My Reaction to the News (Post from 8/17/17)

Here are my thoughts and reactions to the new of serving people around the world for 1 year…(typed by Sara, my mom)

At first I was scared because we would have to leave our house and wouldn’t have a home when we came back to Madison. Now I am excited because of all the experiences we would have and then the reassurance that I could Skype with my class, my friends, and my family. I am especially excited about our trip to Germany. I am excited to go to Vacation Bible School there and also school. The ending trip to Sweden I am counting down the days till then!

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My Reaction to the News (post from 8/17/17)

Here are some of my thoughts and feelings after hearing the news of serving others for 1 year around the world…(typed by Sara, my mom)

I am very scared and happy at the same time. I am happy because we are serving people and I like serving people. I am excited about spending time with my family. I am excited about going to Vacation Bible School in Germany and working with sea turtles in Sri Lanka. I am very scared because we are going to different places and I don’t know what they eat. I am also scared of the unknown, about not knowing what these places are going to be like.

Don’t Be Scared (written on the back of his blog page)

Lucia’s Reaction to the News (post from 8/17/17)

Last weekend we told the kids about our plans for a year of service around the world. They were very excited and all in on this adventure, though not without some reservations and concerns. Here is Lucia’s reaction (typed and written by Sara, but directly from the mouth of 4 year old Lucia!):

I think this is really cool because we get to see and help new people. I am scared about trying new food. I will be sad because I won’t be able to see my gradparens, family, and friends for 1 year. I am excited to do this trip with my family. I am excited to play with other kids at the orphanage. I am looking forward to staying with a family in Thailand and seeing their house. I am excited about seeing new places, meeting new people, and different churches.

Godstrong (post from 7/29/17)

A few years ago yellow wristbands adorned the young and old alike reminding them to “Livestrong”. A product of a media effort to prop up a now defamed sportsman who was unceremoniously dethroned during his sole act of contrition while speaking to Oprah. While the story behind the meteoric rise to fame and subsequent fall are well known, the subtext is what I find so interesting. Lance Armstrong was by many measures heroic and if not for some poor choices by way of augmenting reality, would go down as an American legend. But in my mind the real story is the pervasiveness of human frailty and the reality that Livestrong ultimately failed because it was rooted in human weakness, not God strength.

The idea was simple and inspiring, you can overcome anything if you choose to be strong and courageous. Lance Armstrong of course had beaten cancer to achieve glory in cycling. Others used that example to achieve their own various levels of success and endurance. But where Lance failed is where God succeeds. Livestrong was a success because of the exploits of someone all too human. Capable of pride, greed, dishonesty and ultimately (hopefully) remorse. God’s strength is so much more powerful because God has no pride, greed, or inherent failing conditions. God does not and cannot fail, humans can.

So it is that when someone is Godstrong, they approach life in a way that is truly inspiring and powerful. The process of choosing to cast off your way of life and risk everything you “own” is frightening. I’ll admit a daily dose of misgivings and fear as we approach d-day, as it were. When you do things one way for 40 years, as in my case, suddenly changing course is not really ingrained in the human psyche. I have found to this point that no amount of human strength is sufficient. I cannot reason my way through this and most of my emotions are pointed away from this endeavor, not towards it. The times that I find myself truly excited and ready to go are when I sit calmly, breath deeply, and ask God for strength. I find comfort and resolve when I do this and this sense of peace is what I see every day in Sara. Just like lifting weights or training for a marathon Godstrong comes from practice and repetition. Sara is a pro at this constantly reminding herself, and me, that God is there for us. This doesn’t mean that she assumes that our path will be easy or laid out with confetti and roses. Instead she believes that God will provide for us what we need and that what we need may not look like what we want. That’s the trick, what we have been conditioned to want and see as good is really just that which makes us feel safe and comfortable. That does not make it bad by any stretch, but comfortable does not always challenge you to be better. Just like exercising, the only way to improve your body is through some modicum of pain. Godstrong requires challenging ourselves, sometimes physically, sometimes emotionally, and almost always mentally. I appreciate the message of Livestrong but part of the failure of that concept was that there was no challenge inherently there. Think of it from this perspective, Livestrong is a call to essentially survive and do your best. What exactly is the challenge there? Which members of the target audience didn’t want to live? Who is actively trying to fail? Godstrong on there converse compels you to do things out of the ordinary. Put yourself in harms way to help others doesn’t sound as appealing in a television advertisement as believe in yourself and overcome adversity. God asks you to encounter adversity, embrace it, and if you don’t have it in your life now then go find it and face it head on and to believe that you don’t need to be the one to overcome it on your own but rather to channel the grace of God.

I am not strong enough to face these challenges on my own. No amount of self encouragement or belief will permit me to accomplish those things that I am called to do. But that’s the point, I don’t need to be. God asks us all to be a reflection of God’s grace on Earth. God doesn’t ask us to be God but rather reflect God’s good will and love. If you think of this reflection in terms of a mirror you get the perfect analogy. A mirror is fragile and finite. They can get fogged up easily, can be scratched and chipped. But despite those weaknesses a mirror, even when broken and shattered, can still reflect that image. God’s strength is there for us in all times of our life, when we feel perfect and when we feel broken. We don’t need to carry this weight ourselves, we just need to reflect God’s strength and love and the way will be found, the doors will open, and the grace of God will flow.

From the Mouths of Babes (post from 07/06/2017)

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life.” (Psalm 143:8) “Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your good spirit, lead me on level ground.” (Psalms 143:10)

Anjali and David recently spent a week at an overnight camp (their first overnight camp ever). They attended Lake Waubesa Bible Camp and had a wonderful time. When Jeff and I picked them up we were privelaged to be in the audience while the kids recited Psalm 143 Verses 8 and 10 . After listenting to the kids recite this Psalm by memory, I wanted to explore this further with them, as it fits right into our year of service (even though they don’t know it yet). I asked the kids to write down what this Psalm means to them and how they can live out this Psalm. Here’s what they wrote…

David:
What Psalm 143 means to me:
God loves me because when I am scared he protects me.
God loves me because when I don’t feel love He loves me.
I serve God when I serve at the men’s shelter downtown and when I make new friends.

Anjali:
To me, this verse means to give up your life to God. I think it also means to ask God to help you live your life. This psalm means a lot to me. It’s a great verse and it can be a prayer. This psalm makes me want to go and serve others in need. The ways I can serve and spread God’s word is by serving at the men’s homeless shelter, serving at Pres House (at the University of Wisconsin), inviting people over and giving homes for our pets. We also show love. It’s a very powerful and motivating psalm.

It was wonderful to have the kids take this psalm and write down what it means to them. I am always amazed with their insight and their interpretations of these passages. It is very refreshing and encouraging to see how well they internalize the passages.

Temperament (post from 6/23/2017)

Where to begin? Shower thoughts that try to become reality often hit the wall of where to begin. It’s easy to solve the world’s problems, and sometimes even your own, while feeling the gentle cascade of clean, warm water washing away your cares, and maybe reality itself. This is where I found myself a year or so ago. A shower thought about how great it could be to travel the country and help people. A fairly simple concept but in practice altogether complicated. You have a wife, three kids, a lot of bills, a good job, and no idea how or where to even start. Sure, let’s go travel the country. The funny thing is that when you have a shower thought that wasn’t from your own voice, it has an uncanny ability to manifest itself into more than a flight of fancy. This is really where I was a year or so ago. Meandering through life doing my best to be a good father, husband, and dutiful employee. But in reality my life was going unfulfilled. Amazing to think that I was blessed in so many ways with such a wonderful family and career but at the same time I was yearning for more. More but less. Less stuff, more experience. Less material wealth, more spiritual wealth. And so when Sara came to me while I showered and told me of a former teacher who planned a year long RV trip around the country my thoughts turned to how we could adopt this concept. At first it was a far off pipe dream, a fanciful wish. Maybe in a few years we could get the money together, make the plans, someday. But then a shower or two later it festered and grew, it ate away at the chains of reality and become a nagging call, a reminder that opportunities seldom come twice and sometimes you just have to be awake and aware to hear that quiet call to throw turmoil into your life and do something so crazy that you know it has to be right. Only God can make a tree the poem goes, and I guess only God can turn a shower thought into reality.

And so as I felt the warm shower caress my body and protect me from the craziness that I was certain was entering my brain I simply said it. Sara, what if we traveled the country for a year with the kids, and did it soon. Like in a year, and not in twenty. To my surprise the question was not met with laughter, anger, or even reservation. Perhaps even to my chagrin, it was met with acceptance and excitement. Far from being uncertain I think Sara was all on board because maybe she had been thinking the same thing, during one of her own fanciful shower times. At the very least she felt that there was more for us in store than what we had been doing to this point in life. Now I said out loud what she had been feeling which meant we both felt it too, and now we had a purpose. And with purpose you can accomplish great things. I can’t say that I am supremely confident in my decision because every day I have an ebb and flow of strength and weakness. But I know this much, whenever I start feeling the need to rekindle that flame, all I need to do is hit the showers.

Open Doors (Post from 6/16/17)

“I know your works. Look, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut. I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my work and haave not denied my name.” (Revelation 3:8)

For a while now we did not have our first service opportunity for August and September 2018, however leave it to God to open another door as a way to show us that He is in charge and He is in control. We can try to find opportunities ourselves, but without His help we will continue to find nothing. This is exactly what has happened for us. We have been trying and trying to get something set for our first service project to no avail. But when He was ready for us to have something set, it happened. A wonderful friend of ours, Chris, was able to help secure a service opportunity in a small rural town in Germany. We will be working with the local church doing various tasks, including English lessons, working on cleaning up the church, helping with the Vacation Bible School, and whatever else the community and the church may need. We will be at their disposal. What is even more wonderful is that they are working on getting the kids into the schools there, so they will be starting school with the rest of the kids in the community (how wonderful!!).

For me, every time there is just a little bit of doubt or anxiety about this service project, He opens another door and continues to show us that this IS our path and this IS what we are supposed to be doing. He continues to light the path that we are supposed to be on, which is a very comforting feeling. He shows us that He is in control and that He is there, always, to care for us, to help us, and to guide us. He is our rock and our stronghold.

In You, O LORD, I have taken refuge; Let me never be ashamed; In Your righteousness deliver me. Incline Your ear to me, rescue me quickly; Be to me a rock of strength, A stronghold to save me. For You are my rock and my fortress; For Your name’s sake You will lead me and guide me. (Psalms 31:1-3)