Friday, July 20, 2018

The Last Day of Vacation (A Beach Holiday)

Ah, there sits my adversary of the week. Daily contests of wit and luck over domino tiles. She bested me three out of four, I carried only the final match. I've raised her to find value in winning. Sure it's how you play, but it's also learning to win. She won with grace, I lost with humility. Well, for the most part. We also bully a bit and make good natured fun of one another. I think that can be healthy too. 

There are vacations that end with a feeling of relief. You're glad to be returning to your home. Then, there are those vacations that you say goodbye to with a bit of pain. It just doesn't feel like it's time to leave quite yet. 

Oh, to add another day. That would feel like a gift. We've done that before, but it is not for this trip.

I like how the Europeans call vacations a holiday. This has been a holiday in the literal sense of the word. It has been holy, set apart. Time taken specifically to be together. To laugh, to disagree, to play... to find each other again as we all contine to grow and change. 

We've reflected on the past year and we like where we've been. We appreciate the path. Our little family, myself, Kellie, Caleb, Aleksandra, and Sterling all now share memories of the past six years. Our family and our life-long friends, the Roh family, now share some twelve years of memories together. We've lost count of our times of holiday together.

And so I sit on the patio, beneath an umbrella table as the rain falls and drips behind my bare back. This falling water feels right. I'm mourning the leaving a bit, even though I'm anticipating our arrival home and greetings by our dogs. 

The vaction, the holiday. We all need a time of rest. A cycle of work and reflective recreation. It's how we're made. 

I am thankful for this time. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

No Trespassing

Not I, nor anyone else can travel that road for you. You must travel it by yourself. It is not far. It is within reach. Perhaps you have been on it since you were born, and did not know. Perhaps it is everywhere - on water and land.
Walt Whitman

Aren't all the great breakthroughs of history a sort of trespassing? A disregard of stated barriers to reach a new discovery, a new land, or a new people? You may have heard people say something like, "Well, God shut that door and so I knew that this just wasn't His plan for my life." 

Phooey on that!

He is the God who shuts the mouths of lions, drops giants with a stone, parts the waters, flattens city walls, wipes out armies by His hand, and walks within the fiery furnace. He is the God who meets us on the battlefield and forgives us even as He hangs on a cross.

He is the God who makes a way, even when there seems to be no way. When we walk with Him, nothing is bigger.

In a conversation with our friends yesterday, Kayci & Shawn, Kellie and I were reminded of a line shouted by Frank in the movie, As Good as it Gets, with Jack Nicholson, Cuba Gooding Jr., Helen Hunt, & Greg Kinnear. 
You may think you can intimidate 
the whole world with your 
attitude, but I grew up in Hell. 
My grandmother had more attitude. 
You don't intimidate me.
God can make a way from our brokenness. Those hard experiences that we remember can ready you to face greater things ahead. When we know where we've come from, who created us, and what we've already overcome, then we can rip down the "No Tresspassing" sign that seeks to block our way.

So did Aleksandra and I hop that fence? It would be an admission of a felony if I said that we did, and so I'll leave it to you to guess. There are barriers that should remain uncrossed. The wisdom is discerning the difference.

Perhaps you've been on a journey since you were born... yes, I see that. Walk with God and claim your territory. You can't tresspass on your Father's land.

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Reflected Beams of Crimson and Amber

The evening sun fell into a familiar embrace with the ocean, staining the clouds with reflected beams of crimson and amber. Salt-water air kissed our faces with a soothing wind. There was something nearly primal that felt unseen at that colision of land, sea, and heaven. It was as if some deep part of my soul and even my skin was somehow drawing life into a buried part of me. 

This sunset silhouettes our lives in this right now, never to be duplicated moment. It is our notice of a snapshot that captures: Sterling at age seven, newly added as a competing member of the local gymnastics team, Aleksandra on the verge of her quinceanera, secretly taking driving lessons in abandoned parking lots, Caleb fresh returned from seven weeks at Camp Marengo, home only a few weeks before setting off in the Suzuki Esteem to Cedarville University, and Kellie and I standing (or running) in the midst, learning to take it all in and savor it as we refuse to see the days as slipping and instead grasp the moments as forever.

I am grateful to experience this sunset and to pause long enough to see my own place in its panorama. I realize both the weight of how I live my days, and the downy-lightness of a sunset that helps me to realize that there is a universe that is expansive beyond the scope of my vision, and a God who holds it all... from the primal unspoken healings, to the eternal spoken words of the beginning. 

Friday, July 13, 2018

I Like to Visit Prostitutes & Drug-Dealers, Don't You?

The church is a sort of hospital for men's souls 
and as full of quackery as the hospital for their bodies.
-Henri David Thoreau

"Yes, and I tell you that crooks and whores are going to precede you into God's kingdom. John came showing you the right road. You turned up your noses at him, but the crooks and whores believed him. Even when you saw their changed lives, 
you didn't care enought to change and believe Him."
-Jesus to His disciples* 

I come from a crisis of three perspectives: I am the father of three children, a son and two daughters, I am a pastor at a Wesleyan tradition church, and I am a Law Enforcement Chaplain that encounters prostitutes, drug-dealers, and thieves. 

This is a crisis because three convictions walk side by side along the trail of my life. The father in me is fiercely defensive for my children. I see the brokenness of crime, the empty chasm of darkness that swallows people whole... and I am desperate to keep my children as far from that evil as possible... at any cost.

I am also a pastor. I see the devestation of lives that can happen so easily to any family that turns away from a pursuit of Jesus and a life as intended by God. I see what we call "sin" and I want to shake the dust off my boots and run back to bar the doors. I forget sometimes that light beats darkness.

My hope though is found in the third unlikely conviction that comes from my work as a Chaplain. I sent a text to my pastor this past Wednesday that stated, 

"I just left the home of the prostitute. I'm going to the home of a drug dealer, and I'll likely be in jail shortly therafter."

He said that he was forwarding my text to our Board of Elders. I chuckled because the Chaplain had crossed into the realm of the pastor.

I've done this Chaplain gig now for about six months. Here's how the encounter goes down. I begin the conversation, "Do you have any faith connection, or maybe a church or parish?" The response, "I went when I was a kid. I just don't believe in that stuff anymore. All the people are just fake anyway."

I've learned to nod my head and agree. "I know. You're right. I'm so sorry. I'm a hypocrite too." That answer may be offensive to some church-goers... but it is the only answer that grabs the attention of that suffering soul in front of me.

The person looks up in surprise... I have earned her attention. 

Then I say, "None of us are well. We're all sick one way or another. A faith community just let's you know that you're not alone. There are people who can pick you up when you fall. You need to know that I am here because you matter. Your life is worth something. You have a reason to live." 

Something happens deep in that person in that moment. As I look into her eyes, there is a shift that can be both seen and felt. Suddenly I'm looking into the face of a frightened and lost child. I can see desperation. I can see a person who has been beyond hope... who suddenly believes there might be a chance.

In our churches we forget how desperate we are without God. We can become so comfortable that we go comatose and sleep through the arrival of our savior.* The arrival of Jesus in your life always results in life change. When Jesus comes smashing into the life of a drug-dealer, a prostitute, or a thief... the result is unmistakable. 

And yet so many of us in the church can at times live like we are a people without hope. It is time to shake off the shackles of complacency and to reject the lies of fear and hopelessness.

Because I walk with Jesus, I do not fear for my children. Because I walk with Jesus, I do not fear for my church.
Because I walk with Jesus, I go to those who receive Him.

Yes, the church is filled with quakery. Yes, those who follow Jesus at times become blinded to the truth while those who suffer the wages of sin most can see His salvation most clearly.

But do not lose hope. The Church is still the greatest carrier of God's light. And light isn't afriad of darkness. Light destroys the darkness. I hope you find a crisis of perspective in your own soul. Embrace it. Let God take the hammer and chisel to your imperfection.

Carry the light.

*As recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew, 21:31-32, the Message; see Matthew 25.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

God Over Us, Finding Him in Silent Footfalls

"The silence sings. It is musical. I remember a night when it was audible. I heard the unspeakable." 
-Henry David Thoreau.

What is the sound of four thousand students walking through the streets of Indianapolis? This question had been answered all week long with a chaotic consistency. It is the sound of a thousand chickens when the corn is thrown. It is the sound of a sky-full of seagulls when an unsuspecting beach-goer rips open a bag of chips. It is a massive percusive wave that comes with a blaze of hashtagable fury.
But not this night. On this night, it is the sound of silence.
Those within the city stood witness to something of a minor miracle. Four thousand students walking en masse across the gridlines of the capital towards a central park in reverant silence.
"Hey, what are you marching for?" 
The shouted query was met with nervous shuffles and sealed lips. "Oh, I get it... it's a silent march!" The car sped away with a laugh as we continued silent step by step.
What were we marching for? That seems a legitmate question. I suppose it wasn't a march at all, just a walk in the night to contemplate the unspeakable God who spoke everything into being. 
We assembled again under the sky. We prayed. We shared holy communion.
The night was musical. In the silence we found God.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Get'er Done Gang Rides Again!

The project began with a fully loaded garage. Everything needed to be relocated before the work could begin.

Dan immediately began prepping the roof for additional rafters to support electrical & shelves for storage. The Get'er Done Gang took on it's most aggressive project yet on the campus of Pass Creek Mission, embedded into the land of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation at Allen, South Dakota.

The mission: to convert a garage damaged by wind, rain, and time into a structurally sound and functional space for quilting and beadwork by the women of the Oglala Lakota in the surrounding territory.

In that new space, the women would learn business trade, the value of their craft, and how to successfully market their artwork through Etsy. In addition, the craft center would offer a safe refuge, a place where the women would not only learn, but find peace and a path together that would lead closer to God.

Day two witnessed  dual projects: added rafters and a drywall ceiling & the enclosure of the garage door.

All existing drywall 18" up from the bottom was rotting and had to be replaced & sealed. The exterior would then be blended to match the existing panels. 

Decades of pounding South Dakota rain had taken a toll on the wood structure. Dan and team determined that it was necessary to not only replace rotted material, but to reroute the flow of water within the complex. This meant, patching the roof, rerouting the gutters, and sending all the water down the hill in a submerged pvc pipe. 

As the sun illuminated a perfect sky, the team added a new wall into the front of the building.
 After being painted to match and sealed at the bottom, the work added decades to the building's life. 

Team Get'er Done first assembled nine months prior to this trip, converting multiple trailers into bunk space for up to fifty campers here at the mission. Last fall the team was deployed to Houston, Texas where they replaced drywall in the homes of four separate families who were devestated by hurricane.

A reputation had been built about the team...  Wherever they went, the work got done. They restored. They brought things back to life. They carried hope in their toolboxes and proclaimed a future with each swing of a hammer. And this week, there was a sort of a sweetness each night as the team laid their heads to rest in building that they had made possible.

 Day four: a floor, and all work completed... just add paint. The space is ready. A beefed up electrical panel is ready to handle mutliple quilting machines!

 What was once unusable, now is restored and filled with purpose. Project complete. Check out the Etsy store here to purchase the new artwork! 

Team Get'er Done does what they do because each of them shares that story of restoration. We are a group of people who have all been salvaged by the overwhelming love of God. Now, we are on His mission.

So for now, our team is back at our base in Sidney, Ohio. We have our next trip to Allen on the books for July 6-13, 2019. We'll return to restore a kitchen in the home of our new Lakota family member, Auntie Theresa.

But who knows... we'll likely end up somewhere before then... "get'er done!"