Thursday, December 29, 2011
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
Let's remind ourselves that our "home" is in heaven, and that it's good to feel "homeless" here to some extent. Let's also remind ourselves that God is everywhere, even now, and be encouraged to trust him with what's ahead, what's behind, and what's directly in front of us.
"And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for 'In him we live and move and have our being'..." -Acts 17:26-28
You are here, I know
Because it shows.
But sometimes what comforts me most
is how you're here
before we're here.
And you're there
when we're not there, anymore.
Your omnipresence abides at my core,
And I'm sure it endures beyond that door
with those I don't even see anymore
and the ones whom, as of yet, I still haven't met.
Be here with me, and there with my thoughts
and everywhere always, someday we'll be
anywhere, always, it's true, with you.
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
“ The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my maidservant; perhaps I can build a family through her. “ ~ Sarai, Genesis 16:2
Most of us are familiar with God’s promise to Abram of innumerable offspring - and we know how Sarah tried to “help” the process along. In fact, I felt so familiar with this story that when I was reading it recently, I was tempted to skim through it just because I ‘knew’ the story already. But, because I felt that prideful ‘been there, read that’ moment, I purposefully slowed down to read it again. And God faithfully revealed a fresh new detail that I’d never noticed previously.
God had decided long ago that Sarai wasn’t going to have children. I feel certain she prayed for children. But somewhere in her journey, she settled with the reality that God had closed her womb and that possibility. I kind of found it curious that she hadn’t tried to build a family earlier through her maidservants – but instead it seems she had just resigned to the state of being childless. When Abram shares God’s revelation with her, she doesn’t seem to lament this change of plans – but shifts into “planning” mode following her belief in his encounter. She simply states what she’d seen all along – that if God’s plan was for Abram to have children, it wasn’t going to be through her. How did she know that? Because that’s how it had always been. The Lord had already closed her womb.
“The Lord has kept me from having children.”
Here’s what I want us to catch. Sarai’s mistake wasn’t solely a lack of faith in God’s ability to keep His word or make His plan happen. Her ‘faith mistake’ was interpreting God’s future plan for her by her past with Him.
Pretty reasonable assumption, don’t you think?
In fact, I’d go so far as to say for most of us, God is only as big as we’ve experienced Him personally at that moment. I mean, we read the stories and know in ‘theory’ that God can do a whole lot, but often we assume that power is for everyone else… for another time and place, and a story better than ours is at the moment.
Think about your own life. Is there anything that you’re eager for God’s involvement in, but you find yourself limiting the possible outcomes to only the realities you’ve experienced so far with Him? Maybe you’ve returned home from the field to a church that you feel will never change. Maybe you start down a path towards a new mission field, only to have God put on the brakes. Maybe your marriage, which seemed so full of life at the beginning, feels increasingly dead as time goes by.
The call to let God work in our lives free from the assumptions of His work in the past is a tough one. Joseph is a fascinating example. When Pharaoh’s dream needs interpreting, and Joseph is called up out of his cell, we assume he reveled in the fact that he was finally vindicated. But I wonder if Joseph was really all that excited? I’m sure being out of prison was a relief, but when Pharaoh says he will give Joseph one of the highest positions in all of Egypt, does Joseph struggle with a little flashback? I mean, in Joseph’s life, interpreting dreams and being raised to positions of power were always followed by dark valleys of injustice and loneliness. Was he tempted to just ask for freedom and walk away from the leadership?
The more life God gives us, the more tempted we are to think we’ve seen Him work as much as He’s going to work. It’s easy to be a ‘fan’ of God and still bind ourselves and our faith up to only what we’ve experienced firsthand. I encourage you to anchor yourself to the truth that God doesn’t say that He can only do what we ask or imagine. He doesn’t even say He can do a little more that we can ask or imagine. He says he can do exceedingly, abundantly more than we ask or imagine. That’s a big invitation to imagine beyond what you’ve experienced so far. Keep seeking!
-Heather Pitney Thornton
Friday, May 27, 2011
I don't know about you, but I'm a pretty reserved guy. Well, I say that, but I know how to be crazy too. But when it comes to sharing my feelings, I typically keep them in. The thinking goes, "I know I'm dealing with x, y AND z, but I know that they MUST be dealing with a, b and c [notice that all of a sudden I can read the other person's mind], so they don't need me dumping on them." So I find a place to squash x, y and z in, and try to forget it, and don't ever deal with how I'm feeling, whether it's frustration over a hurt (real or perceived), anger, sadness, etc.
So I've been forced to realize lately how much I do that, and how dangerous it can be. I work with a great guy at a great church, with wonderful staff both in and out of 'ministry.' We've got lots of financial support for our ministry, maybe even too much, and we've got parents all over who actually WANT to step in and help out, maybe even too much. Just kidding. But over the last year and a half, between some changes in his life, and some changes at home, and then just my "natural" way of handling my emotions, there's been an unhealthy build-up of bad feelings, just on my own end, that weren't getting dealt with. And that meant that there were days in the office where I'd just be angry/frustrated/sad, for no good reason, except that those feelings I thought I had packed away for good were coming out and manifesting themselves.
Like I said, I was forced to recognize this about myself and was even charged by some of my shepherds to do something about it. As I was sitting telling them how I was feeling (only because I was forced to), my eyes started creating a salty discharge -- Seinfeld reference for everyone who didn't recognize it -- and I found that those repressed feelings were making more of an impact on me than I realized. And when I talked to the other youth minister, there was such a weight that lifted. Yeah, I'm sure I'll still get frustrated, but I've committed to him that I'll always be honest about how I'm feeling.
So, you might be thinking, "I'm glad this is Donovan's getting this off his chest, but what does this have to do with me?" Well, I think we sometimes do this when we get off the field, or when we leave Lubbock, or when we're dealing with life. We think that because we've had ALL this Bible training and mission experience, and we're SO mature, then we should be able to handle our feelings better than so-and-so. Or we think that the person in front of us is dealing with all kinds of junk (and they probably are, in reality), so we shouldn't dump on them and give them more to worry about. But there's two dangers. One, for you, is that you don't get to process your true feelings, and they start to weigh you down. Two, the other person doesn't really know what you're feeling, so they can't deal with you on a real level.
So my encouragement is to share how you're feeling. Talk about your experiences on the field. It may not feel like it, but you'll find people who want to hear your story. Yeah, there will be folks who are too busy, or too consumed with their own stuff, to be able to give you all their attention right now, but don't let that stop you. And be sure to share your feelings in love. Don't get ugly about it. Remember that the way they are seeing things is going to be completely different from the way you see it, and you need to be compassionate and understanding to them just the way you want them to be to you. And don't forget that you have a whole community of 25+ years of folks who have been through similar experiences, a lot of them a click away on Facebook, who would love to share your burden.
Have you experienced the freeing & healing that comes from sharing your hidden feelings?
- Donovan Fox
Tuesday, May 17, 2011
I’ve got two crazy stories to tell. One will be brief, since you probably already know it because it’s in the Bible. The other one happened to me about a year ago.
In Acts 16 Paul implements a mission strategy to reach people that he’s already had success in: go to a religious place and talk about Jesus. In this case he goes to a group of praying women, and then Lydia and her household are baptized after Paul teaches them. Pretty cool, the strategy worked.
If it worked before, it would probably work again, right? So Paul goes to another place of prayer to try and convert some people, but a wrench gets thrown in the mission strategy. A crazy fortune-teller girl starts pestering Paul, and the text even says Paul gets pretty aggravated by it. After all, he’s trying to do God’s work and this annoying girl just won’t go away. He has a couple of options: do something about it, or continue on with his previous strategy. But, Paul decides to go for it and do something. Eventually he casts out her spirit of divination, which leads to even crazier events.
The whole town gets pretty mad, and Paul and others get thrown into prison. Again, Paul could easily just get annoyed again by another plan foiled. But, instead he sings to God, and an earthquake comes and frees all the prisoners. You know the rest. Paul converts the jailer and his entire household.
The interesting thing is that Paul set out with a plan for God, and that plan was cut short by some pretty bothersome circumstances (an annoying girl and a prison sentence). But, Paul had something special: a willing heart. He was willing to be sidetracked and allow God to do something crazy, and in the end his story of success here was probably much bigger than it would have been had he just gone to another place of prayer.
Something similar happened to me. About a year ago Alisha and I were visiting some friends in Austin (Chris and Rachel Bennett). I had been preaching most Sundays in Hart lately, so I was looking forward to one Sunday where I could just listen instead of preach.
That Saturday night Chris was joking about me being a preacher, and made some joke about if I was somehow called on to preach last minute would I do it. We talked about it for a bit, and I told him I could probably do it because I preach every Sunday, so I have a lot to pick from. But, of course, in what universe would I randomly be asked to preach at a visiting church? And why would I even want to? “That’s so prideful to think about. I don’t even want to,” I thought. “This will be nice to just listen for once.”
The next morning I sat in Chris’s Bible class, and happened to flip through some of my sermons wondering what I would preach if I happened to be asked to preach last minute. It was like I couldn't shake the thought. But I laughed out loud, put my sermons away, and inwardly chastised myself for being so ridiculous. “Pay attention,” I thought. “You’re being prideful.”
That Church happened to have a guest speaker that morning. But when Church was starting, I asked one of the elders about it, and he got frantic when he realized the man wasn’t there yet. It was like a beehive getting stirred as they ran around trying to figure out where this guy was. I thought, “There’s no way this guy won’t be here. He’s got to call or something.”
Alisha (being a good wife) told Chris to volunteer me to speak, but I was kind of frozen because it was like my thoughts were coming true. “I don’t even want to preach today, what on Earth is going on?” I thought. Eventually, right after the Lord’s Supper, one of the elders approached me and told me, “Looks like you’re up.” So I went to the back and tried to find something recent enough I remembered well, and when I found one Chris came back to pray with me. When we were done I told him I had to look over my lesson, because I had preached it a month earlier. Right then one of the elders came back and wanted to pray with me. And when he finished the prayer, they were introducing me. It’s then I prayed, “God, this is weird. I haven’t even looked over this. Looks like you’re up, too.”
I got up there, and did the best I could. I preached a sermon I had done recently called, “8 Modern Lies About Christianity” as a part of a series on Colossians. Among the lies were things like, “Being right is more important than living right,” “Christianity is primarily about what happens on Sunday,” and "Christianity is primarily a political religion." Based on people’s faces I wasn’t sure if it was going well or not. I thought maybe I was making people angry.
Well, I preached as best I could and stepped down, not sure what to think (and still dazed that I even preached to begin with). But I’m not exaggerating when I say that I think every last person in that Church came to tell me that sermon dealt with exactly where they were and that they needed it so badly. It was the strangest thing. I was in shock.
On top of that, they paid us for speaking, which happened to be around the exact amount we needed that month because of some unexpected expenses. I don’t know what happened from it all, but I do know God was in it. Here I was expecting to lay down my preacher hat for a weekend and just go somewhere, when God threw one of the coolest opportunities I’ve ever had right in my lap. I could have said no. I could have let someone else do it. But because I was willing (though inadequate, scared, and incredibly nervous) God used me to do something special.
I think that’s how God works. He doesn’t need talented people. He needs people to raise up their hands and say, “I don’t know what it will look like, but here I am for Your purposes, God. Please use me.” And, He will.
Note: The guest speaker had a flat tire and had left his cell phone at home.
-Joshua Tucker, AIM '04
Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Tuesdays we have a small group gathering to share what is going on in our lives and to strengthen each other. Tonight we talked about humility. My friend Leland asked us all what our definition or understanding of humility would be.
There were a lot of good points made:
humility is seeing yourself as God sees you;
humility is having an open state of honesty about oneself; and
humility is recognizing that everything we are and have has been given to us.
Jesus is the best example of humility. And we never see him putting himself down, or thinking little of himself, which is something we can sometimes mistake for humility. Instead, we see him constantly acknowledging the Father and walking with confidence in the path that God set before him. That is true humility - dependence on the Lord, putting our focus on him instead of ourselves, on his will instead of ours.
So this is my encouragement to you, that you are able to be completely humble and not dragged down by focusing on yourself, either on how you are inadequate in yourself or how you are strong in yourself. May the Lord be your light, the power in your life and the one who makes you holy!
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
When I came off the field the last thing on my mind was to immediately take on another intense and challenging time in my life. Little did I know that the most challenging part of AIM was about to begin. In the years following AIM I grew more than I did while I was actually in AIM. The interesting thing is, those years where the most adversity filled in my life so far.
I don’t know about you but sometimes I dream of easier times. That’s why the lottery is so popular. People love to dream of easier times. But imagine what life would be like with out any problems or challenges.
For most of us, being thrown in jail for our faith or having to fight a giant to the death
would qualify as bad luck. But for most people in the Bible, without those extreme
adverse situations they would have faded from scripture. Bad circumstances have a
way of bringing out the best in us. Fighting giants creates strength just like roughs seas
create good sailors. Adversity is often a blessing in disguise.
Astronauts who spend any length of time in zero gravity experience serious medical
complications. Without any resistance they can barely walk after reentering the earth’s
atmosphere. Sound familiar? We may dream of an easy life but what we need is a healthy dose of adversity. We need some giants to fight.
I’m convinced that the people that God used most are the people who experienced the
most adversity. Adversity can produce an increased capacity to serve God. Think of
all the people that you’ve seen who have become successful in the area of their greatest
weakness. Beethoven was deaf, but he became one of the greatest composers who ever
lived. Or, Jim Abbott, former major league pitcher for the Yankees who was born
without a right hand but managed to pitch a no hitter.
What giants have you faced? What is your greatest weakness? God wants to redeem
the greatest adversity you’ve experienced. He wants to recycle the adversity that you’ve
experienced and turn it into ministry.
After AIM, for some reason I thought that because of things like my failings, my
inadequacies, my personal problems, and reverse culture shock all somehow meant that
I should spend less time in ministry. We all know many people who have gone through
terrible times in their life, like the death of a child, or a debilitating addiction and turned
it into ministry to others. God is in the business of recycling your pain and turning it into
someone else’s gain.
What we need to understand is; if you don’t turn your adversity into a ministry, then your
pain remains your pain. But if you allow God to translate your adversity into a ministry,
then your pain becomes someone else’s gain. The more problems you have the more potential you have to help people.
One of the most paralyzing mistakes we make is thinking that our problems somehow
disqualify us from being used by God. But it’s actually the opposite. Your ability to help
others heal is limited to where you’ve been wounded. God comforts us in all our troubles
so that we can comfort others.
No one rolls out the red carpet and invites adversity or tragedy into their life, but our
greatest gifts and passions are often the byproduct of our worst tragedies and failures.
Trials have a way of helping us rediscover our unique purpose in life.
- Jeremy “Tigger” Vass
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Leland Grammer, AIM '04, San Diego, is a poet, and when I was telling him about the blog, he said he could pass me something. And here it is. Thank you, Leland, for shaking things up a little, and I hope we can have more things like this in the future.
WHEN THE LORD BROUGHT BACK THE CAPTIVE ONES TO ZION, WE WERE LIKE THOSE WHO DREAM
Unable to sleep, wild-eyed with visions of earth-turning possibilities. We saw the Messiah speaking marvelous things from the mountainside, of a kingdom enchanting us to love our enemy and beat our swords into plowshares to feed the hungry at our tables. Next, we saw our very hands hoisting a cross up, our deliverer fastened by nails, and I couldn’t understand. Then he rose to life. Surely, now we know, there is something worth dying for and nothing worth killing for. Sights so strange and illuminating, they drifted on the edge of absurdity. Silence only made us giddy.
THEN OUR MOUTH WAS FILLED WITH LAUGHTER AND OUR TONGUE WITH JOYFUL SHOUTING.
All along the road home from exile and in our great city’s streets, people would stand and stare, as if we were walking through the red sea again. From every crowd someone would raise their voice
THE LORD HAS DONE GREAT THINGS FOR THEM.
It became so common, we would simply shout back,
THE LORD HAS DONE GREAT THINGS FOR US, WE ARE GLAD.
At which point we would turn to each other and smile knowingly.
Time slowly lurched forward. The elation slipped from my brow and nightfall found me with handfuls of salty tears, as I thought about my nation, my city, my own village. So filled with ego, inflated with an unquenchable rumbling for more and eyes forever flitting toward shame. My Creator, my God of cosmic impossibilities, You have been reduced to a trinket in our surplus gift shop. One phrase loops inside me.
RESTORE OUR CAPTIVITY, O LORD. RESTORE OUR CAPTIVITY. RESTORE OUR CAPTIVITY, LIKE STREAM BEDS.
Turn the ever-changing wilderness of our moody heart into inhabitable dwelling places.
This is the legacy of my Ancestors. This is the story my father spoke of to me. And as I look out my window, momentarily lost in the blue white canopy, I recall all that the Lord has done for me and where he has brought me from. When I look out over this time called America, not much has changed behind the wizard’s curtain of the twenty-first century, with it’s cars and technological advancements. I see the pride, the wanting of it all, the scandal of my father’s ancient city. Aggressive and judgmental I want to say ‘Wake me when I’m free, I cannot bear captivity.’ Then a tear catches my eye as I hear my mother say, as if the very words were ringing in my ears,
THOSE WHO SOW IN TEARS WILL REAP WITH JOYFUL SHOUTING.
And she would hand me a bag of seed and add, ‘Today…small things with great love.’
My days in the field and the sweat spent toiling with rows and rows of dirt are now concrete and people with their own plot. So I tell the children on my block,
HE WHO COMES AND GOES WEEPING, CARRYING HIS BAG OF SEED WILL COME AGAIN WITH A SHOUT OF JOY, BRINGING HIS BUNDLES WITH HIM.
Now every morning before I go out I cram every pocket and stuff my mouth with mustard seeds. Another world is possible. It whispers to us. Love is more powerful than hatred. Violence can be mirrored without imitation. There is enough for everyone’s need but not everyone’s greed. The struggle is a gentle revolution that dances on the laughter of children. Delicate dreamers, of such pure nonsense, that the good news of one man could actually erase the entire shoreline of humanity’s bad news.
Friday, April 8, 2011
I got a Facebook message the other day that simply said, “Wow. I had no idea the things you had done in your life were so terrible.” I sat staring at the message wondering to myself, “What exactly are they talking about, and who have they been talking to?” There was a website that followed the message, and of course, I clicked on it.
My computer slowly loaded the page and to my horror this is what I saw:
Paige Foreman 1972 – present
Member since 1989 … last payment June 1989
Current amount owed: $945,678,945,985.89
I sat staring at the screen for what seemed like hours. I barely remembered opening this account. How could I have forgotten about it?
My mind began to wander back to 1989. I was in high school and had begun doing some very stupid things. I was having fun and figured when the fun ran out I would move on. But around June of that year, I realized I was stuck. I had already gotten into some pretty serious trouble and lost several friends.
I was talking to someone about moving on and trying to get my life back on track. He suggested this website: totaltransgressiontax.com . This was a website that allowed you to submit your sins before a panel. They assessed the price and you began making payments. As long as you were actively making payments then the interest was low and you were assured complete privacy. However, if you stopped making payments, the amount would begin to go up by the second and your past was fair game. Anyone could enter the site and take a peek around… anyone.
I had actually gotten baptized right after joining the site and making my first payment. I had accepted God’s forgiveness and realized I didn’t need to make those payments. Jesus paid it all in full, and God had forgotten my transgressions. He was not keeping score.
Unfortunately, the website was.
So, the above is a dream I had last night. I woke up feeling horrible. I felt a level of fear, guilt, and shame that I have not felt in years. Thankfully, as I woke up I came back to reality. Not only is there not a website… there’s not a price that I must pay. That price is not going up by the second and every internet user doesn’t have access to my shame. Nope.
Reality is… Jesus paid it once for all and then it was forgotten. I am free. I have hope!!! That hope is secure!!!
“Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered.
Blessed is the one whose sin the Lord will never count against them.” Rom. 4:7,8
Thursday, March 31, 2011
Someone smart once said, "If you live by the sword you die by the sword."
In a sentence, this sums up life in a nutshell really. Whatever you focus on in life is what ultimately results in your demise. For some people that is "the sword." They live by violence and they die by violence.
Others live for food (like the cheeseburger) and they die from greasy cholesterol filled hearts that can't pump enough blood through their diseased arteries (now that's descriptive). Believe me, if you live by the cheeseburger you will die by the cheeseburger.
Most people who really despise AIM may have put way too much stock in it to begin with. Missionaries who hate foreigners probably had too high an expectation of the people. Teenagers who loathe their youth ministers may have held those same men in a position that they could never have reached.
If you live by the sword, you die by the sword. We all have to live by something. We all have to find passion somewhere. Our jobs, our education, our experiences, our loved ones. We need something to be focused on. The catch is, whatever we focus on is what will ultimately kill us.
If you live by AIM, you die by AIM.
Might I suggest living for Jesus? After all, he is the only thing/one in this world who demonstrated an ability to conquer death. We all need something to be passionate about. Be passionate about Jesus. If you live by Jesus you will never die, because he is the resurrection and the life.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
I want to personally invite everyone to the Tulsa Workshop, which is coming up this week, March 23-26. Many wonderful and powerful speakers will be here, all considering the topic, “Let the Chains Fall Away”. They will focus on finding freedom from those things that hold us back from being what Christ created us to be. You can find the entire schedule at www.tulsaworkshop.org.
As an alumnus, though, my favorite part of Workshop is what happens on Friday night beginning after the evening keynote (around 9). All AIM alumni are invited to be part of what we call, AIMapalooza. We will meet at the Memorial Drive Church of Christ building (747 S. Memorial Dr.) in the “Rainbow Room”, which is a large area downstairs. AIMapalooza is a very casual event where 40-70 of us eat and drink (whatever items that we all bring - check the event page), sing, and visit, visit, visit. We officially wrap up around 11:30, but you can stay as long as the conversation lasts. It is such an encouraging event and this year we are thrilled to share with you a few of the things we’ve been working on with the AIM Alumni Association (A-Cubed). This group is a grass roots effort to help AIM graduates come off the field with more support, information and encouragement so that their transitions can be smoother and healthier for them spiritually and emotionally. This August we plan to launch a new effort to offer some concrete help that will be a great blessing to returning AIMers. Come and find out how you can be a part of this work-in-progress!
So, grab a snack or a drink and plan on joining us Friday, March 25 around 9pm for AIMapalooza. If you have any questions, just let AIM Alum know. We can’t wait to see you!
PS - Bring your non-AIM spouses/family. All are invited to share in our annual reunion! You are their ticket in. :)
Wednesday, March 2, 2011
When I look at the life of Paul, it becomes evident that he has gone through some incredibly challenging ordeals during his Christian walk. Whipped. Beaten. Stoned. Shipwrecked. In near constant danger. It would seem that these things would be a hindrance on Paul. These are the very things that were meant to hold him back from living a faithful life devoted to Christ. And yet God still uses him. A key principle that comes up again and again in Paul’s writing that I need to embrace is that Christ’s power is not measured by my adequacy as a person.
In Philippians 3, Paul brings up a list of his qualifications as a righteous person. I can’t help but see myself bringing up all sorts of things that I would put confidence in. My background, both national and familial. How I carry out my righteous duties. How much I give to be a good old Christian. And yet, Paul totally flips the situation on its head by saying that all of those things that made him so good are worthless compared to knowing Christ. Now, my brain knows the truth in this, but my pride kind of gets in the way here. You see, it is oftentimes like a little kid at a birthday party that is not theirs. A kid who is so desperate for attention that they totally lose focus of what this is all about. My pride screams out “Hey! Hey! Look at me! Look at all these things I can do! Look at how great I am! LOOK AT ME.” The point of it is, all of the things that I would have confidence in are counted as sewage in comparison with having a relationship with Christ. And so all of my abilities and qualifications have become impotent in contrast with what it means to know Christ. And yet Christ is still using me. What it comes down to is not that my talents are of no use, but it is all about what they are trying to accomplish. I must use my gifts not for selfish ambition, but rather to honor and glorify Christ in my life. But if that is how I am to look at my strengths, how in the world am I to look at my shortcomings?
Take a look at II Corinthians 12. Paul is going through his discourse on his thorn in the flesh. He goes on to say how this is a daily battle for him. How he is struggling with this hardship every single day. How he has pleaded with God to take this burden away from him. And yet what is God’s response?
Again, what would be a hindrance becomes the very thing that spurs Paul on. When I am weak, then I am strong. God uses the things that Satan throws in order to hold back and uses them to display his power. So it doesn’t really matter about how great I am at something or how weak I am as a person; Christ’s power is at work regardless.
What does this say about me? That I am unimportant? That I have nothing to offer? By no means! God takes the talents I have and uses them for his glory, instead of my own. And my weaknesses? God is at work there as well equally if not more so. For the astounding thing about God’s power is that he not only amplifies what is good about me, he also transforms that which would render me incapable and makes me able. Despite my flaws and shortcomings, Christ’s power is still ever present in my life to carry out the ministry of grace that he established on the cross.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Do any of you know an AIM student who came off the field and experienced some of the worst moments of their lives? How about this: have you ever heard an AIMer tell of their field experience and while they told you it occurred to you that they felt like a failure and had no idea how to get beyond it?
As I have often said before, I love AIM. I and many of my family have been transformed by the power of Christ in the context of the AIM program. I would love for my kids to be AIMers. But when I think of my kids returning from the field and not having adequate support to make that transition, it is heart-breaking and, I believe, avoidable. The question with any problem, though, is who will step up and do something about it?
What if we had a time to draw together an open discussion on how to help AIMers when they return from the field? What if we had a mutually understood plan of action that we could all participate in that would be a significant blessing to any returning AIM student that wanted help? What if you could be a part of it and it didn’t matter if you lived in Oregon or Ohio or Ontario or Oceola (I assume that is a city somewhere – I needed it to complete my O quad-fecta)?
Chris Johnson(AIM 95) and I have been joined by some amazing alumni who are of the same mind. Most obvious to us is that we don’t have all the solutions, but what God has given us we want to offer, and we believe you have something to offer as well.
Following in the footsteps of our other musically-named events, this coming Monday and Tuesday night AIM Alum is launching its first “AIM Unplugged”. AIM Unplugged is not about a bunch of flash or show, but rather an invitation to all alumni in a particular area to sit down and have an open and honest discussion about what we’ve experienced and how we can come together to bring our God-given gifts, passions and abilities to make a difference in the lives of the next generation of AIMers.
This coming Monday and Tuesday we are going to be in Lubbock, Texas . (You might have heard of that place?) ON MONDAY(6PM) WE WANT TO MEET WITH THE PRESENT AIM STAFF AND ASSISTANTS BECAUSE WE WANT TO HEAR FROM THOSE WHO ARE CLOSEST TO THE PRESENT GROUP OF STUDENTS AND LEARN FROM THEIR VANTAGE POINT. THEN ON TUESDAY(6PM) WE WANT TO MEET WITH ALL OTHER AIM ALUMNI TO GAIN FROM THEIR PERSPECTIVE. We are still watching for what God will do with this, but we are seeking His guidance with you because we believe this is an extremely worthy cause. We don’t know where else God will lead us to have similar events, but we are confident that if it is His idea, He will make it happen.
IF YOU ARE AN ALUMNUS IN THE LUBBOCK AREA, please make plans to join us next Tuesday night at the Sunset church building in the Hospitality Room (Blue Room). In AIM tradition bring your brown bag and we will eat together and share what we have been thinking and allow God to join it with what you have been thinking and we will see what God does with it. Cannot wait to see you there!
- Jason Thornton (AIM 92)
Wednesday, February 16, 2011
Back in the Fall, Ed Wharton came to talk to Pat and I and let us know that this would be his last AIM class to teach. He said that he is having to wind things down because of just having less energy than when he was younger. For me, this is the end of an era as far as AIM goes. Ed has been one of those teachers for AIM since almost the beginning in the early 70’s (over 35 yrs). Hundreds and hundreds of past AIM students have been blessed by his classes and have probably used what they learned in his class for years afterward.
With that in mind we want to do something special to honor Ed at this upcoming AIM graduation in March (during Camp Adventure). We want to put together a book filled with quotes from previous AIMers with comments about what he and his classes have meant to them.
I would also like to fill it with pictures of Ed through the years with AIMers so if you have ANY pictures of you with Ed or Ed with your class, etc. please send them to the AIM office email at: firstname.lastname@example.org and try to make them as high resolution as you can.
Because I will have to get this book made and printed, we will need these things as soon as possible, hopefully within the next week so please, please look and see if you have pictures as well as send in a few comments that we can fill this book with for Ed to have in his home and be encouraged by the results of all of those years of teaching AIM students!!
The next challenge is to keep this quiet so Ed doesn’t know and is surprised at Graduation when we present this to him so please don’t put anything on facebook, etc. about it.
So, if your life has been blessed by Ed and his classes, please send us your encouragement for him to include in this book.
Wednesday, February 9, 2011
Audacity— n 1. recklessly bold or daring; fearless 2. impudent or presumptuous
I like the word audacity. It’s one of those brutal words. When applied to other people’s behavior, just saying it makes you feel a little outraged. Try it sometime. After you hear something that someone has done that you wouldn’t have done, add “The audacity”. It is linguistic outrage; pure complainers bliss.
Anyway, I have recently encountered a lot of people that will make statements like, “this church will never get it” or “my life is going nowhere”. Maybe you’ve heard yourself say this one: “things will never be as good as they were in Mexico or Ecuador or Scotland or…”. I think we all have had these types of thoughts. It occurred to me recently that when I say this I mean it to be a declaration of my helplessness to do anything about it, but that is really not what I’m saying. What I’m really saying is this, “In my superior wisdom, that comes from all my combined experiences and perceptions, and with my ability to know all things about the future, I declare that ___________________ will never improve. Therefore I am hopeless about it and will stop trying, praying or believing.” When you really think about it, that is truly audacious. It is the audacity of hopelessness.
The thing I believe we often miss when reading the stories of our spiritual ancestors, like Moses or Deborah, is that they were constantly led into situations that seemed hopeless. We, of course, often have God’s bird’s eye view so we don’t perceive it in this way, but from their vantage point it was hopeless. The problem with hopelessness is that once you declare something you stop hoping. I know that is obvious, but hope is the God-given promise that whatever it is that you are focusing on will improve. By declaring hopelessness you dis-invite God from using you to affect that situation. God will still do what He wants, but you cut yourself out of the loop and therefore miss out on the blessing. This is not to say that you have to stay in every bad situation. God sometimes uses bad situations to move us in new directions, but we still need to have hope towards that situation.
Our goal, despite any frustrations we have or circumstances we may find ourselves in, is to anchor ourselves in God’s hope. My prayer for all of us is this: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13
- Jason Thornton
Wednesday, February 2, 2011
What if there was someone to heal our wounds? Someone to re-lance them and force them to heal properly. Someone able to remove the infection, restore good feeling, and bring back life again. What would you call such a physician? "Great."
Today we come to him, asking for healing. Today we cast him our burdens and cares. We show him our wounds and we remember. By his wounds, we are healed.
- Chris Johnson
Tuesday, January 25, 2011
So, maybe you’ve been back home from the mission field for a long time. Maybe you just stepped off of the plane a few days ago. Or maybe, you’ve already moved on to a different field or town or country.
Whatever your current residency status, at some point or another, you certainly have visited your home congregation. And it certainly was difficult, at least to some degree.
Let me tell you about a conversation I had with a lady from my home congregation recently. The church I grew up attending is somewhat of an AIMer factory, and lots of ex-AIMers, even those who aren’t originally from my hometown, find themselves planted there. And yet, lots of ex-AIMers have found themselves back home, but are not planted there at all. The lady I was talking with expressed her pain over this. “I’m not saying I expect everyone to call our church home again – I’m not expecting anything from them at all, actually. I just want them to come and say hi at least. I want them to let me love them and hug their necks again, even if they’ve moved on to different things. I think we deserve that at least.”
This was really enlightening to me and got me thinking. I know not everyone has such an understanding home church, but I can bet you that there is at least someone back home who wants to try to understand, who wants to just hug you and remind you that you are loved. Maybe they won’t connect with every story you have to share. Maybe you won’t ever feel at home in such a big (or small) congregation, who sings so differently or is set up so differently or “isn’t as intimate” or “isn’t as involved.”
But you know what? If it weren’t for those people that we can be so quick to judge in our self-righteous "missionary" attitudes, we wouldn’t have had the chance to be a missionary in the first place. Really, we may not have even known Christ at all if it weren’t for those preachers, those youth ministers, those elders, those peers, those parents, those little old ladies that raised us and participated in our early Christian days.
It isn't wrong to move on to something different, whether that be a different city or even a house church or another congregation in your own hometown. But please, as this lady from my church said, at least give them the chance to love you. Give them the chance to hear how you appreciate them (and if you don’t appreciate them, maybe pray about that first). They’re not perfect, but I know you know, neither are we. And it shouldn’t be “us and them” in the first place because we're all one body. So please, let us stop giving missionaries a bad name and be humble enough to remember our roots and love one another.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor.” – Romans 12:10