Deutschland #2 & #3

This post will be a sum up of the last 2 days – life has been busy, & it’s been very late by the time bedtime comes… so late that I have prioritized sleep & rest over blogging. But tonight, I’ll at least give the “sum up” version of what’s up so that you can be praying for me.

Day #2 – Independence Day began for me with a great breakfast – lots of coffee & a paleo-friendly plate of food which included cucumbers, carrots, hummus, an egg, & an oven-baked peach sweetened with honey & balsamic. Great stuff.

Even better were the talks over food – I have to say, one of my favorite things is being able to pick up with friends after a couple years worth of life & ‘catch up” without missing a beat. Alex & Linda are those kinds of friends, & I am coming away rich & blessed from our conversations.

The time came for me to head to Baden-Baden (Southwest Germany) for my next round of commitments – I bought a train ticket & took an Uber ride to the main staition. My train was delayed for a 1/2 hour, so I had some rodeo burgers from Burger King & then caught the train.

Which was full. To overflowing. Turns out, one of the passenger carts was condemned/closed, so there were more people on the train than seats. Which meant that my place for the entire 90 minute trip was standing in a hallway directly outside the bathroom. With no A/C. And with an extra pungent toilet to boot. It took all of 10 seconds for me to start sweating, & within 10 minutes, I was soaked. I tried to help the problem by fanning myself & using paper towels to wipe away the perspiration. But to no avail. After soaking (I could wring out the towels) my 5th set of 3 towels, I decided, “what the heck,” & sweated like a beast for the remainder of the ride. The arrival in Baden-Baden was celebrated with great joy.


IMG_1545Julia picked me up & took me to her family’s home in Achern, about 20 minutes away. I quickly cooled down & caught up with my adopted German daughter. On the way, I found out that the plans for the night included watching the Germany/France World Cup match with a crowd of people. Boom!.  After freshening up, Julia & I headed to the home where we would watch the soccer game – it was broadcast on a big screen about 8×10 feet, in a room with about 30 people in it. And it was hot.

IMG_1547And the best part was the people watching. Everyone, ladies included, are hard core fans. The lady in the picture looks sweet & kind & self-controlled. And she was. Until Germany was close to scoring. Then, she would jump & scream at the screen along with everyone else. It was beautiful, & would make the most ardent SEC Football fan proud.

SIDE NOTE: I’m really proud of myself too – I was able to sneak a photo without even looking. I may even be able to take a selfie at some point. But I won’t. Because, hey, guys shouldn’t take selfies.

After Germany’s victory, we ended the day with pizza & I headed to my room to FaceTime theBean & then head to sleep. Waaaaaay too late, especially knowing I had a 7 a.m. wakeup call the next day.

 


Day #3 – I woke up right before my alarm & decided to FaceTime my girlfriend. Because I can. Personal connections, even for a few moments, make the weeks apart more bearable. Julia’s mom is an incredible hostess, & prepared a great German breakfast – kaffee, rolls, jam, meats & cheeses. The best. Benny, my ride to today’s pastor’s meeting showed up way too soon, & I had to leave to make the 2 hour trek to Engstingen (near Stuttgart.)

The weather was rainy & overcast – which meant a well – needed respite from the hot. We arrived at the pastor’s meeting, & there were about 9 churches represented, & approximately 25 people in total. The program for the day included food (yes) plenty of coffee (double yes) & discussions led by my good friend Tim Clark (triple yes.) He talked from Exodus 3 on the calling of Moses… he’d intended to develop the idea of “Pastor Moses” but we never got beyond the calling. Our meeting developed into a Q&A session, with many people weighing in & speaking “real-talk” from their hearts. We finished about 4 hours later with prayer for each other. It was a divinely appointed time that was very impactful for all involved. I am blessed beyond words to have been with the men & women living & serving on the front lines of the church in Germany. They are true heroes of the faith – living faithful, obedient lives in the face of great opposition. These are Hebrews 11 people.


IMG_1551I ate too much blackforest cake at the meeting, so I got a little car sick on the way back to Baden-Baden. It wasn’t that we were traveling at 110 mph. (170 kmh) Truly. I managed not to barf in the back seat, & we arrived back in Baden-Baden just in time for Julia’s mom’s chili. And I was feeling better. So yay for me.

We ended up spending the rest of the evening (about 5 hours) eating & hanging out on the back porch. Talking about important things: theology, asking questions, joking, & sharing meaning of life interactions. Klaus & Pia, Julia’s parents, have blessed me so much in the short time I’ve been here. Can’t wait for the next 2 days of fun, laughter, & great, great talks.

I finally stole away to write this at about midnight. Klaus & I have been watching the Belgium/Costa Rica World Cup match out of the corner of our eye, & as of now, there is still no winner. No matter. I will wake up tomorrow & know. And then Tuesday, there is a late-night fest at a friend’s home to watch Brazil/Deutschland. It starts at 10 p.m. local time, so we will be up LATE.

Tomorrow is church – Tim is speaking, & I don’t have an explicit assignment, which means I get to show up & talk to people. Easy peezy. I love this place. I aim to blog again tomorrow – please know, if I wrote down everything that happened in the last 2 days, it would fill more books than you would want to read. But these are the highlights. And I am a thankful & blessed man. And one of the best parts of life is sharing it with brothers & sisters in Christ from Germany.

Please pray for me as you think of it. Many blessings & much love to you!

 

Forgiven…

Forgiven. Think about it.

If we confess our sins, our God, through His Son Jesus Christ, forgives us, cleanses us, & justifies us (makes it as though we’d never sinned at all). 1John 1:7-10; Romans 5:1

Forgiven. Made right with God. By His grace. Through faith. Not a feeling. A fact.

The problem is, we have an adversary, our enemy the devil. Revelation 12:10 reveals that this enemy stands before God, day & night making accusations against us. What does he accuse us of?

The things we’ve done wrong. Our failures. Short-comings. Inadequacies. Unfaithfulness. Unworthiness. Our sins.

He digs through our past/present & throws things at us in the form of thoughts, flinging them our way like fiery darts. He uses people – all kinds of people – Christian people to taunt, provoke, accuse, defame, & malign.

It is going to happen – so what is our response? What do we do when a very real area of sin is thrown back at us to attempt to remind us of ‘who we really are?”

We remember.

We are forgiven. Not according to our merits. Not because we earned it. Not just until we mess up again.

Forgiven. By grace. Through faith. In Christ Jesus.

When I’m assaulted with the condemnations of the accuser, I renew my mind (Romans 12:1,2). To me, this means I revisit & rehearse Scripture  (Psalm 119:9-11). I pray, thanking God for His gift of grace to me & His work of grace in my life (Ephesians 2:4-10). I pray in the Spirit, building myself up in my heart & mind. (Ephesians 3:14-21). I actively submit myself to God, & actively resist the accuser (James 4:7), speaking out loud saying, “I’ve been washed, sanctified (made holy) & justified (made right with God) in & by the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (1Corinthians 6:11)

Forgiven. Think about it. Thank the Lord for it.

Embracing grace, a couple good books, & other musings…

I’ve been slowly reading a newly published book I was gifted with called “Embracing Grace” by Daniel Brown. I say I’ve been reading it slowly because I have intentionally avoided trying to power through it, in that I don’t just want to “get ‘er done,” I want to “get it.”

Grace is a hard topic for me – not because I don’t like it/want it/need it – but because I don’t easily receive grace for myself. Grasp it mentally? Yes. Process through it as it relates to others? Sure. But do I truly embrace grace in my inner being? Nope. Not so much. The first time I became painfully aware of this ‘grace struggle’ was when I read through Brennan Manning’s “The Ragamuffin Gospel: Good News for the Bedraggled, Beat-up, & Burnt Out.” Ended up going through that a few pages at a time, weeping with joy at the thought that this amazing grace was mine & there was no sin I had ever committed, was committing, or would ever commit that could separate me from the infinite grace of God, poured out on me.

I have wrestled for most of my life with a nagging feeling of a need to perform well, to do things right, & to avoid the things that are bad so I can be a “good” Christian. In my head, I know that my standing before God isn’t based upon any of my own actions – and I can quote “grace scriptures” with the best of ‘em, like:

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8,9 English Standard Version

And yet there was still that sense of God’s displeasure with my performance, that somehow I hadn’t measured up; that my myriad sins, wrongs, & stumbles had marked me in an indelible way, a way that was unfixable. It sounds silly when I write it out. And to read it out loud.

And in the face of the rich mercy shown to humanity (& Louie!) by God in the gift of His grace, the grace that brought us (me!) from death to life, this sense of God’s displeasure with my performance as a Christian is an affront, a mockery, a bold-faced lie challenging God’s character… it’s a lie of the same variety which has been whispered to humanity for all time by our enemy, beginning with “Did God really say…?” Part of the battle to embrace grace comes from my ‘flesh’ (a.k.a. the part of me that opposes the work of the Holy Spirit in my life.) Part of it is being an unwitting yet involved participant in the accusations, manipulations, negative thoughts, lies, & shame lobbed at me (all of us) by the enemy of our souls.

And part of it is needing to exercise faith – the kind of faith that pushes through, perseveres, & overcomes to tenaciously embrace grace, while refusing to give time, energy, or brain power to anything that stands in opposition to the truth of God’s Word & what it (& He) says who I am, in Christ, because of Christ. It’s living in grace, thinking in grace, & walking out in grace towards others (& myself) because that is what God does with us.

musings on a Friday day off, waiting for theBean to get home from work…

She volunteered to do my makeup. I was at a High School camp at Old Oak Ranch; I was too old to be there, but on a medical leave of absence from my work due to a shoulder dislocation. I was helping out with a variety show for the camp, & had the good fortune of being able to do a pretty good impersonation of the classic Paul Reuben’s character “Pee-Wee Herman.” Oh, the red bow tie, grey suit, & big white shoes. How I miss thee.

When I met her, she wanted to be an osteopathic physician. Even though I’d spent more than my share of time under the care of an orthopedist who so graciously made sure my shoulders & knees got patched up, good as new, I had no idea what that was; I just knew that talking with her as she applied her wares to my face was fun. I’d never been this close to a girl for this long… She wasn’t interested in a relationship (not that I was fishing; it just came up in conversation. Really. Innocently. But I digress.) She just wanted to grow as a Christian, focus on school, & help people. I was fascinated by my new friend, & couldn’t wait for makeup time to talk with her. So I didn’t. Wait to talk. I searched her out. Looked for opportunities to sit where she sat. Managed to learn her oh-so-spontaneous-but-still routine routine & maneuver myself to be in the right place at the right time.

Camp was only a week long, & when I got home, I knew something was different. I missed my new friend. There wasn’t really anything romantic in my thoughts, just a desire to connect in conversations that almost always were filled with laughter. So I called her on the camp pay phone. Talked as much as she was able with her work schedule. Shared hopes & dreams. Way too soon probably, but it happened nonetheless. She was many things I was not: fun, carefree, graceful, joyful, in touch with her emotions, able to identify what she wanted in life…

I felt myself slipping into something I’d never known before, something I couldn’t identify, something deep & strong; something I wanted to grow.

Weeks later, her grandparents were returning from the mission field of Brazil, & she & her mom were off for a week-long visit to Los Angeles to welcome them back to the States. They invited me. Still on work-leave, I went, not really knowing what to expect, but looking forward to time with my friend.

One night in LA, we were watching TV & I happened to look at her… she turned to look at me & at that moment, I knew that I wanted to marry her, that I would marry her if she would only have me. & somehow I knew that she knew too. She kissed me. Goodness, she kissed me.

Later that week, we talked about our hopes & dreams, our plans for the future. I will never forget her looking deep into my eyes & telling me, “I want to go with you, wherever you go, whatever you do… to be a team.” Somehow it didn’t seem too much to hear, but I couldn’t believe my ears… I asked her about her dream of becoming a doctor, an osteopathic physician… & she said, “That was my dream. Now I want to be with you.” & that was that.


More than 23 years have passed since that conversation, & I have watched this capable, gifted, talented, called, driven, unbelievably positive, “so beautiful it makes you think you’re dreaming,” woman make choices to choose me. Us. Often at the expense of herself. A career. Becoming something, somebody, someone. She stayed home with the kids. Worked jobs that others may have seen as menial or beneath them. Supported me. Believed in me. Stood by me, even when I acted like a fool & a tool. Even when I forgot that a team was what we were supposed to be, she didn’t. & she has contended for & believed in the very best version of me & us, with the greatest hope in her heart (& on her lips) being growing old, together, with me.

With me.


She started working at Starbucks last December – & her gifts, talents, optimism, & people loving have all contributed to her being recognized & elevated in her role with the company. She’s a shift-supervisor now, & has lots of potential opportunities for advancement; the sky is the limit, & I see the favor of God all over her life.

She has chosen me, time & time again. Her unwavering love has given me the support, the strength, & the courage to change, to grow, to contend for more; to not settle for a stunted, diseased version of myself, but to hope & grow, through pain, into the person God would have me be, the person that I think that she must see in order to love me as good as she does.

I am so proud of & thankful for this girl. My friend. My theBean. MyJoni. MyOne.

Thoughts on Acts 15…

Acts 15:10,11 Now, therefore, why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? But we believe that we will be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will.”

Acts 15 tells of a crisis in the church… the number of believers in Christ was growing daily, & not just among Jews anymore. Now, even the Gentiles were coming to Christ! So what’s the crisis?

Certain groups among the Jewish believers couldn’t imagine God calling and saving people that weren’t circumcised. After all, circumcision was VERY significant for the Jew, as it marked the establishment of their covenant identity with God. Circumcision marked them in most intimate way as a separate, distinct, people who belonged to the LORD.

I thank God for Paul, Barnabas and the Jerusalem council; when confronted with the pressing question, “What are we going to do about this?” they reminded their Christian brothers that the gospel being preached is one of grace and justification through faith. I imagine their debate with those that were demanding circumcision, wondering out loud what other hoops to jump through could have arisen if Paul and the others had given in. Dietary restrictions? Hair and beards? Rejection of one’s culture of origin to embrace the Jewish culture?

Here we are 2000+ later, mostly Gentiles reading this, wondering what the big deal was… in hindsight its easy to point out the Old Testament scriptures where God calls for the “inner circumcision,” a circumcision of the heart. It’s silly, because we know that we’d never put stumbling blocks in front of new believers, and for sure would never add to the gospel… Would we?

Hmmm. I remember as a kid seeing people different than my family and me coming to church. I know now that they were ‘hippies” – identified by their bare feet, old Levis, t-shirts, and mostly unkempt hair and beards. They really stood out…

I remember it was a big deal when they came to Christ, gave their testimonies of deliverance and expressed earnest desire for freedom from drugs, immorality, and their desire to be clean, whole, and experience real love. I remember the discussions that took place where church leaders wrestled with the influx of new people, and wondered how we could help disciple them… One suggestion rings in my ears:

“What they really need is some different clothes and a haircut. They need to know that they’re the temple of the Holy Spirit.”

Ouch.

We do it too. Makes me wonder… are we adding to the “Main Thing” of the gospel? Are there “Louie-isms” that are being elevated to “gotta do’s”?

LORD, remind us that we are saved by Your grace, just as our brothers and sisters around the world are.

Nobody owes me anything…

January 2006, I was in Los Angeles with theMoses & brother for a the National Foursquare Youth Leadership conference. One of the plenary speakers is my now District Supervisor, Ron Pinkston. Something he said that morning has stuck with me to this day, & I repeat it to myself daily.

Nobody owes me anything.

When he first said it, I smirked, & my internal response was, “That sounds good… &, even better, I don’t owe anybody anything…”

That thought was still on the tip of my brain (you know what I mean; it was still bouncing around, being pondered & whatnot,) when he said, “And don’t go thinking that you ‘I don’t owe anybody anything’ is the same thing as ‘Nobody owes me anything.’ Cause its not. I don’t owe anybody anything is selfish. It’s petty. It numbs us to our personal responsibility to love one another, actively. To do to others as you would have them do to you…”

I was floored.

You know the times when someone is talking & it seems like they are talking just to you? That the subject matter & the things that they’re saying specifically address you, where you’re living, right on the dot? This was like that. Except stronger.

My heart was in my throat & it raced 100 miles an hour.

I. Was. Convicted.


The rest of the speech is like a dream in my memory; I remember bits & pieces vividly, other details not so much. What I do know is that the whole time Ron talked, I was consumed in an inner-dialogue with the Holy Spirit.

It felt a lot like Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” (the George C. Scott version of course,) where the ghost of Christmas Past, Present, & Future view scenes from Ebenezer Scrooge’s life, & let him be an observer to himself & to the people in his life.

Unbeknownst to me (or at least successfully ignored by me for a time,) a virtual bastion of thoughts, strong beliefs, & feelings that I was OWED something by others had born ‘fruit’ in & through my life.

Anger. Resentment. Entitlement. Bitterness. Offense. Pessimism. Negativity. Biting sarcasm. An inability to enjoy people, relationships, & situations that SHOULD’ve been enjoyed.

Some fruit.

I saw:

  • A wife & family that OBVIOUSLY didn’t appreciate all that I did – from working hard to provide for them, working around the house, personally going without so that they could play a sport or purchase a ‘want.’ I was OWED at least a regular diet of “Thank you’s.”
  • Countless times where others, especially those closest to me, should have known what I was thinking, feeling, hoping for, only to let me down. I was OWED more consideration.
  • ‘Friends’ who hadn’t reached out, hadn’t called, hadn’t sought me out, hadn’t done ANYTHING, when it was OBVIOUS that I was hurting – I was OWED more attention from them.
  • Times where I found out that my friends had gotten together to do something fun, & that I wasn’t invited – I was OWED an invitation.
  • People that had left the church without a word, a note, or an email – people I had loved, cared for, wept with, & invested in – I was OWED more than silence.
  • Being overlooked for a series of special assignments within our church family – that I was BEST qualified for, & didn’t even get ASKED about. I was OWED more.
  • Disappointment at unmet hopes, dreams, & expectations, even feeling let down by some as though they should have been a part of making MY hopes, dreams, & expectations a reality. I was OWED that.

You get the picture.

A really bad part  of the ‘fruit’ of my entitlement was the collateral damage  it had caused to other people through my example, my frequent ‘sharing’ of my feelings (complaining? gossiping?,) thereby influencing them towards the ‘dark side’ of cynicism, negativity, & self-focusedness.

I saw that I’d given away, neglected really, the responsibility for myself. My feelings of peace, happiness, &  joy. My contentment.

People had to walk on eggshells around me, not knowing what to expect… Because the very worst part of feeling like I was OWED, was that I didn’t express my feelings or thoughts to the people I was feeling OWED BY.  In retrospect, it feels silly to me to look back; embarrassing even.


This last week I ‘tweeted’ that I’d be writing a blog on this topic – my friend Tim wrote me giving his take on it & I want to share it with you…

I just saw your twitter post. Wanted to chime in.

Nobody owes me anything. I started to try to intentionally live this way a few years back. There are many great results, but one of the most unexpected ones was this: I am more confident in my communication of who I am and more bold about what I would like.

It’s like this: As long as I felt like people did owe me stuff, I’d either:

1. Sit around and expect that they would know what they owed me and wait for it to come, or
2. Speak out the things I felt I was owed and have emotional turmoil about the potential response.

Now, I can freely talk about who I am and even the things I’d like to see without putting a visible or invisible expectation on anyone else to actually give it to me…

Nobody owes me anything” allows for a kind of detachment that allows me to fully express my heart, because I don’t believe my heart must be confirmed by anyone else. If it is, great. If it isn’t, it does not diminish who I am or the dreams I have.

Nicely put.

Bottom line, I know that what I have learned & am learning can be redeemed, & maybe someone, somewhere can learn from me & what I’ve gone through, instead of having to choose the ‘way of pain.’ That’s my hope.

Nobody. Owes. Me. Anything.