Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Chattanooga, A Diversion, A Vision

Several weeks ago Barb and Mandy decided that they would spend this past weekend at a spiritual retreat in west Arkansas, which turned out to be a great experience for them both. Since I don't want to be home alone I decided that I would drive down Highway 61, which I would catch here in Memphis and take to Natchez or Vicksburg, hitting some major Delta Blues territory. I was planning on spending some time with strangers or in a very cheap motel, thinking about the next 12 months, setting goals, and praying. However, a few weeks ago I caught up with a friend via email and decided to head east.

I found myself just north of Chattanooga, spending time with 2 friends I haven't seen in about 5 years. These friends are the type where you always leave better than you did before, although that might mean you are challenged at some very deep level, though unknown to them. These are friends who have sold their house, gotten out of consumer debt, have given an enormous amount of stuff away and are seeking to move to Asia to share the love of God with people who haven't even heard the word, "Bible, Jesus, or Crispy Cream." Well, I just made up that last bit about Crispy Cream, but to them, seriously, "Jesus," makes just about as much sense. He is not even on the radar.

Several years ago I did summer missions in Vancouver, BC, an experience that really formed, in part, who I am. As I was working under one of the best pastors in Western Canada I just listened to him talk about his friends all over the world who were serving Jesus in thoughtful, genuine, and gracious ways. Deep inside I wanted that. I wanted to have friends all over the world who were serving God faithfully and sacrificially for multiple reasons, most of which are selfish. I wanted to have a global perspective with my faith. I wanted my experience and knowledge to include other nationalities. And later on, which was also rekindled this past weekend, I wanted a heart for the unreached people groups around the world. Believe it or not, there are people groups who do not have a Bible in their own language, who do not have access to the gospel, and who do not know even the word, "Jesus." Think about it: they have neither heard nor said that two syllable utterance Je-sus. And what's really troubling--even if they wanted to know about Jesus they have no way to know. Jackie Pullinger, who worked with drug addicts in Hong Kong, said it best, "They are not going to come here (the church) to hear. We must go to them."

So, I am troubled today. Here I sit in a safe house, living a safe life, in a relatively safe city with all of this going on in my heart, hoping to start a church. Is is possible for God to grow a church here that would have a heart and soul for the nations? Who would seek out God's glory in sacrificial ways? There must be. There has to be hope.

On Sunday I worshipped with my friends and we read this quote by David Brainerd, missionary to the New England Indians 250 years ago. [He subsequently died through his service to the Indians. Many forget that while some were formulating how to take more land, some were crossing cultures to serve and love]. He prayed once, "Lord, let me make a difference for you that is utterly disproportionate to who I am."

So my plan was to go it alone--to ride and enjoy music and downloaded speeches, to see the scenery and think of me and my goals. And then God took the wheel and steered me in a completely different direction. And yet I cannot complain. I'm so thankful for friends who seek God with all of their hearts, though imperfectly at times.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

The Fog Sits Heavy

Is it possible to travel thirty years in life and wake up one day and feel lost? Is it possible to one day wake up and look in the mirror and say, "Boy, you're handsome, but you also have problems?" Don't you think it's a mystery that life's a mystery? That we can ponder infinity and yet know of our own limitations? That we can relive what has passed and project ourselves into the future (with our thoughts, of course) and modify our behaviors accordingly? And as the fog sits heavy on the trees like they are leashed to one another, I realize I need a sunrise, a guiding source, of sorts. . .something to direct me in this new year.

The past year was the hardest one in a while from forward to finish. Yet it was the most rewarding as my character was developed (in part) through grueling circumstances where I was pushed beyond my known limits, to face the truth no matter how ugly. On the last night of the year as Barb and I sat on the side of the bed with our heads resting on our hands, we both agreed that it would be best to let the old year go. It had run its course, had served its purpose, pulling the hands of the clock round and round, leaving a well-worn path around our eyes. But sometimes it's hard to let go of something that's hurt you so deeply. Perhaps that's why we stay up so late on the year's last day.