Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I loved watching the smile on his face as I responded to the crisis of belief in his little mind. He didn't even need to respond, it was a big "amen!". I said, "Corban....if God isn't real then: who made the sun rise this morning, can any person do that? And who hung the stars in place, could any of us ball up stars in our hands and toss them up to the sky? And what about the air we are breathing, who gave us that? And where does love come from, can we make that? And why would we sing to Him every morning?". Bless her heart, my 8 year old daughter chimes in with the rhetorical question...."yeah, and who heals us?" His grin confirmed his error and was proof of his re-affirmed belief.
So, I guess God addresses the doubts in my little mind the same way this morning. He says, "Ron...am I really able to be the giver and sustainer of your whole life? And will you trust Me with every part of your life...even the parts you don't think you need My help with? And am I able to provide your every need even in a troubled economy? And am I able to heal the hopeless around you? And, by the way, where does hope come from anyhow, who created it? And am I able to humble kings and kingdoms for My sake? And who can over-throw the proud and raise up the humble? And who fills the hungry and ushers in justice? And who brings mercy to generation upon generation?And....and....and......" This morning I feel a little like Job and utter similar sentiments..."Lord, I know that you can do all things, and no purpose of yours can be thwarted. Who am I to worry...or doubt....or question? You are sovereign and you supply our every need. We have heard of You but, because of Your work in our lives, we can now see Your love and provision. I repent in dust and ashes."
After my declaration of truth in the car, we went on to the next song in our set and I have to tell you, our little 3-man air-band sang "sing, sing, sing" with more belief than ever.....
He's worthy of everything we have...it's all His.
Thursday, May 8, 2008
I was born and grown in Indiana. Darcy and I met in a field, near a pig barn, north of US 33 in the mid-80's. We never dated until after we both were out of high school. Our life together was jump-started with the birth of our boys...just 13 months apart. It wasn't long after our boys were born and we were "doing" life that we began to stumble on questions of how to raise our them. Because of an invitation, we began getting involved with a community of believer's in an growing church. Our life would never be the same. I guess you could say that our hearts were as fertile and the black fields of Northern Indiana. Seed fell, it was nurtured, and our Spirits grew.
One of the families that we spent many years serving alongside ended up leaving the church the same year as us...and for the same reason: to go and serve a people group. They too have an amazing God story. As we left for the mountains of Arizona, they left for Zimbabwe. In just 10 years time, I am in awe of what God has done through them. They have established a self-sufficient AIDS orphanage, and all from nothing. This is a farm that feeds the community and is a home for precious children that need care...Eden's Children Village has become an amazing work of God, and all through simple servants...
I'd say it's true that what may be a dangerous idea to some almost makes sense to others of us. And as witnesses and servants to the Almighty, the messengers of His good news...I hope that we are all intently working on the destruction left by the storms of this life. As our battle here against the effects of alcohol, drugs, and physical and mental abuse rages on, our friends in Zimbabwe face the tyranny of a corrupt government and a ruthless leader that threatens to burn down the farm and kill. Both atrocities cry out for Divine interruption. Let's be honest...we are fools if we don't recognize that we have an enemy that seeks to fight until we lose hope and stop believing that He can make all things right. I know that I've been slapped around more than once and I have to admit that my faith is sometimes weak as doubt and frustration creep in. But lest I get too comfortable in my pity and entertain thoughts of apathy (to come and take the pain of being so close to suffering away), I must find the strength to pray and claw my way back to understanding that my Hope is in the Lord...the battle isn't mine.
Late last summer I gave a message at the funeral of a 16-year old Apache girl. It was a heart-breaking ordeal but I had the chance to spend time with some of her friends that really needed hope. One of the girls, that I tried to reach out to during that time, still comes around our youth center. I always go out of my way to try to talk to her. I'm usually the last person that she wants to see...and she usually makes sure that I know that. I've gathered that she's been mis-handled her whole life and her scars show it. It saddens and disturbs me that such a precious child has had to take such abuse. And even though she was always sure to reject and curse me, I tried to show Jesus's love and model of His grace. That pattern didn't stop until yesterday. As I was working behind the counter at our youth center she came up to me and asked me if I had time to talk...
I love the word empathy (the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experiences of another). And I think that Jesus had a lot of it. This is the word that best describes my feelings as I'm listening to broken and confused souls. Empathizing with someone helps me to understand where they've been. And with that understanding comes a realization that answers aren't simple, and solutions will take resources, sacrifice, and discipline. As she cried she shared what I had suspected all along and what the cuts on her arms testified to...I was talking to a lovely girl who had been broken by her environment over and over again. And each time she healed her scars got a little thicker. So there I was looking at a very scarred little 16-year old...afraid to let anyone close to her again for fear of the hidden weapon. This hurdle between us was only knocked over by showing continued love and grace amidst relentless rejection. Which is exactly the kind of patience God shows towards us (thankfully). So she shares that she's been neglected, used, and abused everything from alcohol to cocaine to meth. She sobbing that she doesn't have any hope and doesn't know where to turn. She thinks her alcoholic mother and non-existent dad both hate her. She considers suicide but stops short when she thinks of her little sister...who would take care of her? She shared, I listened, we prayed and as I headed to my car (asking God why it has to be)...I see her and her sister walking down the sidewalk towards home...alone.
I wish it weren't true. I wish it didn't have to be like this. I wish I had a solution for her, to pluck her from her sin infested environment. But I don't. And although I could list many, many wishes I'll always come back to the Gift. The Gift given to me (and her) that if I would only trust...and wait...and pray...and perservere....He is faithful to give us more than we could ever ask for or imagine. And oh, how I wish we could all pray that prayer on behalf of others hurt instead of our pocketbooks, or church buildings, or vehicles...or comfort.
So...Sarah....Kevin....Susan....the families of "Eden"....and those of you who may be hurting too....this song's for you.....May the Lord empower us to fight through these storms together and I pray that we will not be made impotent by the waves of wrongs in this world.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
I've been thinking over the past few weeks about voices. There are so many "voices" all around us. I watched an incredible teaching by John Elderidge on quieting ourselves to hear the voice of God. Heck, I'll admit, I can barely quiet myself long enough to listen to God among my long list of requests and inquiries. I had a student come into my office and confide in me that the reason he doesn't want to go home at night is because he hears voices whispering bad things to him. And no, I don't think he's crazy. Our enemy wants to torment us...make us miserable. And these things freak me out. It's during these times that we pray for miracles and hope that the words that trickle out of our mouths are planted into hearts of fertile soil and take hold. These things take incredible faith and trust in our Lord. This student told me his faith is weak and he doubts...and so mine can be, brother. I don't deal with these demonic voices. Sometimes I deal with worse. Apathy, sarcasm, fear, doubt, judgment, discouragement...and I could go on. But, this is what I expect. If we are going to press on and believe that our God wants us to serve Him and others and make gains for Him...shouldn't we expect some opposition? Is my "martyrdom" somehow worse than those who've gone before me? I hardly think so! And when I need strength, He is there. And I...I share the setiments of Moses in Exodus 33. God, If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favor with you. And He promises me that His Presence will go with me, and He will give me rest. And I pray, like Moses, God...if your Presence does not go with me please don't even send me because I'll just end up looking like everyone else (and probably make a mess). And I pray that God will show me His glory...it's all around. In the mountains, in my friends, family, co-laborers, in the canyons, and if I look real close and pray real hard...I will see it in my "enemies".
Lord, hide me in some cleft...protect me...and help me to know exactly when you pass by. You alone make this life enjoyable...help me to reach out to others and love them like you love them (and me.)
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
Oh, my goodness...my first thought was to see if Austin was breathing (I hardly could). When we finally established that we were still alive I began to wonder where the horse ran off to and how upset Kayla might be that her horse ran away! So, we limped home. As we were nearing the house I saw Kayla coming down the road. I told her, ”Kayla…I’m so sorry! Have you seen your horse?”. She informed me that the horse was safe and at home. And so I asked her, “ have you ever had problems like this with your horse…has it ever done this to you?” And without much thought she says, “ I don’t really even know the horse that well…I just got him yesterday and when you saw me, I had just gotten on him for the first time…”.
What? I tried to explain to her that she should have told me that BEFORE we got on! A little heads up or something, you know? Unbelievable experience!
As I think about it, this is how Apache Youth Ministries got started…we just jumped on! And sometimes it’s been smooth riding and other times we’ve sprinted, and….even been tossed a few times (And no, I won’t pull out the cliché about getting back on the horse when you fall off. I know that Austin and I didn’t that day!) And in this ministry, that serves the Apache, we have always sought to humbly love and walk alongside those that God puts in our path and serve the Lord with everything that we have. And God continues to do amazing things in our midst. It’s a beautiful and amazing ride with Him at the reigns.
God has certainly blessed our organization and, more importantly, given us favor among the Apache over the years. We have worked with hundreds of teens in different ways. As you know, we even continue to see hundreds every month come through our youth center! In 2004, a year after our youth center opened up, we began to ask the question, “how can we resource students in need even further?” We would see students come into our youth center, and participate in our studies, but have to go home to an environment that didn’t coddle them or resource them to be all that God had created them to be. The sin (that so easily entangles) was snatching them. We began to dream about getting some out and resourced.
The Homes For Hope model began when Darcy and I started taking kids into our own home and loving them as a part of our family. After all, isn’t this what we all want? Love and acceptance. Homes For Hope didn’t “officially” start until a dear 16 year old student of ours (one we were very close to) went to her closet one February afternoon and hung herself. One of the most painful things I’ve had to endure. You can check out a short story I wrote, a day or so after her death, you can read it HERE. This program, in part, was named with her in mind. She had so much potential, and we could have gotten her out.
Currently we are blessed to have another sweet girl in our home as a part of our family. I wrote a short story about her too…read it HERE. Over the years, and through the homes of some awesome partners, we have resourced a handful of kids, intervening in their lives to give them love and hope for a future.
I always dreamed that this would be able to take place near to the rez so that these students would have some contact with their loved ones. Over the past few years house prices have been so high that this has been unobtainable. But now we have an incredible opportunity to grab a home in Pinetop. It is a “fixer-upper” that would meet, hopefully, our need to get another student out, but at the very least a need for staff housing. God has blessed us with an amazing team. Some of our staff do, and always will, live on the reservation. We have to be a part of the community by being there 24/7. But not all of us can. Pray for this project. We have already raised over $70,000!!! Amazing! Whether it’s through this home, or others across the nation…I can’t wait to continue to experience the feeling of seeing God’s people come together to help those that He loves be completely resourced so that they can achieve and be empowered to impact the world in return!
If you’d like to know more about the status of the home we are looking at buying please go to THIS LINK (* some of the figures have changed, we are currently considering offering $81K or less for the home). Or, you can contact me at 928-521-3588 or firstname.lastname@example.org .