Sunday, December 28, 2008

vision = important for life.

Vision - the ability to think or plan the future with wisdom and imagination. That's one definition. It's the one on the little dictionary that floats on my desktop. Good enough for me. Vision is essential, for everyone, and important for arguably, every area of life. 

I was having lunch the other day with a friend. He and I were talking about life, God, marriage, and other random things men tend to talk about. He shared with me some of his goals. One in particular, struck me as, well - important. He said he was memorizing the New Testament. Let me say that again, memorizing the whole NT. 

What? Is that possible? Maybe for some people right? Well, he's on it. Better put, he has a vision for it. Sure, he serves in a closed country, where he may not be able to sit at starbucks and read the bible like many people do. My point though, is that he has vision, a plan. That vision, determines his decisions, time management, and values. Right on. 

Proverbs 29:18 Where there is no vision, the people perish. 
Another translation says, "where there is no revelation, the people throw off restraint." 

Either way, the point is -- thinking ahead / prayer planning
is C-R-I-T-I-C-A-L. 

So, I am in the process of thinking / praying through some of these things :
How will I invest in my relationship with God ?
How will I experience wholeness this year? 
How will I invest in my marriage in the months ahead?
How do we want to invest in and shape our children this next year?
How can we best serve / lead for the staff team we are humbled to serve alongside? 
How can we invest time in our relationships with others? 

Saturday, December 27, 2008

can deer have epilepsy?

The tree is down. The gifts are being put away. The annual post-Christmas garbage mound of boxes and wrapping paper is just outside the doors, awaiting pick up on Monday morning. The boys are playing hard outside. April and I have been un-decorating. I just put the lighted deer in the grave. Sadly, our little doe developed a serious epileptic seizure disorder, rendering her lit-holiday antlers in a oddly rhythmic dance.. up, down, up, down...

This year is a little different because we are packing with a totally different mindset. What stays? What goes? What ships? What stores? What sells? What is to be given away? Interesting.

Some things I want to remember from these days: Christmas Eve-Eve with the little guys. Cooking a great meal and pretending with the boys we were in some fancy restaurant that catered to children. Christmas Eve at Cornerstone. Even though it was warm, crowded, and hard to focus, we did. Christmas Eve at East Alabama Medical Center. Our second annual family event with the Forthofers, where we  deliver cookies to the hospital staff. Give children a platform to do something special for someone else... they are  on it! Christmas Eve / Christmas morning at my parents. My mom has recently become passionate about great food, and  so we ate, a lot, and our conversations around those meals were great. The gift we most appreciate is a week at  Disney with them in January. It's going to be fun, for sure. Christmas Day at April's parents. Wii tournaments. Really good conversations. Being very encouraged with what God has for us in HK. Fishing with Mike and Jeremy. (Jeremy - 15 largemouth bass, Matt - 6 largemouth bass, Mike - O) Keeping the main thing, the main thing.

Friday, December 19, 2008

yes. again.

"A man can be understood by knowing the questions that burn hotly within him. For many men, one question stands out among others as the one that matters most: “What should I do?” When men feel their deepest agony, that is the question they ask.

When a man finds himself in a place where that question cannot be answered, he moves to a place where it can. When he looks around and realizes he has wandered into a confusing situation where courage and creativity are required, he finds a way to return to the sphere of management, to some activity or responsibility where his skill and know-how are useful, where his inadequacy and fear will not be exposed, where the courage to live in an unpredictable world is not required; in short, he retreats to where he can find an answer to his burning question.

When a man flees the terror of mystery for the comforts of management, he compromises himself. A man ruled by the demand that he always know what to do cannot experience the deep joys of manhood. He has violated his calling and betrayed his nature.

God calls a man to speak into darkness, to remember who God is and what he has revealed about life, and – with that memory uppermost in his mind – to move into his relationships and responsibilities with the imaginative strength of Christ.

God is telling a story, a story full of life, love, and grace, a story of hating evil and honoring good, a story rich in drama, poetry, and passion. As we see his story told through our lives, we find the courage to handle the inevitable confusion of life. We find the strength to move ahead, to take risks, to relate deeply, because we are caught up in the larger story of God.

God calls us to move beyond the silence of Adam. We are to abandon ourselves to God with absolute confidence in his goodness; and with the freedom created by that confidence, we are to move into the depths of dangerous uncertainty with a life-giving word. That kind of movement might be something as simple as encouraging a child by giving extra attention, or something as terrifying as giving your heart where it may not be wanted.

But that is where the rub is in moving beyond Adam’s silence: we experience fear. A commitment to manly movement creates healthy fear. We realize there is no code to follow in the arenas we determine to enter. But it also creates a sense of anticipation. As we resolve to speak in darkness, God give courage: not the sort that stills trembling legs but the kind that helps us move forward on them.

It’s an interesting progression. When men move forward in faith, they more deeply realize their need of God, and therefore more earnestly seek him. And when we seek him with all our hearts, we find him. That’s the promise.

Men who spend their lives finding God are quietly transformed from mere men into elders: godly men who know what it means to trust a person when there is no plan to follow; spiritual fathers who enter dark caves that their children run from; Christlike mentors who speak into that darkness with strength instead of control, with gentleness instead of destructive force, and with wisdom that cuts through the confusion to the beauty beyond.

The path to authentic manhood is entered through the narrow gate of single-minded passion to abandon oneself completely to God. The path beyond the gate is the freedom to speak into darkness as one hears and echoes the voice of a well-remembered God."  The Silence of Adam – Larry Crabb

You ever read something, and it just leaps off the page as true? Here it is for me today. Encouraging. Challenging. Humbling. Thank you April for always being a consistent voice of God's "better word" for me. Yes.

Monday, December 15, 2008

the next few.

We're here. The annual season of slightly slowing down to be with friends and family, and more importantly remember that heaven invaded earth some 2000 years ago. Really, that is pretty amazing. And, really, that is the understatement of all time. 

Nonetheless, I find myself with not much to say. April thinks its normal. I think I need some time to think, about that being normal, and really what life looks like between now and moving to Hong Kong. I know the basics, preparing a team, raising needed funds, and being a father and a husband. But, as my wife has kindly reminded me, I am entering into a new season, one where I do not have / nor cannot enjoy a weekly speaking engagement. Interesting. No doubt, the time spent preparing for encounter, and the life-changing moments that have added up to 7 years is hard to put into words.

Yes, for sure, I already miss it. Seeing Jake, Paul, and Dave playing tonight with Martha's Trouble was great. But, really, if I'm honest. I miss those guys. I miss the ridiculously late nights in the AUMC parking lot, watching Paul climb the light poles, dreaming about the future, like church planting in Auburn. What?!?! -- We came closer to that than many people may think. I think to be able to look back and see all that God has done, and all that God in His mercy and wisdom, has NOT allowed to happen, is really encouraging. 

The bottom line: Life is changing for me personally. I'm not really sure anyone could have prepped me for this little season. There is a certain undefined emptiness in my heart. But even as I write this, my eyes are burning because I haven't taken my contacts out, and its really late, and I am really thankful for that bit of emptiness, because it is pushing me towards Him. The vision He's placed in me, to see HK students united in Him, is certainly worth a season of not knowing much, for His namesake. 

Jesus? Unchanging. Eternal.
Marriage? Stable. She is the best. Ever. 
Parenthood? Steady as we go. I love these little people.
Family? Supporting and great. So thankful.
Friendship? Yep. Still there.
Me? In process. 

So, my simple prayer during these next few weeks is to be intentional with the God who knows me and cares for me, more than anyone else. It is only from the fullness of relationship I have with Him, that anything else looking like love and peace can flow. I'm trusting Him for that. 

Saturday, December 13, 2008

artisans show to benefit grace campus & lone sheep ministries.

Well. Encounter is over. Christmas is approaching. Many friends are soon to graduate from Auburn. We are in the process of sending out year-end newsletters. This week, our friends Robert and Lindsay Moore, are hosting an event (Thursday - Saturday) featuring home decor / art / crafts / design items for sale - all to benefit
Grace Campus and Lone Sheep ministries. We were there last night, and enjoyed catching up with many friends and family. Their home was beautifully decorated, decked out with some pretty amazing gifts. It is more than humbling to see how God has been going before us. This week, In addition to the proceeds from the Artisans show, God has provided (lavished really) - more than 50% of the funds needed for our family's housing next year in HK. Wow. We still have a long way to go, but we are so encouraged by what we see God doing. Thank you so much for investing in this next season for us / grace campus. To see what the Moore's are hosting, check out: Artisans 

Sunday, December 07, 2008

this little guy is amazing

Little Luke, is quite something these days. His voice is finding a way to make more little noises. His full name, Matthew Luke Dean, has special meaning to us. Matthew means "gift of God" and Luke means "bearer of light". 

As the days approach where the heart of Christmas can so easily get lost in transactions, we are reminded every day through this little guy, of God's grace in our lives.  He makes us slow down, reminding us of our basic needs, most importantly, connection, with God and people.

Our church has been focusing on simplifying Christmas -- and we have been so encouraged by the teaching and leadership on keeping what really matters the most, most important. 

Thursday, December 04, 2008

a story worth telling - part 4.

For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 
When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:3-4

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

a story worth telling - part 3

So, after hearing Josh share his desire to pray because  he believes, we all sit around this little beat-up coffee table that has been in our family for 30 years. Josh wants April to pray first, so she prays, then he prays, and then I pray. 

I cannot tell you how precious his words are to me, but I can say that I am convinced  his sincerity and genuine interest in the things of God, most importantly, the work of Jesus Christ, is true. We may plant and water, but God is the one who grows. 

The ongoing work of God rescuing human hearts is evident in our oldest son's life. Later that night, he wanted me to read the whole thing all over again. We decided we would try to read a little bit every day. So he slept with this new favorite book at the edge of his bed. The next day, he's reading it again, and insisted he bring it in the car. It is a reminder to me every time he asks me to read to him, that God always and forever more committed to us than we could ever be to Him. 

So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 2 Cor 5:16-21

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

a story worth telling - part 2

The living, the living—they praise You, as I am doing today; 
fathers tell their children about Your faithfulness.  
Isa 38:19

So, the other day, April and I took the boys to Monkey Joes for a little time away from home. It's one of their favorite places to run around and play. While out that day, April had found the Jesus Story Book Bible. For a few weeks, Josh had been asking me about "his" bible. We were excited to get this for him.

So after an afternoon of playing, we get back home. Caleb and I are in the kitchen making casseroles for Thanksgiving. He and I are having a blast in there. Meanwhile, Josh and April are on the couch. They sat there from 4:30-7:00pm. I know what you are thinking, me too... that's a long time. Movies don't last that long. Certainly, the attention span of a 5 year old is not that long. However, Josh was so interested, enthralled might be a better word, with the story of Rescue. 

What I love about this little Bible is that it reminds anyone reading of the consistent theme of redemption, of God's relentless pursuit of people, and how all things point to Christ. To have such a Christ-centered understanding of the Bible at an early age -- everything else in the Bible makes sense if you understand the main point: Jesus - who was, and is, and is to come. 

April read him his new Bible from cover-to-cover, at Josh's persistent request. After hearing it, he simply said:

"I believe in Jesus and I want to pray".

Monday, December 01, 2008

a story worth telling - part 1.

Being a parent is the most rewarding and most difficult thing I have ever done. Rewarding because you see the fragility of life, you know firsthand the power of love, you re-experience the gospel all over again from the Father's perspective, you are in the front-row seat of these precious little lives, and to see them grow as people - is awe inspiring. 

Difficult, because you are all-the-more-aware of your own sinfulness, selfishness, and weaknesses. Because love compels us, "difficult" means dying to self and consistently putting other needs before your own. Parenthood can be really painful as well, because when they hurt, you hurt. Hands down, the past five years of parenthood have been some of the most intense seasons of learning how to be more patient, more loving, more compassionate, more consistent, more... like a reflection of God's love. 

Truth be told, it's tough to remember there is only one perfect Parent. So, when I do reach the end of my strength, mercy, patience, interest, love, etc -- There is always One who never does. Because He is alive in me -- then I must be quick to share with my children the life-changing reality of God's perfect love.