my mind to feel its depth as I would work away at a thought. This week I was challenged to "pray like Elijah, and then act like Elijah" by my pastor, Joe Mayerick. Do you know the story of Elijah when he faced off against 850 of his enemies? 

What strikes me about this story (1 Kings 18) is that Elijah was convinced that God would follow through with His promise. At the smallest sign that God was sending rain... Elijah immediately took action. He prayed with expectation. So many times we pray while we are consumed with doubt. We pray with this overwhelming sense of desperation and hopelessness... and we fail to look towards the sea.

When our prayers are aligned with the promises of God, we must pray with expectation and we must pray with steps of faith. So many times we simply stop praying when we don't get the answer we want... and yet, we may be a single prayer away from a miracle.  Joshua walked around Jericho a dozen times without anything happening. Elijah sent his servant to look towards the sea 6 times with no result. Noah spent days sending birds from the ark that could find no land. What if they would have given up?

Sometimes we must first receive an answer that we do not expect in order to be ready to see the answer that is provided. Closed doors force us to face a new perspective. 

Tomorrow is our final garage sale day and I was rooting through the shed to see what else I could sell. I came across an old mirror that I had covered with newspaper and painted over a decade ago. The last time the glass had held my reflection, our son was a year old, and neither of our daughter's had been born. We had not yet taken a single step on our path of adoption and finding our life's ministry. I took a corner of the newsprint in my hand and I tore open a section of the mirror.

I felt as if I were opening a time capsule or portal. As my eyes studied my reflected image from within the glass... I saw myself as I was ten years ago. It was like I was face to face with my past self. We regarded each other and we discovered that we were not the same. 

I remembered how uncertain I was of the future, and how I was desperate for a sense of direction... a feeling of purpose. I can remember praying desperately that I would find a calling. My mind reflected on years of silence from God. My memory replayed the many wrong steps and paths that I pursued. There were so many times that I quit trying. I am so thankful for my wife who never gave up. And I can see how each step of the way brought us here.

And here... I regard my older self at this point in life. God has answered our prayers. He has drawn our gaze to the sea. We can hear the sound of a mighty rain. It is no longer a question of will God answer our prayers. We know He is. 

We gaze to the sky, and we see a small cloud has moved up from the sea. And we gather our belongings, we tuck our coat tightly into our belt...

...and we run toward His promise. 

We run to Your Throne 
Where we belong 
Every heart will sing 
That Jesus is Lord 
Casting all else aside 
For the joy of our Christ 
Let Your Glory fall 
Our hearts are filled with Your Fire 
(Hillsong: Where We Belong, 2008)

Look for and listen to the promises of God. Hold on. Pray through. The only way we fail is if we stop praying.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Living In Miracles: the Joy of a Broken Heart

Take a moment and consider this picture.

What you are looking at is an orphan that was abandoned, premature, and without hope on the side of a road. She was left to die. Her family could not keep her. They were desperate and shattered with fear and heartbreak. A son was necessary for the survival of them all, and they had a daughter. These people were not monsters... they were simply pressed to the edge of the abyss. I send prayers to them daily that God can comfort their souls that their daughter is loved.

No matter what part of the world we are from... we all want the same thing. We want to be loved. We want to be a part of something bigger than ourselves. We want to have a future. We want to believe that this life means SOMETHING. 

~Our Story of Adoption!~

Our daughters were once orphans, and now they are a part of our family. Aleksandra Elise... she has the name her birth mother gave her before she made the choice to give her up in hope of a better life-- Aleksandra. Her middle name, Elise... is taken from my Great Grandmother's name Elsie.

Sterling Mei, translated from the chinese means, "precious little sister," and she is exactly that to her older brother and sister. She is indeed precious. We prayed intensely and gave our faith steps as we waited for 6 years. God knew what he was doing. Even before she was born, He was shaping our lives to be ready for her. We have no doubt that her life is forever meant to be a part of ours. She is 100% Shepherd.

Caleb Thomas. Our first-born. Our son. I dreamed his name one night and awoke knowing that it was right. Thomas... the disciple that demanded that he experience Jesus for himself. He placed his hand in the wound of the arisen Christ's side... he traced his fingers along the nail wound in Jesus' hands. He was not a doubter, he was the one who was bold enough to touch the risen messiah! And Caleb... one of Joshua's most trusted men. He was brave, and he helped lead the way to the promised land.

This is our family.

We are brought together by the power of adoption and miracle of birth. Our salvation comes through the same path... God has reconciled to him through a re-birth of salvation and adopted us as His sons and daughters. As we hold our daughters in our arms and feel the power of their love, we know that this is the same fierce grip that surrounds us as we are held in the embrace of God.

This is true religion. This is simple truth. We only seek to embrace others as God has embraced us. We pledge the remainder of our lives in this endeavor. Succeed or fail... it does not matter. We seek the embrace of God.

We are fully faith-based. What we do will require your assistance. We ask that you become a part of who we are. We need you. Yes...YOU. I am personally asking you to walk with us. Be a part of this story.

~Our Specific Mission!~

We are part of a tremendous organization, Catalyst Resources International that shares this same goal. Kellie and I have given up all that we have to make this happen because our experience with adoption and the power of God's love simply compels us to do so. 

We are pre-approved to work with the Guatemalan court system to take in abandoned infants within our own home and facilitate adoptions with their forever families. While in country last week I heard of the plight of a baby girl who was found alone and abandoned to die in the garbage.

We go to Guatemala to open our hearts, our arms, and our home to abandoned girls. We go to bring them in to live with us as we find their forever homes. 

In addition to this, Kellie will be volunteering with the local school, and I will be working with short-term mission teams from the states to offer relief, build homes, feed, and take the message of the gospel to people living in indigenous mountain villages.  I will also be serving with a local church, Journey Church Guatemala that is an English speaking congregation made up of missionaries, teachers, those in country for business, as well as Guatemalans! I will even have some preaching assignments!

We are not turning back. This is our life's work. The furniture you see in the picture above has been sold. Our home has been leased. We now live in my parents' basement as we pay off our debts and envision the day our 10 suitcases rest on Guatemalan soil. Our lives are forever changed by the power of faith reconciled with action!

~Be Missionaries with us as Partners!~

We have faith that God will provide to us the funding necessary. We have decided to place 100% of our education, our talents, and our time into helping these children. And we need your financial support to fund us. 

You will never regret the dollars you send to support this cause. We will send you pictures, videos, and updates of the faces you change. And... you can personally correspond with the lives you touch. You can even come and hold the children who were once without hope... who now have a future, thanks to you.

This is our chance to make a difference with our days. This is your moment that has been presented. These are those "least of these" to whom we can extend love and hope. 

We invite you to be our partner as together we become the hands and feet of God. Children suffer unbelievably, and yet we can help them so easily!

Nuts and bolts... reality time. Here is what we need.

1 at $10,000

2 at $5,000 = $10K

5 at $2,000 = $10K

10 at $1,000 = ($84/month) $10K

20 at $500 ($42/month) = $10K

30 at $360 ($30/month) = $10K

40 at $240 ($21/month) = $10K

Grand Total: $70,000/year

You can begin giving today through our mission agency's website by clicking the link: <<Commission To Every Nation>>

Your donation is fully tax-deductible and can be made securely on-line, or follow the steps for mailing in a personal check.

We ask that you allow yourself to come on the journey. This is God's work and His vision. He will provide the funds. You are His instrument. This is true religion.

We will be moving to Guatemala by June of 2013, and we are collecting funds now. We will be able to leave as soon as we are fully funded.


Religion that God our Father 
accepts as pure and faultless is this: 
to look after orphans and widows 
in their distress 
and to keep oneself 
from being polluted by the world.

Everything that we are, every step that we have taken... has led us to this place. This is our forever. We can hardly wait to get there!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Pencil Box Treasures

Our dear children are convinced that we have collectively lost our minds. We sold the flatware off of the dinner table a couple of nights ago. 

It was like a scene from a movie as I scrambled around the kitchen snatching forks and spoons from the dishwasher and my children, quickly washing them in the sink, and then bundling them all together with plastic wrap and bartering them away. You should have seen the look on my kids faces as I lifted the forks and spoons from their place mats and loaded them in a box! We had to have a family meeting to 'splain some things!

When a knock on the door happens and we have a loved one with cash in hand... we rush to the opportunity. A dear friend wanted to purchase all of our dishes. She had family who had lost their home in a tornado a few weeks ago. We are honored and amazed to be part of this story that God is authoring. The difficulty of parting with the dishes from our wedding was forgotten as we realized that our dishes would help feed a family who had lost everything to recent tragedy. He is the God who provides.

We are learning about cultural differences right now as we work through our reading list before going to missionary training in June. It speaks of how we must embrace a hot culture and be ready for many interruptions of guests and develop an ability to multi-task! Thank goodness we have had great life-experiences with this over the past two weeks! We are selling very nearly everything we own and we have advertised it on Facebook and invited anyone who knows us to simply... drop by.

Yes indeed, many of you have taken us up on that invitation... and we are very grateful! We have sold every piece of furniture at this point... either to folks who participated in our early bird garage sell, or to the incredible couple who is leasing our house. We now have a lease agreement and will be official residents of my parent's basement on May 12.

It has been an incredible week. Kellie and I have had discussions with our children that we would never had encountered except for following this path. We have discussed the human feeling of loss, and been able to compare it to the incredible promise of God's love, and what it means to be a follower of Christ. It has been incredibly affirming to see our kid's perspective shift as their gaze has begun to focus on what we run towards.

Not only have we been able to discuss our goals and focus our mission, we have also had some incredible moments of simply savoring the present. We know that we are soon leaving our home, and we are recognizing the value of the memories. These are moments that helped solidify us as a family, and memories that will comfort our hearts in times to come.

This was one of many moments...

This picture was taken from my perspective as I gave Sterling her warm milk before bedtime. This is always one of the most incredible moments of my day. It is warm, secure, and I find myself exactly where I belong... holding in my arms a child that was once without hope. I feel her weight and warmth and I know that this is how I feel in the arms of Jesus. This is true religion. Nothing is better. Give what you have received.

Simple truth.

I love the perspective of my daughter. She was in the arms of her dad, drinking her bottle, and waving to her dog. "Dog" was her first new word when coming home.

Do you have any memories of comfort from your childhood? As I sorted through the boxes in our basement, I was suddenly thrown back some two decades as I lifted a small yellow pencil box from the crate and opened the lid.

These are the treasures of 7th Grade Chad P. Shepherd. I am not sure how my mother chose to save them, and I am even more perplexed as to how they made their way over 25 years of time... but when I opened the lid, I was actually fearful that I might travel back to that time-- the memories were so strong.

Do you see the contents? A pocket-knife from my dad, a Boy Scout tie clasp, a pocket-knife from my Papaw Harry, the two Timex watches that I had worn as a boy, a rubber mouse, and the impression of my lower teeth before I was fitted for a pre-braces retainer. And, of course... the caption, "Chad Shepherd #1 and counting!" Wow... I gotta tell ya, there have been many times since then that I did NOT feel like #1.

Seeing this... quickened my heart and ignited my memories. I remember those days. I remember the frustrations and dreams of a 12 year old boy. I am so amazed that God has found me here. I have a son now that is nearly that age. I wonder what will be in his treasure box when he is 37.

I can tell you this with certainty. My treasure box now is not full of the physical possessions that I have accumulated since age 12. I have gained things and I have lost them. What I had left... I now sell and give away. The treasure we seek is greater than can be kept in a pencil box, and yet... what you see in the pencil box above explains it best.

Our greatest treasure is simply who we become. What we did. Who we loved. The small bits we leave behind that tell the story. We all have a choice to make. 

What treasures do we hold in our hands each night? As for my wife and I, we choose the promise of God over flatware.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

A Requiem of Worth

How do we measure our lives? What if I was snuffed from the surface of the earth tomorrow? What would I leave behind? I am convinced that it isn't about when I die... rather it is about what I did while I lived. Once I am gone, what story will be told by what I leave behind?

When Kel and I were in college, we liked to find estate sales and wander through them. It is a fascinating experience. As you sort and sift through the personal belongings the family left after their passing, it is like you are walking a kaleidoscope of their life. All the colors and components are there, scattered for your to inspect. A few years back we were able to tour the Biltmore Mansion. We remain in wonder of the expanse, reach, and extravagance of their lives. Each room tells a story. Each photograph bears witness to their influence and character. You walk the halls and you feel the power of the family even though generations have passed by.

This stuff of earth that I hold so tightly to... can feel so binding, and yet I realize its fleeting nature. I am so thankful to walk this road. Have you ever had the chance to measure the worth of your life? I have and I realized that it has no worth. Now, that is perhaps not the wisest thing for me to say as I try to sell it! 

And yet... the stuff of earth is a distraction that I am compelled to shove aside. What would Nicodemus had been able to accomplish if he were able to walk away? Where would we be had Moses not been willing to abandon his wealth and standing? What if Noah wasn't willing to invest his days and his resources into building a ridiculous boat? What do we sacrifice when we are unwilling to give up what we have?

Kel and I love to travel, and when we travel we bring a piece of art home. We always make it a mission to select an item that is created by a local artist... typically either a street artist, a student, or an artist that isn't all that good (that is how we can afford it). Even so, we have accumulated a collection that is very dear to us. Each piece tells of an experience in our life where we took a chance. 

A couple articles will accompany us to our parting days of this earth. We have an oil from a street artist in a Moscow Market that we purchased while we brought Aleksandra home. We have an incredible sheet of rice paper that a man painted with his thumbnail as we watched on the Great Wall of China a day before we were claimed by our daughter, Sterling. We have a charcoal drawing of Kel that we patiently waited for on a frigid night in Times Square just before Caleb was born. 

Where we have been... what we hold dear... these things define us.

I love this picture. I offer it up as a definition of me. It is a reflection of our passion. We were blessed with a single biological child, our son Caleb. And yet... we knew that we had more children. And so, we found our daughters on the face of the earth. These items bear witness to our love.

It is a bittersweet thing to part with items that have brought so much happiness into our lives, and even so... it seems so appropriate that now these very same belongings will bring joy to new lives as well as godspeed us on our journey. I am so thankful that we get to say goodbye to so much. It is how we say hello to what is ahead. We do so... never forgetting the incredible power, experience, and knowledge that the past has given to us. We can never thank enough our mothers, our fathers, our grandparents.

Tragedy struck a friend of mine this week. He and his family are missionaries to Paraguay. An automobile accident took the life of his wife and son. He now holds his young daughter tightly in his love. Life can seem so cruel. 

Somehow though... even our lives are something that we unreasonably hold tightly in our grips. This existence isn't about our stuff. It isn't really even about our lives. When you really look into it... it is about our worth. What makes up our worth?

It comes down to belief. It comes down to action. It comes down to the simple examination... does your action reconcile with your belief?

As I sorted through the things that I have held close for the past 37 years of my life, and I mentally processed the reality that I am releasing them... I had to face a simple truth. When I am gone... what will be left? It will simply be, the people I have touched, and the belief I have lived. Everything else... well, it is just garage sell stuff.

P.S. If you can, please come buy my stuff. If you ask, I will tell you the story behind the item you take home. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Peace of Fear: Deliverance from Safety

-Aleksandra & personal accountability (no additional consequence required).

For what shall it profit a man,
if he shall gain the whole world, 
and lose his own soul?
~Mark 8:36 (Matthew 16:26, Luke 9:25) KJV

The wise man in the storm prays to God, 
not for safety from danger, 
but deliverance from fear.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Jesus didn't hesitate. 
He reached down and grabbed his hand. 
Then he said, 
"Faint-heart, what got into you?"
~Matthew 14:31 The Message

How is it that we ignore the truth that none of us escape alive? How is it that we sell out our purpose to gain security and comfort? Don't we realize that we trade away a promise for a lie?

Show me the story of a person who accomplished incredible things, and I will show you a person who did not operate with a priority on safety. Besides... chances are that you will die either at home, or close to home. And yet... we do not fear being at home.

We were discussing the idea of praying for safety around the dinner table tonight. I think this concept is a distraction. Historically, followers of Christ do not get safety. Why do we feel compelled to ask for what the greatest men and women of our faith, and even the very Son of God were not given? We are not promised safety... we are promised salvation and a full life.

I have written in the past for our friends and loved ones to not pray that we will be safe... and I am compelled to say this again! It is not our goal to be safe. It is our desire to follow the will of God, to share in the heart of God, to live out the love of God. It is our passion to find that place where faith and belief are reconciled. I love the question of Jesus to Peter, "you of little faith, why did you doubt?" 

We walk towards the God of the universe and yet... we fear for our safety? Now, I know that it is human nature to fear, and yet... we are created in the image of God. We are told that in our weakness, it is His strength that becomes our power (2 Corinthians 12:10).

My pastor made an incredible statement,

 "Fear makes us falter. Faith makes us Fearless."

Kellie and I have been wrestling with a final decision as we transition to become missionaries. Isn't it funny how everything comes down to money? We needed to decide if we are going to be fully funded by donors (faith-based) or if we would attempt to secure employment that would supplement our funding. When examined our reason for going to Guatemala, the answer suddenly was very clear.

We will be 100% faith-based. 

Any form of employment that we would pursue would take us away from the vision that God has placed on our hearts. We have no intention of making this change half-heartedly. Kellie is looking to volunteer for a private, English-speaking school called CAG. This will enable our children to go there tuition free, and CAG also will provide care for Sterling during the work day. This will allow Kellie to provide a need while using her professional abilities. This will also free me up to assist Catalyst Resources International, our mission, throughout the day. 

Our goal is this: we will open a second home like Mimi's House that will be our own. Our focus will be to work within the Guatemalan court system to facilitate the adoptions of orphans to loving families. Even in the months we have been preparing... doors are opening. While we pursue this vision, we will be learning culture and language, raising our children, and working with C.R.I. & CAG. We do not do any of this to be safe... we go because the love of God that we have experienced compels us to do so.

We will need your prayers and we will need your financial support. Prayerfully and thoughtfully consider now if this something you would like to be a part of... and how much do you want to give?  My promise is that we will produce tangible results. I will share with you often the stories... the pictures... and the videos of the faces, names, and hope of the people that are forever changed.

I can tell you so many stories already. It has forever changed me.

If you noticed the note at the top of this little doodle, here is why it is there. I believe the spirit and attitude of the note from my daughter is exactly how I need to react to God. I know I am not perfect. Sometimes I fear. Sometimes I doubt. Sometimes I listen to all the reasons that come with "can't." 

And then...

again, I remember that this is about my own accountability, and my own willingness to look consequence in the eye. I realize that the consequence of embracing fear... is taking my eyes off of the Man who extends His hands over the surface of the water. I hear His voice say, "what go into you?", and I reach back up as He keeps my feet walking.

The relationship between me and my daughter is based on total trust. She is my adopted daughter who I travelled across the world to bring home and feel her hug. There is nothing better in my life than her smile. 

And I know that is how God sees me. And you. And people everywhere.

Whatever course you decide upon, 
there is always someone to tell you 
that you are wrong. 
There are always difficulties arising 
which tempt you to believe 
that your critics are right. 
To map out a course of action 
and follow it to an end 
requires courage.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you haven't already, check out our webpage at Commission To Every Nation, and learn how you can help support our ministry.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

...Then Come And Follow Me.

We do not yet possess ourselves, and we know at the same time that we are much more. 
~Ralph Waldo Emerson 

This is Eldon Henry and Elsie (Stamper) Henry. They are my great-grandparents. Their legacy shapes my life even today, although they are past from this world. Eldon is the man I knew as Mr. Henry, he married my great-grandma after her first husband, James Stamper passed. Although Eldon wasn't my blood... he was every bit my Papaw. If you know my story, you know that I believe that family is not limited by genetics. Family is much bigger than that.

Mammaw & Papaw Henry were saints in my young eyes as a child. My mother would "fix" Mammaw's hair every Saturday morning and I would fly paper airplanes with "Mr. Henry." If I was feeling mischievous I would slip into the dining room and write on their dry erase board (I loved the smell of the ink). Paul Harvey would play on the radio, and then later I would listen to the Bible Hour program from Chicago. I can remember taping pocket change to paper notes and slipping them into envelopes so I could donate to that ministry. Looking back, Mr. Henry probably spent more on the postage than the value of my gift. 

Mammaw and Mr. Henry had a 3 story home in a part of the city that had once been grand, but had slipped from prominence over the decades. We now had to carefully make our scurry from the car to the heavy, triple bolted front door. But, once inside... it was like the mansion described in C.S. Lewis' tale of The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe (still my favorite book of all time).

Their house had an attic that was straight from the movies... you could see the beams that held the roof, and cobwebs hung that were bigger than me. The basement had a boiler, and a coal room that was padlocked. I was sure that the lock held back some unforeseen danger. Lightbulbs hung from cords and required a pull from a small chain to turn them on. This required a walk through darkness to turn on the lights. The ancient boiler made noises unlike anything I have heard before or since. The house seemed a living, breathing entity. 

I used to wander away and explore... my heart pounding as I challenged myself to explore the dark corners of the basement and the spider-claimed angles of the attic. The second floor was an unused apartment. All of the furniture was in place... dishes stood untouched for decades in the cabinets, beds were made that had not seen wrinkles in their covers for years. This was by far the most fascinating section of the home. It was like time had been frozen. I used to silently slip through those rooms... convinced that if I moved to quickly I would disturb ghosts.

All the way down the back hallway, I would ease open the thick, dark, paneled wooden door with my eyes closed as the hinges creaked and dust obscured the sunlight through the antique, distorted glass windows. This room was terrifying... but I HAD to see it. It held incredible treasures.

Mr. Henry had been a missionary when he was younger. He had spears, and shields, and clothing that were unlike anything I had ever seen. To a small boy from Preble County, Ohio... this was like Indiana Jones when he first caught glimpse of the Ark of the Covenant. And there were pictures! Pictures of Mr. Henry as a younger man, standing with the villagers.

I have never forgotten those days... 

And now, my wife and I have our own pictures. We have hundreds of digital pics of us in the mountain villages outside of Guatemala city. I have a machete on the mantel of my fireplace. And we have textiles! I have 3 ties woven by women from Antigua that I were nearly every day so that I can tell people about our love for Guatemala.

I think back of my days as a boy... while Eldon allowed me to "sneak" around his home and wonder at his treasures. I see my own son, Caleb as he examines the pieces that I have brought back from a distant land... and I tell him of how our life is about to change as we align our action with our belief.

He sees us make this transition. So does his sister, Aleksandra.

Caleb has watched us adopt his two sisters... and he knows their stories well. Our family can tell you about the power of redemption. Each of us has a story to share. We can all tell you how we were once just individuals... and now we are a strong family that was brought together by the convergence and provision of God.

It has been so affirming to hold the hands of our children as we walk this transition. We have seen their confusion turn to understanding that led to questions and great fear! We have seen their fear turn to acceptance, and then enthusiasm, and now prayerful contemplation. We have had discussions of what we are leaving, abandoning, giving up... and what we are gaining. We have had serious talks about the things that can not be given up... that make us who we are, give us our identity, and how these things will never change. We talk about how God will be with us no matter where we are. We talk about how this family is not limited by international boundaries... rather, it is defined by the call of God.

And now... we see the result of our faith and our obedience. We have been talking this talk of Guatemala for over a year. Many close to us have doubted that we would really see this talk turn to reality. At times, we of course have had doubts as well. And yet... we have remained steadfast and God has been faithful. We have continued to walk the path He has laid before us.

And suddenly we are accelerating! We are thrilled! We are shell-shocked! We are giddy! We are admittedly scared! And we are good with all of this. We are eager to go. With our house rented, we have 6 weeks to reduce our belongings and move into the basement of my parent's home. Then we will have a year to pay down bills, save money, build support, further reduce our belongings, and then we will arrive in San Cristobal to begin life.

Today we loaded 2 couches and 2 dressers into a trailer and hauled them away. These were the first major pieces of furniture to leave our home. We have hauled bag after bag and box after box of books, clothes, and misc junk out over the past year... but this is the first time that items left our house and left a bare hole in the layout of our space. 

Our bedroom looks wide and empty. The family room now seats 3 less people. I have a stereo piled on a tiny wooden table. Our cupboards are nearly empty. Yellow stickers cover the possessions in our home as they identify what we need to sell, and what we hope to collect. Tomorrow we will have friends and family walk through our home, and they will select items to purchase from us. This will help us prepare to move out by June 1, and it will help fund our transition. I have been contemplating this word today...


Kel and I have been married for nearly 17 years! That statistic amazes me! I was only 16 when we started dating. We have now been married longer than I had been alive when I first asked her out! Do you know how many possessions that can be acquired in 17 years? We have pursued possessions for so long... automobiles, furniture, televisions, computers, pictures, art, photographs, utensils, appliances... all things that we longed to possess.

Recently... I understood that these items we had struggled to obtain, had somehow gained an ownership of us.

We had become masters to the items that we held. Our possessions... in fact possessed us. We were held back and limited by the investments we had made into them. We had obligations, and payments, and expectations that had to be fulfilled! The pursuits of our life dictated the future path that we could take. Kel and I went to Guatemala... and our hearts were seized! Our eyes were opened! We desired to make a difference... and we were limited by our past decisions.

And yet... our belief was stronger than our circumstance. God was present in our own lives, He gave us a second chance. We found healing in desolation. We found hope and forgiveness that silenced the chaos of shattered dreams. I experienced the love that comes from God, and I could not deny its power and truth.

Our possessions simply have to go. They do not have enough value to cost us the desire of our souls. We are not brave... we are not anything accept desperate to hold on to the truth that we grasp. Nothing else is more valuable than the love of God. 

Once you have experienced such great truth... how can it not radically change your life? Once you have seen such great faith manifest in the barefoot dust of a mountain village... how can you not be challenged?

We are doing our best to be obedient. We are desperate for your partnership. We are confident that God will provide. We hope that you will be blessed to be a piece of this provision. Prayerfully consider partnering with us. 

You can start today.

Matthew 19:21
Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

Romans 6:22-23But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Friday, April 13, 2012

This is JERICHO: (8) Beyond The Open Door

 These are the words of Him who is holy and true, 
who holds the key of David. 
What He opens no one can shut, 
and what He shuts no one can open. 

 I know your deeds.

 See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut. 
I know that you have little strength, 
yet you have kept My word 
and have not denied My name.
~Revelation 3:7-8

It is in those quiet, alone moments when we decide who we are. We don't become heroes, villains, or meaningless souls in the charged moments of life that color our character... rather, those situations simply strip us naked to reveal who we are.  How do we deal with fear? How do we face disappointment? What is our response when we are faced with disappointment?

God tells us that a closed door is an opportunity. A chance to turn and go the right way. A moment to understand that it is His provision alone that can lead us out. We will not recognize rescue until we acknowledge that we are stranded.

I was driving southbound on I-75 after a meeting. My mind was spinning with thoughts of all that needed to be accomplished within the next 15 months. I allowed myself to become overwhelmed, and started to become angry. And then... I again thought of Joshua as he circled that city on the 7th day. 

He had been obedient to God... and yet nothing had changed. For 7 days he had led a nation in a circle, always ending right where they had started... and not a single block had cracked. The city of Jericho stood just as tall and mighty as it did a week ago. 

But then I realized... could it be that I was interpreting this wrong? Sure he had doubts, but his actions also showed that he had some faith! This was the critical moment... he was so close to full obedience, to staying faithful. If he had given up at that moment, he would have missed the miracle. He may have had doubts, but he kept on walking.

Yes... I would keep on walking. God was my only answer. I would rather face failure while following God than to find success without Him. Most conversations throughout the week followed the same script: 

"So, you're selling your furniture?" 
"Oh, so you have a buyer for your house?"
"What... you're renting it out?"
"No, we haven't found a renter yet."
"But you're selling your furniture?"
"Yes, we are moving forward."
"But...what if you can't sell?"
"We are moving forward."

Yes... I was resolved. This was not the time to give up now. In a few short hours, our home was to be viewed by Kellie's cousin and his family. We circled these walls. God had promised us that He had already delivered the city.

Today we arrived at His promise. Our house has been leased. The city has fallen. What we were unable to see, God has delivered. Our willingness to be obedient, to have a little faith, and to keep walking... even when progress was unapparent, was honored by God. 

He has made our path straight.

Sure, we allowed ourselves to look a little foolish... marching around our home like some concrete-headed, literal, simplistic fundamentalist... and yet we realized two things. First, we had walked into a situation that could only be solved by God. Second, we could not expect His intervention if we failed to be obedient. And so... we read the story of Joshua, and we focused our hearts, our prayers, and even our actions on the path.

The Robinson's will take residence in our home on June 1st, 2012. They have even agreed to purchase our furniture! They had also been desperate for a solution to difficulties of their own, and our two sets of problems fit together to form an incredible solution. This is the provision of God. From our perspective, it was as if they fell from the sky. Before Israel shouted down a wall... they fed for decades on manna.

We are now readying our hearts to begin our farewells to this chapter of our lives. I noticed Caleb this evening sitting on the couch and thoughtfully looking out the window of our family room. I recognized his thoughts. I took a while to stop and sit with him and our hearts shared an incredible moment of remembering all the happy memories of us in this place. 

We have established tangible testaments to our life here these past 7 years, and we laughed and experienced them all again. We walk away from this place of comfort and security to take hold of an incredible chance to reach out and touch the face of God. 

There are more challenges that face us in the coming 15 months... and we will have more cities to circle. Although we are still stunned by the events of the day, we recognize the undeniable hand of God in our lives, and we are emboldened by this convergence. 

What we could not accomplish, God has delivered. You are witness to His provision.  

Pray for us that we continue to dream big, listen to His voice, and then follow His lead. May our motives remain pure, and may we always be willing to look foolish in order to exercise faith and look for miracles.

Jericho is behind us.

God is our provision and we give Him thanks.

Oh yeah... God must know that sometimes I can be a little thick-skulled and I think He wanted me to understand that today was brought about by His hand. Within a ten minute window today, 3 situations that we had been waiting on for months with absolutely no progress... all collided with resolution: (1) Sterling's U.S. Citizenship document arrived, (2) my ordination process moved forward, (3) our home was leased by people we love. 

Yes... this was God once again grapping me by the collar to tell me that He is aware, and He is in control. 

Loud & Clear. We step through the door.