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Saturday, August 26, 2006

A week away does a spirit good....

"Be still and know that I am God" is the advice of David in Psalm 46:10 - but how do you find the time to be still when you are in very full time Christian ministry... or more honestly, when you do not know how or when to STOP and listen to God? I am guilty of doing MUCH for God, but much less with God. God tried to get my attention many times over the past several years - through family, friends, and circumstances... but I was too busy doing ministry to hear that still small voice, or simply too exhausted to hear it even when it was yelling at me.

So, this past week was a week to finally listen. My wife and I (and Luke) headed to Tennessee for a place with no Internet (yes!), no phone, and barely cell reception. (Yes, I'll admit holding my phone up at strange angles to see if I could get one bar... I'm not healed yet!) The place was Fairhaven Ministries, and I highly recommend it (and the burgers at the White Way Grill at the base of the mountain) to anyone needing some time away in a place where you don't have to strain to hear the voice of God.

We originally were not going to take Luke, so we could enjoy some husband-wife time alone, but we couldn't do it. The car was loaded to take him to the babysitter and when I went to wake him from his nap to take him, I broke down. This boy has hardly been away from either of us for his entire little life since he entered our home, and we just couldn't leave him suddenly for over a week! (Truth be told, I am the one with separation issues, but hey, I've waited 13 years for a child, so give me a break!) We thought the loooong car ride would be the worst part - but he was a delight the entire two day drive, and the ONE DAY drive back (14 hours!). He was amazingly sweet the whole drive! He only fussed the last 15 minutes on the way there, and it turned out he had a pretty good excuse. (I'll spare you the details, let's just say, be glad you didn't have to smell it.)

Luke entertained himself with the mirror, toys, looking out the window, eating, sleeping (and those other less delightful things babies doo, er, do.) In the end, we were so glad we brought him! As usual, he was his delightful sweet adorable self the entire time. It must be in the genes, oh wait, we're adopting him. It must be the wonderful home environment then! (or most likely, simply God's mercy on us)

Of course, we did give him some breaks from the car. Here he is enjoying a scenic overlook... though he didn't seem much interested in the view... he just LOVES to bouncie, bouncie, bouncie! Sara asked me to pose him for this picture so that we could show him someday that we brought his favorite toy with us all across the country. (click image for larger view)

This was NOT our cabin, but a replica of a cabin in a fort we visited. This place was rich in civil war history, but sorry, no detailed historical stories in this blog post... we were there just to relax, read, and enjoy God's creation with a walk along a beautiful river.

Here is Luke with his beautiful mom...

When Luke threw up his veggies, I threatened to put him in the stocks!

We had a wonderful week enjoying each other and God's beautiful creation in Tennessee. As you know if you follow my blog, I enjoy photography. Below are some of my pictures (click for a larger view of any pictures in this post) as well as a quote from one of the many books I am reading. (quotation is in blue)

Thirsty hearts are those whose longings have been wakened by the touch of God within them.
- A. W. Tozer

The voice speaks to us, “Aren’t you thirsty? Listen to your heart. There is something missing.” We listen and we are aware of … a sigh. And under the sigh is something dangerous, something that feels disloyal to the religion we are serving. We sense a passion deep within that threatens a total disregard for the program we are living; it feels reckless, wild. Unsettled, we turn and run quickly away… We tell ourselves that this small, passionate voice is an intruder who has gained entry because we have not been diligent enough in practicing our religion…. Sometime later the voice in our heart dares to speak to us again, more insistently this time.
“Listen to me – there is something missing in all this. You long to be in a love affair, an adventure. You were made for something more. You know it.”

The inner life, the story of the heart, is the life of the deep places within us, our passions and dreams, our fears and our deepest wounds. … Indeed, if we will listen, a Sacred Romance calls to us through our heart every moment of our lives. This longing is the most powerful part of any human personality. It fuels our search for meaning, for wholeness, for a sense of being truly alive. However, we may describe this deep desire, it is the most important thing about us, our heart of hearts, the passion of our life, And the voice that calls to us this place is none other than the voice of God.

The Sacred Romance, by Brent Curtis and John Eldridge

I love God. I have since before I accepted Him at the age of four. And because I love God, I have served God earnestly and passionately and wholeheartedly since the age of ten when I received my call to children's ministry, and have been ministering, teaching, performing, serving, training, building and BUSY for God ever since... and all of that is good and fine and God has used it, and will continue to... but I missed something along the way. Like a creek that was busy feeding other streams, but whose own spring was drying up, I was too busy refreshing others to notice my own soul was was becoming parched and starving. It took hitting dry ground where there should have been deep waters - it took me flopping like a fish out of water - gasping in shock that I was dying - and after at first wondering who stole the water, to realize I had no one to blame but myself. So I am returning to the stream and drinking deeply.

I invite you to pray for me - in working to make my private relationship with Jesus Christ the highest priority of my life so that anything else I do flows out of that, rather than out of human energy, creative ideas, hard work, or a belief that my worth comes from what I do, rather than who I am. Who knows, maybe I won't even need Mountain Dew anymore to keep up with myself if I am going at a pace that is God-set and Spirit-followed rather than just the flurry of ministry activity born out of the eagerness of a zealous servant of God.

Thank you for allowing me to share a little what God is teaching me. I will try to continue to share some of my growing pains here over time, but understand when I simply post light and fun stuff - it is because even in the midst of trials, a cheerful heart is good medicine. Thank you for your prayer, and also for your friendship.

Psalm 63
A psalm of David. When he was in the Desert of Judah.

O God, you are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you,
my body longs for you,
in a dry and weary land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.

Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Morning Feedings

I have a baby son. Since the day he entered our home, one of the biggest changes was that I have never used an alarm clock since. That era can now be refered to as 'BC' - Before Cryingbaby. Before Crying baby, I would fight the alarm clock every morning. Snoozing it untold times... exhausted from the day before and often working too late into the night, I would finally get up with just enough time to start my day. But since 'the boy' (as we call him) entered my home, I have awakened to his gentle cries for his morning feeding. Since he is adopted and we feed with formula, I volunteered the first day to be the one to do the morning feedings so my wife could sleep a little longer before starting her day. While eager for this time with the baby, I would nevertheless rise lethargicly and pick up 'the boy' and move to the couch or rocker in the front room to feed him. This morning I did so yet again.

I am always amazed that he rises without an alarm - just an internal reminder that it is time to eat - simple hunger stirs him. When I first hear him and peek into his little bed he looks up at me and beams the biggest most delighted smile at me... but perhaps less because it is me, and more because he knows I am the one who will feed him. He will coo as I pick him up and walk across the house, but then I need to set him down to fetch the food and all its accomplices - burp rag, pacifier, blanket, etc. The sweet boy will start to cry - not wailing - but making sure I don't forget his need. I talk to him, explaining what I am doing and promising that the food is only minutes, sometimes seconds away... but between brief spots of silence to watch me he steadily cries. Right up until the bottle is in his mouth. Then he drinks deeply hardly breathing as bubbles pour up through the nurishing formula designed to be just what his little body needs. Half way through he pushes it aside and I know its his way to say, 'whoa, thats too much' and then I sit him up and give him gentle pats on the back until he burps up the air he swallowed with the fluid. Then, instead of finishing the bottle right away, he looks out the window. Any window. He just searches for a window with light. He will arch his back and twist his little body to get even a glimpse of a window... and just stare out. Eventually a little wimper will let me know he is willing to finish the bottle. Another burp, and he's good. He then smiles and claps his little hands announcing that he is ready to start his day.

I used to play with him for a bit and then return to bed. But this morning, I decided to take a tip from the boy. I need a morning feeding too. I need to wake up hungry in for God. I need cry in my soul if I don't get nurishment from God's Word first thing. I need to drink deeply and steadily taking it in so much that God can see the bubbles flying as I soak in His Truth. I need to pause when I've had enough, and allow the Spirit's gentle nudges help me release what I don't need so that I can keep what is to be my nutrition of the day. I need to then look for the son - straining to get into the Light, even if only a glimpse. And then I will be able to clap spiritually, praising God for his grace and mercy and I will be ready to start my day.

But like 'the boy' I will need to regular feedings throughout the day - and may I cry if I don't get them.

Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk,
so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
I Peter 2:2-3

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Backyard Bible Splashes!

After a one year break to do a Family VBS last summer, it was time to return to Backyard Bible Blasts.... but this summer we called them Backyard Bible SPLASHES!

A giant waterslide, water games and a Gospel message were our formula to help equip our families to reach their neighbors with the Good News!

Of course, I like any excuse to get my Waternator outfit on and squirt kids!

It definitely was wet!

We started with some open free time, then went into some organized water games and relays.

The Giant Water Slide was a huge hit. The kids would have played on that for the entire time if we let them! It turned out to be a great draw. Plus, its the kind of thing parents don't want to buy for their own kids (a little big and expensive for a family, $399 at Costco) but great for the church to provide!

There's just something fun about water. So refreshing!

The parachute games were rather pointless, but still fun.

Racing with leaky cups!

But of course, it all is for the purpose of a fun entertaining Gospel message at the end. No matter how many pictures are taken of me doing magic shows, I always have a stupid look on my face.

An object lesson on the heart...

The cumbersomeness of trying to reach God on our own.
(no I don't use that word in the show, this is a summary)

Even Baby Luke got into the fun at the one at my sister's house down the street. Though he seemed a little overwhelmed by it all!

In the end, we definitely has a 'splash!'
(additional pictures and discussion at Kidology.org)