Drowsy Soldiers

Like most people, I thrive on mountaintop experiences. That’s to say, I always feel very close to God and enjoy renewed hope and vision whenever I encounter spiritual refreshment. Conferences like VOICE always do wonders in challenging my faith and creating a passion in my heart that feels like it will last forever. The problem, however, is when reality sets in and I return back to the “valley” from my mountaintop experience. Instead of jumping into daily life with the same spiritual strength, I often find myself slipping into spiritual drowsiness.

Have you ever taken the time to look through Scripture to see the kinds of problems that popped up for those who slept? Noah fell asleep and his son came into his tent and brought shame to the family. While Samson slept, Delilah cut his hair which took away his strength. King Saul slept and David took his spear away from him. Sleepy Eutychus went to sleep and fell out of the window.

I’m realizing more and more that sleep can creep into our soul just as easily and quietly as it does to our body. My decision is that I can either give in to spiritual laziness, or I can be “sober and vigilant”—recognizing that the Enemy is waiting to pounce as soon as I indulge myself in spiritual sleep. Soldiers of Jesus Christ are faithful to stand fast even when things are boring and their spiritual life isn’t very exciting—especially a couple of months after VOICE when everything is back to normal!

While God never intended us to live life constantly within those spiritual mountaintop experiences, He also never intended for us to walk through life drowsily and halfheartedly. Jesus came so that we would “have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). It’s kind of hard to experience that abundant life when I’m fighting off drowsiness day after day. William Gurnall, a pastor who lived over 400 years ago, challenged Christians to “busy yourselves in your Christian duties and spiritual drowsiness will flee.” Pretty good advice, huh?

Relationships That Last

Last week, Karen and I finally returned home from VOICE and other travels. The same day we returned, we were delighted to have a visitor who stayed with us for two nights. It was Robin Hsu, a VOICE student from my team in 2005. It has been at least a year or two since we’ve seen or talked, but it was just like old times. We had great conversation about what is happening in each others’ lives, about God and how to live in a way that displays Christ’s presence. Karen and I had fun showing him around Oklahoma City (when he came to VOICE, it was held in a different city – Flint, MI), and overall, it was just wonderful catching up and amazing how easy it was to hang out again.

I think most of us don’t make many friends like that, but VOICE gives us the opportunity to – if we will seize it. Being friends with Robin has challenged me to be the kind of friend that it’s worth stopping to see when you’re traveling far from home – or even scheduling a special trip for. What kind of friend would that be? Well, I try to be interesting, to understand him and his life, ask questions about what he’s doing…but most of all, just be concerned for him. That’s something that we can’t force in our own life: but we can do things that will help to develop it over time. Here’s some ideas:

  • VOICE brings people together from very different places and lives. Stay in touch with people who you met, and keep learning more about them. Visit them and do things together.
  • VOICE challenges you to focus in on the things that are really important in life: God’s things. Value these in your life, talk about them with your VOICE friends, and learn how they are valuing God in their lives.
  • You need other people. It is prideful to think that you will first make yourself comfortable, then pursue friendships. If you have to sacrifice to build relationships, you have to see the value. It’s not that other people need to know you; it’s that you need to know them.

It’s great to see so much enthusiasm by the newest VOICE class for keeping in touch. Remember that these relationships can last a long time. Be the friend who is worth being pursued. And be the friend who is pursuing others.

Preparing for VOICE 2011

Twelve years ago, I found myself in Chicago, trying to plan our first summer conference. It wasn’t known as VOICE yet—back then, it was called CLEC (Character Leadership English Conference). I really had no idea what I was doing. My father wanted a conference that would provide training in character, leadership, and English, and so I learned to make his dream come true—one call, one spreadsheet, one day at a time.

Now, nine conferences and hundreds of spreadsheets later, I must confess that I care a lot about the logistics. I care about our design. I care about the order of events. I care about how things are presented. But sometimes, I care too much.

This year, God has blessed me with a daughter who needs love and care. The time I once devoted to details must now be shared with her.

So as we prepare to dive into VOICE 2011, I find myself having to give up certain aspects of the conference that were (and still are) important to me. I have to remind myself that God cares far more about the people involved in VOICE than He cares about my perfectly planned details. While good logistics may make for a smoother conference, only God can change a person’s life.

If you’ll be at VOICE this year, I need you to help me remember that. And if you won’t be there, please pray that God will continue to use VOICE to clarify the message of the Gospel.

Here’s to another great conference!


Moving Day

Just about a week ago was moving day for Rowan and Jocelyn.

We had been living in a nice studio apartment above a friend’s garage in rural Sandy, Oregon. Then, on December 28th, we received a notice that our lease was expiring and that we would have to move by January 31. It threw us off a bit and made us really nervous. Where would we go? What would we do? Neither of us had ever gone out shopping for a new apartment before.

But shop we did. We looked at lots of places online. We looked at places all over the Portland metro area. We even looked at places in San Diego! Then we had to go look at some of them in person. So we set a date, drove to downtown Portland, and began visiting the places we had seen online. Some of them were really nice. Some of them we knew we didn’t want as soon as we pulled up outside the building.

As we were looking at one place, Jocelyn said, “Hey, what about that building over there?” There was a phone number outside the building, so Jocelyn called it, set up an appointment for a few minutes later, and soon we were exploring the new building we hadn’t seen online. When we walked into the apartment Jocelyn knew it was the one she wanted. The kitchen was just right, the style was kind of vintage, the bedroom was small and cute, and there were nice big closets.

It took us a few days to sign all the paper work, and a few days more and the help of some good friends to move all of our stuff, but we are now living in our new apartment in downtown Portland!

Even though this apartment feels like home, it is not really. We only have a 6-month lease, after which we can move to somewhere else, or the landlord can decide they don’t want us here any more. We love our neighborhood and how we can walk to the grocery store and our favorite coffee shops and restaurants, but let’s face it, Jocelyn and I know that we’re not going to spend the rest of our lives in this neighborhood.

Our time here on Earth is a bit like that as well. I love it here… I love my friends and neighbors, I love the scenery, I love flying to the four corners of the globe and exploring this amazing planet God has given us. Our lease here is short, and soon we will all be moving. It’s OK… it’s part of the plan. Jesus told us this a long time ago when he said in John 14, “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.”

Jesus is preparing a place for us, a final, complete, and perfect place where we will go to live forever with Him. I can’t wait!


The Quest for Humility

The Quest for Humility

I own my own business, and this title has been the theme of my business interactions for the past 6 months. Humility is not something that I have found in a “How to Start a Business” guide or on the cover of the latest Entrepreneur magazine. However, it is something I find all over in Scripture. The classic passage that comes to mind is “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Let’s imagine for a moment that God is real, that He really is who He says He is, and that He will really do what He says He will do. “God is opposed to the proud…” Does He really mean that? What does “opposed” mean? Will He wreck my business? Destroy my relationships? Waste away my money? I do not know, but if He’s real…

Now quit pretending and start living. Drop the fronts and be who you are, nothing better, and nothing worse. Acknowledge your mistakes. Build upon your successes. Be the man or woman you were made to be for the glory of God.

Rowan Gillson

Irrational Love

I remember our baby in a crib who’s fast asleep,
He doesn’t see my tears, can’t hear me weep
And I wondered, “Was it worth it that we chose his life not yours?”
And I felt you smiling with me and answer, “Of course.”

It was the first day of VOICE. I was sitting in TESOL auditions as my brother unveiled one of the most important songs in his newest musical The Inheritance, based on the parable of the prodigal son in Luke 15. In Tim’s adaptation, the father finds himself wrestling with the rebellion and desertion of his younger son as well as possible professional ruin, so he questions whether he and his wife had made the right choice in giving life to their second son at the cost of her own at childbirth.

At the time, I was nearly 11 weeks pregnant, so the song touched a very sensitive spot in my heart. All my life, I’ve been learning to love others– family, friends, classmates, teachers, colleagues– but most of it was based on the other person giving or responding similarly at least in some small way. Even with Luke, I fell in love because he first loved me.

At this particular point in Tim’s story, however, we’re faced with the quandary of reconciling the sacrifice of a loving mother for her ungrateful and selfish son, who was recklessly destroying his father’s life work. Part of me cringed from the injustice of it. The other part of me, however, experienced for the first time what it means to be a mother– to love someone I have never met, not because of any merit of their own or because they love me, but simply because that is how God first loved us.

That is what Christ has done for us. He doesn’t love us because of anything we have or can do for Him. He didn’t choose me because I was a good girl. No, God demonstrated His irrational and wasteful love in that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

An Intrusion of Grace

Last summer, one of the VOICE students returned to Oklahoma City with us. Since Chris is an American citizen, his father wanted him to finish high school in the US. I recommended Christian Heritage Academy, a good private school in town with an exchange program (headed by my friend Audra). It slipped my mind, however, that Chris would need a place to stay or a way to get to school…

…until his parents came to Oklahoma City to help him get settled. That was when Luke and I realized that Chris needed a host family.

Neither of us were ready for parenting– much less teen parenting. We had guarded our first year of marriage carefully, but with our anniversary around the corner, we wondered if this was God’s next step for us.

After talking seriously about it, we told his parents that we’d pray about it. I’ll never forget the look of relief in their eyes as they shared how they had gotten up at 4:30 that morning to pray that we might take Chris into our home.

That was nine months ago. Serving God this year has meant taking Chris to school, cooking for three, cutting his hair, tutoring him in Shakespeare and grammar, picking him up after football practice, helping him get his motorcycle license, and talking through important life issues.

An intrusion to our lives? Yes, but it’s been an intrusion of grace as we’ve been learning to let God use us as a channel of His irrational, extravagant love.

“In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (I John 4:10-11)

God and the Volcano

For me this week, “living like God is Real” means resting. I have been in the United Kingdom and Ireland since March 31, but was supposed to travel back home last week. Then the Icelandic volcano erupted, throwing me, and millions of others, into a perpetual state of uncertainty. Travel arrangements have been disrupted, meetings canceled, plans destroyed, and there is no end in sight. No one knows what is going to happen and when, or even if, things will go back to normal.

So today I write from Oxford, England, at the table of my good friend Judson. I have spent countless hours making alternative travel plans, waiting on hold for airline agents, and taking buses, ferries, taxis, and trains to try to get around the volcanic ash that has changed my life.

God IS real, and He IS good! I choose to rest in Him. I will do my best to get home, but I am going to enjoy the extra time I have in England along the way. I can do nothing to make flights happen, but I am confident that my loving Heavenly Father has me safely in His care.

Carefree in Oxford,