Browse Category: Stuff To Think About

…But Nothing Like Haiti

Today was a day filled with sweat and hard-work. As opposed to some of the other days where we have relationship-time mixed in, today was spent entirely at the project site painting , painting, and more painting! I was encouraged to see the whole team work together as a single unit, offering up words of encouragement to one-another, and making sure the needs of others were being met before themselves. With a little relational-time mixed in, we ended up painting the soon-to-be computer room, kitchen, and a part of the outside wall. All in all, a very productive day!

The team!

Growing up in the church, I have participated in numerous ‘mission trips’: Venezula (2x), Montreal, West Virginia (5x), Amsterdam (3x). My faith has grow as a result of each trip along with a desire to make God’s name more famous among all people. Each one was unique and special, full of memorable experiences with different types of team members.

…but nothing like Haiti.

I have never been to a ‘developing nation’ before. Being here has opened my eyes to a poverty and need not seen anywhere before. To be honest, I’ve seen panhandlers going to a Braves baseball game, interacted with poor communities in Venezuelan mountain-towns, and done roof-work and light-construction on houses in rural West Virginia. But these people still had running water, access to some food, or the ability to ‘ask’ from people who have more than them. No doubt, these other trips provided eye-opening experiences…

…but nothing like Haiti.

In Haiti, nearly everyone does not have. Most need basic shelter, food and clothing. If you had to live in a tent full-time in 90 degree weather with the risk of catching Malaria… yeah, you’d have a renewed perspective also. As everyone knows, this small Caribbean country was ravished by a massive earthquake a little over 2 years ago. For something of this magnitude to happen to the poorest nation in the Western Hemisphere, infrastructure was devastated. The death toll was uncountable and the amount of relief needed insurmountable. If not broken already, the country was fractured and in need of restoration.

Two years later now, progress has been made. The amount of ‘tent cities‘ has decreased. Relief came and hope restored.

For me, as I think about these thoughts thus far in Haiti, I am reminded that, as humans, we are all broken. Because of sin, a chasm has been formed between ourselves and God. But through the work of Christ, we have opportunity for restoration. Like the country of Haiti, we don’t have to be immobilized by earthquakes and ‘disasters’ in our own lives. We can be assured that Hope has come and is restoring each and every day.

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In what way has an ‘earthquake’ affected your life?
How has God reminded you of his continued restoration?

The Fine Details

....and this was only mid-day on Day 1.

Today our team spent the morning at the Compassion project site where we had an orientation (complete with kids dancing, singing and welcoming us with hugs!) and began our renovation work. The morning was full of moments like above, while the second half of the day was spent painting the majority of the future-computer lab. We were told that this lab would not only be for the specific project we were at but also for surrounding Compassion projects who wanted students to do computer-type learning.

We debriefed at night as a team, had a time of sharing highs/lows, talked about some of our “highs and lows” throughout the day. The team shared about many of the things God has shown them in just one day here in Haiti. Very neat!

As I was flying from Miami to Port-Au-Prince yesterday afternoon, typing out some thoughts, this song came into the rotation:

So I’ll stand
with arms high and heart abandoned
In awe of the One who gave it all
So I’ll stand
My soul Lord to you surrendered
All I am is Yours

I was convicted that I was making this trip about the particulars. Through all the logistics, counting team-members, making sure everyone was in line and accounted for, I was putting  my identity as the “leader” and ensuring things were running smoothly. Instead of echoing that simple chorus at the onset of this trip, I was standing… but I was standing on my own strength and self-worth.

Instead, I want a prayer of mine (and our team) this week to be “surrender”.

One of the great things about going on a trip with Compassion is the ability to “experience” without the burdens of worrying about logistics and fine-details. They take care of nearly everything and give the teams they host space to hear from God.

So, I resolve to just that: give space and invite — invite God to have His way and raise up His name while we’re here in Haiti.

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Any song on-repeat in your rotation right now?

You Have Done Great Things!

We are in Haiti!

Our day started quite early yesterday, actually: a 4:30 AM alarm comes early when you don’t go to sleep until 1:30 AM (not the wisest move, but I’ll be on adrenaline and coffee for the week, right?!). It didn’t matter because I was expecting great things. With an interesting group of students (varying grade-levels, different personalities and backgrounds) I was quite-confident from the get-go that our team would mesh well and grow close very quickly. Boy was I right: immediately in the shuttle inside jokes and laughter abounded among team members. It was neat to see each student (and adult!) comes with a smile full of hope and expectation that God was going to move in our hearts.

We met our Compassion rep, Marty, before our connecting flight in Miami — such an encouraging and fun guy. What a blessing it will be to have him on our team for the week. I had only spoken with him via telephone over the last couple months, so it was fantastic to finally connect in person. Only minutes after meeting us, he was already a part of our group!

Finally… about to touch down in Haiti!

The rest of the day was a blur: landed in Haiti, claiming our luggage and navigating through the Port-Au-Prince airport (a bit chaotic), the bumpy ride to dinner and then a nighttime drive through the city on the way to our guest house. Everyone adjusted well and is ready for a jam-packed day tomorrow morning!

As I reflect back on my day and pray for tomorrow, I can’t help but be drawn toward this verse:

“When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joe; then they said among the nations, ‘The Lord has done great things for them'”. (Psalm 126:1-2)

That is our prayer. We expect and want to see God to great things in the lives of Haitians we come in contact with and serve this week. On top of that, it is our prayer that each person our the team leaves with a renewed hope and perspective that God can and will do a mighty work in their own lives back home. Our work in Haiti will not end after this week — there will be people to serve back home in Atlanta, at school, at work, etc. Personally, I am expecting God to great things in the lives of my children. Specifically that He would use Jen and I as conduits to speak hope and truth into their lives.

Tomorrow begins an adventure that each one of us will never forget. We’ll begin Day:One of Compassion project. It will not only be the start of ‘mission work’, but also a spark that will ignite a movement of compassion and hope in each one of our students’ lives. I unquestionably believe that.

Please pray specifically and individually for: Jordan, Emily, Maddie, Emily, Caitlin, Emily, Roukaya, Ansley, Jordan, Ethan, Jamie, Jen, Marty, and Dustin.

(And yes, you read that correctly – we have a couple Jordans and three Emilys!)

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In what area of your life do you expect/want God to ‘do great things’?

Comebacks Are Awesome

Comebacks are awesome. Period.

I remember watching Monday Night Football back in 2003, seeing Peyton Manning rally the Colts from a 35-14 deficit with four minutes left in regulation, eventually winning on a FG in overtime.

It was incredible. I sat there amazed.

In fact, that was the most amazing sports comeback that I’ve ever witnessed.

Comebacks are often associated with sports, but isn’t even cooler to see comebacks in life?

Relational comebacks? Financial comebacks? Spiritual comebacks?

When all seems lost… BAM!… God comes through and reminds us yet again that He is faithful

It can be described that the book of Esther is about a comeback as well.

A decree is issued: all Jews are to be eliminated, by order of the King!

The outcome seems hopeless, but then God saves the day.

God positions Esther so that He is glorified through this seemingly tragic situation.

Love it.

So when we’re downtrodden, distressed, or destitute, let’s remember that our hope is Him. Period.

Even if we don’t necessarily experience the “comeback” the way we expect to experience it, God is enough.

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What is the most amazing comeback you have witnessed?

One Word 365: Move

I am forecasting numbers all the time — sales at work, goals at home, etc. Most would agree that it is wise to look ahead and see where you want to go. As part of the One Word 365 Community I wanted to chose a single word to focus on this year.

As I reflected back on my previous 365 days, words like ‘intentional’, ‘family’, and ‘transparent’ came to mind.

As I look forward, I feel I need to get back to the basics. To reach any sort of destination, I need to move.

Personally, movement for me may involve guarding my family’s hearts, curbing indecision, or disciplining myself with exercise. All involve moving from one place to another. All need movement on my part.

But I also want to remember an important thing: it’s not about me.

So on top of that, my prayer is that God would move in my heart to lead my family, to prefer others, and to give me a greater passion to know Him more. I want/need/desire God to move in my heart.

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What word do you want to focus on in 2012?

Listen Here You Spoiled Little…

I was one of those people who waited in line at Honey Baked Ham the day before Thanksgiving. You’ve seen the line before, it funnels into the store after wrapping around the block. Then when you actually make it into the establishment, you switch-back-and-forth for 15 minutes to pick up your ham. Lengthy, yes. C’est la vie.

Photo credit: Saitor (Creative Commons)

After picking up the ham, we had to wait in yet another line to pay for it. While waiting something caught my ear — a well-dressed gentleman, maybe 40, speaking on his cell phone. My immediate thought, “Wow, he is laying out on one of his customers.” Cuss words were flying and the conversation we getting heated. He wasn’t terribly loud and demonstrative, but I’m certain that those nearby could hear his most of the things he was saying. What he said next broke my heart.

Listen here you spoiled little f***: if you don’t listen to me, I am going to take away your Xbox for a week.

I was appalled. Didn’t even know what to say. Possibly shame on me for not saying something, I don’t know. But in the end, I was floored. Who would speak that way to a child–let alone your own child? What sort of life do those words speak into this child’s life?

It got me thinking: what words do I use around my children? How do I speak life into these young, impressionable girls right now? Are they being edified by the things I say?

Most of the time, I would say so. But there are moments of frustration that cause me to overheat a little. Those moments need to be brought before the Lord and counter-balanced with forgiveness, healing and, in the end–life-giving speech toward one another.

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Have you ever been convicted by the words you’ve said?
What can you do to speak life into your child’s life?

Don’t Keep It In

I’ll be honest: I like to keep things to myself. That Isolationist Mentality of mine creeps in every once in a while…

Mistakenly I often say to myself, “I can do it by myself. I don’t need other people’s help. No one wants to hear my junk!”

As I was reading through a passage this morning, more than ever I was struck by the importance of wise counsel:

The way of fools seems right to them,but the wise listen to advice. (Prov 12:15)

God reminded me that I don’t need to do everything by myself. 

He reminded me that I should surround myself with people who want to ‘hold me up’.

There are people who have junk… just like me!

Photo credit: SMBCollege (Creative College)

As I begin to think about 2012 and what I want that year to look like, the idea of fencing myself in / purposely sharing my life with a select group of men has come to mind.

God has, time and time again, reminded me to not keep everything in. Share. It’s okay. Just act. Trust.

Not sure exactly what that will look like (discipleship? sharing life? more relational?), but I want to pray about what it will look like. I know it will take intentionality on my end, being specific and directional, and be founded on transparency and vulnerability.

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Who is “wise counsel” in your own life?
What does that look like in your life right now? 

Pause

Pause.

Step back.

Take a break.

Time out.

Halt.

Chill.

Whatever it looks like in your life, breaking the routine and getting away is always a wise idea. I learned that again this weekend.

North Georgia Mountains.

I spent a couple days with middle and high schoolers this weekend. It turned out to be a beautiful weekend (above!) to get away. Coincidently, the theme for the weekend was “Pause”.

I’ll be honest–I don’t think I was ready to pause.

My (and my family’s) life has been crazy busy lately. Jen was in Denver for five days last week. Work has been busy. Jen and I are training for a half-marathon in Savannah next weekend. If we don’t have something planned for the evening, we’ve been preparing for something else. Almost seems cyclical.

Then it hit me: in my busyness, I forget to stop. And not just in the big, weekend-type pauses but also in the daily interludes. I get blindsided by my routine and caught up in things to ‘keep me moving’. Am I moving forward or just simply moving?

While the weekend was great (seeing students worshipping, bonding, sharing, etc.), it also provided us leaders an outlet to reflect on our own lives. Personally, I felt God reminding me of his relentless love. No matter the season of life, his love is relentless.

After you hit the pause button, it’s time to press play.

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When was the last time you “paused”?

Uniqueness

I’ve never considered myself the creative type. Brainstorming clever ideas and coming up with imaginative plans have never been my strong suit.

I’ve always been the ‘feet-to-the-pavement’ to my wife’s visioneering. She’ll envision the big picture; I’ll get it done.

And would you classify me as a dreamer? Hardly.

Photo credit: Shattered Infinity (Creative Commons)

Creatives are often put in high regards nowadays for good reason: out-of-the-box thinking, expressive, push the envelope…

In the same vein however, I want to be reminded the important words that Paul penned to the church in Ephesus:

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Ephesians 2:10)

The fact is that we have all been created to bring glory to God.

End of story.

Our identity rests in Jesus alone — in His truths and His work in our lives.

For me that involves remembering that in my own life: that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; specific and unique; loved.

No matter our personality-type, intelligence-level, or inclination to tell a funny joke, we can hold fast to the truth that God has personally crafted our being to bring him glory and honor.

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Do you consider yourself a ‘creative’?
How are you thankful that God specifically made you today? 

Tozer on Complacency

In The Pursuit of God, A.W. Tozer begins by encouraging fellow believers to “follow hard after God”.

From the beginning, he talks about being deliberate to encourage this longing–but also recognizes that there are “foes” that seek to stunt this process. He writes:

“The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire. Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth. Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people.”

Photo credit: Eduardo Amorim (Creative Commons)

In the early stages in my walk with Christ, I was not deliberate with my faith. I felt “close” only when it was most convenient to me.

I’ve learned over the years, however, that sometimes my faith can struggle, doubt, and wrestle… and still be focused on Christ. That is okay.

Tozer then goes on to write that “faith is not a once-done act, but a continuous gaze [at God]”. Our faith is a work in progress; continually being transformed into His image.

Personally, complacency is one area that seems to re-surface in my life — probably because I don’t always see it coming. When complacency sinks in, you don’t necessarily see that anything is wrong (and that can be deadly!).

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What “deadly foe” have you been faced with in your life?