Sunday, September 28, 2008

This is where we live!

The ballpark. That's the city behind us.
New Friends. Good Times. Worship His Majesty.
There is no snow in the city yet, but up here...yes, plenty of it.
Glad Savannah had her walking stick!
Fall in Anchorage. These are good days for our family!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Did I pass or fail? What's my grade?

I have been burdened of late by the enormous weight we carry to make the not pass. I was spending some time with a brother last week who is not able to live in the grace that is ours through Christ. He believes it in his head, but his heart won't receive it and thus, he stays in bondage to performance. I felt the Lord speaking to me: "Tell him I am not giving him a grade. The kingdom is not about pass/fail." It's almost as if the captives that have been set free (Isaiah 61 and Luke 4) refuse to walk out...

"All you need is need." Our pastor spoke these words two Sundays ago as he introduced Galatians to our church up here. And then after the service, I learned that my kids get $20 in mountain money for doing a devotional and memorizing a verse. What? My 7 year old needs to hear "all you need is need" and not "be a good Christian and you get fake money that will buy you toys." God's grace is enough...and I desire for his spiritual life to be motivated by his heart and not by what he gets if he does something. I desire the same for myself. There's a big difference between duty and desire. When we perform spiritually for the reward (a good name, respect, ministry influence, moutain money, etc.) instead of obey out love and worship for the King, we embrace the false theology of achievement instead of a theology of alignment. When we perform spiritually, we are prone to give in to the pressure to impress or hide. If all you need is need, then why does the church seem to be void of people crying out for mercy and letting their need be known without shame. The lady in Luke 7 didn't hide and she didn't care to impress. She needed grace and mercy. And Jesus made an example out of her faith.

Don't get me wrong, there is a reward (66 verses reference reward in the text). A life of faith that is wholly surrendered to Jesus brings big reward...grace for today and hope for tomorrow. I want that to be enough for me, but I have to confess that it isn't most of the time. Asaph's resolution at the end of Psalm 73 is piercing to me. "Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth I desire besides you." Whoa. I have a long way to go...but I am free in God's grace as I traverse my life and cling to the truth of who I am in Christ. I am not ok. And I am ok with not being ok. In my experience, the more I have needed Him, the more I have gotten Him.

Swain Family Updates:
  1. Jacson is doing very well in the second grade. He has way more friends than the rest of us combined. Basketball season starts for him next week.
  2. Ellie is super busy and mommy is busy loving her and keeping her in line. We have decided to keep Ellie out of pre-school and build into her before she starts kindergarten. We are seeing results (she is our strong willed one). She has already told us that she will not be changing her last name when she gets married one day.
  3. Savannah is determined to not be a "big girl." Pottie training is in a far off distant land...and she is 2.5 years.
  4. Lindsay is building friendships and her new business venture with Market America. She is plugging back in with BSF and is excited about studying Moses.
  5. I am enjoying "ministry of availability." Being a shepparding/care pastor provides many opportunities to listen to people and walk with them.
  6. Alska is getting colder. "Termination Dust" has already fallen on the moutain peaks and we are told that our kids will be trick or treating in snow boots. It hasn't gotten below freezing yet, but we are already in the 30s at night. Right now, it gets light a little after 7 and gets dark about 8 PM. The dark days are Nov-Jan.
on the top of flattop covered with a few inches of snow
Ellie is all pink...all the time. I had to persuade her to not wear a dress for the hike
You can barely tell, but Jacson is showing loosing his front tooth

Until next time...Grace and Hope to you!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Reflecting on some Essential Things

I am on the plane towards Anchorage after being back in Tennessee this past weekend. And find myself pondering on the significant things of life…

• We should never take for granted the history we have with people we love. There is something profound about sitting with people you have walked with over the long haul. While living in Alaska provides the opportunity to establish new relationships (we love this), we miss our history with family and friends in middle Tennessee. A journey with people is a gift. I realize how big a gift it is now that I’m so far away.
• Praying with friends on a front porch is like water over my soul. Thanks Lance, Amy, and Chris.
• Being an uncle to AJ, Madi, and Sidney is a gift of God’s grace to me. We set a new record with 33 hits on the beach ball in my parents’ pool.
• Homemade Ice Cream on a Sunday Afternoon…sitting around eating it together as a family. Good stuff mom and dad. I love the simplicity.
• Sitting on the “side porch” with my PaPa and Granny. Visiting my Pa in the nursing home. I cried when I left them. They are getting older now…I’m sad about that. I miss them a lot…I’m sad about that. They are close to heaven…I’m glad about that.
• “You are Two Imperfect People, Entering into a Committed Relationship, Diligently Pursuing Intimacy, Under the Sovereign rule of God.” I had the opportunity to speak these words to a dear couple at their wedding on Saturday night. I was reminded that marriage is such a gift. My wife is a gift of God’s grace to me…and provision to make me more like the Son.
• Control and Trust are mutually exclusive. “Trust is letting go of our need to control outcomes, letting God be God.” (John Wimber) People joke about being a “control freak.” It’s not a laughing matter…being in prison isn’t something to joke about. If the captives have been set free, why are we still holding onto the chains? “Trusting God is pivotal to this whole business of being a Christian.” (John Wimber)
• “Our words have the power to curse or bless.” (Lindsay Swain) What if we didn’t miss opportunities to tell people what we see in them and how we feel about them?
• Why do so many feel the pressure to impress and the pressure to hide, including me? Why is the truth of our lives and story so hard to trust people with? Why can people tell their secrets to a stranger on a postcard but they can’t come into the light with the people they know and love? I long to see the local church as the place people know they can go to with their pain and shame…to find grace, deliverance, healing, and restoration.
• I am really bummed I’m missing the Tennessee game right now…Why is college football and the NFL so significant to me? To others? What if we gathered in homes to worship and pray like we do to watch games?
• What makes my friend’s wife (she is my friend too) move out of the country to foster her little girl for over 2 months until she can bring her home? What sustains the husband as he waits for his girls to come home? (there is hope Eliana will be home this month…please join us in praying for this)
• Legalism is from the pit. Religiosity keeps people from Grace. Is it worse to be accused of being a legalist or someone who offers too much grace? I’m going for broke with grace.
• When I am away from my kids, my heart physically aches for them. Is this how it is with God when my heart is away from Him? I think so…
• What is it about me that makes me so uptight sometimes at all the insignificant things? What if the small stuff didn’t rob us of serenity?
• If this earth is not my home, why do I live as though it is?
• I wish people would stop apologizing for their tears. Who decided that tears are so offensive? Tears speak to something deep within…they tell what we value. Can you know me if I don’t show you my tears?