Sanctuary Guy & other musings…

One of my favorite things about my job is getting to know the kids that attend our preschool, Little Lites, during the week. I love going into their classes during lunch time & talking with them – & hearing how their days are going & what they’re thinking about. Because my now-grandson is in the preschool, most of the kids have taken to calling me what he does – “Pop-Pop Louie” or “Poppy Louie.”

There is one exception – one little 3 year old boy calls me “Sanctuary Guy.”

It comes from the times that I would lead worship for the preschoolers in the sanctuary – & for some reason, this little guy decided that “Sanctuary Guy” was the name he would call me. It’s always made me laugh, especially when he talks about me to his parents.

This last week, I was on my way to run errands & this little guy was standing in line waiting for lunchtime recess. I heard him yell my name, “Hey Sanctuary Guy!” I responded, “What’s up?” And he said, “Sanctuary Guy, my parents got in an argument this morning, & it made me feel really sad & I’m scared.”

I immediately knelt down to look him in the eye & asked him if I could pray for him – he said yes. I prayed for peace & joy, & for his parents to get along… At the end of the prayer, he said that it helped.  I got up to leave & almost made it out the door when he said, “Hey Sanctuary Guy! If my dad needs to talk to you from his work, would you talk to him?” I said, “Absolutely I would talk to your dad. I’d talk to your mom too if she wanted.” And he said, “Nope. My mom doesn’t need any help.”


 

Today marks the beginning of week 3 since we’ve been back from our sabbatical… still getting used to the routine of work & life again… slowly adjusting to wearing real shoes…  The thing I miss most about our time away is the uninterrupted days with theBean. No distractions. No work to do. Nothing but each other & whatever fun we wanted to fill the day with. I’m trying to find ways to capture some of that in the middle of life’s hecticness – to remind myself (& theBean) of the great gift God has given to me in her. I love that woman.


 

Rosarito, Day 5

This is a day late – due to the fact that we rolled into where we’re staying at 10:30 p.m., absolutely fried after a long day. Here’s what I recall:

For our devotions this week, we’re going through the Psalms of Ascent, Psalm 120-134. It’s a collection of songs that Hebrew pilgrims would sing as they climbed the hills toward Jerusalem during the 3 major feasts on the Jewish calendar. Each morning, a team member or 2 takes one of the Psalms, reads it out loud, & shares what stands out about the Psalm, what God is speaking to them, &/or something significant. Then the rest of the team weighs in with their own insights. We close with prayer & start the day.


After breakfast & devotions, we headed to Hope Chapel Rosarito to join Emily & our buddy Mario for a prayer walk in the neighborhoods around the church. We broke into 2 teams, & took some ‘invitation flyers’ to pass out to anyone we happened to see, then we headed out. As we walked, we encouraged all of the team members to pray for the people of the neighborhood – that they would come to know Christ & find a life-giving community to be a part of. Over the next 2 hours, we didn’t engage a whole lot of people, but we did cover a lot of ground & spent some time praying over a section of property next to the church… asking God that it would be used for His kingdom & His glory. TheWeez used an app to determine how far we traveled & it turned out we walked about 6.5 miles. No wonder my feet are tired & sore.


 

The afternoon consisted of lunch & preparing for Friday night church at Vista Marina, HCR’s spanish speaking outreach to a neighboring community. We arrived around 4:45 to find most of the church gathered, awaiting our arrival. We played some soccer, gave horsie rides, & engaged the people as best we could in conversation. Service this week consisted of some worship (in Spanish) & an encore presentation of the 2 dance numbers we did earlier in the week. Shake it, shake it we did.

I had an opportunity to speak, & I explained about what we’ve been doing at Hillside – sharing our story, an area where God has intersected our life in a powerful way (based upon the Scripture Revelation 12:11, which says, “they overcame hm (the enemy) by the blood of the Lamb & by the word of their testimony… & they didn’t love their lives to the death.”  Four members of our team shared their stories, & I wrapped up with an encouragement from Matthew 5:14 – reminding each of us that we are the light of the world… & we bring God glory when we let it shine. Further, even if it seems our light is small & insignificant, it shines bright & drives out the darkness.


We went straight from Vista Marina to the beach, eating the sandwiches we had prepared on the way. Beach night means a bonfire with the fledgling HCR youth group & their youth pastors, Jose & Megan. Fire is always a good idea, & when accompanied by marshmallows, chocolate, & graham crackers, it is even better. Add to that the sound of crashing waves & a beautiful night & it was pretty awesome. Most of all, I was so proud of how our team engaged with the others. It made for a great night of conversation, snacks, & burning every piece of wood we could find, culminating in our s’mores sticks. Rolled into the Casa de Descansa (House of Rest) at 10:30, & quickly debriefed about the day, then straggled off to bed.

At this point, we’re tired, sore, kinda stretched thin & worn out. And yet, its a good tired. Feels like significant things are happening with our team, & with our friends at HCR. We’re finding it easier & easier to go to sleep & harder & harder to get up in the morning. It helps that Tony Mac gets the coffee brewing bright & early, & the smell of fresh java makes its way up the stairs & helps shake off the last remnants of drowsiness, reminding us, we’re still on a mission & we’re not done yet.

Please pray for us – for endurance, flexibility, & sensitivity to the Holy Spirit.

musings on being thankful in the wee hours… morning or night, I forget which…

I’m up late again. Or really, really early, depending on how you look at it. Either way, bed is something that I find myself anticipating falling into. When I’m sleepy. Now, not so much.

Its not insomnia, its that my brain is in the “on” position; perhaps it got stuck there because I’ve been in research & analysis mode for the last few days. Then after I got home from work & everyone else went to bed, I stayed up to ponder. Think. Plot. Write. I’m on my last paper for class #4 of my masters program (4 classes out of 12, for the souls that are keeping track. Bless thee. But I digress…)

I don’t trust my midnight writing, but I can live with my midnight data analysis… because there’s always an editing & re-editing that happens to clear up any of the dust bunnies left in the papers by my late-night activities.

Done writing, my brain kept going. That’s ok. I will roll through some thankfulness.


I’m thankful for me & my brain. The way I think. How everything somehow ends up looking like a teaching/learning opportunity. That I don’t make snap decisions. Or say everything that is on my mind. Or turn the direction of my life over to the unstable groundhog that wants to drive my life by the seat of my emotions (obscure “Groundhog Day” reference. Just remember, “Don’t drive angry.”)

I’m thankful for the Word that dwells in me richly. For the stabilizing & transforming influence it has upon my tempestuous, out-there thought processes. For the Living Hope that is resident in Christ, the One I can (& do!) put my hopes & dreams in, knowing for sure that I won’t be disappointed.

I’m thankful for my parents – they still love each other, & they live what they believe… loving people in practical ways. Investing their lives in a manner that I hope to emulate, long term.

I’m thankful for my wife, theBean, a woman that I thought I understood, but have only recently realized that I may never fully “get” her… & being 100% comfortable with that. (make that 93%… I’m working on it.)

I’m thankful for my kids. All 3 of them. Pasty, iDoey, & theWeez: a greater 3 have never been found. So different, yet with similarities that evoke memories of those dearest to me. Sometimes I even see myself there.

I’m thankful for friends – without whom the joys of this life wouldn’t be nearly as high, nor the lows so bearable. For listening ears, kind hearts, compassion, & desperate prayers, offered both for & with me.

I’m thankful for a church family that I would love to be a part of, even if I wasn’t the person charged with leading & pastoring the incredible people that have grown from strangers to family.

I could go on; the more I write down ‘thankful thoughts’ the more they rush into my head like a strong, cool, refreshing dip in Tahoe.

But I won’t. Continue that is. It’s late, & I will sleep.

Thank you God for Your provisions for me – I can truly say that what I have, where I am, who I’m with… Your lot for my life… has fallen to me in pleasant places.

Life is beautiful.

Death & life; prayer, perspective & other musings…

The violent and deadly opposition to the church that had begun with the death of Stephen had spread throughout the Roman world until finally it reached to the apostles themselves. James, one of the 3 disciples closest to Jesus, (along with Peter & John,) was martyred by King Herod. Peter was in prison, awaiting the fulfillment of his own death sentence.

And the Church was praying.

In the book of Acts, the consistent response of the Church to opposition, persecution, & threats from the government & religious leaders was prayer. And when they prayed, it wasn’t for deliverance from the difficult and even life-threatening circumstances they were in. Instead, they asked for strength & boldness in declaring the gospel. For the glory of God to be revealed in & through them with signs & wonders. For God to draw people to Himself. That they would be able to be faithful servants, even unto death.

The disciples lived with missional perspective – their primary purposes in life were to love God with their whole hearts; to declare the Good News; make disciples; love one another deeply; and to follow Christ.

So, when they experienced the traumatic events of James’ death, & Peter’s imprisonment, Jesus’ prophetic words rang in their ears:

“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” & “A servant isn’t greater than his master. If they persecute Me, you can be sure they’ll persecute you as well.” Matthew 16:24,25; John 15:20.

So they prayed. And instead of living fearfully, trying to avoid any potential troubles, they committed themselves into God’s hands, so that, live or die, they would bring glory & honor to Him.

This challenges me. Rather than be focused on temporary, circumstantial discomforts, I want to have God’s perspective on life & priorities. I want to be concerned with things of eternal significance, & to live today with purpose & strength. I want to be bold, faithful, persevering, & tenacious.

So I’m praying.

Day 7 – Deutschland Fall 2010 – #1

Today was the last day of the conference, which I started off with my traditional “Youth Hostel” breakfast of coffee, cherry quark & chocolate mueslix. Ahh. I will miss this.  We gathered for worship & then Jan taught on the declaration of the gospel (good news, God’s message,) from the book of Jonah. He talked about the selfishness & self-focus of Jonah, who didn’t want to declare the message given to him for the Ninevites. What really jumped out at me was the need for faithfulness & perseverance in the life of Christ-followers in living & speaking the gospel… & not just to those people for whom it is convenient/preferred for us to interact with.

The conference time closed with the “blessing of breaking of bread” – not communion, but a time where each person takes a piece of bread (the good, dark, dense German bread,) & goes to another person to pray a blessings over them.

I felt prompted to pray with Ryan, a guy from Connecticut by way of Newburgh, New York. He & his wife Rebecca are attending this conference in the final stages of praying about moving to Germany to serve in the Gau Algesheim church. It sounds like if they’re able to get jobs, they will relocate in January 2011. My heart is totally full, & I felt very encouraged to hear Ryan & Rebecca’s story – their heart for Germany & the German people, their desire to give their lives away here. I told them that they were answers to prayer: prayers that I (& I know others) prayed, asking God to send workers to serve in Germany… talked to them a little about the 6 pastors’ conferences that I’ve been to, praying & looking for ways to encourage, help, support, & ‘cheer on’ the pastors & leaders. I can remember at our first conference in November 2005 sitting in my room with Joni, praying for workers for the harvest. Ryan told me that it was 6 years ago that he & Rebecca, out of the blue, felt a pull & a stirring towards Germany. They’d never really had any inclination that way before, but in 2005 it started. Hmm.

I wept.

Prayed for favor, acceptance, & provision for them. That the LORD would bind the 2 of them together & pour them out (kinda like a never-ending pitcher of cool refreshing water pouring into the glasses of thirsty people…)

A couple of people prayed for & blessed me too.

Lunchtime was the final event before everyone piled into their cars (or onto the trains) & headed towards home. Eddy & I gave a ride to Rene (TPLF’s youth pastor, ) & to Stefan (the youth pastor of ICHTHYS church in Frankfurt, the church that TPLF was planted out of.)  I love youth pastors. And these 2 guys are good ones who love youth & love their city.


It has been absolutely POURING this afternoon – with the kind of cold that chills you to the bone. Laura made a “challah” & some coffee, & we all sat down, (along with a neighbor of theirs,) for hot drinks on a cold afternoon. Of course, it was at that point that I started yawning my face off, & excused myself to take a nap. I’ve got a ‘getaway’ planned late this evening (about 9 p.m.) with Martin & Sandra to catch up with them, & to check out one of Sandra’s favorite wine shops. Don’t know how late we’ll be out, & I’ve been to bed late & up early for the last few days, so squeezing in a nap seemed like a good idea.


I woke up to the 6 p.m. bells from the Catholic church across the street – though they’re loud, they’re also cheerful, welcoming, & they bring me joy. For reals. Once my brain clicks on, I will definitely see if it’s stopped raining long enough to get out & stretch my legs with a brisk walk around the block.

My upcoming schedule:

  • Tomorrow, Thursday is a ‘free’ day for the most part, which means studying for my “Foursquare Friends Day” in Engstingen, with Juergen & Guedrun Zeeh. I do have a lunch appointment with Tobias (who Matty stayed with last year,) so that will be fun.
  • Friday is a ‘rest’ day; I’ll be traveling to Engstingen via train about 4 p.m. & will spend the evening there with a planned celebration with lots of people from their church, as well as good food & drink. I’m greatly looking forward to it; it’ll be my first time there.
  • Saturday is “Friends Day,” a celebration at the Shelter Alb Foursquare Church – followed by lunch. In the later afternoon, I’m on another train to Baden-Baden to see Yoooooooouuuuuullllleeeeeeeeee-AHHHHHH! & her family. Good times WILL be had by all.
  • Sunday morning, I’ll be speaking at Julia’s church (the Arche Ottersweier, pastored by Roland & Manu Lorenz) then spending the afternoon with family & food. Did I mention food?
  • Monday, Julia & I will take a train towards Frankfurt; I get to stop off & meet (for lunch!) with Jan, the pastor of the enChristo Church in Mainz. He’s also the Foursquare Deutschland national leader, & I’m looking forward to talking & planning with him.
  • Finally, it’s back on the train to Frankfurt!

  • I’m not sure what my internet connection situation will be starting Friday afternoon, but at the very least, I will be blogging & posting upon my return to Frankfurt on Monday. Blessings to you, & thank you for your prayers.

Deutschland Travels, Spring 2010, Day #11 & 12

In the evening, I headed over to TPLF for the meeting of the Twenz – aka ‘college group’, better known as the Flying Ducks. I have to confess, I was walking the Kurfuerstenstrasse, & smelled the doener from Bistro Sahin… & next thing I knew, I was inside, eating one. With a hot Turkish tea that hit the spot on the rain-soaked, chilly evening.

At the Ducks, we spent time in worship & then in talking through the difference between being a “believer” in Christ & being a “disciple,” using John 8:30-34 as our text. Got to meet several great people, most notably a bubbly, inquisitive, & really smart young lady, Aggi, who’s studying to be a teacher. She kept me on my toes with a series of probing questions throughout the message, each of which built on the previous one. Her developing understanding & the “a-HA!” glimmer that sparkled in her eyes as we processed as a group reminded me just WHY bible study & discussion groups are my favorite thing in the whole world.

After the meeting & before I made my way home to catch some much-needed sleep, Aggi asked me to pray for her: that she would make good marks on her final exams before becoming a teacher; that she’s be a blessing, a real blessing (her words) to her family & friends; & that she’d be able to walk. Aggi was born prematurely & had some areas of her motor development that don’t function right yet. And still, she’s hoping & contending for healing, to be able not to have to depend on her chair to get around. And even better, Aggi isn’t waiting around in solitude for this event – she’s actively living a great story that speaks to the power of God’s love in & through her life.


This morning, I woke up at about 5:30, thanking God for the early wakeup call. The mens’ breakfast for Kingdom Life Church started at 7, so after getting ready, Eddy & I walked over to TPLF. One of the many things I am appreciating about Eddy is that like me, he is a quiet person in the morning. All’s I can say is we are truly kindred spirits in this regard.

There was a great breakfast prepared, with lots of steaming hot coffee, which is just what I was praying for on the brisk walk. A parfait that would have made theBean proud was served, along with a great assortment of German breads. I spoke from Psalm 126 – talking about God’s restoration & living in the “middle” between sowing & reaping.


Got back to the Duecks & sorted through my bags in what has become a ‘preparing to come home’ routine. It’s where I take stock of what’s in my suitcase – folding what needs to be folded, separating dirty clothes, laying out my outfits for the next 2 days, making sure all is where it should be for the voyage home.

Today was also the day to get my manly (oh so manly,) shoulder bag that I shopped for yesterday. I jumped on the U-bahn to Hauptwache, & made my way to the “Street Culture” store… only to find that this was the only store in the downtown that didn’t open at 10. No worries. I’d wait. In waiting, I got hungry for 2nd breakfast (I am on a journey, so maybe some Hobbit-like tendencies are emerging,) so I stepped over to the McCafe next door for a coffee & chocolate croissant. Amazing.

Finally, the store next door opened & I literally stumbled in, absolutely nailed my right knee cap on a seemingly invisible bench that emerged out of nowhere. Goodness. Made my way upstairs & debated between the black, white, & grey bags… finally deciding on black with grey accents. (Not quite Raider-esque…) Take a look. I think it is quite the Manly shoulder bag.


This afternoon, I was invited to go to take a tour of Levent’s workplace. He works on the 22nd floor of the building, which provided for some great views of the surrounding area. We got to eat in the Cantina… I had a canneloni that tasted like Spaghetti-O’s. Which is a good thing. I absolutely loved the conveyor belt that took our dishes into the kitchen. We are in Germany, I keep reminding myself.


Eddy & I are now off to Gau Algesheim for dinner & also to hang out with theology school students, as well as many of the pastors from Foursquare Germany. We’ll be there for the evening, returning late tonight, where I’ll be hoping for some good sleep, as I have a full day of meetings tomorrow…