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 communicate to ourselves and others what we deeply value. Our tears speak to this 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 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 my unbelief!!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Brennyn Grace Swain is Here!

We are so blessed to announce the arrival of Brennyn Grace. She was born last night, May 19, at 10:27 pm. She is 8 lbs and 5 oz. She and mommy are both healthy and resting well.

Right now, Grammy, Big Daddy, Jacson, Ellie Faith, and Savannah are here at the hospital enjoying this Grace gift from God. We are overwhelmed!

More later...celebrate this with us! To God be the Glory Great Things He Has Done!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009


It is not good for us to walk alone...we are made for relationship. I have found that God's manifest love and grace often is visceral through community...deep on life...sharing and caring for each other's burdens.

3 months ago, Lindsay and I opened up our home to a group of people who have desire to "show up" with the truth of our lives. There's lots of fear...but the desire for it is bigger than what often causes us to run from each other with our pain and shame and pose with how "ok" or "fine" we are.

One of my brothers shared this with our community today (not sure where he read it):
When Scripture talks about Church, it means community. The little fellowships of the heart that are outposts of the Kingdom. A shared life. They worship together, eat together, pray for one another, go on quests together. They hang out together, in each others homes. When Peter was sprung from prison " he went to the house of Mary the mother of John" where the church had gathered to pray for his release (Acts12:12).
Another description of the early church: "All believers were one in heart" Acts 4:23. A camaraderie was being expressed, a bond. It means they all loved the same thing, they all wanted the same thing, and they bonded together to find it, come hell or high water.

We are so blessed by this group...I wanted you to meet them. This was taken on our back deck...crazy that we get to be outside!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spring is Here...Among other things

It has been quite awhile since I've posted...thanks for your patience. I am hoping to get a couple posts up a month, but that hasn't been the case the last two. I've encouraged Lindsay to write some....hopefully soon.

Today is bright blue skies and 58. We are finally out of the snow! 7 months is a LONG winter. April is called "breakup" here...when all the snow melts and the ice melts away. We have been told that things bloom here in May...over the course of one week, the entire city goes from brown (where it is now) to green.

People "down south" are always so intrigued by the light and darkness here. Currently, the light is coming up around 5 AM and it gets dark right at 10 PM. It's weird getting used the daylight in the summer months. We are about 2 months away from the longest day, when it gets dusky and then the sun comes up again. Last summer, we taped black plastic over our windows. This summer, we are going to invest in some blackout blinds.

The biggest news right now is the coming birth of Brennyn Grace. Lindsay's due date is May 15, but all of our kids came early. Really, any day could be "baby day." We are hoping to get to that the kids can have their own month. Jacson is Feb...Savannah is March...Ellie is April... Additionally, my mom and dad will be here for 2 weeks on May 12. It would be ideal for Brennyn to come when they are here to help.

Jacson has 3 weeks left in 2nd Grade. He has had a great year here. He will be starting soccer will Ellie...her first run at youth sports. She still runs like a little princess with her hands at her shoulders floating up and down. I've been working with her though...teaching her how to pump those arms to get more speed. (smile)

Savannah is chilling...oblivious to the fact that her world is about to be rocked by not being the baby anymore...should be interesting.

I'm still blessed to be walking with people at our church. I enjoy the simplicity of my be available those who are hurting and hungry for hope and grace. I'm also now on the teaching team...preaching once a month. You can listen in if you like at

Hope this note finds you well. Let us know how things are going in the "Lower 48."


This is Savannah...sludging through melting snow...looking for eggs...wearing a sun dress, heavy coat and snow boots...with her halloween bucket.

This is me and my buddies making up on top of bird hike of my life!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Learning a New Definition of Spring

I heard that it snowed in Nashville today. That's sweet. We got some yesterday too...another foot. We are adjusting to what spring really means here in Alaska. It means longer days (we are 7 am to 7 pm now) but not warmer days. Spring up here lasts about a week sometime in they say.

Thought I'd share a photo of us last weekend at the zoo. We had fun pulling the kids through the zoo on a sled.

Spring Break is in a week...I'm taking the week off. Not sure what we are doing yet...probably just finding day trips and family excursions to enjoy.

We are grateful for a new home fellowship group that has begun in our home on Sunday evenings. We are committed to bringing the truth of our stories...being available to walk together in an environment that is free from posturing and posing...believing in radical grace and holding onto radical hope.

Lastly, can you feel it? March 1 today. Let the madness begin!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Jacson is 8!

We are praising God for our little boy, Jacson. He is a kind-hearted an compassionate little guy who is learning who He is and how much Jesus and his family loves him.

Thank you Lord for my son. We celebrate his 8 years of life.

We had a party for him yesterday...took 4 of his little buddies to a jump zone deal here in Anchorage and came home for pizza and cake. Lindsay even made him a really good soccer cake.

What Are We So Afraid Of?

Fear. Something most of us feel very uncomfortable admitting to. I don't want to appear weak...I don't want admit I need help...I don't want you to really know me because if you really knew me... So, in light of the fear of judgment or the fear of failure, we can tend to be vague about who we are or how we are doing. Or worse, we lie about who we are what we are doing. Ever go to church with a plastic smile on your face when you just had a fight with your kids or spouse that morning? Ever show up in a small group bearing the weight of some burden, but unwilling to tell those who love you about it?

I have a burden for followers of Jesus to step into the light of God's grace and begin trusting the healing power of it. We sing songs of God's healing and his love setting us free, but do we really believe what we are saying? So many of us carry false guilt and toxic shame around that has already been forgiven and "cast as far as the east is from the west." (Psalm 103)

I have a burden for followers of Jesus to live in community without the fear of being known. To live in the light with each other (I John 1) and help carry each others burdens. (Galatians 6) But here is the deal, for me to help carry someone's burden, they have to be willing to tell me what that burden is and not say "I'm fine" every time I ask them how they are doing. And I have to be willing to do the same thing. Yes, I still have to carry my burdens but you helping me lightens my load and reminds me I'm not alone.

I desire to be in community with others that embrace simplicity, humility, and truth telling. A community that lays down the pressure to impress each other and hide from one another. A community that follows in the way of Jesus...embracing a relational and missional mindset for the Kingdom.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Girls Are Back!

It's been awhile since I've updated the blog...that's because I've been in survival mode the past 2 weeks. Lindsay and the girls got out of the cold and dark and enjoyed some much needed sun and longer days down in SoCal. Jacson and I held the fort down up here in Anchorage. We didn't get to go to Laguna Beach, swim in an outdoor pool (there are none here), or enjoy Disneyland; but we did hit the movies, a minor league hockey game, an indoor climbing gym, a jump zone, and go on a hike.

It was LONG two weeks and I'm so very thankful that are back home with us. I receive the blessing of my wife and kids so humbly and thankfully. It's overwhelming to me how much I love them. And there's just something indescribable about being on your knees at the airport watching your 4 year old and 2 year old run into your arms.

Quick update on other things:

Ministry is relational for me and I am enjoying the time the Lord gives me to come alongside people along their journey. It is such a gift for me to comfort others in the ways that I have been comforted. (I Cor. 1) The contexts for these relationships are time spent in my office or at coffee shops and through 5 different support/recovery groups I'm leading this semester.

The days are getting longer. I noticed today for the first time that it wasn't totally black when I dropped off Jacson at 9 AM. Uggghhh. In just one more month, we'll be back to 7 am to 7 pm daylight.

Lindsay is feeling much better this trimester. We are almost to the last trimester and find ourselves saying, "Brennyn is going to be here before we know it." May 15 is the due date.

Until next from Swain's from the Last Frontier.