Part II: the Tiller

The reason I needed counseling was really just for someone to teach me to forgive. My concept of forgiveness changed quite a bit in the past few years and it has become one of my dearest treasures. I cannot imagine a more beautiful gift! Jesus gave us everything when He freed us to forgive.

I think my old idea about forgiveness was that it was just for the big stuff. Forgiveness was like a big carving knife saved only for digging out the big, intentional crimes. The little stuff like everyday annoyances, not feeling heard, feeling a little left out…. these should be reasoned away. “Of course they didn’t mean it like that.”

While this seems like a nice way to believe the best about others, it really didn’t allow me to learn the art of walking in every day forgiveness. If I deny every small hurt, every little offense and annoyance, if I make excuses for why I shouldn’t feel, I deny myself the power of forgiveness. I want to be un-offendable, but in the process of getting there, I got offended sometimes. I got my feelings hurt. I did not admit it though, because I used my head to reason away what my heart was feeling.

Believe it or not, these little grievances I reasoned away did not magically disappear when I stuffed them. The blood of Jesus does make things supernaturally disappear but my head is not that powerful and I was left with years of little things that had stacked up and up and up. It made me cynical in many ways; it manifested in bitterness and gossip toward certain people or groups, and it even affected my body. Bitterness really is like poison; I have felt it in my bones.

I am well aware that I have had a very easy life, so for years I resisted needing any help at all. I compared myself to others who had suffered terrible trauma and abuse, and I deemed myself unworthy. My friend who has a counseling ministry pulled me into her office and basically forced me to start looking at my recurring issues and then she helped me identify bad roots and get rid of them. In the middle of it, I definitely thought this would become a lifestyle of allowing an issue (whatever that word means) to surface, identifying it and dealing with it. This seemed like an endless cycle and I was frequently overwhelmed by how unhealthy and messed up I was.

Then one day it hit me: I had pulled up all the deeply-rooted weeds and now I was looking at a big empty field of fertile soil. I am sure that people will hurt me in the future and I will deal with those hurts as they come, but when I look back at the past, I don’t see anyone I need to forgive. I am not living in the consequences of my sins. This is freedom! And I believe this is why Jesus died on the cross for my sins!

Forgiveness is the tiller that has turned over the soil of my soul again and again and again. Hj and I start each day by sitting down together and asking each other honestly, “What do you need to forgive me for?” At the end of the day, we pray with our kids, “God, is there anyone I need to forgive?” And every night we say thank you to Jesus who made a way for us not only to forgive, but to have all our sins forgiven.

In this fertile ground, the seeds of the Spirit will thrive and bear fruit.

Part 1: The Fruit

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

You know those coloring pages from Sunday school that had a big bowl of fruit and the fruit had smiley faces and the grapes were goodness and the apples were joy and the peaches were peace? I think that’s where I developed my understanding of the fruit of the Spirit, because I have always thought of those fruits as being handed to me fully mature.

Recently, I have been thinking about the seeds of the fruit of the Spirit.

It started at the beginning of the year when I asked the Lord about what type of things we were gonna be doing together this year. He does not always indulge this information, but I still like to ask.

I did have a deep sense that I was to let the ground rest. The past few years have been non-stop tilling the soil of the soul for me. I’ve been good at digging deep and being thorough in the process of turning over the hard ground. But you know what happened before the Great Depression, right? They didn’t let the ground rest, and they killed the land.

So this is my year to let the ground rest. I felt like the command to let the ground rest came attached to the promise: the fruit of the Spirit will flourish. That’s when I started to realize that the fruit of the Spirit doesn’t necessarily come to us in a cornucopia of maturity. Maybe we are handed a seed catalog?

What if tiny seeds of love and joy and peace are put in our hands and we get to cultivate the ground they will be planted in? What if we get to watch those seeds die in the dark soil, then water and watch them sprout? What if we get to see tiny apple seeds grow into a trembling sapling and then get sturdier and stronger with wind and rain and finally, little blossoms that turn into fruit? What if that is the fruit of the Spirit: the fruit of our planting and cultivating and weeding and yet, the fruit of a supernatural germination process that has nothing to do with us?

I have been waking early every morning and pondering how I am to make the fruit of the Spirit flourish in my life. As a very religious person, I like the process of tilling the soil and getting rid of the weeds in my heart. I prefer the constant toiling and watering and weeding. But I think my fruit trees are saplings now, and they need the wind and the rain and the sun and I am not in charge of the Wind and the Rain and the Light. This is my time to surrender, and let it all flourish. I have done my tilling with diligence and now I can watch the miracle of new growth; my hands are off. The little buds are pushing out, and I’m not even trying!

On a blanket under the trees, I see myself looking up into the sky. The trees are there, the fruit is budding, but I am lost in wonder at the brilliance of a Creator and Sustainer who works so perfectly with us, and yet without us.

Middle-aged and loving it

(I wrote this mid-2018 and apparently forgot to post it.  It’s fine, because it’s truer now.)

I’m not on Facebook and I don’t read many blogs so I’m not sure what the hot topics of discussion are nowadays on the world wide web.

In real life, I’ve been in a lot of conversations about dreams and their interpretations because I have a friend who is really into that.  Plus I just completed a Bible study on the book of Daniel so we dove into some weird dreams.

On our campus, we have been in an ongoing discussion about sexual identity.  It’s been hard and sad and really good.  Surely other churches and organizations are having these hard and good conversations too.  If you’re not, now is a good time to start.

Hj and I have been talking about money a good bit.  Friendly chit chat, you know.

This morning I went to IHOP with a friend who is 69 years old and we talked about the vision and mission statement of her life, which she’s been working on writing down.  We talked about the new Supreme Court justice too.  She told me she remembers when coffee was 20 cents a cup.

One thing I haven’t been talking about out loud lately is what it’s like to be middle aged.  Being young was very exciting to me.  I loved the feeling of having my whole life ahead of me, lots of discoveries and changes to look forward to.  I’ve always been pretty eager to be old and wise, but never looked forward to the boring part in the middle, appropriately known as “middle-aged.”

Now that I am in the beginning stages, I have found it much more interesting than I expected.  I feel like it might be the best of both worlds: young people respect me and old people take me seriously.  It’s perfect!  (I don’t know if young people actually respect me because they tend to hide those feelings so I’m basing that one on some assumptions/hopes haha.)

Some days I laugh because I feel so unprepared for the middle-aged temptations.  I just want to settle down with a big house and a beautiful backyard and have a pristine bathroom.  I want to have the same friends for the rest of my life, and never move again.  I want my kids to go to the same school for 18 years and never have to deal with change.  The American Dream seems pretty appealing, and that’s coming from someone who has scoffed at the very notion for 31 years.  These are my temptations! I just want to be comfortable and never have to think about money.

The other day we went to a friend’s really nice house and on the way home Hj confessed he had lusted after their big plastic storage bench under the deck.  It was right next to the pool, and it held all their swimming paraphernalia.  It seemed an absurd and funny thing to covet, but I understood, especially since we keep all our swimming paraphernalia in a canvas bag that really doesn’t have a final resting place.

You couldn’t have convinced Hj and I when we got married that we would ever dream of living an easy life.  We wanted to give our lives for Jesus in missions, be martyrs, live in huts, whatever He asked.  We moved every year or so, selling pretty much everything we had each time.  We had a fast turnover of friends.

Having two babies and turning 30 did the trick for us.  All of a sudden we wanted old things that felt familiar.  We didn’t want to travel or go on exciting adventures anymore.  We wanted to have a stable, small life full of routines and predictability.  We wanted old friendships that had been weathered and strengthened by lots of time, adversities and birthday parties.

I’m embracing some settling.  I’m grateful for at least a few deep roots.  I had to confess to my friend last week that I had semi-lied, and even though I felt silly, I didn’t care so much about what she thought of me.  I’ve learned to value and cultivate healthy friendships and I’m learning how to confront people about their issues instead of gossip, thanks to a friend who is really good at this and even takes the time to teach me how.  That takes a kind of self forgetfulness that I think we middle agers should be keen to embrace.  By now surely we can stop obsessing about our own successes  and failures and give it all away, live with an open hand and an open heart.

We can be humble enough by now to freely ask for advice, and listen to older people. We’ve discovered that we don’t know everything after all, but we can count as precious what we do know!  We can take what wisdom we have in our bucket and pour it liberally on the next generation, on the children and young people in our lives.

Sometimes I find myself telling people in the checkout line stories about myself, when I was younger!  This is the real sign that I am getting old and embracing it.

Fire tunnel Sunday

I was at a Trump rally once and the first thing Mr. POTUS said was: what better place to be than at a Trump rally!? Since we weren’t inside the venue yet, we could think of a few places, so we turned around and went to eat a burger. All that to say: what better place to be right now than in your own happy place reading this blog.

My wife and I recently left our church of 4 years and went to visit some other churches.
Joy said, “All I want is a good sermon.” So we went and visited our friend’s church. It happened to be fire tunnel Sunday. The sermon was skipped and the leaders of the church stood in a line praying for you while you went through the “tunnel”. It was very different. We now consider ourselves part of a church downtown and it has been good connecting with the people there. (the sermons are great)

trying to rub his tummy and pat his head at the same time while looking super cool

The coronavirus is affecting everyone and so also our campus. We had 3 different schools running at our campus the last 3 months. All of these schools were going to send out teams to do ministry in Southeast Asia. At first they changed the locations of the outreaches and now they canceled them all together. In our state we are not allowed to have gathering with more then 250 people, so our schools and churches are all canceled. We are going to hunker down and pray this storm out!

It’s been a bit hard at work (Kairos Traders) because we had a bunch of events canceled because of the virus. We were going to our first new age conference in combination with one of our schools. The school would preach the gospel and interpret dreams and we would tell stories and sell Kairos Traders products. But it got canceled.

At the doctors to have a perler bead removed from his ear!

Speaking of work. I have been hard at work designing a leather journal! This is something I thought I would never do but here I am. I had the idea for the journal and when I started talking to one of our manufacturers in Nepal through e-mail he basically started the process for me right then and there. I was hoping to take it easy and maybe next Christmas we would have the journals ready. Now they are going to be ready next month. Our friends from Purnaa in Nepal had a slow season coming up in their production schedule and making the leather journal covers fitted perfectly in the gap they had. The process is long especially when you think you are done and then they run out of the leather you want and you have to spend even more hours staring at a picture of a tiny piece of leather and decide if you want to turn it into a journal. Hopefully the journals will go into production soon and we would have our second Kairos Traders brand product!

Ellie and Adam learned how to ride the bike both in one weekend and that wraps it up!
stay safe!

Fun Raising

Hopefully by now you know that me and my family are part of Youth With A Mission in Colorado Springs.
I am part of the Business As Missions team where we train missionaries to start businesses to reach the un-reached by creating jobs and mercy ministries. I specifically work with businesses that work with survivors of human trafficking. Joy is part of the local outreach team where they go and reach out to the massage parlors in town that are often a front for prostitution. At the moment she is taking a break from that to go back to school.

Celebrating Dutch Sinterklaas with some single people at our campus.

The December month marks our 4th year here in the Springs. Looking back I believe this has been the place for us as a family to grow and get more confident in the calling God has placed on our lives. We are called to care for the exploited and the ones treated unjustly. That’s why we do what we do, that’s why Joy is back in school. These issues are in our prayers and in on our heart.

To be part of YWAM you have to raise your own funds since we do not get a salary but we operate as volunteers. The first 4 years we have been blessed with support from close friends and family. Lately we have been challenged to grow our team of financial supporters. We feel God wants to grow our team with people who give on a monthly basis and also pray for us.

So I have been writing people and it has been hard, asking for money. If I didn’t know God asked me to do this I would have given up a long time ago. But it has been good too, God is the Lord of my life in every kind of way and I like it. We love inviting people into our story and come along side us fighting exploitation.

If you would like a letter in the mail with more info on what we do and how to become part of our team write me a message on Facebook or email and send me your address.

We are also in the middle of adding a 3rd room to our current tiny 2 room apartment.
If you would like to give a one time donation toward our building fund you can do so here. (and see what we looked like 4 years ago)

Thank you!

Kairos Traders Team

A Very Normal Day

Do you ever have those days that are rough around the edges, no matter how hard you try to smooth them out and make them better? I had one of those recently. Actually, it was today.

It started with a couple of snooze buttons. I usually pop out of bed at 5:00 six days a week, but today I snoozed more than once. I was feeling a little unprepared for this afternoon’s math exam so I dove into studying as soon as I was up, even though God says, “Seek Me first.”

I barely had time to stuff an egg sandwich in my mouth before I headed out the door for school, but lo and behold there was half an inch of ice on my windshield and I couldn’t find the scraper. I chipped away at it with a dustpan until I had a tiny peephole.

My 8:00 English class wasn’t fun. It’s hard to be 33 years old and trying to learn how to write a thesis and develop an argument when you have practiced keeping your opinions tucked in and not arguing for your whole life. I get tired of feeling incompetent so much, especially since incompetence is one of my least favorite feelings.

I skipped history class and went to Ellie’s poetry recital at her school. This was a sweet, bright spot in my day. Ellie recited “Now We Are Six,” by A.A. Milne which cousin Rachel taught her on her 6th birthday in NYC this year. She was just perfect!

I went back to college for my math exam and I wasn’t sure if the answer was dispersion or distribution, but I did my best. At least now I understand what it means when people say that their kid is in the 90th percentile for height. That always made me scratch my head, but no more.

A guy in my class asked me if I was ok because my teeth were bloody. I have no idea why, but they were. I went down the back staircase and I met a guy holding a ladder. He was very polite and made room for me, and I said cheerfully, “Excuse us!” There was no one else around.

I went to the wrong parking lot in the freezing cold, because I forgot where I had parked.

So I stopped for ice cream on the way home but there was construction and terrible traffic and a big fence right across the shortcut I usually take. The drive thru took long and my ice cream was literally warm when I drank it.

I came home and quickly swept the floors because friends were coming over for tea, which was another very warm spot in my day. One of my kids bit the other and then lied about it. So we bundled up nice and warm and went out to play in 33 degrees. Adam made baby Jesus in a manger out of the leftover snow and Ellie climbed a tree. Some students came outside to hug the kids and they made me laugh. The sunset over Pikes Peak was just perfect.

We ate dinner in the dining room, and the mashed potatoes were surprisingly cold. But the meat was good. I have a big research paper to write and a speech to practice and a rhetorical analysis to polish, but I thought it would be good to complain a little and get it out of my system before I tackle my homework.

Truthfully, I feel a lot better now. A day with minor inconveniences and small embarrassments just keeps life interesting and fun.

A New (Little) Addition

Exciting news! We have been living in two hotel rooms for about four years now, and the time has come for us to expand. The housing team on our campus offered us the empty room next to our living room and when they offered an inch, we suggested a mile. We asked if we can take out the wall and make a bigger living room and a small bedroom for the kids and we will even get a large closet! A closet to me, is like a Ferrari to you.

We had seriously considered buying a house here in the Springs, but when we prayed and fasted about it, the proverbial door slammed shut. Now we get to stay in the rooms where we have already made lots of improvements and built a kitchenette, plus we will enjoy the luxury of more space and finally our kids will have their own bedroom. They cannot fathom this arrangement, but we their parents definitely can.

We are praying and asking around to see if anyone with construction skills wants a free trip to Colorado in December. We might throw in some food. A ski day could even be arranged!

Simple Obedience

I loved yesterday’s church service. The whole service was focused on missions, specifically the least reached in the 10/40 window. (see picture)

This is exactly what our Y-base is focused on.
The core of the message was that we need to pray for the unreached outside the States and right where we are. It is a simple message. For me, the hard part is doing it.

When we first joined the mission in Colorado Springs, I learned a lot about the least reached. The 10/40 window is where most of the unreached people groups are. There are still whole groups of people that never heard the gospel and the % of Christians in their group is 0.

I don’t know about you but I want to get up and jump on the first plane and start living among those groups and be Jesus to them.
The one thing our mission does well is training! We don’t just go, we make sure we are equipped and know how that culture receives the gospel best.

In my day to day, that translates into teaching people how to do business and specifically marketing. Often the countries in the 10/40 are closed to the gospel and it is illegal to preach. Business is a door into those countries which isn’t the only benefit. Business creates jobs, boosts the economy and gives the owner direct contact with the locals. Often the businesses we work with have a social bottom-line. We work with businesses that hire survivors of human trafficking; they’re focused on people.

Our pastor, in his sermon, was very practical. He pointed at this app called: Unreached of the Day. It shows you a detailed description of one of the unreached people groups. With the prayer points provided you can intercede for the unreached. I have been using this app and I love it!
It is something I can do before I go myself.

That’s exactly how we look at Joy going back to school. It is a preparation for something bigger we don’t fully understand yet. We are excited though to see what God has up His almighty sleeve!

Thanks for praying!

Bunch ‘o pictures, narrated by the kids

I just forgot what we were supposed to be doing – Adam
We are at Washington DC and we were staying at a house with Naomi, that is our cousin and we are going to a coffee shop-Ellie
We are at the zoo. We were looking at the butterflies, no it was not. We were at the desert. (Ellie insert: Ellie was standing on a AC vent and her skirt flew up) – Adam

What is going on?

This upcoming week our life is going to change! Joy is going back to school.
I am very excited about this and Joy is too, she just has some added anxiety to her excitement. From the very first thoughts about going back to school I knew God was behind it. It seemed very impossible at first, and that is exactly what made me believe it was possible. Believe me, the last thing we need is another bill for school and books and what not. But God provided! Joy did some research and applied for several scholarships and now the first 2 semesters are paid for in full.

The second hoop to jump through was our schedule.
It was very overwhelming to try to figure this out but once we had clarity on what Joy was going for, we nailed down a perfect schedule. Joy will attend classes at our community college on the days Ellie and Adam are both in school and she will take one evening class. In this way she doesn’t miss much time with our kids and I can keep working as I was before.

The part I am most excited about is what the future will hold. Joy will be able to take what she is learning and bring it into practice. After she is done studying if the Lord wills it, we will move overseas and go where God sends us. We appreciate your prayers!