global6kwater

Global 6K for Water {Join us!}

Things are officially crazy-town at my house. I’m finalizing edits on the book, we’re moving in 9 days and I have yet to pack a single box, then it’s Good Friday and Easter, then after moving we leave the country for a week. I want to help my kids transition well through this season, so I basically need to say, “Dear World, I am unavailable until April 15th. Thanks bye!” I apologize in advance for my lack of online presence. Please extend grace!

But while my life feels hectic right now, I cannot imagine if I had to do it all without water, or if I had to send my kids to walk more than 4 miles each day, down to the Willamette river to fetch (filthy!) water in a bucket for us to drink.

This is the reality for many moms and kids in Africa each day.

But, we can help! This Saturday, March 19th, we have an opportunity to join more than 5,000 others around the globe in walking, running, jogging, or skipping a fun 6k to help provide clean drinking water for kids in Africa.

Water-Effect-every-5-min_1024x530-1024x530

Nearly 1,000 children under age 5 die every day from diarrhea caused by contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene. We believe the global water and sanitation crisis can be solved within our lifetimes, and World Vision is focused on providing clean water and sanitation to every man, woman, and child in every community they work in, including the most vulnerable populations in the hardest-to-reach places.
World Vision and their partners commit to expanding our reach from providing clean water to one new person every 30 seconds to reaching one new person every 10 seconds with clean water and sanitation by 2020, and then continuing at that pace for another 10 years until we reach everyone everywhere we work by 2030.
worldvisionwater
Six kilometers is the average distance that a kid (usually a girl) in Africa must walk to reach water, and this water is often unsafe to drink. By walking or running this distance, we stand in solidarity with these brothers and sisters, created in the image of God, and raise funds to help provide safe drinking water. Here’s the story of Violet, to give you an example: Please watch! Worth it!

We are hosting a race in Oregon City, and if you’re local, we’d love to have you join us! We’ll also have a Kids 1k for those littles that aren’t up for the full-length.

DATE: March 19, 2016
TIME: 9:00 AM on Saturday morning
LOCATION: starting and ending at Clackamette Park
1955 Clackamette Dr, Oregon City, OR 97045

Links:

Even if you cannot show up at one of the race locations, would you consider giving a gift to provide clean water for a child? We’ve almost reached our goal and you can help! Click here to give. 
Thank you so much! I appreciate your generosity and grace.
{Thanks for reading.}
generous_giving_according_to_jesus_by_hooblah2u2-d4qk0em

That hidden handicap

It was just over 3 years ago we ventured into unpaid territory.

Looking back, it seems scary. I can’t believe we did it! We’d strongly sensed a call to plant a church, so we left our well-paying pastoring position, and prayed constantly for His guidance as we slowly stepped out in faith and began gathering with a handful of folks in our backyard, serving barbecued hamburgers and often singing a capella, Jeff preaching above the noise of the neighbors’ wood-chipper.

I’m not sure if they knew what they were getting into because we didn’t know what we were getting into!

But they were sweet days, even when October came and we were still gathering outside on Sunday nights. We handed out blankets to keep people warm, but slowly the earlier-setting sun left us in complete darkness by the time we sang our last song. We thought about requesting that everyone bring flashlights, but figured it was probably time to get a building instead.

October 2012 was the first month we wouldn’t receive a paycheck. At all. Yes, Jeff could have gotten another job, but for us we just kept sensing we were to put all our time and effort into this plant, and trust our Provider to provide. Thankfully, we’d already slashed our monthly budget by more than 75% during this other crazy adventure, so God had, in His providence, already prepared us for this slim-pickin’s season.

To our everlasting amazement, our no-salary stretch only lasted one month. 

His faithfulness, shown through the faithfulness of His people, provided for us almost immediately. Sure, the salary was a teeny tiny one, but hey, we had food on the table!

It has been such a gift, these last three years, of truly walking by faith. God has dumped His gracious provision on us–providing a home, fabulous housemates, plenty of food, clothes when we need it, homeschool materials, really anything we could ever need.

But now as we’ve gotten more comfortable we face a future where we’ll no longer have to be skimping and penny-pinching. We haven’t increased our monthly expenditures at all, but the truth is — we have plenty.

And while it seemed scary to live on such little, it’s actually scarier to live on much more. 

What do I mean?

There are a lot of ways that the kingdom of God is an upside down kingdom, but perhaps most dramatically in this way: Riches are a spiritual handicap

Don’t worry, this isn’t a money-is-bad rant. Money isn’t bad. At all. All resources are a gift from God and the means through which He often provides and blesses.

It’s just that a cushy income is common called a spiritual danger in the Scripture. 

This week my Bible study reading included Mark 10, the story of the rich young ruler and the remarks Jesus made to His disciples after the man sadly turned away from following Jesus, choosing His wealth instead. His words are startling to say the least:

“How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”  And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (v. 24-25)

The disciples were amazed at His words and so am I! Every time I read this, I squirm a little. A camel through the eye of a needle? Yikes! It’s not just that it’s a little harder to resist greed and temptation when we have worldly wealth, it’s WAY harder.

Money is the hidden handicap of the Christian life. 

Again, we shouldn’t demonize money, but we must be sober-minded about the great temptation we face when a comfortable income comes our way. We must become extra vigilant to give sacrificially, evaluate our motives, and keep open-accountability with others about the way we spend our resources. In our culture we think money buys independence. Poor people have to give account of their spending because we’re suspicious, but rich people can do whatever they want because clearly they must be doing ok.

The gospel is the great equalizer. No one gets to gain independence from God or others. We are all to live in personal and financial accountability, asking the hard questions and helping each other genuinely grow in Christlikeness.

Please hear my heart: Money’s not bad. The LOVE of money is bad. Jesus says riches are deceitful and can choke out the work of God in our lives. But we don’t have to let them!

If we do find ourselves making more money, let’s be ever-aware of the temptation and fight hard to remain faithful to the kingdom of God. Let’s not set our hearts on them, let’s give freely more and more and more, let’s use the world’s resources for furthering the gospel and blessing the world Jesus came to save. Giving breaks the back of greed and leads us into joy.

I’m preaching this to myself: Thanks for listening in. 😉

{Thanks for reading.}

Morning Light

Create a Crisis for a Change

“Is it okay that I read your wife’s blog? Her writing challenges me every time I read.”
—recent comment from a man friend

Kari’s husband Jeff here. She’s off at another commitment and under my watch right now our kids are scurrying from the yard to driveway pretending to be a peregrine falcon and Thompson’s gazelle, respectively, so we’re safe to write for a few minutes. Until a playful predator comes. That would be a crisis to their uninterrupted play time.

That’s what I want to talk with you about: crisis. Crises in fact. Lots and lots of mini-crises, created from our own hands.

A crisis is when you need God to come through, because otherwise you’ll fail. You don’t have what it takes, so you take what He alone can give.

Of course, we cannot create anything ourselves, but all of our creative powers — our creativity — is on loan from the Creator, borrowed to be used well. Whether we steward these powers for good or spend them foolishly on self, we better know what kind of power we’re dealing with. Too many people use their supposed “power” to play it safe, seek comfort, take no risks. That’s some kind of tragedy. (Others create all sorts of drama for themselves and every moment seems like a crisis. That’s sad but not in view here.)

Humanity has been made in God’s image. We may not look like Him in outward appearance, or take a representative form too often, but our essence, our createdness, is in the similitude of God. Makes sense, since He’s our Father.

God has created us for crisis. We were made to shine brightly in dark situations. Yet a person will only know if he or she is ready to trust Him in the inevitable big, unplanned crisis, if they’ve first learned by experience to trust Him with many mini-crises.

That is one secret to Jesus’ life. He is the definition of true humanity, coming to recreate what has been broken lost in us. Yet He did not do it by Himself. Jesus the Son depended moment by moment on the love, approval, and power of God the Father. He imaged the Father well. Perfectly, in all manner of crises. Never hurried, ever-present, calm and collected to unleash the power of God on the situation of Their choosing.

~~~

I hope soon Kari can tell you about the many mini-crises she encounters each week, and as you can consider yours, each one can find perspective to keep on creating these crises and growing as people. It is because of her steadfastness in the face of these crises, forged in fact by each crisis itself, that each us gets to read on the Sacred Mundane. That’s why many men I know read her blog. There’s meat here, substance more than mere style. Using the mundane moments of each life, what seems at first so unspiritual, she makes connections to the Gospel. Every man, woman and child can benefit from that. Kari makes public many private details, though each is processed in prayer and with her husband (me), and together we sense the Spirit’s leading for her to share. Frankly, it would be easier to not share anything personal. Just “write about God,” but while the words would be true, they would not be real.

Realness is where the crises happen. Realness is what we’re after.

There is a gap for each of us between the ideal and real, between what we say we believe and how we really live it out.

Most men I know … scratch that: every man I know likes to do things he feels confidence about it. Some only do the things they feel confident about. It’s why some don’t search for a better job, and why others like to fish. Confidence makes one work on their own car, and for the same reason others take it to the dealer to get serviced. Confidence. One can have the appearance of confidence with mere talk, yet to truly reveal one’s confidence, a crisis has to do it’s work.

Read More

connect

The nameless, tweetless, awesomest conference

It took two years attending before I could finally put my finger on it.

We’d gone there last June, flown halfway across the country and driven up into the mountains with people we’d never met. We’d just come out of a long, hard, busy season in ministry and life, and I felt agitated and tired.

Upon arriving I had the distinct, somewhat-awkward feeling of walking into your new fiancee’s family reunion. You know what I mean, right? They all know each other, and though you technically belong, you’re not quite sure how this will go. You shake hands and try to remember names, but there’s a lot of history shared between everyone but you.

But then, imagine: to your everlasting amazement, every member of the family seems keenly interested … in you. Genuinely.

Shift now and imagine this family reunion is a conference. These family members ask you questions and sit listening, really listening.  No one seems too busy or preoccupied. They read your body language and notice when you seem tired or sad. They care. They ask thoughtful questions. They’re happy, really awesomely happy, when they hear your victories and strengths.They want to know your story, all of it. And they open up their lives and share their own stories. Long, hard, joyful and painful stories, vulnerable stories. They share the lows and highs and you find yourself profoundly encouraged even though there was no pep-talk or fog machine.

You find yourself profoundly encouraged because other family members, other followers of Jesus, gave you the gift of themselves all there.

Imagine at this conference there was no live-tweeting. Imagine no one could care less about the name of the conference, or the church, or the denomination, or the movement. Imagine that you couldn’t really tell who the “main guy” was because there so many different people up front that no one person really stood out. Imagine no hashtags or FB selfies with location tags so that all those out “there” would wish they were here.

No. No interest in broadcasting the awesomeness to anyone not there. No interest in capturing cool moments or making sure “EPIC” was the descriptor of the day. No jumbotron listing live-tweets.

No jumbotron. No camera. No recorded sessions. Not even a stage. 

I’m talking crazy-talk now, I know. Crazy-talk. But I’ll tell you, I don’t know if in my entire life I have met a group of people who more fully exemplified the humility of godly community.

It affected me. Deeply. As we contemplated whether we would pursue the process of joining this church-planting network, various leaders asked questions, crazy questions like,

“How can we serve you? What kind of support could we offer you? How can we pray for you?”

Say what?! We haven’t even joined the network yet! You mean, you already care for us even before we’re “in”?!

In a strange sense, I got a chance to feel what it’s like to be an unbeliever. To enter a foreign place, where everyone seems to know each other. To see the beauty of people who seek you, love you, and listen to you, even before you’re “in.” And this, this gospel-community was so profoundly different from anything I have experienced in the world, this made me realize why authentic Christian community is the most effective catalyst for kingdom growth.

Only one time during the 3 day conference, did I see someone checking their phone.  I am not joking. It was as if the air spoke: “You’re here, so I’m all here.” And as joys and sorrows were shared, Scriptures taught, worship sang, prayers prayed, there was a humble recognition that serving Christ was the highest honor. We finished by joining hands, not surprisingly, but then … facing outward.

Hand-in-hand, outward facing, we departed to take the hope of Christ to the world and say with our lives, “You’re here, so I’m all here.”

This nameless, tweetless, awesomest conference renewed my vision, refreshed my spirit, and restored my hope.

{This week, may you give others the gift of you all there. Thanks for reading.}

wmbiblestudy

A simple approach to summer Bible Study

Which study should we do next? This is always the question that nags as we end each session of Bible Study. There are so many (glorious!) options, it can be overwhelming to choose. Should we do a Beth Moore video study? A topical book-study? A book-of-the-Bible Navigator’s study? Since I love to teach, I also enjoy creating and studying my own book-of-the-book study, then teaching each week and writing homework.  This is very, very, very labor-intensive for me and while I love it, I have noticed that it requires MUCH of me and not much of those who attend. *smile*

But this spring we went an entirely different direction, and now I’m asking myself: Why have we never done this before?!!! I’m amazed how learning in community so powerfully draws out the richness of the biblical text, how each person’s perspective widens my own, how just studying Scripture is rekindling that lost love for the Word of God like nothing else has.

I feel silly “sharing” this “new” way to study the Bible because it’s not new at all. It’s ancient. Old. Simple. But somehow over the years I feel as though we‘ve been drunk on books and parched for the WordWe've been drunk on books and parched for the Word. Click To Tweet

Sure, I read my Bible through every year. I even write Bible studies and do study it on my own. But in terms of our corporate Bible studies, growing together, I feel like we’ve become so glutted with books about the Bible we’ve become starved for the actual Bible itself.

It’s a little scary to say those words, seeing how I write books about the Bible. *smile*

But I’d rather you read your Bible than read my books about the Bible.

So here’s what we’ve been doing: studying the Bible. Tada! Aren’t you impressed? Ok, all jokes aside, two groups of us gals have been gathering to study through the New Testament. Like, all of it.  At our current rate it will take us 5 years, but hey–what else is there to do?! So we began in Matthew, and we covered 4 chapters a week. Matthew is 28 chapters long, so we covered it in 7 weeks. We added an introductory week at the beginning and the total was an 8-week study.

What I love is that you dear friend could easily gather a handful of gals this summer and use this same method on your own. No materials, no videos, no cost. Nothing. Just you and your Bible and a handful of friends in your living room.

Here’s briefly how it works: Let’s say there’s 8 of you and 28 chapters in the book. Two of you study one of the first 4 chapters (i.e. Two study chapter 1, two study chapter 2, two study chapter 3, two study chapter 4). A shorter book you could study slower (i.e. Philippians, with 4 chapters, you ALL could study each chapter, or even half a chapter, and cover the book in 5 weeks or 9 weeks, allowing for an intro week.) You use the same method (below) and all agree to devote just ONE HOUR each week, broken into 4 15-minute chunks. Anybody can find an hour a week—we easily waste that much time gawking at stuff on Facebook. Right?

Then, when we gather, each duo shares their process and discoveries from that week–their outline, cross-references and Aha! moments, insights and ways they want to see God work in their lives as a result of what they’ve learned. The entire group has read all 4 chapters, so discussion can take place, questions asked, insights shared. Everyone is involved, and if someone is having an off-week and struggled to finish the chapter (or can’t come for some reason), the others can cover for her, offer their insights. We learn in community.

The Word of God and the people of God. We need both. Perhaps this might be a simple way to wed the two and discover all over again the greatness of God’s holy Word.

{Happy studying! Thanks for reading.}

*Here are PDFs outlining the process and giving an example of what a week’s study might look like. Enjoy!

jesus heals

Jesus our Healer (audio)

As most of you know, I have been on a journey discovering what the Scriptures say about healing. You’ve probably picked up on the theme throughout the last four months, with posts sprinkled here and there on this often-controversial topic. On Sunday I had the joy of sharing my journey with our church-family, attempting to teach God’s truth clearly while honestly acknowledging my own struggles with unbelief and misunderstanding.

I believe this is an important topic for the church today, as we seek to be Christ’s hands and feet to a lost and hurting world, a world reeling with emotional and physical pain, a world desperately in need of Jesus’ touch. Would you take an hour (yes, it’s an HOUR!) and listen? I welcome your thoughts afterward; it’s an important conversation!

Also included is a PDF handout and a chart (thanks babe!) that outlines the places in the Gospels and Acts that specifically speak of healing. Also included are links to the 14 posts I’ve written on my journey into a better understanding of healing today. (Scroll down past intro to find all this) I hope those references and links can be helpful for you as you travel your own journey into discovering Jesus as our Healer. Thanks for reading … and listening!

With intro, references, and links:   http://www.godrenews.us/promise-jesus-our-healer/

Audio only: http://www.godrenews.us/wp-content/uploads/podcasts/2015-05-10-God-of-Promise-Jesus-Our-Healer.mp3

Establishing Family Worship {Ideas & Resources}

School starts next week and calendars are quickly filling.

Does your weekly schedule include: Discipling my children to know and love God?

Although Sunday school, kid’s programs, vacation Bible school, and AWANAs are all awesome, no one has more power to influence your child for Jesus than YOU.

You are the most important person, your home is the most important place, and your daily life is the most important program.

This week at RENEW we’re challenging each other to take steps toward leading our families to Jesus. The husbands and fathers were particularly challenged, but all of us can influence our homes and help create habits that foster faith, love, hope, grace, renewal. We’re not experts, but here are some simple ideas for small starts:

:: A little something done consistently is better than a big bang that fizzles out. Teaching your child just one short verse each week (such as Letter Lessons) is better than attempting an elaborate program only to quit after 5 days and do nothing at all. Our pride and egos tend to push us toward bigger and better and flashier programs and curricula, but small simple steps of meditating on God’s Word, praying, and practicing real everyday faith are more effective long-term. Start small and go the distance.

:: Do something within your gifting. If you love to read, read. If you love to act and play more active games, act our Bible stories with your kids. If you love to play instruments, sing! If your heart is for prayer, pray! Don’t stress too much about having the perfect devotional program, just do what you enjoy and let your joy and passion inspire your children. If you actually enjoy what you’re doing, chances are they will too.

:: Schedule it in. We only actually do what we make a priority. If we think family devotional time will just naturally wiggle its way into our day, we’re dreaming. Again, it doesn’t have to be every single night (although that’s awesome if it is!) but plan 2-3 times a week of intentional family time seeking God. Plan it the way you would a sports practice or swim lessons. Decide what you want to do and schedule it in. Right now is the perfect time, before school starts, to put family devotional time as a priority on the calendar. Make it a priority this year.

:: Find a great resource. My man has compiled a great list of family devotional resources. Browse and perhaps buy or download one that works for you.

Get a good family Bible. Since most kids are visual learners, and since knowing the Big Story is more helpful than getting bits and pieces of bite-sized morals, let us recommend a few possibilities for a parent-kid-family Bible:

  • The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name, by Sally Lloyd-Jones (also a read-aloud edition, and deluxe edition with audio CD). This one has become our favorite, even though it’s probably aimed for reading to younger kids. I’ve recommended it to many new Christians (even those without kids) simply for getting a grasp of the Story of God, and the Hero — Jesus. The words flow with a poetic cadence, making them memorable, and each story points to who Jesus is, why He came, and what it means to follow Him.
  • The Gospel Story Bible: Discovering Jesus in the Old and New Testaments, by Marty Machowski and A. E. Macha. Each story covers two pages (less pictures and more words), yet told in an engaging style. Each lesson has questions aimed to help kids notice the people and features of each biblical story, and it’s connection to God’s character, His Son, and the Gospel.
  • The Big Picture Story Bible, by David R. Helm and Gail Schoomaker. Another good picture Bible giving the over-arching narrative of God’s story. Stellar illustrations, though you’ll need to come up with your own questions for interaction and inciting wonder.
  • Long Story Short: Ten-Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God, by Marty Machowski. This one is more of a plan for daily discussions and lessons, for preschool-to-elementary-aged kids.

We have each of those, having added one a year to give new perspectives. As our kids have become familiar with the biblical narrative and story of Jesus we let them choose a story from two Bibles, and then read them together. It doesn’t take long, and each conversation has the opportunity to take a thousand twists and turns (in the form of questions). We see this as “quantity time becoming quality time.”

One last resource to mention:
A Beginners Guide to Family Worship by Winfield BevinsA Beginners Guide to Family Worship by Winfield Bevins ($2.99 ebook published by Gospel-Centered Discipleship)

Summary: Every Christian parent can lead their home in family worship — simply coming together as a family and worshipping God in the home. This little book has been prepared as an introduction to family worship and to help you teach your children basic Christian beliefs and to memorize Scripture.

(This ebook is 24 pages, and available in your choice of ePub, mobi, or PDF format.)

GospelCenteredDiscipleship.com also has numerous articles on making disciples in our families.

{It’s the perfect time to establish godly habits to lead our families to Jesus. I’d love to hear your thoughts, ideas, and resources suggestions for your own family worship times. Thanks so much for reading, and sharing!}

"Go!"

Even when I knew it was coming, the starting gunshot was always startling. I suppose that’s the point—the loud crack splitting the air gives that rush of adrenalin that helps the runners race. At that point, there’s no use sitting around and contemplating the race ahead, how long it will take, how much it will hurt, how it will feel to finish.

At that point, all you do is run like crazy.

On June 16th, we heard God say, “Go!”

For about six months we’d sensed that change was ahead. We weren’t sure when, or even what, but kept praying that God would make it clear whenever He was ready, and that He’d give us the sense—the grace—to just obey whatever it was.

And He did. He made clear the when and the what, and although it wasn’t at all what I expected, I had been set in the tracks and waiting for the gunshot. We heard it loud and clear.

It was time to run. Read More