After I pushed through the initial period of leg cramps and overwhelming anxiety from my half-blind state, it was actually enjoyable. At first, I insisted Cory hold my hand and walk beside me. Then, I realized vague blobs (mailboxes, bushes, rocks, deer-crossing signs) were discernible right before I smashed into them! I got a little braver and probably saved both of our hands from 3rd-degree frost-bite when I exchanged his hand for my pocket.
But, then - it was just weird. It was quiet and cold and getting dark. I began thinking about before glasses / contacts were readily available... people walked around all the time like this. There are so many things I couldn't do without glasses. Go walking alone... take pictures... read books / music... see spiders in the shower... Then, I thought about Mozambique. I didn't see any Mozambican with glasses. How many of them need glasses? If they do eat, it isn't very nutritional. I'm sure there are even MORE people in Moz. that need glasses than here...
Aside from the physical need for better sight - how many of us (American or Mozambican) need our spiritual / relational / emotional vision adjusted? We see things through a grid of our experience and personality and knowledge... When I was in college, one of the ladies prayed for "Jesus-eyes". I've never forgotten that. I see people through my eyes and what I see isn't always pretty. How many times is that because of my faulty eyes?
this is a little extreme for her, but it's habit she can't continue...definitely not with the kids in the home. we love having people over to the house, and we want to be able to bring her with us as often as we can. but that kinda thing doesn't fly.
so after putting it off for a few months now, mariska is scheduled to go to doggy boot camp! a friend at the church has been giving rave reviews of a trainer in the area who does a phenomenal job. we take her to him and leave her with him for 2 weeks. he does 3-4 training sessions a day during that time, and boards the dog. we also get as many follow up visits as we want within 6 months. we're definitely getting excited to see her come back knowing her place and functioning better in our home. maybe she'll even come back doing push ups.
a few quick and random updates from us...
- shan & i will be hitting the road late this afternoon and joining the hundreds of other people in similar pursuit as we head to meet up with family in pittsburgh. we're super excited to get away and see everyone.
- getting really excited for christmas and our christmas series in ISM. yesterday God was really working on my heart with it and i feel pretty confident on a little tweak to it and minor change in direction. should be exciting, and praying that God really uses it to impact not just our students but others around the world.
- last sunday was our first sunday of ISM services for all students 6th-12th grade. between the two services our numbers were double what we normally had on a good thursday night. it was so exciting to start getting to know so many that are always here every week "hidden" in the crowd.
- just picked up this book at ollies last night in hopes that it'll help prep me for flower city work camp this year. the theme is quite exciting, and one of the goals of the week is to help the students see that their life is incredibly significant...incredibly small in light of the much grander story of God...but incredibly significant when we can find our place in that larger story. so far it's been a super interesting read and just plain fun!
- there's a little debate in our home right now as to what kind of christmas tree to get next week (fake and boring vs. real & fragrant). one thing i know for sure: we won't be cutting it down ourselves!
I have a lot more to say about adoption and our adoption specifically, but for some reason I haven't been able to blog about it. I'm not sure why, but the words won't come when I sit down to type. Perhaps too many emotions... and the sobbing, hiccuping, booger running emotion just isn't too pleasant, but a little too familiar lately.
So, I'll leave you with 2 things:
I'm working on several fund-raising options to help us along in our adoption. The first one is a 2010 calendar with some of my photographs from the past year. The second is a longaberger basket giveaway. Stay tuned! Info coming soon! :)
And lastly - Look into adoption yourself as Nia Valdaros shares. There are almost 130 thousand children that need a forever family. Could you be that family?
this year i was challenged with how out of balance life has been lately. part of me wants to say it's been unavoidable due to the opening of the new building and the season of transition our ministry is in... part of me says it's inexcuseable... but after a retreat like this another part of me realizes that at this point it really doesn't matter. just get back on balance.
i can hear messages on balance (and i have), and i can read books on it (and i have), but there's something about seeing others WITH balance and living it out that speaks into my life more than a message or a book, and it's powerful. i watched other guys just as busy as me manage their big families and their ministries with balance and passion...refusing to please people and be held hostage by that monster. it was so refreshing.
thanks to tom for the pics.
this is the view from the existing building as you walk towards the hallway to the youth rooms and multipurpose room / gym.
this is the multipurpose room / gym... SOOOOO excited to throw a dodgeball in here and shoot some hoops with the students.
this is the space that will be our new youth room. ping pong tables, pool table, foosball, cafe bar, tables, and stools, couches, video games... can you see it all?
- in the previous post i mentioned the tv show glee...which like every other tv show out there pales in comparison to the level of quality experienced when you get an uninterrupted hour of 24. i'm counting down the days till january when season 8 starts, but interestingly enough, i was just recently told by a friend about a 24-like series of books. maybe they'll hold me over as i patiently try to wait.
- lots and lots of needs that many of our students & leaders are facing right now... i hate seeing people i love go through hurt and pain, especially when caused by others who just "didn't think". there have been many nights awake lately hoping and praying for God's restoring work to heal the broken.
- lakeshore continues to press forward toward the goal of opening the church's new facilities/addition within the next month. i feel like our student ministry has been so blessed from start to finish in all of this, and not many youth pastors get the privilege of designing their ideal youth room. i'm so pumped and excited for the space expansion, the gymnasium, and the impact it will have on our students and their friends who don't yet know Christ!
- with the additional space comes a distinct shift in how we will do student ministry. i'm so excited about this because it will significantly help us sync up with the church's overall paradigm, and better reach the students that are already in the building every week. we'll be transitioning our "crowd" program from thursday nights to sunday mornings...occuring at the same time as the adult worship services.
- mariska is asleep right now and snoring very loud as i type this.
in the personal realm
- you can see shanna's previous posts - but we've started the adoption journey and are so excited to see where God will take it. we've both always loved the picture of heaven and redeption that adoption brings into the real world. the statistics are staggering, and to be honest i'm having a hard time understanding why so many white families only look to adopt white babies. i know it's more than just a reality of the racially divided nation we still live in, that there are other reasons/factors... but i'm sure in large part that sadly has a lot to do with it. ...for us, we really want our family to look like what heaven will look like...and it aint gonna be just white people there!
- not as exciting, but i got a new phone off verizon's free upgrade thing - it's cool and new stuff is always fun.
- i *tried* to install a new door in our bedroom the other day... it looks great (maybe a little crooked) until you try to shut it. yeah doesn't quite fit in the doorway, even though it *should* by all my calculations. this is why i don't this kinda thing for a living.
in the dog realm
- to be honest it's a little disconcerting that mariska gets her own category in this post. she's doing well, getting bigger every day. she now sits and lays down on command *most* of the time. she's pretty much housebroken but sometimes we miss her hints to us that she needs to go outside. she's lots of fun nonetheless (especially when people come over and she greets them with a nice, husky bite).
- we had a guest over the other day and as mariska went to playfully bite her, she yelped like another dog would in a very high pitched voice. mariska stopped and walked away. maybe that's a new technique we should start using (apparently it works)...but i'm not sure it'll ever happen from me when people are around. lol
in the lakeshore realm
- currently we are in a series called just walk across the room based on the book by bill hybels. fantastic series, very eye-opening and challenging, and extremely timely as we finish the building project on the church's expansion.
- the new building is almost completely dried in, paint's going on the walls, and cielings and floors are being installed very soon. we are working hard to open on sunday, november 22nd so we can be in before thanksgiving.
in the youth ministry realm
it's been absolutely wonderful, rewarding, and fruitful... and yet exhausting and tiring at the same time. with the new building getting close to being open though, the excitement is far outweighing the exhaustion! :)
- it's been so cool to be able to take the students' design ideas and put them together into one huge youth room that will immediately shatter their friends' stereotype that church is boring! the architects and building teams really care about the teens in the church, and it's showing! black exposed cielings (with some partial drop "clouds" throughout the room), geometric designs on the floor, paint and whiteboard on the walls, a built-in bar area for food/snack service, couches, ping pong, pool table, foosball, etc. so exciting!
- our ministry is shifting gears in some major ways once the building opens.
- mozambique 2010: the church's support has been overwhelming and the applications from the students are all in. working this month to finalize the team.
- small groups have started - we have 7 groups, most of which meet in homes throughout the area. it's been so great to see the rosters and who's connecting at a deeper level with the youth group... and then to hear some of the stories that inevitably happen when we simply do life together.
Please spread the news to anyone and everyone. :) If you have any questions email or call us! We'd love to talk about it with you.
awakening... from a dream in the night that made wishes reality
sobbing... while the world blindly continues on
hiding... because pretending is too hard
And yet - my eyes see what was unseen before.
I don't wish the time back.
I don't wish my story any different.
Sometimes though - I forget.
I wrap myself in self-pity and settle in for a good, long stay.
in the muck and mire
that is familiar and...
But, when I remember - I see what was unseen before.
I see depth and compassion in myself
where I used to see judgment and self-righteousness.
I see hurt and pain in others
where I used to see anger and nastiness.
Though what lies ahead is unseen.
I know where I am.
I know which road I'm traveling.
I know where I'll end.
- eugene v. debs, usa union leader and social democrat
and then i looked at the list.
the reality of the possibility of NONE of those things happening sank in, and it was so good and motivating for me. none of us know when we'll die...but pondering that changes the way we live.
and the following words:
"The name of the book Obama is reading is called The Post-American World, written by a fellow muslim. Post-America - The world After America ???
Please forward this picture to everyone you know, conservative or liberal to expose Obama's radical ideas and intent for this country!
photo verified by snopes"
I can't use powerful enough words to describe what a bunch of crud this email is! The Post-American World (or this source)- a book summary for anyone that truly wants to be informed. Why do we, as right-wing conservative Christians, give ourselves such a horrific testimony? The email writer saw the book cover and assumed the author meant he wanted America to fall! This person (or persons) simply saw a cover and then created a bunch of hokey sensationalism about Obama, whom they have decided is America's worst enemy or the anti-Christ or something. This propogandist is the kind of person that creates Red-Scares and concentration camps for innocent Americans. (Oh, I'm really steamed! I'm just working myself up more and more... better stop now. I won't start on the whole "fellow-muslim" part!)
I am a Christ-follower and I REFUSE to slander President Obama's name based upon a fear-filled agenda. Please - don't allow yourself to get worked up based upon lies and sensationalism. Search out the truth. Be wise and wary, but not fearful.
this weekend our ministry will be blessed by a community of believers committed to being kingdom minded. i recently visited paradise valley community church's website looking at something with the rest of the lcc staff and a video caught my attention that is right in line with this weekend's theme. i gave the church a call, asked if we could have the video files (i mentioned we'd be willing to help cover the cost of producing it)...and within a few hours she had it uploaded to our server ready for us to use! no cost...no expectation...no strings attached. the administrative assistant just said "if we can bless other churches...by all means take it!".
that's kingdom minded, and it's a mindset that will change the world.
at the leadership summit a few weeks ago, i had an epiphany. probably a no-brainer for most...but it helped me work this all out in my head. hybels was talking about the fact that the church has lost respect in this world. and we all know that to be true: money scandals, sexual abuse (an inferiorating post for a differendy day), fake and plastic christianity, extreme commitment to tradition without commitment to Christ, rituals without meaning, etc. he went on "when we do something about the injustices around the world...it's the one time the church gains respect again". maybe it's not a trend at all...maybe it's the very heart of God expressed through his people in this world...and that people naturally take notice because it's so radically different from our natural wiring. maybe the church doesn't do enough. maybe it's about simply doing our part, simply because we love God and we love people...
i got to preach at the savane church plant this morning - a church plant of dondo baptist church. it is about a 30 minute drive on a bumpy dirt road...some would say it's in the "bush" although it's right close to the railroad tracks. beautiful beautiful people. oh my goodness. here's some of how they do church that i really admire:
1. passionate singing. hands raised, dancing, totally in love with jesus. when one song ends...someone from the audience just starts singing a new one and everyone joins. no instruments but an out of tune guitar faintly playing and a few hand drums. i couldn't understand any word except "jesu" but it was beautiful.
2. grateful hearts. we as americans would struggle to be grateful worshipping in a mud hut with holes in the walls and openings in the roof. but they couldn't stop giving thanks. the depth of spirituality in that place was incredible.
3. no spectators. and i do mean NO spectators - EVERYONE participated in the worship. before the preaching each group in the church (children, youth, adults, young adults, etc.) got up in front of the rest and presented 3-4 songs as their "offering of worship" to God. one group did a drama to emphasize a bible verse. but everyone participated and was a part of the worship.
4. hunger for truth. i cannot put into words the deep hunger for God's Word that is here in these churches. for many they cannot read, and so the message they heard today will be their spiritual food for the entire week. and they ate it up. they will be memorizing the scripture and quoting it all week. they are so hungry for God's Word, and it's something i don't think i could ever forget.
Onto one of the best times from this trip... this afternoon Sue and I taught some baking to a bunch of teens and a few adults that tagged along. We made banana bread. For me - the baking part didn't make any difference. But, I knew my role and my audience was an age-group I feel very comfortable around. And I knew a lot about the subject matter... and I got to teach. So, anyways - we made a bunch of banana bread muffins. I won't go into all the details, but it was an adventure. I had a blast and we only burned about half of the muffins.
This evening... well, that is a post for another day. Or maybe you will just have to come to Mozambique and experience it for yourself.
the hospital was an entirely different story. The hospital here is for Aids patients that are very sick and probably near the end of their time here on earth. We went to serve soup, as the only food they receive is what their families bring. There were 2 ladies with us, called Activistas. They shared who we were and the organization we were with. They then shared the hope of Jesus with them. Then, she said, "and now the ladies will share some words" i suppose we didn't HAVE to speak or pray, but it would be encouraging for the patients. Thankfully, Sue spoke a few words (and Simone translated) and I would pray. then we would serve the soup. i could go on and on describing the hospital (and frankly, all the pain and poverty in this place) but right now, I don't have words or the emotional reserves to spend on sharing.
For lunch we went to the nationals who dreamed and started this whole project. hot Climate culture! we got to hear how they met and much about the project and how to prepare our kids for next year...
this afternoon, Cor and I were going to drive into Beira with Todd, Christa, and the kids... we didn't really make it that far as the car broke down. then started again long enough for us to get to a gas station where we played with various and sundry car parts and some bottles of water. the car made it to the driveway of Lusalite (the neighborhood where we're staying) and then sputtered around, cooled off a little and finally made it somewhere not in the middle of the road. (Christa and I walked to the park with the kids.)
now we're "chillaxin' ". soon we'll head down to Todd & Christa's to decompress and talk about what's rolling around in our heads so far.
but the most profound realization is not that this is some tourist's walk through a museum. this is walking through real life. it's intense and raw and real and is going to take a lot of processing because our world is so different in so many ways.
we are so thankful for this opportunity...i've already filled a half a page of notes in my journal for how to make the experience the best for the teens next year.
now i find myself just hoping that...
1. there are no crying babies near us on the plane...or
2. that they cry with their mouth open long enough for me to throw a benadryl pill down their throat
Now Mariska is running around like a crazy-thing and Cory has decided to stop mowing grass because he couldn't see where he was mowing anymore. Our yard is always... interesting... a few weeks ago we had a big check mark mowed into our back yard for a few days.
Here's some pics of our building progress. They brought the steel in yesterday and it ALL went up today. It was CRAZY how fast the skeleton emerged!
We're leaving soon!
At one of our team meetings, we discussed what made us the most apprehensive about being in mozambique... I think my fears/worries/whatever-you-want-to-call-them have been like a revolving door. They just keep changing. At first it was the food and using a "bathroom" like Patti described to me... then, it became spiritual warfare... then seeing orphans and my selfish heart breaking... now... well, its kinda all there - swirling around in the back of my head. Not quite real yet - just vague little naggings where I've been practicing trust and letting them go. Its been pretty cool for me. We'll see how it goes when I'm "happily" eating a UFO (unidentified food object) OR staring into the eyes of a mother dying from aids, knowing she has children who need her...
Overall though - as I think about the trip - it doesn't feel extraordinary. We're going to see our friends - the Bushes and Val and others we've heard about, but have yet to meet. I'm so excited to visit with our friends and to play with the kids. At the same time, I KNOW we'll be experiencing some amazing stuff. (Hello! We're going to A*F*R*I*C*A!) That God will be changing me and tugging my heart more deeply in love with Him. I've been praying that God will break me - that my intimacy with him will reach depths I haven't known before. I don't know how it will happen, most likely, how I least expect it... And I'm so excited!
it's going to be a busy week...here's some of what is still left to do (aside from all the stuff on my desk at the church to crank out):
- fill sandbags with sand and secure around the sump pump
- final details for the dog's vacation from us :)
- finish reading material in prep for the trip
- one more meeting tonight with the team
- mow the lawn 2 more times
- thank you notes all caught up
- balance the checkbook and make sure bills are all paid in advance
- pack and weigh the suitcases
- a few final purchases for the trip
- and some other things that i'm sure i'm forgetting...
we feel so blessed by family and friends who have made this trip possible for us. the support of the church has been wonderful and the buzz in the air has been so refreshing. words can't even begin to express how amazed and blown away we are that right now all airfare and in-country costs have been covered for all 4 of us! God is so good...and we are so thankful!
i believe that we serve God...[long pause]...and then we die."
sometimes we get caught up in feeling that we are somehow entitled and that we deserve good from God. the reality is quite far from this. what good we do experience is purely an act of grace on God's part. but regardless of how life turns out, we serve Him. we build into others. we invest in things bigger than ourselves. we love others unconditionally. we seek to make His name great in this world.
and then we die.
like last night at our adult leader's meeting, for instance. we meet every 4-6 weeks with the whole team, and it's really turned into something super special each time. we usually gather at one of our home's at 4:30 on a saturday...we do dinner together, lots of small talk and laughing, some sharing time centered around "life" right now (which always results in people being vulnerable, transparent, and crying), and then we try to sneak in some "business" related to the youth ministry. after that people usually hang around for another 45 minutes just chatting...and people are pretty much out of the house by 11:00pm. crazy.
where it came out last night was at the very end. i knew it was getting late, and like most of these gatherings, i'm trying to cram some super important logistical stuff at the end of the "business" part, inevitably not covering everything. there was a dialogue last night during the meeting that was quite interesting:
(leader #1): "should we maybe start the meeting earlier...or plan to end the meeting later...because we never get to fit it all in."
(leader #2) "OR we should just shorten some of the other elements and make time that way."
the one leader was coming from a hot-culture perspective...the other from a cold-culture persepective...neither necessarily bad - just a reality of any group of people living in community.
more and more i'm finding myself valuing the hot-culture perspective...less of an emphasis on time, more hospitality and indirect communication, more people oriented than task oriented...and i'm actually wondering if we were created by God to be like that?
i'm still wrestling with it all...
not sure we're gonna figure it all out, but this fall we're going to try something that i think might point us in the right direction...
we're gonna have shorter meetings every 4-6 weeks focused on the "business" part of it all, in addition to us all being part of the same adult community group which will meet every other week. should be fun!
- later tonight we'll be traveling back to rochester from camp burton. it's been a really great week and God has really worked here. i've enjoyed speaking to all the students here...but i have to be honest - they're nothing like our teens back home.
- been blown away at the talents and abilities of the college students serving as counselors at the camp. they have so much energy and enthusiasm, and gifted by God to really connect with the teens. but the most refreshing thing has been to see their genuine hearts for God and how contagious that really is.
- almost finished reading foreign to familiar in preparation for the vision trip to mozambique in 3 weeks. what a great read - and so helpful for understanding not just other cultures of the world but also our own.
- shanna and i are sitting in a quintessential, nostalgic cafe here in burton right now. old 50's music...antiques for sale...small town america at its best.
- can't wait to get home (but a little scared of what we might find in the basement). we're keeping our fingers crossed.
i'm speaking at camp burton this week - camp burton is our district's camp about 4 hours west of us near cleveland. fun times. this video i quickly shot off my phone - the quality is bad, but it was during a really sweet praise and worship time this morning. God's really been working. praying that kids turn their lives over to Christ tonight and tomorrow night and make commitments to follow Him with more passion and intimacy.
as we described the story of jonah...i came to the realization of how hard it is to actually believe it literally occurred. i do believe it happened...i believe that all of the Bible is true and to be taken literally unless there's obvious clues that it's written in a figurative sense...but honestly if i was a skeptic, i'd have a hard time with...
- the fact that jonah was asleep during this "perfect storm" (was he drugged???)
- that some big fish just swallowed him whole as he floundered in the water
- that he ended up in the fish's stomach...alive
- that he just "hung out" inside there for 72 hours...and spent time praying in there too
- that he didn't go through the rest of the fish's digestive system...or get eaten by something else that came down the fish's throat
- that he got barfed up on the shore...and lived to tell about it all
seriously...if you're honest...it sounds like something that was made up by someone who was high. i'm sure there's scientific explanations for it...would really be curious to see them, etc. it's God's Word so i believe it...but wow - that one's a little tough. what other stories/passages are tough to believe?