Monday, October 16, 2017

Sunlight Shines Down Heavy

Sunlight shone down heavy today. The sky was so brilliant here that it hurt to take it in. The Paper-Wasps circled around my head harmlessly. I knew they had the ability to sting, but somehow the day just felt calm. Safety is nothing more than an illusion.

I awoke this morning to the screaming parade of emergency vehicles kicking up dust down the dirt road past the mission. The wail of the sirens seemed endless... it seemed another tragedy had taken this place.

Last week a pillar of the tribe was lost and a community was shaken with news of the fifth sudden death in only a few short weeks. His seemed sudden, although many knew of his heart condition, complications brought on by years of choices and behaviors. Still though... death is too sudden, too sharp.

I looked out the door through the sunlight and saw children playing. I walked out and began a conversation with a native man, tattoos on his face, standing between his two youngest children, alternately pushing each of their swings as they rose and fell. I asked him, "Do you know of a man with the last name of 'Yellow Bear' that died last week?"

He did... and he told me that his death felt too oppressive to even breathe. He asked me, "Why does the reaper come for us here?" He shared that he doesn't want to believe in God anymore... he is angry at God. His own brother was shot and killed... and now all these deaths just seem overpowering. 

This is what it must feel like to drown.

He asked, "Did you hear all the sirens this morning?" He told me that a man had burned alive in his trailer. It was thought to be a homicide. While the young man was burning, his family tried to reach him, but were overpowered by the flames and forced to dive out a window. He was lost.

Six deaths, one right after the other with barely time to bury the dead. This small town can be fully seen from the mission here, nestled tightly on a hilltop. How can so much death descend on such a bright place? 

This evening as the sun fell below the horizon of Allen, the little town here... I dropped to my knees on the hard earth. I felt myself pulled back through the pain of the day, the darkness of the past month here, and farther into the blood that stained the earth when Native American women and children were slaughtered in the hills.

This land has known too much sorrow. I prayed for atonement. I prayed for mercy. I prayed for grace to again find this place. I prayed for hope to replace doubt. I prayed for a bold faith to drive out fear. 

I prayed that all those things take root in my own soul. I prayed for the father I spoke with as he swung his young children. I prayed for the women and men who live on the hilltop awaiting the next death.

As I stood, looking at the sun shadowing my back, I realized that this darkness grips our nation and our world. Are we not all living with a sense of fear at this time. Some belief that things are getting worse, or that disaster is around the corner? 

I reject that notion. I breathe deep as I search the horizon. Sunlight shines down heavy today and that light is from my Father. He made all this and He holds me even now. Our fears are nothing more than Paper-Wasps that we can walk through. Death is nothing more than an illusion. 

There is a great victory that has taken place, and there is an endless cry in heaven of, "Holy, Holy, Holy Lord God almighty. Who was, who is, and who is to come." And so as the sun has fallen over the horizon in this place, I pull the covers tight in the darkness knowing that there is a promise of a Risen Son. 

I pray for more chances to talk with my new friend tomorrow. We parted today with an agreement that we just want a better world for our children. We want to be better men so that they can have a chance. 

We must chose to see the sunlight, even when it shines down heavy.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Thinking On Stars

And He took him outside and said, "Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." And He said to him, "So shall your descendants be."
-Genesis 15:5

I found myself drinking coffee with the natives of the Oglala Lakota Sioux tribe at the Pass Creek Church in the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota this morning when the phone rang. Our conversation had been about a couple of mountain lions that had been taking down horses. 

I suppose the ringing of the phone shocked me back into the present and away from imaginings of meeting one of those big cats face to face in the darkness. The reality on the other end of the line was no less life-threatening.

A native woman was desperate to get her father-in-law to the hospital in Rapid City, about a two hour drive away through the Badlands. He needed immediate care. She had been counting on the sale of a Star Quilt to cover necessary costs, and the buyer had recently cancelled the order even though she was nearly finished. 

Star Quilts are rich in tradition from the Lakota tribe. It is considered a deep honor to invest the time, labor, and skill that is necessary in crafting the textile, using local dyes and materials... to then give it away to honor the life of a person or a great accomplishment. Tradition has passed down that it represents the brightest star in the sky, and offers hope, and is believed to lead toward understanding.

The woman on the phone was asking if anyone at the church might purchase the unfinished quilt from her so that she could use the money to get her husband to the hospital. I watched as the group of Lakota considered her plight. I knew that I had the money in my pocket to cover her expense, but I wanted to better understand the gravity of the situation. 

Each person in the room checked his or her pockets for the needed amount, commenting that she needed help and I could see that her situation was legitimate. I listened as she was told, "I am sorry, but no-one here can help." 

"I can." All heads turned to me, the odd-ball of the group. I've been the minority since arriving yesterday afternoon, the single Caucasian for miles around. "Tell her that I'll buy it." I pulled the cash from my pocket, project money from Connection Point missions, my church in Sidney, Ohio. I chuckled to myself, realizing that I'd need to explain to our Mission Board why we now own a partially finished Star Quilt. 

The sound of a slamming car door a few minutes later alerted me to her arrival. I saw her face at the door, eyes searching for the unknown stranger who had agreed to receive her labor of love. I felt so human in that moment. The pain that I saw in her eyes was pain that I'm all to familiar with myself. It's in those moments when we're so desperate for an answer, that we fear that somehow it will just slip through our fingers at the last second.

The pastor later today would talk about how we waste our lives sometimes in fear, how most of the things we fear never come to pass, and that we should think on things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely. 

Along with the fear in her eyes, I also saw something lovely, pure, and noble in her face. Isn't this the story that pulses in us all? We push back fear with hope. We answer crisis with action. We work hard and we give of our sweat, tears, and sometimes even blood to honor those we love and to protect what is good in this world. 

God made a promise to Abraham all those thousands of years ago, "Look up into the heavens. Can you count the stars?" Think on things that are lovely, that are true and right. God honored Abraham as he hung a giant tapestry of stars in that ancient night sky. Those same stars shined down on that promise fulfilled in the Son of God, Jesus Christ as He continued to shine truth into the earth.

We all are honored to receive the light from heaven, and this quiet exchange this morning somehow just seemed to bring it all home. It won't be all that hard to explain why Connection Point Church now owns a Star Quilt... we are honored to receive what it represents, the capacity to give. 

We were created by God who gave us His own nature to love, to give, and to live in community together. May we all continue to remember that there is honor in giving.

"...children must early learn the beauty of generosity. They are taught to give what they prize most, that they may taste the happiness of giving." 

- Charles Alexander Eastman, Wahpeton Santee Sioux

Postscript: I hope the Quilters Club, AKA the Church Mice, are looking for a great project to finish!

Friday, September 8, 2017

1000 Miles to Sidney

The sun crested over the horizon and began to cast its beams onto us in the West. It's been a week since we set out from Connection Point Church of God in Sidney, Ohio. The day finds us with our part of the mission accomplished... at least for this trip. 

Security Door & new walls.
Unusable porch

The two buildings have been structurally refitted to serve as a women's dormitory and a men's dormitory that will be able to comfortably house up to fifty team members who come and serve at Pass Creek Mission through the summer months. Our own team will be returning, with a goal of 30 team members on June 23, 2018.

We'll return to adopt a Oglala Lakota family to walk alongside for a week, to play with their children, share our life-stories, pray together, eat together, and meet some of their physical needs by making repairs and improvements on their house. We'll also host a Bible School for the kids at the mission church, teaching them, feeding them, and by exchanging with them Christ's love and compassion.

And, we're likely to also catch some sights along the way. On the way home this morning, we swung up north a bit to view Mount Rushmore. Next year our hope is to also see Crazy Horse and to learn more about native history and culture.

You'll want to reserve your spot soon, June is only nine months away and we will begin planning in January. For now, our group heads East as the sun again warms us as it edges along the opposite horizon. To our friends and family, we hope to see you mid-day tomorrow. We'll drive through the night until the sun catches us again. Godspeed.

Me, writing in the back of the van as we travel East.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Where the Losses Are Personal

The hammering and sawing has gone silent for a few brief minutes as our team of ten, The Get'er Done Gang gathers around a few tables in the kitchen of the Pass Creek Church. Although we won't depart until tomorrow, we're already aware of closure. Nearly all of the work has been completed and the clock is accelerating.

Tim and Kim, the pastors and missionaries here to the Oglala Lakota tribe, both have oncoming pressing matters. Another recent death has the native community honoring her life with their traditional three-day wake. They have asked Tim to accompany the body along the route, and to act as pastor. He'll be leaving early this afternoon to honor their requests, engaging in a three-day wake and shoveled burial. 

Our team sees the love and compassion of God lived out in the lives of Tim and Kim. She's leaving as well to make a trip into the city to take care of some necessary business. And so we find ourselves here in this room, in this moment, so that we can pause to give thanks, recognize the work done, and hand over some cash to cover some immediate needs.

I begin by presenting our letter of gratitude and Dan hands over the financial gift. Connection Point Church of God was asked to raise $2,500.00 and they gave generously, donating over $4,000.00. What a blessing and joy it is to see their gift go to spreading hope here in this beautiful and desperate place.

I comment that our recently articulated vision for Connection Point is to be "An army of God's servants, doing the work of God with love and compassion." Kim speaks up and adds (my paraphrase) "Yes, that resonates strongly with us here. What you've seen here, now you must take it back with you to your community."

With a nod to the words of Jesus, "... you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and to all the ends of the earth," 

Kim says, "This place is your Samaria. The culture is a little different, the customs and languages are different, and the people's skin are a slightly different color. When you go back home, that's your Judea. There the culture is like you, the people speak like you, and their skin color is the same as yours. Your challenge now is to take that love and compassion that you've lived out here in this place, and to offer it to your neighbors, your city, and to your family."

"You must take it home, and live it out where the losses are personal."

Whoa. That's really it isn't it? How difficult is it for a group of people to go to a faraway place and exercise love and compassion? How much harder might it be to risk extending love, generosity, and compassion in your own backyard? You don't get to love'em and leave'em. You have to live with them every day. If they humiliate you, reject you, or threaten you... you can't just jump back in the van and travel away. 

Faith must come home. The losses must be personal. This is how we fulfill... no, how we live out our mandate to mourn with those who mourn, to weep with those who weep, and to comfort those who need comforting. This is how you and I bring light into dark places. We have to risk. We have to give. We have to love. Sometimes we even have to sweat, bleed, or die. We have to be willing to get down in the dirt right where we live... because we all need the love of God.

Our eyes must be open to the reality that our homes are also the mission. If we aren't living to reach others right where we live, then we aren't really doing it at all. What is it costing us? What are we risking? What might your co-workers, neighbors, and family say about your mission? Are you willing to lose, to sweat, to bleed? How much do you love Him? How much do you accept what He has given you?

The hammering, the sawing, and the sounds of building have nearly gone silent, and now our real work is about to begin.

And Still We Persist (Darkness is Here)

"Do you see that girl over there to our left, all dressed in black? She is the one that was raped by several drunk men earlier this week. There she is, walking along as if nothing has happened. They go numb. They just go numb."

"That house over there is abandoned. It was a Meth House and now there is no money to renovate it. It just sits empty while dozens of families wait to receive housing."

"That building was a youth center, but the directors were fired. They lost control and the kids just began to go in and fight. Now it is unsupervised and the kids are running wild."

This is life in the Pine Ridge Indian (Native American) Reservation, the poorest city in the United States were the median income of a family is barely $3,000 per year. Like all reservations, its technically dry, but alcohol flows like water here as alcoholism powers despair. Poverty is cyclical here and the young are caught choosing between honoring their people's tradition and seeking to find their way in a modern society. There can be shame in rejecting poverty here.

Being a Native American means that you've been oppressed, side-lined, bought-out, and held exile on your own land. I am reminded of the Jewish people in Babylonian captivity. There is a sorrow that tarnishes daily life. But hope also resides in that story. When God is again discovered, a new hope rises. 

Our team is here to lay the groundwork for that hope.

Johnathan and Darryl have been the kitchen crew, transplanting cabinets from a demo'd kitchen to the remodel. They completed their work today while the rest of the crew finished the men's and women's common rooms, installed the new washer and dryer, re-routed the main hallway, and prepped for tomorrows final projects.

Josh patching holes from the former kitchen.

Dan and Terry running power & water for a washer & dryer.
Yes, we are in a dark space. The family structure in this little town is destroyed. Lives are all in a sort of transient dislocation, living on land that is rightfully theirs, but legally someone else's. And yet the work this team is engaging in will enable two missionaries to continue to live here, adopted as family by the Native American people.

This is true and undefiled religion, loving the widows, the orphans, and the wanderers in their distress. Abiding with them, weeping with them, and even laughing with them.

Because it is a great joy to break through the barriers, and to see new possibilities emerge!


And so still we persist. With great expectation and joy. The darkness will be shattered in this place. We've only just begun to strike the flint. Light has come.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Cowboys Like Us

My friend died today. At least today is when I heard of his death. He died several days ago but was just found today. I'm not surprised that he died because he's been evading death for decades. Still, I am shocked that he's so starkly gone. The last thing he said to me was, "Good morning Brother," on July 29. It's evening here tonight, and now and he's gone.

In Allen, South Dakota today our team continued the work. Inside the building we're refurbishing, more walls went up, doors were framed, plumbing completed, and electric was rerouted. Sharon and Jenny invested some care into the flower beds. The prairie winds caused the flowers to softly rise and fall. In my mind, they were a remembrance to my friend. 

He would have loved to have been on this trip to South Dakota. His life was one of odds-beating. As a child he survived cancer, being ran over by a car, and the loss of a kidney. Later in life he survived multiple high speed motorcycle crashes and always seemed to fight his way back. He knew more scripture than anyone I know. He inspires me even now.

Sunlight from the horizon shines light through an open door. The major parts of the work here are complete and our team already begins to discuss our return to Sidney at the end of the week. Sometimes we can't see what lies beyond the threshold of the door, but we have the promise of the light that shines through it to illuminate us where we stand.

I'm so thankful today for the smiles of these ladies. They gloved up and dug shoulder deep, clearing out the overgrowth to reveal flowers and fertile soil beneath. They cleared the way for new beauty. I love how they embrace life, celebrate relationship, and keep their eyes focused on God.

Earlier this morning, me, Tim, Darryl, and Terry all went to move some furniture for a friend east of the mission. Against his house leaned this 1974 125cc Harley-Davidson bike. I hadn't learned of Eli's death yet, but my mind focused on him when I saw the motorcycle. Harley's were his great love. I have a photo that he secretly gave me that has him roaring down a state route country road, standing on the pegs, with both arms spread open wide. That's how Eli lived his life.

His horizon has been extended. Our battles here are only temporary. Tonight the moon rose full and the road stretched into an endless horizon. Eli's road work has ended, but the rest of us are still here to carry on. Surely I'll miss my friend that I've loved for 30 years... even so, my soul is at peace. Tonight he touches the face of God. 

Cowboys like us sure do have fun
Racin' the wind, chasin' the sun
Take the long way around back to square one
Today we're just outlaws out on the run
There'll be no regrets, no worries and such
For cowboys like us

Sometimes I feel like Jesse James
Still trying to make a name
Knowing nothing's gonna change
What I am
I was a young troubador
When I wrote this song
And I'll be an old troubador
When I'm gone

George Strait, Cowboys Like Us & Troubador... songs Eli texted to me earlier this summer. He said that me and him were like souls, and man... we enjoyed our journey together. 

Monday, September 4, 2017

Rebuilding the Bentley Bunkhouse - Reclaiming Hope

The sound of the wind has an organic sound to it, almost as if it were alive. Wildfires burning in Creighton give a surreal haze both in the distant horizon and in the pull of each intake of breath. In this strange light the flowers seem emblazoned with color.

I was captivated by the nature of beauty among evidence of the fires of destruction. We don't celebrate the pain. We don't glorify the struggle. But we would be blind to miss the grace among the ashes. 

Life seems to be lived in the tension that exists between darkness and light, ashes and growth, even death and new birth. As far as I can see in this place, there is evidence of both polar pulls. Oh, the darkness is so strong.

Just today we've learned of the death of a Lakota lady from cirrhosis, a young woman was thrown from her horse and trampled, and we've heard of other domestic tragedies that seem too dark to bear. Evil seems to stalk this place, dressed boldly in garments of death, shredding and tossing lives no less violent than a lion in a coliseum. 

Allen, South Dakota on the hilltop.

But the One we serve is greater. The One who holds us is stronger. This broken place suffers with the wages of sin, and all who are here cannot deny the press... and yet, we serve the one who promises eternal life. What is valued most cannot be stolen, cannot be killed, cannot be destroyed.

I miss my dog, Bentley. I had to give him up before we moved to Guatemala. Today I met a new friend here at the Pass Creek Mission. He was skeptical of me at first, but I eased into his territory and sat on the steps. He circled me, sniffed my neck, and then laid his head on my shoulder.

There's just something deeply good about a dog. Somehow his acceptance brought an affirmation that there is still good in this world. He must have felt the same way because we paused and smiled to take a selfie.

And then I think we both felt a little embarrassed about the selfie, and so we began to play around the yard. I'd made a new friend, and then he ate my sunglasses. Well... worth it.

Meanwhile the reconstructive work had began with the unloading of purchased supplies from Rapid City last night. Old doorways would be boarded over while new doors would be made where before there was no way. 

Rooms that were once dark would be receiving windows that would allow the sunlight outside to illuminate what once was filled with shadow.

Our team is able to make a way where there once was no way, and to bring light into darkness. How powerful it is to see the darkness immediately cease to exist the moment the saw blade penetrates the once darkened wall.

Work also began on the outside with damaged panels being torn out so that the walls will once again stand strong. The wind is picking up outside as I write, and Reg is preparing coffee for our evening meal while chili simmers on the stove-top. We serve a God of light, of life, and of renewal. 

This week we are reminded in a tangible way that we are citizens of His Kingdom and we are here to push back the despair, to boldly shine with color among desolation, and to repel the darkness with His light. 

It's not about the struggle... its about His grace. He is here. And, He is with you. Don't believe the darkness, it is powerless to His light. Seek Him for yourself and you will find Him. Seek Him with all you are. 

Find Him.

Oh, I nearly forgot to tell you. The name of the bunkhouse... it's the Bentley Bunkhouse. That was the name of the former occupants, and yeah... also the name of my given up dog.

How cool is that?

The Gitter' Done Boys (Gang)

Today was the day that our team received its name, "The Gitter' Done Boys". There's a lot packed into that name because well, none of us are boys and two of us are women. But, there's been a great deal of "gitten it done" all around, from food preparation, kitchen management, supply runs, relationship development, some deconstruction, and even a supply run into Rapid City. 

The bottom line is that team, let's call them, "Gitter' Done," is a full day ahead of schedule and the work is getting done under budget. These ladies and gentlemen are an incredible team! 

The work being done is converting two abandoned buildings into functional, secure, and comfortable housing for teams who will come to serve alongside the Wardell family, missionaries to the Oglala Lakota Sioux. Next summer, Connection Point will be one of those teams as our work will then take us out into the homes in the reservation. 

Today we shared the Sunday Morning Service with Pass Creek Church of God and we were challenged deeply by the words of Pastor Tim.

"Here's what I've learned: there is a God, and I am not Him."

In spite of our circumstances, our "Yes" to God must remain on the table. Our faith in God requires it. 

If we lack faith, then we lack teaching. Faith comes from the Word of God. It isn't a matter of how much faith we have, it's merely a question of where we place our faith. What is seen was not made by what is visible. Each and every one of us must search God out for ourselves.

God, what would you have me do?

Here in Allen, we only need to be willing to look despair full in the face, engage children of God in their need, and love them while we suffer with them a bit, and reach out to be present and let them know they are not alone.

Is it really so different wherever you find yourself today? At Connection Point we'll be talking more about how you can offer hope here in Allen... and I know it will also affect how you live your life in Sidney.

"Gitter done" team, we've got work to do.


Addendum, September 4, 2017: The Team Name has been changed to "The Gitter' Done Gang."

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Sunflowers in the Badlands

It's good to get back in the saddle again. Ironically, the Connection Point van is a Chevy 3500, the same as I drove in Guatemala, and it feels like an old friend. We left the church on Friday evening at 6PM, right on schedule, and completed the 1100 mile drive in 21 and a half hours. 

South Dakota is breath-taking with endless fields of sunflowers that tilt their heads toward the sun as they boldly shout yellow on the edge of the gray and dead badlands. South Dakota is filled with hope and it is filled with death. This is the reality in which our team finds itself this week in a small town called, "Allen."

I suppose we had a bit of foreshadowing when we first crossed into South Dakota much earlier today. A local saw our van and asked where Connection Point was from... and then asked where we were going. When we answered, "Allen," he first asked, "What state is that in?" and then replied that he'd lived in South Dakota all of his life and "never heard of Allen."

With a population of 420, Allen is listed by the US Census as the poorest place in the United States. It is the closest settlement to an area that is considered to be the North American continental pole of inaccessibility. Yes, our team found that it is very difficult to reach. Right here in the heart of the US is a place that reminds me of some of the most difficult places I've seen in Central America.

The landscape is beautiful... as far as our eyes can see... and just as present is a sense of death that pervades the spiritual environment of the populace. Suicide resides here as a known and yet impossible to evict tenant. Of all the families we have met here today... not a single one of them has escaped unscathed. Not one. Suicide has touched them all. 

I type tonight in the sanctuary of a small beacon of hope, a little Church of God. The team is sacked out around me as the temperature plummets outside. In the past year this congregation of seventy has buried 38 people.

And yet... I am here to report that God is here. His voice is unmistakable. His fierce hope pierces the darkness. Tonight our team witnessed boldness of Biblical proportion and we saw God's Spirit begin to shape the lives of those who are turning to see Him. 

In the shadow of the Badlands, the faces of the sunflowers turn to seek the Sun. Their radiance casts away the darkness.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Love and Compassion to Allen, South Dakota

There's a lot of talk about what divides us in this country right now. In all of the kneeling, statue-toppling, marching, and raised-fist chanting I see no evidence of anyone drawing closer together. Meanwhile the sun still rises in the East and falls in the West, just like it did the first day that God hung it all in the vastness. It casts shadows on us all and we all live by its light. 

There is a certain goodness in opening your hand to help another. It's a sort of unintentional turning away from the inward prison of self to find the wide-open freedom of walking a common path. We are never at our best when we're thinking selfishly. The best of our nature shines when we lay down entitlement, release our tight grip on what we think we deserve, and we risk ourselves with vulnerability to others. 

We are none of us so special that we stand above the worst of us, and there are none of us so depraved that our lives don't merit worth. We place far too much value on circumstance. Our reactions somehow become our masters as we surrender our ability to retain our identity when threatened. We are created to be more than that.

There is something deep inside of each of us that can only be healed when we help others. A word of caution though... a sterile, safe kind of helping won't work. When you get down into the muck of helping others, you somehow find yourself there. You recognize needs in you that you didn't even know you had that are being filled. You and I have the ability to receive healing as we find our willingness to heal others.

This next week a small group from Connection Point Church will get to do just that. We're not a band of missionaries so much that we are one group of people who are going to intersect with another group of people... all who are broken and all who are created to live in fellowship with God and each other. 

What we're created to do isn't so mysterious. We're created to be loved by God, love God, and love others. The challenge is that we don't understand love. We buy into a distorted comprehension. 

No more. You and I have the ability to give freely to those who demand unjustly. We have the ability to listen compassionately to those who shout vile words. We can be calm souls in masses of chaos. No matter how depraved we view others, we can be at peace because of the Spirit of God that is within us. It is His occupancy within us that provides us worth, informs our movements, and helps us to see the worth of others.

And so, whether you're going out to South Dakota or you're going out to your local supermarket... you have a choice. Today will you be a divider or are you willing to risk yourself a bit and to reach out? Give anyway. Love anyway. Live at peace as you find your identity in your relationship to the divine, rather than by the fury that spins from East to West.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Last Night of Summer, 2017

It's been a while, but I remember this feeling. It came without preamble, somehow carried along in the smoke from the flame. How can I describe goodness, except to suggest that maybe you can remember it from your own experience? 

It's been a while since our family gathered around a stack of kindling and took in the night. Maybe it is the similarity of the sound of I-75 just a quarter of a mile away that reminds me of the nights we spent at the base of the mountain near San Cristobal where highway CA-1 roared down into the city below? There is a sort of comfort that I now associate with the sound of eighteen-wheelers, rubber tires humming down highway. 

Tonight we gathered around the fire like pre-historic man and discussed the darkness around us. Apprehensions of the first day of school slipped in and out of shadow like unknown predators in the twilight. We know that we're big enough to take them down, and still... we have yet to come to the other side of the story. We recount how tomorrow night our victories will be like cave drawings in the memory of days gone by. 

Tonight I knelt beside my bed and allowed the realization that this place is right to fully wash over me. God is faithful. It is no mistake that we are here... in this place... at this time. I feel at peace. It's been a while since I've been at this place. What a transition it has been... I wouldn't change it a bit. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

90 Days on the Shelby County Line

I had no words to answer his question, "Have you ever ate beaver." I looked at him as we stood in the cafe, outside the sanctuary of the church. I can't even describe the thoughts that were in my head. After taking the time to collect my thoughts I replied, "Well, I used to hunt with my dad and I've eaten squirrel, rabbit, and deer, but I've never had beaver."

Well, I've eaten some crow a time or two as well.

A week later I was standing in the Shelby County Fairgrounds, in what was locally referred to as, "The Blue Building" even though it was now tan, eating a fork full of shredded beaver. It was quite tasty.

This is life here on the Shelby County Line. 

I make no apology for the path that led to this place. I make no apology for my claim that God called us. Even more than ever I am convinced that it was His voice that drove us from Guatemala to Ohio where we would learn to wait on Him. His ways are higher than my ways.

During the waiting months of August, September, October, and December, God used the churches that we visited, preached at, and even candidated... to mold us, shape us, and sharpen us. It was his hand that guided us to this place, living on the county line.

Ninety days in, we turn and look back for a brief perspective. It's like hanging upside-down in a hammock... the world is the same, but my view is shockingly different. 

I can see the path behind me, I can feel the pressure of the days that hold me secure, and I can look beyond to a beautiful horizon. 90 days in and we know this to be home. 

I draw deep from the views of God and faith that are found in Central America. We stand ablaze with hope in the face of despair. The cross represents God who loved you so much that Jesus stood in defiance of the Roman Empire, declaring that the Kingdom of God was at hand, offering true belief that was more valuable than even personal safety. Faith requires us to act. Our actions don't save us, but our belief cannot be tied down. 

Like John Wesley, we first feared God and desired to keep his commands, and then we discovered that it was only the love of Jesus that saved us when he demonstrated his great love in death and resurrection. Now we find freedom in his great love, as we engage in his Kingdom, declared eternally as his sons and daughters. 

Yes, my perspective has changed. I thank God for our time spent in Guatemala. There is evidence of his hand that shaped our lives during that time. 

That's life, on the Shelby County line.