Sunday, October 26, 2008

Death has lost it's sting

We have been spending some time at the Tadpole Playground in the Boston Common. Each time we go downtown to serve people, we treat the kids to some time at the playground to run out the wiggles. The kids love to run wild, climb up the slide (which we have put a stop to, that is too disorderly), go down the slide face first on their stomachs, jump off high structures, and generally do crazy things. On Friday, Eva was climbing up a ladder that was pretty tough for a 2-year old, and she doesn't just climb up the ladder, she attacks the ladder in typical "Eva-style".

I usually watch the kids from afar just in case things get a little too crazy, or probably more accurate, they begin to annoy observing parents. Other parents were helping their 3 and 4 year old children up the same ladder with a hand beneath their butts, one parent actually began to climb the ladder with her kid with a worried look on her face, just in case she fell to her death I guess. Seriously, if the fear of danger or injury sinks into your brain that deep, why don't you just stay home and put your kid in a gigantic padded hamster ball. Anyway, as Eva was attacking the ladder, I happened to see a guy standing next to the ladder watching her, with the same pained look on his face as the climbing mother. I began only watching him. He would make slight gestures towards her like he was going to catch her, his face contorted, probably wondering where her parents were. This was one of the funniest things I have seen in a while. This went on for 30 seconds or so and then when she finally reached the top, his eyebrows went up and he shook his head as he let out the breath he must have been holding the entire time. I was actually reaching for the camera, but I wasn't there in time.

I know that this guy just didn't want to see my kid fall and break her neck, and his worry and fear is just a manifestation of his love for safety, his desire for order, but I can't help but think what this attitude does for our kids' belief in God. It reminds me of a story Erwin McManus told in his book "The Barbarian Way." (which is excellent by the way, contrary to what my wife says :) Bare with me, it is a long quote, but a great story:

For several years we rented a two-story house in Los Angeles. Both my kids have spent a good part of their childhood enjoying that home. A unique feature of the house was that a small window from the second-story bathroom opened a path to the roof. I always figured there would be a day when one of my kids would climb up on the sink and work his or her way out on the ledge. It just seemed to be one of those things that I or my brother, Alex, would have done when we were kids.

Early one evening Kim and I were in the front yard when all of a sudden, we hear a little voice calling for us from the roof. As soon as Kim saw him, her nurturing instinct kicked in, and she started commanding him to get back inside. I have to admit I was kind of proud of him right then, but what he did next totally surprised me.

Looking past his mom he asked me if he could jump. When Aaron shouted, "Dad, can I jump?" Kim answered on my behalf, "No, you can't jump. Get back inside." As if he hadn't heard anything at all, he asked me again, "Dad, can I jump?"

Now, I know what I was supposed to do. A dad is never supposed to override the mom (I'm working on it). I'm just telling you what really happened. After all, he did ask me. I answered, "Yeah, go ahead."

He said, "Really?"

I said, "Yeah, sure. Go ahead and jump."

Kim looked at me as if I was out of my mind and asked, "What do you think you're doing?"

In a sort of explanation I asked Aaron, "Aaron, are you going to jump sometime?"

He said, "Yeah, I think so."

I said, "Okay, I'd rather have you jump now so if you jump and break your legs, we can take you to the hospital." It made perfect sense to me.

He responded, "Dad, do you think I'll make it?"

I said, "Oh, yeah, you'll make it." If I knew one thing for certain, it was that he would reach the ground. I just wasn't sure in what condition.

He said, "Okay, I'm going to jump."

I had one suggestion before he took off. I said, "Hey, buddy, try to clear the concrete and land on the grass. It's softer."

He thought that was a good idea, stepped as far back as he could on the roof, and began running to jump. Just before his first step he yelled, "Dad, catch me," and I said "I'll try."

And he jumped.

I almost caught him. It was so close. He just slipped right through my hands. I think I did slow his fall a little bit. In either case, he's recovered well since then. I'm just kidding. He was fine. (Don't try this at home).
I think a lot of atheists don't believe in God simply because they don't understand why people are the way they are, the death, the destruction, the greed, the ugliness. Why? And it is a legitimate question, if you picture God as the parent who holds his hand beneath the collective butt of His people, then you would be angry, but God isn't that god. Look at what He allowed to happen to His only son. God allows for disorder, He allows for wrong decisions, He has given us the opportunity to decide, and more importantly, even if we choose correctly, He doesn't guarantee safety. Following Jesus doesn't equal a removal of danger, it equals a removal of fear. That is what Paul was saying when he wrote, quoting the prophet Isaiah: "Death is swallowed up in victory. Where O Death, is your victory? Where O Death, is your sting?"

The victory wasn't an earthly victory, if it was, Jesus, being King of the Jews, would have called upon a grand army and defeated the Romans, ended this world and brought His people to the true promised land. But He didn't, because the battle wasn't being waged in our earthly view, it is on a much bigger scale. Peace to our God is not the same peace we recognize. Peace to us should be being in the presence of our Lord and Creator. Paul was in this place when he wrote:
Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. (2 Corinthians 24-27)
Jesus lets his children fall off of the ladder and hit every rung on the way down. Why, because death has lost it's sting. Our victory isn't on this spinning globe, it is in a hidden kingdom, one that is far more difficult to understand.

I want my children to have a spirit that is so close to that kingdom that they can understand it better than most. I pray against a spirit of fear for my children so that they can understand what kingdom truly matters, so that they can be in prison, can be in danger, can be cold and naked, and still believe that they are loved by their Abba Father. Don't get me wrong, if my kids are in danger, I want to be there for them, I want to "save" them, and I'm not going to ask the schizophrenic guy we just gave a sandwich, to look after them for a few minutes while I run off to get something. But by allowing them to witness an unsterilized world, we can hopefully burn away the belief that following Jesus is monotonous and boring. I pray that, as McManus says, we don't "raise our children in the cocoon of a domesticated faith and wonder why they run as far as they can to find adventure."

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Yummy Goodness

According to this, there are 5,769 Dunkin Donuts franchises in the United States. Nearly every single one of those stores has to be on the East coast. We have not gotten outside of a stones throw of one since we left Cleveland.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Burning Bushes

When you make a decision to change your life in a radical way like we have, many times you have doubts. You start to think that maybe you aren't hearing from God. The pendulum swings from just dropping everything and returning home (whatever that is), to wondering if you are crazy. I've come to realize that when we really think about it, looking through the lens of our own human perspective, we are crazy, and none of this makes any sense. What good are we doing? What exactly are we doing? These questions hit me hard sometimes. Eventually, the Lord speaks softly to my soul, encourages me through my wife, or through random people we have met and gotten to know. Here are some things I have really been thinking about lately that makes all of this crystal clear.

Jesus’ Kingdom is not of this world, it doesn’t make sense to man. Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place." (John 18:36)

Here are a few things that don't make sense when looked at through our human lens:

  • Love your enemies
  • Be happy and rejoice when people say bad things about you
  • If someone hits you on your right cheek, offer him your left
  • If a soldier asks you to carry his pack a mile, carry it two
  • Give everything to the poor
  • If a man sues you for your shirt, give him your coat too
  • The first will be last and the last first
  • You must die to truly live
This is just a few of the things that show that Jesus' Kingdom is not our kingdom, His ways are not our ways. If we are doing things that don't make sense, and we are fervently seeking His face, we can probably assume that we make sense in His Kingdom, but not in this one.

He has been giving us little burning bushes, little signs of His presence. One, is our own life transformations. He is aligning us more and more with His ways, He is renewing our minds, which He promises He will do when we seek Him. This is evident in our desire to love on people who many consider "unlovable." We have a deep desire to love on people we don't know, simply because Christ has asked us to -- this is a miracle in our own hearts.

Another example is the people He has had cross our path, the list is long, but sprinkled across the country from Boise, to Spokane, to KC and Denver, to Chicago and Grand Rapids, to Cleveland and now Boston, the Lord has put people in our paths who have fed us, who have loved us, who have accepted and encouraged us. This, in itself, is a miracle.

Finally, our support has been fantastic. Not only has the Lord provided through you guys back at home for our basic needs as a family, but our monthly mortgage has been covered the past 4 months - Thank you Jesus! If you haven't heard what we want to do with our home in Hubbard, Oregon, check out Serenity's blog for an explanation. All of this has been another miracle, and if we don't slow down enough and look around us we will miss the things God is doing each and every day, confirmation that the Lord is walking along side of us. I get the picture that He is walking up and down the sidelines like a coach, clapping and smiling, excited about the work we are doing.

Burning Bushes by Andy Gullahorn

I’ve never seen a dead man come to life
or seen a blind man get his sight.
I’ve never seen water turned to wine.
It isn’t that I don’t believe
but it would be easier for me
if you would just send down a sign.
I remember the childlike innocence.
A faith with no coincidence.
The world around was living proof.
Has that world just disappeared
or is it me that isn’t clear how to recognize its you.

I’m praying for a miracle to let me know you’re listening.
Waiting for a lightning bolt to strike.
Walking through a garden of a thousand burning bushes
looking up to heaven for a sign.

I walk through the water and the waves
looking for a drop of rain
but you’re still not coming through.
Maybe its new eyes that I need
or maybe it takes more faith to see
I’m drowning in the truth.

We arrived on the East Coast exactly 4 months from when we left on June 16th. Also, I figured that it would take about 7,000 miles of driving on veggie oil before we would break even with the engine conversion. When we left Portland our odometer read just over 98,000 miles. Sitting in Boston it now reads 105,199. We have driven over 7,000 miles -- we are in the black baby!!!

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Holy Grail of Booster Seats

So my daughter Allyson is growing up, as she says herself, "I have the loooongest legs ever!" She was in need of a booster seat, one like her older brother Avery had, one that she could buckle herself, and one that was obviously pink. We began this quest yesterday morning. I originally thought it would be a quick trip down to Target and a little father/daughter time. Target was out of the pink ones, I think they had the Dora the Explorer model. So off to WalMart a few miles away. Nope, they didn't even carry a pink one. We went home for lunch and headed back out to another WalMart I had Googled. Nope, Google maps strikes again (this is another blog post by the way, google maps has done me wrong so many times on this trip). I drove around in the country for 20 minutes before finally hitting a major road and aimlessly driving down it looking for a place that might sell a pink booster seat. No again at WalMart. Another no at Babies R Us. After waiting for the Target employee to "check the back" for 20 minutes we were still without a pink booster seat. Since we are in the midwest we came across another WalMart, same story. I was tired, but we pressed on. At one point Ally started to say something about just getting a black one, but I said, "honey, we haven't come this far to just quit, to just give up, we are going to come home with a pink booster seat." After a 3rd Target and the 2nd Babies R Us, we came to the Big K Superstore and inside found this:Nine stores later: mission accomplished. And really, this is what I was looking for:

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What kind of a guy was Paul?

This is an article that was forwarded to me by some good friends. It speaks to some of the things we are going through right now. The article begs the question, what kind of guy was Paul? We know that Paul had a "falling out" with many of his ministry partners, from John Mark, to Barnabas, to Timothy. It sounds like Paul was a little tough to get along with, or was he extremely passionate and focused on doing exactly what he believed the Lord was asking of him? I guess it could be all of the above. Here is the article:

The Separation of Paul and Barnabas by Wayne Jackson

Saul of Tarsus had been such a vicious persecutor of Christians that even after his conversion the brethren were still afraid of him. When Paul eventually returned to Jerusalem following his conversion to Christ, Barnabas had to persuade the disciples to let the apostle fellowship with them (Acts 9:26). As a result of this intercession, a wonderful friendship between Paul and Barnabas was formed. It is, therefore, rather sad to note that they eventually had a "falling out" of sorts.

On their first missionary journey together, John Mark, the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), accompanied them. Along the way, however, John Mark decided to return to his home in Jerusalem (Acts 13:13). The reason for his departure is not specified in the sacred text. Later on, when a second campaign was planned, Barnabas proposed taking Mark as a helper, but Paul resisted the idea. The New Testament record indicates that a "sharp contention" developed between them (Acts 15:36-41). They could not reach an agreement, and so they split up. As far as the sacred record indicates, these two remarkable men never saw one another again.

The serious Bible student cannot read this episode and not be moved. Nevertheless, there are some vital principles that one may learn from the dispute that developed between these Christian brothers.

Disagreements that Do Not Involve Doctrine

This dissension between Paul and Barnabas was not over a doctrinal issue. The rupture involved a personal dispute based upon a judgment call. TO THEIR CREDIT, NEITHER PAUL NOR BARNABAS LET THE CONFLICT DISTRACT THEM FROM THEIR RESPECTIVE EFFORTS OF SPREADING THE GOSPEL.


Who Was Right?

Was it Paul, or Barnabas? One simply does not know. Some, rather confidently, argue that Paul was just too stubborn to give in. Lloyd Ogilvie wrote:

"Paul had fought and won one of history's most crucial battles over the Gentile converts. He was not able, however, to apply the same truth to his relationship with John Mark" (Drumbeat of Love, Waco: TX: Word, 1976).

On the other hand, the church in Antioch "commended" Paul and Silas (Acts 15:40), but nothing is said about any commendation of Barnabas and Mark. That circumstance may suggest how the matter was perceived by the saints in Antioch. Paul may have been guided by experience and cool logic, whereas Barnabas was moved perhaps by a kindred familiarity and a warm heart.

Many of us may be a bit drawn to Barnabas when we reflect upon the fact that we too occasionally have needed a second chance. Over the long haul, the decision of Barnabas may have proved best - at least for John Mark. Years later, Paul finds the formerly useless Mark "useful," as revealed in the apostle's concluding epistle. "Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is useful to me for ministering" (2 Tim. 4:11). And in Colossians 4:10, one observes that the once-rejected young worker was commended, and the Colossian saints were asked to be receptive to him.

Other Observations

There are a couple of points that are worthy of consideration as our discussion is concluded.

1. THE SEGMENTATION OF THEIR WORK DID NOT DISRUPT PERMANENTLY THE LOVE & RESPECT THAT PAUL & BARNABAS ENTERTAINED FOR ONE ANOTHER. Paul would later affectionately mention Barnabas as being worthy of monetary support in his work of proclaiming the gospel (1 Cor. 9:6). THE FACT THAT THIS PERSONAL CONFLICT IS OPENLY DISPLAYED ON THE PAGES OF THE NEW TESTAMENT IS EVIDENCE THAT THE HOLY SPIRIT GUIDED LUKE, THE WRITER, IN PRODUCING THIS NARRATIVE. Natural inclination would have led Paul's friend to omit this potentially embarrassing incident!

There are many wonderful truths to be learned from the various experiences of the personalities portrayed in the Sacred Volume. No account, however irrelevant such may superficially appear to be, is without importance. There are lessons to be mastered.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Genuine Religion

Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

James 1:27