Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Seeing Clearly In the Fog

I know that most of you don't check in often enough to realize that I just returned from a mission trip to Guatemala with 15 others...and that's OK. As I drove through the fog to my "other job" as Chaplain at Highland Ridge Senior Living Community, it reminded me of the fog that was often present in that beautiful Central American country...and in my life.

"Fog" (as I define it today) is all the stuff that makes it tough to see clearly in our lives: trials, busy schedules, health issues, financial concerns, broken relationships, etc. Sometimes the "fog" can get so heavy that it becomes almost impossible to move. I'm sure you've been there (or maybe even ARE there as you read this).

To be sure, there was plenty of "fog" in Guatemala; not just rolling off of the mountains in the early morning and late evening, but in the things that challenged us:
  • Totally different climate (resulting in numerous sunburns & heat exhaustion)
  • Totally different food (making several ill for several days)
  • Incredibly perilous daily journeys through the mountains to our ministry destinations (try getting 2 10' wide vehicles side-by-side on an 18' wide road!)
  • Language barriers (not just Spanish, but mountain dialects as well)
  • Lack of sleep (dogs, roosters, people and strange beds all contributing)

That's enough to "fog" anyone in...but it didn't. In fact, just the opposite. I believe that those who participated in this great work see more clearly than they have in a long time. If you've ever done something like this trip, you know exactly what I mean. Some of the things that are more clear than ever are:

  • We have no idea of how good we have it here in the U.S. with freedom of choice, opportunities to learn and an incredible number of conveniences
  • We have no idea of how far we've drifted from God here in the U.S., choosing to make Him into just about anything that pleases us
  • We have, by and large, lost sight of the joy of a simpler life here in the U.S., a life that focuses on serving, helping and caring for others
  • We have discarded, by and large in the U.S., the joy of family working and growing together: sharing meals, time, dreams and life

Now, you might think, "That's easy for you to say, being in another country - it's so different there!" Granted, it IS different there, but it's different by choice. There's not a one of us that has to be as busy, involved or immersed as we are. I believe that more often than not, we choose to live like this because we are trying to fill some need in our life that only God can fill. We are convinced that if we just do more, we'll feel or experience something that will satisfy us...but we're wrong.

One theologian of old put it this way, "Our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee." And I can tell you for certain that though there were many reasons to feel "fogged in" while in Guatemala (600+ pairs of shoes distributed, 2 houses completely constructed, 550 salvation bracelets given out at 4 remote sites...on top of the previously mentioned potential obstacles), we are seeing more clearly than ever, and are choosing to still our restless hearts in the One who can...and does...calm the storm. We're choosing to live our lives differently here and recapture how God intended our lives to be.

What's really great, is that you don't have to go overseas to discover this. If you'll take a breather today and seek God Almighty, He will begin to remove your "fog" as well, help you see clearly, balance your life and hear His approving words of "Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Master's happiness" (Matthew 25).

I'd love to hear from you, either via a response here, or at my email of If you'd like to see any of the Guatemala footage, get on Facebook, search for me (we can become "Friends") and it will all be available to you!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shifting Gears

Well, here I am. Just as I knew would happen (because He is faithful), Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning came and went - each amazing in their own ways. It was fun to watch God do "His Thing" after He had helped me to do "my thing." By His grace, many worshipped together, and many were encouraged as they were reminded of the nearly unimaginable love of God poured out through His Only Son, Jesus Christ.

But now it's time to shift gears. As many of you know, in three days I'll be leaving the friendly confines of my home, town and family, and setting off with 15 others for a country that will be largely foreign to me. What a diverse group we are! 5 men, 11 women, 3 teenagers, 1 senior, 1 brand new Christian, 15 who have known the Lord a while now, 11 missions "rookies," 5 "veterans," 1 who has never flown, 3 skilled laborers, 13 "gophers," 2 medical personnel, 1 couple, 2 singles...the subsets go on and on in this group of 16. But by His grace, WE ARE ONE. In purpose, focus, dependence, heart and mind.

Makes me think of Jesus as He assembled His ragtag bunch of men that would soon be called "disciples" and later "apostles" by so many. But I'm just about sure that they didn't look like that when He called them! Yet look at what He did with them, in them and ultimately, through them. Frankly, I can't imagine our world today without them...without their commitment to live what they believed and their inshakeable determination, their unwavering perserverance to be what Jesus knew they could be when He called them. The Apostle Paul echoes this when he expresses his determination to "press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me" (Philippians 3:12).

You'd have never put together that collection of men...and you'd have never put together the 16 who are just days away from continuing one of the great faith journeys of their lives. But God knew (and knows) exactly what He's doing. If you talked to the team right now, they'd unanimously agree on this, but if they were honest, they'd also each confess that they weren't so sure when they said "yes" to God's call several months ago! I'm constantly reminded that though we sit here now with our support raised, 600+ pairs of shoes donated, VBS materials for 1000 kids in hand, and a fire in our spirits, we certainly didn't start that way.

You see, when each of us said "yes," to this invitation to be used by God (myself included), we had little or no idea of where the money was going to come from, what we'd be doing, how we were going to get there, or with whom we'd be serving. I think it's safe to say that more than one of us weren't even completely sure as to why we were going (that "big" question I always ask). What we did know is that Jesus was calling...inviting us to step out in faith and trust Him to fill in those blanks.

The really interesting thing is that God has answered each of those questions, and about 99% of the time, He's done so in ways none of us could have predicted (He's even answered things we don't know are answered yet!). And I find an incredible attitude has sprung forth from watching God do what only God can do: TRUST. While we might have had our own ideas early on of what this process would look like, the where, what, how and whom no longer matter - we know that God is going to use us (He already has been) and we don't really care at all how. We've prepared, studied, designed, crafted, examined, planned and it's time to relax and let God do His thing. I can hardly wait to see what it will look like! Probably far different than what we thought, but perfect for His purposes. Pray for us, won't you, as we seek to be whatever God needs us to be...all the time, for sure...but specifically April 17-26. I know that what we look like after this experience will be much different than before we started, for we'll look more like Him (2 Corinthians 3:18). To the glory of His matchless name!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Just When You Think You're Ready...

Sorry I'm a day late with this week's blog - had one of those afore-mentioned "unplanned" things sneak up on me and suddenly it was Wednesday! Some of you might be aware that I'm getting ready to take 15 others to Guatemala on some mission work next week. This has created a bit of a dilemma for me, as I'm trying to focus real well on this most beautiful of weeks leading up to Easter (with Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter morning services going) and simultaneously make sure I am preparing well to lead the 15 people entrusted to me April 17-26. I thought that this was fairly complicated, but oh no, God decided I could use some other fun things thrown in for variety. For instance:
  • Started losing the use of my voice a few weeks ago and found myself with a camera on the end of a long tube going down my throat yesterday. No serious problems detected, but what I figured would be a couple hours out of my day ended up taking the entire day...a day it didn't seem like I had to spare.

  • I made a well-intentioned but not thought-through-enough decision with my church and have had to spend quite a chunk of time "mending fences" - time it seems I didn't have to spare.

  • I showed up for my "other job" as Chaplain at Highland Ridge Senior Living Community in Williamsburg, Iowa, to discover that in the span of 48 hours, three of our dear residents had been placed on hospice. As of this writing at 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, two of them have passed away. I was more than happy to give the time these required, but it seemed to be time I didn't have to spare.

  • As I walk out these doors in a few minutes, I will head to Cedar Rapids Mercy Hospital to spend time with a dear saint from my church named Betty - and her outlook is challenging, to say the least. I truly love this woman and will do whatever it takes to bring comfort, peace and assurance to her, but it sure seems I didn't have this time to spare.

Now, I know that you know exactly what these kinds of weeks are like - you may well have them more often than I. And if you have, you may very well be thinking right now, "Kirk, God's trying to teach you something here." And you know what? I'm sure that He is. Matter of fact, I think I know what He's doing (or at least part of what He's doing). Ready for this? Here it is:

Regardless of how random, crazy, disjointed, whopper-jawed and unplanned life appears to be right now, it is NOT. Contrary to how I may find myself from time to time, God is NOT wringing His hands, saying, "What am I going to do now? I'm so confused - which way should I turn? What should I do? I don't think I can handle this mess - it's just too much for Me!"

The simple fact is this (I wish this was original with me, 'cause I love it): Has it ever occurred to you that nothing ever occurs to God? (Thanks, Steve Moore). By definition, to "occur" in this context means to think of something that you haven't thought of before. And with God, that's simply impossible, since He's all-knowing and all-prepared for all situations. That means He knows exactly What's going on and exactly Why...and He's working it all for my good, even when it doesn't make sense to me (good old Romans 8:28 - notice the "condition" there).

Thus, when Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter and departure time for Guatemala roll around (and who knows what else in between), I'll be ready. Not because I am "super pastor," but because He is ready...all the time...which means that I can trust Him...all the time. I'm sure glad He knows what's going on! Rest assured that He knows your life as well. Go ahead, trust Him...give Him a try. He's much more ready than you or I will ever be!