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Puppets & Jellyfish

Last week I sat down to watch “Galaxy Buck: Mission to Sector 9″ with my kids, and I was kinda blown away. Here, condensed into a 40 minute children’s puppet movie (with quite a bit of humor), was a potent message. Not just a good message. I mean – take all the current spiritual living, devotional, God/Christ-centered literature that has come out in recent years – this movie will summarize a large percentage of it.galaxybuck

(spoiler alert)

Buck works in a call center for a large ministry, and is discontent because the poster on his wall constantly reminds him “God wants you to do BIG things!” He feels like he’s not accomplishing what God wants, and gets excited when there seems to be a chance. Things go awry, and he finds himself bummed again. Then, in the subterranean levels of an alien planet, he meets someone who rips his goal apart. Literally. He takes Bucks’ poster, and rips it so that the words left read, “God wants you.” I asked my 10-year-old daughter the next day what the message of the movie was about, and she answered clearly the same thing: “God doesn’t want you to do big things, as much as God wants YOU. You’re not a shark, you’re a jellyfish caught in the flow of God’s Love.”

The obvious push-back to that is: “That sounds like an excuse for laziness, and not trying anything.” Certainly it could be manipulated into that. But when we allow ourselves to exist fully in the flow of God’s Love – we have to trust that WILL call us to be actively offering ourselves fully toward the mission of lives, community and creation transformed.  But our activity doesn’t begin with us setting a goal of “accomplishing great things for Jesus”.  It begins with us relinquishing control of everything in our being, into the great Love of God.  That may mean we accomplish great things by the measures of this world, or that mean we lose everything and all noteriety for His sake.

The first step?  Allowing the truth of that ripped poster to sink in.  “God wants YOU.”  Not because of your gifts or talents.  Not because of your heritage.  Not because you’re specifically poised to accomplish what no one else could ever do.  Not because of your purity.  But because He Loves you.  Fully and completely, and without reserve.  Just as much when you were making horrible decisions as He does today.  Most of us have been loved wrong by a human in our lives, and it messes up the kind of love we even see as possible.  So let the love of God sink in a bit, and then release yourself to it.  There is no greater place to exist, or calling to walk forward with…

For more on covenanting with God to do/be whatever He wants, check out this modern version of the “John Wesley Covenant Service” I’ve written for use in a church setting.

For a few words on God simply desiring/loving you as His child, here’s a Spoken Word I recently recorded.

Enough.

image116I remember working at Youth Haven Ranch as a teenager.  Waking early to shower, and walking on my own to the giant red barn, a new addition to the campground since I’d attended as a camper.  The dew on the grass competing with the beauty of the steam rising out over the field in the distance.  The birds calling out to welcome anyone willing to rise early enough to wish them good morning.  Coffee was not yet in the vocabulary of my palette.

With difficulties at home, it meant the world to have the confidence of Kyle, Mike, Bob, Dave, Joe, Scott and the others.  These men who were leaders of the camp, placed me in oversight of the “Petting Farm” for the entire summer of 1998.  Each morning I’d rise early to great the midwestern Michigan beauty that exists as an island between streams of somewhere in the sprawling farmland, otherwise known as a “campground”.  I, neither “city kid” nor “country boy”, but rather a conglomerate of “raised by church-going single mother” and “growing up on a highway”, would open up the barn every morning.

Thomas Merton echoed the Psalmists who spoke of all creation having special knowledge of God, and an awareness of the divine.  The personified versions of these animals knew not only God, but could have significant discourse with me on passages of scripture, drama from home, or the latest girl counselor I might be crushing on that summer.  Norma, the cow, was particularly wise and would share her insight with me – providing I allowed her to escape to the grassy fields before Jack – the lone donkey.  As you might expect, he was little help anyways, always laughing when I’d ask his opinion.

The exuberance each animal met the dawn with, running out of their stalls to stretch, run, and snack, was equaled each week by new sets of young people – each eager to pretend for a week – that life was simple.  It was a campground for economically and socially disenfranchised kids.  Shedding the fear, the instability, and the harsh climates of home – by the 3rd day most kids understood they were safe and loved here.  The animals knew the same as I entered the barn each morning, to care for their stall and feed them.

I attempted to begin most mornings, once the animals had been let out and immediate needs cared for, soaking in the silence of the big red barn.  Breathing slow at the start of the day, I would go over the schedule of what groups would visit, and read some of the scripture from a recent message at the chapel times.   I was experiencing for an entire summer, what many of the children there tasted for only a week – the desirable simplicity of life.   To understand sabbath was less a day of the week, and more an invitation to rest and be content.

I want my kids to know that contentedness.  Shoot, I want the world to know that contentedness.  In my best moments today – I have it.  The contentment Mary and Joseph felt when they laid their firstborn son in an animal food-trough, surrounded by the sights and smells of the barn.  The breathing slow.  Not knowing what tomorrow might look like, but holding enough in this moment to outweigh any anxiety that may threaten to surface.

There is so much to hold in this moment.  You are beloved.  You are enough.  You are capable.  You are able to contribute to the lives of others.   Your smile can be a candle-light in the dark day of another.

There may be weeds growing – but there is so much wheat.

May you discover how it grows even today.

 

Political Climate

As we walk forward, toward the unknown we begin to roam in new altitudes,

and attitudes mixed with platitudes have begun to make it hard to breathe

the hot air just a little too thin, sunlight begins to dim and I realize

I’m in flip flops stopped at the bottom rock looking at the top of a mountain I’m unprepared to climb.

And I’m here today to say, I think that’s okay.

Because this is Mount Political Climate.

You may have noticed a slight decrease in temperature because it’s cold

A system way too old for anyone to question, we’ve steam-rolled the bold ways of discovery

And fell deep into the well of “this is how it’s been done”, and the sun continued to rise

so our decision must be wise. We disguise the misguided attempts at others to deconstruct

Those who might call it corrupt, because they’re simply outsiders, underperformers,

Unprepared misfits who couldn’t handle the climb

But it’s time those of us not clinging to the ledges to look up

And realize what we seek, might just not be the peak

Of Mount Political Climate.  Refuse to Climb it.  Walk Around.

Walk Around.

The sounds should astound us at first, like a thirst that’s unquenchable

Things unmentionable aired out for public consumption, because that shows gumption

Whatever that is.

And the fad is growing to start showing your opponents weaknesses before they get a chance

To show you with your pants down.  The town meeting ignores the fact that

you’re running to be a leader,
Because deep down, they’d rather be amused.

A in the negative, Muse meaning to think, we are a people not thinking

While our patterns go on stinking and bringing about change in ways

we never would’ve chosen On purpose

Getting nervous as we’ve only scratched the surface

The fact is, we deserve this type of leadership, because it’s only a megacosm

Of the micro we live every day

As we live to get paid, and sway situations to shine the sun on our day

I wanna get mine and protect it, and keep others out so they can’t infect it, but don’t try to inspect it,

because – like I told you, it’s mine.

My Mountain of Political Climate.  Refuse to Climb it. Walk Around.

Walk Around.

And so we’ve found that sounding an alarm might just do some good

And it could shake you and I away from what would, toward what should happen, as we’re mapping new routes

As we refuse to climb the foodholds set before us, though others may ignore us, or abhore us,

Our voices join in one chorus,

That healing won’t come by name calling, health is not built by a wall, and one sure way for us all to fall is to try and stand so tall everyone else seems small.

The ball is in our courts, to call our courts to once again view the human in their being.

To start seeing names instead of numbers, to welcome new comers to the table, and perhaps rising above all political noise, is the silent necessity of, Love.

The hidden wealth of nations is not found in vaults, or in banks.

That Power is not found in muscles, missiles and tanks.

That Happiness not found in tickets to Disney and apple pie.

We must go beyond a simple cry for change, and embody what we hope

Facing the ends of our rope, we come together, tethered to something greater than ourselves

Dusting off the shelves of a room we knew well when we were young

Before we became so high strung, and the songs we sung were a lot more inspiring

Not conspiring for one to rise, but to ignore such lies and seek the good of all.

Because, humanity, united we stand, and divided we will fall.

But it’s a Mountain, this Political Climate.  Refuse to Climb It.  Walk Around.

interrupted..

There once was a church in a place far away

They were proud as they entered the church every day

Every time the doors opened, they’d fill up the pews

And when burning bush talked, they’d remove their shoes.

They shook hands with love, and greeted each other,

When having a meal, invited one another

They’d pray for the people, who never came in

They’d pray for their budgets when wallets seemed thin

This lovely old church found so far from here

Their singing of songs was lovely to hear

Always on tune, and always on key

They were often mistaken for those who sang professionally.

One day in this church, found so far from here

A young man came around, who’s purpose wasn’t quite clear

He sat when they stood, making some of them nervous

Just what was he hiding, beneath the surface?

A task force was formed, to follow the lad

To observe his actions, and judge good or bad

They listened and watched, and saw what they thought

He cussed and he drank, he stole and he fought

This task force reported, next gathering time

Something had to be done, this was crossing the line

A decision was made, to proclaim with some flair

The next time the young man attended for prayer.

The scene was all set, and parishioners waited

As the young man approached , the moment seemed baited

The line had been cast, and the hook was quite clear

But they hadn’t expected just what they might hear.

Their pastor began, “Lord thanks for revealing,

The ignorant ways of those who are stealing,

Those who are drinking, and those who do curse

Are like crumbs at the bottom of a grandmothers’ purse.”

“Thank you that we are not like those without,

without reason to live, so much reason to doubt,

They think they are happy, they think they are fine,

They think they can see, but are completely blind.”

“So God we are thankful, we aren’t like those people

The one’s who have never even been under a steeple

They don’t know the words to each chorus we sing

They don’t know your Word, Lord they don’t know a thing.”

“Thank you for making us so good and wise,

We invite you to look on us with both of your eyes,

To see the incredible things that we’ve done,

To honor your ways, and to worship your son.”

The words had been spoken, and they were assured

By their holy speaking, he’d see Christ as Lord

He’d cry at their altar, and they’d smile when

Eventually he would become just like them.

But we shouldn’t be shocked at this point to find out

It wasn’t their words that turned him about

He wasn’t moved by their spotless approach

And didn’t seem to desire them as coach.

He ran to the altar, that place of their pride

Fell down on the floor, with his arms open wide

They tried to keep singing, as planned from the start

But they couldn’t keep from being warmed by his heart.

He prayed, “Oh God look at me, stumbling along,

In need of your mercy much more than a song,

If you don’t respond, I’m not sure what I’ll do,

But I know that if I’m to make it, I need grace from you.”

With that he bowed, and tears ran like a stream

So much that the altar had started to gleam

The people were taken by such a sight

And felt like maybe they weren’t doing alright

The way this young man, depended on God

The way that his tears at first just seemed odd

Reminded each one of the early days spent

Receiving forgiveness as they would repent.

And so one by one, these people came up

As those who’d been emptied, uplifting their cups

Not for his approval, or seeking his prize

But simply to be seen by the loving Father’s eyes.

Revival had come to that morning at service

Though it came in a way that makes you and I nervous

To let go of all our reasons we stand,

Our trophies, our titles, and empty our hands

To throw ourselves down, at his Mercy seat

Father, Son, Spirit, whom washes our feet

Our tears may flow also, as we receive love

So undeserved, and so free from above…

Fall Ave.

The squirrel lifts its head

as acorn falls, alarming all

against the gravity of autumn.
Solemn leaves of orange, pale enlight1against the sidewalk chalked by children who live here,

riding by now, plowing through late morning as Moses through Red Sea-

warning neighbors recently wed, the beauty of life to be,

of life that was, as others’ lives come to dusk, grandparent of the street whose feet shuffle slowly,

feeding birds who greet this quiet community with their own,

interrupted by invitation to observe, daughter has worked up nerve to try,

bike off sidewalk, just a moment but smiles years in practice,

proud to her father, sits on porch swing slow, wind blows and leaves fall like gentle rain,

plainly proclaiming place where life will come again.

Small nod and raised hand sing hello to passersby, one cannot pause – spoils of her morning in hand.

Each front porch presenting welcome demands of slow-worn paths into community,

lit by street lamps that saw grandparents with mud pies.

language of (new) creation…

Anyone who has spent time in a land where a different language is spoken knows just how much it can impact your daily existence – even in small ways that add up.  It made me think about something bigger…

There is an ancient language, that has always existed.  Long before we could measure time itself, this language brought order to chaos and spoke form to formless.  The language was shared by both creator and creation, but it didn’t take long before the language was forgotten by those created to speak it into and over creation.

It was the language of love.  The language of life.  The language of new.

The language of God.

The brokenness in what was intended to be natural communication caused pain.  A father whose children no longer knew what it meant that they were loved infinitely and intimately.  These children pursued other sources of identity and value.  So He “called out” a people and enabled them to speak this language with Him.  It was meant to be a living illustration for all peoples, of what life could be like with these new ancient linguistic capabilities.  Finally, the world was ready, and He came down to tear down the walls of silence separating those who could not speak or hear.

The Word was for all.  Some chose to listen, and not speak.  Some chose to speak, and not listen.  Some misunderstood, for the words they heard were not the ancient Word, but merely poor imitations of those who’d grown able to repeat what they’d heard, but had no idea how such grammar functioned.

Yet God continued to hear and speak, and this ancient language was changing lives and bringing redemption to brokenness, light to darkness, love to emptiness, and hope to hopeless.  It is the whisper of a space and time where such language will be the ONLY language spoken by all.  Many have heard the proclamation that such a time has arrived even now, and have begun to speak that way.

But such language was foreign to the self-centered dialects that had been established over time.  As the people aware of this ancient tongue go out speaking the language of New Creation, they grow tired of the constant need for translation and surroundings that don’t seem to understand.  So regularly, these New Creation citizens gather together for encouragement.  They celebrate by joining as one voice and hearing from God, and go out with a renewed commitment to help others recover the language they were born to speak.

Unfortunately, some have allowed such gathering to become the purpose and goal of the language.  We are reminded that the purpose of language is to be spoken.  The purpose of this ancient transforming love and life-giving language is that it would be heard and spoken by all.  It is the language of New Creation.  The language that will transform your home, your community, and our world.  The language of Love found in the life and Words of Jesus Christ.

These words may not always make sense to the language our world has learned to speak.  These words may look foolish.  But they are Love, in ways our creation was made to receive ages ago…and will one day again fully.

Will you hear the Father’s love today?  Will you speak? Will you join with others who need the encouragement of your presence in such endeavors?  You are invited…

 

 

1 Month Old

Many “Connected Child” books talk about “Family Age” as the amount of time a child has spent in their forever home. In this regard, Phoebe is officially 1 month old now!! 🙂

It has been an incredible month. There are still new things we experience and understand daily. She is learning English exponentially, and there has been an increase here even in the past few days. (by “Learning English”, I don’t mean you’d understand much of what she says. Rather, I mean 1 out of 10 words might be English-ish.) Our local church family has been an incredible gift, and the time/transition back into work schedule has been extremely gracious – which has helped a ton. We knew this would be work, but we had no idea this. Would. Be. Work. 🙂

This past week, Phoebe attended church for the first time Wednesday night to see her FullSizeRender(1)sisters receive their awards from our church children’s programming. It was obvious she wanted to be on stage with them. Yesterday was her first official Sunday morning worship experience. I’m sure there was some familiarity with it, but also a whole lot of foreign-ness to what was happening still. I can’t imagine what she’s thinking as everyone around her knows her name and is so excited to see her. Her face shows – “I’m not against this, lol, I’m just a little overwhelmed and weirded out.” She enjoys just being with her sisters, and takes her cues from them.

Bedtimes can still be difficult – but hey, they were difficult before bringing her home too! This morning was almost too awesome for me as a father, as all three girls stayed in bed all night long until 6am – and Phoebe cuddled a bit with me this morning as Sarah and I still laid in bed. (By “cuddle” I mean she included me in the playground/jungle-gym she considers her parents’ bodies in bed to be.)

There have been some important moments of struggle: a 45-minute stand off between Phoebe and daddy after she had a meltdown and wanted to leave the room. In French, I reassured her several times, “Daddy is gentle. I love you. Daddy will not hurt you. I will wait for you to be finished crying.” It ended with a long hug that is still burned in my memory. 🙂

Even on nights where we all want to just climb into bed, Phoebe asks for the dependable evening routine of family prayer. When asked if she wants to pray, she often agrees and prays “Jesus thank you. (several unintelligible words and phrases) Aaaaamen.” That about sums up many of our best prayers, eh?

More and more families continue to receive word they can come bring their children home, and we are celebrating with all of them – even as we pray for their struggle in country. We look forward to the day we can say all adopted children have been allowed to go home…and we look forward to the day all children are born into healthy, stable homes even more so!!!

Pray for the DRC, and a peaceful transition of power. Even last week, as John Kerry met with President Kabila – it seems like the same generic rhetoric: “Kerry urges timely/credible elections, Kabila expresses need for funding/logistical support. Both smiled for a picture and went about their day.” Meanwhile the Congolese people need someone to lead them who champions the hopes/causes/needs and rights of the people.

Today as I write this, Sarah and the girls are preparing for a trip to the Amish areas nearby. I can’t even imagine what this girl thinks of her new home country. We watched some videos last night of our first visit to see her, and the videos included her friends from the orphanage, and foster home, etc. She smiled, and was obviously shy about seeing herself.  She also kept asking where Addie/Sophie/Ruby were, and wanting to watch videos that had her with each of them instead. That seems like a pretty good thing. 🙂

Thank you again for all of your prayers and encouragement, and for celebrating with us – as our family continues to discover its’ new shape and schedule. 🙂

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