Excerpt from My Upcoming Book

Sometimes, like Abraham, you have to leave Ur before you can see Canaan.

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I am almost finished with the book I promised months ago. It will be available on Amazon in January. It is a book about dreaming, failing, persevering, friendship, and seeing the unthinkable. The book consists  of my journal entries over the past three years. It chronicles my journey (and my family’s) from pastoring, becoming extremely unsettled, walking way from jobs with nothing on the horizon, moving to Washington, and then ending up where we are now. It is very raw and honest and quite often feels like a roller coaster. Depression, fear, anger, and other emotions marked the path.

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My heart is to encourage people to follow Christ into the unknown places that he is calling. Sometimes, like Abraham, you have to leave Ur before you can see Canaan. Frequently, God only gives you bits and pieces. He wants trust. He is jealous over your trust. He hides information so that in the end, you must look into his eyes and take the leap because his “yes” trumps the pending uncertainty.

The following excerpt is from September 1st, 2015. After pastoring for over 10 years, this was my first full day after stepping away. Yet, no door had opened.

“…this means that there is now nothing for the Fall. Now what? We have believed that it was Fall all along. I gave up both jobs. I am so far behind in academics because of the years that you had me pastor. And now, you are going to drag your feet and toss aside a semester of my life? I was hoping with all of my heart that you were going to show me great favor and even accelerate this part of my calling. I “feel” so far behind academically, yet you are not allowing me to move forward. Nothing? No job, no income, and no philosophy? Nothing? And if you don’t open a door, how am I to see your face and be confident that you will speak when the reason we are where we are at is that we thought you did speak. It so looks as if we were wrong. Why are you going to waste me?”

I will keep you updated.

Our First Ten Days in Edinburgh, Scotland

You think things will go one way and they don’t. They hardly ever do, right?

Where do I begin? The idea of trying to share everything from the last ten days is overwhelming. As wonderful as it has been, it has not been easy. One challenge is always followed with another.

IMG_1440We traveled for almost two days. Before flying from Boston to Iceland, we had a chance to hang out with Joe and Megan Weidemann. They really took care of us. We would have left Boston worn out if not for them. After all, we had a three-year old son, five suitcases (almost everything we own), and two backpacks. They made that step easy.

After leaving Texas on Monday around 7pm central time, we arrived in Edinburgh at noon Wednesday (Edinburgh time). We were tired beyond words. When we arrived, Allison’s cell phone and my computer were dead. However, we did not have universal adapters for the electrical outlets in the UK. Again, it is the little things that add up with an international transition that can wear you down. We decided to crash. We feel asleep around 2:30pm and woke up at 9pm. Yep, we were that tired. We woke up, walked to the Morningside District, bought some groceries, returned to our air bnb rental, ate, and went back to bed.

Not having a power adapter was a major problem. My work is remote/online, so without it, I could not do my job. We checked at the grocery that night and they did not have any universal adapters. We saw one more shop open in Morningside. We entered the store and there they were…plastic gold! Each adapter was three pounds ($3.96). Little did the young man know that I would have paid any amount for that adapter that evening. We bought two.

We quickly realized that it was going to take an act of God to secure a rental property. The market moves SO FAST. I had to spend hours each day scanning different property websites, calling property managers, setting up appointments, and then studying google maps to find out which bus goes where and coordinate the time of it all. It was mentally and emotionally exhausting. On top of that, more than once we would receive a call that the property we were supposed to see that day or the next had gone under contract. Again, the market moves at the speed of light.

By our first weekend, it felt impossible to secure a rental. We were a bit discouraged. Family and friends really began to pray for us. I got up early Monday morning and made a list of properties that fit our criteria (I had been doing this every morning upon arrival). I called and set up as many viewings as possible. Awkwardly, when you view properties in the UK, you do so with several other individuals/couples/families. Whoever is interested then submits an application. Even if you like the property, you are up against so many others. The chances of securing a property is slim. We felt this pressure because until you secure a property, you are jumping from one air bnb to the next. That is exactly what we had to do yesterday.

Our goal was to be in our permanent rental before school started (tomorrow).

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We were so naive. There was never a chance for that. However, thanks be to the Lord and all of the people praying for God’s favor, our application was accepted for a property that we absolutely love only six days after arriving. We were so relieved. However, we can’t move in until this Friday, September 15th, so yesterday we had to pack up everything once again, book a large taxi, load up all of our belongings, go across town, and move into another short-term rental. We are tired and a bit weary.

You think things will go one way and they don’t. They hardly ever do, right? After 2.5 years of keeping the dream alive and living out of suitcases, the extra week felt like a bigger deal than usual.

To give you an idea of how difficult an international transition is, we still don’t have cell phones. So listen to this. Before getting a cell phone, you have to have a local bank account. But as an international student, I can’t get a bank account until I have secured a rental property and have a fixed address. This felt nearly impossible. On top of that, once the rental property is secured, you have to make a special trip to the school to get a Bank Introduction Letter. You then have to take this into the bank of choice and then you can set up an account. Then you can get cell phones.

Needless to say, everything is like this. You need A to get B, but without C, you can’t get B. This has been the transition life.

Another difficult part of transition is that we really miss family and friends. You can’t have everything in life. We could have stayed close to our friends in Spokane. We could live close to family. However, we would have never taken this leap. With every gain, there is a loss (and I suppose the opposite is true; with every loss, there is a gain). Right now, especially because we are not yet settled, the “losses” feel heavy.

In the middle of it all, we have stopped to take everything in.

In Morningside, we found the most amazing cheese shop ever. We have already been to that shop three times to get “Prima Donna Maturo.” This is a hard cheese produced by a family in the Netherlands. Whoever the family, they are God’s gift to the world. This cheese is brilliant (as they say here in Edinburgh).

We went to Holyrood Park and saw Arthur’s Peak first hand. It was breathtaking. We cannot wait to set aside some time to scale the peak.

We are a bit proud of ourselves regarding public transportation. Thanks to Allison, we wasted no time learning the system. We arrived on a Wednesday and by Thursday, we were using the Lothian buses. During my doctoral years, we will not own a car. Public transportation is splendid and so simple. We are figuring our way around and Ezra is having the time of his life. The busses are “double-deckers.” When we have a longer trip, we go upstairs. We sit in the very front when the seats are open. It brings my heart joy to watch him. He comes alive. He loves the simple things.  Traveling with a young child has its challenges, but at the same time, he brings something to the experience that you could never have otherwise. A child is truly amazing. No wonder Jesus told people that they had to be like kids to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Adults are no fun. Adults are too serious. Adults are too hard to impress. Adults would rather be anxious while missing the beauty around them.

That is enough for now. We move into our place Friday. School starts tomorrow. We are going to go view the building where I will be studying for the first time today. We wanted to see it as a family first before I report in. After all, this is our accomplishment. We did this together.  Now one of the deepest desires of my heart is for the Lord to make Edinburgh a very special place for Allison and Ezra.

 

Writing One Last Time from Winnsboro, Texas (a reflection about “prizes”)

After 2 1/2 hard years, the prize for all of our perseverance is less than a week away.

Today is Friday. We fly out on Monday. We will land in Boston, stay the night with Joe and Megan Weidemann (who have literally worked for days to arrange so many details for us), and then hop the pond.

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After 2 1/2 hard years, the prize for all of our perseverance is less than a week away. You know, life is not all about the journey. There are destinations. Of course, those destinations become new starting points for the next chapter. But my point is this: you don’t sacrifice for the sake of sacrifice. You give up things and suffer through things because there is a prize waiting. Sometimes the prize is on this side of the grave, sometimes the other, and sometimes it is different than what you thought it would be. The point remains: we persevere, struggle, fight, and keep getting up one more time because God is faithful to take our wholehearted efforts (whether they end in success or failure) to move us into his purposes.

What matters more than, “Are you doing God’s will?”

Are you clinging to safety? To comfort?

Are you afraid of losing what you have to go after what the Holy Spirit keeps whispering to you in the dark? At some point, you have to cut the rope, jump, and know that God will be pleased with the faith whether you did in fact hear him or missed it. I mean, lets be honest, seldom are you 100% sure that you have heard God. 90%? Impressive. 75%? Still amazing. 50%? Yikes, this will take some risk. 30%? Yep, this is hard.

Quite often, you sense that Jesus is walking around in the fog and you are catching quick, light impressions of him and his movements. You think you see. You think you hear. But faith is required. You have to trust in God enough to know that even if you miss it sometimes, Daddy is so big and his arms so strong that he can take your faith “missteps” and redirect. At least you are moving. It is easier to steer something already moving.

I fear that some Christians are so afraid of missing God that they can’t obey. Are you trying to obey God or simply not disobey? There is a big difference.

May we be people of faith. May we long for adventure that has Christ at the center and not ourselves. This doesn’t mean you will move anywhere. It might, but living by faith could mean that you start serving, forgiving, giving, listening, helping in your local church, pursuing your degree when it doesn’t seem financially wise, or __________________. You fill it in. Better yet, let God fill it in.

And remember, prizes come. God rewards. One way or another, it will be worth it.

The next time I write, it will be from Scotland. Oh, and I am hoping to finish the book by October. There has been a lot to do to prepare for this jump.

 

The Adventure of a Lifetime: An Update from Spokane, WA

 
One blog post for the last three weeks? Impossible. So much has happened.

Last February, long before my wife and I had a clue about what would transpire throughout the remainder of 2015, we began looking at each other and saying, “We want to go on the adventure of a lifetime.” And then, in the last few weeks, I discovered that Coldplay, one of my favorite bands, just put out a new song titled Adventure of a Lifetime (click on title). Yep, God and Coldplay are connected.

I cannot explain how odd it is to get off a plane and then begin living somewhere. We bought one-way tickets and boarded the plane with four suit-cases, two backpacks, and arrived in a city we had never visited to begin the next chapter of our lives within hours.

One of our best friends picked us up from the airport on January 17th. We have been unpacking, shopping thrift stores to find a few basic pieces of furniture (a dresser and a desk), connecting with the people in our new spiritual community (River City Church), and making a home in the upstairs area of Thomas & Rachael’s home. We pitch in every month. This arrangement keeps us mobile, for we are not tied into a contract of any sorts. If I were to win a Ph.D. scholarship in the next few months, we need to be able to move in the early fall without any complication. Who knows what will happen between now and then.

For now, we are focused on being present. Meet new people. Be kind and see where that leads for Jesus. Get familiar with my new workplaces. Start living by a budget again now that we are settled. You know, all of the stuff of life.

As for as jobs, God has proven to be a kind, leading Daddy again. We moved up here for one adjunct course at Whitworth University. Within a week of getting here, I had an interview at Spokane Community College and was offered an adjunct position teaching philosophy there as well! That course begins in April. The Whitworth gig began yesterday. Because these are adjunct jobs, I needed another job working approximately 20 hours per week to make ends meet. Well, the online Christian middle/high school that one of my best friends work at invited me in for an interview. They are willing to work around my schedule, are paying me a great hourly wage, and it is once again in the education sphere of society. I love it! I am able to support my family teaching, one of the great passions and callings of my life.  I feel so blessed.

So much more has happened that I will weave in and out of future blogs. For now, rest assured, God is a good Dad that has truly shown to keep his word. What word? Psalms 16:8 reads, “I have set the Lord always before me…” I have prayed this prayer all of my adult life. He has come through again. He keeps coming through. God is that pinch hitter that you feel like at times is sitting in the dugout not contributing and then all of the sudden, he steps up to the plate and changes everything. He is quite and loud. He is soft and strong. He treads lightly and kicks. He wrestles while gently holding your hands.

Remember, as true Christ-followers, we walk by faith, NOT by sight (2 Cor. 5:8). We forget this so easily. I cannot forget a man in Picayune, someone I greatly looked up to, looking me in the eye and saying, “Well, you will regret this.” I PROMPTLY responded while looking him in the eye, “No we won’t.” And we haven’t.

Any discomfort we might feel in any given moment is offset with the thought, “We are still trying to find our footing because we were willing to jump.” Leap. Dive. We took the plunge. And all of the way across the United States, we are learning that God is everywhere, Jesus’ mission hasn’t changed, people are still people, and that buying a one way ticket with a family was really cool!