care more than some think is wise; risk more than some think is safe;
dream more than some think is practical; expect more than some think is possible


Trust God

I just had - the other day - what I am going to call a revelation. Maybe thats too big a word, but I don't believe it is. You see, I went and saw my ENT yesterday because on a daily basis I feel like my head is going to explode with internal pressure. Thank you chronic CF sinuses! It turns out that barometric pressure affects sinus pressure in ways that basically create a vaccum in your head (which would be like imploding) or an outward pressure (exploding) ... but the resulting feeling is the same, misery. Thats just a side note.

So, you ask, what's this to do with trusting God? Let me tell you.

I went to my ENT nearly 100% confident he would tell me I needed sinus surgery. He did. Honestly, not that big a deal. I guess when you are a life-long patient as I have been & will be, and have had as many surgeries of various sorts as I have (9), it all becomes routine. So, my reaction, "Ok." And really, its just that, ok another surgery woopty-doo (spelling?).

But as I was driving home I had this revelation. 1) I typically relate trusting God to something that would worry me. (Meaning, that those things that cause me no worries, I just accept them as they are - kind of like surgery) That's when it hit me 2) that God gives us opportunities to trust Him, even when we are not worried or concerned about something ... in this case, like surgery!

Now maybe that sounds elementary, and maybe it is. But it is significant to me, because it opens a whole new avenue for me to enjoy and glorify Him, via trusting Him for the sheer joy of it, for the sheer joy of better communing with my Heavenly Father. Surgery does not in the least worry me, because I know - despite whatever risks may exists with any surgery - God will have His way. So far we are 9 for 9! So because of my history I have been trained to not worry about surgeries, and therefore I typically do not take it to the Father in prayer as I might something that did present me with some degree of worry.

But now, o boy, I get to saturate the up coming surgery in prayer, and all the while enjoy the easy comfort of trusting God for surgery, knowing He will work His works completely!!! This is exciting!

Please note this does not mean I have figured out how to trust God completely in every situation, because as clearly shown, I am just now learning to truly trust Him with the "mundane," much less the things that cause me degrees of anxiety.


God. Sovereign. Always.

I cannot help but to write this.

If I had to list four cornerstone, foundational beliefs of my faith in God Almighty, I would list SOVEREIGNTY as one of those. Without this, I feel like I have nothing to believe in. Think of the game Jenga, if you pull out one of the bottom pieces, its gonna fall! Same deal here. No sovereign God, I come to nothing.

Moving on.

Jeremiah states, "The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD saying, 'Arise and go down to the potter's house, and there I will announce My words to you.' Then I went down to the potter's house, and there he was, making something on the wheel. But the vessel that he was making of clay was spoiled in the hand of the potter; so he remade it into another vessel, as it pleased the potter to make. Then the word of the LORD came to me saying, 'Can I not, O house of Israel, deal with you as this potter does?' declares the Lord. 'Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel. At one moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to uproot, to pull down, or to destroy it; if that nation against which I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent concerning the calamity I planned to bring on it. Or at another moment I might speak concerning a nation or concerning a kingdom to build up or to plant it; if it does evil in My sight by not obeying My voice, then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it." (18:1-10)

Now what does this say. Simply ... GOD IS SOVEREIGN! GOD IS IMMUTABLE! GOD IS MOBILE! ... Mobile? We will come back to that.

Clearly, as the illustration shows, as the potter chooses what his clay will become so God is sovereign over the plan of a nation's, a kingdom's, and peoples', & of an individual's life. Does that mean we do not make choices throughout our life? Absolutely not! But, in some mysterious way, that I cannot explain, God has sovereignly ordained a plan for each man, woman, & child's life & our choices - be they right or wrong - at any given moment cannot thwart the plan God has spoken over our lives.

But what about God "changing" His mind, as the passage clearly states? (read with inquisitive tone). 
Good question, glad you asked!

It would seem that if God can change His mind about punishing a people or not, based on their obedience or not, that perhaps God does change? But this is not really the case. Lets start here.


It means He is eternally unchanging in His ways, His glories, and His person (it means that His being, perfections, purposes & promises never change,1). He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow .... might I add forever and ever too (Heb 13:8)! At the core of who He is - perfection - He cannot stray. If He does, He ceases by definition of who He is to be God. Thats big. Chew on it for a while (I have been for the last 2 months). Consider Psalm 102:25-27, which is again quoted in Hebrews 1, in reference to Christ! See Malachi 3:6 too.

So what are we to do with words like, "I will relent" and " then I will think better of the good with which I had promised to bless it"? Because, if you are like me, these words sound a lot like words I have spoken - at least thoughts I have thought - before, and I know me, I am by no means unchanging. In fact, I am in ways like the man tossed to and fro upon the tempest at sea (but that's becoming less and less). I know me, & I change my mind often! So, is God changing His mind, His will?

I think He is indeed changing His mind! 
I do NOT think He is changing His will!

Think about it. God must change His mind to remain true to who He is - holiness, righteousness, justice, patience, graciousness, mercy, love, etc... If God never relented from the calamity that He had decided upon for a people who were wicked (see examples in Ex 32:9-14, Isa 38:1-6, Jonah 3:4, 10), then no one would be in existence today! If God had carried through on His numerous proclamations to destroy Israel for the wickedness, idolatry and injustice then we never would have had a Savior! If God never changed His mind concerning His people then He ceases to be just, merciful, and gracious. So, yes, I think God does change His mind. 

I will refer to an "authority figure" on this one, who knows more than I. Theologian Louis Berkhof states, "The divine immutability should not be understood as implying immobility, as if there were no movement in God"(2). Immobility, whats that? It means, considering God is in covenantal relationships with men, & due to our changing relations with Him, that there is change round about Him - how we relate to Him - but He is not changing. *Read - I change, God does not.* Berkhof goes on to say, "As if Scripture speaks of His relenting, changing His intention, and altering His relation to sinners when they repent, we should remember that this is only an anthropopathic (ascription of human passions/feelings to a being not human, esp. a deity)way of speaking"(3). All this is to say, God is not some non-emotional "deity" acting coldly toward sinners, but rather that - although He never changes - He does indeed act with and feel emotions. He does act and respond differently in different situation (4). Let's consider the example of Nineveh, in Jonah. God tells Jonah to go and proclaim the Lord's coming destructive judgement upon them for their wickedness, in 40 days. Yet, we know the story, Nineveh repents and then God relents. Why does God relent? Because that was the plan of the announcement of coming judgement, for the wicked city to recognize their ways and to turn from their sin to God, repenting! So, it is now a different situation. Before repentance, God saw wicked Nineveh, and now He sees a repentant people - of course He is going to relent! Thus my earlier point, if He did not respond differently, as peoples' hearts were changed and softened toward Him, then He would cease to be the kind, merciful, and just God that He is (most of this is paraphrased from Grudem, see #4).

But I do NOT think this means that He has given compromise, even an inch, to His will. His will, or ultimate end,  is His glory. Agreed? Good. If He compromises here, well then, all of Christianity is for naught! But think about it. Part of His over arching will encompasses His character - His unchanging nature that determines what He does and does not do - and thus being mobile in His interaction with finite humans, He maintains His eternally perfect justice and mercy. And since no single aspect of His nature can be discussed separately from any other, then all remain the same. All this includes His will. 

Take for instance the story of Joseph and his brothers' evil actions against him. Clearly there are evil actions that take place, clearly God has a plan in store for Joseph, and clearly to the praise of God, this plan is brought about in mighty ways, and Joseph then proclaims to his brothers, "You did not, nor could you ever have changed God's perfect will for His glory through my life ... because whatever you meant for evil, He meant it for good!" (personal paraphrase). Now, I know this is a bit of an indirect correlation, but if you work it out, its all there. 

So, assuming God does not relent, then by necessity, He would have punished - probably with death 0 Joseph's brothers. If they had been dead, there would have been no redemption in the story. Sure, Joseph may have gone on to be a wise counselor for Egypt and take the necessary steps in providing during the famine, but there would have been no glorious reunion with His family. So, at some point, God must have chosen to relent from destroying Joseph's brothers, knowing that - unrevealed to them - that He had huge plans for using that evil for good.

And so, in the end, I am just going to say, God is sovereign despite complexities about Him that I do not understand, though I try. And as a perfectly sovereign God, He is indeed immutable, but not immobile, and praise Him holy name for that! Praise Him that He relents from the evil He has intended when His Spirit works in our hearts to cause us to repent!

I would love some feedback, if you managed to read this whole thing.

1 - Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. p 58
2 - Ibid
3 - Berkhof, L. Systematic Theology. p 59
4 - Grudem, W. Bible Doctrine. p 73


Life as I Know It, II

I am reading through Jeremiah. A great book. Interesting, challenging, and eye-opening! And some of the verses I have read lately have greatly coincided with what I feel this next phase of life is going to include. Here are some examples.

Jeremiah 7:3, 5-7 ... "Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, 'Amend your ways and your deeds, and I will let you dwell in this place ... For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice with one another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other god to your own harm, the I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever.'"

In a way, this is the Lord's call on my life. I mean, in a specific way. As children on the Most High, we are all obviously called to "amend our ways!" But what I am speaking of is the dealings of my heart that the Lord has specifically placed upon my spirit for this phase. A lot of this revolves around the matters of personal discipline I spoke of in my previous post, Life as I Know It. Some of the amending has to do with the sin matters of heart the Lord stirred in me during Costa Rica; those things that have long been buried and deeply entrenched in my life; those things that were dredged up from the bottom of my being that I had know idea even existed!

I spoke of how I miss God currently, due to a lack of intimacy and communion with Him, due to my own fault, which is where the dwelling comes into play! When sin runs rampant, no one should expect to be in fellowship with the Lord, but when righteousness reigns by His power in our lives (2 Pt 1:3-11), we dwell with Him! Oh I cannot wait!

The dealings in these verses with "one another," the "sojourner," and the "widow" have to do with training myself to lead a life with a missional focus while in the States. To focus my energies toward caring for the "least of these" in the community around me.

Lastly, "do not go after other god to your own harm." Some of the sin matters the Lord as stirred up are sinful strongholds that I have accepted from the enemy as a part of life. This should not be! We are never to accept any lie, any temptation, any opportunity for sin ... much less finding that sin has a foothold and stronghold in my life and heart, and all of it is to my own harm! No more. But, nor am I naive to think I will not stumble and fail again. I will. Its unfortunately part of the old man's nature that is not totally slain! Thats why GRACE will always be my song, as long as the Lord is my Lord, and He brings me to the foot of His throne to soak up His mercy and grace.

And the next verse is from Jeremiah 12:5, "If you run with the footmen and they have tired you out, then how can you compete with the horses? If you fall down in the land of peace, how will you do in the thicket of the Jordan?"

Basically, it applies like this, if my life stays the same as it is now - not totally "wrong" but also not entirely given over to the Lord, if I do not yield myself fully to the work that Christ is desiring to work, and if my soul, in its deepest parts continue in self indulgence - while I am living in the States, in a very comfortable setting, then how will I be willing to submit to the gracious hand of God when I live in a land of difficulties? How then will I hold to God's standard, live by faith in Christ Jesus, and walk according to the power of the Spirit of the Living God in a land that is not my own?

So my only prayer, my only hope, my only assurance, my only is all in Jesus Christ, my living, breathing, reigning and all powerful King! As Jeremiah so rightly says,  "There is none like you, O LORD; You are great and great is you name in might. WHo would not fear You, O King of the nations? Indeed it is your due! For among all the wise men of the nations and in all their kingdom, there is none like You. ... But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King" (10:6-10).


Life as I Know It

This post is the details I left out of a long email I sent to my missions email list. I hope you enjoy this & that it provides you with a sense of how the Lord is working in my life, & why I believe He has called me to be “home” during this time of my life.

Life as I know it now, in all reality is hard. Now, I do not want to paint some sob story, because the honest answer to my life “being hard,” is that it is not at all. Compared to those all around the world that daily have to ask, “Will I eat today?” or “Will I get any water today?” In that sense, I know my life is not hard. Yet, this does not mean that it is easy. Spiritually, things are just dry, challenging, & in general discouraging. This is the very beginning of why I am home.

As I have said to folks recently, if I were to be abroad in a role of full-time service, I would be on a collision course with disastrous results. I will never be able to serve the Lord or my fellow man effectively, through the power of the Holy Spirit, if my communion with the Lord feels like walking on glass, instead of the deep, soul-satisfying & quenching, reality-filled presence of God in my life. What a shame it is that I am constrained by words to depict what I mean. I have to use phrases like “I feel” to convey my meanings, which does not really cut it. But I digress.

I feel like I have not experienced the presence of God in a long time, & an even longer time since I felt that presence in any on-going and consecutive way. Now, is what I feel reality? No! I know the Scriptures & His promises, “I will never leave you nor forsake,” & I cherish that, obviously among countless other promises. It’s just that my perception of reality is altered because what I feel has a major influence on reality. So it is all interrelated and fairly complex. But back to the last time I felt God’s real, unmistakable presence? … February! Yes, that long ago. You can see the problems this poses. Now, God has & is working in my life, but I am making a distinction between His working in me & in my life & times that I have been, as it were, in the very real presence of God.

In February 2010, I was in Costa Rica. In February, God blew up my mind & heart with an unreal, new, & profound insight into His love, into the real, tangible, & perfect love that is always overflowing with & from Him. This I can recall with great fondness & gratitude of heart, along with some tears of joy if I linger long enough, because God does that to me. We have a history like that… So, that’s the last time I felt the Lord’s active presence in my life, & I MISS HIM. That is basically what this comes down to. I miss Him so much. I miss Him and I want Him back … I want what I had in February, except for it to never leave. Christ promised us the Holy Spirit, to each who belongs to Him, we have the Holy Spirit in us. But what happens if we quench the flame of the Holy Spirit? If we live in sin? If we neglect God? We basically “disable” the Holy Spirit and stifle the presence of God in our lives.

In February, the Holy Spirit was flowing through me like water through a broken dam. Now? Well, I guess the dam has been plugged up … but with debris. This debris filling my heart & mind is another reason I will be in Birmingham for a little while. Part of the resting that is to take place includes a lot of cleaning and restoration, by God’s grace! In Costa Rica the Lord stirred a lot up in my heart, a lot of sin matters. Some of it I knew was there, other things revealed were a great surprise, things dredged up that have long been buried. There are some heart dealings to be undertaken. I don’t expect these to be fun, but I do trust the Lord that there will be much more luster and glow from my heart after this phase of life passes. The other side will be remarkable, and I praise Him now for the hope and encouragement I feel going into this, and I will praise Him in due time on the other side of this.

Still there are reasons for being in Birmingham that have to do with the development of my person and spirit for the sake of God’s glory, mission, & call on my life. My desires & dreams are big in relation to this. The central theme of this has to do with discipline, and because all things are spiritual (1 Cor 10:31) they all become spiritual disciplines, including the “physical,” the “mental,” the “emotional” parts of life. So when I talk about discipline, I mean more than reading my Bible and prayer. I am referring to disciplines such as running, riding, working out; such as learning to eat the right portions (not “US” sized portions), limiting my consumption of coffee drinks to one a  week (the kind from coffee houses), to cutting out unnecessary expenses, & learning to live well within my means. I am referring to disciplines like being out & about sharing the gospel on a regular basis, ministering to those in town who are “the least of these,” plugging diligently into my home church and being in community, finding someone to disciple me while finding someone to disciple! I am referring to working out my brain muscle by seeking to become more mentally disciplined!

I want to find the appropriate balance in life during this time, one that honors God, by training myself, my senses, and my thoughts & perceptions to be more like I might live as if I were somewhere overseas. I want to live in a way that says “No!” to more, “No!” to materialism … no to America, or more so the American Dream!

So, this is a little more about why I am going to be in Birmingham for a while. It’s a staggering position to be in, one in which I find that if I am not fully reliant on God, I will be at odds with all of life. But, God is more than gracious, and He is full of grace and truth and overflowing with loving-kindness, so I trust Him fully and welcome it!

That is life, as I know it now.


Dios se va mover en Costa Rica

If you happen to read this post, this is me asking you to be in prayer with me. I am traveling to CR on Wednesday to help with a youth retreat for an international youth group, primarily composed of MK's from around the San Jose area.

My friends, Mark & Marge Long, & their daughters Serena & Eden are missionaries in CR. They are dear and beloved friends of mine. Mark & Marge are the directors of the youth group and they are having a retreat starting Friday and going through Monday. Please be praying with all of us who are involved with this retreat, that God would move mightily in the hearts' of these youths! 

These kids are amazing. You see, when I was there in CR earlier this year, God and the Longs gave me the chance to share a few times, and just from those times I got to know some of these kids and there are some amazing young folks there! Pray for God to be working in their hearts already according to the power of the Holy Spirit. Pray the we would all witness the majesty and kingship of Christ our Lord in new and fresh ways, and in ways that only He knows we each, individually need!

- For the Longs that God would put His almighty hedge of protection around them, to keep them safe from the enemy's attacks. Pray they would be mindful of their thought, to check them by the grace of God against the Word of God, thus taking all thoughts captive unto obedience to Christ!

- For the Cannons, Josh and Amanda, who are traveling from Boston to come and speak and be the leaders for the retreat. Pray for their preparations and travels. Pray especially for Amanda as she is dealing with the recent death of her grandfather. PRay for God to speak through each of them in powerful ways, in ways that we know only He can!

- Again, pray for the kids! For God's glory to completely overtake them!

- Pray for all of us, the "leadership" that we get out of the whole weekend what God has planned for us to receive!


Phones and Mice.

My friend Herbie is a big shot (ok, he would never say that, I did), with these speaking engagements all around the States about adoption. He is director of LifeLine Childrens' Services, check them out! Also, while I am at it, check out their new (un)adopted program, its awesome! Anyway, back to Herbie. I was talking to him the other day, and was pleasantly informed that, one of my calls left an impact upon him. He was in front of 250 people speaking, when I gave him a call. Of course, I did not know this, which is why this is awesome. The only reason this is worth sharing is because during his speaking my call rang his phone, which was - YES, you guessed it - NOT on silent mode! So, in the middle of his presentation, he stops and says something to this effect to his audience, "I forgot to tell you at the beginning to silence your phones, and apparently forgot to silence my own." Then he proceeded to finish his speech, I am sure, with none the difference than if his phone had not rung. I enjoyed hearing this story from him. Probably funnier coming from him, but still.

The other day I was cleaning out my parents' garage, b/c this is my job since I don't have a real one ... YET. So, as I was cleaning it out, I came upon one of our common garage dwellers, a mouse. He was in this plastic tub and could not get out, I guess, since he was still in it. As I was sorting the garbage out of this box I saw and thought to myself, "Man, that looks like a mou... It is a mouse!" It was a little, harmless mouse. I do';t know if he was originally an albino mouse, or was just stark white because he had been in this box for so long, but either way he was white with red beady little eyes. I went on cleaning trying to think what I was going to do with it. Killing it was not on my list. He was too innocent looking and terrified! During my contemplation's of what I would do, my net door neighbors got home and I told them about it and the 3 girls came over wanting to see The Mouse! These girls are all in elementary school so you can imagine the high pitched noises coming out of the garage! Then one of the other girls, from two houses down comes along. She and her family are rodent experts with some assortment of them living as pets at their house. Amelia, is her name, and as I was told she is a spitfire. During all of this I decided I would glove up and take him, the little mouse, down the street to a wooded area and release him, thus feeling I had done the right thing by freeing him and not taking his little innocent life. Amelia walked with me. We walked and chuckled at the mouse in my hand as he squirmed and wiggled trying to escape from my grip. As we went, this little mouse was persistent and squirmed enough to get its head out from under my finger. Once he did this, with one of his little paws resting on my finger, he then started to bite at the air in front on my finger. I thought to myself, "This little mouse is ferocious, not going down without a fight." Then we got to the wooded area. As I opened my hands and let him gently to the ground I said, "Go on!" ... and he just laid there.

He was dead.

He was not biting at me, but gasping for air! I was suffocating him in my grip that he was trying to squirm from! I even said to Amelia as we were walking down the street, "I don't want to hold him any tighter or I might kill him." Too late! All those efforts...wasted! Poor little fella', he never stood a chance in my death grip, and I watched him suffocate. So much for trying to do the right thing. So much for being an animal rescuer!

On the walk back, after tossing him into the woods, Amelia continued to tell me how she was going to pronounce to the world that I was a mouse killer! She gave me no credit for trying to save him. When I told this story to others, they laughed.


Woes from an immune-supressed music lover.

Poison ivy woe. I find myself scratching, and thus spreading, poison ivy on my arm, both legs and other places. Not fun. Not having an immune system does not help, because I have no way to fight it off ... outside of scrubbing my skin raw with a bleach solution. Not fun. So, if by chance you see me around and I am randomly scratching, is because I am slowly being consumed by it.

Music ability woe. I love music. It moves me, uplifts me, makes me think, it encourages me and helps me to express a lot of what goes on inside of me which, without music, would not be expressed. In my car, normally by myself, I sing at the top of my lungs. I am finding more and more that I am humming a lot! All this to say, I love music. But, I cannot play it hardly at all! I try and try and it does not come to me. I know, practice makes perfect ... well, for me, practice drives me to insanity and frustration! Oh, how my fingers cannot remember the frets! Goodness, if only.

I am not attempting to complain. These are just facts. Maybe you can relate.