Thursday, September 15, 2011

September 2011 Update

Click here for the September newsletter or simply view the posts below to see the same content

This was undoubtedly one of the most intense summers we've ever experienced as a family. A significant part of our ministry is done in the context of our summer camps, and camps essentially ran from June to the end of July with no substantial break between them.

Maintaining Balance

Though my family was able to be with me at some of the camps, this was definitely an eye opening experience in learning how intentional I'll have to be during the camping season to make sure that my most important ministry, my family, is not neglected in the midst of the summer's craziness. I was able to see first hand the enormous blessing of friends and Elders who are not afraid to keep me accountable in this regard. Thank you to those individuals who are not afraid to ask the hard questions! Your support is truly vital to the success of our families ministry through Christian Service Brigade.

The Transition

I continue to try to balance the demands of our business and ministry through this transition period. Our goal is to be in ministry full time by January with only a few key business responsibilities still to watch over at that time. I'll therefore be focusing the rest of this year on raising support so that we can begin ministry in earnest on January 1st. I am also currently working with Bob Nass to help support CSB discipleship programs as they get up and running again for this school year. In fact, if any of you reading this would like more information on how we can support your church in providing opportunities for the men in your church to disciple the next generation of men send me a quick email or give me a call. I'd love to hear from you!

In the rest of this letter you will find a really encouraging story from this summer, an update on our support status, some "fast facts" about the past few months, and a great little book recommendation. I hope you enjoy the update and the story below!

Stories from the Field ...

A Conversation Neither of Us Wanted to Have

Zac stood there in front of me asking what I thought of his hair. It's not that I hated his mohawk. It was pretty short and wasn't some obnoxious fluorescent color. But I knew what Bob Nass the camp director would think and I knew I'd agree with his general opinion even if I didn't share his level of passion over the subject.

We were at pre-camp counselor training and as with all our counselors Zac was being trained to be a defacto face representing the camp. As a camp our goal is to help parents who are entrusting their children to us to leave with confidence that their children would both be safe and would come home more mature in their Christian walk then when they arrived. Hair, for better or worse, communicates, and for that reason I was pretty sure Bob would demand that Zac's coiffe be summarily guillotined.

The sad thing is that this young man had no clue what was coming. What Zac intended to simply be an expression of his individuality was about to become a test of character. Bob didn't bring down the hammer as quickly as I thought he would, but when it finally fell and he told Zac that the Mohawk would have to go, Zac was left befuddled and perplexed. As he passed me he said with absolute resolution "I am NOT cutting my hair." He didn't see why it had to go. My point in relaying this story is not to make a comment about the propriety or lack of propriety of mohawks. This simply provides a set-up for the cool things that happened next ...

Before I move the story forward it would be helpful to relay to you that I met Zac at camp 3 years ago when he was 12. At that time God made it possible for me to get to know him and his family and I have had the privilege over that time to regularly disciple him. There have been some really hard, frustrating, bang your head against the wall moments over those three years. But in the midst of those challenges God has made it clear that he has plans for this young man. So back to my story ...

Knowing the friendship that I have with Zac, Bob asked me if I would talk to him about the hair situation. I was not really excited about it. But I dutifully told Bob I would talk to Zac. I procrastinated. That means I put it off. The day passed. The next morning rolled around. I was hoping Bob had forgotten and I could "forget" too. No such luck. Bob asked if I'd talked to Zac yet. "Uh ... Not yet." Clearly Bob was not going to forget. I took a deep breath. Time to man up. As is so often the case, the moment of truth was a providential "duh!" I couldn't avoid it. All of the Junior Counselors had just finished a team building exercise and were heading back inside and Zac and I were the last ones to turn to go inside. I looked at him and said "you and I have to have a conversation that neither of us want to have."

God was gracious. No sparks flew. There would have been sparks two years before. But God has been working in Zac.

What proceeded to unfold was a conversation that used the surface trivialities of hair style to deal with important biblical principles. What started as a conflict over hair resulted in a God honoring conversation about,

  1. What we value - Is individuality a character trait prized by the Bible? Might there be more Christ-honoring qualities that Zac should be valuing and communicating to others?
  2. Servanthood - Jesus emphasized the importance of serving others not just ourselves. We have an opportunity to do this in the way we present ourselves.Our hair is a part of that.
  3. Honoring others - Regardless of how we felt about the request, Bob is a man who has earned the right to be honored, and even if we didn't totally agree with his reasons, the opportunity to honor him should be enough.

I wish you could have been there to see this! The transformation in Zac's countenance began almost immediately as soon as the conversation began. Rather than rebellion I saw a young man willing to humble himself. Rather than excuse making I saw a young man willing to listen to counsel.

Don't misunderstand me, there was an internal conflict going on. But clearly Zac was in the process of mortifying his flesh and deciding to live for others rather than himself. This was a big moment and it was a privilege to be able to witness first hand. I felt as if I'd been granted a front row seat to witness a heart being changed.

We closed in prayer. A prayer that brought me to tears. Some might think this was just a conflict over hair. Nope. This was a profound moment of transformation.

What was the Summer Like? -- FAST FACTS

  • Traveled more than 5000 miles in our van. It will never smell the same again.
  • Paddled 170 miles in a canoe. I'll never smell the same again!
  • Led 5 canoe trips
  • Replaced the alternator in my van 3 times in 7 days
  • Experienced the joys of Canadian Bureaucracy
  • Absorbed more rain in a three week period than I've ever experienced in my life.
  • Got the flu for the first time in a decade and left the tasty date night dinner from the night before on the side of hwy 101.
  • Saw Bear, Bald Eagles, Osprey, Moose, Beaver, and a vicious Canadian Marmot.

Support update -- 15%

It has been exciting over the past few months to see how God has provided for our family. Because I was occupied with camps this summer I was unable to follow-up or be pro-active in our support raising efforts. Even considering this, however, many of you responded with financial support to our initial letter and we are currently at about 15% of where we need to be to be fully supported. Thank you to each of you who have generously given financially to help make our ministry possible!

Additionally, I know that there are a number of you who have committed to pray for us. That is no insignificant thing and we are grateful that you are bringing us before the throne of God. The prayers of the Saints are vital to our ministry. Please don't forget our family when you pray.


Persuasions - A dream of reason meeting unbelief

Most books on apologetics are boring and intimidating. This is not a "how to" on apologetics, rather, Doug Wilson uses the Pilgrims Progress theme of a road between Heaven and Hell to create the context for amazingly real life encounters between "Evangelist" and numerous people representing various worldviews as they make their way to the city of destruction. This book is by far one of my favorites and I have given countless numbers of them away. It is especially good to give away to young men as a means of exciting them about both apologetics and evangelism.

It's funny, Biblically sound ... and short.

Click here for more information

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sweaty Little Mirrors

A lot of people dislike mirrors. Who can blame us? Most of the time we are not great fans of truth and mirrors are mercilessly truth telling. It may seem like a mundane and unimportant observation over which to be thankful but one merciful feature of the glass mirrors with which we are most familiar is that they stand still. Can you imagine if they moved on their own? And with a malicious intent? Every corner representing a potential BOO! Unable to escape your laughable bed head? Yikes. But happily they generally pretty much stay where we put them and aside from the odd Disney movie they don’t move or talk on their own. That's a blessing.

Recently my son unwittingly made me aware that there are different kinds of mirrors. I may have learned about this fact previously, elementary school or something like that, but until a week ago I guess I'd just plain forgotten. More likely ignored it.

Josh is getting older. Every day that passes and inch he grows the stakes grow as well. It feels like we have so little time left to help point him in the direction of godly masculinity. As the pressure mounts all of his boyish imperfections seem to grow more and more glaring ... and annoying. I encourage him to mortify these areas of his flesh now. The farther down the path he pushes them the deeper the rut he'll have to pull himself out of. With all the wisdom that retrospect provides I urge him to not wait but to deal with bad habits now before their roots grow deep and require a community effort to remove. I thought if I reasoned biblically with my children that they'd ... get it ... I forgot about indwelling sin. Why do I have to repeat myself so frequently? Why doesn't he get it?

I was busy thinking about all of this one evening as we prepared for dinner. I was looking at him wondering what I could try next, what tactic I could attempt like Gandalf at the western gate of Moria, what magical words could I summon to open the doors of his heart. At that moment the spotlight that I thought I had been in control of was suddenly swung uncomfortably in my direction. Do you realize how hot those things are when they are shining right on you?

What did the spotlight reveal? To my genuine alarm the realization crashed in on me … “I think he's acting like me!” If I'd said it out loud it would have been said with an admixture of horror and confusion.

I stood there blinking like one of those tacky neon signs in Vegas that are impossible to ignore. The realization tumbled through the cobweb strewn halls of my mind, rooms that heretofore have seen very little light. So many of those sinful character traits that I have been trying to weed out of Josh’s life with one hand I have been traitorously planting with the other hand. Like Miss Havisham in Dickens classic novel Great Expectations I have been training my own little protégé to treat others with the kind of heartless pride and dismissiveness as Miss Havisham had trained Estella. Dickens wrote Miss Havisham so well that we hate her for sowing these seeds in that little girl. I hate her. Good thing the mirrors of my heart are dusty and covered with cobwebs or I may have seen earlier that I've been doing the same thing.

As a husband and a father I am a leader. This means that like it or not I have followers. People who are walking behind me on the paths that I am treading. Through time and proximity they rub up against me and without knowing it start walking, talking, complaining, and rolling their eyes just like I do. Who can blame them? I'm their leader. They're FOLLOWING me.

And so as I looked at Josh standing there in the kitchen I grasped the truth that though he was doing so unwittingly he nevertheless was a sweaty 11 year old mirror of myself. Yes, he is culpable before God for his own sin, but I am no less culpable for my own. Who carries the greater blame? Well, Jesus said that it would be better for me to tie a mill stone around my neck and be thrown into the sea than to cause one of these little ones to stumble. I'm the adult after all. I have been given much and therefore much is required of me.

So, now that God has opened my eyes to this uncomfortable reality, what am I going to do? This is a big project. Not changing my son, but changing myself. Well, he just spilled the milk ... moment of truth number one ... will I laugh and help him clean it up? Or will I do that thing that comes so much more naturally?