About Us

Not too much to say (at least not yet)... no long list of credentials... just a story that's worth sharing. I'm Adam Vaughan. My wife, Kelly, will also be sharing. We have 6 children. Our two sons, Lincoln and Tucker, have gone to be with the Lord. The remaining four with us are Emmiline, Eloise, Elliott and Charli. Charli is a triplet. Her brothers Lincoln and Tucker are identical twins. They're dancing with Jesus right now, and they're not sad about it at all!

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Randy Quaid

Well, I just got back from Alaska today.  My dad and I had a pretty adventurous time in that amazing state… bouncing from hostels to backcountry wilderness.  All in all it was an amazing experience.  My body’s pretty tired.  Never got the hang of sleeping when the sun doesn’t completely go down this time of year… (that’s right… nearly 24 hours of daylight).
As we were driving around one day, my dad looked at me and said, “Now Clark, that there is what you call an R…… V….”  Maybe you remember this quote from Randy Quaid (Cousin Eddie) in Christmas Vacation.  This quote was especially funny because my dad is Clark Griswald.  That’s not figurative language.  He inspired the character Clark Griswald, and I’m firmly convinced we could sue that his story has been stolen and put in the movies.  (Again, I’m all about suing.)  Anyways, we saw hundreds of RVs, and of course I had to say that quote every time I saw one.  Sometimes I can wear things out… at least in other peoples’ minds.
As I laughed at Randy Quaid’s character in Christmas Vacation my mind was flooded with all of the funny lines in the movie.  There are too many to count.  One in particular struck me though…
Have you ever experienced how someone else could so clearly articulate what was going on inside of you?  I’ve felt that way when I’ve read the psalms at times.  I’ve felt that way talking to a close friend or counselor.  They’re able to put to words what I can’t quite form.  It can even happen in poetry.  The power of metaphor to communicate what’s deep within is incredible.  Something about putting those feelings or thoughts to words is really healthy for me.
As I’ve sat in the struggle of the last year and a half I’ve often felt my heart couldn’t possibly handle any more.  There’s just been too much pain and loss.  Randy Quaid articulated it so poetically when he said, “The shitter’s full!”  (Very sorry for the profanity… for some reason my conscience is less bothered to type them than say them.  Again, apologize if it offends you.)  Those words (“The shitter’s full!”) seem to sum up how my heart’s felt.  It couldn’t possibly handle any more.  It needed to be emptied of some messiness… it’s been a year and a half full of “it.”  I’ve felt like I’ve been overflowing it at times. 
At the same time much is stirring within… I think my mind has known that Christ is with me and for me.  It hasn’t always felt that way, but I remembered truth and knew.  However, I am starting to believe more than ever that He is also in me.  In the midst of everything… He is in me.  Hope to learn more about that.  In the meantime, grateful not to be missing every lesson that could be learned.  Often feel like I’m going through struggles and turn a deaf ear to what God’s saying in the midst of it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Being Real

I made mention of a Larry Crabb book in a previous post that I was reading recently.  Still processing much of it and I will want to process it via the blog more too... however, before I go back and re-read the underlined sections in that book I've started a new book.

For some reason when I got turned on to Christian literature I did not allow myself to read anything outside of the genres of Christian counseling, Christian living, theology, etc. for at least 12 years.  I think my mind was stuck in this pragmatic way of thinking that everything must serve a purpose.  Well, a friend gave me a book that was not Christian literature.  After that 12 years I decided to break the fast and read it.  I loved it.  I think I began learning that there's much value in fun... much value in play... for the sake of fun and play.

Well, the new book that I'm reading is simply a "for fun" book.  It's about a man who moved into the Alaskan wilderness in the late 1960's by himself.  He builds his own log cabin from scratch.  He learns to live off the land.  The book is basically his journal.  Like normal it was one of those things that I saw, but then I didn't buy.  Fortunately, I found it the next day for half price.  So, I began the book very excited about this story of adventure.  Not sure why these types of adventure and the adventurous spirit of this man draw such passion out of me.

So far the book stinks.  The author is very eloquent in the way  he describes the landscape, the hard manual labor, etc.  However, I've found myself starting to strongly dislike the book because it's written from a perspective I've grown to dislike.  The author writes as if everything is great... all the time.  Nothing negative happens.  There are no frustrations, no disappointment... not even loneliness!  I'm not saying that I love it when someone has the personality of Eyore from Winnie the Pooh, but man I am more and more drawn to an authentic, real heart.  My wife posted a picture that said, "Beautiful Mess."  She is truly a beautiful mess.  "Beautiful" is not a strong enough word to describe her though.  She is real if anyone I know is real, and it's awesome.

Seems after living most of my life not allowing myself to feel very strong emotions... living most of my life not having much of an opinion about anything... well, I'm finally feeling quite strong emotions, and I'm extremely opinionated.  Watch out... I'll probably leave a trail of messiness behind me.  My response right now to that is, "Oh well..."

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Invention

I have a couple invention ideas.  Kel and I have talked about creating something that would allow us to retire.  I love ministry, and I'd continue to do it even if I was retired;  however, we really love being together more than anything.  I like to try to dream of ways to make that happen more often.  I've told myself that I'm temporarily on retirement right now, but usually my mind quickly reminds me of the need for a job.

Anyways, we've asked ourselves what we could invent.  There have been some crazy things that have done well... i.e. silly bands (seriously, just rubber bands in different shapes?), re-usable coffee cups that look like Starbucks' disposable cups, etc.  My big idea hit me many, many years ago.  I invented the stackable washer and dryer.  When the clothes are done being washed, they would fall down into the dryer.  The weight would trigger the dryer to begin.  Pretty clever, huh?  I never acted on it.

Now I've got a couple more inventions / ideas.  The first one... I could sell used Bibles.  I realize they'd have to be in the newest, coolest translation.  I would buy new Bibles, but then I would put great wear and stress on them.  The leather would be cracked and worn.  I would highlight, underline and scribble all throughout the Bible.  Even if I just marked completely random passages it wouldn't matter.  Those who see those markings would assume God gave you a "special revelation" in them that was too deep for them to grasp.  Purchasing this Bible would immediately give Bible righteousness to its holder.  It's just an idea.

Second idea... (these are all targeted at Christians) I could sell a product that has quotes from the Christian fathers.  It would focus on pre-15th Century authors / theologians / preachers... especially obscure authors.  The instructions would include how to present the quote with such confidence that it's communicated so that the one saying it says it as if everyone would already know that quote (sorry for the wordiness).  This would help in our Christian games.  Maybe I could win more often.

Third idea... I could sell an app that takes a picture of you on Sundays so that you never run the risk of wearing the same outfit two consecutive weeks in a row.  What do you think?   

I know... they're not the greatest ideas.  I guess I share them because I've been thinking so much about relational sin.  We all have behavioral sins, but I think for most of us we're much more guilty of relational sins.  These are the sins of how we interact with people, think of people, treat people, judge people... One example is when we feel like we have something we need to prove in conversation.  We need the other person to know that we know something or can do something.  Another relational sin is avoiding conflict.  Another one is bitterness... man, the list is too easy.  Each of the products I thought of to sell enables relational sin.

I've been challenged.  I've taught students not to rank sin.  We need to call it for what it is.  The reality of actually selling any of those products (although slightly funny) is as gross as prostitution.  I share that as I sit convicted of the sins I commit in the context of relating to you and others.  Rather than feeling beat up about it, I think it's allowing me to be more humbled by grace.  I am grossed out by my sin, but I am a little more aware of the magnitude of grace... I have to admit that it is extremely strange (and unlike me) to enjoy grace rather than live under guilt management.  Again, I'd like to keep this pattern of response as opposed to the guilt-ridden one.  At the same time I know I'll spend plenty more time with my buddy, Mr. Guilt soon.  He has a way of finding me.  In the meantime, I'm going to enjoy grace and hope.

By the way, I'm not going to sell those products after all.  However, if you choose to try to market them, I might sue for copyright infringement. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

choosing to see

Hope....

Desperate people look for nuggets of hope everywhere.   My eyes are wide open. 

Yesterday I had some good time just thinking about my sons that are with Jesus.    It's been too long since I carved out time to really think about them.  My heart is still grieving.  It looks different than it used to but it still bleeds for what isn’t.  I want to love on them.

Emmiline is becoming a warrior for hope around our house.  She speaks of it often.  She uses washable markers to tattoo  the word hope on her body.  She spells out hope in her cereal.  She sings it and  she dances to it.  She looks for it.  As I was thinking about the boys I asked Emmiline and Eloise to come up with one, single word that represents Lincoln and Tucker.  Eloise with much passion said "warriors."  Emmiline quietly and thoughtfully said "hope."  Tears of joy surfaced as I rested in the fact that my girls know their brothers and they are not forgotten.  Please, Lord, don't let me forget my sons. 
 
Below are just a few images that stir hope in my heart. 

 


This was Emmiline's breakfast creation...in the bottom corner is her finger pointing to the LT she made for the boys....Lincoln and Tucker stir HOPE



I am learning to play again.  I am laughing, enjoying, and celebrating having friends.



This is a sillyband bracelet that Emmiline gave me a few days ago.  She has a radar for hope.  God is using her to remind me that when pain tempts me to run, hide, or forget....I must press on...I must fight for hope.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Two

Two random, completely unrelated thoughts...

First, still processing what the church could and should look like... A few nights ago a family member and I invited a young guy (Andrew, 19 years old) to join us for dinner.  This is somewhat strange because we had only known him for a few minutes.  I know what you're thinking..."What in the world is happening to Adam?"  I'm not sure, but I like it.

Anyways, Andrew is from L.A.  That's a slightly different culture than Knoxville.  As dialogue began to go a little deeper with Andrew, he communicated that he liked Jesus a lot.  My mind immediately ran to the great music video, "Jesus is my friend" (which if you haven't seen you should stop reading and watch immediately on youtube).  Andrew felt like Jesus was for him.  Jesus has a plan for him.  Jesus was with him.  However, he did not like church at all, and he had no desire to ever go.  Pretty bold statement since he knew I have close ties to the church. 

Still processing about the church, and I'm really wondering, "How have I contributed to the church not being what God intended it to be?"  In some ways the student ministries I've been a part of have functioned as mini-churches... what could I have done to make it more biblical, Spirit-led and trinitarian-based?  Many thoughts on this are being birthed in my head... I'll share them another time after I've pressed into them a little more.

This morning a friend and I drove by about eight churches.  The first seven churches didn't have a single car in the parking lot.  Finally, the eighth church had a good crowd.  My friend's comment (and well-intentioned) was, "They must be doing something right."  That didn't sit well with me.  Maybe it's easier to get a large crowd if you're not doing things right.  I've been a part of large churches that are doing things very well.  I'm just saying that I don't think that's enough evidence to say a church is doing "church" correctly.  Talking about our sin often is not received well.  Complete authenticity about our struggles... well, it can make people feel really uncomfortable or even disgusted.  Maybe doing "church" right might have different results than the church with a full parking lot.

Still thinking through the question of, "What is our primary reason for going to church?"  Seems in the last two days I've heard the following statements:  1)  I just want to be a good person.  2)  I just want to help / serve people.  Those are obviously both good things, but they should not be the main reason anyone goes to church.  In fact, I have pursued those things without even pursuing the Lord.

Secondly, on to the seemingly completely unrelated thought... I read the following quote yesterday, "... brokenness releases power.  The deeper the brokenness, the greater the power."  The more I've wrestled with this the more I've discovered truth in it.  My wife is an incredibly powerful woman.  She has experienced great brokenness, and she unashamedly shares it.  Recently she shared a reoccurring thought that had haunted her.  When she shared it out loud, I thought, "Oh my goodness, Kel!  What are you doing?  It's okay to share that with me, but don't share that with anyone else!"  Then something strange happened.  I could see the power released into another friend present.  He felt alive to be real.  We won't feel and know the power of grace until we come clean with God.  She invited him to come clean with God.  She released power.

I initially thought these two thoughts - 1) what should the church look like and 2) brokenness releases power... well, I thought they were unrelated.  Maybe they fit perfectly together.  Maybe the power we all long to have is only found through brokenness in spiritual community ("church")?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

fever

                                                                                        
Apparently, I’ve been struck with a bad case of Bieber fever.  And, no my computer hasn’t been hacked.  I, Kelly Vaughan, have joined the millions.  What can I say? I love the boy.
 A group of my sweet, young friends came over the other night and we watched the movie Never Say Never.  It was a great documentary about the life of Justin Bieber, a popular up and coming boy singer.  Until that night  I didn’t know a thing about Justin Bieber.  Now, I am fan.  Talk about magnetic charm.  He is so full of energy, passion, life, and creativity.  The boy has mad skills especially when it comes to performing.
During the movie, I kept asking myself what is this stirring?  How am I being sucked into this?  My friends helped me process this when the movie was over.  My sisters had lots of ideas, some that I hadn’t thought of.   One that really stood out to me was the power of music.  It was like as soon as he started singing girls of all ages were crying out to him with intense passion.  Why?  My friend had the thought “because they feel that he is singing just to them.”  I really connected with that response.  I think she is right.  There is something deep within us that wants to be pursued like that.  We want the handsome prince to publicly and beautifully declare his undying love to us.  I am glad that I am not between the ages of 3 and 32.  I have lived just long enough to know that no “Baby” song can fill my voids no matter how charming or how talented. 
I know this seems like a bizarre entry.  I am sure many of you are now concerned for me in new ways.  Don’t worry.  I will only make my hands in the shape of a heart in private.  But, all joking aside, I do really really believe that there is power in praise.  Whether the praise of man or God.  I was just reading how our praise to God can create a barrier against the enemy.  Wow!  My worship can work as a weapon.  I believe this to be true.  I also believe that the devil longs to use that same tool against our hearts.  He wants us to offer that praise to another.  Today, my heart ached as I saw millions of young princesses shed worshipful tears to a boy who was just performing.  It might have been some of the best performing I have ever seen but it was in the end just an act.  I don’t want to spend my worship on something that is unworthy.  I want to be faithful to use it as it was intended.  I want this for my friends, my sisters, my daughters.    I want it for all creation.  True worship stirs our heart to deep passion.   To whom, or what will I offer my deepest affection?
I am “One Less Lonely Girl” not because I have been drawn out of a crowd and given roses or sung to by Justin himself but because the one I sing to sings and dances over me with delight.  It is not an act.  He really sees me and calls me lovely.   I feel   joy inside as I think about that right now.  The creator of the universe, the king, is enthralled by my beauty.  I will most likely forget this when I go and look in the mirror but I long to remeber and rest in this truth.
P.s.  Adam perfected the hair swoop when Bieber was still in diapers and he is still going strong.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Nick

It feels like I'm doing field research lately, but I'm really just very curious.

I've met quick a few fascinating people lately.  Although I'm an intravert I've been strangely more intentional about pursuing conversation of greater depth (even with strangers) than I have in the past.  Maybe that's all part of this newer freedom I'm beginning to taste.

One of the people I met is a guy named, "Nick."  Nick is an Australian that lives primarily in Canada, but he's lived all over the world.  He still travels all over the world.  Nick is in his upper 40's, and he is an endurance sport athlete.  He competed (and still competes) at a very high level... basically with the best.  From my conversations I could gather that Nick is very intelligent.  He has very strong opinions about things, and he's rather fond of being the expert (as am I... oh wait, I'm not really an expert on anything though). 

As conversation developed with Nick I was grateful that he didn't shy away from talking or change drastically once it was revealed that I'm a pastor.  Usually, that's a great way to end a conversation with a non-believer.  Nick continued to carefully and skillfully weave profanity throughout his stories.  Although he is not a Christian, he professes to be very spiritual.  That statement always makes me feel very strange.  Maybe I'll explore that another time.  Anyways, he shared about a blog he's been doing.  Sounds like he might be getting it published.  Included in the blog Nick was very open about struggling with depression.  He didn't want a clinically trained professional to try to give him a quick fix.  That didn't do anything for him.  His depression stemmed from an injury.  No longer was he able to perform at the high level in his sport.  Seemed like he had lost his identity.  In many ways he was treated as if he had lost his identity.  He was no longer accepted by his community.

Screaming from Nick's story were the following:  desire to be authentic even when culture teaches him not to be, desire to have community, desire to have an identity that is not based on his performance, desire to give others hope who have struggled with similar things.

Man, we'll just say that I could relate.  There is so much Nick in me that it's crazy.  Interesting how God has wired us.  Praying for my new friend Nick's heart to encounter Jesus.  Also thinking through the times I've done "church" without Christ being a part of it... Meaning, I've been like Nick.  I've pursued relationships, community, shared hope, etc., but I haven't made Christ the center and focus of it all.  Grateful for that raised awareness today, but saddened by the unpleasantness of reality.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Questioning

Especially the last 24 hours but even several days before that I have been questioning a lot.  I've been asking the question, "Why?" and "Is there more?"  I'm not asking those questions out of significant disappointment or hurt.  Actually, I'm asking them out of a hunger for more.  I'm asking them mainly about two things right now.


Larry Crabb gave each of us a copy of his book, Real Church.  He claimed to give it to us because it never sold well.  He's surprsingly hysterical.  Anyways, as I began reading the book I noticed a very strong defensiveness take over my heart and mind.  In the book he asks the question, "What should church look like and be about?"  Now let me preface a few thoughts.  First off, I'm so tired of people bashing the church.  The authors who make big bucks by bashing the church need to be punched in the nose, and I'll volunteer to do it.  I'll repent later so that will make it all okay.  (Actually, I'm already forgiven of my future sins... so I guess I'm ready to punch.  Aim me in the right direction.)  No, seriously, I'm tired of people I know bashing the church.  It is the bride of Christ!  I believe it is what I have been called to commit my life to... connecting people to the hope of glory, Jesus Christ. 


At the same time, I'm questioning things, and Larry Crabb makes many valid points.  I'm not saying anything negative about the churches I've been a part of... I deeply love all of them.  I'm just saying that I am wondering, "What should the church really look like?  Why do people not enjoy going to church?"  Not communicating it should be about "enjoying," but it definitely shouldn't be dull, boring and lifeless.  What about "life to the full?"  If you were to ask yourself, "Why do you go to church?"  (or, "why don't I go to church?")  I wonder what you'd say.  Like me you'd probably have a list of reasons.  If you / I were to rank them in some sort of hierarchy, what would be the main reason that we do or don't go to church?  Is that the reason we should be going to church?  Is that what church is all about?  Again, what could it look like and be about?


Another thing I've really been questioning is the Sabbath.  I've had various seasons in my life where I've been more intentional about thinking and praying about... and practicing the Sabbath.  However, after many discussions with Kelly, something is being stirred that is causing me to rethink what it should look like in my life and my family.  By "should" look like I think I'm really meaning, "could" look like... as in a positive thing.  Kelly and I have been chewing on Hebrews 4.  Seems we're not only invited into Sabbath rest, but we're also strongly commanded to.  The language is extremely powerful as it stresses the importance of this.  I think it means much more than what I've made it.  I've read books on the Sabbath and made small changes in my life (some of which I've made a consistent part of my life); however, I'm ready for it to be the day of rest it was meant to be.  Not sure how or what that will look like, but I'm enjoying the process of processing and hoping for more.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

waiting for Daddy

I love my kids.  They can drive me CRAZY but I deeply love them.  Next to Adam they are my greatest gift.  I am aware that I am a rich woman.  I find it amazing how much the Lord teaches me about my heart and His heart through my children.  I have much to learn from them and I am choosing to study closely.
You will notice that in many of my posts I mention Bud.  He is my little 3 year old prince.  He has my heart.  I will not lie, in this season he is my favorite.  I know, what kind of mom says they have a favorite?  I know I am breaking all the rules and codes by admitting this.  I don’t really care, it’s true.  I love all my kids but right now I most enjoy my little man.  He is the perfect size.  His laugh and smile melt the tough spaces of my heart, he still smells sweet, and He is just the right fit for a good snuggle.  He also represents two boys that I do not get to enjoy this side of heaven.  The other thing that makes him stand out is that when he offers me his affection it is a gift.  I realize this because I know I am not his favorite.  His heart belongs to another, his daddy.  There are many times where I’ll do, but truth be told he always prefers Adam.  Sometimes it really stings, but mostly I have gotten used to it.  All that to say, when my boy wants to love on me I savor every moment because  I know he is choosing me and also I am very aware that it will not last long.
This morning as Adam left I had many small sad hearts to tend to.  Tears were shed and emotions were shared.  Bud was especially expressive as he clung to his father’s leg.  He did not want to be separated.  He was fighting for more time with his daddy.  After Adam shut the door behind him Elliott just stared and stared out the window.  He did not hide his sadness or his desire for his father.  He just kept calling for him to come back. 
This is the clearest picture of what my heart has been feeling the past year.  I just want my Daddy to come back.  Before you start thinking I am super spiritual I also want to confess that God has shown me that my cry has been more about me than a longing for Him.  I think at the core of my cry is an idol.  I do so want Jesus to return.  But, I think it’s more because I don’t want to hurt anymore and I am tired of life being so hard.  I am on the road to desiring His return for better reasons.  I am not fully there yet, but my journey is underway.  I am excited for the day when my heart will reflect Elliott’s.  He is a son that fully desires his Daddy’s presence.  God, that is the cry of my heart today!  I want to be a daughter that is always staring out ahead waiting in anticipation for her Daddy to come back.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

near sided

I am not a woman who is short on words.  I am not one who struggles to come up with an opinion.  I was born opinionated.  Pray for my husband.  I am sure there are days he wishes my mouth came with a zipper.   Lately, I have needed to really speak out a lot of hard things.  Sometimes it can be tricky trying to discern what is appropriate and what it not.  A wise sister once taught me 3 guidelines for communication… Is what I am saying kind, true and necessary?  That has been a life lesson for me, one I am sure will continue until my days are done.  These guidelines can be especially tough when my heart is bleeding at a faster rate than my mind can process.  Still I find great truth in her words and long to put them into practice.
The last few weeks Adam and I have been discussing what our family should really be about.  It is stretching to investigate who we really want to be and then with God’s help operate out of that.  Since becoming a parent most of my life has been spent just merely trying to survive.  I don’t really know how to be a woman much less a wife and a mom.  I can tell you, however, that I long to press into the heart of God in regards to His vision for our family.   We have had some really good talks about the direction we want to go, and I am also very peaceful about not really having a roadmap or specifics.  Our God doesn’t seem to be a God of formulas, and I am learning how to trust Him in the midst of that truth.
I would like to share that during this time our family has received the gift of nearness.  I have sensed Gods nearness…something I don’t always experience.    We have also received that gift through people.  I can’t tell you how blessed I have been to see how brothers and sisters and even strangers have entered into our lives.  I want you to know that I not only enjoy them being present but I am learning from them.   I am humbled and blessed.  I am aware of their gift in a way that makes me long to reproduce it. 
Yesterday, Buddy, our 3 year-old son got into the crib with Charli.  He was tickled and full of love and giggles.  She was a little confused maybe even a little alarmed.  Elliott had nothing to offer her other than the gift of being near.  He couldn’t hold her, feed her, change her, comfort her but was delighted to enter into her space and just be with her.  I have thought a lot about this.  I think often I feel that if I don’t have something really great and beautiful to offer than I have nothing to bring, and so I don’t.  What I am learning through many of you and my boy is that choosing to be near is a gift in itself.  It is one of risk but has great value and worth.  Most of us wrestle with how to handle uncomfortable situations.  It’s hard to enter into the messy.  I can speak as an expert when it comes to messiness.   I can honestly say that when people have pursued our hearts in risky ways we, like Charli, may be a little confused, we may not understand what is going on, we might even be a little alarmed but someone offering the gift of their nearness is a treasure that reflects the very character of God.  This is, no doubt, something I long for our family to be about.
                                                                           

Monday, June 20, 2011

Inadequate

Tonight I sit in front of the computer feeling really inadequate to do this.  Kelly and I made a commitment to try to “blog” something (whatever that means) at least once a day… I know… I’m tired of it already too.  Rarely am I sure of what I should say…
First and foremost, my soccer game got cancelled… again.  Today’s weather was blazing hot and sunny… all day!  We won’t go into this.  I just needed to lament a little.  Still not sure why rec league soccer brings me so much joy and so much frustration. 
Well, next thought…a little over a week ago I was at Larry Crabb’s “School of Spiritual Direction.”  On the first night he asked us, “What is your red dot?”  He was referring to the red dot on the directory in the mall that says, “You are here.”  His question was meant to mean, “Where are you?  What’s going on in you?”  Well, the second night of the retreat he asked the same question.  My immediate response was irritation.  Hadn’t I just answered that question yesterday?  Why in the world would he need to ask me that question again?  In my mind my thoughts and feelings seem pretty steady.  As I allowed myself to process his question I realized that it does make sense to see what’s happening in my heart and mind constantly (rather than with the same frequency as my dental cleanings).  The problem with this is that being attentive to what’s going on inside of me and being attentive to the Spirit’s stirrings / leadings… well, it’s exhausting, and I’m feeling pretty tired.  At the same time I’m grateful for the challenge to be more attentive to what God’s doing. 
To bounce to a completely different thought… do you ever call someone when you have absolutely nothing to say?  Man, that’s such a sweet gift when you can call an old friend simply because you deeply enjoy them.  You’ve got nothing to say, and that’s fine.  I did that tonight, and I felt like the friend simply delighted in me for being me.  A wonderful gift.
In contrast to that my wife and I had some really rich conversation with two new friends this morning.  There’s something about someone else who has gone through great struggle… someone who is real about that struggle… something about that just draws me to that person.  I felt very drawn to our new friends.  I think I’ve noticed that often pain and struggle seem to be tools that make room for great depth in a person’s heart.  These friends have much depth.  I’m afraid to ask for more depth… afraid of the means that He might use to give it. 

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Church... again

Well, today we went to “church.”  It was really good and really strange. 
I so vividly remember the feeling of a long-term dating relationship ending when I was in college.  Then when I talked to a new girl that I was interested in…well, it seemed exciting and nerve-wracking, but something about it felt really weird and wrong.  It’s like I was asking myself, “Is this okay?  Am I doing something wrong by doing this?”
It is strange to walk into a church and feel like a stranger.  Actually, when you’re part of a large church, I guess you can feel that often, but you know that you’re not a stranger.  I knew I was a stranger today.  This new church body was friendly and welcoming.  I appreciated that no one smothered me with church talk (that would have been nauseating), but the expressions in their faces communicated, “I don’t know you, but I’m glad you’re here.  You belong.” 
I don’t even know what to say about this experience.  Today my mind has wondered to the question, “What should church look like?  What would my dream church look like?”  Are those two questions completely different, or are they the same thing?  Still processing that question.  I don’t want to have the critical spirit that comes so naturally, but I also want to fight hard for Christ’s bride.
Ever felt like you continue in the same “patterns of response,” but you’d like to change them?  I do.  I don’t know why I seem to expect God to yell in perfect clarity when I’m seeking His voice.  He seems to choose to whisper… or say nothing at all.  That’s how it feels in terms of where God wants me right now.  The crazy thing (meaning, “God-thing”) is that the sermon I heard this morning was on the Canaanite woman / Syro-Phoenician woman.  This is the exact same story I taught on my last Sunday at Fellowship!  In it Jesus initially remains silent while a woman with a desperate and broken heart cries out at His feet.  It appears that Jesus is being cruel.  Actually, He’s allowing her and all of the church to see how strong and great her faith is.  Maybe God’s stretching my faith muscles.  Maybe He’ll throw me a few crumbs… I know that’s more than enough.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Farewell "Party?"

Last night was my Farewell Party.   
Didn’t really feel like partying.  I was glad that they agreed we shouldn’t call it a “celebration.”  Actually, to be completely honest I had hoped it would get rained out…I know that sounds terrible.  I’m embarrassed to share that.  I think I wanted to avoid the awkward (the exact opposite of what I’d like to be about!).  The time was really sweet.  It was such a delight to get to be with the people who were there.  Truly!  The hard part was just that I didn’t get to give anyone as much time as I really wanted to give them.  I could have gladly spent the entire evening with any single individual who was present.
Back to the “awkward” stuff… I’m really glad that the “party” (sounds funny to call it that) did happen.  Hoping to be more intentional about pressing into the awkward.  Hoping that pressing into the hard and uncomfortable becomes a distinctive of my life… for the sake of knowing Him and loving better. 
One dear friend asked me if the night felt like a wedding.  I didn’t say it out loud, but it definitely felt more like a funeral.  Painfully, it did feel more like a death rather than the birth of something new and exciting represented by a wedding.  The farewell event did provide closure to the end of a chapter.  I think the event made me more sad about the close of that chapter though.  It reminded me of how much I’ll miss some really precious people.  The good news is that there will be another chapter.  As I was reminded a week ago, it’s a wonderful story.  It’s His story.  Unfortunately, there are some extremely difficult chapters. 
There were some awesome moments in the night.  Many of them actually… however, one that was an extra rich blessing had to do with Charli.  This might have been her first exposure to the masses.  It was cool to get to show her off.  Throughout the pregnancy with the triplets, Kelly and I were blessed beyond measure with a very wise and godly doctor who walked with us in that journey.  He went above and beyond the call of duty.  He grieved when we grieved.  He celebrated when we celebrated.  He continues to press into the awkward and confusing for the sake of love.  He actually delivered Charli, Lincoln and Tucker.  This man is my dear friend, Bobby.  Below is a picture of Bobby holding little Charli (who is quite a bit bigger than when he delivered her over 14 months ago).

Hope seems to be birthed in tragedy.  The picture of Charli being held by Bobby seems to illustrate hope to me.  I’m going to cling to hope.  This picture illustrates a hope fulfilled.  It also inspires hope for more in the future.

Friday, June 17, 2011

all better?


Today is a marker day for our family. It will mark the official close to Adam’s job at Fellowship. The church is hosting a farewell in his honor tonight. I am really struggling. I didn’t think that today would feel so hard, but it does. It feels really sad. To me, it feels like a death. I have become familiar with death over the last year. I don’t enjoy death. It terrifies me. But, I do know first hand that new life comes out of death. Life that is unimaginable and unthinkable….but death of any kind shatters dreams. I think the hardest part of this process is remembering truth in the midst of my heartache. The message that my heart sees in this situation is that I am expendable. My gifts are not always valued or enjoyed. When what I have to offer is no longer desired, I may be sent packing. I have heard this before in my life. I do recognize the enemy’s voice in these words. Even though I know the source of these lies the wrestling continues.

When I was a child, we used to sing a song over and over in church. Some of you may remember it too. It was called “Trust and Obey.” The words said “trust and obey, for there’s no other way, to be happy in Jesus than to trust and obey.” I wonder if our Creator cringed when my little heart sang those words. Oh, if it were only that easy. If I would just do A and B, and then C would magically happen to make me a happy bird. Wouldn’t that be NEAT?  I do not believe that God's desire for our lives is to pursue happiness.  And,I am continuing to learn that God is ok with me not being happy, because he wants me to experience His JOY. They can go together but they are not the same thing.
I also find it funny that as a mom I have learned some “pain management” tactics. Many of you practice them too. For instance, having four children means lots and lots and LOTS of bumps, bruises and boo-boos. My immediate response is to offer to kiss and make it better. The notion that I could kiss their pain away is about as insane as if I just trust and obey God I’ll be happy. Of course, I believe that loving on my babes will bring comfort, but it doesn’t take their pain away. It brings me pleasure to bring nearness and sympathy, but it doesn’t change the fact that they still have a giant bloody scratch. Today, I wish it were as easy as God coming and kissing away the many, many boo-boos in my heart, but I am thankful that He delights in comforting me. He offers me His nearness by walking beside me and grieving with me. He is not unaware nor unresposive to my big bloody scratches. The best part is that I can choose to remember, by the Spirit, that He never stops doing me good. He is always pursuing healing in me. Not because it makes me feel better…because it doesn’t... but because it better reflects Who He is and who He is calling me to be.

Please continue to pray for me and my family as we battle out the daily lies AND truths that are hard to process. Pray for courage. Pray for honest and good tears. Pray for eyes that see His vision. Today I am tempted to settle for the band-aid….pray that I’ll be hungry for a better touch.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Random

Not sure what to say today.  Many random thoughts going around in my big Charlie Brown head.
A very dear friend finds out tomorrow if he has cancer.  My heart struggles for him.  Still not sure how to make loved ones fully understand how much I love them and hurt for them.  I’ve been more aware than ever than when a moment becomes especially deep / intimate with a friend… well, I’m likely to throw out a joke to “lighten” the conversation.  Disappointed I do that.
I have been to DHS (Department of Human Services) twice this week.  Seeing the financial neediness of the hundreds of people there (one time crammed / overflowing the main room, the other time in a line surrounding the building)… well, I was struck with how I often seem unaware or blind to the need right down the street.  Wasn’t I worried or playing the martyr in my head about my situation?  Man, how do I respond to that?
On a positive side, I was blessed with such a fun time with a friend last night.  More than ever I value laughter.  Not looking for a shallow escape from reality (well, maybe sometimes)… but it’s hard to communicate how healthy it is to laugh with someone or even at yourself. 
I (Adam) am playing in an adult soccer league again.  Our first game of the season got rained out on Wednesday.  The season hasn’t even officially begun, and I’m already enjoying it.  That might not even make sense to most of you.  Talking about it with a friend is as fun as actually playing.  At the same time it’s ridiculous…even embarrassing, but I’m more disappointed as a 36 year old adult when my game gets rained out than I was as a little boy.  I might handle that disappointment in a more mature way, but I’m literally more bummed.  Why is that?  Why do I feel like I need to understand why that is?
A friend asked me last night, “Do you feel like you need to figure yourself out?  Do you need to understand yourself?”  Hard to know how to answer honestly… I’m more curious than I’ve ever been, but I feel more free not to have to understand everything. 
Again, the contradictions within are alive and strong. 

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

rain


                                                                                      
Today was a day filled with much needed rain. I had a small window to just be still, watch and listen. The sounds and sights were amazing. I was thankful. Mostly because my yard looks like an ash tray and all of my potted flowers resemble nothing but death. My water hose could only do so much. We needed rain.

Today, my heart matched the weather. It was messy and dark. I’ve mentioned before that I think a lot. Sometimes that is a good thing. Other times it’s not so productive.  In fact, it can be to my detriment. I want to be honest in saying that just because our family is learning beautiful things doesn’t mean we are always surrounded by beauty. Often, I am frustrated with myself, my husband, our situation etc. I am tempted to lose hope. Even with Adam coming back from a life changing week I wonder…are we just learning a new language or are we learning to do life differently. There are many things I don’t like about my life right now. I don’t like thinking about moving. I don’t like thinking about being away from my family. I HATE the thought of moving somewhere cold. I despise not having a church to call home and I miss seeing the people I dearly love on a regular basis.

Sometimes I just want to be angry, and sometimes I feel angry towards my husband. I want him to get us out of this mess. I feel so out of control. I need someone to blame. and he is available. Healthy, no, honest…yes! I can be hopeful and still not like the unknown…my behavior is where it becomes a problem. The unknown makes me afraid and makes me want to withdraw or attack. How’s that for beauty?
I guess the hope that I am holding onto is like the long awaited rain we received today. It will not provide immediate results. Healing and growth is in process, but it’s going to take a while for us to see the beauty that's underway. So, today, I cling to Hebrews 3:6 that reminds me that God is faithful over me, and I must hold on to the courage and hope of which I boast.
                                                      

I am thankful for the rain which is bringing life back to my yard…though my potted plants are goners. And, for the promise that even when my heart resembles the hard, resistant, dry earth…beauty not yet seen is on it’s way.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Day of Birth

 
Today my middle princess, Eloise turns seven. This is a long awaited day for her. The countdown began almost a year ago. She is a young lady full of life and hope. I see a lot of myself (Kelly) in her. Mostly, I see parts of me that used to be alive that I have deadened. She has an unlimited capacity for joy and hope. She also has an endless supply of tears both for sharing laughter and sorrow. Eloise is the teacher, and I am the student in the school of being alive.

We are celebrating our sweet girl today, and we are still trying to adjust to life back together. It has been so rich to hear all that God has been up to in Adam. I am blessed to see His stirring, and I am stirred as well. I have to remember in the excitement that God is expanding our vision and changing us, but we are NOT fixed. The broken places are still broken. The hurt places still hurt. This is still not our home, and we are still aliens. No conference or school will change that fact. So, today we walk on. We ask God to show us how to live in the midst of our wrestling. We are no less needy than we were a week ago, but we are being refined and, therefore, have hope.

Eloise reminds me and all of my family to enjoy life. She is also a tool of remembrance. Even as I type this she has issued a call (in her 7 year old way) not to forget my twin sons and that I am a mother of triplets. It was a light comment, and then she was back to business on her scooter. She shows me that I can be fully alive, fully aware, and in touch with my story in the midst of my everyday life. We can own our story and the pain in it and still enjoy the art of playing.

Today, I am enjoying my story. Aslan is on the move in my family. I see His ferocious paw prints everywhere. I also sense the comfort of His strength on my behalf. I need Him like never before. I love Him like never before, and I am seeing Him like never before. I am alive....Yes! But, in becoming more alive I also have better vision to see all the ways that I am still enslaved. Oh, this vicious cycle!

Happy Birthday, Eloise. God knew that I would need the gift of you in my life. Thank you for being a teacher to this stubborn, tired heart. You make me hungry for a better place, better dreams, and a better me.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Home

Home

Well, I got home from the School of Spiritual Direction this afternoon. It's a strange transition. Man, I missed my family so much.

Now what? Many new thoughts swimming around in my head. Maybe more than anything... a new way of thinking. I've mentioned this before... so much alive in me (very weird, but awesome), but will it last? I know it's not about a feeling.

Larry Crabb told a story about his father. His dad was in the hospital having some kind of major heart surgery. Larry asked his dad how he was doing, and his dad said, “The one person I most wanted to visit me did not make an appearance.” Larry quickly responded, “And who was that, Dad?” His father answered, “Jesus.” Larry thought this meant his father was sad or disappointed. Instead, his father said, “I'm so grateful that he'd consider me to be faithful without having to appear. He trusted me to simply rely on His word as being enough.” Man, will what's God done in my heart linger a long while? Will it give birth to more of Him? Will I trust that His word is more than enough if He chooses to remain quiet? Not sure. Hopeful. Even if what's grown in my heart gets stolen or withered or choked out... hoping I can pursue Him more than I pursue His gifts.

Strange transitions... from employment to unemployment... from Larry Crabb's school back to a good, but full life... from being afforded the opportunity to constantly reflect and discuss who God is and what He's doing to what we call normal “life.”

I think one of my takeaways from Crabb's school is thinking a little more about the words I use. Hoping that when I use the word “life” my mind continues to think that life is really knowing Him... hoping I not only think that, but I start living it.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Freedom

When it comes to the freedom that God offers us, I don't feel like I have enjoyed much of it most of my life. I have chosen to be enslaved. I know... why would I choose that? Not sure... maybe it feels safer.

I was thinking tonight about my “righteousness.” By that, I don't mean the righteousness of Christ that is credited to my account. I mean my self-righteousness... my efforts to make sure I communicate to people that I know whatever and can do whatever. It comes in more forms than I could count. I'll share a few. Very gross stuff...

Dessert righteousness... a few of my friends playfully teased me about snagging 3 or 4 desserts the other night. I made sure everyone knew that it was “only” my second dessert. Why was it so important that I made that public?

Book righteousness... this is the gross practice of a lot of pastors. We like to quote authors (and speakers) to make us appear well-read and intelligent. Seems power is usually passed through relational connecting and love... not pompous arrogance.

Firing righteousness... when I tell people that I was released from my job in May, usually my immediate action is to explain the circumstances. It doesn't really matter. I don't need to explain.

Bathroom righteousness... this may sound crazy, but I want others to know that I know proper bathroom etiquette. Yesterday someone initiated a very meaningful conversation with me... the problem is that I was trying to tinkle in a public restroom, and he was in my personal space... and, no, he was not tinkling as well. He was just standing, leaning... I could tell that he cared for me, but somehow I needed him to know that I know proper bathroom etiquette (even if he doesn't).

Anyways, it may sound contradictory (which fits perfectly with who I am), but I am also enjoying more freedom than I can remember feeling... ever. This is completely random, but yesterday I felt like putting my mouth under the fountain drink machine. I had always wanted to try it. I knew I wasn't contaminating anything (and no one was around)... so I did it. It was messy, but it felt good to do. Again, I'm aware that's a weird example, but that's okay because I'm weird (aka awkward).

Lastly, I received one of the greatest gifts of my life tonight. Inside an envelope were many letters full of words of truth and encouragement from very dear friends. I cannot communicate the gift their words are to my heart. They give me greater freedom to be the Adam that God intended me to be... through Christ in me. Very grateful. Free, but still wanting more...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Visionary

When I was released from my employment, my supervisors really were very gracious with me. They affirmed me in a lot of ways; however, one of the areas that they saw as a significant weakness was my ability to cast vision.

Well, I can try to defend and explain their position, but they're right in a lot of ways. It's not one of my greatest strengths. In terms of casting a vision for a program...I'm not the best man for the job. Although I know this to be true, I've kind of worn the label of being a “weak vision cast-er” for the last month. I know it's true, but it's still been a little painful to wear.

I'll come back to this, but I need to interject something here. One time Greg Pinkner said that humility is not saying you're poor at something that you are good at. For example, if you told him, “You're a good communicator.” It is not humility if he said, “No, not really.” It's simply a lie. He is an amazing communicator.

I share that as a preface. Today I enjoyed and celebrated that I really am a visionary. I know... a few paragraphs earlier I owned that I could have done a much better job casting vision. Well, that is in terms of a large organization or program. I can say without boasting that I am a visionary, but it's a relational vision I have for people I know. It's a vision for individuals with whom I have personal relationship. Through the lens of the Spirit I am able to have some degree of vision about who they could become. Again, I'm not being arrogant.

It does feel very strange to say that I'm good at anything. Not sure why it makes me feel uncomfortable. At the same time I am feeling much encouraged by gracious words spoken to me today as I shared vision / challenges to some new friends.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Larry Crabb

Well, this morning I actually had breakfast with Larry Crabb. He's been one of my favorite authors for the last 15 years. Quite a personal, enjoyable guy...

Anyways, the time with him was basically him just asking questions. He seemed curious about me. There were no apparent techniques or jedi mind tricks. “Exploring” might be a good word to describe it.

Somehow we stumbled onto something I had missed. Most of my life I've considered myself to be fairly steady. I'm not especially great at anything, but I've been pretty steady. It's not my first choice in terms of giftings, but I guess it could be worse. Together we realized that “steady” seems pretty dull. I think “steady” might be the by-product of my upbringing. For some reason I never let myself feel strong feelings / emotion. Very, very rarely do I remember feeling extremely angry or sad or even excited. I definitely did not ever express extremely strong feelings. Somehow I didn't permit myself to feel fully alive...maybe afraid it wouldn't be accepted. Larry sensed an aliveness and spoke what I call, “life words” into me.

Enjoying feeling more alive than I can remember feeling ever before... yet, I still long for much more of it. Very much aware that I've substituted for a false sense of aliveness for years in such lesser things... even my dearly beloved survival television shows. (I'll continue to love those, but maybe I'll be attentive to what stirs within me as I enjoy them...)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Why

This morning I had breakfast with a stranger... I'm sure that sounds weird. He's at the School of Spiritual Direction with me, but he's here to help.

Basically, we just had a conversation that mattered. He didn't try to fix me. He didn't interrupt my stories to tell how his stories intersect with mine.., but he did press me to go deeper.

I've mentioned in a previous blog that when someone gives me words of affirmation or encouragement that I always deflect it or deflate it. I'll deflect it by telling them how special they are... how they have such an amazing gift of encouragement. I'll deflate it by saying, “If you only knew what was in my heart, you wouldn't think that about me.” Well, I patted myself on the back for such keen self-awareness that I do this. As I talked to this stranger / new friend, he said, “It sounds like you're simply trying harder to not do it. Why don't you ask yourself why you do it?” Wow, my natural instinct is behavior modification. That's not the highest goal... why do I do that? Why don't I look at the heart issue underneath? Not sure why I do that, but grateful for the reminder to look beneath the struggle.

He also said, “Adam, you seem very difficult to get to know.” That hurt. My natural tendency is to defend. I might pull off a facade of humility as I receive his words, but in my mind I can quickly defend why that's not true. The problem is that I've heard those words several times in the last few months... words like, “Adam, it just feels like you hold your cards close to your chest.” If anyone actually reads this, please don't feel like you need to defend against this statement. There must be some truth to his words if I'm hearing it with increasing frequency. My first response is, “I'm going to go out of my way to make sure I let people get to know me!” Again, why am I so drawn to behavior modification? I'm just trying harder. The real issue is, “Why do you do this, Adam?” I don't know.

Grateful to have been pushed passed “trying harder” and into what's underneath this big mess. Glad to have been pushed to simply ask, “Why?”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

God speaks

This morning a friend said, “God speaks into a humble heart.” Ouch. I've been sitting in a classroom setting much of the day. There have been small group discussion times too, but that one statement that started much of my day has stayed in my head. “God speaks into a humble heart.” Biblically, it makes perfect sense. Over and over the scriptures say that God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble. It makes sense why I haven't heard more from God.

I'm not saying there's an equation to it. Not saying that if I do X, then I'll get Y. If I decide to be humble (pretty funny) tomorrow, then He will speak to me.

Humility is such a crazy thing. I do always get a kick out of it when people tell me how they've grown so much in humility. Well, I'm in desperate need of more of that humility stuff. Maybe it's just something we talk about, but when I think about it I really have seen it in other people. Oh boy, I just realized what I typed when I said that I need more humility. Now I'm afraid that could mean more breaking might happen in my life... hoping the humility could be produced from the current circumstances.

Anyways, God speaks into a humble mind. At times He chooses to be very silent. Other times I'm too attentive to my ways of doing things to hear Him (or anything). I'm too busy trying to get Him to fix my story. Really, it's His story, and He's revealing His glory through me in His story. That's the purpose...His glory. Man, now how do I live with that mindset?


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Life

"Now this is living." I wonder if you've ever said that statement. When I think of “living” in that context, I think of a beach trip with my family, eating at a sushi bar, playing some sort of pick-up game, backpacking through the wilderness, hanging out with a few close friends, etc. I think there's much truth in that statement though. I think we define, “life” by things that are not life.

A wise man asked me today, “Think of when you were a child. What comes to mind as the happiest moment in your life? What's a moment that you really enjoyed being alive?”

It's a good question to ask. Maybe you'll consider it. More than likely our responses to this question reveal something about what we pursue as “life.” It might be performance, recognition, pleasure, a hassle-free existence...

It's probably a very wrong definition of life. Then I was asked, “Think of a time when you were a child. What moment comes to mind when you hated life? When you wanted to hide?”

My answer was a moment from 8th grade. I had just found out that I didn't get into Honors English. I was devastated. I pretended to be looking for something in my locker, but really I was just trying to hide the fact that it hurt so bad that I was crying. I decided at that moment that my academic performance (and performance-based living) were my everything. The strange thing is that I even majored in English in college. Never really thought about that until today. It's never been my best subject. Maybe I majored in it to prove something to myself.

I guess I defined death as being revealed as insufficient... not being enough... being inadequate. That was death to me. The opposite of this is what I've functionally pursued as life... the praise of man.

Stirred by what scripture calls, “life.” John 17 calls it knowing God. Man, I think I'm actually tired of striving so hard for my inaccurate version of “life.” It can't truly be life. Ready for much more. Longing for real life.