Archive for August, 2015

The Love and the Fury

A couple days ago, as I was leaving Shreveport, Louisiana, the skies around me unleashed a fury like none I have ever seen or felt. I’m talking about lightning strikes that shook my car and rain that prevented me from seeing the car in front of me at the stoplight. It was amazing. But at the same time, it was terrifying.

Storms are powerful things. I’ve seen them rip apart buildings, splinter trees, and toss vehicles like they were my nephews toys. Storms have caused me to cower in fear and run like my life depended on it.

But every storm reveals something to me: the awesome power of God and His creation.

Back up a minute: Death, destruction, and doom remind me of God?!

Um, yes. Absolutely.

You see, the God I believe in is the same God that flooded the world. The same God that rained down burning sulfur on Sodom and Gomorrah. That set the plagues upon the Egyptians. That commanded the Israelites to destroy the Canaanites. Who split the ground and swallowed up those that rebelled from His way. Who flipped over tables and whipped those who made a market out of His temple.

Yes, the God I love and follow is full of righteous fury. He is powerful beyond words. Terrifying at times.

I often find myself speaking about God in a purely safe way; He is the shelter in the storm. The safe harbor. He is the love and gentle. And kind. And if we just believe in Him we will live happily ever after.

Oh, how we are so wrong. You see, sometimes, God is the storm. Sometimes, God sends down fire and rains destruction on the world. Tornadoes are referred to as ‘the Finger of God” (thanks to the great movie Twister). Sometimes, the path that God calls us to follow is NOT the safe path that will get us out unharmed.

I know all this, and still believe in Him. Still follow His teachings. Still accept His love. Because I know that these things all happen for a reason.

Several years ago, I went through a stormy patch of life. I was convinced that God had abandoned me and left me to fend for myself upon those waves. I look back and I realize that God was always there for me; He never let me drown, but gave me the strength to keep my head above the waters. I am sure that He sent the storms to force me to let go of the things I was holding onto that would have dragged me under; relationships, preconceived notions, opinions, and the shadow of the past.

Over the past couple years, God has set my world on fire, literally and figuratively.  Many things from my past perished in those figurative flames, giving me the space to grow and the opportunity to rebuild who I am meant to be.

In Joplin, despite the destruction and the devastation, the deaths and the wounds, I saw a community of people come together to care for one another. Neighbor took care of neighbor. Strangers became valued friends. And many people turned to God in praise and thanksgiving for the blessings that they had received after the world they knew had been torn apart.

You see, God’s fury is part of His love. Yes, I have been scarred and burned, faced the darkness and survived, but I have learned that every time, God is there with me. Leading me. I didn’t become a Christian to be safe. I didn’t choose to follow God because I thought it would be easy. I follow Jesus Christ because, no matter how many times I fail, I am loved.

I’ve always said that the most dangerous (and most glorious) place to be is in the palm of God’s hand. It’s also very beautiful. And scary. And satisfying.

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A Letter From the Past

Two years ago, I started my journey with AmeriCorps St Louis Emergency Response Team. In that first week, we set out on Quest, an amazing team building experience that included late night navigation skills through the woods, the exploration of rock formations, attacks by angry yellow jackets, poison ivy, and getting to know some of the most amazing people that I had the privileged of serving with. As part of that experience, we were asked to write ourselves a letter that would be returned to us at the end of the year.

Well, a year has passed since I received, and promptly lost that letter.  I found it again while clearing out my locker at the office. It’s been two years since I wrote the following words, but I thought I should share them:

Hey you,

I’m not sure if you’ll remember me, or the person you once were, but I hope you have a chance to be still and re-read these words you once wrote. I hope this year is everything you expected it to be, both the good times, the trials, and the moments you came to find yourself stepping out into the unknown. I hope that you have embraced he friendship of those you knew as teammates and expanded your capacity to love.

I am a broken individual, torn between the events of the past and the expectations of the future, but I hope that you have come to terms with his fact of life and have made moves to heal who and what you were. I hope you have found the voice that was lost to fear, the unconditional love that was wrapped up in all your pain, and the freedom to forgive that is hidden in the darkness of your / our heart.

Know that bridges can be rebuilt and walls can crumble and fall to the power of love. You wrote it in ink on your wrist to remind you of all the times you failed and have chosen not to give up on yourself and on others. You wrote it to remind you of the darkest days that you have survived, and the days to come.

I just finished Quest, the adventure through the woods where you got lost in the darkness, but found yourself trusting those around me. Remember these lessons: You cant make it through life alone, it’s not worth the pain of never having loved. You will fail, but that does not make you a failure, it’s just part of the process to success. you will be lost, but as long as you know where you are supposed to be going, you will never be truly lost, perplexed, yes, but never lost.

I’ve known these people for just a couple of days and they are already family. I hope you have come to know who they truly are and embraced them with open arms no matter what. I hope you have also allowed yourself to be honest with yourself and with them, that they know you just as much as you know all your faults, failures, shortcomings, and strengths, as well as accepting the past which has made you who your are.

With that, I will leave you to return to your journey, but remember to reflect on the boy you once were and the man you’ve become.

God Bless and PEACE
STKerr

Sometimes, it is best to reflect on the words written and the words that we have yet to write. It’s definitely been an adventure, and I cant wait to see where this journey takes me next.

Home

I was born into a military family where the saying was always “Home is where the Army sends you.” As I grew older, my father retired and we settled down but the saying changed slightly: “Home is where the heart is.”  For me, home will never be a specific location, but a place where I feel at peace, where my heart longs to be.

Last week, an amazing lady returned from her adventure overseas with The World Race. Over the past 11 months, she spent time in 11 countries serving alongside various missionary partners, local churches, orphanages, schools, and her teammates that have become her family. When she returned, I started writing a note to send and I stopped.

The words that I had written stated “Welcome home.” And I struggled with those two words for several minutes before I deleted them and started over.

Home is where the heart is.

And in all of our travel overseas, across the country, and around the world, as missionaries, tourists, or simple visitors, we leave part of our hearts in the hands of those left behind. For those of us that have traveled extensively, our hearts have been stolen by smiling children, grateful faces, and grasping hands full of good will.  Our homes have become the churches we have slept in, the houses that have opened their doors to us, and the ground beneath the stars in the open fields that are surrounded by the dark of night.

Home is where the heart is.

For those of us who have worked beside hundreds of people, out homes stretch across the nation, across the world, with each individual that we have come in contact with, that has shaped our lives. Our home is with our teams no matter where they are. Our home is in the midst of devastation left by disasters, beside survivors and volunteers. Our home is with our friends, family, and loved ones, known and unknown.

Home is where the heart is.

Home is both a place and a feeling. Home is when we are surrounded by friends, by nature, and/or by God. Home is a simple tent set up in a field, a tarp stretched between two trees, a shack constructed from unnamed items left behind, or a mansion filled with riches, as long as we are surrounded by those who we love.

Home is where the heart is.

If you were to catch me on a day where I’m feeling slightly feisty, I might tell you that my home is in Uganda. Or aboard the M/V Africa Mercy. Or in Saranac, NY. Or Woodbridge, VA. Or St Louis, MO. Or on some scattered trail in Montana.

The simple fact is that our hearts are not capable of settling down, and home is wherever we it roams.