Lost

Surrounded by strangers, my mind raced. . . .she’s not here? My heart sank. I went into denial. She has to be here. There’s nowhere else she can be. My heart sank deeper. No. It can’t be. No! No. No. No. My baby is missing. The tears started rolling down my face as I slammed my face into my hands.

My extended family (brother, sister, in-laws, nephews, nieces) was skiing in Angelfire, New Mexico and Kesleigh (6yrs old) was a brand new skier. We all started at the top of the mountain together and headed down a run we had done together multiple times that day. My son Kasen had a little spill and so I stopped to help him and allowed my daughter, Kesleigh to continue down the slope with our group. After getting Kasen settled, we raced toward the rest of our group and caught up with my brother about 1/3rd of the way down. He pointed Kesleigh out to me quite a ways down so I sped up and headed in her direction flying past lots of other skiers. I could see her with my sister as she turned a corner. When I made it to the turn, I saw my sister helping her son get up but didn’t see Kesleigh anywhere. She told me that she must have followed the others on down to the ski lift. There was only one ski lift at the bottom of that hill and she had been skiing with our group all morning long so I felt pretty good about meeting her at the bottom, but raced down to catch her anyway.

That’s when my mind started racing and my heart sank. She wasn’t there. Where could she have gone? What could have happened? Maybe it’s irrational, but I imagined some crazy abduction case or that maybe she had not made it down the mountain and was stuck hanging over the edge of some cliff. Why did I leave her? How could I have let her go on without me? Why? OK…….OK….Calm down. What should I do? OK – be smart. Alright. I asked my family to head up the lift looking for her and then to make another run down sweeping the area in search while I waited at the bottom in case she came down in the meantime. Waiting. . . . Oh, this can’t be. What kind of father are you? Is she alone? Please God. Keep her safe. Bring her back to us. Time moved so slowly. Please God. If I can’t be with her, please put someone else with her to help. My phone started ringing. My sister. She said they had seen Kesleigh from the lift and that she would come over the hill at any moment where would be able to see her. Thank you God. Thank you God. Thank you God. Oh. . . . there she is. As she approached, I could see her whole body quivering from her cry. She skied right into my arms and held her quivering dad who couldn’t control his own crying.

Evidently, she had crashed near my sister in between some trees where no one could see her. By God’s grace, and as an answer to prayer, another skier just “happened” to stop a few feet away from her and heard her crying. She helped Kesleigh out of the trees and got her back on her skis. After waiting a few minutes for someone to come looking for her, they decided that we must be waiting at the bottom. She told me that she knew she’d find some very worried parent at the lift. She was right. I couldn’t thank her enough and have prayed for God to bless she and her family many times since that day. She was an answer to prayer.

After the whole incident, Kesleigh and I talked about it and she forgave me for not being there. She also learned that God is watching over us and helping us even when no one else is. God never leaves us or forsakes us. Even when we are alone, we are NOT alone.

Thank God.

Falling is not Failing

Kesleigh BikeKesleigh and I went on a bike ride the other day. She’s 4 (almost 5) and is still a little wobbly on her “new bike.” (She got it for Christmas.) Our neighbor, Peyton (7yrs) joined us for the ride. We rode around the neighborhood a while but then I got a little bored and decided to take them off road. We found a little trail that led us to a ditch. (maybe 20ft deep) The sides were a little steep and I could see a little trepidation on both their faces when I suggested that we ride down and then back up the other side.

Kesleigh spoke first, “Daddy, you go first.” I did. I rode down the smooth part of the hill thinking they would follow me.

When I reached the other side and motioned for them to come on over, Peyton jumped off his bike and walked it down the hill. Kesleigh (I love this girl) just looked at him and jumped on her bike and started down the hill. She trusted me and the direction I had pointed her in.

No fear. Fully committed. I could see the concentration on her face. She wobbled a little, but made it to the bottom, hit a bump, and bounced off the bike and onto the ground. By the time she realized what had happened, she heard daddy’s cheers showering down from above. “You were awesome Kesleigh! Good job! That was cool!”

Her first words? “Daddy, I made it to the bottom.” No tears. Just a positive outlook.

She fell, but she didn’t fail. I was so proud to see her commitment and determination. She didn’t hesitate.  Fear didn’t have time to speak. She just went for it! She was all in! Her focus was perfect and even her attitude about falling was great. Daddy is proud!

That’s my girl!!!!

Prayer: Lord, thank you for Kesleigh. She’s a precious gift. Lord, help me to train her up so that she will grow in her understanding and love for You – so that she will give her life to You and serve you wholeheartedly. Lord, I also ask that You teach me to be like her – trusting the directions you point me in – not allowing fear to have a voice – having a great attitude about falling – being committed and focused – going for it and being all in when it comes to the things You’ve called me to. AMEN.

 

Moon Mission Cut Short

Well…it looks like my 6th grade Social Studies Moon Mission (see my previous post) will be cut short. A couple of weeks ago, the principal came to me and said that although she’d like to rehire me, the school district (BISD) would probably not allow it. The district must cut quite a few positions and everyone who is on a “limited term” contract (those of us who were hired mid-year) will lose their position in August. Without taking into account our teaching ability or our teaching team interactions, we will simply be replaced by other teachers who have been with the district longer.

I’m extremely disappointed. I don’t like the situation at all. I love my job, my coworkers, and my students. I feel like I really “fit” here that I’ve been able to make some great positive contributions during my short time at Rasco. I still hope BISD will be able to find a way to fund all the positions, but will also be watching other job openings carefully. Miranda and I have gone through this before, and we have learned to trust God. Ultimately, He is the only provider that we can truly count on and He has never let us down.

Please say a prayer for us as we board this roller coaster of uncertainty once again. . . Wait. . . There is no uncertainty in His hands, just an unknown path.

“I Want You”

We’ve been in the car a lot lately. Kasen and Kesleigh are pretty good travelers, but on our way back from Ft Worth recently, Kasen had a little meltdown. He was tired of being in his car seat, and kept repeating, “I want you.” to Miranda and I. It’s a phrase that he says quite often when he wants us to hold him, but the number of times he repeated it that day in the car was overwhelming. Sometimes we can get away with just holding his foot, but he was having nothing of it that day. By the end, he was screaming “I want you!!!” over our explanations of why he had to stay in his car seat. He asked. He cried. He yelled. He squirmed. He mumbled. He kicked. Whatever it took – he was willing to try anything to be with us. Unfortunately, for his safety we couldn’t allow it.

Do I scream “I want you!” to God like that? Am I willing to do whatever it takes to be with Him? When I feel trapped, do I cry to Him at all? Or do I just squirm around trying to get myself out of the mess on my own? When I do cry out to Him, what if He remains silent ’cause He sees some sort of danger or purpose that I can’t see?

Risk in the Blood

I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a risk taker. I love adventure. I love the adrenaline of not knowing. I love exploring. I love whitewater rafting, snow skiing, scuba diving, etc. I love the top of the roller coaster where you’re about to experience something, but you’re not quite sure how it’s gonna turn out. It’s these moments, where I truly believe I’m exercising my faith the most.

When I first decided to leave home to start a youth ministry job…When I decided to try and raise $20,000 for a student mission trip…When I knelt down to ask Miranda to marry me…When I step into the unknown…I believe those are the moments where my faith is being stretched. And I also want my life to be an expression of my faith in Jesus Christ. Even in the most uncomfortable and insecure moments, I hope my life reflects the undercurrent of trust in Jesus that somehow (by His power and grace) courses through my veins. Because of Him, I enjoy risk. Even when I’m doubtful, I still feel more alive when I’m risking something. (That’s when I’ve got to walk more closely to Jesus.)

I have also always said that I want my kids to learn to take chances – not stupid risks of course. But I want them to know Jesus personally, and I know that the life He calls them to, is one of risk. If you read the Parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30), it’s clear that Jesus Himself equates faithfulness with risk. I pray that my children will risk everything for the glory and name of Jesus Christ. Therefore, I want to be an example to them. By the way, if Jesus motivates your risk, it’s no risk at all.

My in-laws, Mike and Patti Mathews, are a bit of a different story. I don’t really think of them as “risk-takers.” Mike plans everything. He actually puts “Brush my teeth” on a “to do” list. By making the list, he’s making sure that all his bases are covered. He’s “playing it safe” by trying to be prepared for everything. Mike and Patti have gone on vacation to the same beach for the last 20 years and Patti has never gotten wet above her knees. (Well, she probably has been rained on.) Patti talks about Kasen, our 2yr old, breaking his neck when he jumps off the couch. I don’t know the real answer to this, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard that Mike and Patti had never been on a roller coaster in their lives. These are all examples of a “play-it-safe” sort of outlook on life.

Mike Snorkeling

But wait. . . Mike and Patti ARE RISK-TAKERS!!! We just got back from a Hawaiian vacation. In spite of their fear, Mike and Patti both got in the water during our snorkeling excursion. Although he had never been in water deeper than 5ft, Mike jumped into a cove where the water was close to 40ft deep. The terror in his eyes was evident, but he actually ended up loving it. And check this out…Mike and Patti both went ziplining through the treetops of Hawaii! I’ll never forget the sound of Patti’s voice as she stood 70ft in the air at the edge of the first line contemplating whether she could do it or not. They both faced their fears.

Patti Ziplining

They were scared for sure. But COURAGE is NOT the ABSENCE of FEAR! It’s ACTION IN SPITE of FEAR!!

As I look a little closer at their lives, I realize they’ve been risk-takers all along. They both gave their lives to Christ. That’s not a risk, but it certainly feels like one when you’re taking that first step into a new life. They both gave up a “safe” career in order to go to seminary. And my experiences in watching how Mike leads/disciples people, it’s clear that he encourages and lovingly pushes people to take more risks as they follow Jesus. Who knew??? Mike, the play-it-safe list maker, is also a risk taker!!

GOOD NEWS!! I want my children to be risk-takers and now I realize they’ve got “RISK in the BLOOD” from both sides of the family!!

(PS – Mike and Patti, I’m sorry for misjudging you.)

The Love Bridge

Capilano Canyon Susension Bridge

Here’s another cool psychology experiment I read about in “Sway” by Ori and Rom Brafman:

The Love Bridge:

Capilano Canyon (near Vancouver, Canada) can be crossed on a rope suspension bridge (built in 1889) which spans 450 feet at 230 feet above the surface of the ground. There is also a solid wood bridge 10 feet off the ground further down the canyon.

The suspension bridge sways underneath your feet when strong winds blow through, but unsuspecting hikers were also swayed by it’s power.

For the experiment, a female research assistant was told to approach men (one at a time) between the ages of 18-35 as they stepped off the end of each bridge. She was supposed to follow a scripted story with each man. She was to tell them that she was a psychology student conducting a study on the affects of exposure to scenic attractions on creative expression. She would then ask each man to fill out a short survey. When he finished, she would offer to tell him about the study later when they had a bit more time. She was then instructed to tear off a corner of the survey paper, write down her name/phone number and hand it to them. Most of the men happily accepted the number and hiked on down the trail.

The team also sent a male student with the same instructions. Not surprisingly, he was repeatedly turned down and many men wouldn’t even fill out the survey. Over the following few days, there were only 3 curious hikers who called him up. The female student received many calls.

Now here’s the interesting part. Of the 16 men who crossed the small wooden secure bridge, only 2 called her. However, half of the 18 men who crossed the suspension bridge called.

Hmm. . . now what made the difference? Most likely, the feelings which developed during the rope bridge crossing affected their perceptions of her. Their heightened anxiety/adrenaline simulated the same sort of feelings that you get when you have a crush. Their emotional state impacted their decisions and their perceptions. She represented the safety and security they needed as she greeted them on solid ground. For the men on the other bridge, well. . .they didn’t have the same needs/emotions.

Emotions Matter. When you’ve got to make an important decision. Make it at a wise time. Don’t make big decisions right after periods of heightened anxiety or adrenaline.

Stress: Distress or Eustress?

stress2-smStress is something we’ve all experienced: that feeling right before taking a test (especially if you haven’t studied) or the feelings you get when there are too many things to get done and not enough hours in the day. Maybe it’s the tension in the air when certain people are around. Stress causes us to behave differently, to not think clearly, and in some cases it can cause physical illness or even heart conditions. It can also lead to anxiety or depression. In our “normal” use of the word, stress is not a good thing.

Recently, I heard about a distinction that some are making. They describe two kinds of stress. The first and most commonly used understanding – “distress,” and the second is called “eustress.” Eustress is a positive form of stress – a “good” stress. You know this one too, but probably never considered it stress. It’s the feeling you get when you’ve got a good workout going and your adrenaline is rushing through your veins. It’s the feelings you get when you’re riding a roller coaster or that hopeful concern right before your wedding ceremony. These are all forms of stress too. They cause us to behave differently, to think differently, and can cause physical reactions too, but we place this stress in a different category – for that matter, we don’t even call it “stress,” but use words like excited, nervous, or apprehensive to describe it. Another interesting phenomenon is when both collide. This is seen before childbirth. The physical might be considered distress, while the emotional feelings are typically experienced as eustress.

Interestingly enough, the body cannot discern the difference between distress and eustress. Both are equally draining. It’s important to keep a healthy balance of down time to combat these effects.

Here’s why I went into all this: What if we could trick ourselves? What if we could look at our “distress” situations as “eustress?” Could we take threats and think of them in terms of challenging opportunities? These kinds of ideas really bring me back to the Scripture in Gen 50:20 where Joseph says to his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good.” Can we follow Joseph’s example and see the distress of our lives as something that God can use? Opportunities for Him to show up? Situations where He can be glorified? Areas where we can learn to trust Him more?


Prayer: Lord, You know my stress. I don’t know what the future holds. I won’t have a job in a couple of months or any way to support my family. I feel stressed – distressed. Help me to think differently – to see things as You see them. Help me to understand that this stress is simply another way that You’re at work our lives. Help me to trust You with the situation. Help me to bring You glory and feel exhilarated and excited rather than anxious and depressed. I know You are close to me, but I still feel alone sometimes. Touch me. Comfort me. Allow me to walk in Your Shalom. AMEN.


True Fear

KasenMiranda asked a simple question. “Where is Kasen?” I didn’t know. We had been home for a few hours from our vacation and were relaxing on the floor of the living room. Kasen had been right there with us just minutes before. We yelled for him. . . No answer or any noises from other parts of the house. We got up and started looking. There are only a couple of places he could be – the living room, the kitchen, his room, our room. (He can’t open doors yet and we keep the rest of them closed.) In a matter of seconds we had searched the whole house – panic was quick to follow. Miranda and I both were yelling his name. I checked behind the closed doors. And then the closets. Fear escalated. I remembered a story of a friend who had climbed in a trunk (Caylin Brashear) and I checked our trunk – then Kasen’s toybox. Miranda was screaming with a voice I had never heard. Shrieks. Her breathing had an unnerving “ohhh. . .” sound. She met me in the hall and screamed, “the pool.” Kasen loves the “poo” – maybe he could be there?.?. but logically, he couldn’t get the back door open. Could someone have come in the house and taken him? Could he have somehow gotten a door open? My mind raced. I was desperate. . .I ran outside slamming my face into the patio door. No. . .he wasn’t in the pool. . . Heart racing, I ran back inside.

Miranda was holding him and yelling to me that she found him. Evidently, he had been laying in his bed the whole time with his covers over his head. We had each been in his room multiple time during those moments. He likes to take Kesleigh’s binky and then run and hide getting his little oral fix ’cause he knows he’s not allowed to have one. Evidently, that’s what he had done and probably fallen asleep. Or maybe he didn’t answer our calls ’cause he was hiding.

Either way, it couldn’t have been more than 3 minutes total. But it was enough. Enough to realize how quickly things can go downhill. Enough to realize how great our love for our children is and how quickly it can turn into fear. This kind of experience changes a man.

As I look back on it I wonder, “Where was my faith during these moments? What happened to trusting in the Lord? Why did I panic so quickly?” I am a weak man. Sinful. Even at my best, I am still very frail. I need God.

Prayer: Lord, take care of my children. You have given them to me for a few years and I truly want to be a good steward. I want to be a great father and a good example. I want to protect them. I want to represent You to them. All of these things are noble thoughts, but the bottom line is that I can’t do any of these things near as well as You. Lord, cover them with Yourself. Protect them when I fail them. Hold them close and keep them safe. Lord, in the same moment that I pray for their protection, I also pray that You will ultimately use them in mighty ways. May they be arrows (Psalm 127) that break into enemy territory taking ground for Your kingdom. May they understand You and the strength they have in You so well that they are willing to follow You into situations that may even seem dangerous to others. May they be in Your hands at all times, with or without me, in every situation – that’s the safest place to be. AMEN.

Faith and Fear

paulIn his book, Paul the Leader, J. Oswald Sanders says, “The man who does not know fear cannot know courage.” (p.44, 1986, 4th printing, Navpress)

 

I have always believe myself to be a courageous man. My brother and I grew up daring/encouraging/shaming each other to try the next more dificult feat. I want my son to grow up seeing a father who is a man of courageous faith, and yet, I must admit that I’m not sure there’s anything that I’m attempting right now that’s scary. (Besides my roles as husband and father – and by the way, those are the most important roles I will ever have.) I’m not sure I’m exercising my faith too much right now. I know that I’ve gotta be faithful with what He’s given me in order to be given more, and yet there’s also this timing thing. I know I can’t wait ’til everything is perfect to step out in faith ’cause it’ll never be perfect, but. . . I also don’t want to step out in my own strength before the Spirit prompts me in His power. This whole “following Jesus” thing is hard.

 

Anyway, this one statement from Sanders has sent me on a journey into my own perceptions of life and faith. I share it here, hoping that it will stretch your mind a bit too.

Fear ‘and’ Faith

Fear. It’s an interesting thing when it comes to leadership. My last post made a few people think I was afraid to step out in faith – afraid to do what God has called me to do. It’s true! I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failing. I’m afraid of walking away from a regular paycheck one day to follow this dream. I’m afraid of not being able to provide for my wife and child. I’m afraid I am misinterpreting God. I’m afraid of a whole bunch of things.

But (and maybe I should make that a great BIG “BUT”)

I’m even more afraid of just living from one day to the next – just existing. I’m more afraid of not being faithful in the little things and therefore forfeiting the amazing dreams God has for me. I’m more afraid of disappointing Him and of not being all that He has called me to be. I’m afraid of not drinking in the whole of God’s plan for me – of missing out on something. This is the kind of fear I can live with. And you know what I call that kind of fear?? I call it faith.

Anne Lamott talks about how fear and faith live together. Some people say that those two can’t be in the same room, but for me (and for her too) I’ve never stepped out on faith and not had fear lurking somewhere. Isn’t that what faith is? Stepping out in spite of the fear? Or even stepping into the fear?

This quote is appropriate to me. It’s my prayer that my life can reflect the ideas represented here.

It’s a famous quote which is sometimes wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela from Marianne Williamson:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous,
talented, and fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so
that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine, as children do.
We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us, it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other
people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.”

I am afraid that God has made me “powerful beyond measure” and that I won’t live into it. I do not plan on “playing small” or “shrinking” but I plan to at least attempt to “make manifest the glory of God that is within me.” I hope that as I do it, others including my own son Kasen, will be “liberated from his fears” too. I hope to instill a sense of calling, adventure, and courage in him. And even if I fail in regards to chasing this church plant lion, it will still accomplish this: Kasen will have known a father who eagerly and persistently pressed on to God’s call.  And I believe that will be enough to inspire and encourage him to chase his dreams and lions.

I will live my life in fear – fear of not being all God wants me to be. And because of this fear, I will live by faith – faith in the one who is calling me, Jesus Christ.