Friday, June 30, 2006

Mexico Musings

I was part of a mission team from our church that built homes for people in need. I am going to try to process some of what I experienced over the next few days. I thought I'd start with a general overview of the experience.

Our church in Minnesota sent a team of 70 people (almost a quarter of our congregation!) to Mexico to work with Amor Ministries and built 4 homes for families in need inTijuana. Our team was a combination of families, youth, and singles. The youngest participant was my son Alexey - age 7 - and the oldest participant was over 70. We had 21 Jr/Sr high youth from our youth group that partici
pated either with their family or as individuals.

Our itinerary:

Left Saturday afternoon and arrived in San Diego. Stayed at Point Loma Nazerene College.
Sunday - packed up and crossed the border into Mexico.
Monday - Hit the work site, met our family, poured the foundation for the home we will build.
Tuesday - Framing and put on the roof.
Wednesday - Tar/Shingle the roof. Wire, paper, chicken wire the walls, and first coat of stucco.
Thursday - Final coat of stucco and then do a blessing of the home/family as we present the house to them!
Friday - Return to San Diego, Point Loma College and hang out.
Saturday - Play day in San Diego and then head to the airport....arriving in Minneapolis at Midnight.
Arrive home........1 am.

The homes we built were approximately 11X22 ft. Two rooms, two windows, a door and a cement floor. Not as big as the garage on my home......

General observations - the trip defied expectations. The descriptions of the trip from people that had gone before were good - but didn't come close to what it is like to go in person. I have never worked harder and been challenged physically, emotionally, and spiritually this much in my life.

Over the next few days I hope to describe and share some of what I experienced.....and encourage you to explore serving in this way at some point in your future. It was amazing.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

You can tell Mom's out of town.....

because Alexey asked me today, "How do babies get out of a mom's stomach?"

It seems that I get asked all these great questions when Mom is unavailable for consult!

Of course since Mom isn't available, it lets me use that great "think of it as a bowling ball growing up inside a balloon and then having to push it out" analogy.....*smile*

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Gentle Moments

Sometimes, I love not being a youth leader.

Less than a week ago I was in Mexico. I was just one of 70 people whom God called to go and build homes for people in need. In preparing for the trip, I decided that my main responsibility should be to my family - and not as a “youth leader”. So my buddy Steve offered to take on the main job of being “the guy” who was responsible for being available to the 21 students that participated in the trip. First, let me say Steve did an incredible job. Not only did he build homes but he led worship, helped with devotionals and messages in the evenings, and graciously shared his shower bag with me. Thanks, Steve!

Because of Steve’s presence, I was able to just observe our awesome youth. I wasn’t distracted by worrying about what’s happening next or taking a head count. I was able to sit back and had the privilege of seeing what I eventually called “gentle moments”. I’d like to share a few of them with you.

· 7 students sleeping outside around the campfire the first night.
· Jr./Sr. high students sharing with everyone their “God sightings”.
· An 11th grader teaming up with a 7 y.o. in a card game.
· A 7th grader inviting a 6th grader to join “the gang” sleeping outside around the campfire.
· Sr. High students helping teach the 6th graders the motions to some of the worship songs we sang at night.
· Jr./Sr. high students holding Mexican children in their arms, playing games, hugging them, and sharing Christ’s love in amazing ways.
· 11 students sleeping outside around the campfire the third night.
· Students hammering, sawing, and working harder than I could ever imagine – while smiling and encouraging one another.
· Students inviting the children of the families we are serving to join them during lunch.
· 22 students sleeping outside around the campfire the third night.
· The list goes on and on and on……

The trip was rich in experiences and challenging in ways I could not have imagined. I still have a lot of processing to do about my own personal experience. But for now, I am just grateful for not being a youth leader on the trip – and being allowed to see God’s fingerprints all over our students and the impressions they left on my heart and the hearts of others…….in so many gentle moments.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Enjoy the Silence

Not that I keep this thing that current anyway - but for the 2 of you that do happen by here....

I will be traveling to Mexico with about 70 other people - building four homes for people in need. So I will be out of the blogosphere for about a week. Looking forward to sharing my adventure upon my return.

Until then - Enjoy the Silence.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Contrast and Conviction

I spent last weekend helping my parents move into their new home. They are living in Daniel Island, SC just outside of Charleston. It is a community that has been built in the last 10 years.
It is amazing. Million dollar homes, private golf community, world class tennis stadium, walking/biking trails, wonderful restaurants, a large Catholic High School, amazing parks, etc.

As I walked along the streets and paths my thoughts turned to the fact that in one week I would be in Mexico - working along side 70 other people from our church building 4 homes for families that have almost nothing. Other than the website for Amor ministries, I really don't know what to expect. Shelters with dirt floors, no running water or electricity - I have not actually been there before so I'm sure even my "expectations" of the conditions aren't close to accurate.

Traveling from such abundance to a place that struggles with just existing will be hard.

The contrast is going to be beyond my ability to express it.

Both communities are filled with people in need of restoration with God, self, others, and the world.

Of course, I don't have to look too far to remember that I live in abundance/luxury......

I pray that I am using my resources wisely - financial, personal, time, energy - to God's glory.

Speak to me, God. And use next week to open my eyes to whatever you want me to see.....

Over exposure

My parents just moved to Charleston, SC. I sure hope this guy wasn't part of the "welcome wagon" team.

This of course would never happen in MN as it is either way to cold or there are way to many mosquito's - one wouldn't want to "expose" oneself to the environment!

(ht marko)

Friday, June 09, 2006

Embracing Grace

I just finished reading Scot McKnight's book Embracing Grace. Other than the Bible, it may be the most formative book for me regarding how I look at "the Gospel". It resonated strongly with me - providing insight into many of the questions and frustrations I have had with how I percieve my relationship with God, myself, others and the world.

Having just finished the book it is still simmering. I can hardly wait to read it again. I am not going to try to present it in summary here. But here are some of the phrases that are rolling around in my head.

Eikons of God
A story interuppted
Cracked Eikons
Restoration with God, myself, others, and world
Exclusion vs. embrace
looking, listening, learning, linking
A missional Gospel
Individualism vs. community

Great stuff.....God stuff.....I encourage you to read it, ponder it, and I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thouhgt expansion

Have you ever read a book and in the process actually felt your thoughts and ideas being expanded and stretched? It happens rarely for me. Not because I’m brilliant and have it all figured out – as if no one can add to my thoughts. No, rather it is because at heart I’m a “lazy” reader. I read too fast and don’t ponder or pursue ideas that are presented. Also, I know that within a few days most of what I have read will be forgotten. This needs to change. My laziness is keeping me from really soaking up the bible (and other great stories and people) – letting it simmer in my mind, heart, and soul. Thus keeping me from loving God with all of my strength.

Lectio Divina, centering prayer, fasting…….just a few of the disciplines I am finding more and more intriguing. And at first glance – all have to do with creating space in the day God has given me. Space for quiet solitude with Him. Opportunities to take note of His plan for me. Taking time to listen, look, learn, and link up with Him and His process of restoring my relationship with Him, myself, others and the world. (thanks to Scot McKnight, author of “Embracing Grace”, for those four “L’s” and the expansion of my thoughts on restoration.)

I need to share this with a person (whoever is reading this, I am grateful, but I need someone to ask me how I’m doing in taking the time to work on restoring my relationship with God, myself, others and the world – you are welcome to do this thru comments tho!). I need to enter into some serious truth telling…...and it should start now.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Daniel Island

I'm off to Daniel Island, SC for a few days. I'll be helping my Dad and his wife unpack as they move into their new home. (Don't we all wish we could retire here?) Looking forward to a few days of just working hard and not thinking too much.......

What are your weekend adventures going to be?

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Boy toys

To any of my family members - here is what I want for Father's Day!

It's a's a it's ?????

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Cheap Motel

Phone conversations you don't think you will have with your daughter.....

"Hey, Mom. Is Kelsey there?"
"I wanted her to google something for me"
"I can do that"
"Ummm, okay - I'm in Durango with some friends and we're looking for a cheap motel to spend the night."

NOT the conversation you are expecting when you haven't heard from your 20 y.o. daughter for a week or so.....while she is away working at a dude ranch!

(They ended up sleeping on some boulders that night....even better! *AAAHHH*

A graduation blessing....

Just an adapted verse that I shared with our graduates this last Sunday....

But you, Kathryn, Alex, Brittany, Libby, Makenna, and Abby, children of God....Pursue a righteous life - a life of wonder, faith, love, steadiness, courtesy. Run hard and fast in the faith. Seize the eternal life, the life you were called to, the life you so fervently embraced in the presence of so many witnesses

.....Go after God, who piles on all the riches we could ever manage - do good, be rich in helping others, be extravagantly generous. If you do that, you'll build a treasury that will last, gaining life that is truly life.May overwhelming grace keep you! (1 Timothy 6:11-21 - personalized and edited for the occasion)

Monday, June 05, 2006

Celebrating Seniors

Disconnected, sporadic attendance, missing, too busy, not committed......Words and phrases that I have heard (and thought myself at times *sigh*) when describing the class of seniors we have that are part of our tribe at church.

Typical, traditional, Presbyterian, just another thing......Words and phrased I have heard (and thought myself at times *sigh*) when describing how we recognize our graduating seniors.

Yeah, I know it is statistically "normal" for 11-12th grade kids to "fade" in their involvement in youth stuff. I believe that will change as we change our church culture but that is for another post. Anyway - we had our Sr. High recognition this past Sunday - and it was truly a blessing.

My good friend Lois put together an extravagent spread - very cool poster board of pictures and plans the young people have, awesome treats....homemade creampuffs and chocolate covered strawberries just to name a few....balloons, confetti - just over the top WOOHOO.

Then, at the beginning of the service the kids came up and shared a little about their plans. We presented them with a gift and then had the kids and their parents move to the center of the sanctuary where we laid hands upon them and prayed. The service was full so we had them surrounded with about 250+ people.....all connected physically....spiritually.....lifting them up in prayer. I love that our church does this. What a blessing to give as well as be a part of.

We had a very small class of graduates - only seven. And yes, for the past year, really only two have been somewhat connected to our "program". But, we have continued to e-mail, encourage, ask about, send the occasional card to and pray for each of them. I think that is why 5 of them showed up on Sunday to be a part of the service. They may not darken the door of the youth room very often - but they know they are loved, cared for, and that there are people here that will continue to pray for and seek them out.

Yea, God.