Lift Up Your Eyes

Stories in the Missional Journey of Bruce & Deborah Crowe

A journey complete!

This past September I completed the Masters of Arts in Global Leadership program at Fuller. Due to Covid, the graduation ceremonies were postponed, and diplomas mailed out. I wasn’t sure where we would be, so I gave my parents Canadian address for delivery … and it arrived today!

Going back to school wasn’t something intended to do, but the Lord knew exactly what I needed, and when I needed it. This journey has been, as my family can attest, a process of deep personal formation. Much more than an academic exercise or gathering of good data, but an awakening of sorts to a new way of learning, with others, and a posture towards self-discovery and vulnerability that was much needed. I have been applying my learning throughout my journey with the dear folks at Lighthouse in areas of missiology, theology and ecclessiology.

My concept of leadership and influence, of love and power, have greatly morphed and been shaped by this experience.

Things I discovered about myself:

  • I love history!
  • I can absorb a lot of information.
  • I have a gift to synthesize, and integrate new learning in my context quickly.
  • I really enjoy sharing my learning and encouraging others who are stuck.
  • I am a sponsor-styled mentor, that enjoys empowering others.
  • I influence others more by my own ongoing transformation than any other method.
  • I feared, for much too long, the beauty of vulnerability and brokenness. It’s disarming for others, and aids in creating communities of love and trust!
  • I am a gardener, not of vegetables, but of open, welcoming spaces.
  • I enjoy helping other make meaning, and discover their unique person.
  • I am enthralled with God’s triune, ongoing personhood.

A MAGL reflects a total of 18 x 10 week courses. Some of my favorites included:

  • New Testament
  • Interpretive Practices
  • Mentoring & Leadership Development (5 different courses)
  • Biblical Theology of Mission
  • Lifelong Development
  • Early Church History
  • Power Dynamics
  • Eastern Orthodoxy
  • Adult Learning Theory
  • Organizational Structures
  • Missional Engagement in Context

I am forever grateful and highly recommend Fuller for a diverse, non-western (only) global perspective on faith and mission.

As I’m not sure who still reads our blog, I do think of my kids and grandkids now as I write. Don’t despite small beginnings, and the trajectories that faith brings. I left the academic world at the age of 20, as many of my public school friends continued to prepare for life in the matrix. I often questioned the wisdom of jumping into a world of faith, and Christian mission. I envied, if I’m honest, those that finished college, and had some sort of social validation for being ‘smart’ enough to complete this particular hoop.

I am thankful that I didn’t follow the status quo, not because there’s anything wrong with education at an earlier age, but my school was life, out of the gate. I had no idea who I was let alone what I wanted to invest my time and energy toward. Learning how to be a spouse, that’s education. Having kids, education. Starting business, serving and building life-long relationships in the body of Christ, education. Throwing ourselves into another culture, a serious education too!

Learning is life, and life is learning. When the time comes, if it does, to jump into secondary education, may it make sense, fit the timing and trajectory of your unique passion – especially the deeper calling that you sense. I witnessed the Lord provide the school, the unique course that applied to EVERYTHING that was in my life, and what my soul deeply longed for. He provided scholarships, and the funds to complete without any debt.

May you see the same, each of you that read this, provision, providence and mercy as you lean into learning as a lifelong posture. Take the risk, challenge yourself, move into the interests that move your heart. Read, take courses, anything that helps you learn about yourself and the world we live in. Become a lifelong learner with us!

Family, Rest, Read.

We’ve been in Central PA, at our new place in the blue ridge mountains for the past 3 weeks. When we arrived, the autumn foliage was stunning. Our house is quite literally on the side of a mountain. It’s been surreal setting up a place of our own on this side of the Atlantic. This is the first time we’ve been over to the US in 14yrs where we weren’t traveling around in suitcases and sleeping in spare rooms.

We are, in a word, thankful. Thankful for God’s creation, for many conveniences, the language.. although there are a lot of hispanic speaking folks up here which was suprising to us. Coming from Texas, this is quite normal to see signage and hear Spanish during your day, but I didn’t expect PA to have such a large diverse population.

Our kids are missing Ukraine, for them, we are on sort of a mission trip. They are, however, loving the nearby indoor pool, workout facility and other activities you don’t normally find in Ukraine so easily.

Clark helping me carry some dry wood to mix in with our not-so-dry load of wood that we bought. With the winter weather moving in, we’ve been burning wood daily to help with the heating costs. Electricity, propane (for heat), water, we are a little shocked at how expensive things are here. Food is particularly pricey, so we’re doing our best to navigate the best places and deals. We definitely miss Ukraine for the cost of living on a practical level.

The girls LOVE swimming. Most kids do. It’s hard to get them out of the pool.

Last week we had our two oldest come, Broderic and Kristin with baby Byron, and Bronwyn. Here’s a shot of the 6 of 8 together, images of what will come end of December when the missing 2 (Brent and Tucker) return as well. It will be a joy, and a whole lot of food to prepare over Christmas with our growing family descending upon our new place – this was Deb’s dream, in this season to have a place our crew could land and congregate… It has begun!

Saw this painting sitting all alone inside a large department store last week. Amidst all of the consumerism, and materialism, the Christ, humbly, inconspicuously, the beauty of it all struck me. Jesus is so simple, divinity inviting us to consider the meaning of life.

I thought this was funny. I’ve been reading a lot, and discovering still many cultural and ideological differences between the East and West.

Broderic is now a dad, he’s 24yrs old and like me at that age, learning how to share his heart with your own flesh and blood. Byron is 8 months old, quiet, sweet boy. He will come back with his parents after Christmas and we’ll get one more week with him before they all head home, and we prepare to head back on January 20 to Ukraine.

It’s hard to believe I’m a granddad. I don’t want to be called papa, or grandfather.

Deb just completed an intense 2 week stint online with her spiritual director course. I’m about to head into a similar intensive week this week and next. We’ve been reading a lot. Deb’s got the larger stack on the bottom, I’m needing to stay fairly focused on required missiology/leadership themes, she gets to choose a little more.

We continue to watch the news, both in Ukraine with Russian tension, and all this pandemic relentless (it seems) information. We miss our friends and faith family in Ukraine. I get a fairly continual flow of texts and notes reminding me of a life I have on the other side of the world. For now, we are trying to be present, and listen to what the Lord is trying to say. It’s not easy to rest, it’s hard work.

Thank you friends for praying, supporting us during this chapter in our lives. It feels like a reset, a time for pruned focus. We are learning to embrace the marathon that is life, and resting in His goodness. He has been so good to us.

Why do the nations rage?

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign on the earth.”
Revelation 5:9-10

“Why do the nations rage,
And the people plot a vain thing? 
Psalm 2

When Jesus arrived, He said that he brought God’s promised kingdom to earth (Luke 17:21). This is the grand story of Scripture, the restorative work of Creator God through the king of this kingdom, Jesus.

So why do nations continue to rage? Why do people of power still plot vain things?

If the human heart fails to take root in the revealed Son and Jesus kingdom ethos, scripture shows us that humanity will continue to adopt and cling to coercive, broken ways of being. The kingdoms of this earth raged before Jesus incarnation, during his life, and even still refuse to bend the knee. Power, rule, control, in a word, sin.

In God’s eternal kingdom, Jesus shows us how true power works. Power is divested, given freely, offered up  for the good of our fellow neighbor. As we approach Christmas, we’re reminded that the incarnation itself is a theology of how God considers power as he empties himself mysteriously into his own material flesh. This power, called love, upends worldly social constructs of domination.

The world doesn’t know how to handle the power of empowering love. It’s so intimidated by it, it would rather nail it to a cross, bury it out of sight. The only thing more terrifying than unwieldy power, I believe, is purposeful powerlessness. Willing sacrifice. This type of power is resurrected, and now residing in every believing heart. Those that refuse God’s perfect revelation in Jesus, continue to rage, inwardly and if given the opportunity, outwardly. This is the picture God gives us from the book of Revelation – a continuous, ongoing battle, reverberating through the ages – until Jesus comes to make things right.

What If God’s power, in God’s kingdom, is the antithesis of worldly power? Instead of gathering and protecting it, we’re to follow Jesus pattern and give our time, resources, our selves towards empowering the other? What if the church overcomes by following in Christ’s release of power, rooted in love?

What if love is God?

I take comfort in knowing this pathway, this journey toward deep surrender and sacrifice, is but a reflection of the beauty in the very heart of the Father. God is inviting us, through the Son’s perfect example, to participate in His life. Participation, a verb, an invitation to embody, to follow the pattern of the incarnation and become the virtue, not just memorize or repeat it.

Christianity, I’m convinced, is a revolution; a coming kingdom to earth as it is in heaven. This battle rages in our day, visible and invisible, one heart at a time. Jesus will return, the kingdom will be fully realized, but until then, the nations will rage, power will plot and  believers will take refuge in His love, not fear or illusions of safety.

May we become the calm that brought peace to the storm. May we become faith, hope and love as we cling to the hope of his return. Peace is coming, until then, may it illuminate our souls as a beacon to those around us.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus.

Love for the enemy.

I’ve been reading Luke 6 this week.

Love, what is it, really? How do we know we love God? How do we know love?

The crowds pressed in to touch Jesus, and power came out of him and healed all of them (6:19). We have all been touched by his power, healed of our selfish pride, our sin and shame. How quickly we forget the mercy poured into our lives. Who are the blessed, the poor, hungry, weeping, excluded (6:21-22).

When we stop pressing into Jesus mercy, we become rich, filled and proud. How can we know we love God? How can we know love? “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies” (6:27). Religion looks good, it’s outward appearance is easy to copy, easy to find affirmation in it’s self-hubris. To lay down our lives, and follow the Savior, however, not so easy to mimic. To follow Jesus means we are dead to the self-life, our joy is found not in self gratification but the love’s divesting way.

Jesus command to obey is an invitation to embody, incarnate love, to become mercy, to become love. How can we do this, even to our enemies? We look to our Savior, “for he is kind to the ungrateful, and the wicked. Be merciful just as your Father is merciful” (6:36).

May the mercy of the Father fill each of our hearts today, may we become a people of mercy, sharing in His love – this is how we know we love God.

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