We sincerely appreciate your prayers over the past few days. Last week was a little discouraging but we are blessed to serve the Lord of hope and encouragement. It always looks different than what we’d expect but nonetheless, He always comes through.
This week has definitely had its share of ups and downs, but our friend and pastor Dr. Wood gave us some great wisdom after last week’s post. He shared some advice he received as a young pastor, “don’t let your highs get too high, and don’t let your lows get too low.” The nature of ministry, and life for that matter, is a series of crests and troughs. I remember a Bible study where we talked about trials. We learned that in life, we are either in a trial, coming out of a trial, or about to head into one. In this broken world, there will be trouble but we are to take heart because He has overcome the world as John 16:33 promises. Thus is the cycle we will exist in until He makes all things new and what a glorious day that will be. Until then we have a loving God that helps us through it all.
Another friend of ours was struggling with his mental health on Tuesday. A friend who is normally very talkative, friendly, and sweet was drowning in his own thoughts. He wasn’t speaking and seemed very afraid. Again it was excruciating to watch him suffer and I had no idea how to help. The best thing I could do was sit with him on the porch in the rocking chairs and listen to classical music. I told him I wanted to help but didn’t know how. I told him that he was my friend and I cared about him. No words I said seemed to help so we just sat until he slowly started to relax and eventually doze off only to wake up gasping after a few minutes and head back to his house without a word.
There is a history of mental illness in my family, specifically Alzheimer’s. I have watched my grandfathers turn from brilliant and joyful men into shells of their former personality, unable to care for themselves at all. My paternal grandmother is still suffering from dementia along with various physical issues and has for many years. Even so, she is one of the most joyful and Spirit filled women I have ever met. There is no easy way to watch your loved ones fade away and forget who they are. Fortunately for all of us, our God never forgets who we are in Him and I have no doubt that when my grandfathers took their final breaths, their suffering ended forever as they crossed into the Promised Land to be with their Lord.
Thursday was somewhat uneventful during the day, which was nice. We had another drum circle that evening and it was a fun time. As the drums began to play, people started coming out of their homes to join in the song around the fire. It’s actually pretty amazing because I have seen this simple event ease the minds of some of my friends in the midst of dealing with mental and emotional issues. I can’t explain why. There aren’t any shady rituals going on, just people sitting around a fire playing along together. There are those who look at drum circles from a religious perspective, however it is my belief that the God of the Bible created drums and rhythm for our good. Therefore we should drum together when the opportunity arises, if only for the avenue of community it provides.
We had a lot of guests staying at the Community Inn, our bed and breakfast, for South by Southwest. SXSW is some kind of festival for music, technology, and movies but it includes large crowds and traffic, so you can count me out of that. Either way, after the drum circle I struck up a conversation with a guy staying in the inn. He was from Canada and our conversation got spiritual rather quickly. I asked him how he ended up staying at the village and he told me about an online self-help group he was part of, and that he had come to meet another person involved in the group. Something didn’t seem right about some of the things he was saying and the Spirit led me to share the Gospel with him. I can’t say that it was a riveting presentation, just the testimony of my own life. I told him how the Lord pursued me when I was lost and used some unlikely people to reveal the glory of His grace to me. To be honest it is a great story, not because of anything I did at all, but because He did everything.
There were red flags about a lot of the things this man was saying and my discernment radar was beeping off the charts. He told me the name of his group and I found out later that is a dark new-age cult. It didn’t appear that my testimony had any affect on him, but I felt that I had been obedient in telling him about the best news there ever was. I have hope that the seed that God planted through me will be harvested sometime down the road and that this lost man will understand what Christ did for him. Will you join me in praying for him and his group?
Friday I ended up giving a tour to some folks from Kentucky, which is always fun. It’s so cool to watch people’s jaws drop as they see for themselves the power of Christ-centered community. I am commonly asked if everyone here at the village is a Christian and the answer is no. There is no pressure to participate in any kind of religious activities, but it is widely known that the reason this place exists is because the founders of the organization know in their hearts that Christ has called them to love their neighbors and serve them sacrificially. Our job is to love, serve, and look for opportunities to share the Gospel. As the hymn inspired by John 13:35 says, “they will know we are Christians by our love.”
Briana spent Friday morning calling RV and mobile home parks to find a space for us to live when we get back to Midland. When I came home for lunch she didn’t have good news. Most places are full, some don’t allow children, some don’t allow dogs, etc. It’s easy to get discouraged by things like that—not having any idea where home will be. I will admit that uncertainty is not my favorite thing in the world, but Matthew 6 is chock full of remedy. Just before the Lord’s Prayer we are reminded in verse 8 that God knows what we need before we ask Him. Later on in the chapter, we are given a final answer for anxiety:
“For this reason I say to you, do not be worried about your life, as to what you will eat or what you will drink; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life? And why are you worried about clothing? Observe how the lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, yet I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
-Matthew 6:25-34 (NASB)
Admittedly, it’s not easy to wrap my mind around living in the present and trusting God for provision. It is not in my sinful character to relinquish my perceived control. In reality we have no control and there is no security apart from the Lord, but what a great freedom it is to know that God knows exactly what we need to carry out His will and He also loves to provide for His children. Disclaimer: His provision will probably not look like our plans at all, thank goodness!
Friday after work we drove down to meet my parents at their lake house. It was so good to get some time with them. Truma loves her Bunny and Birddog and is a lake rat. We had a hard time keeping her out of the water and convincing her it was far too cold to swim in. She kept telling us that her doll needed to go swimming, “Baby go swimming, I take her.” We grilled out that night and the next day my parents kept Truma, and sent us to get massages, for which we were very grateful.
Our time together was cut short when we got some news that my Dad’s mother, our Mamie, was in the hospital with critically low blood pressure and was unresponsive. It is pretty rare that someone her age with her health complications ever recovers from that, but Saturday night she was sitting up in bed eating Salisbury steak, thanking everyone for praying for her, and telling them that she loves them. They are hoping to get her back home today. I was sad to imagine a world without her, but also comforted because I know exactly where she is going when that day comes. My theory is that God must have a few more people back at the nursing home for her to witness to.
Sunday night we got back to the village to find many of our neighbors out and about. Some were playing instruments with their front doors open; others were playing dominos on the porch. One of the missional residents bought some Blue Bell and invited everyone she saw to join her for a treat. It’s moments like these I know that living in community is really how we were designed.
This week is a busy one and we would appreciate your prayers. Thank you so much for taking the time to follow along.
· Continued prayers for our pastor and his family as he goes through cancer treatment.
· My friend Jamie has an MRI today to determine what is wrong with her knee after a fall. Pray that it doesn’t require surgery.
· Healthy and safe delivery for my friend Matt and his wife’s baby that will be coming any day now.
· A homeless friend of one of our neighbors, Douglas Edwards, who fell off a bridge. He has brain damage and is paralyzed from the waist down.
· People we see every day that do not have a personal relationship with Jesus.
· Trust for God’s provision. Knowing when to move and when to be still.