Thursday, January 8, 2015

I Used To Think That I Loved God...


I used to think that I loved God, but now I know that I can’t. 


All my adult life, I’ve been telling my story – how I came to a point where I realized God’s love for me and I was permanently changed. I would love Him forever in return. Or so I thought…
Then I began to understand the flesh vs. the Spirit battle better. The truth is that I am nothing but a broken, empty vessel. I can try to love God, but pour as I might, nothing comes out because any love I may have within me seeped out the cracks long ago.
My only hope for any effectiveness in God’s kingdom is in my restful dependence on
Him. The moment I cease trying to love and simply let His Spirit breathe life into me and fill me, is the moment those around me feel His presence.
I have been completely empty a lot lately. Something about 16 hour days with several intense conversations a day ranging from spiritual warfare, to disciplinary confrontations and personal development; then teaching a Bible class for 2 hours and sitting down to study for the next day, just seems to drain me. I find myself struggling just to read the passage for the following day. I make it through that with zero energy to spare and can do nothing but collapse on the floor facedown, begging God to make this lesson into something because I can’t. I don’t experience a sudden jolt of supernatural energy or inspiration, just a longing for God to show up. I go through the rest of my day tottering on the brink between despair at the prospect of failure, and resting in dependence on the LORD. Finally, I go to bed and sleep only because I know God keeps His promises, not because the cause of anxiety is gone.
I wake up with an unexplained conviction that I need to emphasize a certain point in that day’s passage and the race is on for the day. It passes in a similar fashion to the last one but this time, some of the conversations are spurred by the topics covered in Bible. People are growing as they soak in the Word. The end of the day comes and several students share that their highlights of the day were what God taught them in Bible class.
I may not be able to love God, but it sure doesn’t seem to slow Him down when He wants to do something in me or through me.

To wrap up, I’ll share a few quotes from Wm. R. Newell that have influenced my thinking as I was reading through Miles Stanford’s The Complete Green Letters.

"To 'hope to be better' (hence acceptable) is to fail to see yourself in Christ only."

"To be disappointed with yourself is to have believed in yourself."

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Questionless Conversation

Have you ever found yourself in a conversation trying to get to know someone and end up feeling like you’re giving them the third degree? Or you keep getting one word answers like, “yup, nope, good, nah” etc. Honestly, I can understand the frustration on both sides. The question asker is frustrated by not really getting anything of value and the questioned is annoyed by the persistent assaults on the castle of his private life.
I would like to propose that the questionless conversation could be a liberating alternative to its mutually frustrating counterpart, which I affectionately call the interrogation. First of all, it is important to know the theology and heart behind the questionless conversation. If the foundation of it is well understood and put into practice then there will be much more freedom in your methodology as long as your heart is in the right place.
The basis of a good conversation is connection with the heart as opposed to a collection of information. If we think about the way that God draws us into relationship with Him, we realize that He does not demand much from us. Rather, He invites us into relationship with Him. He shows us His love through His Son and gives us the option to choose to respond with love or rejection. This is a risky approach, which is why I believe I tend to avoid it quite often in my relationship with others. It’s not fun being denied relationship when you extend an invitation. Yet, that’s exactly how God puts Himself out there. He has relinquished His total control of our response so that we can freely choose to connect with Him.
One reason I think specific questions are used in attempts to connect with people, is that the one asking the question has some control over what kind of response he or she gets. The questionless conversation relinquishes that control. Instead it seeks to express an interest in the other’s heart and allows them the freedom to respond at whatever level of depth they choose.
Imagine the person’s life is like a pantry with lots of shelves. On the top shelves they have small facts about themselves and their experiences. “I’ve been to France,” “I have three brothers,” and the like. As you go down to the middle shelves, you get the heavier items such as experiences themselves. This is where things begin to take the shape of stories. They might even have emotions attached to them and they could act as a window to the heart, but they are not the heart. Finally, at the bottom are the stories, the pains and the joys. These are the heavy items. When someone hands you one of these, it should always be treated as sacred, valuable, and private. Treating these with respect will affirm the person’s dignity and help you both connect with the heart God gave them.
If I were to barge into someone’s house and start asking for things from their pantry, what do you suppose they are likely to give me? As an intruder, I expect they would hand me the least valuable items, the facts. But what if I extended an invitation. Would you like to come over for a Barbeque? Bring something to share if you would like. Then, when they are free to share whatever they desire, one is far more apt to pick something from a lower shelf. Once they see how I treat that, they may bring something even more valuable the next time, or even invite me over. Then we have a true relationship beginning.
So how does this questionless conversation work practically? The first time I was asked to try this, I was frustrated because I didn’t have any other way of starting conversation. But I have since come up with a few alternatives that have more of a feel of an invitation than an interrogation. So here they are.
• The expression of interest: “I would love to hear about…”
This one is key; it’s the foundation of the others and makes people feel welcome to share freely. It can also be used to go deeper if you say something like “I would love to hear more about…”
• The invitation to depth: “Tell me more about…”
This one should be used cautiously with both tone and placement so that it’s not a demand. Use it to show that you heard what them and are interested.
• Curiosity: “I’m curious about…”
This shows that you have an interest in some aspect of the person’s life and invites them to share more without restrictions on what or how much they share.
• Wondering: “I wonder if _____ is connected with _______.”
This one is good for searching out connections between things without assuming that you know or have the answer. Invites the other to consider connections with you.
• Reframing: “It seems like you’re saying …”
This shows the person that you’ve been listening. It’s amazing how often this leads to deeper conversation simply because they know they are heard.
• Observation: “I noticed when you were talking, you said…” or, “I noticed you looked down when you started talking about…”
These ones can be particularly hard not to draw conclusions from. We may know or think we know what is happening, but it is still more inviting to allow them the option to explain from their perspective.

My hope is that you’ll take the challenge and try out this approach with some conversations with friends or strangers. When getting used to it, it can be fun to challenge yourself to see how long you can go in a conversation without asking a question. If you get stuck and can’t think of a non-question, don’t fret or freeze, just ask a question to keep things flowing and remember the principle of expressing an interest and inviting the other to share. As you have opportunity keep using the ideas above or improvise your own. See what works for you and enjoy. I trust it will give a new richness and life to your relationships.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

The Christmas Presence

In the beginning, God was here, happy to just be with us. His creation was so good and he seemed to enjoy spending time with the piece of it that was specifically made in his image. But then man decided that he thought he could find a better god in himself, then when that failed in thousands of other “deities” throughout the millennia. Since God is a righteous and jealous God, he couldn’t just live here with people who were pushing him away. So he withdrew his presence from us but still kept a close watch over his prize creation.
Yet he was not content for it to stay that way. Being jealous for his people, He was determined to draw them back to himself so he could once again live among them. So He called out a people to be his own from among the nations and set them apart. He delivered them from incredible bondage by the mighty power of his hand and he made a covenant with them. He appeared in a huge storm cloud over the mountain with thunder and lightening and He gave them the law so they became the first people on earth to know exactly what God expected. Thus his people grew to know him like no other people since the beginning. Then, when they had agreed to abide by the covenant and make themselves a holy people, he told them to make him a special tent so he could come and live among them, almost like in the beginning. This tent was beautiful. It was constructed generous portions of fine gold, precious metals and fabric, every piece of which was a gift from the people who wanted to contribute to the construction of this new dwelling place of God. And so, through a system of blood shed for sin, separation by a veil and special intermediaries called priests, God was once again able to come and live among his people. His cloud came and filled the tent and his fire was seen burning in it every night. Yet it was not like the beginning because of the degrees of separation between him and his people. Especially when the people forgot the covenant and began sinning once again. Then God’s presence would lift from among them because they clearly did not want to live with Him. Along with it, would go his protection and provision, and the people would suffer.
Eventually, through many ups and downs, God brought his people into the land that he had promised them and established them in it largely by the hand of the mighty and obedient hand of King David, the “man after God’s own heart.” He wanted to build God a house so he wouldn’t have to live in a tent anymore, but God said, “No, But I will build you a house and your dynasty will last forever” So instead, his son built God a house which was one of the most beautiful buildings ever seen and God came and lived in the house which they called the temple and his presence was with his people there in Jerusalem. Yet there was a problem, the people still had rebellious hearts and they soon turned away from God once again. It was not long before it got so bad, that God had to remove both his people and his presence from the land in hopes of drawing them back to himself a few decades later.
It was around that time that the prophets wrote about a day when God would mend the core problem and give men new hearts to replace their rebellious ones. Only then could He hope to live among them forever. So although he brought his people back into their land and they rebuilt the temple there, that was not his final plan. Rather, they were to wait for one who was to come and change them from the inside.
So finally, on the chosen day, God came to earth; but this time, He’s not in a storm cloud with thunder and lightning, He’s not in a mysterious cloud living in a tent separated from his people, but rather in the form of a baby like one of our own. He so desired to just be with us, that he was willing to come right down to our level and be one of us. From there he went on to show us what kind of an abundant life we could be living with him as our master. He did the work that it took to give us new hearts, to the point of shedding his own blood. He walked with us stride for stride and being himself the cornerstone, he set the standard for the foundation stones of the apostles and prophets, and thus, the basis for a new building in which his presence could dwell among us. This would be the house he promised to David, but this house was not made from mere cloth, and skins; or even stones and cedar like the temple building. This time, his house is known as the church, its structure is the people of God who, together form the new dwelling place of the almighty right here on earth. It is not made from gifts of Gold or precious metals, but rather people who offer themselves willingly because they want to be a part of the house where they can invite people in to come and get to know the God who not only made them, but loves them more deeply than they can imagine.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Isolation vs. Solitude



I used to think that isolation makes for good solitude, 
Now I know that it just breaks relationships.

I love my students. That's the whole reason I moved here, I've left my old home and begun forging a new one. I've given of my time and resources. Pretty much everything the last few years has been dedicated to being able to serve my students better here at Tanalian Leadership Center. 
So then I have to ask myself, why is it that when they actually lived here with me, I kept finding myself pushing them away? Well, after a good summer of time to ponder, some bold people who are willing to speak truth into my life and more than a few encounters with the Word of God, I feel like I'm beginning to understand. The one phrase that kept playing through my mind since last spring was "Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves." (Philippians 2:3)  Those words haunted me and they began to make all the times I said "no", "not now", "I need my sleep" or generally avoided connecting with people taste bitter in my memories. 
Something was wrong and had to change. 
I didn't get what it was yet because I always had a reason when I did those things. It was well thought out rational for every time. Usually it had something to do with taking care of myself and not letting people walk all over me and my boundaries. Boundaries are a good thing right? I had endless reasons for all of these choices but it wasn't till I listened to a book called "Crucial Conversations" that I had a lightbulb moment. That's when I realized that most of those reasons were made up after the fact as a justification or what they call a "clever story." My story sure sounded great but I made the choice because I was selfish then came up with the story about how it was unselfish afterward. 
So what was driving these choices besides just raw, fleshy selfishness. Well, I think it came from having a very introverted personality and feeling like I need lots of space to function well. My attitude was
"If I just keep people far enough away, perhaps I can have the solitude I need."
And while, yes, I need my solitude, it turns out that isolation is not the way to get it. I end up like Jonah. I wonder if he thought, 
"What I need is a nice vacation on the other side of the Medeterainian. Perhaps I'll hear God more clearly from over there perhaps he's not really telling me to do the last think in the world I would want to do.
I don't want to be like that. 
I think what I need to learn to do is find true solitude at the proper times so I can connect with my Lord. I could take a lesson from Jesus on that. He had no problem dissapearing in the mornings to go to the garden and pray. I'm pretty sure he even turned his cell phone off (Gasp! It has that setting?) 
But then when I come back I need to remember the reason I'm here, to connect with the people I love, then do that.  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Guiding principles for Teaching at TLC

The following I wrote just recently as a way to concisely state my convictions about teaching in the context of Tanalian Leadership Center (TLC). The these principles have evolved from many conversations with native leaders, native students, fellow missionaries and many years of observations. Since all those things are ongoing, I expect that these principles will continue to evolve over the years. For the time being, these are the basic principles under which I attempt to operate.

1. Teach like you are the first Bible teacher they have ever had.
2. Good teaching has the students in mind; great teaching has the their students in mind.
3. Information is a slave to transformation.
4.To teach from the heart is to listen with the heart.

1. Teach like you are the first Bible teacher they have ever had.
This is a principle to remind the teacher not to put unrealistic expectations on the students that they should have a prior understanding of Biblical terminology and concepts. Until the overall culture of Southwest Alaska is one that gives a biblical foundation and worldview to all of its children, TLC will seek to serve those who have not had such an opportunity by offering it to them in a way that each individual student can understand.

2. Good teaching has the students in mind; great teaching has their students in mind.
The TLC teacher must remember that we only seek to be the snowball that starts the avalanche of spiritual multiplication and discipleship in Southwest Alaska. As such, it is equally important that we build both the students’ competency and confidence. Any school can give a student information, but at TLC we seek to empower the student to become not only a student, but one who makes disciples of the next generation. Thus it is critical that the teachers in this program avoid a model that relies on “the expert” from an outside source but instead focuses on the Word as the source of truth and each person’s ability to read and understand it as the skill of utmost importance.

3. Information is a slave to transformation.
According to this principle, the transfer of information serves only as an agent for transformation. Thus the teacher should not be overly focused on helping the student learn the information but should target the heart. In a biblical understanding, the heart of a person is the core of their being in which their true beliefs reside and from which all actions and attitudes flow. We do not seek behavioral modification or memorization and regurgitation, but rather heart transformation relying on the power of the Word of God and his Spirit to work in the hearts of people. The TLC Teacher’s job is to allow exposure to the Word and interaction with it in such a way that it encourages students to take it to heart and helps them process what that means. This principle also implies that the teacher’s Job is not only exposing people to the word, but equally as important, praying for the hearts of the students and their receptiveness to the Word.

4.To teach from the heart is to listen with the heart.
A teacher’s job is first to listen then to teach. When teaching the Holy Scriptures, that involves listening on multiple levels. On one level, the teacher must listen carefully to the writer of the scriptures to hear the message they were intending to communicate. On the next level, the teacher must also pray for an open mind and heart to hear from the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the one who teaches the believer and if the believer wishes to teach others, they must first be open to hearing and responding to what God wishes to teach them. Once there has been true heart change, then passing that same message on to the students will be natural and effective. A teacher who has been changed by what they have learned will be easy for students to trust and therefore should have an open door to speak from the heart to the heart.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Omnipresence?

The other day in Bible class, as we were looking at the story of Job, one of my students asked, "How could Satan stand in the presence of God? I thought that God could not have evil in his presence?" We discussed that a little and it got me thinking. I eventually came to the other difficulty that God seems to be present everywhere and given the undeniable existence of evil, not only is evil allowed in the presence of God, but God's presence necessarily penetrates the territory of evil. And if God wanted to avoid evil, why in the world would he come to earth in the form of a human?

Thus was launched into pondering the true nature of the doctrine we call omnipresence which simply put, says God is everywhere. Well, that's nice and it's fitting for an all powerful God, but if we stop at simply everywhere, that kind of steals the thunder right out of the voice of God when he says that he will dwell in us and among us. Of course He does, He is everywhere, which means that he also dwells in and among Satan, his followers and the heathens right? Well, I'm hoping that his presence means something different among the wicked vs. his people. But what exactly is that difference?
Here's what my investigation turned up.
  • At the burning bush, his presence made even the dirt holy.
  • At the Exodus, he personally lead his people out in a pillar of cloud and fire (Ex 13:21)
  • Later he had them build a special tent  so that he could dwell in that as they wandered the desert (Num 9:15) 
So it appears that He is present in specific places in a special way.
Once Israel enters the Promise Land, There are some rather comical stories about his presence in the Ark of the Covenant. I Sam 4 tells the story where Israel attempts to win a battle by bringing the Ark into the camp so that "their God would be with them," yet they were still defeated and the Ark was captured.
Apparently God wasn't in the box. 
But then the Philistines bring the Ark into the Temple of Dagon their pegan god and the idol ends up falling on it's face before the Ark.
So apparently God was in the box.

(O.K. brief pause for a cheesy joke. What do you call a guy with no arms and no legs and no head lying on the floor? A Da-gone Idol. Lol.)

Moving on.
Finally, when Israel settles down in the promise land and David brings enough stability to build Jerusalem as the capital, the Ark is moved there. David builds himself a nice house and then realizes that the Ark is still living in a tent. That's just not right. So he says I'm going to build God a house. At first he prophet Nathan says,
"sure, go for it."
 But then after actually talking with God, he comes back and says something to the effect of,
"just kidding, basically here's what God says,
'I'm going to build you a house in which you will have a ruler forever.'"
(Andrew's Paraphrased Version of II Sam 7)

 and along with that he says that David's son will build God's house, the temple. 
So the Temple is built and God shows up in his cloud again and makes himself at home in the temple, among his people in a special way. Yet YHWH doesn't seem to be contained by those beautifully decorated walls very well and still seems to have pervasive and perhaps even invasive presence in other places. 
  • Jonah tries to run from his call to Nineveh and is thwarted by "YHWH, the God who made the land and the sea." The concept of which scared the pegan sailors right out of their canvas pants. 
  • Clear over in Susa, Esther "just so happens" to be queen to a king who is tricked into ordering a genocide of the Jews, but it "just so happens" that the tables are turned and the provoker is poked / skewered on the gallows. 
So although God is aware of all things in all places at all times, and in some sense perhaps he is present, it appears that he likes to be present in a special way in certain places at certain times. Especially when it comes to being in and among his people. 

So what does this look like today?

Eph 2:19-22
"So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Chist Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit."
(ESV, Emphasis mine)

In the context, Paul is talking about the meaning of being one in Christ as the church. As we unite together in love as members of the church, we actually become the New Testament version of the temple. And just as God dwelt with his people and was present in a special way on in the temple he is present in a special way in united believers today.

Now as we unite, we are the house that was promised to David and Jesus is the king in the house.

And that's not even to mention the concept that we are also the body of Christ. (See the last sentence in Eph 1)

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Don't Drink the Blood


Whoever eats any blood, that person shall be cut off from his people.” ” (Leviticus 7:27, ESV)

Ok, that's a simple command, "Don't eat blood"... got it.


““You shall not eat any flesh with the blood in it. You shall not interpret omens or tell fortunes. ” (Leviticus 19:26, ESV)

Ok, so apparently drinking blood is right up there with witch doctor stuff. I'll try to stay away from that.  But why? What's the big deal about drinking blood? We eat the rest of the animal.

“But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. ” (Genesis 9:4, ESV)

“For the life of every creature is its blood: its blood is its life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood. Whoever eats it shall be cut off. ” (Leviticus 17:14, ESV)

Oh, got it, apparently the life is in the blood so there's something sacred about it. We don't want the life of an animal in us. That's no good. Ok, I'm tracking now.

But what about the blood of the sacrifices? Could they eat that blood? It was poured out for their lives right?


For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. Therefore I have said to the people of Israel, No person among you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger who sojourns among you eat blood. ” (Leviticus 17:11–12, ESV)

Oh, I guess that would be a big NO on that. 



“Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. ” (Matthew 26:26–28, ESV emphasis mine)

Say WHAT!? I thought eating the blood was forbidden? Why is Jesus asking his church to drink it all the sudden. Especially his blood, if ever there was sacred blood, that would be it. 


“So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ” (John 6:53–54, ESV)

Oh, the life is still in the blood, but this life is different. We couldn't drink the blood of the other sacrifices because they didn't have eternal life, but this blood does. It is from a resurrected sacrifice. This blood is sacred indeed...






Monday, October 22, 2012

Mentor Graphs

I have been pondering the nature of discipleship in an effort to do it well. Here are some of my thoughts of late.

When we talk about discipleship most of the time, we seem to communicate this basic idea of how it works. An older / more mature person meets with a younger / less mature person and calls them upward in their maturity. (See image below)


However, when I get in the nitty gritty every day life of this task I feel an uneasiness with this model and have heard it expressed by countless others. “what if I’m not really far enough ahead of the disciple to help them out?,” “What if I am too old and can’t reach far enough back to relate with the disciple?”

Then, when I look at Jesus and how he went about this task, something still feels wrong about the way we look at it. I can’t picture him standing above his disciples trying to reach down with his supernaturally long arms to pull them up to his level of maturity (perfection). Rather, I see him standing with them at every phase of their growth, looking ahead to see how they might grow from every experience. (See image below)


It was not the level of maturity that he was concerned about, but their potential for growth. Think about Jesus’ interaction with Peter at their last Passover meal. (Luke 22:31-34) Jesus knew Peter was about to fall and that both his growth and maturity would plummet in the next few hours, but he also could see past that to his bitter weeping (22:54-62) (an incredible growth point) and on to Pentecost where, having learned from the experience, Peter did not hesitate to risk his life for the cause of Christ (Acts 2:36).

I believe this was because Jesus was more concerned with Peter’s overall direction of growth than his level of maturity and it appears that he was certainly willing to stand with him in every phase for the sake of the next even if it meant losing ground for a while.

It also helps to look at this process as one in which we walk through life’s events together rather than the disciple maker seeing themselves as further ahead in time than the disciple.

The big advantage to this model in my mind is that it is transferable to us as humans. Each of us is walking in our own roller coaster of growth rates. One day it might be going well and the next we seem to plummet, but if we are in the same sort of roller coaster as those we are mentoring, then we aught to be able to relate with them well. And if we have been in it for a while, we can see how each experience can be an opportunity for growth, both for ourselves those with whom we are walking.

“So father, I pray that each experience in my life and the life of those I walk with would be seen as an opportunity to grow closer to you. Not because we are that much closer to the infinitely distant goal of perfection, but because we walked through it with you. Grant me the wisdom and insight to see the potential in every circumstance and the courage to see it through to the point of growth. Thank you for walking with us.
Amen”

Fine print: For those of you who are critiquing the mathematical accuracy of my graphs, I apologize for their roughness. They are based on the visual estimation of someone who has not taken a math class in 7 years. For those of you who are just confused by the graphs, I’m afraid I can’t apologize because this really is how my brain works. I hope the explanation is sufficient for you to get the idea. I also lay no claim to having “the perfect model” for discipleship. I just find it more helpful than before.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

When a surveyor teaches Bible survey

Anna, Melissa, Megan, Del, Me
After listening to Dell Tackett (from the Truth Project) speak here at Ministry Family Retreat last week, I was inspired on multiple levels. Dell spoke of how the Christian life and hope itself aught not to be defined by our story and what we might gain at the end, but by the Larger Story written in perfection by God himself. The extent that we have real hope is the extent that we consider ourselves a part of His story rather than our own. When I realized what he was saying, I immediately knew I had to communicate this idea to my students so they also could find true hope.

 The second challenge that Dell issued was concerning the glorious yet treacherous task of teaching. He suggested that the teacher’s highest calling is not merely to help information enter the minds of students, but to find some way to work with the Holy Spirit in helping the truth penetrate to the inner recesses of the mind known as the heart in which beliefs are held and therefore actions are born. It was then that I realized I had to find a way to communicate this idea of our story vs. God’s story to the heart. 

I needed something really big to compare to something really small. Well, it just so happens that I live next to a 3000 ft runway. So after hatching a plan, I took the students out there for our “intro to Bible” day. We walked up the runway a ways and I had them stand side by side in a line facing the far end. I told them that where they stand now represents the present, behind them is the past and in front is the future. Then using 1 inch = 1 year. We marked out on the ground their estimated lifespan, none of which exceeded 9 feet. Then I had them mark out the beginning of time, assuming it was approximately 6,000 years ago, by walking 178 paces (~500’) back toward the beginning of the runway. Then I had them guess at how long the world might last before Christ comes back and several guessed that it would be before their life was over while the longest was a mere 25’ in the future. Then we stepped back to consider which story they really wanted to be a part of, the little one that represented their lives, or the gigantic one we could barely see the marker for the beginning of and the end of which was alarmingly close. We then talked about how those aren’t really the beginning and the end, but God knew us before the foundation of the world (which in this case was somewhere out in the middle of the lake) and his story continued with us as a part of it far beyond the far end of the runway into eternity. From there it was an easy jump to show how the Word of God is his invitation to not only learn his story, but to join Him in it. 

 So next time you’re out on a walk and hit a straight stretch of road, count off a 178 paces, then look back and consider how your life is less than 9 feet of that. Whose story do you want to be a part of?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Dreams


I don’t like having too many things, they weigh me down.
I don’t like having too much money with no purpose. It makes me feel like I’ve fallen for an ideal that’s not worth the paper it’s printed on. Like I’m chasing a dream that never actually invaded my sleep.
So what is my dream?
I want to be free to serve. My God has given his all for me, how can I not give my all for him. What purpose do things serve in that? Especially for someone who is not primarily a gift giver. I love to give time, I love to teach, I love to walk through life with people and help them Grow closer to God.
So why does God keep blessing me financially? 4 years ago, I realized that it was so that I could go to school and learn to teach the Word and lead. So for 4 years that’s where the money God gave me went. Now, here I am with a degree, debt free and God is still blessing me. I don’t suppose I really make that much compared to most. I have an incredible team of supporters who give faithfully allowing me to live the dream that God gave me. I have a great summer job for a few months, but the biggest thing is that I have remained mostly free of financial burdens. So the question is, what do I do with what I have to serve my God most faithfully?
Well, remember that whole thing about wanting to be free to serve? What does that look like in Alaska, in the bush. According to our Guest Mentor Paul Boskoffsky of Naknek who is a well respected leader in the church and who has first hand experience with the good and the bad of Alaska missions over the years, we need to observe. A good servant of the people of Alaska will take the time to listen, to be involved in people’s lives in multiple settings, to be present.
I have not lived in Port Alsworth for very long, but I can tell you it is a very hard thing to do when you are stuck in “the Port Alsworth bubble.” It is a great place to live, but it’s also a great place to get out of touch with what’s going on around you and with the reality of the lives of the very people that we want to serve.
So how do we break free of the bubble? How do we get out to be available to those that don’t live here? It’s simple…

Fly

So that’s exactly what I intend to do. After putting it to prayer, it appears that the time is right, the resources are there and there is no better way for me to invest my time and money at this point in life.  I have a new scene in my dream and I’m beginning to get excited about it. Learning to fly is something that I’ve never even allowed myself to dream about before, but now it seems that I get to.
I have no idea how this is going to work out in the long run, only that I can take the first steps into a new adventure so I could use many prayers to carry me along the way.
And who knows, I might even enjoy it. J