Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Working Witness

What a week! I can't even begin to describe all the ways that God worked in and through this group that dedicated their Spring Break and/or vacation time to work on houses in the Gulf Coast area. There were 16 in our team (two of them were already down there when we took this photo) - we also worked along side two other teams. We got to know each other pretty well since there were over 50 of us all sleeping on a gym floor and sharing one shower for men and one for women. Maybe I should have given up showering for Lent?

I've been meaning to get on here for some time to chronicle our trip, but even now I don't really have any time. I've been playing catch up ever since we got back into town - catching up on rest and work (there were at least half a dozen lumberjacks sleeping in the gym and we drove throughout the night to get there and on the way back as well). I can't go into the details but this week back has been even busier than I anticipated. When things calm down a bit, I'll get on and blog some more about the trip and other reflections on my mind as we approach Holy Week.

I will say that we did more than work on damaged houses...we offered hope. God did more work on us, in us and through us than anything we did all week long. If you'd like to see pictures of our trip email me at and I'll set you up to see our online album. Until next time - Blessings ~ RLS

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Gautier, Mississippi

I'm headed to Gautier, Mississippi this Friday (pronounced go-shea). This will be New Hope's second trip down to this town near the Gulf to continue the immense work of rebuilding after the destruction of hurricane Katrina. I'm amazed at how deep the destruction of this chaotic storm has been - that in spite of the massive numbers of volunteers and resources that have gone into the rebuilding effor it is not complete. The work will continue for many years to come.

I'm experiencing mixed emotions as we prepare for this trip. There is excitement because I've never been to Mississippi and it's always cool to travel to a new place. I'm saddened to think of the reality of this devastation and the suffering that so many have endured, yet there is also a deep sense of joy that so many have responded to the need and that we now have an opportunity to do our part to help.

When thinking again about the chaos that resulted from these storms, many begin to ponder the deeper question, "why?" Confronted with evil of any kind, we seem to automatically move to the question of theodicy - "If God is love, how could God allow evil things to happen to innocent people?" I've often struggled with these questions and still find myself struggling with them today. There are some complex theological answers that I've come to articulate, but such answers are inadequate for those who have to deal with the realities of evil face to face. It can be quite arrogant and unloving to offer such rationalizations to someone dealing with the depth of darkness. In those instances the only thing I can do is point to the cross. God is not distant from our suffering. He has experienced suffering in His own being and continues to walk with us even through the dark valley of death.

As a Christian, though, I can also point through the cross to the resurrection. There is hope! In Christ, Death and Suffering will ultimately be destroyed. But we're still groaning in labor pains and we wait for the age to come - crying, Maranatha, "Come, Lord Jesus!" Therefore, I hold fast to Paul's words in his letter to the Christians in Rome:

"In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God's people in accordance with the will of God. And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose."

It is my prayer that we offer more than simply buildings and homes, but through our work in Mississippi and through our everyday lives I want to offer blessing and resurrection hope. May the love of God the Father, the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, and the power of the Spirit go with us and enable us to be authentic ambassadors for the hope of the Kingdom. Until next time - Blessings ~ RLS

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Kickin' His Shins

As I was offering some spiritual direction this week, while we were talking about being angry with God, I was reminded of this vivid image from my childhood.

My grandparents lived in Colorado during most of my childhood and adolesence. We would typically see them three or four times a year, usually traveling out to the beautiful Rocky Mountains, rather than asking them to take a desert pilgrimage to Wester Oklahoma. When I was about four years old, I experienced, what seemed to me at least, a traumatic encounter with my Papaw (I know, we're country bumpkins - but he'll always be my Papaw). One day I did something to deliberately upset my grandfather and then I tried to run away. I guess I've never been that bright, now that I think about it. Anyway, as I ran he reached out to grab me, but the only thing he could grab onto was a tuft of my hair. The force of my running from him nearly pulled me to the ground. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.

The next day I told my mom, with all the gumption of a four year old, “If Papaw tries to pull my hair again, I’m going to kick him!” Of course, it wasn't his intention to pull my hair, he was just trying to stop me from running away from him. As my Grandfather was talking to my parents, he reached down and put his hand on my head. At that moment I began kicking him with all my might – after a few minutes he looked down and noticed what was going on (he was wearing boots and couldn’t even feel me kicking him.) There I was taking out all my fury on him and he didn’t even notice. Did I mention that I've never been that bright?

Sometimes, when I’m really giving it to God – you know letting Him have all my fury…all the anger that has built up…I think of that picture. I envision Him looking down at me, kicking his shins for all I’m worth, and saying, “Son, what are you doing? Stop kicking me for a minute so we can talk.”

But I think God realizes that sometimes we have to wear ourselves out kickin' His shins before we're really ready to listen. When I'm overwhelmed by injustice...when I'm beaten down by the realities of this imperfect world...when I'm just flat out mad - that image comes to mind and slowly my vision begins to change. After a little bit of kickin' I'm ready to hear the Word. Until next time - Blessings ~ RLS

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Biker Ministry

I'm still on this biker ministry theme. No one has responded yet - but I'm a hopeful kind of person. There is another question that we need help with. As we start a biker ministry at New Hope, the leader of this emerging ministry has asked for help in giving it a name. Not that a name is the most important thing, but it does give an initial impression to those we're trying to reach. Since I'm not steeped in the biker culture, I'm having trouble with this one. So what's a good name for our biker ministry?

Monday, March 5, 2007


Okay, so I asked a question yesterday that no one has responded to yet, and the better part of my judgment is telling me to let people respond to that before asking any more questions, but I just can't help myself. Yesterday, I asked for help in convincing my wife that I should get a bike - and I still need help with that because she isn't anywhere near being convinced. But, I'm a bit of a I began thinking, what if she says, "okay." Now, mind you, it will not be an enthusiastic sentiment; rather it will be a concession to my incessant pestering - like a child who keeps asking a parent, "can I please, can I please, can I please..." until the parent finally says fine, just leave me alone.

Anyway, if through persistent prayer and petition I am able to get her to say, "fine, just leave me alone," then my next question is, "What kind of bike should I get?" I'm not an experienced rider, so I would like some feedback about a good first bike. We would use it primarily for recreational riding. I don't envision us taking any cross country trips in the near future, but I would like to be able to take some longer "weekend" type trips. What are your thoughts? I'm a novice and would like to hear from other riders. Blessings ~ RLS

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Okay, so we had this gnarly lookin' dude in church today. No, he didn't just wander in off the street...and nobody, to the best of my knowledge, gave him dirty looks. In fact, he was the speaker for the day. This is David Middendorf and he heads up a powerful ministry to bikers in North Carolina called Uncaged Ministries (check out his website.)

You see, bikers call regular cars and trucks cages...because you're caged in - when your on a bike you're uncaged. You're able to experience the excitement of the journey. All the senses are heightened, you smell all the smells, good and bad, you sense the're're free! That's what happens in our journey with Christ. We're uncaged. Called to ride with Him and experience the thrill of the journey.

Dave came in to help us start a ministry to bikers in our community. Part of that begins with just riding. Getting to know the life and lingo. Building relationships with those in the biker community. And I have to confess, I think this is so cool. It's exciting. I want in on it. There's only one problem. I don't have a bike.

I've been sort of secretly wanting one for some time. You know, nothing fancy, but just something to have fun with. But every time I bring it up to Sara, she's pretty adamant that she wants me to stick around for a while. I couldn't agree with her more. I want to stick around for a while too. However, what's the point of living if there's not at least a little excitement. I think she'd actually come to love it if we got a bike.

So, I need your help. What could I do to talk my wife into letting me get a motorcycle? I've already told her that we could take a safety course together. What do you think might really help me make my case? I need all the help I can get. Blessings ~ RLS

Friday, March 2, 2007

Trust Me

Leader! The way is dark. I can barely see the path. Where are we going?

'Trust me.'

Are you sure that this is the way? It doesn't seem very promising. I'm not so sure about this.

'Your heart falters - have you turned back? I know that you have looked down other roads. Paved highways, smooth and clearly marked...but trust me.'

I want to trust you, Lord, but it's hard. Everything in me says, "Go the other way! It's safe."

'Your heart is not worthy of is deceived and false. The safety is only an illusion - that way is fraught with all kinds of danger - the danger of safety. I am the way to true life. Trust me.'

Leader, I trust my lack of trust! I will follow you because you know the way. Now, can you tell me where we are going?

He says with a glint in His eye and a smile, "Trust me."