Tuesday, December 20, 2011

9 is the number today

I remember it like it was yesterday. I was coaching a freshman basketball game in Murfreesboro, TN for Brentwood High School. We lost and I was ticked on the bus ride home. And then, Lindsay called..."Summar is coming today." We jumped in the car as soon as I got home and raced to Baptist Hospital. The drive was like those you have seen in movies. I was actually getting nervous she was going to come in the car because Lindsay had choice words for me at every bump we hit.

She was born very quickly after we got to the hospital. I remember a few vivid things: her think hair, my amazement at Lindsay for having her naturally, and that overwhelming feeling a dad has when he holds his little girl for the first time. For dads, it's different when we hold our girls. There's a tenderness I didn't know I possessed. And I was not expecting the new depth of love I easily went to for my new baby girl. We were overjoyed at our Christmas gift.

For reasons I don't pretend to understand, Summar is no longer with us on this side of Heaven. She was only with us for 2 very short months. Today, we celebrate her life and the gift she is to us. She would have been 9 today.

As I have shared with many others over the last 9 years who walk the journey of sorrow in this life...we grieve, yet not without hope. We believe hope is here...that it is near...more near than we can even fathom. So we hold onto hope today on Summar's 9th Birthday. There's an anchor for my soul. I can say "It is Well."

Here's why:
Jesus has overcome. And the grave is overwhelmed. The victory is won. He is risen from the dead.

Psalm 9:9 is what we are standing on today...on Summar's 9th Birthday

"The Lord is a stronghold for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble."

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Two Rivers Church, Fort Collins

It's been quite some time since I last posted on this blog. And now that Lindsay and I have followed the Lord's leading and opening of doors to plant a new church here in Fort Collins, I have felt an impetus to begin writing here again...

1. For friends and family to stay up with us to some degree about life here in Colorado
2. To process thoughts and offer some pondering questions for us to consider regarding life and faith
3. To share stories of how God is moving in our lives and what He is doing in advancing the Kingdom in our new neck of the woods.

We've been on the ground here for almost 2 months now and people keep asking me the questions like: "when are you starting?" - "where are you meeting?" - "do you have a building?"  And I answer: I don't know, we are not meeting yet, and no, we don't have building and probably won't for quite some time.

Our resolve is here: God is already working. We will listen and wait for Him to show us where to join Him.   We go out into the town and understand that we are missionaries. "God what you are doing?  Show us and lead us to people you want us to engage with."  It's actually working...God shows us things and sends people our way to talk with. Not every time, but a lot of the time. We just want to live with our eyes open and our hearts listening to the Spirit.

Formerly in ministry, I was ready with many plans and strategies...and drove very hard to make it all happen.  There wasn't a lot of listening. There wasn't a lot of praying. There was definitely a lot of depending on my work ethic and gifting. When I tell my story, I articulate that my gifts actually became a curse. The enemy twisted so much. We are not going to start a church this way...as I have experienced so much freedom in the last 5 or so years from my performance addiction. I actually believe that my value and identity is in no way wrapped up in how well I do, but in what Jesus has already done and says about who I am in Him. 

Lindsay and I are not on the ground here in Fort Collins being recruiters to a new church. We simply want to go "higher up and higher in" (thanks CS Lewis) to God's grace...and experience His freedom, hope, and healing in more and more ways. More of His Love, More of His Power as the song goes...We know that we can't give what we don't have. We only offer people what we have received and experience.

We simply desire to share our story of redemption...and to hear other people's stories. We are old Young Lifers who have long embraced the ministry philosophy that "people don't care what you know until they know that you care." And that out of relational trust, we get to share about The God who loves them and offers freedom, hope, and healing.

It's gonna be slow burn to start a church this way. We are ok with that. Relationships take time.

Lastly today, I'll invite you to ponder and consider the liberating truth many of you have sung in church before. I visit a new church each Sunday here in Fort Collins to get a better feel for the church culture here. I was blessed immensely by this song this past Sunday and wanted to pass it along to you.

What it would mean for you to not only sing these lyrics but also to allow God to renew your mind with these truths. Because when we believe in Truth, we break strongholds of lies and deception. When we embrace our identity in Jesus, our lives get transformed...

Before the throne of God above
I have a strong, a perfect plea:
A great High Priest, whose name is Love,
Who ever lives and pleads for me.

My name is graven on his hands,
My name is written on his heart;
I know that while in heaven he stands
No tongue can bid me thence depart
No tongue can bid me thence depart.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because a sinless Savior died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me
To look on Him and pardon me

Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Praise the One,
Risen Son of God!

Grace and Peace...You are Loved,


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Musings on Freedom...

God has been speaking to Lindsay and I a lot about freedom and the radical nature of His Grace. All this from today:

[A song we sang at church today (www.stationhillchurch.com)]

"Give thanks to the Lord for He is Good, His love endures forever."

We sang that song today with other followers of Jesus and I was stirred at the liberating truth we sing about but don't have faith to allow the truth to sink deep into our souls.

As we gathered in our home tonight for LifeGroup, we pondered on this lyric and dared to believe the peace and freedom it beacons us to.

"It is important for us to eradicate the notion that the Lord is present to find fault with you. He loves you perfectly because He sees you through the lens of the cross, where His son has removed every failing from your life! The more you have revelation of Jesus and how He has made you perfect, the more you will free yourself to receive His complete shalom."

[From a cd called Fellowship Songs: Vol 1. The song is entitled "Forever Reign"]

He is good, when there's nothing good in me.
He is love, on display for all to see.
He is light, when the darkness closes in
He is hope, he has covered all our sin

He is peace, when fear is crippling
He is true, even in our wandering
He is joy, He's the reason that we sing
He is life, in Him death has lost it's sting.

Run to the arms of Jesus.
The riches of His love will always be enough.
Nothing compares to the embrace of Jesus.

You are loved...it's reckless on your behalf.

[from a Tim Keller quote I came across on my friend Katie's facebook status]

"freedom is both the means and the end of the Christian life. everything about the Christian gospel is freedom. Jesus' whole mission was an operation of liberation" -Keller (gal 5:1)


Monday, December 21, 2009

Gladness: Joy with Sadness

If we don't embrace life for what it is, we can't find authenticity and live fully. I have heard it said that to live is to loose...and that in order to live fully, we must learn to embrace life on life's terms and grieve. (Dr. Chip Dodd)

Grief is our opportunity to state what matters to us...to communicate to ourselves and others what we deeply value. Our tears speak to this loss...to this value. It's as if our tears offer the world something deep within us...this is me....this is who I am...this is what I value...this is what I've lost. If you wish to know me, you must understand these tears.

Summar Jean Swain matters to me...more than I know how to communicate. Her 7th birthday was yesterday...and I'm feeling the full weight of her not being here with us. She has been with the Lord since she was 2 months old. I struggle as dad without her embrace...her presence on this side of heaven. Life is one too few for me. This is me. This is who I am. This is what I value. She is what I've lost. If you wish to know me, you must understand these tears.

As a follower of Jesus, I don't grieve without hope. But I still grieve. The joy of the Gospel has fallen on me. Hope is bigger. But this doesn't mean that life on this side of heaven is void of suffering, disappointment, struggle, etc. Living "in the in between" (between Genesis 3 and Revelation 20) necessarily involves this.

I feel Gladness today...joy from the Hope of the Gospel...and sadness at the losses in my life.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Ordinary

Maybe we stay stuck because we don’t allow ourselves to see God in the ordinary.
Maybe we stay in storms because we don’t allow God’s people to be His hands and feet.

Could it be that waking Jesus up (Luke 8:22-25) in order to powerfully calm our storm is inviting Him and others to help us? Maybe the calm to our storm is the body of Christ walking with us in difficult days. But how will the body know we are hurting if we don’t tell anyone...

Read Verse 24-25. They finally called on Him.

Where is your faith? Great question.
“Why didn’t you ask me earlier? Where is your faith?”
“Did you really think I wouldn’t do something? Where is your faith?”

They were fishermen. They had been in storms before.
They knew what to do. “We got this.”
Their faith was in themselves.

What is your storm today? Jesus promised to never leave us or forsake us. Never!
What do you need to ask of Him? And do you believe that he will bring Peace and Calm?
If He sends people to be His hands and feet, will you receive it?

Where is your faith today? Is it in yourself? Or is it in your ability as a fisherman?
He is with you no doubt…just like he was with the disciples…

Thursday, September 3, 2009


our family in Homer, Alaska

Transition evokes many emotions. I have had much ambivalence regarding the decision we have recently made to move back to Middle Tennessee from Alaska. Glad. Sad. Fear. Lonely. Excitement.

As most of you know that read these musings, we moved to Anchorage in June of 2008 to serve as one of the Pastors at ChangePoint Church. I was coming out of seminary in LA and felt really blessed to live the adventure that is to be found in such a majestic place and serve as a Care and Counseling Pastor.

Even though our time there was shorter than we planned, Alaska planted itself deeply into our souls. I had the wonderful honor to share my story and listen to the stories of many, many others. I was invited into pain of people that I counseled with and advocated for the radical grace and hope that is found in Jesus. We shared life with a group of people on Sunday evenings (our LifeGroup) that decided to lay down the pressure we feel to impress one another and the pressure we feel to hide from one another. We decided to believe that the Grace was bigger than our sin and that hope is bigger than our pain. We shared our stories...the good, the bad, and the ugly. It was rich...richer than any of us could have imagined. We were transformed.

All this to say...we were quite sad to leave. We have so many memories and I grew so much as a Pastor and leader in our time there. We believe we are back here in Thompson's Stations to be a part of a new church plant. I'm passionate about the freedom of God's grace and look forward to advocating for this freedom in the bible belt, where religiosity and legalism robs people of joy.

I love this language my friend Reid uses: "A church for those who have grown weary with religion yet still find themselves thirsty for God..."

Please be praying for us as much is still unsolidified. We are walking by faith and not by sight. Thank you ChangePoint for the honor to serve and love you. We are different because of you. We are different because of Alaska.

Grace and Peace,
Jason and Lindsay

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Free Glacial Silt Mask with my good friend Marne in Talkeetna, AK!

So...Jason has been asking me to blog for some time and I keep telling him I am not a writer...which I am not. I am scattered as it is, but to attempt to transfer thoughts in my brain onto "paper" in some sort of organized fashion to be read by others....well, that is just humorous. However, it is just who I am so I say to those who read...welcome to the mess inside my mind and good luck.
If you have never visited Alaska, you need to. It is one of a kind. It is majestically beautiful, but that is not what I am referring to. It is free. Not financially....which is why you probably have never been here and why we don't get out much. I mean FREE! There are not many rules and most of the time it seems there are just NO rules. Most people just sort of go and do where they please into the wild. Yet, there is a sense of order and respect that is just understood, I guess. Maybe it is because there are untamed beasts lurking around the corner. Maybe it is because in the winter time people hunker down and there is a sort of "we're all in this together" mentality. Maybe it is because the days are so long in the summer that you play so hard, you are just plain exhausted. I really don't know, but I sure like it.
I have come to understand that so often (and maybe always), the supernatural mirrors the natural. It is no coincidence to me that this sense of freedom is so attractive to me since I have been on a quest for spiritual freedom for some time. A year and a half ago, the fam and I were at the Orange County Zoo and I encountered a bald eagle in a cage. It took my breath away and stopped me in my tracks. I was captivated. Here was this majestic eagle....made to soar through the broad sky...and he was perched on a tree in a CAGE. I looked at Jason with tears in my eyes and said "I feel like that eagle." In so many ways I have related to that eagle and I don't like it. I don't want to live in a cage. I don't want to just sit on a tree while people stare at me. I want to be free. I want to soar.
We have lived in the great state of Alaska now for 1 year and it has been the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. It has been the year of records...these kind of records: "this is the worst summer since the 70s," (last summer), "this is the 5th coldest snap on record," (2 weeks of high negatives), "I have lived here 7 years and have never seen the volcano blow" etc....lucky us!! The biggest curve ball was getting pregnant. It literally knocked me off my feet and forced me to be inside most of the winter.....the LONG, DARK, COLD winter. I am NOT an inside person. I was so lonely, so tired, so sad. I kept asking God, "do you live in Alaska, Lord?" I couldn't feel Him, I couldn't see Him, I couldn't hear Him...and yet, I forced myself to believe on these two promises "Lo I am with you always," and "my grace is sufficient for you and my power is made perfect in weakness." It didn't FEEL true, but how often do our emotions tell lies? Truth is Truth no matter how we feel. So I just held on to it.
And now I have a beautiful, precious, sweet baby girl who is truly everyone's baby. She has brought life and joy to our family and to so many who have watched me grieve OUTLOUD this winter. God is Good...All the time. I am still sad. I love my God. I love my family. I love the adventures of Alaska and our new friends along with the old ones...but I am still that eagle.
The difference between the "OC" eagle and myself, however, is this...he is forced into the cage by his zoo keeper while my cage door is held open by mine. Why do I keep putting on my own shackles when Jesus has swung open the door and released me? I am beginning to realize it is because I don't believe. Oh, I can recite scripture to you about being loved, being saved, being forgiven...but I don't believe it. I mean really believe it...deep into the depth of my being. And so I cuff myself and strap the weight of the world to my shoulders and I sit on my perch wishing I could fly.
I have seen those eagles in Seward. They are free to fly up over the snow capped mountains and soar down over the ocean. They are doing what they are made to do.
I long to join them. To do and be who I am made to be. I am not a sinner saved by grace. I am a saint. Every command that has been given me has been fulfilled...DONE! Jesus loves me this I know, for the bible tells me so. Done! No more striving. No more, "but what about...?" No more, "if I could just be more"...."or "I should be....." No more self condemnation. No more living like a street kid. His grace IS sufficient...not one thing to add.
And so here I am....evangelizing my wounded self to believe the good news of Jesus Christ. What would happen if we all believed? I mean REALLY believed that we are loved? That we are righteous? That we are FREE!! We would be like the Seward eagles and not the OC eagle. No worries, no cares, no cage!!! Jesus, I believe...help my unbelief!!