Finding Life: Breathe In

Finding Life: Breathe In

“…then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.” Gen 2:7

The words of a fictional scientist decades ago stuck with me. Long before Jeff Goldblum brought the character of Ian Malcolm to the silver screen, the phrase “life will find a way” leapt from the pages of a borrowed book and lodged in my cranium. Life will find a way. It doesn’t just apply to dinosaurs, but to you and I.

As life finds its way, how do we find it? How does this general inevitability become personal and passionate?

Let’s take a step back. For those of us who are radical enough to believe that in the beginning God created, every object in this universe exists for a purpose. That purpose has more depth and richness than our textbooks present. For example, rain is much more than the arrows drawn in an Earth Science textbook can convey. Sunset is more than masses in motion and energy interfering with molecules in the atmosphere. You and I both know it at a level ingrained deep in whatever make us “us.”  Afternoon summer showers and quiet evenings watching the sun fade can be profound. We experience a touch of the divine. That’s where we find life…In our creator, the source of it all.

Let’s step forward now. Like the clouds at sunset, you and I are also much more than simply molecules in motion. To think we are merely a complex set of chemical reactions responding to stimuli is to miss the profound purpose  our lives are and can be. It diminishes our significance and misses our own intersection with the divine and the possibility of knowing Him. Just like the earth, birds, and the trees, our lives were created to point to the one who made us all.

In the beginning, God breathed life into mankind. Man knew the creator personally and intimately. We knew our purpose and delighted in it. Then we turned from it. Now we seek purpose and fulfillment everywhere but Him. Jobs, relationships, art, entertainment, diversions, education, and a myriad of other pursuits. All fall short of fully filling us, because all fall short of what we were created to be filled by.

Let that sink in. Breathe in deeply. Exhale slowly. Whatever you’ve thought about God in the past, consider this now…He created you. Lovingly. He cherishes you. The One who splattered the Milky Way across the night sky also knit you together. His creativity shines through you when you are grounded in Him. His plans for us are always more incredible than our plans for ourselves. He sees in full what we only see in part, and He is the architect, artist, and engine for it all. When we return to Him, we learn that He freely gives. We find purpose, creativity, and meaning. We find life.

Breathe in. Breathe in and live.


This post is the first of a #5ForFive challenge by the Rev1211 community. This year, the group theme is “breathe,” and my theme is “Finding Life.”  

 

Dishonor

Dishonor

Stories fascinate me. When my boys were younger, I’d make up new ones for them every day. Bedtimes found us following the adventures of a possum named Dishonor Book“Worm” and a cat named “Porcupine.” There were mighty battles between our dog Pete and the geese of doom (who hatched their evil schemes at the lake down the street). Dragons, treasure, and adventure filled the night.

Stories can be a lot of fun. When stories change lives, though, something powerful happens. The most powerful stories in the universe are of redemption. Nothing resonates with our soul quite like a tale of absolution.

Dishonor is an incredible story of rescue and redemption. It tells the true story of David Mike, a soldier who became a deserter. Drug abuse left him on the run. This compelling narrative talks about capture, escape, recapture, and ultimate redemption.

Amid the almost unbelievable ups and down of this crazy adventure, we see much more than just story of chaos, confusion, and confinement. There are powerful moments like the up and down court martial where powerful twists and turns occur. Then he faces decades in prison. The reader is right there with him.

Running from the military police was terrifying. Standing in front of a judge during court martial was humbling. Those stories pale in comparison to what happened once the door was shut and this former soldier began to view the world through iron bars.

wp-1471896991264.jpgHow do you find hope when a riot breaks out in prison? What kind of peace can you find when most of the rest of your life will be spent behind bars? Each day is a fight for survival. Each moment brings temptation. In a world where most decisions are made for you, every choice becomes that much more important.

David Mike’s story is one of the most compelling narratives I’ve read since Unbroken. And it’s all true. I found myself ducking in the ditches with Mike as he evaded capture. My lip quivered as his dad walked into the courtroom. Hope faded when those doors slammed shut. And then there was light. Redemption. New hope led to new life.

I’ve had the privilege of not only reading this incredible book, but also of meeting the author in person. Not only is this one of the best redemption stories to publish this year, the man behind the story is just as authentic, inspiring, and full of hope as the words on the pages of this book. This book is the real deal, through and through.


This is the first book review I’ve publicly posted in almost 20 years. David Mike’s incredible book will release on August 30, 2016. Much of the story has been shared on his blog (here). That blog is where I first became enthralled in the story. He posted one story per week for almost two years. I began anticipating Tuesday mornings because I knew the next installment would be waiting for me when I woke up in the morning. And now, it’s a book. This thrills me so much. If ever there were a story that deserved to be published, it’s this one. It has been a joy to follow David Mike‘s journey beyond the prison walls as he has fought to publish this book. His dedication to excellence and his persistence in the process ensure that this will be something truly special. Please consider purchasing this book on 8/30 and watch it skyrocket up the charts. If you can’t buy it that Tuesday, add it to your wishlist and get it soon!

Missing You

Missing You

Just like autumn, this season cycles by regularly. Missing you.wp-1471208972972.jpg

I remember the journey…the months our paths crossed. I tried so hard to make it work. We all did.

But I was missing you. Even though I tried to love without expectation…to fully accept who you are and where you were at…I see now the impossibility. I did have expectations. I tried so hard to love with my whole heart…to pray with my whole spirit…to cling to you with all I had.

I see it now…we didn’t meet you where you were. We were missing you. We tried to meet the needs we perceived, which were different than the needs you actually had. Although we thought we were walking together down the same path, our journeys never really intersected did they? Were we one family? In my heart we were. And we continue to be. But I was missing you.

To some degree, maybe I was enamored by the potential of you. The potential of us. God had given me the daughter I had longed for but never knew I wanted. With my eyes wide open, I recognized your past, faults, and personal limitations and didn’t care about any of it. I accepted you exactly as you were. As much as I hated the abandonment and hurt you had suffered, I thanked God it led you to us. To me. Together, I knew you could finding healing. You could recover. And then you could thrive. That’s what I expected. But I was missing you.img_20151105_141421-01.jpeg

You didn’t need transformation. You weren’t after recovery. You didn’t want a forever family. You never asked us to be one. And yet we tried to be that for you. You aren’t to blame. We were simply missing you. We missed who you really were. We missed getting to know the real person inside the young woman trying to survive. I didn’t understand that your life experiences did not prepare you for the life we threw you into. You had no context for what we offered. And yet we expected you to embrace us. We expected you to appreciate us. We expected you to love us. We expected you to try. But we were missing you.

That you managed to stick with us so long is a testament to your persistence. Or maybe it’s your stubbornness. The life we made for you was a gilded cage, though. It had peace, but you don’t crave peace. It had space, but you don’t need space. It had stability, but you’ve never known stability. It had us, but you’ve never needed us

This isn’t a right or wrong thing. You are who you are, as am I. I still treasure your heart. I still accept you as you are. The jagged and broken pieces of me tear against yours. I grieve because I lost you. And I grieve because I lost the potential of you. And I grieve because I failed to see the real you, and that is a true tragedy.

Now, just like then, I am missing you.

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.