Apparently I missed out on the family genes of being able to teach yourself electric engineering to build an amplifier and then design classy custom cabinets to go along with it. All that talent fell into the lap of my amazing brother, Nick Melrose who designs and builds amazing amplifiers. Check out Melrose Amplification for yourself.

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Melrose Amplification… ever heard of it?

Put on Love

Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:14

Today in class at GCBI we were studying through Isaiah. Why is the verse I’ve quoted not from Isaiah, you ask? Well as sometimes happens, Pastor Randy takes a bit of a detour (read rabbit trail) into some other topic or book of the Bible based on someone’s question or just because the man can talk. But it always seems like some of the things that impact us the most come from those tangents.

The thought I want to share tonight is not anything complex, though it may be extremely hard. In fact, at first glace it seems quite simple. Love is what keeps us, as believers, unified. Got it. But wait… what does that mean?

Love is: acting deliberately to meet a need because there is a need, expecting nothing in return. Real love is initiating. For God so loved the world that He GAVE… He saw humanity’s need for redemption and He gave Himself as payment to buy us back from the bondage of spiritual death. His act of love was not a warm fuzzy feeling, it was not because He looked at the world and thought, “don’t they look so cute down there.” He knew he would be rejected and killed by those He came to save. He knew the extreme cost to Himself but He knew what needed to be done and He did it.

Love is the perfect bond of unity. That initiating action of self-less care for another is what keeps this thing called the Church going. Community living is hard. Ask anyone that has passed through the halls of GCBI; it is part of what God uses to refine and sharpen us into the tools that can be better used in His hands, and this does not happen easily (this may be the understatement of the year). Sometimes I don’t want to do something for someone who won’t appreciate it. Sometimes I don’t want to think of how my actions (or in-actions) will affect others. Sometimes I just want to worry about me. But these attitudes kill community. They are divisive and they tear away at the fiber of Christ-centered community. The only thing that makes this work is love… now remember, not warm fuzzy feelings, but selflessly acting for another person’s benefit without needing any affirmation for doing so. This is what keeps us tightly knit together to be used as a community that glorifies Him and draws others from darkness into light.

Every day I have the opportunity to either build up or tear down the unity of the Body of Christ. I choose love. It’s that simple… and it’s that hard.

the rain of heaven

Deuteronomy 11:10-12

10 “For the land, into which you are entering to possess it, is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it with your foot like a vegetable garden.

11 “But the land into which you are about to cross to possess it, a land of hills and valleys, drinks water from the rain of heaven,

12 a land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning even to the end of the year.”

This morning as I read chapter 11 this passage stuck out to me. God is drawing a comparison for them of how life in their new land is going to be different than their lives were in Egypt. You see, in Egypt it was relatively easy to grow food and sustain life because of the Nile. It sounds strange in this passage that they would sow seeds and then “water it with their foot”, but many scholars believe that that means that the Nile was such a central part of their lives and the soil was so rich and soft that you could plant some seeds and then dig an irrigation ditch with your foot to draw the waters of the Nile into your vegetable garden. They would have absolutely relied on the Nile as the means of provision for their crops.

But God says to them, in essence, “this place that I’m giving you has no Nile. I AM going to be your ultimate source of provision for water and your sustainer of life.”  In a region that is largely desert, water equals life. The land promised to the Israelites had no mighty river that would be the heartbeat of their agricultural life (I’ve seen the Jordan River and it’s actually more like a creek). God told them that they would look to Him for water, for this land “drinks the rain of heaven.” He promises His people that His eyes are always on this land, He is ever caring for it and throughout the year providing for it.

The difference between these two methods struck me. Is it not also the difference between the life of  the one relying on themselves for provision and the one who has submitted their life to God who promised that as we “seek first the Kindgom of God, all these things will be added to us.” The way God works is so contrary to how things work in the world; Instead of focusing on how you can meet your own needs, God gets us to focus on how we CAN NOT meet our own needs and we are in fact lost without Him. When we start to walk with Him He will often bring us into situations where we are completely dependent on Him. This is not a weakness, as the world might see it, but a strength. He wants to bring us into a place in life where we trust Him completely to be the source, both for spiritual provisions and material provisions.

Does this mean God wants us just barely having enough to get by every month? Not necessarily; but maybe. Whatever it takes to get His people to the place of complete trust and dependance on Him. The land of Israel would end up being incredibily fruitful and abundant in blessing. God wants to pour every good thing into our lives, but not at the cost of us thinking we earned it ourselves. He designed and created the land of Israel in such a way that His people would not be able to have success on their own without Him. They needed his eyes to ever be on this land and caring for it, otherwise they would shrivel up and blow away.

And that is the reality of our lives as well. Without Him, what do we have? The very air in our lungs is because of His grace to allow us to keep breathing. Any sense of control is but an illusion. God was connecting them with the reality that they needed Him to survive  in a very tangible way. I love that He illustrated that to them even in the details of what their land would be like. Are you connected to this reality that God is your absolute source? Or is it too easy to draw on the waters of the world and sustain ourselves?

looking for beauty in unexpected places

There is beauty all around us. The question is, will we take the time to see it? This is especially challenging when you live in place like, say, Sebring, Florida. You see, I have spent way too much time smack-talking Sebring, and that habit has to end now. Part of the problem is that when it comes to Sebring, I have played the comparison game. Before I moved down to Sebring, I lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Now there are many that would say that the Midwest has nothing on Florida, but I had grown to love the perks of living in a cosmopolitan city with live music every night of the week, delicious eateries on every corner of every quaint little neighborhood within the city limits, world-class art museums and lake-laden parks. Of course, what my selective memory is conveniently choosing to leave out is the winter that lasts until May, and the fact that after 4 years there, I really was ready to move on to the next season of life somewhere else. But as I journeyed down to Sebring, I was absolutely assured that God had called me to take this step of faith out towards an uncertain future about which all I knew was that I would be attending a small Bible school, and that it was in central Florida. Once I was here it was easy to get caught up in the superficial reasons why this new place didn’t compare to the old. First of all, living in central Florida in August is like living under a giant steaming hot washcloth. Also, the median age of the population of Sebring is 79… which means that everything there is to do or eat in this town is aimed to please that predominant age group. The only reason Sebring would be a destination to you is if you were looking to retire in the luxury of a 55 and older trailer park. Ok, before I get carried away, I better start getting to the positive part… which is my point in all this. As I started to detox from the city life and settle into life in small town, I began to think about things differently. Here I was in this seemingly un-exciting place, and yet God was revolutionizing my world through the time I was taking to do nothing but dive into the study of the Bible. Sebring was the perfect setting for this internal revolution because there was no distraction of the cosmopolitan on my doorstep. God has something special for this town; I believe He uses it in the way he used “the wilderness” in many Biblical accounts… to get people out of their norm, to get their attention, to get them away from the distractions of life in order to make them aware of a greater call on their lives (see Abraham, Moses, Jesus… to name a few). Sebring has become an extremely special place to me and to many others like me.

Sebring may be a sleepy town, but it hasn’t yet fallen asleep. David and I live in the little historical down town district of Sebring where buildings from the 1920’s and old lamp posts encircle a lush garden and an often busy traffic circle. Unfortunately, most of the buildings are vacant or filled with businesses that don’t attract much foot traffic. But there is definitely a lot of charm and with a little TLC, there could be some life happening down here.

The longer we live here the more we begin to feel that we want to invest in a community, not just live there and take up space. Our eyes have been opened to see opportunities instead of vacancies; potential instead of a lost cause. Instead of wishing someone else would do it, we are feeling compelled to be the change we want to see and bring vibrancy back to this place God has planted us. One of many lessons God has taught me in Sebring is that a place is a place, and that what really makes a thriving community is people, and how committed they are to investing in that community. Sebring is where God has planted us for now. We could hold our breath and hold onto old dreams, but that will hold us back from the present ones, and those are beautiful as well. So we plan to dive in and commit to the community of PEOPLE that is Sebring. One of the ways I have been trying to make this mindset a reality for me is to look for little moments of beauty that I see around me here in Sebring. It’s been fun to post these to facebook and see how people have responded, that these photos have helped them to see the beauty as well. The photos in this post are a few of that project. I hope to post more regarding my #lookingforbeautyinsebring efforts in the future. Let’s open our eyes to see that He is good and His majesty is displayed in the world around us! May you begin to notice the beauty wherever God has planted you right now.

The scroll of God’s call

Ezekiel 2:4 I am sending you to them who are stubborn and obstinate children, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ 5 As for them, whether they listen or not—for they are a rebellious house—they will know that a prophet has been among them. 6 And you, son of man, neither fear them nor fear their words, though thistles and thorns are with you and you sit on scorpions; neither fear their words nor be dismayed at their presence, for they are a rebellious house. 7 But you shall speak My words to them whether they listen or not, for they are rebellious.

8 “Now you, son of man, listen to what I am speaking to you; do not be rebellious like that rebellious house. Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.” 9 Then I looked, and behold, a hand was extended to me; and lo, a scroll was in it. 10 When He spread it out before me, it was written on the front and back, and written on it were lamentations, mourning and woe.

3:1Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.

At the Great Commission Bible Institute (where David and I are the Site Coordinators this year), we have been making our way through the prophets of the Hebrew scriptures, and most recently we were studying Ezekiel. As I sat in on class for a bit, something struck a chord in me and God sweetly reminded me of a truth in those verses. The verses above are from the end of chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3; these are words from Ezekiel’s commission. God is calling this man to a life of being His messenger in a very dark time with a very hard message. The people of Israel had been repeatedly forsaking their God and refusing to heed His warnings to return to Him and escape the coming destruction. But after grace upon grace, the reality of being taken from their land and dragged into captivity was upon them.

The setting of this moment in Ezekiel’s life is on the banks of the Chebar river in Babylon among the rest of his exiled people, dealing with the aftermath. If things had gone according to plan in Ezekiel’s life, he would have been just beginning to fulfill his priestly work in the temple in Jerusalem: the fulfillment of many years of preparation and anticipation. And yet here he was… sitting on the bank of a river in a land that might as well have been the other side of the world from where he longed to be. So my guess is that he is bearing the weight of disappointment and disillusionment as the one thing he desired for his life was stripped away from him.

And in the midst of that hopelessness, God breaks into his world in a catasrophic way and begins to lay out a call on his life that is so different than what he wanted, but here it was, coming straight from the mouth of God. He was swept up into the presence of God in His glory. And Ezekiel’s response is to fall on his face in worship. Here’s where the commission begins; where God begins to lay out the plan that He has for Ezekiel. He lets him know the specifics of his calling, that he will be sharing a message to the rebellious people of the house of Israel. He lets him know that they will most likely NOT listen to him. He lets him know that according to all logical and human standards, he is going to fail (if you read the rest of the book you realize that not only is he going to seemly fail, he is going to seem absolutely insane to everyone around him). But He tells him to do it anyways. Don’t focus on the acceptance of the message, focus on being obedient to what I’m telling you to do. There’s a lesson right there that we all need to let sink in.

But the part that really impacted me was even yet to come. So after God lays out for him the details of what his call is, there’s this weird part about God handing him a scroll to eat. He spread out the scroll and let Ezekiel see all the pain and hardship that was written on it, and then God asked Ezekiel to “eat what I am giving you.” Ezekiel intimately shared in the brokenness of God’s heart in the moment that he ate of the scroll. The call on Ezekiel’s life was not an easy one to swallow, it would be bitter and painful and offer him no earthly sense of accomplishment, and yet God, in His ultimate goodness was asking Ezekiel to trust Him enough to say “yes” to His plan. So Ezekiel accepted the difficult task ahead of him; He stepped over the mountain of disappointment in loosing his dream career, and he humbly received the new job God had for him, knowing the pain it would bring into his life. And here is the beautiful part…. “and it was sweet as honey in my mouth.” God made it sweet to him. There is no way that commission would be sweet on it’s own. But God gave Ezekiel the grace that he would need to accomplish the difficult task.

The things God may call us to face in our lives may be scrolls inscribed with lamentation, mourning, and woe. But if we will be humble enough to receive them from His hand with trust, He will make them sweet to us as well.

new year. new approach.

Sometimes I don’t want to blog because I can’t sum up all that I’m thinking and processing in a single eloquent post, which then paralyzes me from ever communicating anything of what is going on in my life. It may be that it’s the first day of a new year and I am thinking of the potential of all that a new year represents, or it may be that I spent most of the day watching Community in my in-law’s living room and I’m wanting to feel some sense of accomplishment before the day is over, but I am resolving to revamp what I use this blog for. Mostly I want to trick myself into not feeling pressured or obligated to write blog posts….. so that I actually start writing blog posts. Every post doesn’t need to change your life. Isn’t it all about the little moments, anyways? So all this is is me committing to thinking about what I want this blog to be… I’ll get back to you. And hopefully 2012 will be a year full of posts that honestly and creatively express those little moments that may or may not change your life.

Cheers to a new year of possibilities… Happy 2012!

Bring what you have and let Him multiply it

Here we are on the brink of the GCBI school year. 2 students are already moved in next door. Everyone else arrives in the next 48 hours. This is really happening! I, for one, am so excited to get this started; no more talking ideas and plans and google calendar-ing…let’s get down the nitty gritty and get our hands dirty with relationships. We can’t wait for our whole GCBI family to be here!

So this morning I was reading Matthew 14:13-21, and I want to share what God encouraged me with.

Jesus has just heard about his cousin John being beheaded. He retreated on the lake to spend some time hashing out his grief with His Father. And as he is returning to shore he sees the crowd awaiting his arrival. He sees them and is filled with compassion and begins to heal the sick. After a while his disciples are getting a little frustrated; it’s getting dark, they’re hungry, people are getting crabby. They try to get the Lord to finish up the whole ministry thing so they can go get some food and rest. But Jesus sees an opportunity for an object lesson. You know the rest of the story, they bring Jesus all the food they can find, 5 loaves  of bread and 2 fish, and watch as five thousand people are miraculously fed. Here’s the kicker: There were 12 baskets leftover. One for each disciple.

I love this. First of all I love what we learn from the Lord about where to take our sorrow and grief. He gets alone with His Father, plugs into His source, allows Himself that time to pray His tears before God. Because of that He is able to come to shore and right away begin pouring Himself out onto the crowds again. Our intimate time spent alone with God is what allows us to be able to live a life for others. Strength and endurance for  ministry, an ability to get over ourselves and be about others is a fruit of having a vibrant private life with the Lord.

Then we see that the disciples haven’t quite grasped this yet. They are going on their own strength. They see the circumstances and think, “this will never work.” Where Jesus saw the crowds of people as an opportunity for ministry, his disciples saw the crowd of people as an inconvenience. How often does the Lord provide an opportunity for ministry in my path, and I see it as an inconvenience? Probably too often.

I think this is where Jesus sees a teachable moment for his disciples. He could have had manna fall from heaven or snapped His fingers and had 5000 hamburgers appear in people’s laps. But instead he had his disciples gather what they had and bring it Him. And they watched as God stretched what they had to accomplish something so much bigger than they ever could have imagined. They got to see a physical picture of how Jesus wants ministry to work. We bring Him what we have. He multiplies it and makes it work. How many people will He feed with the little you are able to bring Him?

And then my favorite part. The 12 baskets left. Jesus was sending the point home. If you trust Me and do what I say, even when it doesn’t seem to you like it could ever work…. If you will not trust your view of the situation as much as you trust My view of the situation…. If you will step out in obedience and live a life for others even when you’re tired, hungry, and crabby, I will make you full and satisfy you in ways you never could have done yourself.

This was God’s encouragement to me as we get GCBI started this weekend. Kirsten, plug into Me for strength, bring Me what you have and watch as I multiply it, and relentlessly pour yourself out for the people I put in front of you, and you will be filled and refreshed by Me.