Finding Life: Look Up

Finding Life: Look Up

 

They tell me life’s a journey.

 

Pause.

Breathe.

 

 

Journeys have twists and turns, hills and valleys. Moments are spent basking in the warmth of the sun after a spring rain. Others are moments of panic, desperately grasping for an anchor…something…anything…in the blackest night. Most of the journey is somewhere in between. We move forward one small, inconsequential step at a time, our eyes on our feet and the path immediately in front of us.

Most people I encounter believe God has a plan for their lives. The journey is leading somewhere. Their eyes get serious as they contemplate the mystery, “sure, God has a plan for me. I just don’t know what it is yet.” We tend to think God has big but elusive things in store, perhaps just around the next bend in the road. Meanwhile, we plod along trusting God with our tomorrow while we focus on our daily tasks. What if we’ve got it backwards? Could our perspective be upside down?

 

“I look up to the mountains–does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth! He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber.” Ps 121:1-3 NLT

 

Stop. Right there. Breathe. Lift your eyes to the mountains. Their creator is your creator. God’s plan is not a someday endeavor, it is an everyday infusion. Instead of concentrating on our steps and hoping for the future, look to the future and trust Him with each step. Focusing on the eternal makes today’s obstacles insignificant.

We don’t find God’s plan by waiting. We find it by stepping into it with Him, learning that someday is merely an accumulation of todays. The big plan is accomplished by stitching together a tapestry of countless small plans. Invite Him into your everything. Surrender each moment and each breath to Him. Enjoy the beauty. Treasure the journey.

Come alive.

 


This post is the second of a #5ForFive challenge by the Rev1211 community. This year, the group theme is “breathe,” and my theme is “Finding Life.”  You can visit part one here.

“My Oklahoma” Calendar

“My Oklahoma” Calendar

I love filling Instagram and Facebook with pictures of light and beauty…scenes from where my journey takes me. This past year we saw the beaches of Texas and the mountains of Brazil. Even with this, my favorite views are in my own home state of Oklahoma. This year, I’m bringing a hand-picked assortment of these photos from your screens to your walls.

This calendar is special. Not only does it feature all twelve months of 2017 (which, according to my sources is supposed to be a phenomenal year), it also features one of my photos on each of the twelve months.

I first did a calendar in 2016 as a fundraiser for my family’s mission trip to Brazil. The calendars completely sold out and I even had to turn a few people away. This year I’ve printed a few more, but they are still a limited quantity.

Below is a gallery of the pictures in this year’s calendar. If you’d like one, shoot me a message on the social media of your preference: Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. They are $20, plus shipping (typically $5).

Brazil 2016 was phenomenal, but I’ve written about it elsewhere. Brazil 2017 looks like it will be another incredible trip, with a return to the state of Sergipe and passage through Aracaju on our way to our to our final destination in Itabi. It’s always a special time time to partner with the local congregation to help build a chapel in a week! The impact we have on the community, kingdom, and each other is immeasurable. As always, I appreciate any and all support I can get. Every prayer and every dollar counts.

 

Reentry

Reentry

Reentry hurts.image

Picture the Space Shuttle returning to earth. The friction of the life-giving atmosphere creates enough heat to kill. The wrong speed or attitude can bring disaster.

In my mind, a drawback of modern travel is the pace. It is a wonderful luxury to be able to wake up one morning in Brazil and fall asleep the following evening in Oklahoma. It all happens so fast it’s impossible to process, though. Upon returning, we find our head and heart still remain in Brazil while our duties and obligations are in front of us in the States. 

Spiritual journeys will not leave us unchanged. Even the decision to spend a few weeks overseas alters perspective. It impacts the trajectory of life. Walking foreign streets and witnessing the power of the Good News that can transcend all barriers and obstacles will stretch our faith to unexpected capacities.

My soul yearns for a gradual return from this experience. Two weeks overseas can’t be unpacked quickly. Like a good Brazilian meal, it all takes a bit of time to digest.

It  seems like just a few hours ago I was walking the streets of Jardinopolis, praying as an old Catholic woman’s eyes filled with tears as imagefor the first time she began to comprehend God’s love for her. She might spend the rest of her life unpacking this truth. Minutes later I was praying with the family of a young man who had been afflicted with a degenerative disease since birth. All eyes were swollen with tears as mom, aunt, and son all accepted Jesus as their savior, knowing we would all be dancing together in the next life.

Today, my eyes open to controversies about passwords and processes. Antivirus software and divestitures. Firewalls and F-bombs. I can feel it…reentry burns.

Like the atmosphere welcoming back the Shuttle, there is nothing inherently wrong with the environment to which I return. It’s life-giving, meaningful, and necessary. Transitioning so quickly from there to here causes the unease. My soul is split in two. I appear fully here but I’m frequently still there.

Reentry is all about speed and attitude.

So I pray. I silently pray for those who so frequently come to mind. The man we visited who was home with his two children. He chose Jesus and learned about the source of hope. The pastor working so hard to shepherd his people in a town battling darkness. The little boy with the feeding tube and his loving mom who wanted us to tell his story. The man who turned down living water and instead poured himself a glass of wine at 9 AM. Our interpreters. Our missionaries. All those who sent life-sustaining messages of hope, encouragement, and prayer from back home.

As I pray, the disparate worlds begin to align. The mission field isn’t there. It isn’t here either. It’s everywhere. The heat is a reminder that things are not as they should be here or there. The life-giving message of grace and hope is desperately needed by every person. Even here, in the middle of my normal life.

Mission is something we do, not someplace we go. Because of this, I press into the pain rather than seeking relief. I allow that yearning for where I’ve been draw me closer to our Creator who sent me. I allow the longing to draw me deeper into the trust in Him…the One who has never let me down.

I don’t have a choice about the speed. Attitude is a choice. Through prayer, trust, and perspective, the heat from reentry fuels the continuing mission.image

Redemption

Redemption

The past can be a weight…the magnitude of the tragedy overwhelming and all-consuming. Every time your eyes close, you see their faces. Sons taken too soon. The anger rises anew. Lost jobs are insignificant compared to the lost loved ones. Lost freedom. But you go on.

 

I met him on a trip. He was hired to do construction. We were building a church. We were also building THE church.

North and South Americans stacked concrete blocks, threw cement, painted walls, and tiled a roof. Shoulder to shoulder, we joyfully toiled from sunrise to sunset until everyone was exhausted. Christians and non-Christians alike, simply working with and loving each other.

Each day on the long walk home, he would pick up scrap wood and construction debris. Someday…eventually…his house would have real walls. A roof. Someday.

But God… God is a rescuer. He is a redeemer.

“…the Lord has anointed me
to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners” Isaiah 61:1

Late in the week a decision was made. A decision for Christ. And life became new. Restored. Redeemed. The chains shackling him to the pain of the past were broken.

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Embraced by both the savior and His church, something special was found. Forgiveness. Community. Reconciliation. Hope. Life.

img_7557His house now has a roof. And walls. His precious family is safer than they have been in years. Because of a church? Because of THE church? Because of the redeemer! Jesus reached out through the obedient workers. The light of Jesus was shining through them all week. It drew him. It gave him a new hope and a new community. And the trajectory of six precious lives changed for eternity.

 

 


This post originally appeared in October, 2013. This is one of my most well-known photographs and one of my most treasured stories. The original events took place in Niteroi, just outside of Porto Alegre, Brazil. It was a privilege to be a witness to these events and an honor to capture a few moments with my camera and words. We are leaving for another mission trip to Brazil soon. As I reflect on all God has done and anticipate what He has in store, I decided to share this particular story again. 

The Cards We Were Dealt

The Cards We Were Dealt

Over on my Facebook page I did a little informal polling. I put up a dozen photos and asked everyone to vote with their “likes.” It was easy and organic. After a bit, I narrowed it down to the top five and opened voting again. Now, based on those votes, greeting cards are being made from the top two photos. The proceeds from the sale of these cards will support our mission trip to Brazil (and you better believe I’ll shoot a few more pictures while I’m there). Since the cards are blank inside, I thought I’d tell the story behind the two photos  here.

The original dozen photos were captured in a diverse set of locations and circumstance. A couple were from the little lake down the street from my house. There was downtown graffiti, skylines, and rivers. Some of the pictures were taken with my expensive camera and nice lens, others with a phone. What I found interesting in the final results is that the winners were both taken standing about 10 feet (and 3 months) apart and were both sunsets.

 

The first picture was taken in late September, 2015 along the bank of the Arkansas River in my home town of Sand Springs. This is the spot I labeled “The Spot Where David Likes to Watch the Sun Set” on FourSquare. In the fall, Oklahoma is blessed with incredible works of art that stretch across the sky. When the weather is right, these displays can last for an hour. The sky changes dramatically over that time. I can take a picture every 10 minutes and each would be completely different and utterly breathtaking. The river was high and flowing fast, which is why you see the rough water reflecting the orange glow of the setting sun. The sky holds every color from black to white, with a generous helping of orange and blue. This shot has an unusual mix of colors and it’s striking.

The second picture is one of my favorites. Christmas day, 2015, I wandered down to that same spot. No matter how incredible family and festivities are, it’s always nice to steal away for a quiet moment of Christmas reflection. Getting there a little later than I meant to, I was afraid I had missed the show. I scrambled down the bank, right to the edge of the river. The water was lower and much more still than in September, so it reflects the entire sky instead of just the blazing sun. The winter reeds along the bank appear to be leaning toward the fading light, straining for every last glimmer. I love the way this photo moves…the clouds, the reeds, and even the water seem to be pulling us all toward the final light, as if we can each reach out and grasp that last glimmer, too…knowing it can sustain us through the dark night as we anticipate the breaking of the morning sun. Although cropped down to fit the card, this photo is actually a panorama, stitched together from multiple shots. The hill in the distance and the buoy in the water is the same between the two photos, but look much more distant in this one.

Thanks again for voting and for ordering. If you’d like to get a pack of these cards, contact me on Facebook or Twitter. They’re $20 (plus S/H) for a pack of 10 and come with their own envelopes.