26 April 2006

What I need more than anything right now is "God's perspective."

If I want my with-God-life to head in a certain direction ...
if I want my with-God-life to be defined by certain things along the way ... if I want my with-God-life to end up at a certain place ... then it matters how I think, which way I head, which way I steer my ship, which compass I look at, which maps I follow, which currents I travel, and which winds I turn my sails into.

"When you are feelin' really down,
read Job, and see what that guy
had to go through!"
- Winston Groom, Forrest Gump

Groom's book is short but spicy, much better than the movie. Forrest is a man-child with a heart of gold, and more of an inner-longing for God than was portrayed in the movie. I haven't felt quite down enough to need to read Job for encouragement, but if that day comes, I think I'll take Forrest up on his advice.

Because again, most of the time, moving from doubt to hope and from obfuscation to clarity is more about "discerning God's perspective" than it is "needing some kind of brand new knowledge or revelation". So it was good to be reminded of this important truth this morning.

In his little book, The World As Best As I Remember It: Thoughts and Reflections, songwriter-singer-author Rich Mullins penned some words that give greater dimension to what Winston Groom was getting at ...

"God did not give Joseph any special
information about how to get from being
the son of a nomad in Palestine to being
Pharaoh's right hand man in Egypt. What
He did give Joseph were eleven jealous
brothers, the attention of a very loose
and vengeful woman, the ability to do
the service of interpreting dreams and
managing other people's affairs, and the
grace to do that faithfully wherever he was."

I want to wallow in this "grace" Mullins speaks of and calls us into. I want to be baptized in it – inviting it to saturate me and define me. Why? Because I believe there's a perspective God wants to bring into my heart and mind through this process that I won't be able to come by any other way.

In an exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat in his book Alice's Adventure In Wonderland, author Lewis Carroll tells us that where we're going at any given moment has got to dovetail with our goal of where we want to finish up at the end of all our given moments. Carroll writes …

"Which way do you want me to go?"
Alice asked the Cheshire Cat. "Would
you tell me, which way I ought to go
from here?" "depends a good deal on
where you want to get to," said the cat.
"Oh, I don't care much where," said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way
you go," replied the cat.

We have nine engaged couples at Ogden Church right now. Instead of trying to do six individual counseling sessions with each couple, I started a class. This saves me time and helps build relationships between the couples ... a relationship they're wanting to continue by beginning a young married couples small group in the Fall. Yippee ... mission accomplished!

This morning I've been working on tonight's fourth-session; weaving some of these thoughts into what I'll share with them tonight ... and so I thought that I'd share some of them here. Godspeed.



22 April 2006

Years ago, while attending a workshop, the speaker used an ice-breaker-initiative to try and get us in touch with our "inner poet". Kind of touchy, very feely. Anyway, here are the opening lines of the love-sonnet I wrote to my treasured bride Teresa that morning ...

Who would have have guessed
that a man on a self-centered quest
would have been chosen by someone like you ...

My little ode of love went on to express my love to my dear wife in ways that would have made Mr. Hallmark blush, Helen Steiner Rice chuckle, and Bill Shakespeare get out his red pen. But the sentiments I wrote that day were true and came from a resolute understanding that I'd married above my position, that any "success" I'd had in life had more to due with the support of my wife than with my own tenacity or talent, and that I'd not only love her all of her life, but that I'd love her all of mine.

Which brings me to what I want to write about this evening – the reality that these past thirteen months of uncertain quest would never had been possible without Teresa's steady whispering to me, in ways simple and quiet, and in ways complex and insistent ...
  • That God had a plan ... even when we couldn't see it.
  • That together we could seek God's plan and find God's plan ... even when it would require more faith that we'd ever had to draw upon.
  • And that together we would walk this road and not give up ... even when we were discouraged, tired, separated, or ticked off.
And so tonight I want to let everyone know how blessed I am to have Teresa as my wife. Here are just some of the words that describe her: graceful, tenacious, attentive, wise, gentle, unselfish, consistent, thoughtful, prayerful, and peppy.

Please keep praying for Teresa as she holds down the Newberg fort during my time in Michigan. I leave again for three-weeks this coming Monday at 6:40 a.m. She continues to do some property management, cook monthly meals for a dear Christian sister here in Newberg who is developmentally challenged, and she also cleans two homes besides ours. This is all hard, and mostly thankless work, and she needs to sense God's calling and provision during these last feel months I am in Michigan.

Please pray for Ian as he tackles the final two months of his Junior year at Newberg High School, and as he wraps up the last two weeks of an Old Testament Survey class he's taking at George Fox University. He's also playing rugby, involved in Young Life and needs to hear God's voice and know God's presence as he's the "man of the house" in my absence.

I am continuing to have good conversations with three churches about whether or not God is opening the door for me to be their new lead pastor-teacher. Thanks for your ongoing prayers for this process. I wish we knew right now what door I am supposed to walk through. But we do not. I haven't heard any new updates from the two churches in Hawaii for several weeks, so I'm assuming that this is not the direction the LORD has planned for us. But here are the three churches I'm talking with ...
  1. 2nd Street Community Church, in Newberg, OR (my hometown)
  2. Emerald Bible Fellowship, in Eugene, OR (100 miles South of Newberg)
  3. Foothills Church, in Stayton, OR (25 miles SouthEast of Newberg)
And so we will keep trusting Him, waiting on Him and believing the undeniable truth that almost nothing significant has ever come about within the Kingdom of God without a significant time of waiting preceding it. And so our waiting is not in vain. Nor is it empty. God is alive in our waiting ... and He is shaping us, pruning us, and creating us for the place He has created for us.

To be honest with you, it really wasn't all that long ago that I was a man on a "self-centered quest." Sure I'd like to think I moved past that way of thinking the moment I realized Teresa had chosen me, but I didn't. But what I can confidently say is that I'm not the man I was a year ago. And so for the work God has done and is doing in me, and in Teresa, and in our family, I will always be thankful. God knows what He's doing. He always has and He always will. Godspeed.



13 April 2006

I'm very thankful for a friend who took the time to write me an encouraging email today. Sometimes all it takes to nudge another human being from the place of feeling disconnected and nearly hopeless back across the line to the place of feeling connected and hopeful is the kind of compassionate human connection this email brought me. I'm not clinically depressed, but I'd be lying if I didn't 'fess up to the effects of being away from my precious family for most of the past five months. It's damn hard.

I read and reread my friend's words and was reminded of many things. God knows me, God has plans for me, God isn't done with me, and most of all God can be trusted. I wish life was more cut and dry -- decisions able to be quickly and cleanly made after God lays out all the options in front us. No sweat really. Easy-peasy. Like trying to pick out the one Caucasian in a lineup of Koreans.

But it's not like that most of the time.

In fact, more times than not our way is more obfuscated than in focus, and God's voice is more muffled than crystal clear. It's nuance and sway, and options and then no options ... all playing out in front of us like a ballet on a stage. And we have two choices -- we can passively watch from the auditorium seats or we can jump up on stage and get into the dance. You wanna see my flying leap? I've been practicing it for months. It's really quite stunning.

Thanks to all of you who've stayed connected to me and my family these past thirteen months since I felt so clearly led by Christ to resign my position at George Fox University. Your prayers, emails, financial gifts and tender care have meant more to me than I can put into words.

I wish I had answers to all my questions. I wish I knew where God wants me to go next. But this isn't Disneyland and I'm not God. And so I will keep living in the real world and I will keep trusting the One who is God. As I go to bed I'm praying that you will know God's presence, provision and peace as powerfully as I do tonight in my little house on the Michigan prairie. Good night and Godspeed.