Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Shack

Have any of you read The Shack yet? It's the tale of Mack, who has experienced horrific tragedy, and a rather unusual invitation he receives from God. Most accurately, it's about what happens when he responds to that invitation.

Mack is understandably confused by the tragic event that has taken place and God role in it. He's also very angry with God. However, he's dealt with these feelings by refusing to deal with them. Life is moving on, as best it can, he believes.

As I read The Shack, I recognized how all-too-common this response is. We're hurt or devastated by something in this life; but, rather than seek healing and wholeness, we diminish our hurt, ignore our wound, or stew in our anger. We live in our brokenness.

And though our invitation doesn't arrive as Mack's does, God does invite each of us to come to him, to engage in relationship with him, and to seek healing from the only source that can truly bind our broken hearts. Yet, we have a choice, and how rarely we choose to accept his invitation.

Last night I attended my mom's book club, which was discussing The Shack. A woman there beautifully shared how she chose to express her devastation to God and pursue answers from him after the untimely death of her 20-year-old daughter.

She explained that she took her many questions to God, and in the course of the past 10 years God has answered each and every one of them. She bravely fought to keep her heart alive and to invite God to restore it, when she could have chosen to shut down and self-protect. Her presence last night was radiant and her story impactful -- we were all blessed that she chose relationship and then shared the beauty and bounty of that relationship with us.

As I listened to her, I was reminded of my experience after the death of our baby last year. God was so generous to provide a spacious place and time to dialogue with him about our loss soon after it happened. In that moment, in the midst of heartache, I had to choose to enter into this and to engage him -- i.e. choose relationship. And he was gracious to respond, to answer my questions, and to provide much healing.

Back to Mack...The Shack raises the question of relationship with God and what keeps us from it or substitutes for it. Pick up a copy to read, and let me know what you think. And if you get stuck when Elouisa opens the door, push through and read on. Ask God to reveal what he'd have you consider. I believe he'll show you.

Monday, June 16, 2008

A World Away

Our 18-year-old nephew, Mario, is in Kenya for a month this summer. Below is a Facebook post I just received from him. It is stunning to read about what he's seeing and doing at the orphanage he's visiting. Mario's an incredible guy -- he's from Bulgaria, lives in Chattanooga, very well traveled, and voracious about seeing the world -- and he's about to start his senior year in high school. He went on this trip to Africa on his own! We're so proud of him!

It has been absolutely amazing. I have so many things to do here. It is a new orphanage, so I have a ton of responsibilities. On my first day of field work, I found a kid in the very first home that I visited and decided that he should be taken to the orphanage because of the conditions that he was living in. The next day, I decided to go and get him tested for HIV and he turned out to be positive, which was horrible. I've been running around to doctors and decided to test every kid that is affiliated with the program, so I am organizing groups of them to come and get tested on Fridays. The guy who began the orphanage, Geoffrey, decided that I should give an HIV education class next week to everyone associated with the organization.

There are three parts: an orphanage, a sanitary program, and a sponsorship program. There are 14 kids at the orphanage and around 50 more that are sponsored or awaiting sponsorship. It really has been the most incredible trip I've ever taken, and I wish I could stay for longer. I am definitely coming back. I've also met a ton of really awesome people that I will keep in touch with. I haven't really gotten around to traveling around Kenya but I will go to the beach and to visit the Massai Mara national park. Next year I am going to come back, hopefully with some friends from school, just travel around East Africa. It is like another world over here...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Happy Father's Day!

To Dad, for working selflessly, giving lavishly, loving deeply, and encouraging constantly ... I love you.

To Charlie, for parenting, shepherding, and mentoring this man I am blessed to share life with ... Thank you!

To Tim, for loving these boys of ours with abandon, for fighting for our family with your whole heart, and for raising Seth and Reed to be men of integrity and warriors for our King. Thank you for answering their question as only their father can -- Yes, they have what it takes! They are truly blessed (as am I).

And to all of the amazing fathers we know ... Happy Father's Day!

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ten Years of Fun in the Sun

Beach Bliss

We've just returned from our beach trip with my (Susan's) family. This year was our 10th annual trip with my parents and my sister and brother-in-law. The first five were spent on the beautiful Gulf Coast of Alabama; the past five at Litchfield Beach, South Carolina.

This is always a favorite time of year for us -- one of the rare times we all gather for extended time together and also the official start to our summer holiday. It has gotten even better as the boys have become strong swimmers. Tim and I are able to relax in a new way now that we know that they are capable in the water.

Uncle Barry and Aunt Beth introduced a new element to the beach trip this year by encouraging us to try bowling. I know...I had never bowled!!! So, I gave it a shot (or rather a roll) along with new bowlers Seth and Reed. I found that, unfortunately, it was much different than bowling on the Wii, where I'm quite the pro. I wish that I had been allowed to bowl on the boys' lane, with the bumpers up, rather than with the grown-ups. Even still, I had fun and was overjoyed to break 50 on my second game (yes, that tells you how sorry I was). Kudos to Seth for two strikes!

Now we're home, and our summer holidays are officially underway. The remaining weeks of the boys' break are filled with VBS, soccer camp, day trips to the mountains (playing in the creek), riding our bikes, visits with grandparents, and hopefully a weekend getaway to Gatlinburg. We hope, in the midst of all of the activity, we can maintain a relaxed spirit about it all and enjoy the slower pace of summer. We hope this for you too!

And if your summer journeys lead you this way, please give us a call or stop by for a visit. We'd love to see you!