Friday, May 16, 2014

Rwanda


Rwanda, I’ve been struggling for six weeks to explain what my trip felt like, how you impacted me, how I impacted you. I still don’t have the words. 

I have told the stories, shown the pictures. And yet I’m like a baby trying to grasp a helium balloon when it comes to describing what it all meant. 
You were different from what I expected. You’re so lush, so optimistic, so joyful. How could a country that endured so much suffering turn things around so completely in 20 years? And yet you did. I find you stunning. 

I find you stunning because you are a leader and beacon to the world in forgiveness and restoration.

As I walked through the genocide museum weeping for your children who never grew up, it was you who handed me a tissue. Such love, such honour for strangers trying to grapple with your grief. 

I felt the pleasure of our God over you. Your worship blew me away with its joy, its abandon. Do you have any idea how much delight you bring the Father? I felt like he brought me to Rwanda just to experience how marvellous you are. It’s like He wanted to show off his wonderful kids to another one of his kids. 

I sensed that our Lord is rubbing his hands together in anticipation of what He has in store for your nation. Innovation, invention, breaking ground in education and business and industry. 

And yet there’s a deep sense of wellbeing and gratitude that runs through the black, rich soil of your misty countryside. Don’t lose that. Don’t just become like North America or Europe or even South Africa. We need you to be Rwanda. The world needs Rwanda. I believe there are solutions to world problems hidden in the dreams and plans of Rwandans.  

Freedom is coming. You already walk in freedom and yet I believe our Father has greater measures of freedom for you. He loves to see His children play and love and explore in freedom. 

Your women are so beautiful. Strong and sweet and brilliant. 

Your men are compassionate and honouring, playful and focused. 

Your leaders are men and women of massive vision and astounding dedication. 

As I clung to a boy driving a bicycle taxi, hurtling down hills past banana trees, next to motorcycles and buses and women with bright-coloured baskets on their heads, I thought, what kind of love is this, that I serve such a generous God who would bring me to this gorgeous place?

Though we spoke and prayed and ministered and though we saw many people healed, you healed a piece of me, Rwanda. Somehow you helped me be more fully me in my weakness. At the same time, you taught me how powerful just being in a place is. And how a place being in you, in your heart, expands you somehow. The power of just being. 

Rwanda, arise and shine, for your light has come. And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Moving into reality


This is where we stopped 18 months ago. Five people and a dog wearily getting out of a stinky car, a continent’s worth of fast food wrappers and dirty socks spilling out onto the hot pavement, the car sagging beneath the weight of all our earthly possessions packed into the trunk and roof rack.

That was a lifetime ago.

Today, I’m leaving from the same parking lot, catching the airport shuttle to Sacramento. Maybe someday I’ll be back. I don’t know. I hope so.

I’ve just kissed Anne goodbye. She's staying in Redding so the kids can finish school. I interrupted an important meeting she was having with an instructor at a coffee shop. We kept it cordial in such a public place. We’re best friends. It’s hard to say goodbye, even when it’s for only five weeks. She's a radical, sold-out lover of Jesus. She knows God's heart. She’s so beautiful and wise and fun. We laugh a lot.


I said goodbye to the kids this morning. A quiet, "I'll miss you," from one. Another with eyes brimming with tears that say more than words or a hug can convey. A final giggle with another. I grip the steering wheel tightly as I pull away. 

What am I doing? I don't want to leave them. "There's more here than you can see right now," I sense Him saying. 

And He is good.


So now I’m alone, sitting on the curb in a familiar parking lot. My father-in-law would quote Harry Chapin right about now: “All my life’s a circle.” I’m back where I began.

Life’s a circle, maybe, but I wouldn’t recognize myself this time around.

Last time I was here my present condition seemed so real. My immediate circumstances were all that mattered. We were alone in a strange city. The obstacles we faced were almost overwhelming. There was nothing to hold on to, no one to lean on.

Eighteen months ago we had just rolled in from Canada. We’d sold our house, I’d left my career and friends and everything we’d ever known as a married couple and family.

We pulled into California after an exhausting summer ministering at camp followed by a cross-continent drive in a tiny car, hurtling down the highway into very uncertain tomorrows.

We had no house in Redding. So we parked our family for a while at the Oxford Suites Hotel. Crammed into two rooms – and then, when one week of house searching in a very tight rental market stretched into two – all five of us jammed into one room.

Emotionally, I was a mess. I was scared, angry and suffering through some serious doubts. Why had God led us here? What was I doing being so irresponsible? What pain were my kids going to endure, heading into strange schools without even a bed to call their own?

And then, the fog started to lift. First, our circumstances changed and we got a house. Then Redding became home. We got used to the new city, driving without the aid of our phones for navigation. The landscape started to look normal and the people seemed more kind.

Yes, the circumstances changed. But more importantly, my heart was renewed.

I started to taste God’s love and learned that He is good. I started to experience a greater reality where the brightness of the unseen makes the reality of the seen, fade.

My heart and mind are in a different place than they were then. I’m at peace.

I trust Him now. God’s been so good. My children have exploded in love and power. My marriage has been completely renewed. I have huge expectancy of His kindness.

Real is real. Only fools deny reality. What I can touch is part of what's real. Our bank account balance is real and we'll manage it with all the sound, logical personal resources God has given us. But that’s not the ultimate reality. And to steer your life down a road that isn't the most true path is dangerous. The on-ramp to the wrong way on the highway seems just as good as the right on-ramp until you see headlights coming straight at you.

The true reality is that God cares for us. He wants the best for us. He is leading us to greater things. He is bigger than my mistakes. He’s gracious. He loves me. Real is the fact that I've learned I can’t out-give Him.

I no longer set my heart on solving real problems. I set my heart and eyes on Jesus. My mind and my hands still tackle real issues. But my heart stays fixed on Him. I will not let my heart be troubled.

Our next stop isn’t much different from our last one. We’re moving back into uncertain arrangements. We’ll park for the summer in camp beds. We’ll step into huge leadership boots to lead a large staff and a thousand campers closer to a reality of God’s indescribable love, sensing where the Spirit is blowing and trimming the sails and steering the rudder to pick up the strongest breeze.

But before then, we're on the move. Moves are jarring. They force you to think and reflect. 

I'm no super hero. What we did is what anyone would have done considering what we'd been through. It's my story, not yours. I'm not boasting in our sacrifice. I'm giving testimony of God's goodness.

These are uncertain tomorrows. All our earthly possessions could still fit into the back of our car.

And for us, this is life. It's life to the full because it's where we've been called. It's life with Jesus.

My reality is no longer just what I touch or the fact that, yet again, we’ll be sleeping in temporary quarters.

My reality is now much greater. God’s love is real.


And He is good.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The reward of risk

I find an excuse to get it out almost every day.

I have big black boots. They squeeze my feet. With a short breath my rip-proof jacket with reinforced elbows zips up tight. My helmet slips over my head with a pull of the straps. I close my fists to feel my leather gloves wrap tighter around my fingers.

I choose routes with smooth corners and lonely asphalt, the pavement a blur beneath the pegs where my boots rest, my eyes scanning the next intersection for cars. I give into the G-forces as I accelerate out of a long curve, letting gravity push me deeper into the seat. I wait a second longer after a stop before tucking in my legs -- just as I did as a little kid holding my feet off the pedals going down a long hill, like wings.

There’s no music. No talking. No texts. My mind is free to wander far ahead down the road, thoughts zipping through the trees flying by on my left and right until they swoop back into my consciousness, a little more sorted than they were.

My motorbike is a beater. We’ll sell it in the spring for the price I paid for it. It’s hard to start and it’s got some dings in it. But at a red light it rumbles, ready to jump. The scratches don’t bother me. It's for daily commuting, not a rolling chrome showpiece.

If I roll my wrist too far on the throttle it goes fast enough to scare me.

It feels risky.

It feels dangerous.

But I’ve done way more irresponsible things in the past two years than ride. We sold our house. I quit a job I loved. We moved across the continent. We sold everything we have. We pulled our kids out of schools and friendships and dropped them in a strange culture.

And God has been good.

In fact, in my life it’s when I’ve rolled my wrists too far that I’ve felt most alive in the grip of grace.

When I’ve risked something, God has met me. Sometimes it’s a big step, a sacrifice. But more often the risk is small, born of love. Like when I listen to that small voice prompting me to stop for a homeless person, or I choose to lay down my life and desires and ego for a friend, or volunteer to pray for a stranger at church.

Getting used to risk is a muscle. Exercise it and it grows. I should know now when I’m standing with my foot in the air ready to step out, judging the scene, measuring the downside, calculating the risk, that God is there. But exercise makes you sweat and so does risk.

God meets me not because of the sacrifice I’ve made but because of who He is. In risk I’ve stepped out from under the security blanket I’ve woven and looked up to heaven and said, “I need you. I have nothing else. I am yours.”

Jesus was about love so when He said, “The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12), I believe He was talking about that wrecking, rippling, powerful love that overwhelms us.

He wants passionate lovers.

Forceful people.

Loving fiercely.

That’s what this world of car bombs and starvation and hopelessness needs.

May 2014 be a year when you roll your wrists too far. 


This is also posted at www.randrewdouglas.com


Saturday, November 23, 2013

An ache that turned into goodness

Last week I had an ache.

It wasn't physical, it was in my heart. It was one of those things that is less than "pain" but more than "mild discomfort." I was doing okay on the outside but it followed me around on the inside. It had me a little down... sad.

Pain focuses things. It takes out the margins of life -- narrows the page. Let it run amok and it becomes hard to think about much else -- like when I stub my toe on the coffee table and while I'm rolling around on the carpet I can think of nothing else except, youch, THAT HURT.

Something else that is good: A dog tracking the sun spot across the carpet. 
Normally, I can fit the pieces that make up life's ups and downs into a bigger puzzle. When the sun is out and the sky is blue, I can dream. I pan across the timeline of my life, seeing past hurts in context and the future full of hope. But pain zooms me in. Instead of months, weeks, days... all I see the immediate. It's how I feel right now.

But this time, I wasn't going to let the pain win.

In the darkness, I knew I was being handed a ticket to take a ride. And this train was going to take me deeper into God's heart.

His good,

good,

heart.

We are so myopic as humans – we live a tiny sliver of time and decide, based on a limited number of events, whether life is good or not. But I know that when I look back, in hindsight, I see that what I once thought was bad, wasn’t. In the fullness of time, I see goodness at work.

The bible says that everything good comes from God. God is the source of all love. To believe in God is to believe He is good. They go hand in hand.  

I don't know why awful things happen but I know there's evil at work in the world. God hates innocence lost. He points His wrath against those who cause His children harm. Deny God's wrath against evil and you also deny His ability to be good.

Deep down, lots of people in the church think God isn't good. Their prayers are pleas to an unkind God. 

"Don't you see what's happening here?"

"Can't you see that I've had enough?"

When we’re faced with something unexpectedly good we’re often left flummoxed. If a stranger were to pick up our restaurant tab, we catch ourselves thinking, “I would never do this therefore they must have hidden motivations. No one is this good.”

We’re tempted to process God’s actions the same way, to use our experience to judge God by our own motivations. We see everything through our humanity. We see life moment by moment. The hardest part in learning to trust in God’s goodness is learning to trust His ability to see beyond our circumstances.

This time, I chose to step back, to zoom out. I was hearing the opposite but I believed the truth that I couldn't yet see. 

The truth is simple: God is good and He's in control. 

And the rest of my life will be a journey into this ever unfolding, glorious fact.

- Andrew

Monday, October 28, 2013

My favourite book about my favourite topic: Encountering God


I just came back from a trip to Missouri as part of Bill Johnson's ministry team. Serving on Pastor Bill's team of seven students, praying for people for healing and impartation after he preached, having a lunchtime Q and A with him and receiving prayer from him was phenomenal. I will blog more about that, but in the meantime, I want to share why I came to think so much of this man and his ministry in the first place: he's all about the presence of God. 

In the first month of school, we did a book report on what happens to be my favourite non-fiction book of all time, Face to Face with God. While I'm sure you're thinking that reading my book report is pretty dull reading, I thought I'd share it in our blog because it's a pretty personal glimpse into my own journey in intimacy with Jesus and I thought some of you might be interested. 

************

When I first read Face to Face with God, it blew my mind. I read it about five years ago and I couldn’t put it down. When I read about the encounters with God that Bill Johnson describes, I realized it was something I’d always longed for but never knew I wanted. What I thought Christianity was suddenly seemed dry and empty compared to coming to the banquet table of God’s presence. I remember begging the Lord for encounters like I was reading about. 
            
Now, re-reading the book five years later, it still stirs up the fires of longing inside me. I am even more hungry for Jesus than I was five years ago, only now it’s not a hunger based on desperation, but one based on having tasted and seen how good God is. I think when I first read the book, I was waiting for God to blow my mind with an experience like Pastor Bill’s in the middle of the night, as he describes in the first chapter, or an experience of being completely overcome like Heidi Baker, but I’ve come to realize that encounters with God look a little different for me. 

When I was first filled with the Holy Spirit during a Dunamis course at my home church in Guelph, I felt electric jolts that felt like contractions or labour pains. A couple of years after that, I took six months off work to devote my days to prayer and during that period, I had moments when waves of Jesus' love would hit me with more ecstasy than I’d ever before experienced.            

The theme of this year for me is intimacy and it's something I've made very intentional. I love to ask the Lord how He feels, or what’s on His mind. I want to know Him just for the sake of knowing Him, not with some end goal or task in mind. Recently, I was asking the Father what was on His mind and He was silent. Then my mind wandered to something that had recently hurt my feelings. Then I realized He wanted me to tell Him about it. When I did, I felt His love and compassion so overwhelmingly that I felt the tears of the emotional pain swallowed up in tears of gratitude at His kindness. Even though He already knows everything about me, He also wants to know me. He cares enough about the movements of my heart to want to hear about them directly from me. He wants me to make myself known to Him.

The other chapter that stood out for me was the one on the Presence “within” versus the “coming upon.” Sometimes it seems as though the focus at Bethel is the “coming upon,” which is astounding and beautiful, and I want to cultivate both. I want the Presence to be so cultivated within me that it’s not just about a moment of “coming upon,” but rather it’s about one flowing into another.  

I love the chapter on love, power, character and wisdom. I have cried out for the Spirit of God to fill me with more love for people. There is such a vital connection between being face to face with Jesus

and being a radical lover. The kind of love that Jesus walked in only comes from the overflow of His power within me. In that sense, power and love are beautiful when they’re paired together. Love without power doesn’t bring transformation; power without love lacks the intimate care that the Father has for His children. I want to operate in both equally.

Face to Face with God reminds us that true character and wisdom don’t come from striving or work; the ability to manifest joy, peace and righteousness come from the Holy Spirit’s presence and enabling grace upon my life. I regularly cry out for supernatural wisdom, creativity and revelation during my times of intimacy and encounter with the Lord.

The book concludes with a chapter about how we were made to shine. I want to be like Moses, with a shiny face, descending daily from my mountain-top glory experiences with God with a radiant countenance, so that others might yearn for and pursue their own connection with my beautiful Friend.

 ** I have an extra copy of this book that I would love to mail to the first person who emails me requesting it. My email is annelebolddouglas@gmail.com



Friday, October 18, 2013

Family joy


Family is good.

At the time of writing, we’re sitting on a plane, somewhere over the Atlantic, on our way home from my brother’s wedding. Jim married a stunning woman named Jasveen and we’ve just spent the last five days learning all about Sikh wedding customs and traditions.

The wedding was full of vibrant colours and meaningful rituals and loads of food. And dancing. Lots of dancing. Turns out Sikhs love to party. It was a spectacular time. 

Jas’ family was so gracious and welcoming and generous. We now have Sikh “cousins” all over the world, in England, Australia and Vancouver.

It struck me during the festivities that God loves family parties. He loves to pour joy into families. No wonder Jesus’ first miracle was changing water to wine at a wedding. I think He loved family celebrations so much that He wanted to add His blessing in the form of a really good vintage. Heaven’s reserve selection.

I loved spending the time with my mom and dad, sister and brother, aunt and uncle, and, of course, my gorgeous and kind new sister, Jas. Dressing up and eating and experiencing a different country and culture and rejoicing together was so good for the soul.

Weddings don't just bring the couple together, they bring families together, and re-establish who we are to one another. Sitting in a hotel room with my family, processing the day's events, I realized that these people are my peeps.

My parents said some encouraging things to me that felt like deep blessings for my spirit.

When we said good-bye, we were standing in Euston Station in London, surrounded by our baggage, my uncle making wry comments about being eaten by a silverback gorilla on an upcoming trip to Rwanda, my mom rescuing a young tourist who had lost her phone, my sister buying food for the tourist in crisis, my dad fetching coffee for my mother, my aunt organizing the baggage—typical family chaos.

And I chuckled. Because I love my family. A lot.