Posts Tagged ‘ faith ’

A Little Crazy Goes a Long Way

A little (crazy) prayer goes a long way.

I asked several “Will God…?” questions in my last post.  Some won’t be answered for months or years, but for others I feel like we can start counting the promise of “immeasurably more” right now.

Can I really be an adequate interim parent for two teenagers abandoned by their mom until God provides more permanent foster parents?   It’ll take a lot longer than a week to tell that.  But in the meantime, God is blessing Jub and I and our volunteer house with two precious teenage girls that need a lot of love (and eat a lot of pancakes) and stretch our faith every day.  We continue to circle these girls in prayer and plead for God to provide foster parents in the next few months, but I’m wondering if God might have something else in store…  Immeasurably more.

Will God heal a faithful and faith-filled couple that just discovered they are HIV positive, and protect their unborn baby from the disease?   We’re still circling.  But in the meantime, she’s rising up in worship with a deep faith and divine strength that gives me goosebumps.  And she’s crying out to God not for herself or her own recovery, but for the lives of those around her as she continues to fight for and love on her neighbors that continue their work as women of the night.  Crazy awesome.  Immeasurably more.

Will my friend reach his goal of staying clean from meth for an entire year and grow as a committed husband and father?   Time will tell and we’ll keep circling.  But in the meantime, he’s challenging me back with this goal saying he doesn’t want to just stay clean for a year, but he wants to stay clean for good.  Silly me.  Immeasurably more. 

Will God build a movement to create real change in rural communities to stop this cycle of family and community brokenness that so often leads to participation in the sex industry?

Now we’re getting REALLY crazy.  But I’m beginning to realize a little crazy goes a long way when you’re talking Kingdom crazy.  Here’s a preview:

This photo was taken last week after our first ad hoc community meeting in a small, rural village in Khon Kaen province.  The heart of Isaan.  The heart of Thailand.

After being unsure whether or not we’d have any attendees and being even less sure what direction the discussion would take, we were overwhelmed with the result.

The community is awake.  Without prompting, they answered every question we had with flying colors.  They want change.  They want us to be a part, but they want to take responsibility for change.  In fact, they want to start before we even get there.

We laid out our best made plans and prayers and God is already doing…. Immeasurably more. 

More soon…

 

Circling ‘Immeasurably More’

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine, according to His power at work within us, to Him be the Glory …”  (Ephesians 3:20)

One of those verses that never gets old.  Unless you let it.

It’s a forward-looking promise to hang on when I’m out of my element, out of ideas or out of options.  And that happens often here.

Can I really be an adequate interim parent for two teenagers abandoned by their mom until God provides more permanent foster parents?

Will God heal a faithful and faith-filled couple that just discovered they are HIV positive, and protect their unborn baby from the disease?

Will my friend reach his goal of staying clean from meth for an entire year and grow as a committed husband and father?

Will God build a movement to create real change in rural communities to stop this cycle of family and community brokenness that so often leads to participation in the sex industry?

I returned from our visit to the U.S. with a lot of questions and very few clear answers.  But what I did gain was a fresh sense of anticipation that God both CAN move and WANTS TO move in these situations and many others.

But here’s the catch:  He also wants US to move.  He wants us to move first in the form of prayer.

Thanks to NCC Pastor Mark Batterson’s new book The Circle Maker, our team has a new vernacular for prayer.   We’re dreaming bigger. We’re praying harder. We’re thinking longer.

We’re praying circles around the promise that God is able and will do immeasurably more than we ask or imagine in each of these situations and many others.   Will you commit to pray with us?

 

24 Hours

Saturday morning alarm set for 5 AM I wish I could say it was done with a joyful heart, but I’d be lying.  It had been a long week; I was tired and grumpy.  Nothing seemed to be going as planned.  Expended energy seemed to be yielding little fruit. But we knew we had to go.  Motivated by the fear of regret, we went.

Three sisters, part of our family at The Well, had a family crisis.  And when one in our family has a family crisis, we go.  A child was in the hospital in critical condition, and we hadn’t seen two of the sisters in some time.  We wanted to give hugs, prayers and encouragement. To do so would require an eight hour bus ride upcountry followed by unknown local transport to their rural village.  A few hours into the trip, a phone call informed us that both sisters had been called away to work and wouldn’t be able to meet us after all, and the child in critical condition had been taken away by his dad to a different hospital.

My first reaction?  Resentment.  Not a glamorous missionary reaction, right?  5 AM wake-up followed by an 8-hour bus ride on a rare, open weekend and nobody would be there. Seriously?  Isn’t my time more important than a wild goose chase literally across the country?

Jub smiled at my clear disgruntledness and settled in to her bus seat to catch some sleep on the way. Her calm attitude convicted me.

Almost to our destination, we called the girls’ mom directly since she was likely the only one still home. She had gotten very sick and asked us to meet her at the hospital.  We met her at the local clinic where they had given her a shot of morphine and sent her on her way.  (Thai health care at its finest.)   We followed her home, sat with her, visited, and played with the sweet one-year-old that had spent his first six months of life at The Well before going back to live with his grandma.

Mom’s signs of sickness worsened and we helped her get to a more legitimate hospital for better medical attention.  Off she went, and that was it.  Jub and I looked at each other, shrugged our shoulders and started looking for a creative transportation mode to start our trek back to Bangkok.

We walked in the door at home almost exactly 24 hours after we had left.  Over 20 hours in a moving vehicle of various shapes and sizes, less than 4 hours of visiting, and nowhere close to fulfilling our originally intended purpose.  And yet, it seemed God knew more than we did.

Mom got the hospital attention she needed. Sisters felt cared for.  Jub got some sleep on the bus.  And I got my weekly dose of humble pie-in-the-face.

Wild goose chase?  Perhaps.  A weird way to spend a weekend?  Yep.  Thankful that God takes extraordinary measures to remind me that He’s not only in charge, but actually knows what He’s doing?  Absolutely.

Harvest

Harvest is wrapping up on the Idaho home front. My cousin sent a report a while back that one of our fields registered a record-breaking 133 bushels per acre.

I got that report during a particularly rough week in Bangkok during which I was struggling to hang on to hope of a fruitful harvest with a few cases here.  A series of drug relapses were causing downward spirals among a few students.  These added to several health crises and a myriad of other issues in our community, not to mention a few more heartbreaking nights of outreach where we realize just how much it’s going to take to break these cycles of broken rural families sending broken women to work in broken bar districts frequented by broken foreign men… Taken together, it tipped the scale enough to trigger questions and emotions that I didn’t particularly want to face.

I sat reading this bright email from home, 8000 miles away, and feeling much further even than that from a bountiful harvest.

And then I remembered.

I was around eight years old. We had a bumper crop in the fields; just waiting for another week of sun to ripen it and ready it for harvest.  We came home from church, shared our Sunday family dinner, and sat on the porch to watch a storm roll in.  But this one wasn’t an ordinary storm.  It carried enough hailstones to destroy that bumper crop in a matter of minutes.

I wasn’t very old, but I knew enough to know the consequences of those hailstones.  Completely out of our control.  Completely devastating.  But oddly, I don’t remember the devastation as much as I remember the reaction of my dad.

We watched in silence as the storm came and went.  He calmly got up, smiled, and said “There’s always next year.”

Dad illustrated a lesson for me that year that I’ve revisited many times since: We have the responsibility to plant and tend, but ultimately we’re asked to hold loosely to the work of OUR hands and instead trust in the work of GOD’s.

Put differently, harvest doesn’t always look the way we’d like it to look.  It doesn’t always fit into nice spreadsheets or “win” columns.  For me, that year of a destroyed crop provided more fruit than a bumper crop would have. It gave me a picture of faith, and of faithfulness.

It’s a picture that reminds me that success doesn’t always mean seeing the fruit of our labor in the near term.  Success means faithfulness over the long term.  It means faithfulness to the calling you’ve received, and more importantly, to the One who called.

“…if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday…”  — Isaiah 58:10


Cultivate… What’s in a Word?

Considering where I’ve come from, where I am, and where God seems to be leading, I can think of very few words saturated with more meaning than the word “cultivate.”

I spent my “growing-up years” as the youngest of five kids on a large farm and ranch in scenic northern Idaho.  Springtime was spent moving cattle, putting up hay, hauling rocks and roguing weeds out of fields.  Summer was spent working 14+ hour days harvesting those amber waves of grain about which we sing so proudly. Fall was spent celebrating the victory of harvest, regardless of the size of the crop, and preparing the ground for the next season.  Somewhere in there we found time to camp, fish and explore the great outdoors, simply by stepping out our back door and into the forested playground that we were so blessed to call home. And my librarian mother always made sure we had a book in hand to expand our imaginations even further than the forests would push them.

It was just as idyllic as it sounds. Despite detesting the long hours of hard labor that were required of all of us kids to “keep the farm running” (or, more likely, to instill character), I think all of us kids would agree that we wouldn’t trade it for the world.

One of the many reasons I wouldn’t trade it: I learned the deep significance of cultivation.  I saw year in and year out the work that it took to grow a crop. The careful preparation of the ground. The sowing of seeds. The attention to the growing process to manage weeds and pests. The necessity of water and importance of the seasons.  The gravity of the task of feeding both your neighbor and the world. The faith that God would provide the increase and the fortitude to return to the fields to plant another crop even if we didn’t see the increase the year (or years) prior.

The years on the farm instilled a deep appreciation for God’s miraculous and powerful hand in the growing process. It gave me a deeper understanding of the importance of seasons. I understood the devastation of losing a crop, only to return to sow again with faith that God’s promised “increase” may look different than you expect.

You might say God was cultivating in me an understanding of both beauty and hardship, and slowly revealing the meaning of faith.

Since leaving the farm and pursuing career, passions, community, calling, and a life away from that largely idyllic scene, I have found that God has continued to cultivate these lessons and values in my heart and in my life.

He’s continuing to deepen and broaden my understanding of who He is – a God of beauty, wonder, compassion, power, mystery, and victory – and who I am in Him – a child of God on an adventurous journey of faith.

So don’t be surprised if you see a theme throughout this blog:  Cultivation.  I would predict that most of my musings will likely center around my life spent cultivating – cultivating dreams, passions, callings, relationships – and being cultivated by the Master Gardener and Author of Life itself.