Hope is my choice…

I’ve been down in a hole.

Emotional. A little depressed. Weary. Grumpy. Frustrated. Grieving.

It all came to a head last week as I realized what was happening, & forced myself to take a look at what I was dealing with rather than avoid &/or run & hide.

Change. Pasty Gangster is 99.9% moving to Tennessee in 6 weeks. I’m happy for him, but I’m also grieving the change that his move will bring to our family. I’ve wrestled regret at time lost that can’t ever be recovered. Wished for a do-over; an opportunity to go back in time & make up for the areas I totally biffed it as a dad.

Pasty, being the firstborn, was the child that got to experience, firsthand, my parental mistakes. Overzealousness. Immaturity. Inconsistency.

He got to live with the dad that didn’t know how to balance life. Who had wacky priorities. Who was confused about how it does no good to work hard to provide for a family if there is no time taken to BE with the family & enjoy it.

And now as he prepares to pursue his dream, I realize he is exactly the age I was when I married theBean. When I knew that I knew what I wanted from life, more than anything, was to be with the girl of my dreams for the rest of my life. The rest of the details of work, college, living life, etc. were mostly irrelevant details that I just knew would be resolved in my future by my Father in heaven.

I flash back to being 19 years old, & think of when I proposed to theBean. I didn’t have a job; I was filling in as a delivery driver for my uncle’s pharmacy, & I was desperate. I wanted to get married, to grow up, to be able to provide for my wife (& in the future, a family) but I had nothing. So, I listened to Christian radio. Every teaching I could find on faith. And I prayed.

One day, I ‘heard’ from God – not a voice, but an impression. The impression was of a page in the Bible, one from which I could clearly see the chapter & verse. Matthew 6:25-34… the verses before & after it were blurry, but those particular verses were crystal clear:

“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

Nothing about my circumstances had changed; but something began to break inside me that day – worry. Anxiety. Fear of not having enough.

Faith grew. God would provide. He’d have my back. I just need to keep taking steps of faith.

So I did.

And now, I look at my son & the knowledge that in the very near future he’s moving. And I’m faced with the option to worry. Be anxious. Fear. Live in regret. Be depressed. Stay down in a hole.

And instead, against my feelings, I’m choosing hope. A hope that doesn’t disappoint. A hope that isn’t based in me or my abilities, but rather in Jesus Christ, the beginning & completion of my faith.

I can trust Pasty to Jesus. I can trust my family to Him too. And I can trust my present & future to Him as well, because He hasn’t changed His commitment to me.

Day 2 musings… – Columbus, OH – Connection 2011

Day 2 – Columbus
This has been a very rich experience for me – every meeting, every interaction has been full of significance & meaning. As I’ve looked back on the day to try to “sum up,” I find that my words are inadequate to do justice to describe it & will probably leave . So, here I go with some musings…

From the messages –
• Jesus didn’t come to make bad people good; He came to make dead people alive.
• In the context of 1Kings 17 & Acts 20 – if/when you come across death, hug it – the life that is in you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, will bring life… For the same Spirit of God that raised Christ from the dead is alive in you, & gives life to you…(Romans 8:11)
• Bitterness, unforgiveness & resentment from past hurts are deadly, spreading poison, barrenness, disunity, & isolation – with the ultimate result a lack of fruitfulness & sensitivity. The only way these can be truly dealt with is with true humility & repentance.
o Isaiah 58:8,9; Isaiah 1:18,19; Matthew 11:28-30; John 7:37-39
• On the heels of repentance, God calls us to hunger & thirst for righteousness, & for the work of the Holy Spirit in, through, & around our lives
o To determine to repent, forgive, to be healed
o To see God work physical miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit
o To release to the church signs & wonders that point to Jesus Christ


I met for lunch with Jan von Wille, a friend & pastor from Germany – we spent several hours catching up over food & coffee – talking through the commonality of experience we have, albeit in different contexts. I came away feeling refreshed & encouraged, like 2 parts of my life that haven’t been ‘connected’ in a long time had come together. There’s a piece of me & my heart in Germany, & when I’m gone from there too long, I really feel it. Here’s to hopefully being there again this November for the Foursquare Deutschland pastorenfortbildung (Pastors training/strengthening/conference.)

In the afternoon, I had the privilege of being a part of a ‘task force’ that is specifically strategizing how to help the Foursquare church (local, division, district, etc.) find ways to reach, train, empower the next generation – over the next months, we’ll be offering up practical suggestions & steps to help do this, looking 3-5 years into the future. Good times.


The highlight of my day happened on accident – right after the task force meeting, I had to make a run for the facilities… unfortunately, there was no restroom. So, I had to make my way down a couple of escalators & search, (increasingly frantically, I might add. And BTW: that isn’t the highlight.)

In my search, I ran into my friend Jason D. – he is a dear friend that I haven’t seen in several years; his wife, Alyse, is theWeez’s namesake – they were a part of our church & youth group leadership team in Carson City, & they now live in South Carolina.

They’re at convention working in the ‘exhibit hall’ – serving as sponsors of a booth that is helping raise money for kids in Nepal – they’ve been active in missions in India, & have a heart for the kind of life & ministry that meets practical, tangible needs, as well as presents the gospel Good News in a way that makes sense to where people are.

I spent more time than they had, just listening, talking, & well, looking with disbelief at these two. More times than I can tell you, I’ve wanted nothing more than to be able to see these guys again… I feel very rich to have the relationships, friendships, & community that I do in Reno; I realized today that my heart has longed for the reconnection of the very old & dear friendship of these dear people.

Still can’t quite believe it. Feeling thankful. Alive. Joyful.

home for Christmas & other musings…

My Pasty Gangster will not be home for Christmas this year. It will be the 1st Christmas in 19 years without him… as he is headed to Cookeville, Tennessee to spend the holidays (& then some,) with his girl Alex & her family. For me, it isn’t hard to deal with him being gone; it’s just… different. I am very happy for him being able to have special time, & even happier that he gets to be with the one person in the whole world he’d want to be with.

What I’m pondering is the most visible acknowledgment of the very real transition that he is in… really, for me, this is much more of a transition than his high-school graduation ceremony was. He’s making many (most? All?) of his own choices. TheBean & I have & continue to trust our #1 son to Christ. Believing that as he makes his own choices, & lives his life, he will live in a manner honoring to Christ. It reminds me of when we dedicated him as a baby. And in retrospect, I see that we didn’t just have a fun ceremony, but instead we were making a lifelong declaration of faith, trust, & purpose: He is Yours, LORD. Now we’re getting to see him live it.

So, it’s new & its different. Most notably, theWeez is already missing her brother, the protector; as is iDoey missing the one that he’s consciously or unconsciously measured himself against.

In 20 minutes we’re heading to get “Christmas Picture 2010” taken – quite possibly the last Christmas picture of us with our nuclear family all living at home, all looking this way.

Sigh.


Pondering 1Timothy 4:

Have nothing to do with irreverent, silly myths. Rather train yourself for godliness; for while bodily training is of some value, godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life & also for the life to come. This saying is trustworthy & deserving of full acceptance. For to this end we toil & strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe.

Training up in godliness – what’s does this mean? What’s it look like, lived out?

I’m confronted by areas where I’ve shied away from a ‘strict spiritual regimen’ – maybe because it seemed that the focus was on the ‘performing’ of the regimen or workout, & not on the desired results of the workout.

Hmm. I’m confronted & convicted… there’s a bad heart attitude lurking in there… in the name of not falling into a rut, or a stale routine, instead I fell into something worse: a hit & miss haphazardness.

There’s a picture in my head – me & my kettlebells. The focus & goal of the workout isn’t to be able to brag that I did 25 minutes & 7 different exercises – its to increase strength, flexibility, stamina, cardio, & overall physical condition; that’s only going to happen if I regularly exercise, & simply do the workout faithfully – whether anyone knows about it or notices.

Read. Study. Pray. Repeat.


Hard to believe theBean & I are celebrating our 22nd Christmas season together – when I look at her, I can’t believe that she isn’t 22. And I’m blown away that after 21.5 years of marriage, 3 kids, & living with me, she is even more beautiful than she was when we met.

And those legs. Oh goodness.

jetlagging on a Friday & other musings…

Ahh, jetlag. The 12 noon feeling of blah, where my body is telling me that its really 3 a.m. Fought it hard both in Germany, & now at home. Not that I have a great ‘fixall’ short cut or method for dealing with jetlag; I’ve been trying to fly under the radar for the last couple of days to give myself time to rest & recover from my trip.

There’s a lot of temptation to try to hit the proverbial ground running, but it just didn’t seem like a good idea. Part of the reason is that I came back with a bit of the crud – seemed like everyone I interacted for the last 2 weeks was sick with a cough. Mine hasn’t gotten bad, though I can feel the war within my body, & also have the sense that it wouldn’t take much ‘pushing through’ & ignoring my physical limits to open the floodgates for sickness. No thanks.

I’m almost feeling normal in the morning.


I love to read, especially when I’m traveling – this last trip, I was able to make it through Lord of the Rings, Kidnapped & Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, 4 George MacDonald shorts (The Princess & the Goblin, The Princess & Curdie, The Light Princess, & There and Back.) I read Tolkien on every Germany trip, (it just makes sense to me :) but I haven’t read MacDonald for years & years. Glad I revisited him; especially loved the Princess & Curdie. Felt like I spent time with a couple old friends, & came away refreshed with a new appreciation for them.


Traveling by myself provides lots of opportunity for reflection, thought, & introspection. And people watching. I think that you get to see the best & worst of people when they travel; the self-less & the selfish. The impatient & the gracious. The compassionate & the callous.

A picture that stands out in my head is from the Frankfurt to DC leg of my trip home. A young mom had a 12-15 month old little girl with her, & the baby wasn’t happy… the kind of “baby unhappy” that comes from an interrupted schedule, a lack of sleep, & unfamiliar surroundings. Mom tried all the tricks in the book to keep her girl quiet, but the little one had had enough, & was past comforting.

I watched as some in her vicinity went out of their way to make comments to her about getting her kid to shut up (if not directly, then loud enough for her…& me… to hear…) as though she wanted her baby to be in total meltdown. And I got to see a person volunteer to help with the baby so mom could go to the bathroom. Eat her meal. Have a good cry & regain her composure. Hmm. It moves me even as I type this.

Challenges me to think & rethink my own life & viewpoint, how I see people & situations that are unfolding in front of me. Trying to remember that the world around me isn’t a movie set for a movie that I am the STAR of, with the rest of the human population serving as the supporting cast & extras… that there’s more going on than just what I see. Feel. Hear. Experience.

This is especially true in the context of church & functioning within a church family. It’s possible to be ‘saved & redeemed’ self-consumed, self-focused, grumpy, petty individualists with no patience, & to treat those around me with indifference or frustration when they’re not doing what I’d like them to be doing. And when they’re not considering Me & My feelings, which are Real, Important, & Significant, don’t you know?

Umm. My filters are on the fritz.


Eddy picked up the new Samuel Harfst CD for me (us) while i was in Frankfurt. I have listened to it over & over for the last few days. Unlike audiotagebuch, this one is all in German.


TheBean has been more than patient with my slow ‘rest & recovery’ pace of the last few days… so I agreed to go to Costco with her, with the provision that we’d go to Starbucks afterward… NEWSFLASH: Christmas is coming. Just in case you didn’t know.

It was crowded (even at noon on Friday,) & there was so much noise, so much stuff, & so many people that I was wiped out after only 20 minutes. By a great feat of strength & skill, I managed to make it another 10 minutes, then we headed to the car, just in time. Fortunately, the Grande Americano revived my soul, as did looking into (& getting lost in,) the deepest blue eyes Ever. Sigh.

Day 11 & 12 – Deutschland Fall 2010 – Ottersweier & other fun things to say…

Day 11 –
After a great evening of being wined & dined by the Kern family, I slept great. Woke up to coffee & a small German breakfast with lightly sweet bread & homemade quitten geili mit amaretto (aka: quince berry jelly, with amaretto.) Oh so tasty. I ate waaaaay more than I normally would on a Sunday morning just because it was So. Good.

Julia took me to the church in Otterweier – it is the only “free” (non-Catholic/Lutheran) church in the village, & the building itself faces a mammon twin-spired Catholic church. The Arche Ottersweier (Julia’s church) has been in existence for 8 years, & has grown to about 50 people, a testimony to the goodness of God, prayer, & the faithfulness of pastor Roland. It is almost impossible to explain the missionary task that they face – attempting to live out a living, vibrant, loving, gospel-declaring faith in a manner & context that makes no sense in comparison to the traditional way of how things are… it’s not uncommon for church goers in the state churches (& Catholic) to not ever have heard, let alone understood, the news that Jesus Christ died for our sins, was resurrected from the dead, & now sits at the right hand of God the Father. People haven’t heard that salvation is necessary, let alone available to all who would believe, repent from sin, & turn to God through Christ. Roland (& others) are attempting to live out simple, faithful lives, aiming for reaching the next generation with a clear picture of Christ. It’s a life-long vision, which stands in stark contrast to the ‘microwave faith’ culture of a desire for immediate gratification that the Western church can often epitomize.


Julia did a great job translating me – we hung out with the church after the service, & I had the privilege of talking & praying with several people that really just wanted to pray for boldness – that they would live as witnesses for Christ, & not grow weary. It humbles me to think about it.

Headed back to the Kern house for food – & Goodness! there was food. Julia’s grandparents came over – he was quite the character & from the time he arrived until he went home 6 hours later, he didn’t cease to give me a good-natured hard time, going into painstaking detail about why Germany is better than America. Good times. Took a brief nap after dessert, then the whole family went for a walk in the nearby vineyards, (some of which had provided the wine we had last night. Cool stuff.) The vineyards are laid out on hills in ways that defy gravity, & left me wondering HOW the vinzer (vintner) would go about harvesting & caring for the grapes. We walked for about 90 minutes at a leisurely pace; the highlights were 3 generations of family humor, an amazing sunset (the top picture in this post,) & Heiko, the boyfriend of Linda, Julia’s older sister; he wore his Nevada t-shirt proudly, a relic from his visit to the states in 9/2008.


In the evening, I was invited out to dinner by Roland & his regional overseer, Jochen (who I last saw at the Foursquare Convention in Atlanta in May, where we had lunch.) They took me to a local restaurant called, “Blume” – which means flower – & we all got Amerikan Rumpsteak & Paulaner, the world’s best hefeweizen. And it was great, & came with a huge plate of french fries.

We ate to our heart’s content; I was really encouraged talking with the two of them about their strategy for the region – they live in an area made up of small villages – so, they’re attempting to plant smaller, relationship-based churches that share resources. Each one has a pastor, & each church is ‘autonomous’ – but they all intentionally choose to work together, to cover each other with a layer of relationship & accountability that insures no one (& no church) is isolated or solo. Great ideas that left me with all sorts of ideas & inspiration.

Made it back to the Kern’s in time for some late night hanging out & prayer; giving thanks to God for the budding relationship & friendship between us, celebrating the commonality we share with other people who follow Christ. Truly precious.


Day 12 –
Today was a travel day, meaning Julia & I had to head to the train station by 9 so we could make our way north, me to Mainz, Julia to Frankfurt; she’s flying to Norway Tuesday to visit her sister & her family. After a goodbye at the train station, Julia & I navigated our way through the maze & haze that is the DB (German train system.) Our 2nd train connection was randomly canceled, so we were escorted to another train, a high speed one that normally you have to pay big $ to ride on. However, we were assured that because our train was canceled, we’d have no trouble. Right. :)

We made it to the first “ticket checkpoint,” about 10 minutes into the train ride & took a tongue-lashing & dressing down from an uptight DB agent. Fortunately, we were rescued by a supervisor, but not until we had heard how wrong we were to be on such a fast train without having paid the extra money for the extra speed. Good times.

Said a tearful goodbye to our dear Julia, made my way to my meeting point with Jan, the pastor of enChristo church & National leader of Foursquare Deutschland. Normally we do pizza together, but he spared me the anguish of yet Another trip to Italy by taking me to a favorite Chinese place he frequents.

We had deep talks about the state of Foursquare in the US, as well as what is happening in Germany. Good stuff. Both of us were plagued with sneezing & coughing fits, so lots of hot tea was consumed, along with our duck in plum sauce, surrounded by vegetables. Yes really. Can you hear that? It’s me! I’m growing.

Caught the train back to Frankfurt, & walked the last couple blocks to Eddy & Laura’s in the hardest rain I’ve ever experienced in Germany. I was absolutely soaked by the time I arrived. Changed out of my wet things & into my Reed hoodie & sweats, & warm, dry socks. Ahh. Comfort. Hot tea helped too.


Just packing tonight, then heading out with Levent & Ines as soon as I post this. We’re going to grab some Turkish food & celebrate their pregnancy. Ines is about 7 months along if my counting of weeks is accurate.

I absolutely cannot wait to come home & see my family. Hug myBean. Be with my church family at Hillside. Celebrate a good trip with lots of answered prayers. Sleep in my own bed.

Booyah! And thank you. I am grateful, & filled with thanks tonight.

Blessings to you.

Day 9 & 10 – Deutschland Fall 2010 – Friends Day

Day 9
Friday was mostly a slow, restful day; on purpose, as my weekend is packed… I spent the morning packing for my weekend trip to Engstingen & then Ottersweier. I’m taking one small bag for the road trip, & trying to squish as much into it as possible. Oh I wished I had the Bean’s mad packing skills with me at that moment.

I headed for the Frankfurt main station about 4. Fortunately, I made the 1st train, but somehow, someway that train was slow getting to the next station – meaning, I missed connection to Reutlingen by 10 minutes. There was another train headed that way that was delayed by 10 minutes from leaving – & I jumped on that one seconds before it started pulling away from the station.

Arrived about 20 minutes late – picked up by Juergen, the pastor. He took me to house where I would be staying, which turned out to be in the home of an English teacher, Frank & a doctor, Kerstin, (1 e, 1 i.) I had a great room, & immediately connected with Frank on an American history research project was working on – absolutely fun!

Frank took me to the church to meet with several leaders – it was not really a ‘meeting’ but rather a ‘meet & greet’ over good pizza (yes, pizza!) & good wine. We had long discussions about how I got connected with Germany, then spent some time getting to know each other. Around 10 p.m. left with Frank to head for bed, & crashed hard.


Day 10
I woke up early to the smell of coffee & biscuits – got to sit & talk with Frank about life & marriage – truly, cultures may be different, but the challenges facing husbands & wives are the same worldwide – great opportunity to encourage each other – too soon, we had to leave to go to the church for Foursquare Friends Day.

The Day was hosted by the “Shelter Alb – Foursquare Church” of Engstingen, pastored by Juegen & Gudrun Zeeh – the purpose of the Day was to give their church a perspective on the Foursquare Family, see that they’re a part of something bigger than themselves.

Juergen had asked me to speak twice on whatever I want – BOOYAH. Got to choose 2 topics close to my heart: First up, the Monday Morning Church. Spoke out of Matthew 5:13-16 – shining our lights, living for God, bringing Him glory – I had everyone break into groups to answer the question for themselves: “What would Jesus do & how would He live if He were in my shoes?”

Second, talked about the Spirit-filled Life – from John 16:5-8 & Acts 1:8. Talked about how God fills us with His Spirit so we can live for Him, & be His witnesses – that He doesn’t ask us to do anything that He doesn’t provide the ways & means to do it.

I tried to make it as interactive as possible & get feedback. I was really encouraged to hear that there was lots of connection with what was talked about, as well as affirmation that this hit where they lived – & better, went along with what they (& Juergen) had been talking about for the last several months.

Had to leave to catch the afternoon train to Baden-Baden. On the way, Juergen’s car suddenly stopped – he tried restarting it to no avail. So, in desperation, (I had to get to the train station,) we decided to ‘jump it’ by popping the clutch in 2nd gear, which meant I would push the car, & he would steer it, then pop it at the appropriate time. After 3 tries, the car sputtered started, & we were on the road again. Several people got a good laugh watching me doing my best Jamaican bobsled pushed impersonation. However, I made my train with minutes to spare, & made the rest of my connections with plenty of time.

Julia picked me up at the train station with her friend Hannah – took me to her house where I’d be staying with her & her family for the next couple of days.

I’ve been really looking forward to this time with Julia & her family – there really is a special connection since she lived with us for 6 months. It was such a fun time with her family. We ate Pflammkuchen (french style pizza. Yes. Pizza) with all sorts of toppings on it, & great wine from the region & vineyards around her home. Lots of laughter & fun, really feels like a home away from home.

Talked with Julia a bit about Sunday a.m. She will be doing her first bit of translation – working to help her ease into it. Teaching from John 13:34,35 on Living a Simple Life: Love God, love people.

Missing home, theBean, & the family. To minimize the missing, I headed for bed, & crashed hard. Booyah!

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.

fellowship…

Thursdays might be my favorite work day. Not only is Thursday my ‘Friday,’ but most Thursdays during the lunch hour I get to have fellowship with a dear friend.

Yes.

Fellowship.


Now, The Fellowship of the Ring has a positive connotation.

Fellowship in the real world? Not so much.

Fellowship at church? Yikes.

Why? Because church hurts.


I’ve attended church almost weekly since I was 2-ish. When I hear the word ‘fellowship,’ think of being chided to “say hi to the person behind you,” pasting a grin on your face, turning around to see the back of the head of the person you’re supposed to greet.

I think of post-church service coffee time – kinda awkward standing around looking at the other friendly strangers in the room… giving thanks to the LORD on high for the Costco muffins on the table which allow you to stuff your mouth… thereby giving you a ‘pass’ on the whole interaction thing… getting by on the mumbled, “And how you doin’?” “Good!” “Oh great.” “See ya next week.”
The sigh of relief when you’d make it to the parking lot, to your car, & then HOME!


Church hurts.

It might be because we often experience underdeveloped, mostly surface-y relationships… which hurts because we talk so much about how deep & meaningful our relationships & fellowship are & ‘should’ be… & when we’re not experiencing that, it’s easy to get desperate, feel frustrated, & to become disillusioned.

It could be disappointment at unmet expectations. Our own (or others) extreme neediness. Unhealth, selfishness, & immaturity in our interactions with others.

Perhaps its the expectation that something of life-changing significance, true fellowship, will take place in a rushed, crowded environment where there’s literally 45 seconds to ‘talk’…

Or it could be that the time we were open & transparent with another, we experienced swift, sure judgment. Where someone (well-meaning or not), attempted to Fix Us. Apply a ready-made, black-and-white, one-size-fits-all church solution to our complex & often gray lives… Where someone’s ‘gift’ to us was their honesty. (If the truth doesn’t happen in love, is it really a gift? But I digress.)


Maybe we end up mistaking real fellowship with the underdeveloped & surface-y relationships… That’s not what fellowship is intended to be. Or what it CAN be. Its definitely not what is referred to in Acts 2:42:

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, & fellowship, to the breaking of bread, & the prayers…”

Fellowship (the Greek word “koinonia”) has a literal definition, but also one that is implied – the literal is… “joint participation; communion; sharing in anything; intimacy; community.” I believe that the implied definition would be along the lines of, “prioritized time & space shared with others around a common purpose, resulting in knowing & being known. Mutual encouragement that results in the growth, relationship, & development of all parties…


Which is why I love Thursdays. Lunch hour, we talk & listen… sharing trivialities & meaning of life stuff. Visit & revisit challenges, struggles, joys, & hopes. Wrestle through what God’s saying & doing in & around us. Close with a brief prayer.

I always come away encouraged. Refreshed. Strengthened. Feeling like I’ve grown & am growing in my relationship with God. Thankful to be living life with others – to know that they love me for who I am, & don’t try to fix me.

I know I don’t have it figured out, but I think that fellowship takes patience. Time. Commitment to the long-term. Willingness to grow. Care. Contending for authenticity. Risk. Be vulnerable. To listen. Release another from my need to pass (final) judgment. Encouragement, persistence, & a willingness to hope & want the best for another. Love that unconditionally extends self, embraces another, & trusts the work of God – the Holy Spirit, to do the transforming & fixing.

My life is richer because of fellowship.

a series heavy sighs, or wondering how many times I dance this dance?

Oops. I did it again. Over-scheduled my life, with the best of intentions, & a complete disregard for the fact that:

  • a) I’m human;
    b) I’m married & have three kids, each with their own complex layered schedules;
    c) Just because something is fun doesn’t mean it doesn’t take a toll on you
    d) sitting in meetings for hours on end counts as a double no-no

  • And so I find myself to be spent; physically, emotionally, & relationally. Spent. Done. Finis. In need of a ‘hit the alarm 2x in the morning,’ followed by a 2 p.m. nap. And to bed early.

    I’m not scratching my head, wondering, “What happened?” I know exactly. I went to Sacramento the week of 9/13 for our fall pastors conference. Great conference. Fun with friends. Challenging speakers. Meaningful interactions. Late nights & early mornings. Came home, hitting the ground running to catch something that could not be caught: Monday & Tuesday – they were long gone.

    Jerry came in Friday, & I spent the weekend trying to spend as much time hanging out, talking with him as I could. And Friday/Saturday, I managed to shoehorn in a wedding rehearsal & wedding, a gathering & hang out on Saturday morning with Jerry & some friends, another gathering Saturday evening, & a full Sunday. Which was my birthday.

    Ended the day with packing… cause I had to catch the first flight out on 9/20 to Burbank for special meetings… in which I sat on a ballroom chair for a total of (drum roll please…) 21 hours over the course of Monday – Wednesday morning. Rushed home for round 3 of a special Marriage Enrichment series (which I’m loving, btw,) & staggered to bed.


    We’re hosting friends, a family of 4 Germans from Mainz, Germany through Friday 10/1. NOTE: this is not a bad thing to have & to host friends. But it does take it out of you.

    Did a Quincenera Saturday – absolutely wonderful time. Church on Sunday. Home & slept for 3 hours in the afternoon. Oh goodness.

    Still trying to catch up. Heavy sigh.


    Throughout the madness, theBean mentioned to me once or 30 times that this pace wasn’t ok. That my sabbath day of rest & recharging wasn’t getting the priority & attention needed. That the schedule I was keeping was… wrong. Too costly. Heavy sigh.


    At some point I gave at least mental assent to what she was saying, then hurriedly justified the 2 week sprint as “fun” or “mostly fun.” She wasn’t buying it. I’m not either.


    Today I spent time in repentance, embracing a change of mind, asking God’s forgiveness for the pace I’ve been functioning at. I know better, but it happened anyway. And I’m paying the price. A small part of me is questioning my ‘toughness,” as though if I were just BIGGER-FASTER-STRONGER this wouldn’t have happened, & I SHOULD’ve been able to make it through this, kicking the calendar & schedule’s proverbial butts, taking their proverbial names. Heavy sigh.


    Then I realize this small part of ‘me,’ isn’t me after all… its the enemy of my soul. The one who wants to steal, kill, & destroy. To poison & drain the very “life in all of its fullness” Christ came to bring & give. Hmm. Duly noted. Heavy sigh.


    On that note, I look at my calendar & see I have 34 days until I’m off to Frankfurt – November 3 -16. And the schedule there is full-ish, but I have some downtime intentionally included in the travel schedule. Praying for wisdom. Aiming for balance. Staying on rhythm. Heavy sigh.


    I might fall down, but I’ll get back up.


    Got a note from another ‘scoey’ the other day (2 weeks ago now… at the beginning of the madness.) He had the same nickname as me – who’da thunk it possible? And lots of similarities in the happenings in our lives. I wrote him back, but it seems that the earthlink spam filter may have been bouncing me back. So scoeyB, if you’re reading this, thank you for writing. And I’d love a penpal. :)


    Pasty is dominating his college schedule, passing all tests with flying colors. And getting A’s, which is better than colors. His girlfriend from Tennessee is coming to visit in just about a week. We’re so excited, we just can’t hide it.


    There I times I have to literally refuse to get offended… to not be antagonized by someone else’s (real or perceived) actions, words, slights, condescensions, etc. My anger & indignation rises up… & I realize that at that very moment, I’m thinking an awful lot about me. ME. And goodness, am I of primary importance? Oh yes. Heavy sigh.


    Last night, I was playing with EllieG, my niece… we were wrestling around on the ground (which means I lay on my belly with my face in the carpet & she & her little sis the ZoeHawk use me as a jungle gym. Good times.) EllieG stopped climbing for a second & touched my head, smack dab on the big bald spot. She did it again, harder. Then she asked, “Tay, what HAPPENED to your hair?”

    “Ellie,” I replied, “it fell out. Sometimes when a man gets older, his hair falls out. And I’m getting older…”

    She pondered this for a second & said in the sweetest voice, “Oh. I’m SOOO sorry Tay. But I still like you.”

    Heavy sigh.

    Habakkuk & some thoughts on ‘How Longs’ & ‘Whys’

    Habakkuk 1:1-4

    The oracle that Habakkuk the prophet saw – O LORD how long shall I cry for help, & You will not hear? Or cry to You “violence’ & You will not save? Why do you make me see iniquity & why do You look idly at wrong? Destruction & violence are before me; strife & contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, & justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous, so justice goes forth perverted.

    It’s the ‘How Longs” that get me. They stand out as a disappointed cry, laments even, bordering on indignant anger. Habakkuk sees injustice, wrong, violence, wickedness all around him, & he’s been crying out to the LORD for help with no visible or audible response.

    The WHY’s also get me; why do You idly look at wrong? As though Habakkuk incredulous at what he is seeing… wondering how the LORD God he knows could NOT be acting on behalf of him & his people Israel considering what’s happening to & with them.

    Part of the how & why this is at the forefront of my thoughts likely is the book I’m sloooowly reading through, Disappointment with God. Lately, I feel especially sensitized to the laments, sighs, suffering & disappointments in the world around me.

    Its kinda like when you get a new car, say a white Ford Explorer. Then, it seems that everywhere you go, you see these white Explorers all over the place & wonder how you never saw them before.

    I recognize in my own heart quiet echoes of these ‘How Longs’ & ‘Whys…’ & I wonder if the reason that I don’t stop coming back to God with prayer & expectancy, & I don’t blame Him for my issues & problems, &/or the tragedies around me is because of what I had to learn through my own ‘dark times of the soul,’ like when my brother Johnny had cancer & ultimately died.

    In his last day, I vividly remember visiting Johnny downstairs at my parents – seeing the very obviously approaching death in his declining body. It was overwhelming, so I went upstairs & ran outside into what I think was early evening…

    Remember standing facing the Alpers’ house & the familiar West Carson horizon… & looking to the twilight sky – praying, crying, asking, pleading in desperation for God to heal my brother, to take away this cancer, to restore his health that he would live.

    It was a surreal experience that I think, I know changed me… I still remember the sense I got at that moment of God’s Presence. It may have been just my impression, but I also sensed a sadness greater than me. I wondered if it was Him, & He was sad. I thought so. And while I wanted more than anything that God would heal Johnny, I also felt comforted, & at peace.

    The circumstance hadn’t changed. Johnny died. But God stood with me, & I knew it. He was WITH me, & I was aware.

    Made me thinks that the nearness of God isn’t always tangible, but it is a fact. He will never leave me or forsake me.


    And then Habakkuk gets an answer – the LORD will respond. Is responding. Has responded.

    There will be vengeance; there will be chastisement. Intervention. There will be a revelation of His Presence so strong that ‘the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD just like the waters cover the sea’

    And Habakkuk praises – gives thanks – asks for mercy.


    LORD, I pray for mercy… & I thank You for never abandoning me, for Your Presence, & for Your nearness. Work in me the things You want to see be true of me – thank You for Your patience with me & my questions, for not getting angry at the How Longs or the Why’s. That You love me through it by standing with me. Help my unbelief, fill me with faith.