Saturday, October 24, 2009

hard pressed

As I sit down to write tonight, I am finding myself hard pressed. The day was really fine. But tonight I felt so pulled and weary and frustrated and feeling this great pressure. It is so strange to even say that. I do not feel like I have the right to be anything but extremely thankful and blessed right now. Though I have no job we are able to survive do to the generosity of those who continue to bless us. My son is a walking miracle. We have three amazing boys and a very supportive family and community behind us. Yet I am so weary for Jacob. So frustrated with his frustrations.

Sometimes I feel like I am going to break - not from weariness and fear of death but the every day continued pressure and strain. Plus I freak out over money issues no matter what. I panic and worry about three months from now and see doom of what might happen.

I feel like I have no right to be down - God has incredibly blessed us. Yet I am down. I am tired. I am weary. Part of it is this pressure to do something - to make this miracle count - to take action and find the reason for all of this and do something that blesses back others as I have been blessed. I am thinking that way and wanting to go that way. And then I feel like I cannot do what is on my heart. I cannot do all that I think I should be doing. And the pressure to perform to be something more than I am is building to a bursting point. Someone will ask me what I am doing for a living and I stress over what I should be doing.

This subtle little stress is not from God. God has called me right now in this moment simply to be right where I am. We have seen this in him from the beginning. As John says, "We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." And we have seen God work incredibly - magnificently - miraculously. He has reminded me again and again you are right where I want you. And yet I want more; I feel guilty of what I think people will think about me. I get so caught up in that over what God thinks about me.

I started reading the gospel of John today; "the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us." Listening to God and rejoicing in today I simply need to step through the moments and listen to God who is with me in the midst of all of this. I am frustrated and angry about where God is and with Jacob we question all of it...wondering what next, what are going to do next Lord. I still trust God, I still have faith in God, I still put my hope in him...I just don't like where things are today in the midst of this mess.

Praying that tomorrow will be an easier day for Jacob. That the back pain will go away and he might enjoy these moments in the midst of this great pain for him.

Thanks

Tom (JK Daddy)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Patience is far slower than it should be...

I remembered something incredibly helpful for me today. Prior to Jacob's surgery where they removed the dead skull the doctors wanted as much therapy as possible. They told us that recovery slows down after the skull is removed. The brain does not like to be uncovered so it just remains cautious. Okay if you are a medical professional you are probably really frustrated at how I said that - the point is the slowing down of recovery. Jake is doing well with his school work. His memory is intact. His brain function is amazing. He gets sad and depressed. I wonder if part of it might have to do with just being so frustrated that his body is not responding as it he thinks it should be.

Patience is far slower than you think it should be. We are moving step by step closer to getting the brain covered back up. We now have appointments with the thumb doctors and the plastic surgeon next week to check on the muscle flap on the skull (if you put your hand up to the left side of your head just above your ear that is the size). We will also probably need to go back in for some surgery on his right arm to release some of the tight - healed skin. Right now he can lift his right arm almost even to his shoulder. We do therapy exercises but the skin can only stretch so far.

Moving forward there will be more difficulties - not just with this injury but with life. Life brings tragedy as well as incredible joys. Just this week holds news of a friends divorce, a family threatened and a job lost. Though things happen that weaken our knees, displace our confidence, and takes the wind from our sails, we do not lose hope. One thing we are learning over and over again that hope is not wishful thinking that all will work out the way we think it should. Hope is that the ever-present, fully in control, all-knowing God is there with us tomorrow. Tomorrow my will hold both joy and sorrow - but either way God is still present - He is still with me walking with me through it all. So I can be patient (or work on it), I can have joy, I can forgive, I can allow peace to reign and I can step forward to whatever comes.

I shared four things with the church in Corralitos that I right now I see as major lessons being learned through this Jacob's journey. I wanted to share them as we explore them. This comes not just by things we have said but what this community is teaching us.

1. We are learning the NECESSITY OF COMMUNITY
We are reaching new levels of love and they are coming in the context of community. This is how God designed it for us as well. That is why Paul goes to such great lengths to describe the BODY of CHRIST. Our gifting, talents, and skills are unique and as we blend individuals together we grow deeper and compliment one another. Community means that we are on the same level. The death of Christ broke down barriers bringing us together. We seem to miss that so much and put up huge walls that separate. Paul says in Eph 2:11-16 that the wall of hostility that divides us is broken down.

Everything about being in Christ leads us to love. Love is not just being nice or cordial but gets very dirty and confronts with a heart that wants to restore and repair and bring healing. Love does not confront to tear apart and wound and attack. Thou shalt not murder is not just a good idea it is a sin and though I may not have physically done this - I have done it in my heart and God sees that as the same. It breaks down community and leads us away from love.

2. We are learning that God brings us through TRAINING IN RIGHTEOUSNESS.
Growing and learning through both joys and sorrows we are lead to become more like Christ as we allow brokenness to be real. We need to surrender the idea that I can do everything and we allow others and the miracles of God build and sustain. Brokenness does not come naturally. Paul says when I am weak then I am strong. We desire to seek the presence of God over the presents from God. Prayers are moving toward I want to know you and see you and hear you. They are moving away from give me this, heal that, I deserve this. The presence of God makes all else pale in comparison.

3. We pursue and earnestly desire the EVER-PRESENCE of God
This is really hard to accept but Jesus needs to leave. If you read John 14-16 you see not only Jesus heart for his disciples but for all of us. He told them and he tells us, "I must leave." Jesus said I need to go so that I can send you the Spirit of God that will be with you always: EVER-PRESENT. I hold on to my picture of Jesus and God. I demand that they fit into my box of understanding and in a real sense demand that they do things my way. We hold on to the prayer that God will give me the desire of my heart and that if I have faith I can move mountains and we miss the point that He is the deepest thing I can ever desire. God does not fit into my box - my explanation and understanding about God is always growing because is uncontainable.
Letting go of my picture of Jesus opens up to greater understanding, greater longing, greater loving.

4. We each have TRIALS OF VARIOUS KINDS. There are no comparisons. My trial does not trump your trial. We are not promised a life of ease; we are promised trials and they come is various ways and at various times. God prepares us for what we are going to go through. This takes us back to Training in Righteousness too. We grow and move through situations that come our way and grow toward God as we acknowledge him and embrace him. Obviously though situations can and do move us away from God. But we best not compare trials each are trials and they persecute our faith attacking us and causing us doubt, bitterness, rage. As we see Christ in the midst of these hardships and the intertwining of faith, hope and love strength builds and we find a peace, a joy, a patience. That is the fruit of the spirit. The fruit that comes from dependence on the spirit of God working in us.


I feel a little funny trying to sum this all up as though I have a handle on it all. That is really not what is going on. It is more a way to summarize the journey this far and what God seems to be teaching...well...at least me. So much comes just through trying to observe and make sense of things. In a sense it can be putting things in a box - trying to contain all this and answer the question that continues to plague: why God? Why is Jake having to go through this? As we move forward though I hope to try to minimize the box and be open to even greater understanding. Greater hope, greater peace, greater joy. I feel like quite the hypocrite though because I also just want things to be easy and for all this to go away. Yet if all this had not gone on I would not have seen God the way I have seen God. So though I do not long for more trials - I do long for more God - that does not have to come through trials - it can also come through blessing. We have had that too.

"Lord send some blessing a few more miracles Jake's way that he might see your glory and know that you are present."

Here's to blessing.

Tom (JK Daddy)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Compassion...not done yet...

We just got back from the neurosurgeon. All at this point looks good. Jake just yesterday finished his 70 days of antibiotics. Now we need to wait a few more weeks to makes sure no infections develop because if they are there when they put the plate in it will take on the infection. The next step is in the next couple of weeks there will be a specialized CT scan which designs the synthetic composite plate which will cap his brain. Then within 6 weeks we will have surgery to open up the muscle flap which currently covers his brain and they will secure the plate and put the muscle flap back over the plate. Then down the road will talk about how we can get hair back on the left side of his head. Friends are suggesting he stick to a mohawk but Jake is not biting.

Tuesday we confer with the surgeons for Jake's thumb. Indications right now seem to lead to separate surgeries for a number of factors but we will see. As I continue to tell Jacob..."we are not done yet."

------------
This morning as we were helping Jake get dressed for the doctor - he was pretty low. He got a little dizzy when he got up earlier and had fallen - pretty scary for all. Limitations can be so frustrating. He teared up a bit and said what we have all said many times "I just don't understand why." A lot of answers come to mind - but I am not going to try to convince him and shut him down by telling him what I think. I want him and God to wrestle a bit together as Jacob later named Israel wrestled with God and had his own limp afterward. I just stuck my head in his chest and cried with him. I hurt so badly for him - I want to do something - act in a way to help - that is compassion. Yet the actions that often come from watching another's pain is not always the actions that should be taken. What I deem as compassionate acts may actually be selfish in nature.

There is a difference between relating to someone else's suffering and reacting with compassion. The Greek word actually is a word that describes a churning in the bowels. We have all had that - many of you in Jacob's story - perhaps even last week thinking the little boy was flying away in a balloon. But compassion does not stop at the churning - it moves us to action.

Ever been in a conversation (maybe this is a guy thing) where people are sharing stories and trying to top the other? I have done it and felt it - trying to fit in - trying to relate - trying to top the other person. You know look at my scar that I got when I cut my finger. Oh yea? Look at mine when I got caught in a bear trap. Oh well look at mine from electricity and skin grafts and muscles being removed. (Jake's scars will trump most.)

We can get so caught up in our story that we miss the story in front of us. I had pangs of regret today as I thought of this for myself. A couple of weeks ago I was walking into Taco Bell and there was a guy in front asking for money. I usually say no because I do not want to give money for drugs or alcohol - my justification for being cheap. In this case I offered to buy him something. So I bought him burrito of his choice at Taco Bell - big spender. I gave it to him and asked his name and where he was going. He had just graduated and was bumming up and down the coast. Okay see you later. Today I am really wishing that I would have taken the time to invite him to eat with me - to really find out his story. I also really wanted to tell him Jacob's story. Not because I wanted to trump his story but because I wanted - pure and simple to find a way for our stories to intersect.

That is what Jesus did; he asked people questions; he talked to them; he stopped what his life for a moment to find out their story. Then he shared a portion of his story, and we get to see the power of the Spirit of God working from that encounter. One of my favorite examples is Jesus on his way to heal the child of a high powered official. Ministry highlight for most us. Can you imagine being called to the White House to pray for healing over the daughter of the President? But in the midst of this mission a women with serious health issues - could not stop bleeding - touched the edge of his cloak.



Jesus was in the midst of a crowd when it happened and he stopped and asked who had touched him. His disciples looked at him and said, "are you kidding me? Who did not touch you, would be an easier question." Jesus stopped turned around and sought out this woman who had been healed by a simple touch of the edge of his clothing. He stopped and looked into her eyes... and the stories collide. This woman is forever changed - many who watched were forever changed.



See Mark 5:21-43; Luke 8:40-56; Math 9:18-26



There is a lot in this story as I start remembering it now and realize how much it applies to Jacob's Journey - our journey. Jesus stopped as we touched the edge of his cloak with our prayers and turned his attention on this story of Jacob who he has been healing - who he saved.

I can get so caught up in what I think God has for me.
I get so focused on what I think I should be doing for God.
I seem to create a plan for God instead of the other way around.

On his way to heal a little girl- a father's precious daughter - he stopped. This woman was bleeding for years a few more days would not hurt - he could have come back. She already got healed he did not need to stop. Healing this little girl was the big time. The father was a spiritual leader in the community, and he seemed to understand the power of Jesus and willingly submitted to his authority. Jesus stopped may have stopped but he was still in control. He still had power to heal and knew full well what he was doing.

In the midst of my plan, keep me in God's plan. He cares deeply about those that are marginalized, ostracized, persecuted, broken. He stops and takes the time to touch them - to care for them - to bring a little healing to their wounded day. A cup of cold water goes a long way.

Acts of compassion are not easy, are not convenient, and are more creative than you can imagine. I wonder if it is not just about acting on what God is laying on our heart. I got an email from a dental office who wants to give Jacob a portion of what they make off of teeth whitening. They have been trying to figure out a creative way to help. Amazing. I met a new friend at Bay Federal Credit Union - she did a garage sale and gave the money away. Compassion moves to action. I think that is why we wanted to have people give blood - it is a selfless act that benefits others.

We are not yet done - there are plenty of opportunities to act on what God is placing on our heart - let us not mind the interruption but let compassion lead.

Tom (JK Daddy)

The Fellowship of Suffering

Several times on this blog, I believe, we have mentioned that people should not 'compare' their trials, their sorrows. We are all in the same boat; we all have hurts, we all have pain that we want to be taken away. Well, I today I came across a way to verbalize why this is. It is because it is not about our separate, individual sufferings - it is not about exhibiting your own personal trials, telling people "I've been through the same things as you, if not worse ones!" However, it is about striking the chord of suffering in people's hearts, which is an integral part of being a human. It is about understanding that all human beings have this thing called suffering in common. This chord is struck simply by our presence with people. Henri Nouwen says this about the role of the healing minister:

"A minister who talks in the pulpit about his own personal problems is of no help to his congregation, for no suffering human being is helped by someone who tells him that he has the same problems. Remarks such as," Don't worry because I suffer from the same depression, confusion and anxiety as you do," help no one. This spiritual exhibitionism adds little faith to little faith and creates narrow-mindedness instead of new perspectives. Open wound stink and do not heal.
Making one's own wounds a source of healing, therefore, does not call for a sharing of superficial personal pains but for a constant willingness to see one's own pain and suffering as rising from the depth of the human condition which all men share." (Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer).

It is a simple yet provocative thought. This is not to say that confession and sharing are to be avoided. In fact, they are essential. But our individual, specific trials are not the focal point. The focus of communing with people in healing love is that we are ALL able to recognize the pain, the suffering and the sorrow in our own lives and in those around us, that we truly are all fallen humans who are crying for restoration.

"A Christian community is therefore a healing community not because wounds are cured and pains are alleviated, but because wounds and pains become openings for occasions for a new vision. Mutual confession then becomes a mutual deepening of hope, and sharing weakness becomes a reminder to one and all of the coming strength."
(Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer).

Just as we would bandage wounds, our sorrows and griefs are to be protected. They are fragile, almost unbearable, and the Lord cares about them and for them. So protect them. But also have the courage to recognize that pain. Do not ignore it. Unwrap the bandage occasionally, by recognizing the pain and tragedy in your life, and you will find it startling that your open wound can begin a healing process for others. Be brutally honest with God. It is all you can do.

This is exactly what the Psalmist does. If you have time read all of Psalm 69. I will paraphrase it. The Psalmist does not go into explicit details of the events in his life - but he explicitly opens up the emotions of sorrow and grief and shame that he feels, he is brutally real in a beautifully poetic way.
-He depicts himself as sinking in mire, in the midst of an overwhelming flood. (vs. 1-3)
-He complains about haters. (vs. 4-5)
-He asks that, because of his lack of hope and lack of trust, that he would not lead others astray, who do hope in God. He feels shame that he feels these feelings, and ask that others would not feel the same on account of him.(vs. 6-12)
-He begs the Lord to save him from this sinking mire, to stop the pain and restore his soul. (vs. 13-21)
-He feels contempt for those who act against him, against those who afflict him. And he is real with God about this. He does not avoid telling God that he wants these people to die. To be smitten. But instead of seeking his own revenge, he turns this anger over to God. (vs. 22-28)
-And at the end, he seems to revert into an unplaced chorus of praise. (vs. 34-36).

The psalmist does not sugarcoat his feelings. He lays it all out before God. He admits his deepest feelings to God, feelings that many of us are so often afraid to pray because it doesn't sound good or loving or righteous. But what can we do, other than offer these darkened sorrows to God?

This is something that is worked out in community. It is about our pain, not my afflictions. We must not wrap ourselves in self-pity. I encourage you to explore how this is worked out in community. It is a daily discovery, and it is always new and refreshing and hard and painful and awkward and embarrassing. How can we come to a fresh vision, a new tomorrow, through our pain?

A song called "Awakening" by The Glorious Unseen:

Have you turned your face from us?
Have we hurt you far too much?
Do you still look down in love?
Is your grace still strong enough?

God, we would ask that your kingdom would come;
and be poured out on earth as we stand here in awe.
God, hear our cry for awakening here.
Will you take away pain?
Will you take away fear?

Is your love for us in vain?
Do you look at us in shame?
Do you hear when we curse your name?
How can you still love us the same?

God, we would ask that your kingdom would come;
and be poured out on earth as we stand here in awe.
God, hear our cry for awakening here.
Will you take away pain?
Will you take away fear?

Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.
Hallelujah. Hallelujah.

-Robbie (Jake's brother)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"VIB" finally

I have been starting to go through the blog. Trying to compile and save our journal entries.


A few things have really struck me as I read things we have posted and the comments from others. The first that blows me away is the people that I now know who they are that in July where random strangers. I see names and start to associate what they wrote and that I have actually now met - now consider my friends. There are parents of Jacob's friends, pastors of various churches, nurses, firefighters, and wonderful people in the community. Then I started to notice people I have not seen in years that commented early on - people I did not know that they know and are following. I also started to remember - people we already know - maybe just waves in the parking lot - that have joined us and become far closer than friends.


One of the hard parts in relation to that is that when we do see each other I am not necessarily sure how much they know or have been affected (invested) in our journey. Yet overall it is just so amazingly encouraging to remember and to read the encouragements and prayers. This is still the hardest thing we have ever been through. I hate it and often times do not know what to do as Jacob, my son, struggles with back pain, headaches, discouragement do to limitations. This has affected our family and altered how we interact, what we do, how we conduct ourselves. Some have actually been good - yet some are challenging for each of us.
That is why I am so thankful that you can now get a V.I.B. (Vacation in a bottle). Don't we wish that it were really that easy? No probably not.
We are trying some new things to give Jacob some back relief. I get (we get) so frustrated with this pain on top of everything else that he is going through. Yet reading through the blog reminds me that we have come so far. Flipping through the "Pray for Jacob" photo album with so many of your wonder faces smiling and reminding us that he is covered is strengthening. I will not understand everything God has and has had in mind through this journey but I will cling to the the presence of God each step. I was going to say that he carries me through it - but I am not really liking that picture. For me at least it is that I am lifeless and not doing anything - not really what Christ calls us to. I am thinking more along the lines of my prayer as I looked at Jacob in the hospital bed. That Jesus would lie there with him and that they would become one.
I need to start praying that for myself - that my journey would be fused and that my steps and Christ's steps would be indistinguishable. I need to pray that for Jacob as well. That is the ever-present reality of Christ - and that is why Christ told his disciples he was leaving. Read John around Chapter 14 through 16 I think. Jesus said he had to leave so that the Ever-Present Spirit of God the Holy Spirit would come and guide us, comfort us, move with us.
Lord may I diminish, not to be less, but to be more
Lord may you increase, not to condemn me, but to restore
Make my steps, your steps
Make my words, your words
Make my touch, your touch
That I might be a blessing to others in greater proportion each day
There is absolutely nothing that can separate us from the love of God, but we try very hard.
We have a chance to transform our community by simply allowing Christ, God, Spirit to fill us and affect those around us with blessing. I am still so far away from being this - from doing this. Yet tomorrow is another day.
Grace and peace be yours in abundance,
Tom (Dad)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Learning to Trust

Robbie here.

I honestly have a really hard time writing on this "Jacob's Journey" blog when I have nothing directly to say about Jacob and his journey. I simply hope that I can communicate some of my experiences, and that it hits a chord of resonance with someone out there.

Here at Biola, the topics of discussion in our mandatory chapels has been "suffering." As an RA, I was required to attend a workshop on how to minister to people who are suffering. And, this week classes stop for a three-day conference, the topic of which is (you guessed it) suffering. At first this hit way too close to home. I only went to one day of the workshop, and skipped the second day. I have also been avoiding chapels in general. I normally find myself just getting mad at the speakers, feeling like they don't actually know what they are talking about. But on Sunday night, I realized something - I had been sugarcoating my emotions. I wasn't being real with anybody, not even myself, let alone God.

I attended a Sunday night music chapel, pretty much to just start knocking out my chapel credits that I still need to fulfill. The night of worship music started off in the typical schmoltzy Christian way - with soft music playing in the background as someone starts out in prayer, then the band coming up quitely and serenely, creating an emotive experience. I found myself being extremely critical of the whole thing (as usually happens in most institutional practices for me nowadays). I was thinking about how 1) the music was creating a false experience in which we worship our emotions and our own good thoughts about God, not God himself - we feel ourselves surge with the music, so we contort our faces and lift our hands... to what? After all isn't worship not some solitary act, but how we conduct our lives in each moment? 2) That worship services are a type of spiritual Christian consumerism - we come to get our emotional fill, we focus on ourselves, we shoot ourselves up with meaningful worship experiences as an addictive drug.

As the music kept playing, I found myself choking back tears. Ashamed of myself for being so critical. In deep sorrow regarding Jacob. Not knowing what I thought of God. In all of my "personal times" with God through journaling and reading books, and in all of my relationships, I had been acting like everything was fine, but I was deceiving myself and those around me. As the music played, I sat with my back against the wall, trying my hardest not to cry, and all I could think of to say to God was (I'm being brutally honest, please don't be offended) "F*** you, God!" This scared me. I didn't know why I felt this way. Why my brother? Why the brokeness in my family? Why the shame that I felt? Why would I have been raised in a Christian home for 20 years, only to feel like I never even knew anything, only to start back at basics? Do we not have enough faith? Are we not praying hard enough? "Heal my brother, God! Make it so that this all never even happened! Take away all the pain! It hurts so bad!"

As all these thoughts spun through my head, I experienced God in the mundane, in the ordinary, in the simple. The friend I was with gently laid his hand on my shoulder. For the rest of the service, I cried and prayed with him, spilling it all out before God. Since I was 12, I have held on to the passage 2 Corinthians 12:10-12. It truly is in our weakness that we are strong (not that we become strong after being weak, mind you!). Weakness is in fact the source of strength in Christ.

And so, I realized that I had nothing to offer - except the very anger, the bitterness, the confusion, the sorrow, and the shame that I felt. I didn't ask God to take these away, because I know that living in this life means living with pain. But I asked God to take it as an offering. It blows my mind that God would accept this worse than evil offering, but he does. He takes it as a love offering, and transforms what we give him into something of his Kingdom. I told God that I had nothing for him - except these things that I felt like he doesn't want. But in his mercy, he accepts these as our desperate cry for love and restoration. It is this ultimate surrender that we must undergo daily if we really claim to trust. What a paradox, that God accepts these feeble gifts of horrible things as love offerings to him.

The thing that sucks is it is painful. I hated having to weep through the whole worship service. But it confirmed in my mind two things: 1) Worship is meant to be done in community, in fellowship 2) We need to be real with God. We need to tell him how we feel. Often it is all that we can do, but he accepts it. We cannot deny ourselves the necessity of working through grief, crying out to God for restoration, telling him that we want things to be different! We should not sit idly and content ourselves by saying that "God wanted it to happen, and it will become good." As Christians, we must label pain as evil, is not what we were intended for. But we should also trust that God is doing what he must with it, and that some good will come. We can hope for future restoration, but that does not mean the pain never happened... it is more like a fulfillment of the pain, a deep dive into our worst fears and most horrific nightmares to find that Christ is waiting there for us, for the time that we would truly, desperately need him.

Just look at Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. He told the disciples: "My soul is very sorrowful, even to death." He cried out to God, "Abba! Father! All things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me." He did not want to die. He recognized the cross as evil. He even questioned why an all-powerful God would allow this to happen. But in his next breath, he said "Yet not what I will, but what you will." He acknowledged that great good would come from it. But this acknowledgment does not change the fact that it is evil.

And so we trust by actively/daily submitting/setting our requests before God, and trusting that he will do with them what is necessary, what must be done for his Kingdom to be enacted on earth. What an invigorated, resolute, purposeful, and contented life the person who trusts can live. I don't think that any one of us has got it quite right yet. But even this fact, that I suck at trusting, I can lay before God as an offering. And he takes it in the Love that he is. And how do we trust? I try praying. Henri Nouwen gives this definition of prayer, not as vague word-speaking to an out-there God but as an essential practice for the follower of Christ as they fulfill Christ's call for healing of the world:

"...the Christian leader must be in the future what he has always had to be in the past: a man of prayer, a man who has to pray, and who has to pray always. That I bring up this simple fact at this point may be surprising, but I hope I have succeeded in taking away all the sweet, pietistic, and churchy aura attached to this often misused word.
For a man of prayer is, in the final analysis, the man who is able to recognize in others the face of the Messiah and make visible what was hidden, make touchable what was unreachable, the man of prayer is a leader precisely because through his articulation of God's work within himself he can lead others out of confusion to clarification; through his compassion he can guide them out of the closed circuits of their in-groups to the wide world of humanity; and through his critical contemplation he can convert their convulsive destructiveness into creative work for the new world to come."

-Robbie (Jake's bro)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

...in increasing measure...

My time at Corralitos church was an amazing time of connection in community. I shared a bit about Jacob's Story and it was great for me to start putting together the message that God is giving us. But for me the impact came in just dialogue - not monologue. After I shared a bit, God had laid it on my heart to open it up for the people to ask me questions and also share a bit of their story.

It was so amazing to just be with people that care and love us and have been following the story - investing their prayers, their thoughts, their lives in us. It still blows me away and causes me to stumble a bit as I grasp this kind of community love.

Toward the end of the service Jake and Debbie slipped in the back of the auditorium. I saw them and mentioned it...people turned around and gave him a standing ovation. Pretty incredible - pretty surprising for us. Overwhelmed by the love we are so thankful.

Jake had a hard night and is right now sleeping - was pretty tired all afternoon. I think the highlight was sharing lunch at Corralitos Market with Rachel, Michael, Tanner and Noah. His head has really been hurting him tonight. Fortunately we have no appointments scheduled for tomorrow. Pray that we get in touch with the surgeon for Jacob's thumb.

One of the messages that God keeps bringing up to me through this time is that we should be more concerned about being different in our circumstances rather than concerned that our circumstances be different. Most often we cannot control our circumstances other than choices we make. I may be able to work toward change (such as finding a job) yet there is so much I cannot change. I can however work toward being different in the circumstances that I find myself in. Check out what Peter says...

Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love.

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
1 Peter 1:2-8

Following Christ - really following him - surrendering to him and allowing him to change us should move us in increasing measure toward love. We should continue to make choices and allow the Spirit of God to change us so that we are increasing in goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, kindness, and ultimately love. Everything leads us to love. If I am a Christ-follower I do not have a choice - I will be transformed - that is going to come with just being in the presence of God. Am I less angry than I was yesterday? Less bitter? Less jealous and more merciful? Am I described by others as being trustworthy, patient, kind? Not perfect but possessing these qualities in increasing measure? Does joy make its home in me?

Honestly this hits me square between the eyes - I have a long way to go - but that is what transformation is about - not having arrived but moving in the right direction - moving toward being different - responding different in my circumstances. I may fall short again and again but following Christ means picking up my cross daily - seeking forgiveness - accepting grace - and moving toward love.

May tomorrow - another Monday - be one of moving forward within our circumstances to reflect the character of God. It all moves toward love. John reminded us that God is love (1 John) and Paul reminded us what love really looks like (1 Cor 13). Let us not point a finger at others that need to possess these in increasing measure - let us look into the mirror examining our own heart and asking God to change us first. At least that is my prayer right now for myself. That is what my family needs - not to focus on wishing our circumstances were different but showing up in each moment with the heart of Christ. I just went back and read the verse again and am reminded that God already gave me all that I need for life and godliness - so the choice truly is mine.

Please also pray that Jacob realizes this in just a small way tomorrow as we work on his therapy and on his schoolwork and on life tomorrow.

May grace and peace be yours in abundance,

Tom (JK Daddy)

In Corralitos this morning

I am heading out for Corralitos in a few hours. I have an opportunity to share Jake's Story there. I got really caught up this week in "worry" around this morning and what I would say. Feeling like I had to have a polished sermon that clearly communicates the story and hope in the midst of tragedy. It was a difficult week to prepare. Everything seemed to interrupt my time. Even yesterday when by design I would have defined alone time - it did not seem to work. By the time I finally had some time it was 9 and I was falling asleep. I read a little, blogged a little...but what I thought I had to say just seemed ridiculously scattered.

I woke up at 4:45 this morning. Awake and ready to go. It is now approaching 8 am and I have peace - not that what I have to say seems to be really good or anything - more of a peace about where I am going and have the opportunity to do - share in community and embrace the journey. Most of the friends at Corralitos know the story and I realized it is an opportunity for dialogue - to hear and understand more of what God is doing in our community. Instead of going to talk - I have an opportunity to listen.

As I was reading and writing down thoughts for this morning I was reading through the blog at the comments - some I remember and some I do not remember - stories - people intersected from our past, present, and now future. This is so limited. I cannot reply directly to a comment on the blog - I do not even know full who they are as it comes up "anonymous" sometimes or a nickname at other times. This morning we get to have a dialogue - as Debbie put it a cup of coffee with a friend (favorite hobby).

Join me in prayer for this dialogue. I am not yet sure if Debbie and Jacob will come - depends on how he is feeling. Most of all pray that we allow God into this moment and embrace the very real presence of the Spirit of God in this moment. If in a moment tragedy could change a life forever, is it not possible that a moment in the presence of God could as well?

Grace and peace in abundance

Tom (JK Daddy)

“When we are at our wits’ end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well-supplied with all sorts of answers of our own?" - Karl Barth