Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A simple shot in the arm.

Some of you may know that lately I have been passing a particularly difficult time with my ministry, challenging deep, longstanding traditions and unbiblical beliefs. This has proved to be far more exhausting and upsetting than I could have imagined. Then a Pastor came to my house today.

His name is Pastor Sapala and I had seen his church down our dirt road, around a corner many times before. I had never stopped in nor had I recognized the name of the denomination. Honestly I chalked it up to be another small, slightly (or not so slightly) whacked out local church. That changed Sunday when I decided to stop by and visit and invite them to study with us. I entered the church at the tail end of a Bible study time and then sat and introduced myself to the pastor and his 5-6 believers (the church filled as i left and the normal service began). They were sincere and he seemed strangely excited by me coming by. He even knew who I was and what I was doing. He had been a guard at the SIL compound and remembered me and my various visits there in years past and how I normally stopped at the gate to greet before entering or leaving (something I need to remember to do more often!). As I left after a few minutes that Sunday it just felt ‘good’, like I had been at the right place at the right time. I went on that am to stop by a Methodist church (honestly was not impressed with the ‘display’) and then went to my own church to hear my friend preach. I got home tired but satisfied that i had tried, and thought to myself that most likely no one will get back to me.

So this brings us to today. I have been trying to be ‘faithful’, trusting that God would move and speak to my guys and change their hearts or at least help them understand what the big issues were. I met with the ‘trouble-maker’ and after an hour talking was further troubled rather than reassured. So today I didn’t want to speak with anyone connected to the ministry and took a day to do other stuff.

Dinner time rolls around and there on my porch was P. Sapala “Hmmm?” We chatted and it became clear this was ordained. He had studied some TEE long ago and was using an old tattered book he had to teach his people but was looking for another opportunity. SO, when I showed up, unannounced and uninvited he was shocked and excited God had answered his prayers. (yeah, WOW!).

We talked, swatted mosquitoes and realized God had used each of us to encourage the other. There at least 6-7 from his small congregation who want to study and possibly more from his churches out of town. He even wants to circulate in the neighborhood to tell other pastors from other denominations about the class.

After the last two weeks of discouragement, confusion and frustration it was much needed boost. Strangely it appears as i pray God enlightens others, someone is praying for God to enlighten me. Once again i am strangely, mysteriously brought into understanding this work, this ministry isn't mine, i need not fret nor worry. Thank you those who pray for me. Not a bad shot in the arm…


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


When Toby came into my life nearly 10 years ago i had no idea what God was doing. I was unprepared, not anticipating nor expecting to have children. I could not have imagined the joy, pride and laughter I would receive. Then when Ben came i just got excited, waiting for God to continue to reveal Himself to me in new...crazier ways, just as He had with Toby.

If you have been following us on Facebook at all you may know i have had a LOT of time with my two awesome boys. A LOT. Cami has been in South Africa since February 7th at which point i became the man…and mom and cook and everyone else…. We have had a lot of good times, some really special moments and some...well, not so special. But overall it has been great to be with them mano-el-mano, Just me and them.

I was thinking about all this today staring at Ben. Now, Ben is a strong willed, 100% kid. When he loves he does it with gusto, when he gets mad, same 100%. He is learning to control these things and how to appropriately demonstrate his range of emotions and after every 'event' i always ask him, "You know i still love you? Right?" And all of the time he answers yes, sometimes seriously and sometimes with a "oh course Dad." So i feel pretty good about that. Really. It is THE most important thing i can teach them, that they will always, always, always be loved no matter what they do. But today it went to new depths. I had one of those moments of God saying to me, 'But do you really know how much I love you?".

I have experienced and felt the love of God often and i can honestly say i KNOW it, i can taste it, almost smell it at times. But today i was struck by the fact that Ben has NO IDEA the depth of my love for him or what i would do to show it. The level of commitment i have to him he cannot understand. It is simply beyond his capability to comprehend. He cannot fathom the pain i am willing to endure for him or the cost i am willing to pay for his welfare or safety. He also has no real understanding of the joy he brings me or the delight I find in who he is.

I thought all this in a split second as he made up a song while eating his sandwich across the table from me at lunch. And then it hit me,

I cannot fathom the love God has for me.

I still cannot imagine the pain he felt during his betrayal, or even on the road as he walked and his disciples still didn't understand what he was saying, or the pain he felt as he hefted the punishment for all our sins onto himself. I cannot imagine the alone-ness he felt separated for the first time form his father.

I cannot understand His love for me.

I have trouble believing he loves me, personally so much he came from eternity (not opulence or comfort, but ETERNITY)to save me. He gave it all up to save me from myself and reunite me with the Father.

I cannot grasp it.

As i look at Ben and he says he knows...he knows so little. I have no words to describe it or explain it. But as he grows my love will be revealed a little at a time and he will understand it more and more. It is the same with me. As i mature...(or just get older) i understand more of His love for me. I understand more and more of what He suffered for me. What he endured for me and the depth of His love for me. I also understand more that he delights in me. He loves who I am. It leaves me speechless….and then having to talk about it.

May you, as you grow, learn and walk with Him understand His love more and more. May you feel His love, see it and taste it. Draw close to him my friends; there is no one who loves you more. That would be impossible.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

As I crawled around the floor mopping up water I began to get slightly…agitated. It just wasn’t fair. It reminded me of an a feeling a week earlier when I was doing the millionth batch of dishes, after just completing load 6 of laundry (which to dry in rainy season is…a challenge to get dry) and I looked to my right and Cami was laying on our comfy bed watching a movie happily. A feeling crept up in me which I think we can call “a scream against primal injustice”. I knew she couldn’t help due to her 2nd herniated disk…poor thing—really. I had mentally reviewed my marriage vows and did remember something about sickness and health. But none of this made me feel any better.

So as I slopped around the floor for over an hour my back began to hurt and my soul began to sense bitterness creeping in. (Cami had left our laundry machine tap on—we have a manual feed, twin tub-- so had flooded the house). I had been struggling to find peace in this change of plans as coming back from our Christmas break I had wanted to start more classes and get out more with my students but with Cami limited I needed to stay home to take care of the boys, her, the house and everything else (new land, car repairs, floods…). I had been feeling well, you now, the “well with my soul” kind of good with my daily devotions becoming more, well, daily, started being more deliberate with devotions for the boys in the ams. So why was I feeling this way? What could I do about it?

So I decided to put on my ipod and listen to some music and an amazing thing happened. I was humbled, lifted and empowered. Let me tell you how.

I began by telling you how I had been feeling and yet I carried on and did the work. I accepted the praise of my friend’s wives and those around who know what it takes to live here in northern Mozambique. I took solace in knowing others thought good of me and my sacrifice. I somehow felt encouraged by the praise of others and well of myself.

So as I listened to “I boast no more” by Ceadmons Call it began to dawn on me that I was missing the point. Worse than missing the point, all that I can possibly do, for Cami or to make others think better of me or even for Christ’s glory is nothing, absolutely nothing. I offer trash before the King of the universe and say, ‘how’s that?”. Oh, the shame, the subtle boasts we lay at God’s feet. The horror of thinking that I had possibly something worth offering to God for it is only through Christ I am saved, it is only due to him that ANYTHING I do is pleasing to God. “The best obedience of my hands, dares not appear before thy throne”. So I then repented and continued to mop with my towel, sweat and tears falling on the floor. I began to see that even in this lowly act I can glorify Him and for Him I must act. I began to change again, to be transformed. I had moved my soul back into a trajectory with my God.

Brother Lawrence wrote a book I read when I first became truly serious in my journey with Christ as my savior. Called The Practice of the Presence of God (if you have never read it you can find a free version here at http://www.practicegodspresence.com/brotherlawrence/index.html). It changed me then and I was reminded of the simple practice of seeking and living in His presence, of actively being a living sacrifice and conversing with Him constantly, of making the presence of God something like breathing, organic and natural. Oh, how I had lost this. Oh, how far I was from the simple act. I had ventured far into wanting to gain merit and seek praise, in the humblest of ways. Oh, to rest in Him, it is what I had longed for.

And then came the joy. “I boast no more of the duties I have done, quit the hopes I held before to trust the merits of thy son.” Due to Christ alone I could be accepted and stand before God and worship. A life made worthy by Him and Him alone. Mopping the floor, wiping my wife’s brow as she vomits, chasing the monkeys into bed, fixing the truck…
All for His glory and because of Him I can do these things.

I boast no more.

Monday, July 25, 2011

GPS or Map.

As i have covered a fair portion of the eastern seaboard and out to Ohio in the last few months i have become somewhat dependant on my GPS. It tells me where to turn, when to turn and how to go in any particular direction. It has been strange really, as someone who enjoys reading and following maps, to only know what lies a short distance ahead.

I remember being a kid in the back seat, continually asking "are we there yet", i remember constantly thinking of the destination, being transfixed by the memory of the last time we were at the Jellystone Campground or the first time we went to Disney Magic Kingdom and replaying the commercials in my mind. Even going to Africa i was always thinking ahead to where and who we would be working with (even now). The 'between' was almost insignificant, all that mattered was the destination and getting there any way we could...But it appears that this has all changed.

I have sensed within me a change in that now the 'here to there' is just as important as the destination itself. It is almost as if the destination has lost it's importance. The journey must be as entertaining, as economical and as easy as possible. Almost to the point where the goal has lost its value.

Maybe we in this age of GPS, high speed Internet, instant news and online shopping have forgotten where we are actually going (what we are living for). Where is it all leading us to? I have to say, Cami and i did some 'cost assessment' of going back to Mozambique and honestly, it was hard. We know what the journey entails, we know where this road leads and it is sometimes uncomfortable if not very unpleasant. But, and here is what makes it all worth while, the destination, the goal is empowering a life, healing a broken spirit and seeing people return to wholeness. If you are asking what i am talking about i am speaking of having a right relationship with God, of knowing him and living a life you were designed for, created for. To be at peace with God. That goal, leading people to know and love God, living a life to glorify him, must always be in front of me--in front of us as believers. If we are overwhelmed and consumed by the journey, if cannot see five steps ahead, if we are not conscious of our goal or destination, what good is enjoying the ride?

So the GPS method isn't necessarily bad, to watch each step, to look only a few paces ahead is a good thing, but you have to have to the end in mind. We have got to know where we are going, clearly before us or the journey may just kill us.

Are we really ready to travel the byroads, dark alleys and dangerous curves to accomplish something bigger than ourselves? Are we ready to see the destination and know deep down the sacrifice of our pride, our selfish will and let go of thinking we know better than God himself (read his book...he spells so much out)that we can live a proactive, thoughtful, introspective and compassionate life for God.

I don't know about you, but i am willing to try.

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Learning still.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
and naked I will depart.[a]
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised.” Job 1:21

Blessed be the name of the Lord,
when i am found with headaches and viruses that willn't quit.

Blessed be His name when i am running a half marathon,

Blessed be His name when i am looking at support shortages with no (worldly) hope of reaching.

Blessed be His name when the generosity of others surprises us.

Blessed be His name remembering my Tabitha dying in my arms.

Blessed be the name of the Lord when i am tired and discouraged.

Blessed be His name as i prepare to return home to be confronted again by suffering and confusion.

Blessed be His name as i walk yet another day with the creator of the universe.

1 Praise the LORD.
Praise the LORD, you his servants;
praise the name of the LORD.
2 Let the name of the LORD be praised,
both now and forevermore.
3 From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets,
the name of the LORD is to be praised.

4 The LORD is exalted over all the nations,
his glory above the heavens.
5 Who is like the LORD our God,
the One who sits enthroned on high,
6 who stoops down to look
on the heavens and the earth? Psalm 113

Funny what a change of perspective can do. Turn your eyes on the author and perfecter of your faith. See Him for who he is and worship Him.

Blessed be His name. This is our God. This is our help and assurance.
Blessed be His name.