Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Adventures - An Engagement Story (VIII)

The plan was this: After dinner the four of us (Taylor and Bruno – no, not Bruno Mars – Kenzie and I) would go to get coffee. On the way back Taylor would make the call and mom and dad would set up.

            Coffee was had (well kinda, I barely sipped on mine) and the call was made. As we drove back to the house my heart was pounding, my arms were shaking. We parked, got out of the car, and made our way inside.

            “Look, remember when we were in India and were looking at Orin’s Belt? You can see it here too,” I stalled.

            We hugged and walked inside. I set my coffee on the kitchen counter and led my somewhat confused girlfriend through the dining room. I was shaking like a scared dog.

            I sat her down in the prepared chair, knelt to my knees, pulled over the bowl and pitcher her parents had bought for us, and slipped both her shoes off. The water was warm on her feet and in my hands; I rubbed her feet saying something about wanting to love her like Jesus loves his church and how she is my pure and spotless bride because of Christ.

            “I want to love you for all my life, I want to die to myself for you to the glory of God,” I remember saying.

            Then I pulled the ring box, which was set beside her chair, “Will you be the blessing of God on my life and become my one and only wife?” I asked.

            “YES!” she nearly screamed.

            And even now the tears run down my cheeks to remember the moment when Mackenzie said yes to be my wife, that I might forever attempt (and feebly so) to show her the love that God is calling me to give to her, that forever we are to be an image of Christ and his Church to all peoples around us, that the covenant we’ve promised to make will stand before God, angels, demons, and men alike to radically and consistently show that God has done this for his glory.

            Yet what is more astounding than any of this is the simple and plain reality that this story is small pennies compared with what God has already done. For God to take two people and bring them together is an easy task for God, it’s easy for him to arrange two trips to be the same dates, and two people to have the same quirky personalities. It’s easy for God to move a seeming mountain of past failures and show them for what they really are, his providential plan.

            It’s easy for him to do that because he’s already done the impossible. He’s already made a way through death to life and made the dry bones of the valley become living, breathing, fighting, and loving children of Him, the King.

            By sending Jesus he has done the impossible and reconciled sinners to himself by making peace with us by the blood of Jesus’ cross. This is the astounding story that ought to be seen in this true tale of engagement and the wonders of the providence of God. Yes, God is good because he’s brought two to become one, but infinitely more so is God good because he has made a way for men’s souls to be eternally and solidly redeemed.

            This is the business of our God. This is the reason all my cynicism must die and all my hope must forever be on and in God. To cast myself – no, ourselves - fully on him, no doubt, no fear, but to jump off the cliff and hope (eager expectation) that God will be the one who catches us.

            Mackenzie and I are just a catalyst story for the gospel, nothing more. Jesus is much more beautiful than her gorgeousness; He is much more stunning than her eyes; He is constantly more faithful than the uninterrupted nature of her engagement ring.

And this, my friends, is how God brought us together. To forever give him praise and adoration in the design he has made, the web he has woven, and the love he has, and is, and will always grow. We are, because he is. He is, therefore we are. Our God has done this, he has provided, he will continue to do it. We are confident, comfortable, and eagerly expectant that our life will be to the praise of his glorious grace and the preaching of his beautiful gospel to the people of this dying world!

Adventures - An Engagement Story (VII)

​For five days we got to be together and talk and pray together, to laugh and have fun together. Then came Sunday, we were going to go to my old pastor’s church but girl wasn’t ready so we decided to listen to a John Piper sermon, so while she got ready I found some options for us. Then she called from the back, “See if Yesupadam and Monika are on Skype.” So I did, and they were.

We called them up and talked for a little while. They kept asking if we told each other yet, I knew they were referring to my garden conversation with God. We hadn’t told each other yet. But I was convicted that we needed to, not pressured or lured into telling her, but convicted - in my heart, by my God - to tell this girl I was supposed to love her.

So as we sat on opposite sides of the couch I told this beautiful woman that God told me to love her. He gave me signs to prove to my cynical heart that I was to love her. (That no matter your past God told me to love you, no matter our future God told me to love you, no matter the present God told me to love you and love you I shall!)

Then she looked me in the eyes and said, “You’re my husband.” And all the bones in my body and fiber of soul and heartstrings did sing inside me to hear those words come from her mouth. “You are my husband.” YES, YES I AM! By the immeasurable grace of God to me a stupid sinner who has kicked against my God time and time again and spurned his counsel and swept his providence under the rug, by God I am certain that Mackenzie will be my wife.

I'm terrified, but confident.

Adventures - An Engagement Story (VI)

​So we hopped on the bus (after letting everyone stare at us) and two seats were open next to each other (!) so we took the spots and continued our conversation, but I went first cause I’m supposed to be the leader (God ordained that like he ordained the whole thing). I told her we should seriously consider this because of the people who’ve recommended us to each other, that it would be unwise to not consider something. (When I get nervous I get formal, like really formal.)

​She agreed then asked, “Do you want to do this?” I hesitated and all the fears and memories of my last relationship filled my brain and scared me and I wanted to run and hide in the middle of India forever, then this small voice said it again, “Love her.” “Yes, I want to do this,” I said.

​Practical things and what nots we began to think about and talk about and consider, I was just thrilled she was sitting beside me and comfortable with the idea of her being there for the rest of my life – next to me. (I was able to baptize people that day too, the best part of being a pastor, seeing the dead go under and the living come up, knowing the person I’m now holding was dead, their soul dead and nasty but God who is rich in mercy because of the great love with which he loved them made them alive together with Christ, and being the instrument to help this person proclaim to angels and men and demons alike that Jesus has saved this soul!)

​That night on the drive back to LNC as Kenzie’s head rested on my shoulder I stared at her and tears were in my eyes as she snuggled a little closer because all shadows of fear of past failures or future mistakes were gone and all clarity that this woman would be my wife was there before me, “She’s here now, now I can fulfill the calling God has placed on my life and follow him to the ends of the earth and this beautiful sleeping girl will go with me.” It was a sobering thought, not a twitterpated feeling of fleeting fancy or lust, but a simple God-has-done-this-and-will-do-this thought. She’s here now I can go.

​Mackenzie and Mallory left the next morning. I got up early (crazy hair and all) to say goodbye. Kenzie and I went to the roof and prayed as we stared out over the city of Visakhapatnam. We prayed for God to lead us, to guide us, to take us where he would take us. I carried her and Mallory’s bags down to the car and Yesup offered for me to go to the airport with them, so I quick like a bunny put pants on and jumped in the car.

​We didn’t talk too much on the way there, even at breakfast we didn’t talk much, Kenzie and I, we were just together. I wanted to hold her hand or just hug her but didn’t know if I could or should. As we sat waiting we set up a Skype date for Monday night. The time came for her to go, I was scared, what was going to happen now that we were returning to “real life?” We hugged, she lingered, it was wonderful, and then through security she went.

​Monika and I stayed and watched and waved them through, talking the entire time about Kenzie and I, my heart was pounding and my throat was tense, what was this feeling? Why was I feeling so distorted? Monika said it on the drive back, “Do you feel like half of you is gone?” That was it, I felt less than whole… Not that Kenzie completes me or saves me, but that God was doing a work in my heart.

​My flights back to the US were odd. I’d done this many times before, each time it’s gotten a little harder to return, but this time was more difficult than before. I was weepy, like an emotional junior high girl. But I was content… She was here and now I could relax. No more wondering about where she was or praying about who she was, she is here now, now I can relax as well as fulfill my calling.

​Every time I’d close my eyes to pray about Mackenzie and I God would show me more and more of the life he has in store for us. I’ve not shared this with her yet (you’re hearing this now dear), but God has been revealing our future to me since we met. Where we’ll go, people we’ll preach too, how we’ll worship him together – I’m no prophet, but I know we’ll suffer deeply together and rejoice highly together, I know we’ll go to India together and then to Egypt, I don’t know how we’ll do it but God will provide he always does. I also know you’ll forgive me for my dangerous past and I’ll love you more deeply because of yours… My God you’re made beautiful by God and I get to have glimpses into our future.

​This was my flight home from India.
​We Skyped that Monday night, and decided to look for plane tickets since she’d have time off that next weekend, and God provided a $250.00 ticket. We jumped on that deal and I was there on Thursday the same week. How that was possible is all the working of God.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Adventures - An Engagment Story (V)

The day we started going into the mountains was wonderful. The bus was full, and my nervous heart was excited that Mackenzie and I would get stuck in the car together. I’d get to sit next to her and we could talk! Sure enough Monika leaned close to me while we were boarding the bus and whispered, “Get off.” I obeyed.

            The drive to was lovely. We talked about a lot of things, but it was easy, we laughed and I was overly comfortable. We talked about how Yesup and Monika had said something to the both of us about each other, we then told how had just been in terrible relationships and were nervous and a little scared of the idea of being together. Then we talked about favorite this and that for hours. It was just plain fun!

            I noticed our knees were touching by the end of the four-hour trip.

            That night at the pastor’s conference (one of them) she was sitting in front of me, so we were facing each other (I got to sit on the ‘stage’ behind the speaker) and though I couldn’t see her face I could see her feet and I kept hearing, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach good news,” over and over and over. And they were, her feet were, are beautiful she carries good news where she goes.

            The next morning I knew we needed to seriously talk about everything, not like we had done the day before, but really talk about things. Yesup and Monika told the group how they had met and again I stared at Mackenzie’s feet thinking, “How beautiful are the feet of her who preaches good news.”

            After breakfast I ran and hid in the flower garden of our little resort. I needed to pray, I needed time with God, I needed to be with him and hear his voice and feel his leading and know his calling. So as I sat on the steps in the garden I prayed, “God what would you have me do, Mackenzie is amazing, but I’m so scared to be in another long-distance relationship, what should I do?” And his answer came to me clearly.

            It’s clear to me that I have two nephews and I own a cat, it’s clear to me the sun is in the sky and it’s clear to me that Jesus is my Savior, and it is clear to me that I must love Mackenzie. He told me to love her. Which means to marry her, which means to die to self and love her, which means she will be my wife.

            I was stunned at this, stunned. “God really? You want me to love her? If you really want me to love her make the birds sing more.” And the steady chirping of birds grew steadily louder. “Alright God, coincidence, if you really want me to love her make the birds silent.” And it was quiet, eerily quiet, no birds sang out. “God if you want me to love her we have to talk seriously about this, we can’t just start, we need to talk! And there is no where on earth I feel like I need to be right now than sitting on this step talking to You.” It was like the call on my life in that moment was to sit on a step and be nowhere else. “So have her come to me and sit next to me and let’s talk about this God.”

*Crunch came the sound of feet on gravel from behind me (my heart pounded) “Hey!” said Mackenzie’s voice (my heart stopped). I turned around and there she was, stooping down to sit next to me on the step. The step that I had just told God she needed to sit on if I was to love her, the place where she and I would need to talk about our relationship!

            We began to talk and I was scared and nervous. We shot the breeze for a few minutes about how we slept the night before then started talking about us, “What’s on your mind,” was my ingenious move into that conversation (so nervous). Like an idiot I was making her go first, she was going to tell me everything before I told her… But God saved that screw up just like he saved me, “Hey guys it’s time to get on the bus.” Said Mallory, Mackenzie’s friend (now mine too).

Adventures - An Engagment Story (IV)

Yesupadam and Monika called my name one morning after breakfast,“Sam.”

I turned around and walked back to them thinking one of my folk had done something wrong and I’d need to do something about it. Until I got closer, something else was coming out of their eyes. And sure enough, as we faced outside the chapel of Love-N-Care Ministries Monika said, “We want to give you our permission to pursue our daughter.”

            My initial thought was, “Your daughter is 14…” What came out of my mouth was hoarse whisper, “Bethany?!?”

            “No, no, no! We would love it if you’d pursue our daughter.” They repeated while pointing behind them at Mackenzie who was sitting with her friends finishing their breakfast.

            I was shaking, literally I raised my hand and showed them - it was like a Parkinson riddled old man, my heart was racing in my throat, and my mind was swimming with both praise and thankfulness. It was a roller coaster. Never had God spoken to me like this about someone and never had it been so confirmed by people I respect so deeply.

            “I’d prayed about that,” was my only response.

            “What do I do with a recommendation like that? I want to do something, but what? How do I talk to her? I’m dangerous; she should run from me, right? God what are you doing?” Questions and ideas and more ideas and terrible ideas and great ideas were shooting across my brain as we walked down to the school to paint, “what do I do?”

            I threw down my paint brush and looked at my buddies painting the wall with me, “Guys what do I do with a recommendation like this?!?” I asked almost frustrated.

            They told me to go for it, so did Hugh (one the elders and one of my dearest friends) and so did Jeremy (one of the pastors and another dear friend). “Obviously she has the same interests as you,” “You’re both in India,” and, “What do you have to loose,” kept being repeated to me. Allie, a good girl friend of mine echoed these same sentiments.

            I wrote this in my journal that night,

“Jan. 8, 2012
Today was rather interesting for a couple of reasons. First, because Yesupadam and Monika took my aside and told me, “You have our blessing to pursue our daughter.” At first I was confused - their daughter is 14, but then I understood they were talking about one of the women from the other group here, Mckenzy (sp?) I do not deny she is pretty and often I’ve seen her reading Scripture and silently meditating over the Bible. I must speak with her about this if for nothing more than the immense amount of respect I hold for Yesupadam and Monika.
Also Brad and I are going to try to stay for another week if it is possible to do so, Jeremy said it was okay – just to cover any extra costs we might have.
Lastly, I was able to preach at the village tonight, as well as play music (long night for my voice). It was a fun evening.
This group God put together and got here are a prime group, they’re learning a ton and dealing with it beautifully – I don’t doubt they’ll each never be the same from this. J
I’m both fearful and oddly excited about this lady Yesupadam and Monika have recommended to me, but I must control my raging and violent heart cause I feel like a tempest that may destroy her ship. God will provide the strength as well as the wisdom to discern the correct action(s).
Soli Fide. Soli Gratia. Soli Scriptura. Soli Cristo. Soli Deo Gloria.”

Adventures - An Engagment Story (III)

My last task for the church was to lead a team of 15 to India. My friends Yesupadam and Monika own Love-N-Care Ministries there – it’s a fantastic ministry. I hold them in as much respect as I hold my parents; they are indeed parents to me.

            So off to India I went with 15 others most of who had never been out of the USA… It was an adventure for sure. Our time was sweet there, it was beautiful to see God break into my own heart and start to draw my damaged heart to himself. He’s so good – my whole world is about to change because God, the God of Abraham and Isaac and Moses, the same God who made the stars has planned my life and drawn me to himself to give me a wife, yes, my whole world is about to change – praise Jesus.

            Let me tell you about this whole meeting a girl in India deal. But to do so I need to tell you how hurt I was after my last relationship ended. “Devastated” would be a great word. I sat on my couch the Friday after Thanksgiving crying – all day. I hurt, and I was angry and I was lonely…

“God why? What are you doing? If you want me to be a pastor or to be in missions or to do anything that you’ve called me to do then I need a wife, I know I do, but you won’t let me have one it seems… if you want me to be married you do it, I’m tired of searching and wondering and fighting for relationships you’re not in, so God you do it. She needs to tell me I’m her husband. Cause I’m done searching and dating.”

            That’s how I prayed after the break up and resignation. It wasn’t the “cry of my heart,” prayer. It was just a hurt kid telling his Dad that he was pissed off and didn’t want to do anything about it. (My poor roommate started dating a girl the same week… I told them love was fake and they’d both be crying into whiskey bottles in six months… classy right?)

            On the flights to India I was enthralled with the idea of another group being there, can’t really tell you why, I just kept wondering who was in that other group – maybe I knew there would be something special about this mysterious other group. So once we arrived and found out there was indeed another group there I was a little thrilled. Then Mackenzie came… I was terrified of her. She’s gorgeous both spiritually and physically. And I’m a boy with a past – a dangerous past.

            “She beautiful, I’m not going to talk to her. I’m not a good guy, I’m terrible and I would never be able to be what she needs. She deserves a man and I’m just a boy,” those where my first thoughts at seeing her. I can honestly say that’s never happened before. Usually I was the, “I’m a pastor so of course I’m a great guy,” thinker… not this time, not this time.

            But I got to hear her pray, and I knew she was getting up early every morning to pray with Monika and apparently we had similar passions, I mean we were both in India at the same time and brought people back with us. So I real quick prayed about it, “God if you’re doing this then do it.” And then let it be. Cause that’s not why I was there, shoot I had a team to lead.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Adventures - An Engagment Story (II)

It had been a terrible eight months – and by “terrible” I mean it was hell of a time where I was prescribed anti-anxiety medicine and underwent EKG’s and tests to see what was going on neurologically with me. I hadn’t been that way before ever, it was an all-of-a-sudden kind of deal.

            At the time I had been working at the church I helped start for three years and was dating a lady who I hoped to be my wife – but knew it was the wrong thing to do – and I was taking 12 hours of graduate school. So between school, the fumbling relationship and the 60-70 hours of work a week I had burned out my adrenal glands. I, at 23, suffered three massive anxiety attacks in which I crawled to the shower to attempt to regain control of my body and shattered mind. Things were spiraling out of control.

            The day came, it was the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I sat down with my boss, the Lead Pastor, and we began talking about my necessary resignation. It was difficult, but felt freeing too. That night, while talking with my girlfriend, she dumped me – if I’m honest I saw this coming from two months away, but was still taken off guard by it.

            So there in one clean sweep of a day God had removed me from my job and taken my girlfriend from me – I expected to fail all my classes too just to have the cherry on top (by God’s grace that didn’t happen).

            This whole while the growing understanding of my time in Wichita coming to an end, it kept coming through in random thoughts as well as planning thoughts; I didn’t understand why I was having them. More than that I couldn’t understand the timing God had me on – the reason I had to resign then, why?!? I thought there was another year in Wichita then leaving, but God was doing something that was undeniable.

Adventures - An Engagment Story

God does crazy things, we hear about them all the time, yet somehow we seem to sweep them under the rug. We hear of healings and think, “O that’s cool.” Or we hear of how someone came from death to life by the power of Jesus and think, “Let’s not get too spiritual, okay?”

I’ve done this, thought this, and been this. I’m a realist… well maybe just a cynic – I was one, I can’t be one anymore, there’s no room for me to be cynical when God is driving a stake of conviction into my heart about the miraculous ways in which he’s provided, is providing and has promised to provide for me and the woman I know (because he told me) to be my wife.

So this is my feeble attempt to remember and write as much as I can about these past few weeks – months wherein God has taken my cynical heart and is drawing the poison of apathy out of it bit by bit. How God has looked at the brokenness of my heart and healed me. How God is King, ruler of all, sovereign over my emotions and my love and my future marriage. Someday I want my kids to read this and be floored to worship Jesus because of the story of their parents - that we are because he did it.

            First is my story, we’ll add Mackenzie’s later.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

God's Kids

I've been hitting up the Christian music lately, like a ton... Oh and I've decided I want to be an old man with a saying, you know like, "God will provide - He'll do it." Cause he will.

Often times I've heard the providence of God talked about like he's only providing good things, like 'open doors' and what not (you know, the cosmic vending machine view of God). But he also provides closed doors, yes, even the ones that slam on your fingers and hurt like the dickens, even those he provides, plans, sets in place and motion for us as his children to be reproved, rebuked, or simply just grown. 

“It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.” Heb 12:7-8

So the testing, the doors shut on our fingers, pain, loss, suffering, rejection, are the disciplining of God to grow us as his children. But to never experience pain inside the Christian life is to prove you not a Christian because God disciplines his kids.

God provides he’ll do it. He’ll provide a way to do what you are to do, meaning he’ll open the necessary paths and shut (and slam) the necessary doors. Trust him, not you, nor me. Faith in God is far better than a 10-year plan. But still more God has already provided a way through the impossible, he’s already made a way for the dead to be brought to life – the impossible has been made possible by God. And in comparison everything else is possible. God will do it, he’ll provide.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Thoughts while selling BBQ sauce

"Y'all got that tiny dog, want some BBQ to put on it?" Said it.

That lady killed a yeti and made a purse from its skin.

"Put some sauce on your nuts." Yea, I said that...

Taste the sauce punk.

More mullets here than at a Garth Brooks concert fo Sho.

Flea Markets = nik-nacks & trinkets, you know like paperweights

If you have to buy a stroller for your dog, you should shoot your dog. Just sayin'