Thursday, December 13, 2012

TheCall Geneva

never being apart of an event like the call i didn't really know what to expect. i've been around the gateways beyond crew long enough to know what i was getting into when accepting the invitation to come and help with the worship. lou engle has spoken at my home church before, i've seen him on video clips, and i even saw him on a documentary called jesus camp a few years back. he is very passionate and very real. if you ever get the chance to talk to him or see him you will meet very few like him.

my buddy allyster and i left early on friday morning to fly to geneva, switzerland to be a part of the call. one reason we were targeted was because of our ministry to the francophone world. it might come in handy to know the french speaking people when calling them to a solemn assembly.

first let me just confirm geneva's beauty. it truly is a magnificent city and i wish i had been able to visit and tour the entirety of geneva. that leaves room for next time i guess. it was very clean, very clear, but very expensive. it puts brussels in a completely different perspective. switzerland uses the swiss franc as currency and it is .82 euros to the franc. however, they have a hike in price of nearly 30% making a standard cup of coffee at 5 swiss francs nearly 4 euros! the euro to dollar is already bad. the franc to u.s. dollar is about the same but you are still paying 5 dollars for a small cup of coffee. i skyped with my wife one evening and told her i was thankful the lord has not called us to switzerland.

the new people we worked with were beyond amazing. matthieu, remi, audrey, and joel just to name a few. i love making new connections with people who are passionate about the lord and yet they don't get the center stage/spotlight nearly enough. they are the one's who do the dirty work that most people don't want to do and they excel at it. they make an impact in people's lives because of their christ-like character. these are the ones that i walk away from the banqueting table feeling like i've met, face to face, the inspiration behind the story of the good samaritan.

over all i was deeply moved by the things i saw. you don't see europeans get excited about god much. this assembly broke that stereotype. i am so excited to see this happen all over europe!

please be in prayer for a move of god in the european nations. i know you get that request a lot from me and maybe a few others here but i implore you to please not grow tired of this assignment. as long as i can pay the bills and feel god's direction for my family over here i will stay. it is a struggle getting europeans to move from their status quo and express a deep longing for change without it coming off as emotional hype. the majority just don't express themselves that way. i am longing for a desperation for god's presence to flow from their heart out of their senses.

Monday, December 3, 2012

excited

i am excited about many things. 

i am excited to have found a house for my family. 

i am excited to have gained a severe amount of interest in the training school we are starting here in brussels. 

i am excited to enter a new season with a renewed sense of purpose. 

i am excited about seeing my new little man's personality bloom

i am excited to be able to do what god has purposed me to do

i am excited to have a strengthened sense of faith in god's provision.

there is still so much i know god is doing in me and through me. i am excited to see the things god has in store for me in 2012 unfold over these last few weeks.

get excited because jesus paid for it!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

giving thanks


happy thanksgiving to all of you "uh-mericans!" this is such a great day with lots of tradition for many families. it reveals the truth of the value of tradition. not just doing the same thing over and over because you have to but because you WANT to.

consider it a blessing to have a day set aside specifically for giving thanks. may the door swing wide open for our next great holiday.

i now officially give everyone permission to start the christmas music, the decorating and weight gain.

love you all
the lowries

Monday, November 19, 2012

amazing like that

i can remember waking to the news of god doing a work in someone else's life and it resulted in provision for me. there have been so many moments in my life where i had been in tears asking god for provision and asking him for some kind of miraculous breakthrough in order to accomplish something or fulfill an obligation. just as i would pray those words out to him, the very next day i would wake to news of someone, somewhere feeling the urge to bless me or my family in some capacity that was directly related to my petitioning.

god is amazing like that.

what is also true is provision coming from the most unlikely source, or the most unthought of location. even this last trip i had to the states, i felt sure i would see such breakthrough for personal support for what liz and i are doing in belgium. i knew i had some great conversations as i laid my head down to sleep at the end of the day. most of the breaking news of provision while i had been gone was from people in other parts of the world; people i had not even directly connected with while on this particular trip to the states.

god is amazing like that.

i firmly believe god is watching over me and my family. these are the simple and small lessons that are daily reminders in the "god story," (as dutch calls it) the book we read together before bed.

sometimes i have been apart of the greatest provision but fail to see it as such. when my wife and i moved over here to belgium, we had a great plan and it looked feasible. it really was a no brainer from my perspective. however, a week out it seemed things needed to be different and change. the provision of liz's employment now seemed to be more or less a curse from my perspective. i struggled with the genuine calling to be in the land and if this was what i was really meant to be doing. she was in a completely different role than we had planned and even for her the new role was a shift from how she was to operate and function in the company. this new role was actually a "highly" recommended opportunity from her supervisor. long story short...her old position and most of the employees in that department were cut and the department went through massive reduction.

our view of provision is very, VERY one-sided, most of the time. our scope is limited and the big picture escapes our plans in some circumstances. however, i must remember there is ONE who sits on a throne and governs the entirety of life. his provision is HIS provision and may not always align with my way of doing things. if we are to be excited and rejoice in the provision that feels warm and cozy and makes a way for our circumstances to flourish the way we want, we must also cherish the moments of provision even in the midst of great pain and difficulty as it might call us into a season we are dreading. sometimes what we think is best is only something that is good. we might be able to survive, we might be able to get along, but i think this will only prove to be tolerable at best. however, HIS provision supersedes "good," it transcends "tolerable." his provision is BEST and submission to his will will only go to show you through a transformed heart and mind that...

god is amazing like that.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

au revoir carlsbourg

bittersweet. that was pretty much how i felt for this convention de jeunesse 2012. this isn't the last year that c-j will be taking place but is the last year in carlsbourg.

it is bittersweet due to the fact that i gained so much revelation the first year i attended c-j in this facility. the memories and discussions of the eerie feelings of haunted hallways and our plans of strategic get-a-ways in case of a zombie attack. not to mention i love youth camps and the whole youth conference feel. and yet, this facility is so old and outdated. it will be nice to move to a newer facility that can handle the growing demand of youth wanting to attend. it will also be nice for a facility to have adequate sleeping conditions.

it takes you a while sometimes to get to know something. since our first year in 2008, i feel as though i finally got to know this facility and now that i know it we are moving to another location for next year. but make no mistake, i will never forget this place. 200820092011


i'm already looking ghostly





this wasn't at c-j











Monday, October 22, 2012

refresh

it's the first week home from the states and it's a brick wall of reality. having familial responsibilities is not for the careless or the casual, but that is not what this is about.

i had such an amazing time in the states this last trip; so many new people and new faces to talk to and necks to hug. i was by myself this time and knew this was going to be a trip that i had to "get stuff done," i felt like i did just that.

visiting my home church and attending the annual missions gathering i was battling frustration and disappointment, there was much for me to be discouraged about. however, i knew god was interested in something different. i asked god to provide for me an attitude that reflected his pleasure and provision in the land of belgium, because really, god is doing so much. i wanted this attitude to be genuine and sincere...people can smell fake.

god was more than abundant in his provision of refreshment and joy.

every service,
every message,
every coffee meeting,
every speaking engagement,
every new face,
every morning at my parents house
every tex-mex bite,
every driving opportunity in my parents convertible with the top down

there was a renewed since of purpose and vigor as i was filled with a greater passion to accomplish what god has called me to do. never-the-less, my confidence needs to rest in god's sense of direction and his desire for the land that i serve in today. my confidence cannot rest in anything apart from his faithfulness. his faithfulness will always result in my refreshment.

for the lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.
proverbs 3:26

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

evaluation of the baby situation pt 2

it was a waiting period. the only difference from the waiting that took place in a state side hospital was that this room felt like we were waiting literally while on the sun's surface. i didn't mind waiting so much because the anticipation of a whole new life completely removed that frustration that comes with being forced to wait. while i waited i took advantage of the internet as soon as i could to enjoy a little texas rangers baseball.

actually, the way this whole search for the "wireless password" began was i had a monster energy drink that i had purchased for the explosion meeting. usually these all day events drain me by the time the meeting is actually supposed to begin so a little pick me up is appreciated. however, at this particular moment at the hospital my energy drink had began to heat up, as everything else did in that inferno of a room, and therefore rendered my beverage too unbearably warm to consume. it seriously was like a sauna in there. you may be able to drink a coke at room temperature but i dare you to drink a red bull or monster energy drink at 90 degrees.

the same shirt that welcomed dutch, titus, and now baby finn
i searched for a nurse to retrieve me a fridge and the wireless password so that i could access twitter and inform the very anxious grandmas from all the way around the world about the happenings. upon asking for a fridge she quickly gave me the look as if to suggest she knew american's spoiled rotten nature of needing a lot of ice and free refills. the answer to the fridge was a quick, "no we don't have that" and i would only be able to retrieve the wireless password when i had a room registered to me. i found said room which had a fridge in it and quickly moved the stuff in order so that i could find entertainment. this fridge, even at maximum cooling capacity would be useless but i still gave it a shot. around 9pm belgian time i not only was able to enjoy my beverage but the rangers as well.

nearly 45 minutes later liz began the process of multiple contractions that were very painful. the strength of that woman as she clenched my hand ever 30-45 seconds. after nearly an hour of this i didn't know what to do. i wanted to call a nurse in and tell her to check on liz but i didn't want to leave her either so i waited. finally a nurse came in and i tried to aggressively nudge with my vocal tone that my wife need to be attended to by a medical professional. she checked and sure enough liz was ready to push this nugget out. the nurse said she was going to go call the doctor, i knew this meant i wouldn't see anyone for another hour for sure.

the chair in the far corner folded out to a rather comfy bed
surprisingly 5 minutes later the doc came in and they stared sliding stuff around, turning directional lights on, shifting the bed at the footboard, getting the warmer on, and of course, suiting up...oh, and that trash can looking thing was wheeled over as well. i had some experience in helping liz before with this sort of thing so helping her breathe and count was easy enough. and  before you knew it, all of a sudden voila! baby finn comes out 10 minutes before the 19th of august. it really was only about 15 minutes of pushing.

overall the staff was awesome, the room wasn't too bad in size, the bed was great for me, privacy and noise was superb. so i would say that if you are thinking about having a baby in belgium...go for it. oh, but make sure and have some money to pay for it or have insurance.

now we are balancing 2 young boys and a new born. i have been really trying to tend to all the boys needs while liz focuses completely on baby finn. sleep is a commodity that is as valuable as gold around these parts.

we will persevere!!!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

evaluation of the baby situation pt 1

liz had come home from her doctor's appointment and kind of casually revealed her doctor's thoughts on lowrie number 3.

"the dr. said that she would be surprised if i didn't have this baby this weekend."

it went into my brain but it didn't really register as a possibility. actually the thought that came to me was that i have an explosion service tomorrow so hopefully it comes late that night. liz would have another appointment the next day (saturday the 18th) so that the doctor would make another evaluation of the baby situation. both of my other boys were late so to have one early was new to me and therefore the urgency of it all escaped my conscious.


the next day was a big deal because of the explosion service and possibly the birth of lowrie number 3. i felt it so i tweeted it.


as you can see this was on the day before his entrance.

waking up on the 18th my honest thoughts were, "please baby finn wait until late tonight." i really wanted to be apart of the worship service and carry my weight in the meeting. we were doing a new stage design and playing new songs and i was excited to do this.

this is without the lights on by the way
the whole day of course i had to just plan like i was going to do the service...set-up, rehearse, interact, pray, and then play the guitar. well...someone had other plans. at 2pm i had everyone who had a phone on alert and ready to receive a call incase i would not respond promptly enough. the dr said contractions that are 10 minutes apart consistently for at least one hour is reason to come in.

that call came about 430pm and it hit me like the police car lights flashing in the rear view mirror...oh my goodness! except i knew i wasn't in trouble.

i grabbed all my stuff and headed to the house. thanks to christophe vandeput for the prompt ride to my house to get my wife and go to st. elizabeth's hospital (how appropriately named).

now, here i need to mention that this was already one of the hottest days of the summer so combine excitement with the heat and NO a/c in the car and you have for yourself the perfect cocktail of sweaty back and butt.

this is our car, dash, literally right in front of the hospital
upon our arrival of the hospital, i remembered how we were told that even in the case of a baby you are not given a refund for your parking. here in europe they charge for

EVERYTHING!

there are just a few spots that are right in front of the hospital on the street and not behind the gated area. lucky me, lucky me as the parking spot gods were smiling upon me.

never having to rush to the hospital i didn't know what kind of time we had. did i need to leave the stuff in the car? do i need to grab a wheelchair? did i need to phone ahead? i abandon all of these thoughts and began the trek up to the 2nd level maternit√© luggage in tow.

this long hallway to the birthing room resembled that of an old western ghost town. it was quiet and dark. i found out why the reason for low lighting...less heat generated. this birthing room was equipped with cheapest a/c unit known to man, otherwise known as the window. this system literally made the lynn lowrie sweat shop seem like the arctic pole.

don't let the look of a ghost town fool you in these parts. it doesn't mean they are not busy but rather that they are not prompt. we played the waiting game for a few hours as the contractions grew worse and worse. thankfully the excitement of an early, european style birth drowned all the excuses to complain about the temperature or lack of prompt service. if you know liz, you know she gets cold in even the sahara desert. for her to not be wearing a sweater gives you a clear indication that we were dealing with heat. not to mention that a tired, worn out, contracting woman who is NOT lying down in the bed because said heat would cause this to be a tub birth experience.



Monday, August 6, 2012

lets call it dash

there is a wonderful new addition to the lowrie household. no, i am not talking about a little soul...yet.

it so fun and exciting to see god provide something right before your very eyes. this whole process of provision has been an adventure that will forever mark my heart.

it was a big deal. when liz and i moved here there was so much shifting that took place. even the very week when we moved liz had to change job posts, we weren't able to move into the location we originally thought was available for us and so many little detailed changes took place which far too many really to get into at this time.

a huge reality was not having a vehicle to commute daily to the things that were going on around us. thankfully we moved into a situation where our team was very understanding and able to accommodate us in our transportation needs (GO TEAM 9TH HOUR!!!).

soon enough we found our groove and those little cultural shortcuts that made life much, much easier. the bus became my friend with my boys as we would take it every morning to dutch's first school. similarly, the train was liz's friend as she rode it over and over until she figured the belgian system. it really become fun for me as the boys' faces would light up at every train riding opportunity.

there is no cool way to spin it...i have a station wagon
when the school dutch was attending informed us that they would not be continuing the next year we had very little options. we, along with our team's kids, put dutch into another school that is not too far away but still required a good walk. dutch became good at a little pedal-less bike that he rode as i pushed tites in the stroller every morning to to school. this routine was working well in the months that were temperature friendly. however, once the winter began to settle in we had to take our transportation to another level...i got a bike and a little kid trailer to pull them. we tucked it with blankets and i packed them both in very tightly with coats and hats. me, i had quite a few rides where i was glad my boys couldn't hear my frustrations venting. it was a good time for me as i poured out my feelings on needing a vehicle. well, god heard...per usual.

we saved and saved every penny we could. we asked and asked everyone we knew to ask for help. i didn't want to borrow money for a car. i have taken that road before and i was not in a place financially to rely on the payment being there. call it lack of faith, call it extreme faith, call it whatever you want but i kind of took pride in the suffering.

the tape deck was essential for iPod usage
anyway, we finally came up with an amount that would get us something decent. maybe not brand spanking new, but decent to last us and get us from point a to point b. i had been giving guitar lessons to a young man in the youth group and this was raising some money. his father who is originally from iran, was always asking me about a car and telling me that i needed to get a bmw 520 series. that sounded nice, but not realistic.

one day after many, many, many emails to many individuals i found a car online that was a bmw and looked ok for our budget. we called and set an appointment up to go look at it. i knew nothing about bmw's much less the belgian system of buying cars (there are some things that are slightly different). i called my best belgian friend, jon vandeput, and the guy who always told me to get bmw's, ahmed. they both came with me to look at this car. it turned out to be a bust. on the way back home as i was taking ahmed home he turned to me and said, "zach, do you really want to buy a car?" i was taken back a little because i wasn't sure what he thought we WERE JUST DOING. i emphatically replied, YES!" we went to a garage in a little town close to waterloo called braine l'alleud (bren-lah-luh). we walked into this little lot area that was hidden off the main road and there were quite a few cars being sold there. i held in my deck of cards the trump card that was going to get me the deal i needed...a middle eastern man. ahmed, was gold i tell you, GOLD!

we walked into this place and everyone knew him by name and he was like their long time family member who didn't come around unless he needed something. as we walked around looking for a car in my price range of 2500 euros (about $3000) i found this gem. i asked ahmed about it and he said, "is this the one?" i said nervously, "i don't know." it was a lot of money that i had saved for a long time and i didn't want to throw it away. ahmed said let me take care of it. the dealer said it was 2000 euros but with passed inspection. i could over hear ahmed telling the guy to come down and make a better price. the guy came down to 1850 but without inspection. ahmed, again, i could tell, was looking the guy in the eye and very emphatically told him to "come on!" the guy said ok with inspection 1850.

YES!!! it happened, i got it! i was so pumped and came home to tell the family the good news. after a couple of weeks of back and forth (it didn't pass inspection the first time but ahmed told them to fix the problem and they did) i finally took the boys to the garage and drove home in our very own car.

on the way there i was asking the boys, because they too shared the excitement, "what shall we name our car?" dutch replied, "mcqueen" (after the character in the disney cars movie). i didn't think it was a good name. he then changed his mind and said, "no, lets call it dash!"

perfect.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

take the nuggets but give me jesus

weapons of warfare are not typically reserved to a particular entity involved in the combat. you will not find knives given to the bad guys while the good guys are given guns and vice versa. this is what makes super heros so great and admired because they have this transcending element that enables them to not require instruments made by human hands in order to defeat their opponent (for all of us followers of the way say amen). we all love the defeat of the enemy and the triumph of good against the odds.

with this understood, you can be assured, if you are wanting to engage in combat, there is a strong chance that your enemy will likewise be using the same weapon that you are using to fight the battle against you. you really shouldn't be surprised by this. in fact, you're a fool to suspect otherwise.

this is why as a follower of christ and a believer in his sanctifying work on the cross, paul writes to the members of the ephesian church urging them to fight using a different weapon because the adversary is of another realm (ephesians 6:12-18).

there is warfare taking place and thus weapons are used to engage in this struggle. i am challenged daily to ask myself which weapons am i using to fight this war.

as a citizen of the greatest nation on the face of the earth i am proud to study the historical body of work that outlines how my nation has gained what it now possesses. much of what i have is because men fought, poured blood, gave family and property, in order to make freedom a reality for themselves and generations that followed. this cause is great and daily under-appreciated.

however great the cause is it still falls short of divine. it represents a great shadow, but fails to accomplish my souls greatest need. it fails to meet anyone's greatest need of redemption. the constitution, the bill of rights, or any other document will ALWAYS fall short. a culture war might be won by such a document. a battle to back a particular legal position might appropriately be able to utilize the principles in ink of our great founding fathers and their handiwork. using the language of "rights as an american" is NOT language used in the kingdom of god. in fact you might find the citizen of the kingdom of god standing opposite, as it is outlined in matthew 5.

you will not be able to fight a spiritual battle ever with the constitution of government. even if it is the government of the greatest nation on this earth.

1. imagine if every one of those individuals who went into chick-fil-a to get food to support mr cathy's right would have given even half of what they spent at chick-fil-a to their local church?

2. imagine if the church had the traffic problems chick-fil-a had with people wrapped around the building and officers there to direct the flow of traffic into the parking lot.

3. imagine if we could love righteousness as much as we love chick-fil-a sandwiches (or if you are me, those wonderful nuggets).

4. imagine if we could faithfully minister to the lost as boldly as we stand up for our "rights." regardless if they want jesus and his definition of marriage or not.

this isn't a john lennon song, this is watching my nation, from the outside in (living in belgium), mobilize for a cause they believe in. i am confused as to which cause they were even fighting...free speech, or immorality?

i believe the cause was free speech because...
-no one, in their right mind, would wait that long for lunch. especially in a land that hails of the fastest food provided.
-no one has changed their perspective on gay marriage today that had the same perspective as they did august 1st when they went into chick-fil-a.
-no one is going to exclusively eat at chick-fil-a the rest of their life.

i love the u.s.a and the freedoms it provides to its citizens. mr. cathy's statement and position concerning marriage is one that i share. i believe in his right to say it and think it is absurd how the idea of tolerance is out of balance. i also EXPECT the lost people of the united states to approach christianity using the instrument of law and the constitution. therefore i expect in the arena of same sex marriage for them to present the case through the angle of civil rights. that is how immorality becomes justifiable to the lost...through the law (isn't that twisted?). but i do not wish to engage in a war with lost people using carnal weapons because what it accomplishes is the bolstering of more pride. please don't see this is as condemnation against the many who plea for a righteous government and intercede on behalf of our president, congressman, and those who work to keep jesus as the center of this nation in the political field.

if we are going to fight morality with the law we are ALL condemned. that is why jesus came...because we couldn't fight morality with righteousness. so lets put away this carnal, american, ideology of our "rights." an action to voice/proclaim your right to have rights and the opposite side of this particular battle of immorality both carry the same heart issue...pride and idolatry.

when i get back to the states i am going to have chick-fil-a nuggets and i will also enjoy a cup of coffee from starbucks, but not together, thats gross.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

better and newer

this was an exciting night for me. i hadn't led worship in a while and so i had this golden opportunity to stretch myself ministerially. i rode my bike to the train station got on the 1657 towards anvers central. this enabled me to get plenty of time to go over my songs i was leading before the encounter service.

the service went great and i sang my heart out. the service ended and i got back on the metro to head to central train station. took the train to the waterloo station and found that my bike had been stolen!

the old bike with the seat on back
i was crushed. it was only a bike but nevertheless i had some memories with this bike. i poured a lot of my guts and sweat into it. it is the bike i took dutch to school on in the trailer and the whole winter in below freezing weather i gave god an earful about how i needed a car and that me riding a bike was unfair.

it was the bike that we got the child seat for so that when #3 came we could fasten him in it and i would  ride around with dutch and tites on their bikes. i actually took dutch to school on the seat a few times because it was way easier to take him in the little seat than the trailer. he would wear his sunglasses, helmet and hold onto his backpack while i cruised the rue de la station towards his school.

so this bike had more memories than value and that made me a little frustrated. i remember praying the whole walk home from the station, "lord please just cause my bike to be in the closet at the apartment" (our apartment has a storage closet for bicycles).

the thing is that all the pieces that fastened to the trailer and the bike seat were ON the bike. now i have to hunt down the companies that sell the products to find the spare parts because we have the seat and trailer in the storage closet downstairs. so i was annoyed about this as well.

i tweeted it immediately when i got home (some of you may recall). i really went to bed that night with peace because i knew we were close to getting a car and so i was thinking of god's provision for this. the next day i awoke to amazing news of donations for a bike.

it is just like the old one but better and a newer model.
and here it is:







































































Friday, July 20, 2012

my worst nightmare

you want to know what my worst nightmare is? not actually getting to find out what happens at the end of my nightmare.

i know that sounds weird but let me explain...

i have noticed over the course of my adult life i require certain pillows to sleep with. recently i have enjoyed sleeping with two pillows so that my body can have a 90 degree angle with one leg propped up over one of the pillows. i didn't always do this but since i have started, i've noticed a great deal of relief on my back. especially since my day usually consists of walking...lots of steps.

another thing i have noticed is the kind of pillow i lay my head on. it CANNOT be those memory foam pillows. the moment i started sleeping on those i can vividly recall the headaches and neck aches i would wake with only to endure pain throughout my entire day. consequently, going back to the original style of pillow was the best thing i did for my sleep.

now something i have noticed as of recently is that my days are being filled more and more with a strong desire to collapse and take a nap around midday. i have been struggling to figure this one out. i am 31, decent eater, i exercise REGULARLY, and i go to bed in plenty of time. the other variables include things like when i need to wake up and what did i do that day, etc, etc. titus, my youngest, at this moment, is pretty regular in his wake up time...7-7:30. but i am not usually bothered by an early riser (unless it is the weekend) because i too, desire to rise early. so the fact that he sleeps until 7:30 is not that big of a deal. i should normally be up at this time.

what i can only attribute my frustration for the inability to rise early is one thing. being woken up in the middle of the night for anything has been revealed through science to destroy any ambition at an early wake-up call. i am serious. anytime i am woken from a very dead like sleep for anything, i have found my mornings to be extremely difficult and my mood to be very temperamental. it is spiraling out of control and i don't know how to stop it! and i have another kid coming...AHHH!!!

it is nobodies fault really. i just have kids, a pregnant wife, responsibilities, and a strong desire to pray and seek the lord early in the morning. lord, help me.

sometimes i find myself, after being woken up, trying to go back to sleep to pick up the story right where i was in the dream...even if it is a nightmare.

Monday, June 25, 2012

8 years

our first overseas journey as a married couple (denmark)
8 years ago, no wait, lets go back further...nearly 12 years ago there was a gathering that took place every tuesday night at my church in grand prairie texas. it was called seven. this was a gathering of your typical young adults who were still interested in the local church, graduated from high school, making the "next" step in their adult life, and if nothing else LOOKING FOR A SPOUSE.

personally, i was in the between phase of youth and the college crowd. not because i couldn't decide but because i was serving in both ministries and i loved working with youth. i still do. but this young adult crowd was full of the friends i had grown up through the youth group and now they were moving on, as most do.

there were many pretty girls that came and went through this ministry, i'm not gonna lie (even in this particular post). some had that appeal that made guys want to forget all they had planned and pursue that one as if she was an heiress to a billionaire's fortune. maybe some did, not me of course. many stories, many memories, many personalities appeared and illustrated a great pattern of god's handiwork. god was doing something inside me however, that i wouldn't know until these moments in my life.

then, one night, there was a visitor who was going to attend christ for the nations institute. she had moved from san marcos texas where she had graduated from texas state (formerly known as southwest texas). san marcos is a little town about 45 min south of austin off I-35. originally she hailed from alaska, i hadn't known this at the time. she was going to room with another girl that was a regular of the church and one of my friends.

i remember clearly the first night she showed up and the group of friends chatted in the hall casually as we always did. i promise, there was something different about this girl. they called her...liz. and i was intrigued to know her. alas, our "connection" would not take place at this moment and it wouldn't be but a few years later that things would get a little more serious.

one evening i was doing my duties as a driver for a local hotel. some of you may remember the embassy suites known as the "pink hotel." i was working a late shift which meant i wouldn't finish until  10pm. some friends were apparently meeting as liz's apartment for a movie and hangout. i received a call from this girl named liz with an invitation to attend. i informed her that i wouldn't get done with work until 10. she said they would still be there at that time. "ok, cool," i said, "i will see you then."

after that night there was a collision course of destinies that would end up in us getting married the next day!

...just kidding. it was a little while later that we tied the knot.

what makes my bride so amazing is not that she has been giving and giving, which she does.
it isn't her amazingly good looks that keep me locked into this covenant, which she has.
it isn't that she explores new and fantastic cooking recipes to make my taste buds dance, which they do.
it isn't her ability as a mother to steward children in a godly manner, as she has shown.
it isn't that she lays down her life for me even when i don't make it easy for her to do so, consistently.

what makes this covenant the most valuable is that...
she is firmly connected to the source of eternal giving.
she is connected to the source of the most blessed covenant giver.
she returns to the well of life that sustains her.
she moves with the voice of the lord and follows his direction before anything else.

i trust this connection more than i trust our personal connection and i wouldn't want it any other way. it is because of this connection she has with her maker that our matrimonial connection will last until death do us part.

i love you elizabeth...



Sunday, June 17, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

alone in grand place

last night at around 5pm i was blessed with the opportunity to get away downtown by myself. most of the time going downtown with the boys is not that big of a deal. their faces light up even with the suggestion. it means they can ride their bikes all the way to the waterloo train station and then ride a train all the way downtown. not having a car has its benefits while forcing us to use public transportation. public transpo humbles everyone. that is a totally different post.

last night i rode my bike to gare de waterloo, locked it up, took the 1657 towards anvers-central, and rode it for nearly 30 minutes to my spot downtown. unbeknownst to me the train actually terminated at gare du midi. there must have been train issues. this detour didn't bother me as i was on my own. actually it forced me to either get on another train or ride the metro to the stop arts-loi (french for art law), which would give me the transfer metro line to gare du centrale. i chose the metro and stopped at ave. louise for a possible meal. nothing was appealing so i got back on the metro to hit my original destination of grand place.

grand place has many many different eateries. many nations and cultures bring their style of cooking (except the mexican cuisine, which would be very advantageous for me and my crew). however, there is no other place like pita row. pita row is a street of greek style pita shops which are all fast and very tasty. not so much good for you as much as dora the explorer would say, "delicioso!" it can satisfy the hungriest of the hungriest. i sat down had my meal and watched the euro 2012 challenge on the tele. the whole street was full of excitement as italy and croatia were competing. what an atmosphere.

from there i walked towards the american embassy inside central station...STARBUCKS! had my usual, black coffee. i sat there and did what i love doing downtown...people watch. had my journal out, wrote down observations and prayers for the city and family. i will leave you with part of my entry:

i love being able to ride my bike to the waterloo train station and it being only a 5 min bike ride
i love being able to get on a train that gets me downtown in 30 min
i love having enough time to read a chapter of a book while on the trip to downtown
i love having a starbucks at central station so that i can sit and drink familiar coffee
i love that this is the meeting place for my wife and me
i love sitting at the station and watching the rush of people
i love walking a few meters out of the station into history and all that is magnificent of grand place
i love having a friterie of my own downtown
i love discovering new areas of this great city alone without fear or time limits
i love having famous pita row
i love you brussels

Friday, May 25, 2012

i hate this woman...


...having to take public transportation while being pregnant. it really has taken a toll on her. it does mean she works from home more which i can enjoy. however, she is unable to do much during the week and the moment she gets home from work, when she does go, she is wiped due to the walk from to the train station and back again.

i love her and actually think she is pretty hot and tempting sittin there all fine with her pregnant self. it taxes me in a different way as well coming from a culture (american, christian) that speaks loudly the male's role in the household. i am NOT in that role from that perspective. so it is rough mentally.

a car looks doable but still lacking in funds is holding us back from going with the best thing that becomes available. 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

more above the clouds

the knowledge of god and of his son jesus christ is obtainable. we search the scriptures for who he is and we call on the spirit to reveal him. however much we petition for this revelation we can still attest to our limited scope. we climb and climb; yet, there is more mountain top above the cloud line. i ask myself over and over every moment of temptation to compare my understanding with another's level of insight, "surely it mustn't be in the ability to achieve the highest level of wisdom as much as it is the actual pursuit of knowing him, right?" in other words...

its the journey AND the destination right?

obtaining the level of some of my literary heros or some of my friends may never happen. i am ok with that. i am not ok with, however, having this desire to know god on a deeper level, than i know now, and doing absolutely nothing about that desire. between a self righteous religious zealot and a young man who is hungry and doing everything to find the true nature of god, give me the young man every time. i would rather walk in a relationship with some one who is active in their pursuit of knowing god on a deeper level, realizing mistakes, persevering through hard realities, accepting the justice of god despite what the world teaches, and teachable. more so than one who will not budge upon a fresh move of the spirit to know him on a deeper level.

reading through 2 peter i found these truths in verse 2 of chapter 1. the author is requesting that grace and peace be multiplied to the one in pursuit of knowing god more and his son more. lord knows we are quickly throwing in the towel and giving up upon the first obstacle proving to change us from our self righteousness. knowing god's standards, his purpose, his direction, his peace, his love, his desires, and his wisdom not for our lives only but for the community in which we operate.
knowing him...

1. it's a participation on my part. i will be actively engaging in ways to know him more than what i am doing now. my activity is all motivated by his glory (verse 3). not more programs, but more as in growth, and a deeper pursuit. this is a personal struggle on a personal level. ask yourself, "what level is my participation in getting to know him? could i be doing something more/else that would grow me in achieving greater knowledge of who he is and bring him greater glory?"

2. it's a devotion to his standards. it's a devotion to what he has placed on the earth to be; unmovable and unshakeable. this proves to reveal your absolute need for him as more constant than the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. the moment you cease to pursue, you will feel the longing and the appetite will rise. ask yourself, "do i purposefully look for inconsistencies in god's word? do i see a correlation between a lack of devotion and an increase in my appetite for a greater fulfillment?"

3. it's a manifestation of a life devoted and a life actively participating in pursuing god. your life will reflect to the world around that you are indeed a follower of god and hold to his son as the way the truth and life. you will manifest his radiance and his glory. a life that does not manifest this is one that can be questioned as to what its greatest devotion belongs. ask yourself, "what is the fruit of my labor? is my fruit producing glory to god or is it removing glory from him?"

i needed this today...but then again i need it everyday.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

less manipulation

within the depths of my heart you would find a longing for a continual flame to burn. the flame that just seems to slowly tenderize my passion for the lord in every area of my life. all aspects, all words, every action, and every reaction i eagerly anticipate to become consumed with this fire until my entire being is formed to the image my creator intends.

often times, as a worshipping aspect of the ministry, it is a risk going into an opportunity not knowing anything about the partners in ministry, namely the speaker. there have been some very embarrassing moments as expectations of what the speaker is desiring are completely misunderstood by the entire worship team. you can see it, sometimes you can feel it, and more times than not you can definitely hear it. it is frustrating to witness these awkward moments when it is completely apparent that the flow of the spirit is missed and the anointing in the service is dropped. please, as one believer to another, do not under appreciate or underestimate the power of the spirit's anointing. especially those of you who aspire to be involved in ministry that puts you in different places at a moments notice.

last weekend there was yet another clear demonstration of the value of this flame for the believer. traveling around and doing ministry in many different cultures, on different continents, with different people groups, age groups, all with theologies ranging across the board one thing must remain essential in order for the proper effect to take place. it is the move and flow of the anointing of the holy spirit that makes the work seamless and the connection between worship team and unknown speaker operate in unity. we witnessed this working in amsterdam this last weekend. not knowing the speaker from the barista at starbucks didn't seem to interrupt what god wanted to do in the lives of young people. all we needed was a look from him to know how loud to get, to change the dynamic, to go big, to go quiet and all of this as we are moving in the anointing that is poured out by the spirit in the moment. after the service chatting with the speaker his comment rang loud and clear with me, "it is so good to work with people who can sense the anointing and move with it." it was as if we had clearly communicated with him beforehand our song list, or style, and who was leading our team.

the greatness of the meeting was confirmed by the spirit and the anointing that flowed. the connection of words from the speaker and songs from the worship team were confirmed by the spirit and the anointing that flowed. the changed lives of the young people was done only through the work of the spirit and not the manipulation of the speaker or worship team as the anointing flowed.

praise the lord for such an opportunity. i thank him for granting me the eyes to see this magnificent demonstration of his power and gearing me up for the next great manifestation through the anointing of his spirit. my heart is highly anticipating his next move!


Thursday, April 19, 2012

daniel the cross

its weird to study particular events and find out how to properly respond to them and then actually apply what you study. as i was discussing my counseling and calling with someone today i began to realize what little things were placed in my path to increase my desire for the counseling profession. one thing that led to another and before you i knew it i was faced with the decision to actually pursue it as my personal calling.

a few weeks ago there was a young man who was living in amsterdam as a student in masters commission amsterdam noord. he, along with the other members of the team, went to moldova to do some missions work and serve one of the missionaries there. upon the return of the group he had some trouble re-entering the european union. he was from the united states and therefore had some visa issues and the officials at the border simply would not allow him in. his only option was to fly back to moldova to stay with the missionaries that hosted them. while there in moldova he had decided to take a shower in hopes that the steam would help relieve symptoms of a head cold. he had steamed the room so full that there had been an issue with his breathing and apparently he passed out and suffocated, all this according to the examiner. completely random to us finite individuals and an accident, but make no mistake god was fully aware.

needless to say, this traumatic event emotionally rocked the students. there was a much needed break from the regular routine and activity. because of our (ninth hour) close relationship with the director of the school we were able to minister to the group while they stayed in brussels. during their stay we led worship, taught, ministered, prophesied, and counseled the students through the week. it was very unfortunate in the reason they had to come to brussels but in this experience we came alive. the lord did some amazing things through the team as we ministered to the students.

particularly, i was able to apply those very things that i had learned in my studies to be a counselor in the states. one of the sessions i wanted to do was a grief sharing moment for the group as a whole (the group dynamic is essential to the exercise). this was a time that the students could share memories and thoughts about the young man who had passed. this proved to be very healing for most of them. there was not a quiet moment as the students reflected on first encounters and random thoughts that the young man had while interacting with the students. it was as if they could relive those times of getting to know him and they truly convinced me this guy was someone that left a positive mark on everyone who encountered him.

i came alive as i felt the healing anointing of the holy spirit in these moments with the students. the great thing is that i received some of this healing as well as god reminded me of the hunger he gave me many moons ago for individuals to live and walk through tough times yet allow god to actually grow their faith in him.

the students have been enormously encouraged throughout this last month and i was so happy to be apart of the journey. i am trying to make this as encouraging as i can while not just skimming over the fact that a well loved and magnificent individual has passed on to the place his soul was longing. paul, to the church in corinth, exhorts that "if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from god, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. for indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling in heaven...having put it on we will not be found naked" (2 cor. 5:1-3).

the director was able to go back to the states for a few days to take part in the memorial service. the parents, who are committed believers, had been talking with him about how they have been walking through this difficult time. the director of the school, upon talking with the parents, comforted them with the idea that after entering into god's presence as their son has, he truly would want that more than anything else in the world. i can only imagine how such an experience would be so great that we would be willing to not come back, if we had the option. being in god's presence is truly an AMAZING place to be. i recommend you spend all the time you can on this earth, here and now, in his presence.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

mr. mom

a few, but surely not the ONLY, things i have learned as a stay at home dad...


do not start a load of laundry unless you have room for the clothes to dry and the time to actually place them on the drying rack. they will only pile up in the closet, on the floor, or in your room getting all wrinkled. here in belgium i am finding out that it is common to not have a dryer and to use the local laundry mat. i think this option is good for us on occasion.













i personally have this theory that if the dish water in the sink is NOT at least warm, it is rendered useless in its job to clean. so the rule is similar to laundry; if you don't have the time right away to wash the dishes, don't start the water/soaking process. otherwise, the water gets cold and it feels gross and nasty to wash dishes with room temperature water.











floors are not on a regular rotation to be mopped. with the wife being pregnant and thus being tired quite often her vigilance is severely missed. me, on the other hand, i am not as tenacious in attacking the grime that builds up. so the lesson learned for me is that waiting to do the floors does not necessarily mean that the job will be easier. in fact, you use MORE energy scrubbing because you didn't do it last week and the grime seems to prove to be attached to the floor.










oh, and these guys are great housework music makers.

Monday, March 19, 2012

trailer go boom

without a car my mode of transportation for getting dutch to school is a bicycle with a trailer hitched on the back. these little devices are really kind of cool to think about and as a kid i think it would have been fun to ride in one of these. ideally, i do wish i had a car because there are a few months out of the year when the weather doesn't not lend itself to a favorable bike ride. we are now getting into the months when it is at the right temperature because it is not cold enough to where my face is a block of ice upon arrival but also i work up a good sweat so that i feel comfortable. the culture here in belgium too, is very kind to pedestrians and bike riders. when there is a trailer attached to a bike everyone in a car assumes valuables are in that trailer and they give the right of way almost every time. it really is not as hard as it may seem but waking up everyday and having no options but towing 50 lbs can be tiresome on me. especially when i am the only available person to take the kids to school.

this morning we had kind of a scare. i have been taking dutch school on a bike now for about 6 months and since i began i have shaved off 15 minutes of my travel time (per roundtrip as i go twice a day). what took me nearly an hour every day now only takes me about 45 minutes. this is due to me getting stronger in my legs, you should see my legs they are amazing ; ).

i was cruising along on my normal route and came to a straight-away on a road when the car in front of me suddenly stopped! i normally don't want to inconvenience anyone already so i try and ride as fast as i can when the number of cars in my vicinity seems more than other times. i have the gear on 1 and pedal my hardest. this particular time i locked the brakes pretty hard and could feel the trailer pushing me closer to the car. i was not in danger of hitting the car but instead thought it might be better to get up on the sidewalk area so that i could allow most of the cars behind me to pass. well the curbs here in belgium are not the smoothest to just hop up on to. hitting the edge of the curb with the right amount of force can bounce you pretty good. that is exactly what happened as i looked behind me to find that the trailer was completely upside down. i didn't drag the boys and was very grateful that the trailer has a good frame, like a jeep, so that it won't compress inward. it was scary, to say the least.

i quickly jumped off my bike and ran behind the trailer to turn it back on the wheels. the boys inside, of course, were crying and in shock. i too was hoping that nothing had happened to hurt them, but thankfully it only took a matter of seconds to calm them down and to stop crying so we could continue our journey onward to school. people who witnessed the event were stopping and asking if everything was ok. in my broken french i told them that things were fine. titus, as we arrived and were getting out of the trailer, was acting kind of excited about the whole event. he kept saying, "fast" and "big bumps," and continued on as his normal boisterous self running around and talking loud. dutch was a little more shaken up and was slowly pacing towards school not leaving my side. he wasn't hesitant but was NOT as excited as his younger more vibrant brother was.

thanks you lord for your traveling mercies indeed!

Monday, March 12, 2012

have this attitude

i can't get over how great the participation was at the conference this last week. nathan, jon, and i went to be consultants in sound and lighting at the masters commission conference in rome and there was such an amazing testimony to how humility crushes religion.

upon arriving in rome, we were told that the main auditorium would not be available for us to use. instead, we were to use a smaller room down below the main room. this was not what was previously arranged, but we humbly said ok we can do that.

upon seeing the lighting rig that was being brought in the pastor told us that he was going to invite his board/elders to the first night and if we did anything "inappropriate" we would not be able to continue our conference at his facility. we heard the word "disco-tech" peppered throughout the conversation (in italian). we said ok we will not go overboard.

we were told that we could not play any music that would prompt people to want to dance before the service and after. we said ok we will not play that music.

we were told that our original plan to set up on tuesday night was not possible because they had a service in our meeting room (which they failed to inform us) and that we could not set up until the day of the conference, which gave us very little time. thankfully we were experienced in flexibility and moments of little to no time for set-up. we said ok we can do that.

the night of the conference opening, the church had a service in their main auditorium and they started at 7:30pm. we were told we could not start until they were done and we had to be finished by 10pm. we knew this was next to impossible but our response did not echo our frustration and instead we honored his request.

much of what we were brought in to the conference to do was now almost completely diminished. we felt handcuffed in doing anything with a "spirit of excellence." but we knew that we wanted and needed to respect the pastor and his authority.

with the tension of the elders and the board all there the opening night what better way to show our frustration then to publicly from the microphone request all the students to show their support for the pastor by thanking him with applause for allowing us to be there and use his 50 million euro facility. we brought them up before the service started and honored him in front of everyone in attendance. the worship began, the praise resounded, the prayers were loud, and the hearts of 150 young men and women gave a beautiful illustration of the next generations hunger for the living god. so what were we going to hear the next morning from the pastor...

a humbling apology for his attitude towards the whole project. he genuinely felt terrible and apologized not once, not twice, but many times over the course of the next few days. he even told his staff to stop bothering him with every little thing they thought inappropriate and gave us full permission to do "whatever we wanted" throughout the remainder of the conference. in fact, after the first night he and his elders were taking pictures and asking for the contact information for the lighting company that rented us the gear. i had asked the guys who brought the equipment if they had ever rented this stuff to a church and they said "no." consequently, now, there is a connection with them that i know will re-shape a perspective of how church can be done on both fronts. it blows my mind what humility can accomplish. completely opposite to what the flesh says should be done about meeting opposition. i am still on this wonderful high of god's amazing good news which is all about humility.

philippians 2:3-5 says this...
do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each one of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also the interests of others. have this attitude in yourselves which was also in christ jesus...