Monday, May 31, 2010

the may report, part 2

the week we returned from germany, the staff team from lighthouse went away for an overnight retreat at black lake bible camp in olympia. in addition to some surprisingly delicious food, our time together was marked by some very productive meetings, including the last installment of a series of discussions on feedback that church members submitted in the REVEAL survey and how we might respond to it; while the survey is far from perfect and we don't want to be led around by popular opinion, it was an eyeopener as to how people in the church perceive themselves, the organization, and the church leadership. throughout the process, we have prayed that God would put his finger on key issues that need to be addressed; and as a start, we set specific goals in each of the three major ministries areas of the church (connecting, growing, and serving) to address some of the concerns raised. we also explored at length how to help church members to grow in knowledge, commitment, and experiential depth in their relationship with God, spending a fair amount of time on how we want to describe the process of a person's discipleship. the goal here is not to force people into a mold -- we recognize that each person's growth process is unique -- but rather to help people anticipate and even actively pursue some of their possible next steps in a joined life with him. this is a discussion in which pastor d and i have invested a significant amount of time and energy with a group of lay leaders we've informally dubbed the 'think tank.' the discussion was spirited and illuminating. please pray that our ongoing conversation will yield a result that helps the rank-and-file of lighthouse to pursue their life in Jesus with passion, commitment, and hope.

the birthday girl, among the flowers

b was scheduled to arrive from new york city on the day i returned from the retreat. she did finally make it home, but not until the following day and not without significant spiritual opposition. the week of her return, she was at basileia, intervarsity's regional end-of-year camp with her columbia friends, where they had their own spiritual warfare encounter, not dissimilar to the one we experienced at our retreat. that one had a very happy ending, with deliverance and freedom for the person involved. then, on her final night in nyc, her purse was stolen when she was headed to a celebration dinner with friends; among other things, she lost her wallet, atm card, and cell phone. the following day, the traffic to the airport was unusually heavy and she ended up missing her flight home. stranded in the airport with no cell phone and no atm card, she miraculously managed to get another flight and check her bag, all without having to pay (which was a good thing, since she didn't have enough cash!). after spending the night in the airport, she caught an early flight the next morning and finally arrived, safe but exhausted, in seattle. we praise God for his protection of her in so many trying (and in some cases, potentially threatening) circumstances.

on the final sunday of the month, i preached a message entitled 'for better or for worse' in our series the art of loving. in over a quarter century of preaching, it was my first message that was focused exclusively on the subject of marriage! (those of you who are interested can find it here.)

my favorite ladies at ohme garden

afterward, our family jumped in the van and headed to eastern washington to have an early celebration for n's 18th birthday. she decided well in advance that she wanted to do it by taking a trip to leavenworth (a bavarian village, somewhat analogous to solvang in california) and eating a jaeger schnitzel at cafe mozart. on the way there, we stopped for treats at the sultan bakery. we took in ohme gardens in wenatchee on the night we arrived, ate at prospector pies, and spent the evening playing boggle and sharing about where we hope to be in ten years. (note to self: avoid the econolodge in wenatchee). the next day, we started the return trip by stopping in leavenworth, where we grooved to the tunes of alpen folk in the park, did a bit of shopping, and had a delightful meal.

lunch at cafe mozart - schniztels and bratwursts!

i was so grateful to the Lord for this simple trip -- maybe because i'm getting older and growing increasingly aware of just how rare these opportunities are becoming, especially with b in nyc and n headed to houston. i also find myself amazed that they have really turned into young women, more grown up and independent than ever -- when did that happen?

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

the may report, part 1

someone once told me that as you get older, time doesn't just pass -- it accelerates. and i find that to be increasingly true in my own experience. may has come and gone, and full as it was, it just zipped by. but some noteworthy things happened in may, things worth remembering and in some cases, celebrating:

lighthouse went away for its annual retreat, april 30-may 2. this year, the theme was healing and wholeness. dr. michael tso from his mansion ministries came and did an excellent job of teaching the scriptures and challenging us to depth and vulnerability in our lives with God and one another. his messages from luke 18-19 can be found (under the category menu, select 2010 lighthouse retreat) here -- well worth a listen. we also had a sober reminder of the reality of spiritual warfare toward the end of the retreat when a young woman exhibited signs of being attacked by an evil spirit. she continues to receive help and seems to be improving, but we would appreciate your prayers for her and for our entire congregation, as i think this was a wake up call to many about the seriousness of our discipleship and our constant need for the presence and power of God's Spirit.

with b and h at the wedding

in the middle of the month, m and i had the privilege of traveling to germany for a week to celebrate the wedding of friend and former mcgill international student m. in addition to celebrating the civil and church weddings (in frankfurt and kassel respectively), we enjoyed the hospitality of hosts h and b, with whom we spent some of the time communicating in spanish(!); their english was pretty good, but they had also spent a decade in mexico when h was working for volkwagen, so they are fluent in spanish. we also had a chance to get to know the family and friends of a and m, which was really delightful. every person we met was pretty awesome, which says something about both them and a and m. in the process, we learned a couple of things: a) the germans really like to walk; b) they also like to eat cake. i don't think i've had as much cake in the rest of my life combined as we had in that single week! (photo at right is mostly m and a's friends, who went on a tour of kassel with grandpa).

the reception, a.k.a. cake heaven

to top off a great week, we had the privilege of spending our last night in germany with another international friend from those montreal years, e from singapore, who changed her travel plans to make it possible for us to have that evening together. what a gift and encouragement that night was -- sharing our lives, doing a little sightseeing in frankfurt, sampling some delicious german cuisine, and praying together that evening. God is so generous with us -- the joy of friendships new and old, the reminders of the impact of our previous ministry, even the gift of the airfare for the trip itself. our hearts were overflowing with praise and gratitude!

m and e, waiting for sausages - our hobbit-style 'first dinner' of the night