Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Clearing away ....

Recently Sanctuary Inn has purchased property near Mt. Hood in Oregon. The property is beautiful -- trees, open field, river front and some trails down to the river. 

As I have descended (and ascended) the trails several times I have noticed that because of their years in the forest they have become overgrown with vines, covered in dirt and in places are not well-defined. 

Because I enjoy working outside I have slowly started the restoration of these trails. And it is slow going. A few steps a day. Clearing away dirt, ivy, forest debris and trying to excavate the trail and restore it near to its original condition. 

At Sanctuary Inn our goal is to participate with God and His Kingdom workers to grow in wholeness and heal from brokenness. 

Working on these trails is giving me some insights about healing and restoration. 

I can see that as I work on the trail I have to clear away years of debris, dirt and invasive plants. These things (as "foresty" as they are) actually obscure the trail and in some places make the trail unsafe. 

The beginning of renewal and restoration involves this clearing away process. What has "grown over" my heart or what have I allowed in my life that obscures what once was there? What things have I let go or left untended that are creating situations in my life that are unsafe -- for the missionary or his family? 

Also, in my trail excavation, much of the trail looks worse now, but I know it will look better in the future. As I reveal the original steps and the hidden rock borders, I have to cut away a lot of plant life and remove a lot of dirt. This leaves the trail looking better but the sides of the trail look pretty raw. 

Likewise, in dealing with issues of restoration, life can look worse before it looks better. Dealing with issues is very necessary, but the immediate outcome isn't always pleasant to look at. "Excavation of the soul" will leave our heart in a better place, but it might not look that way right now. There will be raw edges, rough places, unfinished business; ultimately it is for soul-health, but it might not be pretty right now. 

And the simple act of doing the work is the beginning. I could leave the trails as they are; untended, pretty good to look at, but actually they are not doing or being everything they were intended. I know that the original owner of our property was a very wealthy Portlander who took great pride in the landscape of their place. It was her retreat, her "Eden". 

By me doing the work to restore the trails, I am honoring the intent of the original owner. I am seeking to bring back the beauty that once was and was intended for the property. 

When we do the hard work of soul-care then we are honoring God our Creator -- the God who originally put us in Eden with the intent that we would reflect Him forever. Now, in our damaged and sinful selves, we have to work hard to honor the original intent of the Creator, the God who desires that people see His image and His glory in us. For us to reveal this glory and for others to see it, we have to be diligent about clearing away all of those things that have obscured what He intended. 

Darkness has fallen ... I guess I will have to wait until tomorrow to continue this process of glorious excavation! 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Meanwhile, Thirty Years Later ....

It's funny how things can go in cycles.

Here we are, June of 2016, packing up our worldly possessions and getting ready to move ... but we don't know to where. The ministry we have been doing for ten years is changing and God has opened the door for us to begin a brand new ministry, but the location has not yet been determined. Our oldest son is living with us and he is impacted by this move because it means he needs a place to live as well -- probably not where we will be living.

In June of 1986 our oldest son wasn't yet two years old and Joann was pregnant with our second child. We had just been "invited to resign" from a youth ministry position (did I say that politely enough?). We were living in a town that we enjoyed and we were feeling good about the ministry that was happening in the lives of the young people at church as well as many of those at the local high school. Seemingly, out of the blue, it all came to a screeching halt ... and we were faced with a move, but we didn't know to where.

Through the gracious invitation of a friend from our youth ministry life we were invited to work for the summer at a large denominational camp. We were no strangers to camp life having already done two other summers of camp ministry prior to taking our current youth ministry position. We were set for the summer: housing, food and an opportunity to continue in ministry. But what about September?

The summer was great -- good friends and fun at camp (who doesn't love camp?). And somewhere in the time at camp, I can't even remember the sequence of events, a friend I had gone to bible school with invited us to live with him and his wife in their large house in SE Portland. Interesting side note: his wife was also pregnant, due pretty soon after Joann! What could be better? Two college friends, two pregnant wives and a toddler?

Well, it really did go great. The time together went well and through several different series of events I ended up working full time for a local bank, we rented an apartment (later we were able to rent a lovely house) and this whole sequence put things in motion for us to move overseas a few years later.

Now, it seems we are back in a similar spot. Today there are four kids, three of them are married. We have a grandson, soon to be joined by a granddaughter and we are near that time when I think you are supposed to retire and play with your grand kids. But God has given us an opportunity to start something brand new.

We know that because of the kindness of a friend we have a place to live when we move in a few weeks, but we don't know much besides that. God has a hope and a future for us --  we are very confident of how He has led to this point -- but there are things that we cannot see just yet.

I haven't even looked into the possibility of camp yet!

Tuesday, May 03, 2016

The Gift of Time

There is so much I haven't told you ....

Anyway, the ministry location we are at is closing down and we are in search of a new ministry location. In the meantime we have started a brand new ministry, but until it finds its new "home" we are in the proverbial state of "limbo".

I realized today that the gift of "limbo" is that I have time to do things that I neglect too often. Time to write. Time to read. Time to stop and think about more than the next 20 minutes.

The irony in this is that the focus of our new ministry is helping people to take the time they need to process life. Time to think, to reflect, to slow down and deal with more than the next 20 minutes.

I hope that in this time you hear from me more regularly. I am looking forward to reading books that have been piling up as well as taking time to listen to podcasts that help me think more clearly about our future and our plans. These are all good things -- too long neglected.

Let's hear it for the gift of time!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Not a great time to be pregnant ....

In recent months we have learned that we will become grandparents (for the first time!) and that our first grandchild will be a grandson! All really great news.

Recently as I was reading about the events surrounding the birth of Moses, I thought of the moms and dads, the parents, the grandparents and how they processed all of the tragedy and drama during those days.

First, the Hebrew midwives were instructed to kill any male children born, but the bible tells us that they "feared God and did not do what the king of Egypt had told them to do ...". Having to answer for their defiance they told the king that the Hebrew women gave birth before they could arrive and carry out the order to kill the child.

So, then the situation worsened when Pharaoh instructed his own people throw every boy that is born into the Nile, but let every girl live.

What was that like? I can only imagine that there was an exodus of sorts out of Egypt by those who did not want to comply. Families that had rejoiced over the news of the pregnancy, had fretted over the growth of the little one, had coddled and pampered the mom to be .... what would they do now? How many babies were actually hidden from Pharaoh? How many people left the country and lived with family in other places until this storm passed over?

We know in the midst of this that Moses was born, was hidden and then adopted in the very family of Pharaoh himself; God had other plans for the life of this little one.

In my mind I fast forward to the time of Christ. Another jealous, fearful king. Another edict. Another exodus; this time to Egypt, not out of Egypt. A murderous king of this world had plans to rid himself of a perceived rival, but God had other plans for the life of this little one.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Staying Alive

Last week I celebrated my birthday ... something I normally enjoy doing, but this year gave me a bit of  a pause. I turned 55 this year and in my mind that is very close to 60 and for some reason I am afraid of 60. So, as I inch closer, I am not excited. Sadly I have a friend who did not make it to his 55th birthday. I know others near my age that have suffered from strokes and blood clots and other very serious things already.

But, then I decided that my focus was wrong. I need to look at what I am doing at 55 that I wasn't doing before or what kinds of things I have done so that I can make a strong showing at 60 and at 65 and at 70 and so on....

In 2007 I decided that life was catching up with me and if I didn't do something drastic, I was in for some real trouble. I joined Weight Watchers (good people) and over time lost about 60 pounds. That is a good thing. As a result of the encouragement from WW, my wife and I started buying "workout clothes" and we started walking on a regular basis. Since 2007 we have spent several hundred dollars on good shoes and have walked hundreds of miles. 

I began running some and working out with some friends and got to the point where I entered a half marathon. I could never have done that before. I have climbed South Sister, the third highest peak in Oregon, twice .... you can read about that in another blog post. In the past I have done P90X workouts and am doing them again with my new son-in-law. 

Perhaps the crowning achievement to this point was that my wife and I walked the Camino de Santiago this last fall; 500 miles walking across Spain. For us it was a 42 day trek; challenging and rewarding both. I could have never done that a few years ago. 

So, am I getting older? For sure .... but can I keep going, keep pushing, keep doing what I can do to be as healthy as I can be? Yes, because no one is going to do it for me. I am responsible for me. 

I think I remember that from my kindergarten teacher! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fighting My Demons All the Way up the Mountain

Just about a year ago my second son was in the wedding of a friend and for the bachelor "party" they climbed the third highest peak in Oregon, South Sister. Sitting in the Cascade Range in Central Oregon at a height of 10, 358 feet, the view is breathtaking but the hike is brutal. To quote one writer, "....the extremely difficult trail to the summit of South Sister gains a staggering 4900 feet of elevation in 5.5 miles ..." So, when they decided to put together another trip this year, of course I wanted to go.

Rewind a little bit: several years ago when we were preparing to go overseas with our mission organization we had a weekend of team-building activities, one of which was climbing a 30 foot rock wall. I climbed well for about 20 feet but didn't make it to the top. I tried again, climbed well at the bottom, but could not make it to the top. I have never felt good about that. Item two: just this last December there were several of us who had trained for a half-marathon and the day of the run arrived. I had hurt my knee a couple of weeks earlier and as a result I ran about half of the half before I had to quit because of the pain in my right knee. I still don't feel good about not being able to run the race.

So now it is Saturday and we have started the hike up South Sister. It is not too bad at the start except it is all uphill and it will never get better! I am carrying as much water as I can, a few energy bars and some basic survival stuff. My son had coached me that the best thing I could do was carry as little as possible because every ounce would punish me later in the climb.

We hiked and hiked and hiked and hiked. The summit is just over 6 miles from the trailhead, but that is the longest 6 miles that I have ever undertaken. We climbed through the mini-boulder field to the false summit and I saw for the first time the path to the top. How could I make it? It was so much further up than where we were at the time and I was already spent. Resting for awhile, drinking water, eating fruit and drinking more water helped to revive my spirits and I set out for the top. In the back of my mind were the two significant challenges that I had not succeeded at. I did not want this trip to be a third attempt and a third failure.

The final climb involves a field of loose lava gravel that might be likened to climbing a sand dune -- but a really steep sand dune. Every step forward resulted in some forward progress and some sliding back downhill. Add to that the altitude and the constant need for water (my mouth was like cotton) and progress was incredibly slow. I had to pace myself, one minute hiking, one minute resting. Every time I rested I looked up the slope and willed myself to take a few more steps. I am pretty sure that the whole way I was convinced that I wasn't going to make it another step.

Little by little, after about another hour of slow climbing I was at the top! I had survived and I was up there! There was no failure -- maybe there was even a little bit of redemption for things unfinished. In the back of my mind as I pushed up the hill was the voice of my son who had assured me several times that I would make it and I would feel great and I would be successful. His words of encouragement and his expression of faith in my ability to make it to the top pushed me step after painful step.

Together we enjoyed the view from the top.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Bono, Me, and the Kids

About a year ago I was going to go to Seattle to see a U2 concert.

Let me tell you more: my youngest son, as a Father's Day gift, purchased tickets that he and I (and two of his siblings) might attend the U2 concert scheduled for June of 2010. I was excited to be included and excited to be with my kids for an event I knew they would love.

Then there was the emergency back surgery. Not mine, but Bono's. He was in the Netherlands and had to have emergency back surgery which resulted in the postponement of the Seattle concert (and several others).

Now it is a year later. I am just recovering from my own little medical emergency, and the concert is at hand. The four of us drive to Seattle (I am driven by my children!), find what we hope to be legitimate parking and we walk to the stadium, dining along the way (sometimes a hot dog has to pass as real food). Along with thousands of others we enter the stadium and are overwhelmed with the scale and crowd and the stage and the everything else. It is an event and a large event at that.

The warm-up band plays and we enjoy it ... mostly. Then, the road crew begins to rearrange the stage and at 9 p.m. the show begins. We see the band enter, we are on our feet clapping wildly and cheering. They begin to play and we all go nuts and cheer more and clap more and we never sit down.

I can't begin to describe the joy of the evening: joy at being with my kids, the joy of knowing that they were doing something for me that they knew I would like, the joy of them being there and seeing the band play and soaking up the performance that was flawless and awesome. But most of all it was my joy in seeing my kids so enraptured, so entranced, so absorbed in music that spoke to them, that moved them. It brought such a joy to me to be with them, to be part of this experience, to be a part of their lives.

And that is the best Father's Day gift ever!

The ER, God's Love and Sludge Suckers

I never planned on going to the ER last week; but then I suppose that is why they call it an emergency -- you don't really plan on it. Having had a routine procedure that decided to get complicated, I ended up in the ER and then stayed the night at the hospital. Having lost a fair amount of blood I realized that upon my release my normal slate of activities for that week was out of the question.

During this time the building where I live and am the manager, developed a lake in the parking lot because the storm drain became filled with sludge. Tending to be hyper-responsible, I was trying to figure out how to de-sludge the drain knowing that physically I could not (and should not) attempt the task.

That is where the goodness of God and the sludge-sucking truck converged! I was watching out my kitchen window and saw a truck pull up to a nearby drain, the operators got out, attached a bunch of hoses and they began cleaning out a drain on the sidewalk near ours. Eureka! There are people who get paid to suck sludge from drains!

This normally would not be a high point of my day, but when I realized that a.) I shouldn't be doing this and b.) God knew I would worry about it and c.) there are other people who have the equipment and skill to do these things, I immediately rejoiced and relaxed and thanked God for this small mercy.

Just to let you know: they agreed to look at my drain and in very short order had it cleaned out and explained to me how it worked and how to clear it in an emergency and that there really is no way to deal with a full drain other than to have them come now and then and clean it out. Yay for these guys! A small mercy but a great joy!

Who knew that God loved me that much?