Friday, February 5, 2010

Stepping into liquid

When the Israelites were crossing the Jordan with the Ark of the covenant, the water was held back so that they could cross on dry land. But they did not just wade into shallow water before it was held back - they stepped off of a bank holding the Ark (the presence of God). They would have beeen under the water as soon as they stepped into liquid. It was a step of obedience as well as a step of faith and was not easy.

Jacob's benefit concerts and fund raisers were put together by both friends and strangers - what has become our community - stepping into liquid. Connor Childs who put together the concerts for Jake took the name that Robbie called our blog, Journey Through Fire, and established a non-profit organization. (see The intention he had was to take the benefit on the road to bless Jacob and others. While the concert did not go on the road, they have still been working and finding ways to come alongside those in need.

Last week I received an email from Pam who is putting together a benefit for Jessica Huse. I put her in contact with Connor and we are able to come alongside to help her as others had helped Connor. Pam has stepped into liquid and our community is able to join their community as we watch God hold back the waters. As Connor and I have been talking, we are seeing our visions come together. I deeply desire to see others in the midst of tragedy experience community as we have. We desire Journey Through Fire to come alongside and help - not take over - but to equip, encourage, empower their community. So, we are stepping into liquid by faith and by obedience.

Stepping into liquid is about "being the church" for those of us who consider ourselves followers of Christ. It is putting what we believe into the place of action. It is about stepping up and doing what God has called us to - giving a cup of water to the thirsty - bandaging the wounded - loving the outcast. If you are able to attend the concert - it will be phenomenal as a thousand voices worship God. If you cannot come there is opportunity to donate right to the family. The event will be held at Calvary Church which was our family's home church for 20 years. It is the place where I was arrested (in Jr High) and served on staff (Jr High Pastor). We have a lot of history there. JJ Heller will be playing - I have quoted one of her songs here. It will be an amazing night.

As for Jake, continue to pray as we approach Tuesday's pre-op appointment and that we have smooth sailing to surgery. We had a "no more picc-line" party tonight with friend Kaitlin who also had her picc-line taken out the day after Jake's. It was good to have a little celebration in the house again.

Grace and peace,

Tom (daddy)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

7 months and a saint

For some reason today I actually realized that it has been 7 months since Jacob's accident. Jacob reminded me that one doctor at Kaiser had unfortunately told Jake that he would have his hair back by the end of the year. Long, long journey. But we are in some ways breathing easier with Jake's pending surgery. He has a pre-op appointment next week. We are praying that nothing would put off this surgery (again). Jake is of course a little pessimistic. But it feels like we are moving to the next stage of this journey. Debbie is back at her part-time job as a teacher's aid. I am back into job hunting mode - excited about what is next.

Since both David and Natalie have made tremendous progress I have moved them off of the "critical" prayer list. They most certainly still need our prayer as they enter the time of rehab, adjustment, medical procedures, therapy etc etc. Please continue to support them. There is a time in each tragic journey that we move back to life. The person is no longer critical and yet "normal" life has been redefined. There is still so much to deal with physically, spiritually, and psychologically. It is easier in a way for people to come around the person when they are in ICU and even the hospital in that there is a way to easily visit but we are more willing to drop what we are doing and see someone who is in such a critical state. Recovery is a very lonely time and can be a slow progress trying to get back to "normal" life.

I had a special treat today. I was able to spend about an hour with a saint. Margaret is 95 and grew up in the Ozark mountains of Arkansas on a farm. She asked me to come and here her story. She is an amazing lady. When I was pastor at she was always up in the front - always smiling - always joyful. Each Sunday I owed her a hug. No matter how bad my sermon was - she was always encouraging and grateful. I was able to sit and spend some time and ask her questions and listen to her story. She wants to get this all out so that when it is her time to go home all will be ready. I spent an hour and am going to go back. It is not very often that you sit with a saint.

I share this with you more because I am trying to process this contrast... those who face death in the midst of tragedy and one who faces death at the end of a long life. Margaret is not eager but is so confident and hopeful. Yet in her 95 years of life she giggled as she shared that she almost drowned twice, was struck by lightening and was shot. Incredible. She also lost her husband - the love of her life after 26 years of marriage. She has known he own tragedy. Okay, sorry I am writing this and trying to figure out my point...maybe someone can help me here. My head is wandering.

Here is the main thing that my head wanders back to... in the midst of needing to find a job I also feel this calling. This desire is to see others experience the same community that we have experienced as they encounter tragedy. In the midst of tragedy boundaries are reduced, differences fade and love is expressed. In the midst of tragedy we care less about the color of our neighbors skin, their political position, and their religious beliefs. A child is on death's door we will rescue. A parent loses a child - our gut is wrenched. We hear the word cancer, sadness takes over. In these moments there are people ready to help but they do not know what to do. They just need a little guidance. In these moments we do not know what we need - what do we tell people to do to help? But there is a ministry in coming alongside it touches the person in need and the person who is giving. They just need a little guidance.

Later this month there will be a benefit concert for Jessica Huse. Pam who is organizing it contact us and I was able to connect her to Connor who put together Jacob's friends to do his benefits. It is an answer to prayer for us to simply come alongside and guide and direct as we pour out our love to Jessica and her family - her community.

I will keep you posted on Jessica's concert and how you can get tickets. Jessica remains on my heart. She came into Valley Med while Jake was there. Her need is still so critical. Keep her mom and dad and brother in your prayers.

Grace and peace,

Tom (daddy)

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Heaven? Earth? Both?

Robbie here. I am more or less settled back in to Biola... manning the check in right now. I went to went to a "Missional Movements" conference this weekend, kind of about where the future of the church is going. It sparked some great conversations and thoughts, and led me to a thought that I have been meaning to post here for some time, because I think it is an essential idea that shapes the type of community that Jacob's Journey blog is becoming.

One of the ideas presented in the conference was that the Church should be centered around it's "mission." Out of the functions which a church has (teaching, worship, mission, etc.) mission should be dominant and should influence the rest of the functions, not the other way around. However, over the last few hundred years, the Church has begun to be centered all around worship. Energy and resources are invested above all else into the worship service, and mission falls into a sub-category of activities that some people can participate in only if they feel called in a certain direction (normally taking the extreme form of going overseas). Also, the Church gathering starts to look a lot like a business. The people in a congregation pay money so that "spiritual goods" can be offered for their consumption - musical worship that fits their taste, preaching that makes them feel good, maintain the building where they meet, and offer other mid-week good for different age groups. (Understand, I am generalizing here). Overall, the way that churches are set up, with a centralized authority, places most of the energy and resources on perpetuating a Christian sub-culture, not perpetuating Christ's call to make disciples and minister to the poor, the rejected.

In sum, this conference was about how the future of the Church will be decentralizing authority - empowering each member of the "congregation" to be outward focused, to be on a mission for Christ in their communities. Rather than be "solid" - keeping our church life in a rigid box - we are to be "liquid" - filling into the cracks of culture, finding the lost and the needy. This is a Church that is OUTWARD focused. Our mission for Christ happens everyday, wherever we are, with whoever we come in contact with. Sadly, this actually seems to happen the least on Sunday mornings.

Just look at the Jewish tradition of Sabbath - it was a day of REST. Not a day of running around making sure the service goes off without a hitch. Not a day of anxiety over what other people think of you. Not a day where you are burnt out by 2 PM. In the same way, our "Church" our "sabbath," should be a day of mutual encouragement and rest with people who are doing the same thing every week that we are - being missional, being the church right where they are. This is much different from trying to convert people and then bringing them to your church with you; it is bringing the gospel TO someone, where they are, and empower them to start "church" where they are. To become a bearer of the light of Christ to a dark world.

Which led me into thoughts about the "Kingdom," and an important note on orthodox Christian belief. The Kingdom is wherever the reign of Christ is realized - his Lordship in this world - which brings restoration. It brings a taste of the age to come, as heralded by the Resurrection of Christ. Which brings in the idea of Christian hope. Christ did not die and rise again so that we could do good things in this world and then go to a spiritual, heavenly bliss where we will receive "rewards." Just think about the tone of the New Testament, and the eschatology and hope of Israel in the Old Testament - it is very "this-wordly," not about escaping into an ethereal eternity. The ultimate Christian hope is not going to heaven when you die. Rather, it is what Christ heralded - Resurrection in a new creation. Look at the picture at the end of Revelation - it is the New Jerusalem descending to earth. Look at the incarnation. It is God, the Divine, entering into this world, becoming a part of our existence. Look at the ideal nature of the Kingdom of Israel - its peak was at the height of the reign of Solomon, when it was being a light to the world, experiencing blessings because God was properly dwelling with them in the temple, and the nations were flocking to them to know the secret. And why did Israel fall? Because she started to oppress others in order to artificially maintain her rule.

Anyway, the key to all that I am saying is the hope of Resurrection. Not only does this give us a proper view of the future, but more importantly gives us a proper view of the present. Mankind has been invested with the responsibility of Kingdom building. Just look at the fact that Jesus was God made MAN - one of us, one of our own is on the throne of the Kingdom. Men are God's vessels of rebuilding the broken world. We have a hope in future restoration (full), which gives us motivation to work towards that now. In the same way that Israel was God's chosen nation to be the light to the world, Christians, followers of Christ, are intended to be leaders in the movement from darkness to light.

These are all ideas that I wish to develop more later. But the reason I said that I think this is important for the Jacob's Journey community is that it is becoming a network for families going through medical crisis. Broken bodies. Non-function functions. And an important question to ask is, "How do we deal with utter failure?" What would have happened if my brother did not make it through his complications? Why do people get paralyzed for life?

This is why resurrection in new creation is so important as a hope - because even when restoration fails in the here and now, we have the hope that it will be accomplished in the new creation. Disabled people can hope for a restored nature, even when medicine cannot return them to restoration in this life.

Hope is not a vague notion of spiritual bliss. It is a holistic vision of life as it should be.

Rob (Jake's bro).