Friday, November 23, 2012

Off to Aruba

Well, tomorrow we leave around 5:00am for Aruba.  One of the things we have to do here is take visa trips every 90 days.  Technically we're not allowed to be in the country for more than 90 days at a time unless we figure out a way to get a longer-term visa.  It is something our family is looking into though so we don't have to kill our bank account every 3 months.  But there is something refreshing about getting to leave for a bit and reconnect with each other (and in this case, be in a culture where more people speak English).

The best thing about Aruba though is that my (Melissa) parents are coming to visit us there.  And we were able to use a timeshare in which we will have a 3 bedroom place.  One room for the kids, one for my parents and one for us.  It will be great to get to actually live with them for a few days and they get the extra time with the kids.  We've been counting down the days until we get to see Grandma and Grandpa and the kids are really excited.

It has been somewhat of a challenge to help Noah understand that when we see them, we're not going to be at their house in the U.S.  So we could use prayer for that.  And that we all would have excited hearts to come back to Venezuela.  We've never been to Aruba, but our guess is it's the type of place that would make you not want to go home to the U.S., let alone Venezuela!  But I think we're trying to prepare for that and not get our expectations too high.  We just want to enjoy time with the family.

This will be such a nice break after a long weekend and long week.  Our national staff conference was the past 3ish days.  All of the staff and stinters in the country met together and talked about life, ministry, planned some things and even celebrated Thanksgiving together.  So we're all pretty tired from lots of meetings (and Thanksgiving can be tiring as well).  But we are hopeful to come back and jump right back into the swing of things.

Thanksgiving was a lot of fun.  I did a decent job delegating to the team so that I didn't have to cook for 19 adults and 5 kids.  That was a good decision, especially since we have what I call a mini oven.  The turkey barely fit.  The $65 turkey.  Yup, you read that right.  Turkey is expensive here, but divided amongst everyone, made it not incredibly terrible.  But all in all, everything tasted pretty similar and the food was really good.  We even were able to find some type of sweet potatoes to throw together sweet potato casserole the morning of.  I think almost everyone was grateful for that!

So as I sit here and wait for the washer to get done (sometimes I wonder why I do clothe diapers), I figured I might as well get on here and write a little update on our lives.  I hope you feel connected and enjoy my ramblings.  One day I'll figure out how to get Bart back on day.  Until then, I must go kill some mosquitos.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

We did it!

We're not sure how, but we survived our first ever fall retreat here for the students in Valencia!  It was not without it's random issues.  Where to start?

Well, we tried to leave early.  There were 2 cars leaving at 10:00am (we didn't leave until almost 11:00...Venezuelan time).  We were in the car with 2 Venezuelans and our kids.  It was a little tight and a somewhat rough ride.  Motion sickness galore for both of us, but the kids seemed fine and did really well.  It took us nearly 7 hours to get there with stopping for lunch.  Yes, you read that right.  Nearly 7 hours.  We were anticipating 3.  Whoops!  So we weren't in the best of spirits when we arrived and didn't have very much time to set up.  Luckily there wasn't much set-up to do.

So we set up a bit, ate dinner, set up some more, put the kids to bed and the bus full of students arrived. The students were a bit cranky, also not anticipating the longer drive (it actually only took them about 5.5 hours to get there on the bus).  But they pushed through.  The first meeting was still ago even though everything was already behind schedule.  That's ok.  We're in Venezuela.  The key word here is flexibility.

Bart did a great job giving talks.  Christian, one of the Venezuelan staff guys, translated for him for each of the 4 talks.  There were seminars for students to attend and lots of free time for people to swim and do other activities.  There were supposed to be horses to ride, but that never happened for some reason.  Leah was pretty bummed about that.

The retreat center was pretty interesting.  It was not a 5 star hotel or anything.  Bugs galore, really stinking hot (but sweet deal, all of the bedrooms were air conditioned), frogs wandering around the pool, dirty bug-infested pool, lots of areas for our kids to injure themselves.  Oh well.  But they loved wandering around.  They even had a little zoo area with a bunch of random animals.  Chickens, ducks, turtles, pig-type things, monkeys, some sort of little cheetah type cat, parrots.  It was pretty cool for the kids to get to see the animals and have something to entertain them.

 The kids had a good time, but got pretty restless.  Once they had done everything once or twice, they got a little bored.  You can only go down the slide so many times in the blinding sunlight before you don't want to do it anymore.  They loved the pool though.  Small downside to that was that it was right next to the meeting area so we could only swim during certain times so we didn't distract people.  That was a bummer, but worth it for the students to be able to focus.

One student, Alejandra, came and honestly no one knew if she had ever made a decision about Jesus before.  After this weekend, she came up to Bart and gave him a hug and thanked him for what he shared and said he presented things in a way she had never heard of or thought of before.  It was really cool to see God working in her life.  I think she is definitely wrestling through some hard stuff in her life, but I'm excited to see what happens as a result of the talks, community and just overall excitement from this weekend.

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 Students seemed to have a really good time.  So much so that they were going crazy on the bus drive home.  We decided to take the bus home to have more space and not have the motion sickness issue.  Boy was that a good decision, minus the chaos!  They were playing games, standing up, singing, dancing, you name it.  Ridiculous!  They wanted to have fun, and boy did they ever.  The kids were able to sleep for a little bit which was nice, but they really enjoyed getting to have more space and even sit with other people.  The bus only took a little over 4 hours to get home, so we were pretty darn excited about that.  We were so tired.

Speaking of tired....I went to bed at 8:15 last night.  Sooooo tired.  And I woke up when Noah woke me up this morning at 6:30.  It was glorious and I don't for a second regret that decision.  Sleep was hard at retreat.  Loud students, restless kids, crickets in bed with us, you name it.  At least I didn't come in contact with a cockroach.  Others, yes.  Not me, so I'm grateful.

How do I end this?  I'm not really sure.  I haven't done a very good job summing up this weekend, but overall it was really good.  We're really glad we started this tradition of having a retreat around this time every year.  Next year, we'll look into a place a little closer to home.  :)  And the support that our team raised for the retreat is almost all in, so that's exciting!  God has totally provided and we can't help but feel blessed! 
This picture has the sun setting and the moon in the middle left of the picture.  One of the guys that it was so cool that you could see the moon and the sun at the same time.  It was a really gorgeous sunset.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

First ever "fall" retreat

This weekend is going to be huge for the movement here in Valencia.  Tomorrow we will have the first ever "fall" retreat.  We say fall because, well, it's fall in the U.S. and they just don't really have seasons here.  But it's the first one.  Ever.  This is exciting for many reasons.
1.  Because students get to get away together and connect with the Lord and each other.
2.  This is setting the norm to have this retreat for years to come.
3.  Retreats are always great for building momentum and getting students excited about going back to campus and doing ministry.
4.  We get to see first hand what God is doing in students lives and connect on a much deeper level.
5.  Our entire staff team is working together to raise support as a team to allow this retreat to happen.
6.  We've already seen God do awesome things (like provide a location when all hope was lost, seeing funds come in to pay for the retreat, students are really excited).

It has certainly been a lot of work to plan this retreat with no previous tracks to run on, but our team is being awesome and faithfully working together to make it happen.

Would you please pray for retreat this weekend?  Would you pray that students would come, that they would bring their friends (that we'd have a bus big enough to take everyone)?  Would you pray for Bart as he's giving 4 talks this weekend (with translation, they will probably last 50 minutes)?  Would you pray for our family to be able to enjoy the time there (we'll be 3 hours away)?  Leah threw up twice yesterday and we're not sure why.  She seemed fine all day even after she threw up, once in the morning and then right before bed.  Would you pray that Bart (and Noah and I) wouldn't get whatever she might have?

We'll need energy and patience.  The keyword here in Venezuela is flexibility.  When we say the students are leaving at 1:00 tomorrow it will probably be 2:00 or 2:30.  When we have a schedule for retreat, we just go with the flow and try to stick to it.  No one has ever been to the retreat place so we don't know much about it.  But we're praying that it is a time of experiencing the Lord and just being ok with chaos.  :)  If nothing else, there's a pool and horses that we can pay extra for.  Maybe the kids and I can swim and ride horses all weekend?

All in all, we're looking forward to seeing what God does this weekend.  It will end up being almost 3 days with travel time, and we're praying God allows us to have significant conversations with students and staff.  Would you join us in praying for these things?

We'll try to update again next week with pictures!  But for now.......

Monday, November 12, 2012

Who needs water?

So the past few days have been interesting.  On Wednesday evening last week, someone on our team mentioned the water being out.  Of course, the response on the team was, WHAT?!?!  We all needed to be filled in (there are major benefits to having Venezuelans on the team because they can actually read the signs posted).  :)  Basically, long story short we might not have water for 4 days, but we would probably have it intermittently.  Ok.  What does that mean?  We'll just go with it and fill as many bottles with water as we can.  Let's hope for the best.

So Thursday and Friday are relatively painless.  We have water from 6-7am, 12-1pm and again from 8-9pm.  Every time the water would come on, we'd jump up, fill water bottles, flush toilets, wash dishes, do laundry, ect.  We had a decent system going.  This isn't so bad.

Well, then Saturday rolls around.  6:30 in the morning.  No water.  Hmmm.  Maybe they're turning it on later in the morning because it's Saturday.  Right?  Seems logical.  Nope.  It never came on. At. All.  On. Saturday.  That was a little bit painful.  And smelly.  So we were starting to get a little tight on water by Sunday morning.

Sunday morning comes and I immediately jump out of bed when I hear the sound of our toilet running. We have water!  This is great!  So we shower, wash dishes, refill water bottles, you get the idea.  And the water never goes off on Sunday.  Sure.  Great.  I'll take it.  This is the end of the weirdness.  And quite frankly I don't enjoy trying to figure out how to wash cloth diapers without water.  Not cool people who are in charge of the water system, not cool.

And today comes.  Water on.  We're doing good.  A little after 8:00am I'm working on breakfast and no water.  What?!?!  Who decided this was a good idea to mess with my emotions?  I thought we had this unspoken rule that things were back to normal now.  I was wrong.  We ended up getting water in about 2 hour increments throughout the day (6-8, 12-2, 6-8 again).  Ok, I can work with this.

Who knows how long this is going to last.  We are entering the dry season so this will become a little bit more of a norm here, but this wasn't anticipated quite yet.  Oh Venezuela.  It's amazing how much you don't realize how much you depend on something until it's taken away.

We haven't done a very good job of updating this blog.  Partially because we're busy.  Partially because we're tired.  Partially because we're running on fumes.  But we want to continue to update people on our lives.  And we'll try to do better.  But honestly we'll fail.  That's the beauty of grace.

Thank you for your prayers.  And for even reading this and inviting yourself into our lives.  We are grateful.

Friday, October 26, 2012

This looks like fun

There are some benefits to it always being warm here (and it currently being rainy season).  The kids love to play in the rain.  Sometimes it's just unavoidable.  For example, one day we were at the store and it started to pour while we were there.  What other option did we have?  So we put stuff in the stroller and tried to cover anything we didn't want wet and....let the kids go.  They love it.  And we don't mind too much either.  Sometimes it's the little things in life that bring the most joy.  You can see from the video that we were having so much fun that some of our teammates couldn't help but come out and join us!

Friday, September 14, 2012

A Venezuelan Birthday

Today we celebrated Noah's 4th birthday!  It was pretty low-key.  We let him decide what to do, for the most part.  We did go to McDonalds for dinner as a special treat.  McDonalds here is a little expensive (167 Bs which is about $18.50 for our family, yikes!).  But we took a small video tonight capturing a little of Noah on his birthday.  Sorry the video is the greatest since it's dark out.  We really enjoyed celebrating him today.  The worst part of the day for him was when we sang to him this morning, he started to get really upset.  We weren't sure why, but then after asking what was wrong, he told us we sang to him with the wrong name.  We were supposed to sing to Cookie Monster.  :)  Long story short, he calls himself Cookie Monster quite frequently and talks like him.  Leah also goes by Elmo of course.

Monday, September 03, 2012


Below is an email that Melissa sent out to a good friend.  It'll give a glimpse into how we're doing our first few days.

Hey!  I wanted to let you know we made it to VZ safely.  We had a couple small hiccups along the way but overall it went relatively well.  It's been a little hard to be here and still feel unsettled since we're not going to be staying here (at the girls' apartment), but we're making the best of it.  The kids seem to be adjusting well.  We went swimming yesterday and they liked that and they've enjoyed the little playgroundish equipment inside our complex.  

Addition by Bart: Today was funny.  Well, depending on your sense of humor it was funny.  Noah went down the slide outside our apartment and didn't put his feet down in time, so he planted squarely, and pretty hard, on his bottom.  Tears and yelling ensued.  Only maybe 30 seconds later Leah heads down the slide and catches her foot on the side of it maybe 2/3 of the way down.  It forces her sideways and she flies out and lands directly on her head.  Obviously tears, yelling, and a welt ensue.  So there we sit, three gringos; I have one on each leg as they scream.  Way to go, Papa.

Melissa, continued: They are sleeping well which has been a huge blessing.  We're still adjusting to being really hot, just sitting here in the apartment sweating but I think we'll get used to it.  Praise the Lord for fans at night to help us sleep (and keep the mosquitos away)!  We would love if you could continue to pray for housing for us.  We're not wanting to be desperate but at the same time, we don't want to be in limbo anymore or make life harder on the kids.  We'll see.  The Lord will provide.  You could also pray for sleep for me.  I'm having all kinds of trouble sleeping.  I'm not sure why.  I have trouble falling asleep and then I wake up numerous times throughout the night and sometimes go check on the kids.  There's a part of me that I think is worried that they're not handling things ok but there's a bigger part of me that just gets paranoid that I can't hear them if they cry or whatever (the fan in our room is incredibly loud).  But there have also been random loud noises that wake me up.  Literally the first night we were here I woke up and walked into the living/dining room area and the door was wide open.  It wasn't a big deal because we have a barred door also and it was closed and locked but it was a little unnerving.  So random stuff like that just prevents me from sleeping too.  Not to mention there are no curtains on any of the windows and the sun comes up around 6 so if I want to sleep past then I have to do it in broad daylight.  Sleep was not something I was anticipating as being an issue.  I guess it's a great way for satan to bug me.

Anywho, keep me posted on how things are with you.  We can skype or facetime (if you have an iphone/ipad/ipod with wifi).  I think our skype account is bartandmelissa.  No idea what facetime is.  Maybe (Bart: Yes, it is).  I'd love to talk sometime whenever we can figure out a time.  And the time change will be tricky.  We're a half an hour behind you, so it might be really hard to coordinate.  :)  Just kidding.  But we really are a half an hour behind Ohio time.  :)

Thank you for your prayers!

Friday, August 31, 2012


"Then sings my soul, to my savior God.  To thee we sing, how great thou art!"

I think maybe I've slept 10 minutes tonight.  I guess it perhaps still could be considered "tonight" after-all it is only 2:13 in the morning.  We fly out at 6.  That means we get up at 3ish, to catch the shuttle to the airport at 3:30, to get there around 4.  Fun morning (or is it considered morning at 330?).

I just can't fall asleep.  I have a number of things running through my mind and heart, really, that is keeping me from rest.  Did we pack everything?  How are the kids and Melissa sleeping?  I set my alarm, right?  God we really need you, please do big things to calm and lead our family in this next transition.  I wander how many people are praying for us?  Did we ask enough people to pray?  Man, I wish Noah would stop kicking in his sleep! -- and honestly those are only the dominant ones, with lots of littler things mingled in there as well.

I'm pretty excited, and that doesn't help either.  I'm also pretty unsettled.  I think I've learned in the last few years that I can't work in absolute chaos, materially.  What I mean is that I can work in chaos relationally, or emotionally, or even spiritually, but if everything on my desk is cluttered, and papers are piled everywhere then I just have a hard time concentrating at all.  Weird, I know, but that's how I am.  What is hard about that right now is that we don't have a place to live when we get to Venezuela.

Now, we are going to stay in the girls apartment for the time being because the rest of the team isn't there so it is empty, but it still isn't ours, you know?  We can't really unpack because we're hopefully moving out shortly.  We just can't get settled and situated.  And this makes me a bit tense.

That is our big prayer request right now, and honestly our biggest step of faith currently.  Housing is one of those things that is good you may never even notice.  But if your living situation is hard (say with the 4 of us and 3 single girls all crammed in a 3 bedroom apartment) life just gets exponentially more difficult.  No alone time may be doable for extroverts but Melissa and I both need quiet alone time to refresh and rest.  Forget it if we can't find an apartment.

If you are reading this and could spare 5 minutes to pray for our living situation, we would be so grateful.  Then if you could even just comment below saying you prayed it would encourage us greatly.

I opened this post with a line from a popular hymn, because that is where we cling currently.  God is the great one.  He is the one that deserves praise and honor.  He will provide.  Truly he cares for the sparrow and has numbered the hairs on our heads; God the giver will do what he loves to do - show himself as the giver and the great one.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Are we home?

We're back in northwest Ohio.  We'll be spending the next two days here, then five days in Canton, and then returning here for another three days or so.  It kind've feels like we're on very long ride, but we've only just started.

I hope to debrief a bit about the conference in the next day or two, but I have one thing going through my mind/heart currently, and that is a desire for rest.

I was reading through the beginning of Romans this morning and was struck by the typical greeting from Paul.  "Grace and peace to you..." is a greeting Paul gives in almost of his letters, but it hit me this morning probably because of how desperate I am for those things currently; and how desperately I will need to cling to them over the course of the next month or so.

We were hoping that simply upon arrival back into Ohio we would be replenished.  Not openly, of course, because that would be just silly, but at some deepl level we find a desire for rest and peace.  And grace.  Probably mostly grace.

Our lives have been a whirlwind recently and will continue to be for this stage of our lives.  Transitions are never easy, especially ones across continents!  So how can we slow down?  How does one find rest and peace amidst craziness?  My guess, and what the bible seems to affirm, is that it is only found in the gospel.

It is the gospel that affirms our rest is in Christ.  It is the gospel that tells of God wrapping his arms around us, carrying us through.  It is the gospel which affirms Gods kingship and dominion over everything on earth, in the USA or in Venezuela.  It is the gospel which alerts us to the realities that our fatigue, our anxieties, indeed all our weakness and frailty are a result of both a fallen and broken world and our fallen and broken part of it.  Then the gospel takes those weakness and frailties, it takes all our brokenness and that of the world, and brings it before the one that can mend all pain and make all things right.  We go to the one in whom we find our true desires met and the worlds true pain erased.  We go home.  As God looks on lovingly, tearfully - no rather as he runs out of his home to embrace us who are his wayward, tired, and broken children, we find all our unrest and our pain cease.  We find, indeed, grace and peace.

So to that we cling for this next stage.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Stint Briefing

Ha!  I wish all of our road trips were this happy!

We said goodbye to our kids once again, and have headed to Chicago for Stint briefing.  This is a conference in which 400 people from around the country gather for one week to get a crash course in how to lead/love/learn/share well for their respective trips.

400 people.  From all over the country.  Gathering for one purpose, to be better trained and equipped to take the gospel all over the globe for the next year.  It hit me this morning how rare this is.  Surely this sort of thing must have been something the Apostle Paul would have just loved to be a part of.  We are sitting in a room of people with some that are giving up 6 figure incomes, some taking their small children, others knowing virtually no-one on their teams, and all taking huge steps of faith to see God honored in the world.  This is a unique conference, and a unique group of men and women.

Throughout the history of the church this sort of thing is virtually brand new - only in the last 100 years or so, but of this magnitude significantly more recently.  Some of these people cannot even openly speak about the locations they are going because the country is that unsafe, or closed.  We speak in code.  This is unreal.  For those of us in Christian circles this may become old-hat, or something we take for granted, but this is nothing short of miraculous.  This group of young men and women, young mothers and fathers, newlyweds some, and still students others--this group is giving a year of their lives to tramp all across the globe with little desire other than to bring others before the throne of the king.  Forsaking riches, some forsaking health, all forsaking the friends and family and comforts of home.

Jesus is love, and grace, and mercy.  He has redeemed us by the blood of His Son.  He has set up a kingdom, and invited us into his family to play a role in his redemption of the world.  He loves us deeply and radically.  We are free indeed.  Because of Him we have been granted new lives.  We have been bought from the slave market, brought through the sea, and into the promised land.  We walk with the creator of the universe and he finds a home in us.

Actually, now that I think about it, maybe this is the most normal room I've ever been in?

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Stretched thin...

There is a scene in the Lord of the Rings in which Bilbo says something to the effect of, "I feel tired, Gandalf.  Stretched thin, like butter over bread."

Of course, he is referencing the effect the ring is having on him.  It is bearing down on him, heavy and burdensome.  It is such a weight.

In one sense we can absolutely relate right now.  We feel heavy.  We are spending the next day or so finishing packing and cleaning our place and moving out of Columbus.  We have so many memories, so many joyful times in this city.  This was where our kids were born.  This is where we call home.  This is where our church and staff and ministry family are.  In all seriousness, many parts of this city have been, for us, little slices of heaven.  And now we are departing, packing up and moving on.  How can this possibly be done well?

We spent last night having the kids say goodbye to every room in the house.  I had to fight back the tears.  God had moved in this house.  He had run his redemption story through the hallways and through the walls.  He had begun to work and fashion our family to where he wanted it to be.  Now we move on, and I ask again, how can this be done well?

The kids are handling it better than we are, honestly.  And yes I do think that it has sunk in for Noah. More than a couple times this week he has said things like, "But Papa I love this house" with all seriousness across his face.  He will need to grieve as well.  Yesterday he was begging us to take the carpet in our living room.  Believe me little buddy, I want to, and everything else as well.

So we look to our refuge and protector.  Our guide.  The way.  We look to Him who can make and remake all things.  To the love of our hearts.  And we sadly say our farewells to those things and places that have so been a part of His love in our lives as we follow him to a new chapter.  We do this with heavy hearts.  Like butter stretched over bread.

Maybe that's how we do this well?  Maybe by casting our gaze on the one that ultimately is our final resting place, our true home?  Maybe in His arms and care we can find the peace for our currently sentimental hearts?  That must be it.  It's our experience that nothing else compares.  Give us the world, and we'll still be wanting, but give us the Bread of Life and we'll find flowing within streams of living water, we'll find that we never hunger nor thirst again.

Goodbye Columbus and our dear friends.  The one we love is leading us on a different path for now, perhaps we shall embrace again.  But perhaps the embrace we all want is the one found only on distant shores, where the sea turns to glass - and all fades away.  And then we see Him, and joy ever after.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Rapid Fire

The latest in the Shadle family:

-Portland was great.  Lots of good time planning out the next year, and being fed from the word.  I really feel like I reconnected with God in some sweet ways.  Very refreshing.

-Melissa and the kids picked me up at the airport holding signs with stickers.  It was heart-melting.  I love these guys so much.  They both ran to me and gave me big hugs.  It was awesome.

-The last two days Melissa and I have been packing up and moving quite a bit of our stuff to a storage unit in town.  This is becoming real!  I've been a bit sentimental about the move, which has surprised me a bit.

-We're heading to "touch-a-truck" in Westerville today.  The kids get to play in and "drive" fire trucks, ambulances, diggers, and whatever else you could think of.  It should be fun.

-I'm giving brief ministry updates to two churches the next two weeks.  I'd love your prayers!

-And we officially bought our tickets for Venezuela.  August 31st!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

What is it with Jesus?

Something is different about that man. It is hard to argue otherwise. He has made a mark that noone else in history and claim. The mere mention of his name inspires feelings in others that are hard to fathom. The power is evident. I'm currently sitting in Portland, Oregon. Well, a hotel in Portland. We are at Stint team leader training, which is basically a week conference discussing and chatting about how best we can lead our teams next year overseas. The past couple days we've spent our afternoons downtown both trying to get to know Portland and trying to have some spiritual conversations with people we ran into. I decided to talk to this one girl that was obviously homeless and holding a sign that said something to the effect of "kindness can make a difference." We talked for a while. My heart broke the more and more of her story I heard. She grew up in Fresno. Left home shortly after high school, and began the vagabond life. She moved to Chicago, and then gradually made her way West until she eventually made it to Portland. She has no plans, no goals, and and virtually no family. She had a boyfriend who was playing a rickety old broken guitar to try and get some money for them to eat, or more likely, the money was for their next drug fix. I just began to be really sad for this girl that lived under one of the bridges downtown. I asked about the spiritual lives of people in Portland. "So, what are people like spiritually in Portland?" She immediately tensed up and a quick change came upon her. "I don't want to talk about Jesus. Just leave me alone. You should go." I tried to gently probe. Then, and more than a couple times, I apologized on behalf on Jesus and Christianity. It was obvious she had been hurt by someone who was supposed to be representing Jesus. "I'm just really sorry, I said. It seems like you have not had very good conversations about this before and that just makes me really sad. It's definitely not what Jesus would have wanted. I'm so sorry you've had a bad experience with Christians." It was as though she didn't even here me. We apologized on behalf of Christians everywhere, not for talking about Jesus, but that it was obvious she had had a pretty bad experience with the church. But the whole encounter got me thinking. What is it about Jesus? Perhaps the story is a bad example. That woman's emotional reaction to Jesus probably has more to do with her interaction with people that are supposed to be representing Jesus than they do with the actual, historical Jesus. But I still think the question remains. Would anyone react in a similar way to Alexander the Great? Or Nero? Or Cyrus of Persia? Has anyone ever had dreams haunted by Julius Caesar or Polpot? Has the very dating system we use been changed by Napolean, or Hitler, or any other throughout history? I think I know the answer. What's yours?

Monday, July 09, 2012

I've been having a good day.  I'd like to see if I can process a few of the more potent thoughts running through my head:

1. Grace is really good.  Every so often I am just drawn by the Spirit back into grace.  It may seem weird since I'm in full-time ministry, but the gospel of grace is just one that I forget so often.  Maybe it's because I'm a dad of a 3 and 2 year old and am perpetually in the "you need to do this" and "don't do that" sort of world, but it's super easy for me to fall into a check-list for God.  Since I'm a Christian, I think, I need to do X, Y, and Z today and then I'll feel good.
I've just been reminded today that I am a sinner saved by grace.  Nothing good in or of itself has come from me, but only what God has graciously bestowed or given.  I have been ransomed by the blood of the cross, and that cross grants me forgiveness and removes me sins as far as the east is from the west.  This is great news, and has been replenishing my heart today.

2. The Gospel needs preached.  I read an article in Christianity Today called "You can't preach the gospel with deeds and why it's important to say so" and it really just reaffirmed why I love being on staff with Cru.  Lots of people cite St. Francis of Assisi as saying, "Preach the gospel at all times.  Use words if necessary" and then use that to back up a claim that our major witness for the gospel needs to be our deeds, and not our words.  Well, (nevermind that the people who would know about St. Francis, the Franciscans, have no recollection of him ever saying that) says the author Duane Litfin, it just can't happen.  Nor is it even very biblical.  We needs words and deeds, but the gospel can never be preached simply by deeds.  He says, and I like this, "The gospel is inherently verbal, and preaching the gospel is inherently verbal behavior.  If the gospel is to be communicated at all, it must be put into words."
Again, it makes me love that I'm on staff with an organization that has tried to be on the front lines of gospel proclamation.

3. Financial partner development (or support raising) is a tough task, but honestly a pretty enjoyable one for me.  I've already had a few conversations this morning which were really encouraging.  People are behind our ministry and praying hard and giving quite a bit.  We are so grateful for our partners.  And to God's grace.

Friday, June 08, 2012

Home Alone

I'm home alone for the weekend. And that is honestly what I feel like.  What in the world am I supposed to do with myself?  I'm not even sure I know how to eat all by myself, it's been so long since I've done it.

Melissa took the kids to her mom and dad's for the weekend, mostly so I could have time to get a bunch of things done.  I appreciate it so much, as today has been super productive and fruitful.  I've read a ton, made a bunch of phone calls, and did quite a few other odds and ends that have been piling up, both with financial ministry partner development and just in general around the house.  Thanks babe, I love you a ton.

My Spanish is coming along slowly.  I'm liking the Rosetta Stone method though, it's pretty fun.  It's actually how we learned Azeri while in Azerbaijan (not with the Rosetta Stone, just the method) so it feels pretty natural.  I'm hoping that if I can just develop a pretty good base, once we step foot in country it will come pretty smoothly.  I'm sure I'll have hiccups but it's fun to get started.

I really hope the Celtics win tomorrow.  Call me a bitter Cleveland fan if you must but I do not want the Heat to win anything.  And I'm also pretty excited about Euro 2012.

I have a big day tomorrow with lots and lots of phone calls.  Would you mind praying for me?

Friday, June 01, 2012

Return of the Prodigal Son

I've been spending some time reading through "The Return of the Prodigal Son" by Henri Nouwen.  It's been quite a joy.  I've liked Nouwen for some time now; he just seems to speak to aspects of my heart directly--as though my issues were his and vice versa, and he has a special ability to  bring all this stuff before Calvary.

One thing in particular he wrote hit me this morning.  He was recalling a conversation he had with a friend.  Nouwen had been going through a period in which he was trying to decide whether he was the younger or older son.  Was he more rebellious and wayward?  Was he more proud and demanding?  His answer, to no surprise, was yes.  Both.

This friend, though, said, "Whether you are the younger son or the elder son, you have to realize that you are called to become the father."

This sent him into a tizzy and has hit me fairly heavily this morning.  See, I am not compassionate by default.  Even cordial consideration for others is not something that is easy for me.  However it happened growing up, I just developed a position regarding the world and others that was all focused on myself.  It's all about me, I am the master of my domain and the ruler of my universe.  I am the person that needs pleasing.  I am the one that matters.

So, when I became a Christian, one of the toughest things to outgrow has been my tendency to just completely overlook others.  Wierd?  I'm not sure I'm so rare.  But I do know that I just find in my heart the tendency to still be Bart-centered.  Rarely do I think about how to best love and serve others.

The key there may be simply that I don't think about it.  Huge portions of my life, currently, are dedicated to others--whether it be loving on two young kids that have little to offer in return, or pouring my life out with and for students that need to hear about the message of Christ--I know that God, through the Holy Spirit does love others through me regularly.  But oh how I wish my love for others was more perfected and consistent!

God, I desire to be like you in all things.  I desire to be the Father in the story of the prodigal son.  It is for this we were made; to shepherd, love, protect, and embrace the hurting people in the world around us.  Mold me into this.  Make me the kind of person that forsakes all for the sake of you.  Let others experience your deep love and care for them through me.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Let the River flow

“Notice what happens to the flow of God’s love if we think of it as limited to such sacred events. It is streaming into us, but for the most part it is not flowing through us on to others. We may pray in the eucharistic prayer, ‘Deliver us from the presumption of coming to this table for solace only and not for strength; for pardon only, and not for renewal.’ But if we don’t turn from facing God, so to speak, to face our neighbors, the flow of God’s gifts will be arrested with us, and we will miss the purpose of the strength and renewal that come through the Eucharist. It is as we serve our neighbors - our family, friends, acquaintances - that the dam holding the flow of gifts is lifted and the life of God continues its intended flow.” - Miroslav Volf, Free of Charge

I've been really liking this book lately, if for no other reason than it seems like it is just returning me to simple Gospel truths. If I am only grabbing God's grace for myself, I am missing out. If my worship is solely for my own purpose and enjoyment, then it is not serving its intended purpose.

My experience of joy and love of Christ needs to have an outflow. What could do I do the world that God desperately wants to redeem if I horde all of God's love for myself? God, let my family be an outpouring. Let us overflow with your grace and goodness into any that come into contact with us. Let us have love to give, stemming from an overabundant love and enjoyment of you!

This makes me think of new and fresh ways I could begin to give, areas I could begin to overflow into. More on that soon...

Saturday, March 10, 2012


“Spirituality is not a formula; it is not a test. It is a relationship. Spirituality is not about competence; it is about intimacy. Spirituality is not about perfection; it is about connection. The way of the spiritual life begins where we are now in the mess of our lives. Accepting the reality of our broken, flawed lives is the beginning of spirituality not because the spiritual life will remove our flaws but because we let go of seeking perfection and, instead, seek God, the one who is present in the tangledness of our lives. Spirituality is not about being fixed; it is about God’s being present in the mess of our unfixedness.” - Mike Yaconelli, Messy Spirituality

I thought reconnecting was a fitting title for two reasons. First, this is our first blog post in a couple months (gulp). Secondly, because it seems to be the theme of our lives and ministry over the last couple months.

The students we are leading seem to really be in good places. Deep places, but good. They really seem to be working through some deeper issues in their lives and hearts. Something cool about winter quarter brings this out. If you're on our email list, or receive our prayer letter, than perhaps you've read a few stories so we'll spare them here. But we're just pretty excited to watch God doing what he loves to do - change people from the inside out.

And really we feel like we've been reconnecting with each other and with God in special ways recently as well. Sometimes what we do can feel heavy - we have such a large task to accomplish - and burdensome. It can be defeating. But recently we've really been experiencing peace and grace in the love of Christ.

Monday, January 02, 2012

A Dizzying December

We've been a bit all over the place.

We spent a week in early December in Xenia, OH taking our Systematic Theology II class from Crusade.
We spent a week at home.
We spent around a week with Melissa's mom and dad in Waynesfield, OH.
We spent around a week in Canton, OH with my mom and dad.
And we've just been in Indianapolis for about 5 days.

This is staff life, we've sort've just grown accustomed to it. We pack a lot, unpack a lot, and just feel as though we're constantly on the move. The kids were super excited to be home yesterday, even opting out of "pool time" at the hotel just to get home earlier.

The class was a good review from a class we took a few years ago when we joined staff. It's always refreshing and fun for both of us to study for a while and be challenging in our thinking. It was also pretty great (though not without a tinge of sadness) that we were without the kids for about 5 days. The week ended up being quite refreshing for that reason.

Being home for a bit in the middle of December was really pretty fun. We had much overdue family time to soak up so I think we went to Cosi two or three times and the Zoo lights at least once. We played lots of games, had lots of giggles, and had loads of tickling going on. This was just a fun week.

Visiting the families was nice, though not without its challenges. Noah and Leah just don't sleep quite as well as at home, so that always makes everybody a bit crankier. All in all, though, it was awesome to see the kids faces as they opened their gifts. Noah got lots of Cars things of course and Leah got girly stuff, obviously.

Christmas Conference was fun, as usual, but nutso with the kids. I think after having been with mama and papa nonstop for a few weeks straight made the kids dread childcare, which made for an interesting few days. We had quite a few late nights with students, so we're looking forward to a nap here in the next day or so.

Now we're back, and school is beginning tomorrow. We could use prayer for rest and refreshment.