Thursday, March 28, 2013

heading to Haiti

I am heading to Haiti with my dad, my daughter, and 19 other friends on Tuesday to spend a week alongside our ministry partners at UCI (

The map above depicts the growing campus of UCI and clicking here will take you to their most current newsletter.

At this point, I am most excited about the following:
1. Sharing this experience with my daughter, Sara, and my dad, Larry.
2.  Seeing the transforming power and grace of Jesus Christ at work through the Christian community at UCI.  For the past seven years, God has been doing awesome Christian community development through this ministry.  
3.  I am looking forward to "throwing off all that hinders me" in my culture and to experience Christ in a different environment, learning and being challenged by the Haitian friends I am about to meet.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Word on Wednesday

Ezra 3:7 “Then they gave money to the masons and carpenters, and gave food and drink and oil to the people of Sidon and Tyre, so that they would bring cedar logs by sea from Lebanon to Joppa, as authorized by Cyrus, King of Persia." 

Collaboration, gifts and passions, partnerships, community organizing!  Rebuilding the temple was a big project and would take big organizing and big resources.  There are big projects that need to happen here in the restoration of our local community.  One of my favorite things to see is the diversity in gifts and passions that God instills in the various individuals making up the community.  And what's even cooler is when I watch God call a leader who inspires, organizes, and mobilizes people to build community and use those gifts, passions, and resources for the glory of God and the work of bringing the Kingdom of God to earth!

Ezra 3:8b “…began to work, appointing Levites twenty years of age and older to supervise the building of the house of the Lord.  Vs. 9..”Jeshua and his sons and brothers and Kdadmiel and his sons and the sons of Henadad and their sons and brothers- all Levites- joined together in supervising those working on the house of God.  

Leadership development; next generations; modeling and teaching!  This passage is such a great example of mentoring, apprenticing, raising up leadership from among the young in our families and community.  I need passages like this one to remind me to slow down, look around, and ask myself, "who am I pouring into, who am I taking with me around town to meetings and appointments?, who am I mentoring in faith and leadership?"  It's often easier and more efficient to do things by myself, but this passage reminds me to sow into the next generation!   

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Saturday Scripture

Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen, in whom my soul delights; I have put my spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be crushed until he has established justice in the earth; and the coastlands wait for his teaching.
- Isaiah 42:1-4

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people.
- Acts 2:42-47

(In December 2006, I visited Kit Danley of Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, AZ.  As we visited, she recommended that I read through the Bible and highlight all of the Scripture passages that spoke of God's heart of compassion and justice.  In 2007, I did just that.

In 2008, I attended a workshop at a CCDA conference in which the facilitator instructed the class to work in pairs to name as many Scriptures (by reference or by text) that had to do with God's heart of compassion and justice.

The two exercises above have impacted me, and over the past five years, my eyes have been opened in a whole new way as I spend time in God's Word.  

I am going to spend Saturdays this year sharing Scripture passages on the blog, one OT and one NT, that help lay the Biblical foundation for compassion and justice; Scripture that describes God's character and His imperatives for His people.)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

history lessons

Some people just like to study. That's me.  Two weeks at home with my 8th grade son, and I am back into studying quadratic expressions and equations with great gusto.  I think I've worked harder than Nathan has this past week on studying Algebra and factoring polynomials.  I've been teaching Nathan from home since his injury/sickness, and he can't remember the last time he's so thoroughly covered a math chapter.  I gave him the chapter 8 test today, and I think I was more excited about his readiness than he was!

While we were home last Monday around the house, I took great interest as the television began to report the election of a new pope in Rome.  It brought back another time of study for me that has stuck with me over the past decade.

Ten years ago, I was teaching junior highers and high schoolers on Sunday mornings at church.  Over and over again as a youth director, I would get questions from students about Church history.  "What is the difference between the various denominations?  When did they split?", "What were the Crusades?", "What was the Reformation?", "What does the Catholic Church believe?", and on and on.

I had never learned about Church History as a kid growing up in a Protestant church, but I grew really interested in getting a better understanding of what happened between the Book of Acts and  the 21st century.  I picked up a book on the History of Christianity and took copious notes through the sections:  the roots of Christianity, Church and Empire, Christian Empire, conversion of Europe, Crusades to Renaissance, the Reformation, Enlightenment and Revival, Mission and Revolution, and the Global Church.

This past Monday, as I watched  and listened to the new pope, Pope Francis I, I dug out all my notes from that period.  A decade ago, at the end of studying that book on Church History, and after writing dozens of pages of notes, I concluded with a short paper on the 5 themes that I saw run throughout Church History:

1.  God has a plan of redemption and has continued to work despite human's fallenness and the circumstances found in the world.  

2.  God has continued to bring His Kingdom through people who are in a love relationship with Christ; people who are devoted to Him in a personal relationship and devoted to His Word.  

3.  God works through people who have His heart for the poor and oppressed and who serve.  Seeking justice for the sick, marginalized, forgotten, weak are key in the way the Spirit has moved throughout the history of the Church.

4.  Power is a problem over and over again throughout Church history.  Those in power have repeatedly abused power and forgotten God and the poor.

5.  Wealth is a problem over and over again throughout Church history.  Those with wealth have repeatedly become inward-focused and have forgotten God and the poor.  

I don't remember a lot of the facts of what I studied through that book on Church History.  But I do remember reading over and over again, across the span of centuries, about the centers of religious power vs. the faith communities on the fringes who humbly and sacrificially loved and served Christ and neighbor.  Repeatedly, the centers of religious power would oppress, war, collapse while God's Spirit would move through the remnant of those who were devoted to His Word, to compassion for the least of these, and to spiritual disciplines that kept them in a close personal, obedient, love relationship with Jesus.  It was such a stark pattern time and time again.

I am prayerful for this pope who is known for his devotion to Christ, his humility, and his compassion for the marginalized.  I'm hopeful that in his position of religious power, He will steward his leadership in such a way to call the whole Church back to Jesus and His way of acting justly, loving mercy, and walking humbly with our God.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Quotable Monday

"Tonight was my first meeting due to a conflict for the first one and there was love throughout the meeting.  Although there were different churches represented, there was no division but one purpose in Christ."

-Terri Smith, sharing about her first experience at a Love Cedar Valley planning meeting

Yay, God, for oneness in Christ!

Check out  

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Saturday Scripture

Deuteronomy 27:19  "Cursed is the man who withholds justice from the alien, the fatherless, or the widow.  Then all the people shall say, 'Amen'."

Luke 10:36-37  "Which of these three, do you think, was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of the robbers?’ He said, ‘The one who showed him mercy.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Go and do likewise.’"

(In December 2006, I visited Kit Danley of Neighborhood Ministries in Phoenix, AZ.  As we visited, she recommended that I read through the Bible and highlight all of the Scripture passages that spoke of God's heart of compassion and justice.  In 2007, I did just that.

In 2008, I attended a workshop at a CCDA conference in which the facilitator instructed the class to work in pairs to name as many Scriptures (by reference or by text) that had to do with God's heart of compassion and justice.

The two exercises above have impacted me, and over the past five years, my eyes have been opened in a whole new way as I spend time in God's Word.  

I am going to spend Saturdays this year sharing Scripture passages on the blog, one OT and one NT, that help lay the Biblical foundation for compassion and justice; Scripture that describes God's character and His imperatives for His people.)

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Word on Wednesday

Ezra 3:2  Then Jeshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.

Ezra 3:6  On the first day of the seventh month they began to offer burnt offerings to the Lord, though the foundation of the Lord's temple had not yet been laid.

First things first.  Strong God-centered foundation.  Rather than building the temple first and then offering gifts and worship after its construction, the Israelites who returned to reconstruct the temple,   built an altar to God and worshiped Him first.  Their actions spoke of their allegiance and trust in God, their priorities, the center of their motives and actions.   The world would have us build the temple first and say thanks to God with a celebration afterward...that is a people-centered approach. By building an altar and worshiping first, the Israelites were demonstrating that the temple was established by God, empowered of God, and for God's glory.    

Ezra 3:3  Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.

So many non-profits, even churches, in our communities start off with a Christ-centered vision and foundation, but lose this center over time.  They might lose the leadership that keeps Christ as the core, their center might get compromised if the voice of the organization drifts from a Word-centered voice to people-centered voices, or they might set aside their Christ-center in order to attain grants and monies to help operate their organizations.  

These Ezra verses are important verses for Christian Community Development work.  Of course, Christ the Restorer wants His Church involved in rebuilding neighborhoods.  But it's only people-centered community development unless the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is changing hearts and lives in our work.  Intentionally and unwavering....Christ the foundation, Christ the center, Christ the leader...from the beginning, through the fear and opposition, until His return.  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

youth art team is back in the house!

Youth Art Team is beginning a new session together..a photography session.  They are using a curriculum called the The Viewfinder Project.   Check out the cool pictures from their first day at this link:

Monday, March 4, 2013

Quotable Monday

"Now I am at peace."   -Nathan Hoy

Nathan's had the wildest dreams from his medication and sleep patterns the past four nights.  A couple of days ago, I was sitting next to him while he was sleeping, and he turned his head toward me, smiled, laughed, and said, "Now I am at peace"...all while asleep.

What an amazing patient he's been.  Strong, not a complainer, and such a trooper. We're heading home from the hospital today, and we'll be walking the road of healing and recovery together over the weeks ahead.

I have lots of being that we're all open and receptive to what God wants to say to us and how He wants to heal and grow us in multiple ways through this experience.

I am prayerful that God will grant the patience and grace that will allow each of our family members to smile and say "Now I am at peace" in the days ahead.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kingdom breaking through #5: compassion

God's Kingdom comes on earth through His heart of compassion lived out through the loving actions of His people.  We're experiencing that through the prayers, love, concern, and kind actions of people all around us as our son deals with two surgeries this week.

This experience gives me fresh waves of sympathy and empathy for my neighbor in need.  It reminds me of the power in the encouragement, prayer, and presence of others.  

The Kingdom breaks through with this reality:

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  

Kingdom breaking through #4: inner vs. outer

I wouldn't share this post except for the fact that this conversation happened the day before Nathan's unfortunate injury on the basketball court.

It was a snow day on Wednesday and Nathan, Sara, and I were hanging out at home.  Sara was in the bathroom braiding her hair, and Nathan went in to chat with her.  As I walked by I caught Nathan flexing his right arm in the mirror and saying something like, "Look at those guns!"  He was oohing and aahing about his strong arms (and yes, he really does have a strong, lean body).  I remember acknowledging his "guns" but also telling him that God cares about our heart and character more than our outer looks and that our physical looks can change in an instant; our character is what matters most.

The next afternoon, he broke that right arm real good.  That right "gun" will definitely atrophy for awhile, and the surgeon mentioned that this is a precarious and complicated surgery-one that will likely result in stiffness of the elbow and inability to fully straighten his arm again.

This incident highlights the Kingdom reality of what is of lasting importance.  It brings these Scriptures to mind:

1 Samuel 16:7  "..The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."

1 Timothy 4:8  "For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come."  

Kingdom breaking through #3: God's promises

In the early a.m. hours Friday, as Nathan and I were settling into a room in the hospital after surgery #1, Nathan asked, "Why me?  Why did this have to happen to me?"

I told him that we often ask this question  in the struggle and suffering of life, but we don't often get clear answers from God to that one.  I told Nathan that I asked this question a lot when we lost our first baby 15 years ago.  And though God may not answer that clearly nor does the Bible promise a trouble-free life (it promises us precisely the opposite), God DOES promise often in His Word that He loves us, is with us, and will not leave us.

He is enough and there is great comfort in His promises and presence.

Kingdom breaking through #2: God's sovereignty

God's Kingdom truths break through in powerful ways through worldly trials.

Our plans were altered the second Nathan landed and broke his arm.  Instead of the plan to sit at a table eating pancakes this morning for our annual traditional trek to the Hartman Reserve Maple Sugar Festival, Nathan was wheeled into surgery about 30 minutes ago.

Proverbs 16:9 says, "In their hearts, humans plan their course, but the Lord establishes their steps.

Proverbs 20:24 says, "A person's steps are directed by the Lord.  How then can anyone understand their own way?"

Through circumstances like this, God reminds us that He alone knows the future.  God sees with Kingdom and eternal lenses, and He wants us to do the same.  There's much going on here beyond the temporal and physical realm.  Do we trust in God's sovereign plan?  Do we trust that He's good and can make good from the trials in our lives?  Can we surrender our lives to His ongoing work in Christ to transform our hearts, character, lives to make them more Christ-like?

We are not in charge.  But there is one who is much more capable with our lives than ourselves.


Kingdom breaking through #1: gifts and gratitude

Gifts and Gratitude.

One book on my "to read" list is One Thousand Gifts by Anne Voskamp.  It's about recognizing and naming very specifically the gifts God gives to us daily and God's power found in gratitude.   I do believe God has perhaps given us one thousand good gifts in just the past mere 36 hours.

-a broken arm rather than a broken head.
-grandparents and an uncle who were down on the court right now next to Nathan while I turned my van around down the block after receiving a call that he had gotten hurt.
-paramedics who know how to splint arms and move bodies carefully.
-An athletic director/asst. principal at Carver who handled the situation with care and skill.
-pain medication rather than having to rely on biting down on a stick or drinking whiskey.  :)
-health insurance coverage.
-a twin sister who has a deeply compassionate heart and loves her brother so much.
-a dad who works hard to provide and whose job includes health insurance.  A dad who is always calm, cool, and collected.  A dad who loves his son.
-a big support network of friends and family across the community, nation, and world who pray, encourage, and love well in person or from their knees, facebook, phone calls, emails, and texts.
-a highly recommended orthopedic surgeon.
-first world medical facilities, staff, and multiple options for care.
-medical facilities that were less than a block away from the incident.
-a first surgery that cleans the wound and protects against infection.
-a friend who brings me a nutritious smoothie for breakfast at the hospital.
-a doctor friend who works here and who brings up a dvd player and movies  for N.
-another friend who somehow knows Nathan likes Whopper malted milk balls, who gave him a nice pack of colorful Sharpies for cast signatures, who prays unceasingly.
-family friends who send a roll of thin mints with well wishes attached.
-a friend who brings Burt's Bees lip balm just at the right time, as the one lip balm we had was just about gone.
-an aunt who brings favorites...cream soda, movies, a small Hawkeye hoop
-a grandma who watches N so that the rest of us can go cheer Sara on in the annual Variety Show.  (outstanding show...this was itself a gift in many ways).
-friends who try to help me eat well by bringing nutritious snacks; friends who cater to Nathan's sweet tooth and bring what appears to be an entire movie theater worth of junk food into the room.
-visiting and praying family, friends, teachers, coaches

And these are just a sampling of the good gifts God has given us the past few days!
The Kingdom of God does indeed break through all around us in a given day, not only with the gifts God gives us, but also with the powerful, transforming gift of gratitude for these blessings.  

Friday, March 1, 2013

the Kingdom breaking through in the midst of bones breaking through

Funny how it is.  God is always speaking to us.  Always wooing and pursuing relationship with us.  Always moving in His truth and grace in our lives.  We can often go about our daily routines aware of these spiritual realities in our heads, but it is most often when an unexpected sharp corner comes about in our lives that we "wake up" to spiritual realities in fresher and deeper ways that move our hearts and mark our lives.  I've seen this play out in my life, and I'm seeing it over the past 30 hours.

My thirteen year old son, Nathan, was playing for his 8th grade basketball team yesterday when, in the final two minutes of the game, he was on a fast break drive to the basket, went up for the lay-up, was flagrantly fouled by the opponent, and landed hard on his right arm.   The result was an ambulance ride to the hospital and two fractures through his humerus horizontal break in which the bone broke through the skin, and then a vertical break down through the remainder of the humerus that joins to the elbow.  So, he has 3 pieces of humerus, all of which has not been a bit humorous.

Nathan went into surgery last night so that the surgeon could wash the wound and prevent infection.  They put a temporary cast and sling on the arm to keep it immobile today, and he's getting lots of pain medication as he awaits surgery tomorrow a.m. to repair the arm.

In the midst of this sudden and unexpected turn of events, there are many reminders and signs of the Kingdom breaking through.  I don't want to miss these Kingdom gems, nor do I want Nathan to miss them....even if it's not until some post-surgery reflecting one day down the road.

Look to the next posts to see how God, in His faithfulness and goodness, brings His Kingdom to light in the midst of life's darker times.