Archive for Books

The Spark That Set the World On Fire

If you’ve been following this blog, or have kept up with me through my updates on various social media sites, you know that I’ve been working endlessly on a autobiography / memoir book that goes by the name of Journeys: the adventures of a Nomad.  In doing so, I have uncovered various struggles, trials, joys, and memories that have been hidden deep beneath the surface for so many years.  I’ve been writing about them.  Revisiting them.  And loving the act of writing about them because this is one step closer to sharing this journey with family, friends, and strangers from all generations.

And I started thinking about when all of THIS began to fall into place.

I guess the fuel for the fire was already there.  It was like faith.  It was always there, it just needed a spark, a question to ignite the interest and open my eyes to the possibilities.

I still remember the moment, when one of the guys that I was serving with up at Saranac Village, a Young Life camp in upper state New York, turned to me with all seriousness and stated that I should write down my story to share with the world.  I laughed and turned to walk off.  And that was the spark.

It was at that same camp, not 300 yards up the hill, that four years before someone asked me a innocent question that dropped a spark into my world.  And for years it smoldered in my heart, slowly growing, before it burst into brilliant flame one dark night in Uganda.

Like a wildfire, sometimes things get beyond what we ever imagined them to be.  I never expected to write a book.  Nor did I ever to expect to serve in a National Service program for four years.  Nor did I ever see myself pursuing my God with reckless abandon.  Loving to the fullest and praying until it hurts to continue on.

Oh, the years have changed the initial vision of that end goal.  Just as I have grown as an individual and learned what it truly means to follow in the footsteps of Christ.  And the fires have consumed who I have become.

With that being said, I pray that you, the reader of these words, allow each spark to flourish in your lives, and the lives of others.  Don’t be afraid of being that spark for someone else.  And don’t ever be afraid of the flames that God places in your heart.  It may be scary at times, but you will become a beacon of light for others (even if you never know).

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Looking into Other Worlds

It is said that books are windows into other worlds and a way to experience lives that are not our own.  Reading opens our minds to new experiences and allows our hearts to explore and discover the meaning of love.

I have a bunch of books.  I’ve read hundreds.  I love the feel of my fingers turning the page and getting lost within the words of the page.  I enjoy the smell of a good book.  It’s almost like a drug, an addiction.

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When I say I read a lot, I’m not exaggerating.  I read everything from sci-fi to historical fiction.  Adventure novels to books about wildfire, disasters, and ancient warfare.  But my favorite are biographies and autobiographies.

There is something about reading about someones life.  Their story.  Their adventure.  Discoveries.  Thoughts.  Struggles.

Gregory David Robert’s Shantaram.  Katie Davis’ Kisses from Katie.  Hiroo Onoda’s No Surrender.  John S. Burnett’s Where Soldiers Fear to Tread.  Slavomir Rawicz’s The Long Walk.  Joy Harjo’s Crazy Brave.  Eric Greitens’ The Heart and the Fist.  Rye Barcott’s It Happened on the Way to War.  Jon Krakauer’s Into The Wild.  Just to name a few of my favorites that I own.

And I’ve noticed something in each one.  We are all trying to discover our calling in life.  We are all trying to discover what it means to fight for something we believe in.

From the stories of missionaries to military men and women out in the field, they are all warriors in some way.  Some fight with traditional weapons of war, while others fight with love, compassion, expression, and through sharing their lives.  I believe that they are all warriors, fighting for what they believe.

I am currently writing out my story as well.  Journeys, the Adventures of a Nomad.  It’s a simple step in this path of life.  It’s a battle, a struggle.  But it is a window into discovering who I am.

That’s why I read.  That’s why I write.  To reveal the warriors within and to provide a voice for the thoughts in my head.

I think that is why all writers have documented their lives through words on the page.

 

 

Reflections

I’ve been writing a lot lately.  Not as much as I had hoped, but more than I was expecting to be able to.  I’m attempting to complete the first draft of a book that I am working on, an autobiography of my adventures.  It’s probably the most difficult thing I have ever done.

Words are fickle.  They slip in and out of our thoughts, echoing in our heads, but we (or at least I) cannot seem to grasp them long enough to truly capture their essence.

I found myself writing about my time in Africa today, about my stay with Mercy Ships aboard the M/V Africa Mercy.  It scares me that I cannot seem to dictate the thoughts in my head, to tell my own story.  Every time I look at the words, the feelings, the emotions are not there.  They are only words.

Is that all that we have become:  Words on a page?

Oh, but the stories are all there.  I can spend hours talking about my journey, the path that led me to find a home away from home and a family that extends beyond the edges of these United States, that circumnavigates the world.

I can write it all down and spend hours finding the correct phrases and words, but there will always be something missing.  There will always be a part of me that cannot be captured on the page.

It is the smile.  The laugh.  The sly look that was given.  The stutter as I struggle to find the words.  The sorrow and the tears that are shed in the dark of night when the memories come back to haunt us again and again and again.

Oh, words can be quite powerful.  I’ve been told that I know how to use them well, to convince others to feel some emotion.  But those words can be difficult to find at times.

It’s like a relationship.  You give and you take.  Compromise.  And in the end there is something on the page that you yourself could have never fully written because you never knew that those words existed in your heart.

And you learn to love them.  To embrace them like a child.  Protecting them from your edits and the eyes of those who you feel would rip them apart.  But in the end, you let them out into the world to fly.  And people rant and rave and make a fuss, but you know that there is and will always be something missing.

So we smile.  And hide behind the mask of words created as our shield and our armor, our story that binds us to one another.

At this point, I know I’m ranting (and quite possibly raving), but I’m just trying to speak the truth…

Giving It All

The past couple weeks have not been easy for me.  Far from it, actually.  I find myself frustrated, easily angered, and lost in the silence.  It’s as if my thoughts themselves have fallen away and the echos of the day fade into nothing.  

I’ve always feared the silence.  It makes me nervous.  It’s unsettling.  Unnatural in our society of noise and chaos.  

Lately, I’ve been rereading Michael Yaconelli’s book, “Dangerous Wonder: The Adventure of Childlike Faith.”  In it he talks about the voice of God that fades as we grow and begin to follow the rules of society.  We are told to be safe, not to take risks, but God wants us to leap first, fear later.  

I sometimes find myself disliking what I am required to do as part of my time of service with AmeriCorps.  I’d even go as far and say that sometimes I even hate it (and ‘hate’ is a very powerful word).  I don’t always like and/or get along with the people I am working with.  But I do it anyways.

I give everything I have to completing the task set before me.  To accomplishing the mission.  I attempt to get it done completely the first time, so someone else doesn’t have to go back over what has already been done.  

But I look back and ask myself why we don’t do the same with our faith.  Why are we unwilling to give our all when it comes to God?

The better question:  What are we afraid of if we were to give it all to God?  

Is it security? Wealth?  Influence?  Peace of mind?  Safety?  

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
 – Matthew 6:19-21

The Good News that Jesus preached was not and is not an easy path.  He calls us to sacrifice so much, to live dangerously close to the unknown.  Following His path means abandoning what society considers important.

Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”
 – Matthew 8:20

He calls us out of comfort.  He calls us to give up everything we believe to be important to find the richness of His grace and love.  Treasure in heaven.

Jesus looked at him and loved him.  “One thing you lack,” he said.  “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and then you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”
 – Mark 10:21

What makes us feel safe in this world threatens our relationship with our heavenly Father.  And yet, we ask ourselves why we are afraid to give everything to follow God.  Fear.

And [Jesus] told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest.  He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do.  I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain.  And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years.  Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” ‘

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you.  Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

“This is how it will be with those who store up things for themselves but are not rich toward God.”
 – Luke 12:16-21

What would our lives look like if we could move past our fears and apprehensions and truly live like we were following God with all our hearts?  

I know in my heart that I am too safe.  Maybe that is why I fear the voice in the silence.  Maybe that is why I blast my music or spend my time reading.  I’m afraid of the sacrifice that comes with the call.

But at the same time, I am envious of those who have heard the call and follow it.  I want to be fearless like them, following the call with all their heart, soul and physical strength.  

In a way, it’s not the silence that I fear.  It never was.  It’s the whispers of God in the quiet that challenge all I know.  And in some way, it is comforting to know that I am still being pursued by God, no matter how many times I try to turn and run away.

Finding Home on the Journey

Each day for the past two weeks I’ve been reading a chapter of Katie Davis’ book “Kisses from Katie.”  It’s a powerful telling of a young woman’s heart for God and the sacrifices that she makes in following the vision set out before her by God.  Within the words are her struggles and fears, her growth and unwavering trust that no matter what happens God’s plan will work out, with or without her.

On Friday, I was floored by a passage that I read hidden within those pages.  I posted it to my Facebook page to share, and it has been gnawing at my heart each day since.  It goes as follows:

I have come to the realization that I am somewhat of a nomad on this earth.  I am learning to be okay with that.  Human beings long for a place to call home, a nest, a sanctuary of their own.  I have many and none. … My heart lives in so many places.  With so many people.  But God whispers to me that I really have only one home, and that is with Him.  I will never be content on this earth.  I will always be a nomad.  It was meant to be that way.  My heart was created with a desire for a home, a nest, a sanctuary, and that can be found only with Him in Heaven.  And I will continue bouncing from one home to another, loving with everything I have in whatever location I currently reside, excitedly awaiting the day when I am called heavenward and He says to me, “Welcome home.”

There is a saying that I grew up with as an Army Brat:  “Home is where the Army sends you.”  But in recent years I’ve found myself saying “Home is where the heart is.”  To be honest, I don’t have a physical ‘home’ in which I call my own.

My parents live in N. Virginia.  Me, I’ve lived all over the place.  In my journeys since graduating college, I’ve lived aboard the M/V Africa Mercy (Togo and on the sail down to South Africa), Denver, CO, Clarksville, TN, Vicksburg, MS and now St Louis, MO.  Like Katie, I don’t have a nesting place to call home.  And part of me never wants to settle down.

I am most comfortable constantly on the move.  I learned that when, after staying in a single place all throughout High School when my father retired from the Army, I was ready to leave after the second year.  In college, I survived by venturing fourth during the summer months, serving up at Young Life’s Saranac Village (Upstate New York) and traveling forth on missions trips to Honduras and Uganda.

I know that one day I will be called home, but until that moment I will continue to seek God wherever He leads me.  That being said, I hope to return to my wanderings soon.  I don’t want to be tied down by commitments (debts from student loans for the most part).  I want to see the world and the glory of the Father that surrounds it.

On that same note, I have a friend that has been given the vision to go forth on her own journey.  I know her from Anderson University, where we both studied art and spent a good part of our ‘free’ time at the coffee shop on campus.  We talked and hung out on occasion, learning from and encouraging one another.  And while our paths parted ways years ago, we have kept in touch through the gift that is technology.

Ashley is heading out with The World Race in September to journey with God and serve Him across the world.  She, like hundreds of missionaries across the world, have forsaken their worldly home in the pursuit of something greater.  I urge you to read her story (that can be found at http://ashleyganahl.theworldrace.org/) and support her through prayer.  And if God is leading you to give, don’t wait.

I was asked recently how I live this way, without a foundation, a place to call home.  I smile because my roots are spread both deep and wide.  My family has taught me to rely on trust in both God and others.  My journey has given me the opportunity to reach out and my ‘family’ now stretches across the nations.

I challenge you to let go.  Find your true home.  If that means following the call to serve, Go!  Don’t hesitate, for we do not know if today will be our last.

Just some thoughts….

God Bless and PEACE

The Coming of the Lion

“Safe?”  said Mr. Beaver.  “Who said anything about safe?  ‘Course he isn’t safe.  But he is good.  He’s the King, I tell you.” 
 – C.S. Lewis, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Long before Lucy asked if the Lion Aslan was safe, mankind has looked on this majestic beast with fascination and wonder.  Called the King of the  Beasts, the lion has captured our hearts through stories like the Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion King.  Two of the iconic lions that kids of all ages have fallen in love with. 

The lion is a symbol of royalty, strength and authority.  Some cultures view it as a symbol of being in control of the subconscious thought.  Balance and judgement.  Justice, ferocity, wisdom, dignity and honor.  It is said the one who is born under the symbol of the lion (Leo) has self-confidence and seeks out passion in their lives. 

The lion calls us to take our rightful place of power.  I’m not talking about Simba or Aslan, I’m talking about the Lion of Judah. 

There is a reason why God is symbolized by a lion.  He is powerful, royal and he came to conquer death and bring us life.  We don’t always remember how God moves in our lives, but he is there, leading us and giving us the strength to continue on.

I’ll leave you with another quote from the Chronicles of Narnia:

“I was the lion who forced you to join with Aravis.  I was the cat who comforted you among the houses of the dead.  I was the lion who drove the jackals from you while you slept.  I was the lion who gave the horses the new strength of fear for the last mill so that you should reach King Lune in time.  And I was the lion you do not remember who pushed the boat in which you lay, a child near death, so that it came to shore where a man sat, wakeful at midnight, to receive you.”
 – C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy

As we await the second coming of the Lion of Judah, let us remember the birth of our Savior all those nights ago. 

God Bless and PEACE

The King’s Peace

There are some books that we all just love.  Even though we’ve read ’em hundreds of times before, we continue to pick them off the shelf and read them again.  I have a couple, but my favorite has got to be Jo Walton’s The King’s Peace.  Loosely based off of 6th century England, this book is a mix of faith and religion, politics, and warfare, told from a young woman’s point of view as she rides in the king’s cavalry based army and learns what it means to make peace when all she has ever known is war. 

It’s an amazing read.  Though it is not our history, nor is it our world, it ties in quite a bit. 

One of the parts of this novel that I enjoy is the faith aspect.  Throughout the book, the characters struggle over keeping the peace through the land and respecting the gods that they have chosen to revere and worship.  Sulien, the main character, worships the gods of her ancestors, the pagan gods of wisdom, healing, and warfare.  Other characters, like Raul, a monk and advisor to the king, follow the White God, the god that is based on of the Judo-Christian God.  Then there is Urdo, the King of the island of Tir Tanagiri, who is trying to not only make the peace between the people, but between the gods as well. 

It is extremely fascinating to read and see how the different characters faith affect the way they interact with others as well as how they worship. 

In a part of the book, after the peace has been made, some of the characters are arguing about how some of the followers of the White God have forced the conversion of the people, and in turn threw the land into turmoil once again.  Ohtar, one of the smaller kings of the island, responds to some heated questions with this statement, which all Christians should heed.

“They promise to wash them clean and save them and have them live forever in shining light.  It makes everything holy very simple.  It is deceptive and attractive.  People are afraid, and they hear the priests saying for sure what will be. … Also they tell the people that unless they praise the White God, they will be cast into darkness for all time.  What is the difference between holding a sword at someone’s throat and telling them you will kill them unless they convert and telling them they must convert or face eternal darkness?”

Sulien follows up with:

“It is one thing to offer someone a chance of praising in the light and another to threaten them with being cast out into darkness.”

Though this conversation is in a novel, I have seen this same situation in Christian missions fields and in converts all over the world.  We use the fear of hell instead of the love of Christ to bring people into the family of God. 

When preaching and in the missions field, we must remember that we are sharing hope.  Jesus Christ died so that we may live.  He rose again so that fear would be taken out of the picture.  We are washed by his blood, not because of anything that we have done, will do, our could do, but because his love for us. 

Our faith comes from the hope of salvation.  If we teach people to cling to Jesus because we fear hell and what may happen after death, are we teaching them faith?  Or are we forcing them to choose?  Faith is believing what cannot be seen, it is not fearing what is to come.

Fire and brimstone sermons were never ment to bring people to Christ, but to spur on believers to live out their faith.  They are fascinating, but not ment to be used to bring people to a loving father. 

Just some thoughts…

God Bless and PEACE