Monday, February 22, 2010

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

World Tour 2009

I'm starting an experiment. I've plotted points along my journey for the last year on a Google Map, and anyone can visit this map and click each point or leg of the journey to find out more about the places and activities I've been engaged with along the way. I'll continue to attach more stories, as well as begin new maps for coming adventures, but I thought I'd go ahead and post this now. Please peruse the map below, or for more detail, click the link underneath the map to visit it in a larger window.

If you're unfamiliar with Google Maps, you can use the commands in the upper left of the map to navigate (+/- to zoom, and arrows to scroll) or you can click and drag, as well as double-click to zoom.

Maybe not very many people will backtrack along with the last year, but it's great for personal processing, as well as pulling together thoughts, media, journals, and film from every stop of the way. And I know it will be fun to share events in the future more diligently.


View World Tour, 2009 in a larger map

Friday, February 12, 2010


Some of my traveling mates and I came up with a sort of game one day when we were clearing brush away from the garden on our YWAM base in New Zealand. As we'd happen upon sticks of a notable size or shape, we'd examine it, name it, and hold it up declaring it's goodness for everyone to hear.

It all started when Emrie picked up a gnarled, knobby stick (really more of a limb) held it up valiantly, and dubbed it "RidicStick." Em, Jaclyn, Phil and myself began sorting, clearing, and displacing foliage in a frenzy, uncovering more and more
noteworthy finds. There was ShortStick, LipStick, and FatStick, BentStick, BurntStick, and BatStick. We must have named in excess of 300 specimens, doubling over in laughter. How I wish we had photographed and cataloged our findings. On second thought, these things usually serve as better memories for regaling than actual factual accounts. It may have been a silly game to pass the workday, but it drew upon some seriously solid principles. There was something very Genesis 2 about the whole thing - humans organizing, ruling over, and naming things of the Earth, things that God designed for our pleasure. And doing so in community, as "it is not good for man to be alone."

Days continued to pass after StickDay, but the memory lingered. For one, our vernacular had changed. Ridicstick remains synonymous with any jubilant exclamation, suitable in describing any extraordinary thing or event. But, perhaps more than that, friendships that had begun on levels of life and change and faith and humor were taking deeper root and bearing fruit, as only sheer abandonment in a common and altogether ridiculous endeavor can produce.

Weeks later, Jaclyn, Emrie, and I were walking home from a coffee/study/banter session at Seagars. I don't remember the particulars, except that there was some frustration in the air. I think it had to do with me dilly dallying and everyone around being tired of always waiting for me to wrap up some frivolous engagement. At any rate, definitively gracious and cool Emrie had walked on ahead, rightfully irritated, and I remember momentarily searching for some gesture of apology and kinship greater than words for a moment such as this. I happened upon a small, gnarled but straightish stick, hardly more than a twig, with the striking appearance of a wand from any great work of mythic fiction. Without thought, I seized it and called out to Emrie. She stopped and turned as Jaclyn and I approached with the stick. We held a sidewalk ceremony, knighting Emrie for her exemplary patience, and we bequeathed the WillowStick unto her for safeguarding. Emrie's frustration dissolved in an easily forgiving grin and we continued our walk through the idyllic Oxford Autumn air.

Winter set in as our classes drew to completion, and we made preparations for our missional deployment to the far ends of the Earth. I grew to know and love everyone in our small school of 50 or so, but you can't help but make a particular connection with just a few in such a short time. By divine design or staff's judgement, several of us who had grown especially close were each split into different teams. Phil was Africa/Asia-bound, Jaclyn would lock down the African continent, Kristi was our South American correspondent, Emrie and Katy headed for Southeast Asia, Kenny and Dan were on the Far East Asia team, and I was going to the Middle East.

Days were busy finishing studies, cleaning, and gathering essentials into packs - 'skeeter net, bible, and two pair undies ought to do. Evenings were spent in the roasty den, dining on peanut butter-cinnamon-toast, fire blazing to fight the cold through the cellophane windows. We occupied several long evenings unpacking everything that God had done in our lives to get us where we were, taking inventory of the people we had discovered ourselves to be, and speculating where our roads might lead and intersect. Someone mentioned the crassness of a mere "goodbye," and Emrie sprang into action. Producing the WillowStick from her belongings, she hurriedly broke it into 6 pieces - a piece to travel with each team, each person, in each direction, and we selected a day several months into our journeys to stop what we were doing, find a high place in whatever town we were in, and bury the WillowStick. Together. Tearful goodbyes were said as one-by-one we departed into the unknown.

I went to sleep late last night with a silent, groaning prayer for God to evidence himself in my life. I know he's there, doing his thing, as he always is. I just needed that knowledge to breach my brain and penetrate my anxiety about where I am right now. And maybe provide some peace, and a little joy if it's not too much to ask. I woke up early this morning with Psalm 23 on my lips as all these memories came flooding back.

In Ezekial 37:16, God speaks to the prophet: "And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, 'For Judah and for the sons of Israel, his companions'; then take another stick and write on it, 'For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim and all the house of Israel, his companions.' Then join them for yourself one to another into one stick, that they may become one in your hand." God has always tended to use the natural to represent his goodness and to bind his followers together in seeking his face. In fact, that's the primary reason he created "the natural" in the first place.

1 Samuel 7 finds the Israelites on the brink of war with the Philistines, who had twice defeated Israel and seized the Ark of the Covenant. The Philistine army is encroaching, so Samuel seeks the Lord. As Sam sacrifices a burnt offering on the alter, the Philistine army is thrown into confusion by God's thunderous intervention. Verse 12: "Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, 'Thus far has the LORD helped us.'" This is where the hymn Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing derives the line "Here I raise mine Ebenezer, hither by thy help I'm come." Ebenezer is a name combining the Hebrew "Even Haazer," meaning literally "Stone of Help." It's a marker in history, one's personal history or the history of a people, where a monument is raised to remind that God has a proven track record of hooking us up. We have no reason to worry. It is the Lord that delivers, and blessing comes from his hand. It's just Homeboy doing what Homeboy does.

As it was on my lips this morning, Psalm 23:4 says "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me." If God has a recorded history of using sticks and stones to exemplify his presence and action, far be it from me to discount such elements' presence in my own story. If fellowship was born on StickDay, it was tested and cemented on WillowStickDay. And if kinship when we broke bread and divided the WillowStick, then we made covenant the day the WillowStick took root around the world. In our journeys, by some degree of intention, the WillowStick was planted. In modern-day Ephesus. Erdenet, Mongolia. Argentina. Lake Victoria, Uganda. Darjeeling. Thaiwan. We remain distanced by oceans, but connected by the love of a redeeming God who brought us together and called us to a higher purpose. During the dry times, I continue to look back on God's provenance and providence and our covenant as evidence of motion and deliverance in my life. It helps me find purpose in short nights and perspective in long days. It's all the manna I need to start fresh, and more than plenty reason to smile. And that, my friends, is ridicstick.

Thursday, February 11, 2010


Alright I'm hopped up on tea, so let's get this thing cranking before I totally fritz out. I write this evening from the void, from that place between what was and what will be, the valley between lessons and application.

Pardon the drama. I'll bring it back down to Earth.

I've been home at my folks' place for several months now. It's been, in general, really really great to connect with family quite a bit and hang with my awesome new nephew Drew and just generally "take a breather" as my Dad would say. The transitional season started off with a bang of Godly provision: complimentary car, job, and phone to use for the short-term while I generate the fundage and make preparations to hit the road again in search of further ministry opportunities on my way back to New Zealand. Man, I was so sure that's what was going to happen. I thought God's fingerprints were all over it with the way things were coming together.

Then the gears started turning more slowly. Work became infrequent as winter set in, and has now ceased entirely. Other opportunities for income have consistently not panned out. The car went away. The phone's gone. I've kept busy enough (aside from looking for more work) with a bunch of good things - from lots and lots of worship with several churches and groups, to being special guest speaker at a youth trip to Colorado in January, to all kinds of odds and ends with Perception Funding and their approaching trip to Haiti. And for some time I just felt such a fire to just encounter people wherever they are and bring them the encouragement and joy of a good God.

As this process has continued to unfold (or rather grind to a halt) I've begun to wonder what it really is I'm supposed to be doing here. It's not that I don't see God's hand in my life right now, nor that I'm not enjoying time with old friends and family in KC. It's just that everything I've learned from the last year or two seems to be driving me towards a few things: intimacy with the Creator, creation of music, serving people, and the open road. And yet here I am, an unemployed 27-year-old living with my parents without a way to get anywhere or a dime to my name. I don't doubt where I am for a second, because in faith I've stepped out in the last year, and I've seen God do incredible things. But this certainly seems to fly in the face of the definition the world gives us of a successful, together young man. I would never, ever go back to where I was before, but what the heck, am I really supposed to be at a standstill here because of something as unHeavenly as finances? I've seen Godmath turn zeros into ones and 100's into thousands in the last year, but somehow now the "almighty dollar" has its filthy little cuffs on my wrists. I don't like it. BUT . . .

God is good. God is in control. He works this stuff out all the time. I'm seeking Him, and folks are praying for me. So, it must be going down this way because God's allowing it. That leaves me wondering, am I supposed to push through this, in pursuit of what I believe to be true about this season in my life? At what point do I really start to reevaluate my trajectory? I've been waking up every day, telling God I'm placing all this on the alter, I'll go wherever he wants, stay if he says stay, do anything. What I feel I'm continually getting from him is encouragement to stay the course. And yet my circumstances are just not changing. I'm trying, I'm really really trying, to spend every day in the knowledge of what's true and good. I'm trying to lean on the promises of scripture in places like Romans 8:28, where it says " . . . we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose." (NIV)

This is said so often it sounds trite. I, myself, speak this verse so many times a day that it's a struggle to keep its supernatural origin in perspective. A new light was cast today, however, when I looked at The Message translation. I've been cross-referencing more and more in my studies, finding that new language so often has the ability to dig deeper, to till soft, new soil for old, familiar concepts and scripture that's become, ugh, "colloquialism." Check it out:

Romans 8:26-28:
Meanwhile, the moment we get tired in the waiting, God's Spirit is right alongside helping us along. If we don't know how or what to pray, it doesn't matter. He does our praying in and for us, making prayer out of our wordless sighs, our aching groans. He knows us far better than we know ourselves, knows our pregnant condition, and keeps us present before God. That's why we can be so sure that every detail in our lives of love for God is worked into something good.

So, Lord, forgive my sighs of frustration. Please intercede with your spirit and, knowing my heart, guide my steps. I'll be searching tirelessly for you as I travel this beaten road toward only-you-know-where. You are so, so good in the journey, and I pray to be continually less blind to the places you appear in my midst. I'll seek to rest in the contentment and joy that comes only from you, and not from my own myopic perception of my situation. In Jesus' ridiculously all-encompassingly powerful and mind-boggling name, Amen.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


So, most everyone who has a reason to read my blog probably also knows I like to make fun videos. Many of these can be found on my Vimeo. They present a narrow window to some of the things I've been up to for the last year. Feel free to check a few of them out below, or view my Vimeo channel here.

India Video Scrapbook:

Feast with Alevi in Turkey:

Colorado Trip with Kansas City Youth:

5 Habits of a World Christian: