Friday, August 30, 2013

mom and dad in belgium

this summer was such a wonderful experience for our family. we had been planning this for well over 6 months to have my parents come to our house here in belgium and for us to go visit liz's family in alaska.

before i begin, in the spring my dad had suffered a severe bicycling accident that would require major surgeries and rehabilitation. it put strain on the planning of their visit to our house here. he would be required to miss a lot of work. thankfully, he had put in the vacation spots for the days they were here at the beginning of the year so the trip wasn't effected by the need for many days off of work. however, due to his weeks of needed rest and rehabilitation he was forced to use vacation days and sick leave while not working. this meant that he had to take a short, unpaid leave while on vacation here in belgium. not cool.

still, it was cheaper for them to fly here, even while taking unpaid leave, then for my whole family (2 adults, 2 kids, and infant) to dallas. weird, i know. i wish flying was cheaper, as do most people who fly i am sure.

this was a huge trip for my dad. he had never been out of the united states. this required him to get a passport for the first time in his life. over 50 years without needing a passport! maybe that is not as big of a deal as i think it is but it sure seems amazing considering how much people move around these days.

there was so much anticipation. if you follow me on twitter, then you could attest to the many tweets concerning numbers and countdowns, we were so excited for them to be here. we had it all planned out, going to give them the belgian experience of the trains and food. the morning of their arrival we left the house around 7:30 on the train to go get them. we got to the airport and then it started to rain as we were headed home on the train. as soon as we got to the rhode train station i ran to my house to get the car. need less to say, it was not a great welcome to belgium experience. mom and dad were very tired and dad was hurting a little from soreness in his body due to the bicycling accident.

over the next two weeks we had so much fun. we visited our key spots, went downtown, visited the seaside, rode numerous trains, played in the parks, experienced el grecco, and had wonderful chats about life and things that are changing in the dallas area. i was so grateful for their presence in our house. for my dad it was also his first time to be able to hold and play with finn, our youngest.

liz and i got to celebrate our anniversary (month later) in amsterdam...WITHOUT KIDS!!! i was so excited to travel with my bride to amsterdam and get a wonderful 2 days with her all to myself.

next to the last night i had such a major breakdown. going down to my parents room i told them everything i felt. at times in my life over here i feel like i am hurting them because they are denied the times to be had with grand children; especially if you know my mom who loves them so much. i hate that. i told them i was sorry and really do wish it was different. my mom and dad both are confident i am doing what the lord is calling me to do over here in belgium. that is so pleasing to know and comforting.

i look forward to our next adventure together. hopefully they can make traveling to belgium an annual experience.

love you mom and dad.

Friday, August 23, 2013

finn and the fan

i remember the details of my kids sleeping experiences very very well. things for me were drastically changed upon the entry of children into my world. i was, before dutch, a morning person. i loved the mornings and getting up early studying and reading the bible. praying up at my office, which consisted of the church's coffee shop, which i operated. it wasn't uncommon for me to be the first one on campus while it was still dark and i would sit there filling my belly with americano style coffee. it was also during this time i gained a deep and great appreciation for ambient and instrumental style music. songs without words from the likes of hammock, helios, eluvium, and loscil, which would later expand into quite a collection for me.

that was me, before kids, and i was quite taken with this lifestyle.

when dutch was born, to say that things changed, is quite the understatement. sleep would become a deep craving and last for the next 4-5 years of my life, dutch gave way to titus and titus has now given way to finn. parents with young children can attest to my musings.

i have always been somewhat unconventional, it seems anyway, with my newborn kids NOT sleeping in my bed with me or even in the same room. living in belgium, having the luxury to accommodate this need has not been easy. space has proven to be difficult and my conventional ways have been tested.

finn has basically lived his existence in our room with my wife and me. it wasn't as bad in the beginning because he lived to sleep. as he got older, however, things changed and it seemed that the faintest of noises was as if we injected red bull into his veins. he would awake and believe that it was time to get out of bed. "oh, people are in here awake, it must be time to get out of bed," is the opinion i am sure finn had. so life with a kid in our room changed the way we unwind.

when a room became available it took no logical debate to convince my wife that our sweetest finn needs his own space. rhetoric guised in the language of his comfort when i really was the little baby in the situation who needed his own way. we proceeded to move finn into his own room and the night was transformed for the both of us. i discovered conversation with my wife again, i found my passion to read before bed slowly make its way through the door, and it seemed i could roll over in our bed without fear that the covers would sound like a torrential downpour of water over a cliff and disturb prince finnik liam the first. my love affair with sleep was rekindled! my life was transformed and so became my mornings.

"what about this fan," you say? oh, well now that the summers are here the heat in our room is the equivalency of finn standing in his crib crying for hours on end. i despise sweating while i am in the sleeping mood. the presence of a fan blowing and circulating the sweet coolness of the nightly air in our room makes for what i can only describe as the perfect ingredients for one of the lords most sacred commands...REST!!!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

oh no, i got to keep on moving

i have a really hard time forcing myself to stop working, or at least, thinking about work. i am constantly wondering, "what could i be doing that would build?" this plague is both a curse and a blessing in my perspective.

it really becomes challenging at times to force myself into playing or reading books with my boys. those things are without a doubt some of the most important quality time activities i could be doing with my kids. and honestly, when i am outside the moment, i am thinking how much i should be doing more with my boys.

proverbs 12:24 says the diligent find freedom in their work; the lazy are oppressed by work (msg). i would love to find the balance in all of this. the ability to turn off just enough to know that i am actually getting more done than if i kept on and wore myself out. this requires someone else. someone who is better than i am and someone who has more experience in life than i do.

that person is...


paul says in colossians, "everything got started in him and finds his purpose in him." this means that leaning on him isn't something i have to try, in order to find wholeness, it means, it is something i must do if i want my life to have peace.

when i am playing trains with my boys...peace
when i am reading books to them...peace
when i am praying with pastors and leaders...peace
when i am leading a congregation in worship...peace

there is no substitute and no replacement. jesus occupies the only place as the sustainer of creation without peers. if you, like me, struggle to find the off switch, rest in the unfailing peace of jesus. he too, is able to understand what it means to have a mind that is desiring success at every venture and the importance of every minute detail of our lives. the spirit will lead you into freedom and liberation in your work as you lean on him.

what i have found to help with a sense of peace is...

recognize the activity in your life that needs to be on the shelf. the things you need to say no to, at this particular time. i have heard it over and over and over, "just because it is good, doesn't mean it is god." learn to say no to things.

surround yourself with encouragement...not yes men. find people who know how to find productivity and success and can properly evaluate patterns to righteously correct or reprove your thinking. if proverbs, the book of wisdom, is to be taken seriously, we must then long for correction and counsel. this will prove to reveal discipline which is the key to growth.

most importantly, develop a pattern of breaking away from the noise (friends, internet, phones, etc) and finding your spot of deep and thought provoking intimacy with god. he is the most intimately acquainted entity of your life in existence. scripture is clear, there is not a place you can go that he is not there. jesus broke away from the crowds to be alone, rose early for prayer, he knew, and teaches us the value of actively separating our minds from the noise. in this time you will gain the secrets of god for your life; finding those very things to be at peace with in you working life (relationships, decisions, activities, etc).

at the heart, if we can be honest, the stress that accompanies work or the inability to turn off reveals the nature of our hearts. we want to be in control, if we want control than that is definitely a bad thing. the lord loves to reveal the areas of our hearts that will be most detrimental in our relationship with him. pride leads to idolatry and this will ruin.

Friday, August 9, 2013

not the wallet

the bills, at times, come unexpectedly. i know i am not the only one who experiences this phenomenon. this last summer we had our everyday bills meet our end of the school year bills. they all had a fight and ultimately the budget lost.

on the week of july 19th 2005 i witnessed a pretty amazing moving by the lord. this was the week the lord pressed upon a few people to give extravagantly towards a ministry trip liz and i took to denmark. it was a trip that changed our life and gave us a greater perspective for missions upon the european landscape. so, now that we live in belgium, as missionaries, you can see why it was such a great moment in our lives. i logged this monumental moment in my journal that same week and read it in my quiet time (periodically i go back through my journal entries on the particular day that coincides). i was so full of joy reading that entry. i encourage EVERYONE to write down these profound moments of god's handiwork for this exact reason, remembering and rejoicing. we ended up receiving nearly $1500 in a week time span. the lord moving different people, some people we knew, some we didn't even know until that moment.

you can imagine how bummed i was after having a wonderful meditation and receiving a few bills in the mail, that were unexpected. "lord, why?" i thought to myself. what could i do? nothing, well, nothing that would involve my own strength. i needed a miracle. i did the only thing i knew to do...pray. i prayed throughout the day, without ceasing that god would make a way for this money to come in. i was in constant dialogue with my maker.

that evening i received a request to skype with a dear friend and a donor to our ministry. she didn't allow much chit chat to happen before she was out with her intentions, "how much do you need?" she said. i was hesitant because she already gives so much and i was not comfortable with confessing our needs, for bills, that is not the missionary code, you don't raise money for bills. she wouldn't let me beat around the bush. "zach," she said, "how much do you need?" i told her the few bills we had and she said, "i am wiring money to cover it all right now as we speak."

"what," i said, "are you kidding me!?!?!?"

because of god's faithfulness to his people we are able to make ends meet. i will leave you with the last line of the entry i had for his faithfulness 8 years ago...

the lord is strong and mighty, true to those who believe in his name, trust in him, and not their wallet!

Friday, August 2, 2013

the push of a button

in his book  thrilled to death, dr. archibald hart reveals a study done on high school kids who used their cell phones more than 90 times a day; he discovered the most common reason given...boredom, or unhappy. these same teens were also significantly more depressed and anxious than their peers who utilized cell phones much less. 

bigger and better has been the conscious and subconscious mantra of this generation's cry. however, upon closer observation, is bigger actually better? is the latest advancement actually proving to build upon an inferior generation? maybe. or maybe there is an advancement even at a cost that we are willing to pay. maybe this drug is sufficient to provide relief, but at a risk for a future consequence, which we are caring less about.

we are a culture dedicated to entertainment.

i love sci-fi and the sub-philosophical thought of the worlds outside our very own. i love the action and adventure of the mystical and ancient secrets revealed to our brilliant hero's of today who must escape the clutches of those evil ones who only wish to profit for themselves. i love the wittiest of comedies and the sarcasm of our most prominent comedians.

study the last 100 years of western civilization and daily lifestyle. we are a culture that longs to be entertained. within this desire, if truly assessed, we would find something about us as people...we have a longing to be apart of the action, the adventure, the romance, and the epic that grips us within the development of the whole plot!

psalm 4 is gripping as david emotionally cries, "why is everyone hungry for more? i have god's more than enough, more joy in one ordinary day" (the msg).

take a look at the development of information which mirrors psalm 4. we now live in a culture where a touch of a button gives us our desire. if you are having to wait, you are an idiot! restaurants and retail stores scramble to be the best at attending to the customer in order for them to have very limited time waiting for anything. getting has been become, for lack of a better word, a god.

there was a time when waiting was normal, waiting for letter, waiting for a product, waiting for ma or pa to come home from tending the farm. now, according to the standard of living, if our friend doesn't answer his phone when we want to know what he is doing tonight we are freaking out. if our same friend doesn't call us back in the next 5 minutes he/she is easily labeled "the one who doesn't ever answer their phone."

even if we were able to reduce every type of waiting to the smallest degree of a second, it wouldn't be enough it would still be too long.

reflect today on your life even 10-15 years ago. note any changes in technology that have had an influence on your life. for example, a cell phone wasn't really a big deal until i had graduated high school. email, seriously, i wasn't even sweating it until i got to college. with new discoveries i am growing more and more fascinated at the ability of technology to creative a more fluid life in some areas.

but consider the impact of technology on your life and consider the impact it has on your level and desire of wanting to be entertained. we, as a culture, are growing less capable of paying attention to anything longer than 5 minutes at a time. this is having an enormous effect on our entire lifestyle. 

the biggest of the impact has had what i believe to be on our relationship with the lord. not so much that we are watching more filth on the screen as creators seek to push the envelope a bit more every time, but the fact that our time is becoming more and more consumed by trinkets and gadgets that really change our relationship with our maker. if we could be honest, we would see a connection with our prayer life and our disdain for having to wait. we can get everything else the way we want it at the push of a button. why does it take god so long to answer?

rest in him and the provision of todays bread. 
stop wasting time on the latest advancements of the next apple product. 
stop wasting time checking facebook every 5 seconds to see if someone wrote something amazing about your status. 
stop wasting time and money on needing to see every movie that has ever been produced.
stop complaining about having to sit in church for 5 more minutes.
god will give you more joy in one ordinary day than a thousand watching glee.