Thursday, March 25, 2010

Finding Our True Natures

Recently I (Kevin) gave a seminar at Biola regarding the Spirituality of Mission.  In it, I used Teresa of Avila (a Spanish mystic) and her book Interior Castle also known as Mansions.  The premise of the book is to go deeper into self to find God truly at the center.  Therefore the true self is a God-centered and directed self.

Paul talks about wanting less of me and more of Him, which is essentially moving "self" as percieved in our own importance out of the center to make room and ultimately find God at the center.  Effectively, people place their face and their self-understanding in the center like pasting a picture over God's face.

The move from self is disorienting, and often called the Dark Night of the Soul - a piece coined by John of the Cross (one of Teresa of Avila's proteges).  The transition of self as the center to recognizing God as the center and really understanding the true self is like culture shock.  The very image of self that was built up is altered and often not so recognizeable.

Yesterday hit a moment where Leah and I recognized our own frailty in the plans of God.  It was disorienting and a bit depressing.  We felt "out of control" in the whole support-raising and life thing.  Our nature of our selves was pulled from the center and God exposed his true nature, but that isn't always easy.

Isaiah was petrified to enter the presence of God.  The glory of God is awesome and amazing, but also a bit scary.  The lack of control one really gets to see is also scary.  We, like Isaiah, were brought to our knees.  "God, why is this taking so long?"  "Did we hear you right?"

Indeed we did.  Every support-raiser knows the cycle of excitement, joy, anxiety and a testing of faith.  It is a place where we can explore God at the center rather than our own image.  Too often when we get comfortable we begin to put our self-importance first.  It takes trials and joys to remember who truly is at the center and who God really made us to be.  He has made us to be missionaries, but not ones that goes with our own success.

Mother Teresa is noted to have not truly felt the presence of God for a number of years.  Her Dark Night was extensive, yet she was secure enough in who God was at the center that she continued to follow.  She loved because that is who God made her to be, but she still had to adjust to that person.

I cherrish the moment of disorientation because, while it doesn't feel good, I like to be reminded of my frailty.  God's call on our lives is much more important and daunting than Leah's and my call on our own lives.  While they may look the same, the call to be missionaries to Spain is much deeper in God's call and he needs us to go deeper to find him and find who he has truly made us to be.  And then, here's the cool part, out of our frailty God works and uses us to complete the deeper calling he has.

Without times of frailty, without disorientation, without some frustrated expectations, Leah and I would be tempted to follow the Spain call that we put on ourselves.  Yesterday reminded me that we get a chance to participate in the Spain calling that God has for us.

Points of prayer:
- The 31st is the day Kevin's contract runs out for his job.  We need wisdom in the type of employment for an income that will be sufficient for paying the bills.
- Time management.  We need wisdom to get normal tasks done amidst the deregulating travel schedule.  We are learning to be more and more flexible, but have an innate desire to rooted and order.

Points of praise & thanksgiving:
- We have been taken care of up until now and have faith God will continue it.  Conventional wisdom suggests that we need to build a nest egg.  This is wise, but true hope is not in the nest egg, but God's provision.  We've been provided for along the way.  Special praise and thanksgiving for Dan, Lillian and Lawrence who have graciously accepted us into their home for even longer than we'd all thought.
- Support is coming in, and while our projections for support looked different than the actual, we are very blessed by the generousity of so many people.
- Eliana is a champion traveler, making the disordered lifestyle much more manageable.
- God is moving within our family deepening Leah, Kevin and growing Eliana.  Family will be our main ministry wherever we go and we give thanks that God loves us enough to challenge us and let us celebrate.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Lenten Reflections - Close to Home

We are in the season of Lent - a time of preparation of our Lord's death, and also a time of hope because of his resurrection.  We fast and do without (or at least some do, I missed it this year), in understanding the austerity of the life of God born Man and his sacrifice and redemption.  We take this time to lean more on him.

Reflections of death are a little too close to home this year for comfort, but then again Jesus did not ask us to be comfortable.  Today, March 23, 2010, should have been my father's 57th birthday.  It was Easter of last year, Resurrection Sunday, that he passed away riding his Harley.  He went doing what he loved, and nobody else was hurt, he didn't even have an accident.  For that we are thankful.

In this time of Lent, and on this day, I (Kevin) reflect upon death in a new, confused yet hopeful light.  In the Eucharist, we remember Christ's death and resurrection.  So Lent is a time of reflection, and while death is deeply disturbing to our very souls, resurrection is hope.

I take this day as a day to remember my father.  His death is deeply disturbing to my soul, but his memory and the man whom he was in his successes and failures gives me good hope.  I can be sad, but still rejoice.  This to me is the tension of Lent, now brought a little too close to home.

It is the tension of the Gospel - hope through death, joy in a contrite spirit, the loss of loved ones but being secure in the memory of who they are - that spells out the Kingdom of God clearly.  It is for this reason that we celebrate Lent in reflection, and for us, as cross-cultural missionaries, it is our vocation to live this reflection daily to proclaim the very Kingdom of God that turns the world upside-down.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Absent but Not Absent Minded

February and March have been big months for us.  Hence the neglect of the blog.  For those following along with our journey here, forgive us.  Know that good things have come and are in the works!

We've been focusing very hard on the support-raising process, and have been speaking at some churches.  We've spoken at an Episcopal Church and our home church in Oroville.  This Sunday we'll be speaking at a church in Upland, CA.  Good responses have been very encouraging.

Some of you might want to know where we are at in the support-raising process.  We're at a place in the hand of God.  ( wanted to know the percentage?  We are projecting about 45-50% currently)

Support-raising, for most missionaries, is the least enjoyable part of the ministry.  For us, I would say it is also the least enjoyable part of the ministry.  But, if the least enjoyable is as fruitful as it is spiritually, then bring on the fun stuff.  You see, in hard economic times, who knows where the money will come from, let alone for Spain (God, couldn't you have called us to a place where we could live off of a few bucks a day, not to where the Euro is dominating the dollar?), but we've been in a place to see God truly provide.

It's not like everyday is some peaceful day at rest in the palm of God, but 5 out of 7 days of the week truly are days of rest and anxiety-free.  We do our part, we act and work as we are able, fervently connecting with folks and speaking at churches, but God has directed.  It is amazing to walk into a church, of course hoping that some people will support you, and yet being at peace that God will have it taken care of, even if nobody is willing or able to support.

It is a time of great blessing and great stretching, and both times are generally anxiety free when we are resting on Him who has sent us.