(a remix from the archives)
Jeff is a delightful story teller. A master really. I've always admired it. He told me stories from the first time I met him and I was as taken by them as the crowds who love his stories now.
But those stories aren't what convinced me.
Instead, I was convinced in that one moment when I said all those things.
Things I hadn't spoken in years because I was trying so hard to overcome all of my seriousness. But with him I said them.
And he was leaning in. Not pulling back.
I loved him. Right then. I know God made that so.
All the Unlikely would continue to swirl through and around us, but it was that moment (how could we have known?) that gives me chills even now.
I am so very grateful for this story, our story, that we live and tell together.
He was born to two parents who loved Jesus.
He grew up the adorable third boy, afraid of nothing.
He climbed his first mountain (Mt Hood) at age 5 and lived a majority of his childhood hours and days outside. He discovered, delved, created and dared over the beautiful forested acreage he grew up surrounded by.
Somewhere along the way he fell in love with Jesus. Not just an obligatory confession of faith, but an actual, “Jesus knows ME!” experience. It happened at a baseball field and involved a dramatic home-run. He was forever changed. Forever known.
He was well acquainted with limits. Because he loved to get right up in their face and push through them.
He dreamed BIG dreams. He never quit.
He learned to seek the Lord where he played. In the forest. Among all the adventure and freedom. He talked to God about whatever. Everything and nothing. Feeling full confidence that he was heard and adored.
He hurt. And fell. But he continued to pull toward the lingering, pervasive calling of his Savior and Friend.
He always had something to say and a story to tell.
He never ceased leading, but was saved in the following.
She was born to two parents who loved Jesus.
She grew up the first born of two girls.
She was cautious and afraid of everything.
Inside was her favorite place. Her sanctuary. She disliked the heat and wind of outside. She had an aversion to bugs and the way dying grass crunched under her feet. She preferred playing with dolls in the sanctity of her own space or reading books for hours on end.
She liked to know what to expect. She liked a plan.
She followed every rule laid in front of her with obedience and persistence. She understood fully the concepts of right and wrong.
She never knew life without Jesus. She was told that following him was the right thing to do, so she obeyed.
She addressed her Lord as she addressed life—through the rules. She sought to do what He would want her to do. She read, studied and adhered to the regulations and expectations laid out for her by her family and her church community.
She came to know Christ as a trusted and faithful friend, falling more in love with Him as she realized how his gracious presence remained despite any errant choices she made.
She followed obediently to the ends of the earth listening intently to the stories of others, but ultimately she discovered a most astounding freedom that proclaimed in her own leading voice.
They were Unlikely in so many ways. Raised thousands of miles from each other, with completely different histories and communities and memories and friends.
Like dynamite they exploded intense at the counter balance of their strengths. Their early moments together were chock full of intrigue and interest as they discovered another one so completely different from themselves. They admired. And they were inspired.
Africa was decided long before they ever set eyes on each other. And over many long conversations and very many prayers, they turned their gaze together toward a faraway continent and a way bigger than them dream.
The disparate qualities of their home cultures threatened and taught them. But they did not have a name for it. They just saw everything from a vastly spaced chasm—roles, rules, church, men and women. Life.
There was a constant pull in their conversations and in their decision-making and in their plans.
'Unlikely' was the street named for them. Where they lived. What they were called. How they were critiqued.
From where they were judged.
They realized in time, that this Unlikely was not what pulled them away from each other, but, in fact, was the force that anchored them close.
It wasn’t their own promise that made it so (though this did matter).
It was His promise.
For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment. Luke 1:37 AMP
In a country called Uganda, they became Us.
And more than any other hospitality Uganda offered, this was one of the most sacred treasures. One of the sweetest fruits.
In that third culture-- different from hers, different from his—they started from scratch. Together.
And in that wrenching, glorious transforming Uganda became their Home.
It was mercy that brought them there. Sweet mercy.
And for far more than the initial proclaiming they had in mind.
And they did. (They do.)
But they learned, as they spoke His truths, that the most astounding power in His story is how it redeems your own.
For this reason seeing the greatness of this plan by which you are built together in Christ, I bow my knees before the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, For Whom every family in heaven and on earth is named...Ephesians 3:14-15 AMP
And His Redemption radiates brightest in every Unlikely place.
Now to Him Who, by... the [action of His] power that is at work within us, is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly, far over and above all that we [dare] ask or think [infinitely beyond our highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams]—Eph 3:20AMP
Their very union required His power.
May He grant you out of the rich treasury of His glory to be strengthened and reinforced with mighty power in the inner man by the [Holy] Spirit [Himself indwelling your innermost being and personality].Eph 3:16AMP
His Love did what they could not.
May Christ through your faith [actually] dwell (settle down, abide, make His permanent home) in your hearts! May you be rooted deep in love and founded securely on love,
That you may have the power and be strong to apprehend and grasp with all the saints [God’s devoted people, the experience of that love] what is the breadth and length and height and depth [of it];
[That you may really come] to know [practically, through experience for yourselves] the love of Christ... Eph 3:17-19
And it was complete.
And I am convinced and sure of this very thing, that He Who began a good work in you will continue until the day of Jesus Christ [right up to the time of His return], developing [that good work] and perfecting and bringing it to full completion in you. Philippians 1:6AMP
They, the Unlikely Ones, are the Declaration.
God is Able.