Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Willow Creek Leadership Summit coming

Christine Caine is one of the speakers at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit in August. Orchard is going to be a Satellite location for the Summit on Aug. 5 and 6, and I'm looking forward to hearing from so many inspiring and challenging leaders across our world. For a look at who we'll hear from and to learn more about the Summit, you can go to http://www.willowcreek.com/events/leadership/2010/index.asp. If you're interested in attending the conference, be sure to get in touch with me, and I can give you the skinny on registration.

Monday, June 28, 2010

pass it on

Last year, everything lined up perfectly for me, a non-runner, to begin training for my first marathon with a 74 person team called "Iowans for Africa". I can't begin to detail how clearly God pointed me to that marathon through a whole host of circumstances, and it was one of those things that I knew was just the right timing and the right thing.

This year, as the now 250+ member team began to train this Spring for either the 1/2 or full Des Moines Marathon, so many things did not line up for me. For a time, I intended to jump into training with the team, however I had conflicts the first several Saturday team runs. I was also just less resolute, and continued to tell myself I'd sign up for the 1/2 and would get serious about joining the team after our two week vacation in early June.

A few mornings after our vacation, I was preparing for an early morning jog when it hit me. There, in front of me, sat my daughter, an eleven year old who is also an early bird like her mom. Sara, who has little interest in organized sports, seemed inspired by the idea of running last year when she observed all of my marathon madness. She even ran a 3 mile race last summer with a friend...largely because I think she saw me go from being a non-runner to an enthusiastic marathoner. The answer was clear before me. This was not the year to join with the team in another long distance race, but it is the year to invite Sara into this adventure.

Nine days ago, I asked Sara if she wanted to go on a two mile jog with me one morning. Since then, we've been out on our country roads multiple times and have even set a goal of running the newly offered 10K together at Park to Park on September 11. We have our own little training calendar that will help us increase from 2 miles to 6 miles over the next 10 weeks, and it is absolutely the right timing and the right thing this year.

Last summer, I marveled at the parallels and the role that running and being on the marathon team had with the spiritual journey. Training, discipline, perseverance, community, encouragement, breakthroughs, and more. This year, I need to add mentoring to that list. One of the keys in our spiritual walks is that we mentor and raise up younger generations in the faith. And that seems to be what God has lined up for me this year on this running journey. And, like any other time I've "mentored" someone else, I end up growing so much myself. That to say, Sara out-paced and dogged me on a two mile run the other day! What a joy this adventure will be with my daughter...for however long she'll run next to her slow mama!

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them slip from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them. Deuteronomy 4:9

Sunday, June 27, 2010

group arrives in Mozambique

From Neil McMahon. Neil and his wife, Barb, are leading up this group of 10 from OHC who will go learn, serve, and love alongside our partner, Food for the Hungry of Mozambique.

Howdy from Beira, Mozambique,

As you know, we landed safely yesterday evening and had a full night of sleep in a recumbent position! It does alot for the soul to be
rested. We really enjoyed seeing some of our friends again. Pastor
Tomas and Halkeno send their regards.

After cleaning up a little, we joined Halkeno at an International Fellowship where we ate and
worshipped together. It was a very informal group who spoke English
and were composed of mostly missionary couples and NGO(Non Government
Organization) workers. Doug did a great job with the devotion. (They
were a little worried as I told them he usually spoke for 2 - 3 hours,
and they believed me. One of the leaders made a special mention to
him as he started to keep it SHORT.)

Today was , as Barb put it, a very cultural day. we went to the
markets, both craft and food, and experienced the accompanying sound,
sights and smells. One of the Food for the Hungry workers invited us
to his home for a snack. He was so proud to show us his family and
home. We prayed to bless his home. The neighborhood kids gathered
around and dang for us, Moz impromptu style. It was great. A good
evidence for the relationships we have been building. Madeira was the
translator for the first trip 3 years ago. That is the picture

Tonight we get to watch the USA vs Ghana world cup FOOTBALL match with
our hosts at the guest house. We bought some snacks and sodas as only
Barb could arrange.

Tomorrow, Doug , Karla and myself will lead team to different churches
to greet them in the Name of Christ for our family at Orchard Hill.
We will also get to share a bit and could use your prayers. Then off
to Gorongosa in the afternoon.

In Him, neil

Saturday, June 26, 2010

classic Saturday

This week's quote comes from the Theological Germanica, a kind of tract written about 1350 that likely grew out of a German movement called "The Friends of God". Martin Luther came across a version of it in 1518 and was so impressed with it that he wrote an introduction and published it. Luther stated that aside from the Bible and St. Augustine, he had never read anything as helpful as the Theologia. I personally found this selection in the Classic Devotions book difficult to read and digest, but I did find one piece that I'll include here.

"We should note and know what is the simple truth, namely, that no virtue and no good action, not even the confession that God is good, can make man and his soul virtuous, good, or blissful so long as it occurs outside the soul.

Conversely, the same applies to sin and wickedness. It may be commendable to ask, hear about, and gather information concerning good and holy persons, what they have done and suffered, or how they have lived and how God has worked and willed in and through them. But it is a hundredfold better that people deeply within themselves learn and understand the what and the how of life. They need to learn what God is working and doing in them and how God wishes to use them and not to use them. Thus the saying is still true: No outgoing was ever so good that a remaining within was not better."

There's such a difference in my life between knowing about God and thinking about the things of God than there is in actually knowing God, relating with Him, remaining centered in Him. This gets flipped so quickly and easily in my life on a daily basis! The following line from the selection is a good one to keep handy through my days: No outgoing was ever so good that a remaining within was not better.

Friday, June 25, 2010


When is the last time you have wept over the brokenness in our community?

Last month, I began reading Lupton's Renewing the City, a book that looks at Nehemiah and translates it into a contemporary urban renewal context. I decided to lay that book down early on and first spend some time in the biblical text of Nehemiah, and so that is what I did along our vacation.

In chapter one, when Nehemiah hears the report from Hanani about the appalling conditions of Jerusalem and those living there, the text says, "When I heard this, I sat down and wept. I mourned for days, fasting and praying before the God of Heaven."

Nehemiah's heart breaks over the city. Compassion is the first requirement of justice work, is it not? To grieve with God's heart, to see with God's eyes, to lament the rhythms of our city that do not enhance life, but rather detract from life. It's through compassion that we will rightly be moved to action.

And in his time of lament, what did Nehemiah pray? We might think that it would be a prayer of supplication....a plea for help from God. But if you read chapter one, Nehemiah, addressing God with adoration, urgency, and passion, first spends time confessing and repenting the part that he and his people have played in detracting from life by not following God's ways. "I'm including myself, I and my ancestors, among those who have sinned against you. We've treated you like dirt: We haven't done what you have told us, haven't followed your commands, and haven't respected the decisions you gave to Moses your servant."

It is after a time of confession and repentance, that Nehemiah prays for restoration, a restoration that comes through the returning to God and obedience of His ways.

This chapter helps me live in three questions:

1. How much care and compassion do I have for the fractured and hurting lives and systems throughout our community?

2. Am I willing to examine and confess the part I play in working against God's ways and purposes of healing and restoring? (my values, priorities, choices)

3. Am I willing to seek restoration by turning to God, trusting Him, aligning my heart with His, and allowing him to order my days and life to fulfill His will, not mine?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

God's handiwork

These are just a few of a plethara of scenery photos I took on our trip out West. I so love how God reveals his beauty and creativity, his power and brilliance in nature. For two weeks it was like walking around an artist's studio being awed and inspired by the artist's giftedness and work.

For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-his eternal power and divine nature-have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Romans 1:20

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Wildwood Hills impacts hearts and lives

A letter from Maribeth below. Thanks, Maribeth, for loving God and kids, for the work you do to get the kids to camp, and for bringing many friends along in the joy of helping so many young people experience God's transforming love at summer camp!

Dear Friends,

Our Wildwood Hills Ranchers came home late yesterday afternoon--happy, tired, missing camp already, and chock-full of memories. I wish I could communicate the power in this week for so many of the kids. For a few years, I resisted the fact that many of the children who attend Wildwood are coming from situations that most of us can hardly imagine. I knew it, but I almost couldn't face it. Does that make sense? The euphemistic, politically correct label is "at-risk" to describe the children, and the road they may walk in the future. They may be at-risk of abusing substances in the future, for example, or of dropping out in the future, or spending time in prison. It's a catch-all phrase that has diluted what is really at stake.

Children are at-risk not only in the future, but RIGHT NOW, and that is the beauty of Wildwood Hills Ranch. They SEE that, and that's why there's this sense of urgency to find the kids who are tough, sad, angry, acting out, and hurting. They've made it their mission to take that child, where he's at, RIGHT NOW, and speak truth and hope directly to his heart in a way he can understand. I wish you could see the difference this can make!

This week, counselors loved, counseled, corrected, inspired, prayed with, cried with, laughed with, and worked side-by-side with kids. Man, did they look exhausted when those buses pulled up!

Kids slid down mud hills, swam, rode horses, sang, made friends, threw tantrums, had conflicts, forgave, calmed down, ate three square meals with seconds + snacks, caught fish, learned about how loved they are by God, and celebrated when their team did something awesome.

GOD stirred and softened hearts, protected, gave wisdom, calmed thunderstorms, broke chains, opened eyes, and POURED HOPE over the whole fun, muddy, sweaty, tear-filled, laughter-drenched week. Praise HIM.

Please continue to pray as kids re-enter their families and neighborhoods. May the light of Christ shine in these children, and may it spread.

If you can spare nine minutes, Wildwood has created a video on YouTube that will give you more of a feel of what their mission is, and what the kids' response has been.

Enjoy the sunshine today! THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

more from Wildwood Hills Ranch Camp

A few more pictures and stories from the week at Wildwood Hills last week, written by organizer and staff Laura Edwards:

Tonight at assembly the campers had a special treat. After a skit, photos of the campers themselves were displayed in slideshow fashion on the wall while they played a song called "He'd take a bullet for you." Matt shared with the campers about Jesus, the One willing to take a bullet for them. Then Cordell shared his testimony. For those of you who don't know Cordell or his story, he started at the ranch at the very beginning 9 years ago when he was 7 years old. He was a fighter, just like a lot of the Waterloo campers. He shared with the campers, all of them wholly captivated, about how he used to bully and beat other kids up just because. Then he was branded by Wildwood. He was introduced to our Savior, Jesus Christ, who changed his heart and made him new. I wish I could have captured the look on some of the kids' faces (except I was so captured by Cordell's story and being so proud of his ability to stand and share, I didn't dare interrupt the flow with the click of a camera). They were hearing his words. He is the first to graduate from high school from his family-- ever. Statistically speaking, he should end up in prison. But he and Matt shared with the kids about how the labels placed on him by the world were broken, and with his commitment to Christ he was made new-- and each and every person is able to rewrite their own future. Praise the Lord!!


* One of the sites the kids visit during the day is "Team Building" . This is a site where the rubber meets the road for kids. Yesterday, one group of boys went to team building and had quite the experience. This particular group is filled with boys who are used to using fists instead of words when there is conflict. Here's what Laura had to report about their experience getting their team mates over a wall.

---The wall is a 12-foot high flat wall in which the teams are challenged to figure out how to get their entire team over. This is a relatively simple task that involves lifting one another over-- a figuring out how to get the first and last people tend to be the parts that require the most strategy, and the task of lifting one another usually forces kids to confront issues of self-consciousness, strength, fear of heights, and trusting one another... It's brilliant.

The Wolfpack are the boys I am excited to tell you about. This team is comprised of 7 young men: Kevin is brute strength... last year he got in several disputes with other campers and was sent home early. Torion, another young man who was sent home early last year for fighting- has a very likeable personality but a short fuse. Teion is very athletic and very good natured. Damarius is on the quiet side, tender-hearted and very self conscious. James struggles to stay focused. ShaQuan has a short attention span and quick temper. The seventh member of the team is Tanner, very slight stature and cautious. Aside from Tanner, these boys all have history of different conflicts between them.

When presented with the task of conquering "the wall," today was a milestone for the boys in the Wolfpack. They rose to the challenge. Not only did they accomplish the wall without bending any of the rules, but they displayed kindness to one another and acted as a team. Some observations:

They communicated with one another about strategy.

I saw ShaQuan (the epitome of looking out for number one in past years) ask Tanner, first of all, if he was ok, and secondly, if he would prefer to be one of the people at the top of the wall or if he'd rather be first to get down. They didn't know I was watching and it was a beautiful act of kindness between two boys from completely different backgrounds.

Damarius and Torion both stepped out of their comfort zone, taking the step of faith to trust their teammates to get them over safely. And their team followed through.

I heard words of encouragement between them spoken, I saw them looking out for each other. Afterwards, they were pumped. Full of broad smiles, they were empowered by the realization that they achieved their goals and succeeded at the task. Short on time, we did a quick debrief-- "What did you learn from this?" All of them were anxious to share-- how they learned they "could accomplish more as a team than they could as individuals," and, "We could do more than we thought we could!" and "Trust each other."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wildwood Hills 2010

Orchard Hill supports some of the 74 kids from Waterloo who went off to Wildwood Hills Ranch camp last Monday, and a friend from church helps get the funding, paperwork, and transportation all arranged for these kiddos to go. I loved receiving the updates from camp last week! The following was a report on the first day from a young woman from Waterloo who has previously served on the camp staff and who was instrumental in Waterloo's presence at the camp:

I was blown away by the programming that the Wildwood staff has in place this year. The theme is "Branded." For the evening assembly tonight Cowboy Lynn shared about the real agricultural practices that included branding and what it meant and how farmers used it. His explanation of how excruciating the pain related to branding was followed up by a skit and the men's director, Jed, sharing a message to the kids about how sometimes the world brands us with messages and labels that aren't true or are damaging. Oh wait-- it gets better.

Following the assembly, the kids broke up into their small groups around individual campfires and were given pieces of paper to write down labels that they had been branded by in their lives that were hurtful or not true. I went to the campfire (set on top of a hill overlooking rolling Madison County hills and a beautiful sunset) with one of the middle-aged group of boys. One of the boys who has been trouble in the past, Bookie, finished his paper quickly and, of course, began distracting the others immediately. I pulled him aside to chat in an effort to keep him from distracting the other boys (some of which I could tell were pouring some serious hurts out on their papers). I asked him if he'd written anything down and he handed me his paper-- My heart broke. His paper read, "Being hit and told that I am not worth anything."

This particular boys group leader, Andrew, was amazing. After all the boys were finished writing-- in the short 2 minutes that he was able to grasp their attention (9 and 10 year old boys have such a short attention span!), he was able to share the Good Word with them. He told them that the things written on their papers were lies and that the truth was that there was a God who loved them and that they were worthwhile individuals. Then they burned their papers in the fire as a symbol of the past being gone. It was a beautiful moment.

This is just one specific moment to share with you about how great this cause is. There were so many other little ones-- a smile from ShaQuan, the thoughtfulness of the LiT boys to invite me to join them for lunch (this is a big step for some of these guys), fear of leaving home being overcame by smiles... The need is big but our God is bigger!!

Monday, June 14, 2010

may we have muchness

The other night we watched "Alice in Wonderland"..the recent movie version. A good quote in the movie....

Alice Kingsley: Wait! You can't leave me here!
The Mad Hatter: You don't slay? Do you have any idea what the Red Queen has done? You don't slay.
Alice Kingsley: I couldn't if i wanted to.
The Mad Hatter: You're not the same as you were before You were much more..."muchier" You've lost your "muchness".
Alice Kingsley: My "muchness"?
The Mad Hatter: [Points to Alice's heart] In there.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

one way to consider justice...

I am still on vacation getting a lot of that space and play I recommended for myself last week in a post. I'm at my brother's in Salem, OR, now, after a week of traveling west to Oregon, enjoying several sites and a stop at my other brother's in Montana. During the road time, as my dad drives and my mom and our kids read and watch movies, I have been able to do some reading as well. I've been reading through Nehemiah in the NIV and Message, Ephesians in the NIV and Message, and spending some time with the Scriptures that have the word "justice." A couple of days ago, I read through the introduction of Ephesians in the Message, and to me, it is a great passage of what I consider when I think of the work of justice. Here it is:

"Paul's letter to the Ephesians joins together what has been torn apart in our sin-wrecked world. He begins with an exuberant exploration of what Christians believe about God, and then, like a surgeon skillfully setting a compound fracture, "sets" this belief in God into our behavior before God so that the bones-belief and behavior- knit together and heal.

Once our attention is called to it, we notice these fractures all over the place. There is hardly a bone in our bodies that has escaped injury, hardly a relationship in city or job, school or church, family or country, that isn't out of joint or limping in pain. There is much work to be done.

And so Paul goes to work. He ranges widely, from heaven to earth and back again, showing how Jesus, the Messiah, is eternally and tirelessly bringing everything and everyone back together. He also shows us that in addition to having this work done in and for us, we are participants in this most urgent work. Now that we know what is going on, that the energy of reconciliation is the dynamo at the heart of the universe, it is imperative that we join in vigorously and perseveringly, convinced that every detail in our lives contributes (or not) to what Paul describes as God's plan worked out by Christ, "a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth."

I don't know how you think when you hear the word, "justice", but this passage describes well what I think about when I consider the work of justice as right relationship.

justice and righteousness

Of the 134 NIV verses with the word "justice", I found 26 scriptures that had "justice" and "righteousness" tied together in the same sentence.

"..in his justice and righteousness, he does not oppress." "The Lord loves righteousness and justice..." "The Lord works righteousness and justice for all the oppressed."

I tend to think about biblical justice in terms of righteousness, rightness, setting things right. God's Spirit is at work to set things right on earth through Jesus Christ. And in God's plan to set things right, He calls his followers into the plan.

How do you define or most often think of biblical justice?

God and justice

One thing is certain from my reading of Scripture-- God is about justice big time. The Scriptures tell us that....

-God will govern the peoples with justice
-The Lord is known by justice
-He loves justice
-A scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom.
-Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne
-The Lord works justice for all the oppressed
-The Lord secures justice for the poor
-The Lord Almighty will be exalted by His justice
-"I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line"
- spirit of justice
- For the Lord is a God of justice
- fortelling Jesus..."I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations."
- fortelling Jesus... In faithfulness he will bring forth justice
- forteling Jesus...He will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth.
-"My justice will become a light to the nations"
-"My arm will bring justice to the nations"
-"For I, the Lord, love justice."
- The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice.
-"I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice, and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight."
- "I will discipline you but only with justice."
- "I will shepherd the flock with justice."
- I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion.
- about Jesus- "I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations."
- about Jesus- A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.
- he will see that they get justice
- he will judge the world with justice
- God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice...
- With justice he judges...

Friday, June 11, 2010

do's and don'ts of justice

I'm going to do a little study this summer on the language and work of biblical justice. I ran off the Scriptures that have the word "justice" in them. In the NIV, the word appears 134 times. Here are a few of my observations from Scripture as to what we should and should not do in regards to justice...

Do not...

Do not pervert justice (found in 8 scriptures)

Do not deny justice (found in 8 scriptures)

Do not deprive justice (found in 8 scriptures)

Do not withhold justice (found twice)

Do not discredit justice

Do not mock justice

Do not neglect justice

Do not lack understanding of justice

Do not hate justice


administer justice (found in 6 scriptures)

maintain justice (found in 5 scriptures)

walk in the paths of justice

conduct your affairs with justice

seek justice

care about justice

know justice

follow justice

Friday, June 4, 2010


Westward Ho for some family time and sightseeing. Looking forward to a few weeks away to visit my two brothers and their families in Montana and Oregon.

Looking forward to recreation and internal space. I've had too many words and thoughts and actions crowding me lately and I can feel the need to get empty. Ever recognize when you don't have enough internal space...kind of like you can hear God whispering, but you don't stop long enough or get silent enough to be fully attentive and listening? That's where I'm at, and I don't function well here for long. (hence, the checklist post below...it was time for this soul check)
This morning a friend and I were talking about what books I might take along for the road. I've decided in a bold move to take only my NIV and The Message Bibles and my journal. I need to fast from other books for awhile. My life requires writing to help me listen well to God and my life, and I could sure use some time in the Word only.

Space and play. A healthy prescription for crowded insides.

how is your soul?

I keep the following list pinned up to do a soul assessment from time to time. I find it a helpful check-up list.

You're prayerfully present to God if you are....

Internally and externally "at home" and able to welcome guests.
Embodied, content, and connected with being a physical person located in a physical environment.

In the moment, immediate to the occasion.

Accepting of what is "now".

"In time" to the rhythms of grace in and around me.

Patient, able to rest, and able to wait.

"Grounded" in place and "oriented" in time.

Available, accessible.

Open, spacious in mind, heart, and consciousness.

Welcome, accepting.

Vulnerable, incomplete, and in need.

Willing to be changed by engagement and encounter.

Engaged, "entered in".

Turned to, turned toward.

"There" with God and others, for God and others, on behalf of God and others.


Aware, conscious, intentional.


I just spent this morning writing letters to our children's principal and three past co-workers who are retiring from the elementary school where I used to teach. Two of the teachers also happened to teach our daughter in her years at Hansen. As I wrote, I was profoundly touched by their dedication and passion to not only education, but to children and families. Each of these individuals was motivated and inspired and passionate for 30+ years in what they were doing, and it showed everyday. It just reminded me that our passion and calling and legacy are lived out in our everyday actions and attitudes. I am so grateful for each one of them and the impact they've had on me and our family as they modeled commitment to education, excellence, and children in the everydayness of their careers.