Thankful

Today is my birthday. Thanks mom and dad for bringing me into this crazy wonderful world! As I sit enjoying some much needed introvert time over coffee, my heart is full as I reflect on just a few of the reasons I am thankful my mom endured her labor of love 43 years ago.

  • I have never known a day in my life apart from the love of Jesus. I pray that 2014 will be a year where many people will be awakened to life in God’s grace by and through and even in spite the way I reflect that same love.
  • I am blessed with a wife who understands me enough even to allow me introvert time on my birthday! That is just one of the reasons why Michelle will always be the love of my life. It is such a joy to be on this adventure of mission together as a family.
  • I have two amazing kids. They are creative, goofy, intelligent little knuckleheads who drive me absolutely crazy, but I wouldn’t trade them for all the riches of the world. Zachary and Marin remind me to play and laugh and create. They are my greatest treasure.
  • In 2013 I feel Like I finally found a home. I have loved the adventure of moving around the country and have met amazing friends along the way. Something feels different here in Fort Wayne. I love our church community and this city and want to see it transformed into a living breathing expression of God’s Kingdom. For the first time in my adult life I feel like I am somewhere to stay. I am also blessed that our extended family (the Irvin family) uprooted all that was familiar to join us here in Fort Wayne. Love you guys.

There is way more, but I’ll stop there for now. Thanks for indulging me this moment. Much love!
–Brian

Orange or Blue

Daily Reading: James 3:3-4:6*

James 4:1-3
What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it. And even when you ask, you don’t get it because your motives are all wrong—you want only what will give you pleasure.

Do you want the orange spoon or the blue spoon?

Would you ever think that such a simple question could cause a major problem at the dinner table? If you have kids, or if you have ever met a kid you know what I’m talking about. Some of the biggest meltdowns our kids have happen when one kid has something the other one wants. Often it isn’t even so much about what the other one has as it is the fact that the other one has it. Orange spoon vs. Blue spoon. Stuffed monkey vs. stuffed kitty. Pirate action figure vs. Lalaloopsy. You get the idea. When one sets his/her mind on having and taking what the other one has all bets are off. There is no talking with them. No reasoning with them. It’s a mess. This probably just happens in my family, right? Sure.

The thing is, this kind of selfish, self centered behavior is pretty blatant in young children. It is almost a caricature because it is so exagggerated. Unfortunately, while sometimes the way we express it becomes suppressed, selfish ambition often remains a problem even for adults. As parents, we are always encouraging and challenging our kids to be thankful for what they have. We also teach them that what they have is a blessing to be shared. I wonder how many wars could have been prevented by simply following these early-childhood lessons? I wonder how many lawsuits? HOA grievances? Office conflicts? Some disagreements certainly aren’t over petty things, but honestly so many things we fight over and fixate on are just adult versions of, “do you want the orange spoon or the blue one?”

Jesus, in what ways does my selfish ambition stand in the way of the gifts you are prepared to give me? What am I missing out on because I am so focused what someone else has? Teach me, dear Jesus, to lay down my self-serving, self-centered ways.

James 3:17-18
But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

Do I want the orange spoon or the blue one? What I want is to know Jesus more fully and to join with what he is doing in this world.

*As part of my regular, daily rhythm I follow a pattern for reading scripture produced by the Moravian Church called, “The Moravian Daily Texts.” I often share my personal journal reflections on this site. They are raw, in the moment reflections, not theological treatises. If they are helpful to you… great! If not, you know where to file them!

The Big Picture

My mind can not comprehend a lot at once, at least that is what my human self believes.  Most of the time, one piece at a time is what I think my mind can handle and what I think I need to do to put the puzzle together.  But that doesn’t always work, does it?  Especially if the puzzle has 500 + pieces.  I often have to look at the big picture on the box to get a sense of where each specific piece might fit.  Even then, it still takes time to allow the pieces to come together to complete a picture.  During this process there are moments of excitement and anticipation as the pieces come together.  At other times there is a feeling of frustration and exhaustion because I just can’t seem to understand how a piece fits with the big picture.  It’s quite a process.  Ever have this experience?

This morning I found myself taking a moment to look at the big picture.   For the past 5 years or so, life has felt like a lot of little pieces that just don’t seem to fit.  Many times I found myself asking the Lord, “Why?”.  “What was the purpose of this experience, that situation, that year?”  I was struck today, thinking about the next couple of weeks, thinking about where we (Brian and our family)  have been, where we are and where we seem to be headed.  Out of the blue, I looked up from the pieces laying in front of me and glanced at the big picture.  There they were, all the pieces, a part of the whole.  It struck me; how often I forget to look up, to step back, to allow the big picture to emerge.

The truth is, myself, my husband, my family… we would not be where we are now if it was not for the pieces of the past several years.  We could not be who we are without those experiences.  It has been through this journey we have been on; the joys, the heartaches, the mountains, the valleys… all of them; the good, the bad, the ugly… that has brought us here, that has shaped who we are today and how we live our lives as a Family on Mission.  Everything we have journeyed through, God has used to teach us, mold us, cleanse us, reshape us, discipline us and free us to be who we are today.

Don’t get me wrong.  We have no where near arrived to any kind of finish line.  We are disciples; learners, always on a journey, always growing, always changing.  We have much still to learn and polish.  We are not perfect and never will be until we arrive at Heaven’s gates.

But for today, I am humbled and grateful that the Lord of Heaven and Earth can see the big picture.  Although I don’t always have clarity on how each piece of my life fits into the big picture, He does.  And if I can remember to step back sometimes, to be still, to turn toward Him, He will give me glimpses of that big picture and every now and then I see how the piece fits into it all.

Have you glanced up lately, to catch a glimpse of the big picture?  Even if it is still a blur, don’t stop glancing.  He will reveal how the pieces fit.  It might take time, but the picture will begin to come together.  He will never leave you or forsake you.  That He promises!

Dearest Lord Jesus, God, Father, Savior, Friend!  On this journey of life, the road will sometimes be smooth and sometimes be quite rocky,  but we walk with confidence, hope and joy, for you have overcome this world and no matter what it hands us, you walk with us, molding us, teaching us, changing us and growing us into the people you desire for us to be.  Thank you.  Help us to trust you.  Remind us to keep our eyes on you, as you reveal to us the picture you see.  We love you so.  Amen.

Confidently

“Do not let unexpected problems distract you from My Presence.  Instead, talk with Me about everything, and watch confidently to see what I will do.” – Jesus Calling, Sarah Young

Confident:  full of conviction, certain, having or showing assurance  (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

So what will it take for me to walk confidently through each day knowing that “Nothing is impossible for God.”  (Luke 1:37)? I really do believe that.  I believe that God is all powerful.    True, I don’t always understand the world around me and the things that happen in life.  Life can be  hard,  painful,  dark.  But I believe in God.  I believe in Jesus.  And I Believe in His promises.

“I have told you this so that you may peace in Me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world!” – John 16:33 (NLT)

“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.” – John 1:5 (NIV)

“For everyone born of God overcomes the world.  This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.”  -1John 4-5 (NIV)

“Be alert and of sober mind.  Your enemy, the devil, prowls like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” – 1Peter 5:8 (NIV)

“Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” -Romans 12:21 (NIV)

“What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things?  Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  -Romans 8:31-37 (NIV)

I have been walking around defeated lately.  Allowing the lion to get way too close.  Enough is enough.  I am not weak.  I am not defeated.   Today I am reminded of the One who is faithful, who is all powerful, who is the God of angel armies. Today, I will stand and face the obstacles of life with my hands open, confident of who I am, whose I am and who is always by my side.

What obstacles are you facing today?  Small or large, you are a child of God and He will never fail you or forsake you! (Joshua 1:5)  Let us walk into today hearing God’s voice…  “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” – Joshua 1:9 (NRSV)

Be blessed.

Z

Yesterday was our son Zachary’s birthday.  He is six now, but his birth was an adventure to say the least.  He surprised us with his arrival 3 months before his due date.  Each year I post an updated version of the same picture on my facebook page… just to remember ho far he has come and to proclaim God’s miraculous healing power that we witnessed first hand in those early days and weeks of his life.  The outpouring of response never ceases to amaze me.

z ring age 6.001

April 24th is always a day when I am on the verge of tears.  I look back through the old pictures and I’m overwhelmed as I re-live that journey.  I will never, nor do I want to forget the way the community surrounded us in prayer.  The way people loved us through the hard times and celebrated each victory with us along the way.  We believe when we see God’s Kingdom breakthrough (as it did through the healing journey of Zachary’s birth) we are meant to share it!  So we share his story and ours.  We are thankful for the life of our son and we are thankful for the witness he bears to our awesome, amazing, incredible, loving God!