Sunday, October 30, 2016

The Twilight's Last Gleaming: by Air

Sometimes you've just gotta find that place to soar above it all. We stand at the peak of our three-month furlough with our days as foreign missionaries behind us, and an endless horizon up ahead. This past week in Denver has reminded us  that this time is intentional, our days together are precious, and our path is surely guided by the Spirit of God.

Jason Lee message on WORSHIP (audio)
Where the Streets Have No Name
Life is worship. Praise is like the roar of a lion, declaring that all who are within the sound of my voice are subject to my influence. With all the competing sounds of the world, there is no better time than now to blast out a forceful declaration that God is worthy and He alone is Holy. I stood at the close of the service at Bear Valley with tears running down my face as I allowed the peace of God to fill me once again.

Earlier in the week we paused to remember the students and teachers who lost their lives at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. We read about the great legacy of students who believed in God, and even chose death rather than deny their faith.

We also read the words of survivors, reminding us that each day is meant to be shared together, and that each breath we take is a great gift: to be lived, to make a difference, to embrace each other.

Surely, for each of us these days can be lived to honor those who have died in the name of God, of faith, and even of country. My love for this nation has grown over the past week and I believe that as we walk by faith, we are a shining light in the gleaming of the twilight. There is still good left here.

Something began to heal in me as we walked with the Lee family along St. Mary's glacier. It was if the presence of God found us in the heights of the Rockies. The last three months of intentional rest have produced a calmness in our spirit, and a closeness that we've not felt before as a family. I think we've been able to look doubters, uncertainty, naysayers, and convention directly in the eye... and learned to laugh. 

Fear is a paper tiger. To walk in the Spirit is to roar like a lion. 

This is our time to survey the land and roar. We are where we are out of obedience. Our steps have been intentional, thoughtful, and have landed us right where we need to be. God continues to unfold His will for our lives as we whole-heartedly chase each step. I love that we've been transparent with each pursuit. There have been closed doors, disappointments, and confirmations given at times by a spoken, "No." 

And still we have no regrets. We give thanks for the labyrinth of secret chambers, unseen turns, and winding exploration that discovers a singular destination through this foreordained excursion. While the turns may seem unexpected, each step is necessary to arrive at the center.

And so, as these days continue to find us entering new territory, we do so with deep thanks to the Spirit of God that has guided us so far. Our plan is to continue searching for the stardust wonder of the Spirit, even through days of kicking sand on the land, feeling the pull of the deep waves of the sea, or even standing on the heights of the air. 


Where shall I go from your Spirit?

    Or where shall I flee from your presence?

If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
    If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!

If I take the wings of the morning
    and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me.

 ~From Psalm 139

Read all of the three part series: The Twilight's Last Gleaming

 (1) By Land

(2) By Sea

(3) By Air

Saturday, October 22, 2016

The Twilight's Last Gleaming: By Sea

There are a few secret moments in life that demand a bit of magic. These moments are elusive and can only be found with the most perfect of ingredients:

a hyperactive-five-year-old, color coordinated with her breaking-into-life thirteen-year-old sister, both chasing after their surprisingly adventurous, ready-to-drive, sixteen-year-old brother and  tenacious-boy-who-never-grew-up father. 

Standing together, we feel ready to take on the world. We allow our imaginations to carry us to undiscovered countries and spectacular battles of righteous victory!

Sometimes my view of reality needs to be shifted a bit. Maybe you've experienced a similar scenario, you escape to the beach to only fill your thoughts with the worries of life. We somehow surrender our imaginative mind and fall victim to the villain of worry. Meanwhile, lighthouses, and visions of five year old little mermaids in front of cresting waves get lost in our horizon. But which then, is really real?

Life is worthy of a pause. To consider the scope of earth and the smallness of our problems. To wonder at the vastness of God and feel again the more than you can ask for or imagine greatness of walking this path as His child.

I loved watching my parents also gaze out at the ocean. It is amazing to see them enjoy my children. I give God thanks for this blessing. I know that life doesn't always shuffle out a fair deck to everyone, but I've learned to give thanks to God for all good things. His blessings outweigh our hardships.

I loved watching Sterling run out to the waiting arms of my wife, her mother. The waves were not match for strong will.

The symbolism of the sea is always powerful. The post-hurricane waters were still a threat, but Sterling ran willingly into them because her mother stood in the midst. Isn't this just how we all are to engage God? We find Him with open arms in the middle of our storms. 

And we find strength and beauty that is made possible by those strong circumstances. The human spirit shines out best  when we engage our path. The waters were cool, but Aleksandra joined the evening sunlight as she sparkled across the waves and dug all in for the experience. 

Caleb planted firm on the rock above the surf.
There will come a day when all this is memory. Our three kids will establish a life on their own. We want them to have what they need to stand strong. We want them to remember these unique days that we stood together as family.

Together we faced the unknown, and chose to embrace the beauty of the days. The fairy tale moments aren't mere escapes from reality... no, they are the shimmer of moments when our eyes open to the wonder that exists in this life shared together. We are made with the most magical of ingredients, terrestrial-earth, Spirit-breath, and God-likeness.

We are created image bearers of God. Our souls long for more than the busyness of life because we were created to be eternal beings that walked with God. The magic of His creation burns within us and calls us to live extraordinary lives... together. 

The fellowship of God is recalled when we spend time together as family, enjoying this creation that we are given, mourning the brokenness of the world, and yet... finding hope in His promise of full restoration with all things, as we catch glimpses of His goodness in each other. 

There is more that we have to celebrate than any amount of time we could waste on missing the wonder of Him that still lives in us. We are created and called to think on the things that are virtuous and praiseworthy. 

We find God in the storm, and we find God when we give Him praise while it rages. 

In this life there is always shade to cool, water to refresh, a song to sing, and magic to be embraced. 

The path leads ever onward. The time that we have to walk it together is short. May we walk it well. 

And, may we not lose sight that our story is an epic tale. We are created to live forever, and our time lines will be extended beyond these temporal moments. 

What now is only brief glimpses, will one day be our restored reality. So hold on to your magical moments until that day.

Even the birds get a bit of personified magic!

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  ~Philippians 4:8 ESV

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.  ~Ephesians 3:20-21 ESV

And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool[c] of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the Lord God called to the man and said to him, “Where are you?  ~Genesis 3:8-9 ESV

Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?  ~Matthew 6:26-27 ESV

Sunday, October 16, 2016

The Twilight's Last Gleaming: By Land

This is a hopeful time for our nation. Are you able to see it? There is still good in this land. The time has gone where we get to be silent. The light of the things that unite us far eclipses those mere shadows that seek to divide. The certain coming darkness of the evening only grants permission that we can now shine light into dark places. The things that are true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable must now direct our thoughts and light our path. 

This is an intentional time now, where our family is pressing pause on the noise of life, and taking the time to see with open eyes the beauty of this nation. To recognize those who live in it and hold our hearts, and remembering again why it is essential to pledge life, liberty, and sacred honor. We'll travel by land, by sea, and by air to celebrate the shared hope of days to come for those who turn their hearts to God.

This is our first stop by land of Brown County, Indiana with the Harbron Family: Brendon, Jennifer, Zachary, Jacob, and Kaitlyn, October 7-9, 2016.

"God, we thank you for life-long friends, the kind that aren't limited by the distance of miles or the expanse of time. Friends that never have to say goodbye or end the conversation. Friends that we can walk with as we each step into seasons of change throughout life."

This was our parting prayer as we drove away from our two night stay at their cabin, giving thanks to God for this moment of rest and retreat.

Sometimes it is good to be reminded that life should have simple rules. Things to keep us grounded like, breathe, laugh, and have campfires. Sometimes it's just an honest conversation and a good burger that calms the soul. This time in the woods of Indiana has reminded me of the days I spent in the forests of southwestern Ohio as a boy, and somehow grounds my 42-year-old self in a way that is beyond the noise of current social events. 

Our identity is more than the hurricane force of political uncertainties or the rising passions of social unrest. Who we are is so much deeper. We are creatures of the creator who created us to create. Our words are meant to give life. We are meant to live together and together we are made to know the One who made all things. The changing leaves and moon-filled sky reminded me that the world is larger than the small slice that I can see.

God spoke everything into being as the words of creation exploded from His mouth. Sometimes I forget the power of an explosion that combines the perfect elements to suddenly and violently produce a new something that changes everything. Firing a Civil War era .50 caliber black-powder rifle is a good way to feel the raw power and pressure of creation. 

With so much negativity in our news, and competing narratives that assault our hearing, it is vitally important that you and I remember that there is nothing more explosive than the words that we fire from our mouths. We are created in God's image. Our words are meant to build up, to encourage others, to provide hope... to create. 

You may not like the choices you have in life. But so many of the situations we face are the result of our unwillingness to risk making a difference. We must be about speaking creative words that announce to the world that the fire in us is life changing. Our choices make a difference because we choose to think on the things of God.

Our families walked along a lake with sunlight dancing on the dust kicked up by our feet and I reflected that while I no long have control over the steps are behind me, the trail is open wide ahead of me, and I am obligated to not only choose a right path, but to take that path actively. Like two brothers in a good friendship, as citizens of this great nation, we have a duty to hold one another accountable, to engage, pray for, and influence our leaders.

While the twilight gleams, cast your eyes on the things that matter. I can still see the promise of the flag that was raised in the rising light of the morning. I feel the pulse of the creator in my veins and I have hope that the sun will rise again. I have great joy that we have within us the light that is needed to shine into the darkness. 

Scripture References: Phil 4:8 (think on these things); Gn 1:1-2 (let there be light). 

Thursday, October 6, 2016

The Gatekeeper Opens the Gate ~ NK 243 is Cancelled

Today our family steps into a new horizon. Our plan would have us in the air right now as I write these words. We have come to that proverbial fork in the road and found the road less travelled to be the path home. I awoke this morning and found this notification on my smart-phone. Have you ever awakened from a dream and wondered if it was real? I dream every night, multi-layered dreams within dreams, and in this moment, reality feels like dreamscape.

The sun would have risen today with our family sitting in a row of six on a twin-jet Airbus 319, traveling 1084 miles across Caribbean waters at an altitude of 36,000 feet. We would have sorted out who sits with a stranger since the seat layout is three seats per side and we're one family member short of filling the whole row. 

Instead, the day feels like walking through thick fog as I realize that we would never had made it on that flight. Hurricane Matthew has caused it to be cancelled, along with all other flights as the airport falls into full shutdown. Our family at this moment would be sitting on the coast of Florida while the hurricane approaches and the state begins to panic. 

I think of Jonah when he avoided God's call and ended up in a storm on the ocean. Thank God we didn't run.

Does God speak through his creation? I'd never believe that the hurricane was sent as a message to me, but I can imagine that He does speak sometimes through the wind.

We purchased our tickets this past July and planned to return to Guatemala today after a ten week rest. Our plan was to find a house closer to our church, to expand student ministries, internships, and multi-national student excursions. Our plan was to continue to grow Journey Church and to remain there long term, serving where He had placed us. 

But God's does not submit to the plans of his creation. Gate G13 of terminal four sits crowded with stranded travelers, but we are not among them. God has us waiting at the gate of His choosing. His hand is so evident in our days. 

The past ten weeks have been active and productive, but to the average person looking in, we're just unemployed and directionless. But, this is not the case. We're just waiting for the gatekeeper to open the gate. My search for a place to serve in pastoral ministry has led us to churches in North Carolina, South Carolina, Kansas, Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio. I've been rejected by a few and we've said no to others that invited us. This process is exhausting, heart-wrenching, and somehow it has produced a deep peace in our hearts.

What started out as the pursuit of a single church was expanded to a field of twelve churches, and now we've narrowed it down to pursuing just one. I don't know yet how this ends. In a few weeks I might have an announcement, or we may still need to wait. It's about God's timing. 

I've been reading the memoirs of Mother Teresa. After she was called by God to go and serve with the poor in India, she waited for over a year while her superiors considered her request. She wrote that while the waiting was painful, it was worthwhile because she knew that once they approved her, it would be an affirmation that God was truly commanding her to go. 

It's the same for us. We know the direction that God has for us and we're in full pursuit, doing all that we can while we wait on His affirmation. Today is the first day of our alternate reality and we give thanks that we are right where He has called us to be. I can nearly hear him whisper even now.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, 
and the sheep hear his voice. 
He calls his own sheep by name 
and leads them out. 
When he has brought out all his own, 
he goes ahead of them, 
and the sheep will follow him 
because they know his voice. 
John 10:3-4 (NRSV)

Alesksandra tunes her ukulele in the evening light.

           Teresa, and Brian Kolodiejchuk. 2007. Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light: The Private Writings of the "Saint of Calcutta". Kindle Edition.