Friday, February 29, 2008

New Garden

Ah, Yes, I love to garden. Here is a picture of our little garden. We are using the methods taught by Mel Bartholomew in his book "Square Foot Gardening." Using this method means the same yeild in 80% less space compared to gardening in traditional rows, and a lot less weeding.

Last year this time we were pushing ourselves out of frozen parking spaces in St. Louis. This year we are watching young lettuce, carrot, pea, tomato and melon plants begin their journey upward. The desert Southwest does have its perks!

I wish that I had pictures of my apply tree blossoms, but I couldn't quite get the camera to focus at that close distance. I will put up a picture of the tree once it is in full bloom, some time early next week I expect.

Today as I was looking at the blossoms on the apple tree, and the green leaves emerging from the dead looking branches on our cherry tree, I was thinking about Job's conclusion from watching that same phenomenon at work in his day. Maybe there is life after death? He said, "For there is hope for a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its shoots will not cease. Though its root grow old in the earth, and its stump die in the soil, yet at the scent of water it will bud and put out branches like a young plant...If a man dies shall he live again? All the days of my service I would wait, till my renewal should come." Job wasn't sure about his own future, but observed something in trees that made him wonder.

I'm thankful that I don't live on Job's side of the resurrection. What a blessing it is to have the certainty, beyond a cherry tree, that we will live again when Christ returns to raise up our decayed bodies to an eternity of life as he designed it before sin polluted this good earth.

I'm off to water the beets.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

How He Would Say It

Next weekend we will be receiving our first members to City-Wide Redeemer. It will be a joyous occasion for all, and a big step in the journey of faith for some. Today I had lunch with a man who first exercised faith in Jesus two months ago. During our service of worship he will be sharing some excerpts from his life leading up to his conversion this year. As he told me today what he plans on saying I was taken by the freshness that the grace of God has in his life. Dead, discouraged, desperate, and separated from God, without hope, just 65 days ago. Today, alive, encouraged, at peace, in union with Christ, full of hope.

It was a joy for me to hear him describe God's grace in his own words. He doesn't speak the language of the confession, using economic words tied together with refined explanations. But, he speaks the truth of the confession of our faith and of Scripture. His telling of God's grace explodes with a passion that says, "I can't believe what is happening to me! God is so good!" I believe that when he speaks to visitors that day, who have yet to embrace the gospel, he will be speaking directly to their heart. I know that he'll be speaking to mine.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

We've Been Extended

In church planting so many things are out of our control. Yes, I know, in all of life so many things are out of our control. But the difference in most of life's situations I can trick myself into thinking that I'm in control. Here there is no tricking.

When it comes to finding a place to meet on Sunday mornings for worship this is just one of the many areas where we feel this tremendous sense of not having any control. With no building, no authority over how any building gets used, no reason that any building owner or manager should care about our needs, and hardly any buildings in this area to begin with, we often ask this question, "I wonder where we will be meeting next month?"

Today we got some great news. We will be saving money on our car insurance. (Insert talking gecko here.) Just kidding. The real news is that the middle school where we currently meet has graciously agreed to extend our use of their facilities through the month of June. Now we get to ask, "I wonder where we will be meeting in five months?"--a much better question.

O yes, God is in control! I keep forgetting that. Today I was reminded.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I Can't Sleep

It's late Tuesday night and I can not get my mind to turn off long enough to trick the rest of my body into being still for 6 hours or so.

It is dangerous to write late in the evening, nearly early morning, because sometimes the weariness gives more press to the emotions one is feeling and one fails to measure out the right words. Sometimes raw meat is good, though, I guess.

I've been tired lately, running from one appointment, to a task, to another task, to get the point. In the early days of planting a church so much falls to the church planter. That's no surprise, I didn't accept God's call with blinders on. I'm just feeling human in terms of my capacities. There is so much more I wish was already happening in the young life of this community of Jesus followers (though a few minutes of reflection reminds me of different expectations that have already been surpassed).

Last Sunday was weird. It was the first Sunday when I left worship wondering what other people were thinking. Are our people fatigued? Are they disappointed in some way? Do we all know what our direction is? Are people growing in the joy of the gospel? Was I just tired?

Whatever it was it has caused me to be face down before the Lord this week, along with my partner, Eric Phillips, and asking God to bring us back to center. What have we been called here to do? What is the vision that God has given me for this work of his? How have we lost some steam, so to speak, because other concerns have taken us off task? Where do we simply need to rely all the more on God to do some things.

The picture isn't grim at all, it was just out of focus last week.

So many exciting and encouraging things continue to happen in this ministry, but we long to see God glorified in more lives and in more situations.

I know that some readers of this blog care much about what we are doing here. If that is you, will you pray in a couple of ways this next month?

1. Will you pray for me as a leader?
2. Will you pray that God might emblazon his vision for this work on the hearts of those already involved so that they will more and more eagerly play their part in God's unfolding act of transforming this city?
3. Will you pray for God to bring 10 people to himself through this ministry in March?
4. Will you pray that we can see difficulties as opportunities to trust God all the more?

More and more I feel like the Apostle Paul must have felt when he wrote to the church at Corinth saying, "For if I preach the gospel, that gives me no ground for boasting. For necessity it is laid upon me. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel."

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

New Life

My church planting partner, Eric Phillips called me late this morning to share the news that our Lord has called yet another soul in Las Vegas into His kingdom through our meager ministry. I have yet to meet this man (Eric has been visiting with him), but know that he is about to embark on the difficult journey of a bone marrow transplant and the ensuing recovery. It is our hope that the Spirit of Christ will comfort him and his family as he endures this trial and that he might be restored fully to health. Days like these bring great joy to our hearts.

Do You Still Love Me?

He did it! I couldn't believe my eyes. Angie was laughing and crying simultaneously. Our daughter was just crying. On the grand scheme of things an event like your four year-old son cutting two gigantic chunks out of the golden locks that adorn the front of his head is really not that important. But, within a household at bedtime it can become a pretty big deal.

We had no choice but to cut off the rest of his hair. I got out the "buzzers" and went to work. He was terrified of me or his mother cutting off one of his ears. Angie finished the job and we all sighed. He looked longlingly at mom and said, "Do you still love me?"

What a moment. "Of course we still love you," came the immediate reply. "We're just going to miss kissing those golden curls."

Almost simultaneously he looked to mom with fishy lips puckered out an inch or so and said, "Will you still kiss me now?"

Two times in the span of 30 seconds he needed to know that we still love him. It was a great opportunity to show him unconditional love in a way that hit his little heart.

His hair will grow back. His confidence of mom's love for him has already grown. I'm so thankful for the way that Angie handled everything.

God is good.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Hablas Espanol?

"Hablas Espanol?" (Do you speak Spanish?) "Si, yo pienso. " (Yes, I think.)

Two times in as many days I have had the wonderful opportunity of meeting new friends in our community who speak some English, but mostly Spanish. It has been years since I needed to speak Spanish on a regular basis and I have been so thankful to experience our Lord's grace as words came back without any thought--vocabulary that I didn't remember having.

Yesterday I spent unexpected time with a man I'll call Rigoberto. He was asking me questions about different interpretations on some general issues in the Bible. As I began to interact with him another Spanish speaking man who was doing some masonary work two doors down came over to visit with us. He listened as I interacted with Rigoberto. I tried to explain concepts such as the Trinity and the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ for sinners. After a few minutes the other man, Jose Luis, chimed in with further explanation. He already understands the gospel, and is himself a follower of Jesus.

We had rich conversation for the next ten minutes or so and Rigoberto began to look as though he was understanding what I was so feebly trying to explain. I asked him if he understood. "Si," he said. Then I asked him if he would repent and put his trust for salvation in Jesus. He looked at me with a kind intensity and said, "Hmmm, no se." (Hmmm, I don't know.) He went on to tell me that it is a lot to take in. And indeed it is. He and his wife will be joining us for dinner in a couple of weeks and we look forward to getting to know them further. Hopefully the conversation will roll pretty smoothly. He is such a kind friend and we can't wait to meet his bride of ten years. This should also be a great experience for our children as they learn what can sometimes be required to enjoy friendship with others.

On another note...tonight our family spent 30 minutes sitting on some large swinging chairs in Lowe's. It was wonderful to sit and rest, numbly gazing across the isle at some plastic covers for grills and an assortment of rakes and other tools. I'm so thankful for the way that God refreshes us in the least expected places.

I'm considering the lilies (and orchids) today. If you haven't done so yourself lately, take a few minutes at your local garden supply and marvel at God's care for those creatures that neither toil or sew but enjoy adornment that is not even paralleled by King Solomon, P. Diddy, Posh Spice, or the Queen of England.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Who are the People in your Neighborhood (Part II)?

We've been in our new neighborhood for three weeks now. Transition is finally coming to a close. Though we have been working for four months in North Las Vegas it is just now feeling like the constant movement that has described us since May is slowing down. We are thankful for that.

This past Sunday morning at worship we had a few extra visitors from our old neighborhood here in North Las Vegas. We miss regular visits to the park with friends that became so close to us and our children during our stay on Vigilante Court. Hopefully as we get our pace again we will be able to spend a couple of afternoons each month back in our old stomping grounds just two miles down the road.

We are eager to meet our new neighbors here. The cold, wind, and busy schedules have really limited our ability to get outside. With temperatures warming this weekend I expect that many families will be at the park. Outside of the "unplanned" meetings with our neighbors we will begin the process of systematically going to thier doors and introducing ourselves. Hopefully some dinners will follow and we will begin to have significant relationships with those around us.

Our middle child began kindergarten this past week. Wow! I'm not sure who cried more--her or her mother. OK, it was an emotionally charged morning for me too as we dropped our little girl off with a kind looking stranger who hopes to help improve her already impressive reading skills and 23 other children who dawned very curious looks as they beheld their new school-mate. We are thankful that school has gone well for her. She is making friends and has a wonderful teacher. ...Yet another token of God's faithfulness and presence as we serve him in North Las Vegas.

Me and Angie

Me and Angie
December 2010