Sunday, July 10, 2016


(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.

But they gazed from very different windows.

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.

Their strongest commonality was always the story of Christ. And they moved to Uganda SURE that this was their purpose. To tell His story.

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.

Sunday, July 03, 2016

I Will Sing

“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places…” Psalm 16:6

There are moments when this isn’t so much a stated belief as it is an elusive longing.

There are moments when a current reality feels so very un-pleasant that assurance wanes.

Doubt and despair. They really are so difficult.

And common.

“I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.” 
Psalm 13:6 NIV

Claiming this can be a definitive clawing upward from a treacherous cliff face fall.

“I will sing to the Lord because He has treated me generously.” 
Psalm 13:6 HCSB

Learning this can feel laughable from any heaping pile of rotten rejection or suffering pain.

“I will sing to the Lord, because he has dealt bountifully with me.” 
Psalm 13:6 NRSV

Practicing this can seem so foolish from a jail cell where you are shackled and physically broken in unjust ways expecting death. (Acts 16:16-40)

“…and be content with what you have, because God has said,
‘Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.’
So we say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?’
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.  
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” 
Hebrews 13:5-8

The Lord has been good to me…

When I lose?!

We do not always live in obvious victory. And choosing to rejoice when it all comes crashing down can seem both impossible and unnerving.

But it is also so very helpful.

I don’t know exactly how to consistently accomplish this, yet.
But I must choose this rejoicing defiance.

The boundary lines are already laid in welcome places.

The Lord is RIGHT NOW dealing bountifully with me.

I am not to demand another sign.

Mark chapter 8 is teaching me this.

This chapter begins with Jesus feeding a very large crowd of people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish. Just exactly like a few chapters before (Mark 6:30-44) Jesus took what little they had, gave thanks and broke. And it fed thousands with leftovers! This was the SECOND time the disciples witnessed this, gathering the overabundance with their own hands when it was all said and done.

Immediately following this miraculous provision, the Pharisees show up to test Jesus by asking for a sign from heaven. With a deep sigh Jesus declines and crosses back across the lake he had just traversed offering this admonishment to his followers, “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

A rousing discussion about actual bread follows leaving Jesus to challenge his disciples incredulously, “Are your hearts hardened?”

He reminds them of the OVERABUNDANCE of provision that they have witnessed with their eyes, tasted with their mouths and touched with their hands. This wasn’t about bread filling a stomach! It was about trust. It was about knowing.

The next stories expound:

A blind man is brought to Jesus and the people beg for Jesus to touch him.
“He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village.”
And then Jesus spit.
In the man's eyes.
(A taboo behavior for the Jews. Okay, a taboo behavior for most of us...)
The blind man sees a bit better but his vision is not completely clear.
So Jesus touches him again and his sight is restored.
Jesus then instructs him, “Don’t even go into the village.”

This follows with Jesus asking about who people think he is.
The apostles affirm that folks see him as a prophet—Elijah, John the Baptist maybe…
Jesus says, “Who do you think I am?”
Peter testifies “You are the Messiah.”
And Jesus warns them to keep that quiet.

Blind guys are healed. Don’t show anyone.

Followers know Jesus is the Christ. Don’t tell anyone.

Come again?

Jesus immediately follows with the teaching that he MUST suffer, be rejected and killed.

Peter, the Messiah proclaimer, rebukes Jesus for this prophecy and Jesus follows with, “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God but merely human concerns.”

Human concerns? The yeast of the Pharisees? Miracles out of sight, refusing to offer the proof of a sign and hushing the apostles when they speak the truth?

What are the concerns of God exactly?

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

And he follows with, “Don’t be ashamed of me and my words…”

LOSE your life for Jesus and the gospel. Lose?

This is not an easy (or enjoyable) concept to accept.

But it mattered and was very crucially tied to the opening of eyes and the breaking of bread and what it really meant to be King.

It’s never been about what Jesus can or will do.

It’s about Who He inherently is.

And how He loves.

People were missing this. In those moments where Jesus was living, breathing, miracle-ing, right before their eyes—they were still blind. They could only vaguely see.

So he would continue to touch. Until the job was done. Not because it was demanded or required, but because of WHO HE WAS. An ANOINTED KING who would pour out His life unto surrender.

And this would read as loss.

And that loss would breed life.

It was to be the Only Way.

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John14:6


Jesus teaches in Mark 8 that this life in Him, the promised abundance of it (John 10:10), would be met by surrender.

 Saving my own life--dodging all the surrender--does not move me closer to Jesus. 

Saving my own life turns my eyes to me. 

Instead, my eyes must be turned to Him.

Trusting even when I cannot see.

In quiet private spaces. In barely bits, one touch at a time.

Naming Him boldly without requiring of Him by my own temporal understandings.

The concerns of God.

To cease resistance.

Defiantly relying and assured that our Christ GIVES and PROVIDES.

Right now.

When I lose, my self-pitying insistence often bellows pungently first.

All of my demanding doubt expelled via reeking fish breath with bread crumbs still littering my robes.

He deals bountifully with me.

Because of Who He Is.


Now and forever.

“I will sing…”

“This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.”

“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.”
I John 4:9&16