Doesn’t God Know What He’s Losing?!

Over the next week or so I’m going to be posting some of my thoughts on my losing my job and moving out of the ministry that I have loved and still do. Its still early in the process, but God has already shown me so much. He has shown me so much that I need to work on, some things that I took for granted, and how much people here really care for me.  Just the response to the news has shown me that there are people here who care about me, and people that have truly seen what God has done through me.

One of my first thoughts was the students that I will be leaving behind.  I know that there are many that will continue to pursue God and will grow in the knowledge of God.  But there are many that I will be leaving behind who I worry about.  They aren’t normally going to church.  They don’t have other people pursuing them.  If they are going through something tough, they know that I’m going to be the one that they can call.

One of the highlites of my job is when a student that I haven’t seen in forever just randomly decides to stop by and say ‘hi’.  I know that they’re really saying ‘hi’, but that they need someone to talk to.  My immediate reaction is to wonder, ‘Who are they going to talk to?’  Whoever comes in after me isn’t going to know them.  There are two thoughts that God has comforted me with:

1. There is a parent that has been a ministry to me.  She has a child whose heart is hard towards the Gospel.  I couldn’t begin to imagine what that would be like if that were Micah.  I pray to God that I never have to deal with the horrible test of having a child that I know isn’t living under the saving grace of God.  The mother’s encouraging words to me were that we are to trust that God loves our children even more than I do.  I can rest in the fact that I cannot possibly come to love any student the way that God does, and God will do whatever He needs to do to bring people unto Himself.

2. My close friend John Milton has also taught me a lot.  His most famous sonnet has come to mind multiple times.  The background to this sonnet is that John Milton has worked his whole life for the purpose of serving God with his gifts, particularly with the task of writing the best epic ever.  His whole literary career had been spent building up to the point where he could write an epic that would not only compete with Dante, Homer, and Virgil, but would also justify the ways of God to man.

Then tragedy struck Milton.  He went blind.  It’s generally thought that he had taxed his eyes so much, particularly by reading constantly with poor lighting, that he lost his gift of sight.  Milton’s thought was that now he couldn’t do what God had called him to do.  What was God going to do without Milton’s gifts?  That’s when he wrote this sonnet:

When I consider how my light is spent
Ere half my days in this dark world and wide,
And that one talent which is death to hide
Lodg’d with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my Maker, and present
My true account, lest he returning chide,
“Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?”
I fondly ask. But Patience, to prevent
That murmur, soon replies: “God doth not need
Either man’s work or his own gifts: who best
Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best. His state
Is kingly; thousands at his bidding speed
And post o’er land and ocean without rest:
They also serve who only stand and wait.”

The thing that Milton learned in this trial was that God didn’t need him.  God didn’t need his gift.  In fact, God has angels in Heaven whose role is to only stand by Him and wait.  The realization is that God is in control and makes us who we are for the tasks that He decides and prepares.  God knows what He is doing in my life.  He knows what He is doing in His ministry and His church.  I’m not indespensible, and God is honored with me doing whatever task He grants me.  Thank you Milton.

God’s Plans > My Plans

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”  Proverbs 19:21

I’ve been wondering how I was going to say this for some time now.  I’ve had a month to think about it and I still haven’t come to any great conclusion.  Over the last month, God has convinced me more than ever that His ways are not always going to be my plans.  The purpose of the Lord is that we no longer serve at San Gabriel Union Church and we move our family back to NH.  The elders have decided that I am no longer a good fit for the church and that it is best if we part ways.

I would be lying if I said that I agreed with this conclusion or that I haven’t struggled with this decision.  It has been very difficult to hear, as my life’s passion for the last seven to eight years has been the youth of San Gabriel Union Church.  I have had amazing opportunities to grow, be stretched, and cut my teeth in ministry, from just wanting to help out and joining Jr High staff to being able to serve as pastor for two years.  I know that I will always be indebted to SGUC for their faithfulness and patience with me and for paying for me to go to Seminary.  I would not be where I am today, were it not for the generosity of the church.

So where do we go from here?  My last day at work will be January 31st, and I will be able to hand off the ministry to a very capable and loving youth staff.  I have no doubts that they will faithfully serve with self sacrifice until someone is able to come in and take my place.  For my family, Leah and Micah will be flying out on February 10th and I will be following them a few days later, driving across the country with our belongings.  God has already proven Himself faithful to us in the provision of a place to live for free for the ime being.  As far as employment goes, I’m not sure of what I will be doing.  But I know that God will meet our needs there, also.

There are many things that I am learning, and I’m sure that I will post many of those thoughts in the coming weeks.  All I want to say at this point that this is incredibly painful and sad for me to do.  My heart breaks when I think of the friends and family that I will be leaving behind.  When I came out here, I didn’t know anyone and I was far away from anyone I could call family.  But over the proceding 10 years in California, I have made so many friends and have people I can sincerely call family.  One consolation I can take is that this seperation is only for a time.  I am confident that one day we will gather around the throne of God, praising the Lamb that was slain for sinners like us.  But it does not make it any easier at the present time.  My heart is still here, but I am working at accepting God’s plan for my life and ministry, no matter what my plans were.  And I am confident that His plan for my life is best and following him with an humble heart and an eager spirit to see what He has planned.

A Repentant Explanation For the Lack of Blog Attention

For those of you who still poke around here, you have noticed that there haven’t been any posts for the last few weeks.  This isn’t for normal reasons of laziness, but lack of time.  Many of you have heard of how sick Leah has been with her second pregancy.  It has been quite a trial for us, but God has been faithful to bring us through, providing a lot of support through our church family.  We were slowly counting down the days until we were able to go to NH for our early Christmas trip.  The intention was to post some more once I was home.  Funny how the best intentions become impossible.

I had been looking forward to the moment when we would get home and I would hand Leah and Micah over to her family and then go and collapse in a bed and sleep for a week.  Between waking up to get Leah something to eat at 2am and waking up to take Micah outside for a walk to loosen up his cough at some point in the night, I hadn’t gotten much sleep.  I was eagerly looking forward to putting ear plugs in, sleeping forever, and working off the fat I had stored up for hibernation.

Well, about two minutes after walking into the in-law’s house in NH, while we were still hugging each other, the power went out.  On top of that, they had just got a new wood pellet stove that needed electricity to run.  So we bundled up and waited for the power to come back on.  We waited… and waited… and waited.  Then we found out that we’d be out at least a week and we all moved to Leah’s grandparents whose house was unused and had gotten power back.  I don’t feel too bad, considering almost a million customers were out and thousands aren’t going to get power back while its still 2008.

Just in time for us to take off for my sister’s house (she never lost power as she lives so far north), their power came back on.  So even on vacation, I haven’t been able to post much.   Not that I think anyone cares.

“So, do you REALLY trust Me?”

If someone walked up to me and asked if I trusted God with the details of my life, I would say absolutely.  Of course I believe that God takes care of the details of my life.  I teach about it all the time.  In fact, right now we’re going through a series on relationships and my talk generally circles around the concept of trusting God with your love life.  Do you trust God enough to hand your love life over to him?

There have been numerous times through my short life where I have been confronted with the test to trust God in the midst of the unknown and uncertain, and I can firmly say that through all of those times, God has proved Himself faithful over and over again.  Lately, Leah and I have been praying for a place to move into.  We want to have more kids in the future, but right now we’re out growing the one bedroom apartment with Micah.  We knew we had to have a lot of things work together in order for us to move, and it looks like those things are going to happen. Our prayer was that God would blow us away with something and make it obvious.

Then God brought about an amazing situation that may work.  I can’t share a lot of the details, but it has definitely blown us away, but there are some issues that need to be settled before we could say ‘yes’ to that situation.  And it always seems that you have a firm grasp on the situation and find it easy to trust God with the details, whether big or small.  And then God drops something big in your lap that you weren’t necessarily ‘planning on’.

That moment came to us last Tuesday night.  In the midst of watching the results for the election and seeing that there were going to be big changes for our country coming soon, we found out that big changes were also coming soon for our own family.  It was growing.  We found out that God had blessed us with the gift of another child.  That’s right, Leah’s pregnant again!  What a wonderful blessing, albeit unexpected at this point in the game, but a great blessing.

So, now I hear God saying “So, do you REALLY trust Me?”  All I am forced to say is “yes, but help my unbelief!”  I find myself with a similar mindset of the man who came to Christ with a child that was mute and had a spirit in him (Mark 9).  The man said, “if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.”  Jesus replied saying “If you can!  All things are possibe for one who believes.”  Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

So, yes, I believe that God is really in control of the details of my life.  I just need help in my unbelief.  I know that God will bring us through the situation in our life and that He will work everything out for His glory!

A Flashback at the LA County Fair

Yesterday, when I mentioned the fact that I was going to be going to the LA County fair, one of my friends not in this area said, “LA has their own fair?  What I wouldn’t give to see that!”  That pretty much sums it up.  As one who was practically raised at New England fairs, you definitely see a different picture when you enter the LA Fair.  When you enter the gate we go in, you see a large section dedicated to Hispanic culture, then large convention buildings full of expo displays.  Unless you want something to polish your silverware or want new insurance, those buildings are largely useless.

You have some displays that celebrate California culture and history, a large building for interactive displays for small children.  Micah had a blast in that area, playing in sand, pushing trains, and looking in a big magnifying window at his dad’s huge head made even bigger.  There is a large animal barn where you can see new borns with their mom’s, whether they are pigs, sheep, goats, or chickens.  We took Micah into a big petting zoo and the small goats converged upon him sniffing him for food.  He laughed one second and nervously raised his hands up to get picked up the next.  We gave him some food and the goats licked it out of his hand.  He wasn’t sure what to think about this.

The highlight of the trip came when we were looking at the big sheep in a pen in the middle of the petting zoo.  Some animals hang out in there to avoid the kids running around, so I took Micah to the fence so he could pet an animal that wasn’t going to freak him out.  That’s when I heard something I haven’t heard in awhile.  I heard the ewe make a deep moaning noise and looked behind it only to see two little feet coming out of the sheep.  The poor thing was well into labor and no one that worked there had noticed.

Someone went over to tell the girl in charge of the zoo that there was a sheep lambing.  I started thinking back to my days raising sheep and thinking of the things that I needed to look for.  I was first of all, concerned that it was lambing in early September.  Normally, sheep of this breed lamb in the winter, Nov-Dec time of the year, but not this early.  Once in awhile you get a fall born sheep, but it isn’t normal because sheep have a certain time of the year where they go into heat.

Anyways, I’m sure my sister or mother could provide more info if you are interested.  The lamb seemed to positioned right.  I checked to see if the front feet and nose were coming out first and they were.  once I saw that, I knew it was good just to let things happen.  I called my mom to get any last minute advice should I need it, as no one had come yet.  Soon, the head started to poke out, and finally someone who knew what they were doing showed up.  He asked everyone to be quiet and the lamb popped out in a couple of minutes.  He cleared the mucus and such out of the lamb’s mouth and nose and the mother came over and started to lick the lamb.

All of this in the petting zoo.  Certainly not what we expected when we entered the pen, and the city folk saw much more than they ever imagined.  Here are some pics of the time!

A happy moment with the goats.

All they had was John Deere tractors.  Micah was clearly disappointed.

You may recognize this from last year’s picture.

Micah is interestingly still a horse…

Notice the David Ortiz jersey in the background!

Micah had a blast shaking the maraca along with the Spanish music.

Tuckered out after a long afternoon.

Pastoring a Family

Now that Micah is getting older, I have found how much of a challenge pastoring my own family is becoming.  I don’t mean to say that the family is becoming difficult, but I find that it is stretching me more and more.  I’ve known that I want to have my home model a Christ-centered, Cross-centered family, but I’m finding that more and difficult to do.  For some things, it just doesn’t come naturally.  For example, when it comes to discipline, the easy thing is to tell Micah no and discipline him.  What needs to happen next, though, is an explanation of how that was displeasing to God and disrespectful to me.

I don’t know if it is the fact that this side of my own personal ministry is much more real and immediate for me, but it seems to be much more intimidating than my pastoral ministry.  I guess I feel a sense of confidence that I have been there and done that to a certain degree with Youth Ministry and have a handle on where things are going, but everything is so different and new when it comes to parenting and spiritual training my own family.  And it seems like the impact is much more long lasting, as I’m completely responsible for how I guide my wife and son.

I’ve had general ideas of what I want to do, but life never allows plans to be simple.  Obviously I know many of the general truths of parenting and have read many books on the subject, but it is sometimes more of an art than science.  You know the truths, but applying them can take wisdom and experience.  I want Micah to learn how to pray, learn to study his Bible, grow a Biblical worldview, and see what it means to be a godly father and husband. Leah and I have been reading through “Shepherding a Child’s Heart”, though we both read it before being parents.  We’ve also begun praying in the morning and including Micah in that.  We also want to get some books for Micah to read through in the evening during our reading time before his bedtime.  Anyone with good suggestions, we’re all ears.

Then today I was blog hopping and found this Piper post.  He was asked how he spiritual guides his family.  Here is what he said.

1. We encouraged our children from the very beginning to be alone with the Lord in the morning. That can start as soon as you can prop a child up with a pillow so that he doesn’t topple over and bonk his head. You can set a tape recorder beside him with a song about “Jesus loves me, this I know” or a Bible story.

So a child can have devotions from age 1 on, as strange as that may sound, if you train him to have a little time alone to be with God. He can’t read yet, obviously, and he won’t read yet for another 4 or 5 years. But he can listen and he can enjoy that time. So we did that, and then it turned into Bible stories. Then it turned into giving them their own Bible that they could read, which went on up through teenage devotions.

2. We were at the table together every morning, and I led devotions at breakfast with the children. And if the child is little he just says “Jesus” and that’s all he says. But we used to work our way through the Global Prayer Digest so that there was a missions component. And then we read a short passage of Scripture, and I would pray. It might not take more than 5 minutes, because of the children being little.

3. Then in the evening we had family devotions, which was a little longer. We read a longer portion of Scripture, and all the children–if they were able–would pray, not just me. Noel would pray, I would pray, and each of the children would pray. And as soon as they could talk, we taught them to pray.

4. And then when we put them to bed, we tucked them in, blessed them with

The Lord bless you and keep you.
The Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you.
The Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace,
and joy, and hope, and love, and a good night’s rest,
and someday a godly husband. (Talitha will always laugh when I say this last line.)

And then I sing a song for Talitha. And then I give her a big hug. There is a very definite routine that we walk through. And there is a word component even as you tuck the child in bed at night.

That has been the routine for 31 years, basically, though I don’t want to create the impression that it is flawless or that we didn’t miss mornings or evenings. We did, but this was the goal and the routine. And pretty much we have been able to keep with it.

Hope someone might find this helpful!

Random Thoughts Before I Depart for Hume

Hume Lake

Today finds me on the eve of another summer camp, but this one is fairly relaxing. We’re taking 53 people up to Hume Lake for our High School summer camp. We’ll be joining almost 1,000 other high schoolers there for a fun and relaxing week. The days are made up of eating with the kids, sitting in chapels with the kids, playing card games and Apple to Apples with the kids, playing frisbee golf with the kids, and other things, generally with the kids. It’s relaxing because I don’t have to organize the kids while I’m there, just shuffle them from event to event. We have about 4 hours of free time every afternoon and the kids love roaming the camp with each other. And I don’t even have to stay in the cabin with them, as the family has a hotel type room up there. Good times all around!

Olympics

Last evening we watched the opening ceremonies to the Olympics and I was frankly blown away. I’ve never been a fan of them, as they are usually way too vague to understand, full of post-modern symbols that supposedly communicate unity and good will. Even I appreciated the artistic direction and the unity of the performers moving as one unit. But the thing I can’t get past is the fact that the IOC is allowing China to push forward a picture of their country that just isn’t accurate. Their human rights stance is well known throughout the world, as well as their involvement in Sudan. It’s also amazing how much lack of freedom the people are allowed.

At one point in the ceremony, the narrator said that something was symbolizing the two great walls China had. I automatically thought, “The Great Wall and the Firewall the government has set up to keep information and ideas out of the country.” What’s even more amazing is that this firewall that keeps info out of the country has been extended to the Olympic Village.

They also had a part where they were giving recognition to three religions in their country- Confucius, Buddhism, and something else. What was ironic is that they are completely intolerant of any other kinds of religion. Interesting side note, if anyone has seen that pastor guy who locked himself in hotel room in
China and is doing demonstrations over youtube.com. Well, I think I may have a connection. This past Sunday someone in my church pulled me aside and said that a friend of theirs who was a pastor was going to go to China and do something to raise awareness of the persecution of the Church in China. Turns out the guy in the hotel room is from this area. So I think its the same guy. Not sure what he’s really accomplishing…
Earthquake!

As most of you have heard, we had a little shaker here a couple weeks ago. It was my second somewhat momentous earthquake since I’ve been out here. I haven’t felt the others, but this one couldn’t be avoided. I was working at the time and there is nothing like the uncertainty of a earthquake to shake your core. Your first thought is, ‘Here we go!’, quickly followed by the thought, “Is this the big one?!” It started off as a slow wave, then a few big jerks. Its a wonderful reminder that nothing is for sure outside of God, not even the ground you stand upon. Reminds me of Psalm 20 and placing our faith in God alone.
Manny Follows Nomar

Another interesting development in the last few weeks was Manny Ramirez getting traded out here. You would have thought that the Dodgers had be guaranteed a World Series appearance by Manny being traded here. Granted, they didn’t really give anything up, but they only have him for the rest of the season, and he can’t pitch, which is something they will be lacking. It’s funny how everyone out here teased me for Manny being on my team. Only seems just that he now plays for them. When he came in he said that he wanted to play here the rest of his life. Today, the news came out that he wants to play for the Yankees to get back at the Red Sox. Well, that lasted a week, huh? He also said that he was going to cut his hair, and I told people not to hold their breath. I’m saying he doesn’t. A week has passed, and its still there.

A Prayer Request

Yesterday, the door bell rang and Leah found our neighbor at the door asking for anointing oil or holy water. Confused, Leah said we didn’t really do that. Apparently, his pregnant sister-in-law is in the hospital, and she’s leaking water. And one of the nurses had the nerve to tell her that she had a curse inside of her and needed it taken care of. What kind of nurse says that?! Well, they are Asian, and the hospital is largely Asian, so there may be a lot of cultural things happening there. We appreciate your prayers for her. The family above us, we believe, are Christians, but we aren’t really sure where they are at. They are confused and scared through this process.

Lost

For those of you who remembered, there was a Dharma ad in the last show and they had you enter your email address. They were doing ‘recruiting’ this past weekend in San Diego, which happened to be Comic Con, also. Here is a video that was shown:

The text in the email said this:

ATTENTION ALL RECRUITS
RE: SECURITY BREACH AT COMIC-CON 2008
As many of you may be aware there have been a number of security breaches in recent days related to the nature of the Dharma Initiative’s latest research.
Apart from the leak of a sensitive internal communication there was also the unauthorized release of confidential video documentation during a sponsored panel discussion with the makers of the TV show “LOST” at Comic-Con 2008 in San Diego. Consequently, the person responsible for this breach, a promising recruit by the name of Dan Bronson, has been expelled from the volunteer program and had his Dharma Initiative membership permanently revoked. Furthermore, the Dharma Initiative has withdrawn their sponsorship from “LOST”.
The Dharma Initiative must stress that the video material leaked at Comic-Con 2008 was viewed entirely out of context. Furthermore, the way in which the material was presented utterly distorted its significance and credibility as scientific data.
The Dharma Initiative is extremely disappointed with this outcome and has ordered a security audit of all departments. As part of this audit the DharmaWantsYou recruiting website will undergo a security upgrade in the next few days.
Upon completion of this upgrade a date will be announced for the official commencement of Volunteer Assessments.
All recruits are reminded that the unauthorized release of confidential information pertaining to the details of your activities within the Dharma Initiative will result in instant dismissal from the volunteer program

Namaste.
Hans Van Eeghen
Head of Recruiting
The Dharma Initiative

I honestly haven’t even read this, or watched the video, due to lack of time. But enjoy!