Sep 24, 2014

Follow-up on Teri

​I don't know if Teri or I have ever experienced something quite like the avalanche of love, encouragement, and support​ like we have over the last few days - it brought us to tears, to our knees, and to an ever greater awe of our Great God Who knows all, and holds all in His hands.

Teri and I are home now, after a 17 hour day, much of which was spent at the hospital, in three different stages.  All went extremely well, and the doctors tell us that they think they got all the cancer.  They have taken 5 lymph nodes to biopsy, just to make sure they are clear.  We will know in a week.

Please pray for this if you have a moment, that not only the lymph nodes would be 100% clear, but that 100% of the cancer is gone.  Thank you.

As a result of this, of course we have been thrust into another people group, many of whom are facing a much worse prognosis.  I lost my mother to breast cancer when I was 15, and it has permanently marked my life.  We know that many of you who read this are facing enormous challenges of your own, and we would be privileged to pray for you, much the same way you have leaned in for us.

Please let me add this - I believe that my mother's death has not scarred me forever - like Joseph toward the end of his life, I can say with full confidence that whatever evil was allowed to touch my life, God has turned it around for good.  Just watching Teri navigate this with such beauty, such grace, and such faith has demonstrated to me once again the enduring and persevering power of the Holy Spirit in a life completely surrendered to God AND what He will allow, knowing that He will most certainly use it in His divine time and efficiency.  "For these momentary light afflictions are producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison".  

Thank you Lord.

Sep 20, 2014

Beauty is the Reflection in the Eye of God

The subject of beauty has held men and women spell-bound, exasperated, and in constant pursuit for millennia.  It is at once elusive and subjective. Artists have tried to capture it with paint, rock, and canvas; poets and novelists in scroll, book and ink, only to then unleash it upon our imaginations, where it splashes its glory into a million facets on the sea of human consciousness.  

Brokenness has a beauty as well: that of the real, the honest, and the authentic.  In a fallen world, beauty is enhanced by the brokenness, especially when it relates to the process of redemption.  For example, in so many ways, the Cross is the most inhumane, grotesque of things, yet demonstrates/represents the most beautiful of portraits: the redemption of mankind.

Obviously, to see the Beauty in brokenness, one has to look beyond the surface, beyond the "now", and include the dimension of time - for therein is the culmination of beauty, to which brokenness serves as a guide.  It leads you to that for which it is longing: its healer, its validator, its culmination.

And that is why there is a picture of my beautiful wife at the top of this post.  I love Teri, and believe she is truly beautiful.  And all the more because we have just found out that there is something very ugly growing slowly inside of her:  cancer.  It is to be removed on September 23rd.  

But what I have found to be beautiful beyond the obvious refraction from the camera lens is the reflection from the Spirit of God inside of her.  She has not gone into fear or despair.  Instead, she is in rapt anticipation of how God might further glorify Himself through this particular journey we have been asked to embark on.  So many others have been on this one as well, including my own dear mother.

Pray for us.   May God extract the maximum amount of Glory for himself from this situation, and us His servants.  And may we allow Him to converge all the facets of our lives into the mosaic that He is currently assembling, in order to complete the artwork that He is making of our lives.  

Sep 8, 2014

Tale of Two Lads

I find that many times in my travels, that I am confronted with people and circumstances that leave me with huge questions, not the least of which is, "How did I get here, and why is this happening?!"  A close follow-up would be, "And what do I now do with this information?!"

Such was the case on Sunday, August 24th.  On the morning, I had the privilege to share in a partner Church in one of the more beautiful towns in San Bernardino County, California.  Their Missions Pastor has taken teams with me all over Hungary and northern Serbia the last six years, and because of them, I now have an awesome Son-in-Law!

One of the members of that team was an extremely talented young man named Joe, who could play the guitar, sing, and love Jesus all at the same time (!), seemingly without any ego, and with a heart the size of the state he lives in.  A finer young man you'll never meet, which is why it seemed so utterly tragic and useless when we discovered he was diagnosed with a ton of brain cancer in his head.  His subsequent courage, unfading devotion to Jesus, and consistent message and demeanor of grace, trust, and strength, has been an inspiration to so many of us, and I praise God for Joe, because the observance of his ordeal is causing all of us to draw closer to the Lord.

Speaking of tragedies, one doesn't have to go but less than an hour west down Interstate 105, and you will find desperation, degradation, despondency, and hope.  Watts is a district of Los Angeles, famous for it's avant-guard towers build by a "mad" Italian,  for its riots, gang violence, and one of the largest housing projects east of the Mississippi River.

And there, that afternoon, I got to see Jesus again.  He was in the hearts and hands of a family that couldn't be "whiter than white" when it comes to blond hair and blue eyes, but redder than red when it comes to the color of grace.  Running a bi-monthly service in Nickerson Gardens, the Taylors are laying it down and pouring it out, with arms and hearts open wide.  Jamming it out there on that hot basketball court in the middle of what some might call the center of gang-land, was an incredible experience.  Jessie even asked me to play some keyboards, share my testimony, and play an original song of mine that he really likes.  It seemed to be well-recieved.  

But going door to door with his three daughters in order to walk a young black girl home and visit those who couldn't make the service, well, I guess I need a new category - fearless, brimming with love, totally unintimidated, and unapologetically in the name of Jesus.  Wow.

And that's when Jadin "highjacked" me.  "Let me ride on your big shoulders, man" he exclaimed, coming out from under a tree he had just been trying to climb.  I told him that we could do a piggy-back ride, but shoulders?  Well, he had more faith than I did!!!

Carrying him around on my back was a joy I won't forget for a while - I haven't done that in way too long, as he told me to "giddy-up", "charge", and "get-'em!", every time we got near Jessie's girls.  My sunglasses went flying off, and another child grabbed them - only to be rescued by Rachel, who told me later we were about 5 seconds from never seeing them again!  No bother, it was just so FUN to play with the kids, and give them the blessing of "time".

I went to bed that night back in Chino Hills, thankful to God for what had been quite a stimulating, and incredibly varied Sunday - swinging from extremes.  Church in a building, church on a basketball court.  Meeting in one of the nicer places in Southern California, and meeting in one of the, well, you decide.  But at the end of the day it's not about geography nor even wealth or lack thereof.  It's about relationship.  And while one boy I hugged that day was white, and the other black, both are in the fight for their lives.

What difference could I make, in the few minutes I had with each?  Not sure, but I did leave a deposit for the Kingdom in each of them as best I could.  And prayer affords on-going investments into the lives of those we touch and lift up.

However, something else transactional happened that day.  They both made a deposit for the Kingdom into me - I got to meet Jesus twice that day, in the sick, and in the outcast, and it reminded me once again that the road to heaven many times is decorated by "the least of these", those that the world would find useless, or even excess.  

But I found in them Jesus, which is why they could bless me as much or more than I was able to bless them...  and it is still rocking my life...