Saturday, June 29, 2013

"Aspire To Be More than a Monkey!"


Me: (to the kids) 

"I need you guys to be on your best behavior. It isn't good enough to just follow me around and not hurt yourselves or each other... even a monkey could do that. 

You should aspire to be more than a monkey."

Needless to say... there was laughing all around as Kellie suggested the family should begin a notebook of Chad Sayings, and Caleb suggested that You Should Aspire to be More than a Monkey might be the title of my first book.

Well... have you seen my family? I just don't know where they get this inappropriate behavior?

video

Should you ever find yourself the father of a missional family of 3 half-way through your full month study in language school and 3/4 of the way through your full quotient of sanity, I suggest to you that keeping an active sense of humor is vital.

After purchasing two mobile phones from a dealer downtown Guatemala City, our bank accounts were frozen, including every credit card we had... even though we had informed the bank of the purchase. This led to me being unable to pay for a group of 6 at the counter of Taco Bell. 

I had exhausted the currency that I carried on a tank of diesel and unexpected cash purchases related to the new phones. So after my, "lo siento" (sorry) at the counter we walked away from our stack of tacos and made our way to the elevator.

We rode it the wrong way... went back down... realized we were on the wrong floor... walked across the garage... and then could not exit the building because the gate was broken.

All we could do was LAUGH! We were so thankful to have our friend, Eduardo with us.. otherwise, who knows?

At the end of the day... even through the difficulty, we had completed our major goals for the day. We had procured phones and we had also found time (somehow) to open our Guatemalan bank accounts. 

So... did I live up to my own words yesterday? I don't know. I have seen monkeys throw fits in the zoo... and I think I came close several times. But, you know what?

I wouldn't trade yesterday for a perfect day. It was a wonderful day of lessons, of patience, of an incredible friend sticking beside us through the tough petty frustrations that sometimes find us in a day... and it helped me to realize:

when it comes to following God... I have to do better than just to imitate him. I have to do better than to simply not break the rules or hurt myself. I have to aspire to live with His heart.

I have to "aspire to be more than a monkey!"

____________________________________________

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. 

Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. 

I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.

~Philippians 12-14 

(hoo-hoo-hoo-hee-ha-ha-ha-heeeee! -monkey talk).

Monday, June 24, 2013

El Cerro de la Cruz (The Hill of the Cross)

24 de Junio, 2013

It seems this is the 3rd time I have visited the cross above Antigua, Guatemala... the 2nd for our entire family to gather here. 

While I am sure the place has meaning for a great many people, my heart knows best what it means to me.

I think of the hands that built it. Not those who commissioned it or those who supervised it, but the hands of the workmen. I think of the strain of their labor under the sun at high altitude as they disturbed the dirt and angered the ants. I can feel the dirt in the bend of their elbows and the grit between my teeth.

I know that feeling exchanging callouses for production, the trade of a few drops of blood and a sore back to stand from a distance and see the results of my contribution.

I look at this cross and my mind also reflects sights that are unseen. I picture my God as He looks down and remembers the tears of His hands and the incredible exchange of His purchase... my redemption.

I can not help but reflect of another cross... on another hill.

Words are felt deeply in my heart:

Provision... everything we have is given to us by God, by His timing, through His people

Convergence... everything we are is made up of experiences that He has allowed us to live, uniquely preparing us and those we encounter for this moment

Redemption... we stand where we are today because of a God who is willing to stand with his torn hands reached out to us, offering everything... if only we come.

I look at this cross over a city and I see an invitation from God. I can nearly hear the words whisper past my ears as I stand in the wind.. "Follow me. It will not be easy, but it is the way to receive my promises."

I am thankful to be here. My heart overflows with the abundance of God's provision, convergence, and redemption.

My spirit is coiled like a spring... James 1:22-27 (doers... not just hearers)

We are signing up teams & individuals now. 

Come and allow your life to be changed as you lift up the life of one, two... or even a village.


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Returning From Guamiski

Guatemala Missionary Kids
- Camp Guamiski -

Route between Antigua & Chimaltenango

Text from Fontaine:

"your kids are alive and well!
They both reported a great week!"

The drive from Antigua to Chimaltenango was our first venture outside of Antigua since driving here from San Cristobal last week. Driving in Guatemala is a true adventure. I was never a fan of video games, but in retrospect I should have been. 

The variety of things that darted out into my pathway seemed never-ending and constantly surprising: goats, cows, mama with stroller, endless dogs, bicycles, motorcycles, automobiles, tuk-tuks, delivery trucks, semi-trucks, the police, the military, private security, loads of produce, building materials... all competing for the same stretch of pavement.

It is a total blast!
As I engaged the 4 wheel-drive, the phone buzzed with the text from Fontaine that our kids were happy and well!
As soon as I saw Caleb I asked him, "how was camp?" And, " so do you want to come back next year?" His immediate response, "It was AWESOME... YEAH!" After a few worship songs we had lunch with the kids and met many missionary families... and reunited with a few! The camp grounds were absolutely breathtaking! The entire camp is layed out on a mountainside. It is the like the camp stuff of movies!

We loaded up the truck and headed back to Antigua for an epic clothes-washing challenge, along with a special treat of Domino's pizza! 

The evening ended with an invitation to a birthday party from some Americans living across the courtyard. Happy Birthday Ellie! The giant piñata was awesome!

So, we have been here 11 days now and we have a few experiences chalked up. The drive home included a few wrong turns and an intimate exploration of very tight streets in a could of towns previously unknown to us... thank goodness we can always look to the local volcanoes for direction!

I think life is like that a lot. Buckle up, get ready for adventure, enjoy the scenery, and if you get lost... look to the sky.

I know the one who made it.
It is good to be home...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Un poco cada dia. (A Little Each Day)

Or, How Do You Eat An Elephant?
5 gallons of Aqua Pura
41.75 lbs of water for a quarter of a mile along with a full backpack of groceries that I had already carried a mile. Kellie's pack was full and she had Sterling in her arms most of the way. Let's just say that it was good to be back at our apartment!

I am being reminded of a lesson I learned for the first time the year I cut grass for a summer. A simple truth... 

There has been a man chopping away at a large tree stump over the past 3 days as we walk past him on our way to language school. Each swing and corresponding fall of the blade produces a hardly noticeable result, and yet the stump is slowly being reduced.

Language acquisition is a slow process much like transporting a 5 gallon jug of water

... neither can be achieved by a leap, and yet even the smallest of steps will eventually lead to completion.

Paso a paso, one step at a time. 

We feel our steps these days... each of them falls with significance. Each brings with it both the wear of the journey and the realization that we move forward. I think in life we are always moving towards something.

Perspective helps us along the way.


It is good to take note of our path. We look behind to see where we have been. We are vigilant where our feet fall in order to protect our steps. We look ahead in anticipation of what is to come. There can be beauty any way we look.

Caleb & Aleksandra waiting for tacos!

Life is worth the journey.

A cupboard full 
of groceries...

& water for a week.



Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Missionary Life on the Record ~ Take One


The Santa Rosa Ruins ~ Beside our Apartment
After completing our initial day of language school in Antigua we thought it would be nice to take a few photographs of the grounds of the apartment and the adjoining ruins. Santa Rosa is to our immediate east and is visible in the photo above. Santa Domingo is adjacent our location, the top of the ruined cathedral visible just over the south wall (pictured below).

Santo Domingo Ruin ~ Backside
We thought it would be a great idea to set the 10 second timer on the camera and capture a shot with both of us in the picture. And so I placed the camera in position and ran to Kellie for the photo... having instead set the timer on video.

video

What resulted was an authentic moment that brought a great deal of levity to an intense day of cramming information into our heads. Unfortunately I uttered the phrase, "dang-it" into the camera which isn't very misionero-like... but I think it adequately captures my gut-reaction to the moment.


Even though Sterling can be seen running in the background of the initial photo on this page, (which is indicative of her natural state) she of course was insistent that we photograph her as well, and so there (pictured above) she is.

At the end of the day we decided to step away from our usual meals of fresh fruits & vegetables, eggs, breads, and the daily pb&J sandwich and venture out for a pizza from a small but incredibly fragrant pizza shop.

One of the best moments of my life, at least until she pulls the beard.
This evening was back to studying spanish, preparing for our mission, and spending time with Sterling while the big kids are  spending time getting to know the other missionary kids... 

...and tomorrow will give us our second day of learning Spanish Guatemala style, and bring us another day closer to being back on the grounds at Catalyst Resources International, pursing this incredible mission of caring for widows and infants in their distress.

(And also allow time for me to purge the phrase, "Dang-it" from my vocabulary.)

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Video Blog of our Antigua Apartment

We consider these days a valuable learning experience. 

Things we have learned: 

1. From our apartment to the market is about a mile.

2. Three trips in one day equals 6 miles on foot with three kids, one of them a squirming monkey.

3. The squirming monkey prefers to ride on my shoulders while slapping my head.

4. A backpack filled with groceries can easily weigh 50 lbs.

5. Band-aids work great over blisters.

6. An aseptic box of Tomato Juice looks convincingly like apple juice.

7. Coffee without a coffee maker is a disappointment.

8. You can make coffee with a pot of boiling water, a handkerchief, and a pitcher.

9. Mosquitos live in drains and prefer to eat chinese.

10. Our entire lives have beautifully prepared us for this place!


Friday, June 14, 2013

And When You Run You Will Not Stumble



How can a day be filled with so much meaning? How can a soul overflow? How can my heart contain what my eyes cannot see? Surely my soul is strained to exist in this moment.

I am tempered with the knowledge that more walls will stand in our way. I am aware of the cost of building this tower... but I chose the narrow way, and my strength is supplied from a source greater than I can contain. Walls just show us that He is with us.

Today is a wonderful day. I sit in reflection with a now empty cup of coffee, among people with whom I have now pledged my life in mission to fulfill the commission of my savior. 

I am still learning the full implications of "all-in", and each step of understanding is a powerful confirmation that indeed we are exactly where we are chosen to be.

Today is my mother's birthday. It has been difficult for me, knowing that I would be away on her special day. It was also a joy to gather my family around the MacBook Pro and Skype her our rendition of Happy Birthday. A beautiful moment. 

Today is also Flag Day. I re-read the National Anthem today and I paused and reflected on the fourth and final verse. 

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heav'n rescued land
Praise the Power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust."
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

I am struck today by a sense of legacy... of accountability even. We find ourselves at a time in history where we have much, and there is even more that we can do. My mom spoke to me of my grandparents and their reaction to hearing the podcast of my final sermon (6/2/13) at Journey Church Cincinnati.

I find myself considering the influence of how we live our lives and how it plots the course of generations.


Kellie and I came to Guatemala with this idea of Generational Change engraved across our broken hearts. After a mere 3 days, our mission and vision are becoming clearer. Over the last 3 days I have seen with my physical eyes, and I have also seen what is to come. I have no doubt. I know why we are here. 

Our eyes are looking straight ahead. We have deeply pondered the steps on this path. Our feet are made ready to run.

Tomorrow we make our first solo road-trip to Antigua, also our inaugural trip in the Hyundai Terracan that so many of you helped us acquire (huge thanks to Adam Agin) & Journey Church! We are eager to begin our 4 week language immersion experience. ¡Estudiamos español!

When we return back to the grounds at Catalyst Resources International in early July, we will be working with short term mission groups, and working hand in hand with families that make up this team of missionaries that we have joined. 

We are eager to begin these steps of living a life of pure & undefiled religion of reaching out to abandoned babies and widows. It is incredibly affirming and powerful that this seems to be the deep hearts cry with all of us gathered here.

In the meantime... I hope that you can find the meaning that is just below the noisy surface in your own life. It is there if we seek it. 


Look for evidence of God in you life. Pray that your eyes are opened to see what He sees. Pray it with sincerity. 

And pray knowing that your life is bigger than just you. You will shape generations. The only question is... how?

Are you ready to run?

References:
Proverbs 4
Psalms 112
James 1:22-27
Philippians 3:12



Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Me and My (ahem) NEW Truck


Today I decided to go and inspect the 1998 Chevy Blazer that we purchased several months ago and has been awaiting us at Catalyst Resources International.

Here we are... (read this in an overdone, narrator voice) well prepared and capable missionaries ready to take on the poverty and despair of the world. Seekers of deep wrongs to convert into beautiful rights! Broken people saved by the mercy of God, called into His purpose, and living the true faith of extending love to others!

I put the key into the ignition, immediately realizing my battery was dead and simultaneously jamming the key. 

Seriously? 

The first time I touch my new truck I get the key stuck. Wonderful.

Luckily, with the help of Fontaine, Edgar, and Justin, we jumped my battery and were successful in getting the car started. Well... honestly, not with their help but totally by them (as I stood and watched sheepishly on the hillside).

So then I get in the car and with a single touch... jammed a CD into the stereo. 

I decide to try to un-jam it... and I knock the entire face-plate off of the stereo and watch it fall to the floorboard.

I look up to see if anyone has witnessed my transgressions and am relieved to see that I am alone. Whew.

After some careful inspection and problem solving I successfully eject the CD far enough to pinch it with my finger-tips and pull it out. In retrospect, this doesn't seem like an intelligent thing to do, but I promptly re-inserted the disc.

This time it is pulled into the system, paused for a moment, and then from the unlabeled disc I hear the music playing from this car that I purchased sight-unseen, months ago, from thousands of miles away, from an unknown source in Guatemala...

...out from my speakers plays in English: 

You are God, And I am not,
So take Your place, Above my life
With everything, and all I am,
I’m holding on, Onto Your plan


My life is not my own,
So come and take control,
Cause You alone are good

I closed the door of the truck, turned up the speakers and let the words pour over and into me. Yes. I am thankful.

And I love my truck.


For of such is the Kingdom of Heaven


Today was everything we hoped for and more than we could imagine. We spent the day at a small orphanage named, "God Bless The Children" that held 13 small souls ranging from age 3 months to 6 years. 

I listened to the stories of each child and found myself flooded with emotion and the brush of truth on my soul as I held my daughter... who had spent the first year of her life in an orphanage and shared a remarkably similar story.

Their stories are so moving, they are such survivors... and stories such as theirs are common all around the world.

My daughter Sterling, abandoned in a park in southern China, placed in an incubator to compensate for her underdeveloped lungs... was now swinging in the sun, in a park in Guatemala, beside another infant girl with pigtails in her hair who had been also been abandoned without hope. 

I am struck even now that this is the simple mission of the Kingdom of God. Look at this beautiful picture in the park of two lives who were grown, nourished, and made possible by the redemptive power of God. This is what loving your neighbor as yourself can become. Beautiful things... out of the darkest of situations.


And the story again repeated itself as I watched my nearly 10 year old daughter laughing and holding these who were once where she had been. 

There is nothing in my life that I draw more energy and joy from than this... seeing these who once were abandoned reaching out and holding those who are going through it now. We understand that we all are like them. All of us are in need of adoption. The Kingdom of Heaven is built on this act.



These are the handprints of the children at the orphanage... pressed in paint and held to the walls in colorful pallets of rainbows, birds, and butterflies. It seems to me to be a perfect metaphor of absolute and perfect beauty coming out of desolation. This is the redemptive power that is breathed through my being. This is the living essence of God.



I am so thankful that my children can grow up in this incredible truth. It is worth everything when I see their eyes catch a reflection of the presence of God in our everyday.


...But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 19:14 (NKJV)




Day One

We are here. 


Our mission:

to keep our eyes laser focused 
on the will of God,

to keep our actions in line 
with our vision,

to love God with all our 
heart, mind, soul, strength,

to love our neighbor 
as ourselves.


God will handle the rest.


We are abundantly thankful to those who indeed share this moment and this life-long mission with us. 

Your prayers, your words of encouragement, your willingness to allow this place to bless your lives through your sacrifice… it is all every bit as important as a footprint on the ground.

We are thrilled and encouraged to be a part of this incredible team. 

Let's be epic together.

Here we go.

I can hardly wait to begin telling you OUR STORY.


Monday, June 10, 2013

GUATEMALA 2013: (17) One-Way Passage Home



We knew we could never
return to the place where
faith protected but never reached

My feet stumbled down that road
like my actions had stumbled 
over my belief

So, dear family and friends
I understand your tears,
Lord knows I have added my own

But understand this...
 I have come to know
that wherever I walk in His will

That place is my home


Thursday, June 6, 2013

Walking with God

Brown County, Indiana ~ The Harbron Cabin

The leaves cracked to my left and held completely still. I realized that I was desperately  holding my breath and so I slowly let it out. In the periphery of my vision I could see him, a young deer, taking steps toward me. 

He was looking me directly in the eye. There was no mistaking the direct, intense gaze of the creature. I had no idea what his thoughts were as he continued walking towards where I stood.

I had been gathering wood for a campfire behind our cabin. Our friends from Anderson University had recently reached out to us and become significant partners with our work in Guatemala. We had been thrilled with their invitation to stay in their cabin in the woods, and this week... only a week before we leave the country... we find ourselves at a wonderful retreat.

Retreat is a funny word. I think of retreat as soldiers running in panic as bullets zip past their heads and through their flesh. I think of retreat as a full on attempt to flee a bad situation... but that is not what retreat means to us today.

This retreat is more of a strategic divergence... away from the in your face type of intention of of recent days. Each word of late has been measured. Every action has been weighed. When your days tick down to single digits... you realize how precious each moment has always been.

We have goodbyes to make... embraces to hold, tears to be shed, and a mission to be told. And so we questioned this brief departure... was it right to pull our family away right before we make our permanent move?

Sometimes you just have to jump. This was one of those gut type moments... you can’t really explain why, but you feel strongly compelled that it is just... right?

I am relieved and content to say that yes, this was right. Our family of 5 has spent the last two days simply being together. Talking, playing games, gathering wood, cooking meals, enjoying those meals, speaking of dreams in the dark at the top of bunk-beds, these moments have been vital for us as a family to acknowledge the moment.

Sterling is 17 months old. The longest she has ever stayed anywhere is the orphanage that saved her life. The closest thing to that was the basement of my parent’s home where we lived for nearly a year. 

The funny thing is... Kellie and I were discussing tonight, we have never left home. We have stayed in more places than we can count on our hands this past year... and still, home has always been wherever we are. 

God owns it all. We follow His plan. When we go where He tells us to go, well... then wherever we set our feet, wherever we lay our heads... the land is already His. Yes, the land is already His... and so we are home.

Our hearts tell us that this is true. We have never felt so secure than during this past year when we have been so transient and the future is so unknown. We are on the path that God has called us to take... and this path of His will... it brings peace and familiarity to our souls. We are all here together, where He has called us...

...and this is home.

I was talking to Caleb and Aleksandra tonight about fears and the unknown. Their young minds were grappling the concept of death. They had worries that were not so unexpected... what if the plane crashes, what if we have tough times ahead. Caleb mentioned Paul. He said, even Paul suffered terribly, so should we expect the same?

I babbled on for a few minutes about statistics and how too many people perceive safety as a sure thing, and then I finally hit on the truth.

“There is no safer place to be on this entire planet than to be walking in the will of God. No matter what happens, you have the God of the universe walking at your side. I can think of no safer place than that. No better place.”

Can you imagine that? You are walking beside the God who created everything? The God who spoke it into being. The God who created you and loved you so much that He allowed His own son to die to give you the chance for redemption!

How can I not notice this and simply turn to gaze at Him?

Have you ever looked a deer in the eyes? I have hunted and killed animals. I hold a concealed carry permit and am adequate with a firearm. But as I looked in the eyes of that young buck, I would not have pulled the trigger even if I had the shot lined up.

We stood there, a mere 20 feet apart, the deer and I, considering each other. Kellie had gathered the 3 kids and I could hear them observing my encounter from the window in the cabin above. I imagined that time had stopped. I could hear the wind shifting individual leaves and I watched one slowly fall in the distance between me and the deer.

We stood that way, simply considering one another for an indeterminate amount of time. Finally, he raised his hind left leg to scratch his fore-quarter. He snorted, observed me with a nod, flicked his white tail, and vaulted off into the foliage of the forest.

He was gone. He had made his retreat.

Sometimes you just have to jump. And I am fully aware that this is our moment. I think it is harder on our family than it is for us. I have no answer for this. I acknowledge that it is so difficult for our mothers and even our fathers that it takes their breath away and causes them real physical pain... and yet, I know that this is undeniably what we must do.

All I can tell you is this simple fact that I found when talking to my children... there is no better place on earth than walking with your God. I am reminded again of that moment when the deer stepped in front of me, holding me in her deep gaze... this place and this moment are significant. Don’t miss the power of the present. 

In 6 short days we are off to fulfill our calling. I am confident in this walk. It is amazing to have the peace of mind to simply KNOW that you are exactly where you are to be.  I thank God for these past two days, for these simply encounters. 

I want to look on His face with the attention and apparent peace that the deer had when he gazed at me.

He will not harm us. 

He stands and shares this moment with us.



Monday, June 3, 2013

GUATEMALA 2013: (16) Commissioned. Resolved.


and when they had prayed, they laid their hands on them.
The Book of Acts 6:6

The scene was both familiar and frightening. As so many times before I found myself staring at a flight of stairs, knowing that I was required to cross that span but also knowing that it would crumble if I tried.

This dream has haunted my sleeping in some form since my childhood. I have visited this place countless times. It frustrates me, frightens me, and shames me because I always turn away, knowing that I am powerless to resolve it.

And so again I stood there in the murky glow of a dream. I felt my heart begin to accelerate, my chest tighten, and my hands grew moist with anxiety.

But this time was different.

I looked down the space below the stairs and I considered the fall. I felt the weight of my conviction build in my soul and I determined that the cost of the fall was nothing when compared to the worth of the vision. 

I was done standing still.

I lifted my right foot and I took the stairwell, throwing my full weight into the step...

...and the flight of steps instantly folded in on itself like fabric sliding off the edge of a table. 

As I fell I raised my hands above my head in surrender. Somehow the fear had evaporated along with the facade of my way. I felt soothed by the feel of the air, like falling through warm water. This was the feel of peace.

My feet landed solidly, reminding me of the way a gymnast sticks a landing from the high bar. I straightened my knees and back, lowered my arms and took a slow, amazed look around me.

I was exactly where I was meant to be.