Lift Up Your Eyes

Stories in the Missional Journey of Bruce & Deborah Crowe

Whatever is true

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things

Philippians 4:8

We’re in Texas this week. The last time we were here, war had just broken out in Ukraine and I flew over to Romania. Deb and the kids followed 3 weeks later, and we settled into a new reality, language, people. The year that was 2022 is over, but the war inside Ukraine seems far from ending. In a sense, Deb and I feel right back where we started, and it’s not a comfortable place to be – looking into an abyss of decisions.

I liked this painting, it captures how we feel. This life has been such an incredible ride for us, we’re exceedingly thankful. Being older, we’re learning to step back and just take in the wild beauty of it, even in the brokenness of it all.

When you’re young, time seems unending, the road ahead limitless. The unknown future is met with optimism, mistakes and detours not such a big deal. As we age, however, it seems we take stock in our decisions more seriously. We’ve experienced the brevity of this life, said goodbye to those that surprisingly left us, and our own bodies begin to remind us that we aren’t winding up, but down. This life is truly a breath, a fading flower, and peering down that unending road shows clear signs of an end.

As much as I wish to write that we’ve secured a plan, a place, a space for our family in this coming new season, any attempt to outline that here would be false. Falsity is a funny thing, I’m learning. I don’t actively lie, or mean to mislead, but when faced with the challenge approaching 50 yet seemingly starting over, I want to go there. I want to narrate a story that is climbing upward, attaining. I want the surprising new career path, the security of outward success. Yet, as we continue to wait, to lean into the present moment of trusting Jesus for today, Deb and I are learning to trust in the character of God as our Father, and not in any particular outcomes.

This is true, this is where my heart finds itself today. We have opportunities we’re exploring, very kind and missional people that have extended branches of fellowship and collaboration. We have dear community inside Ukraine flourishing in delightful ways, truly God has taken great care of His garden we were privileged to labor within. As we visit, speak where invited, and navigate this week here in Texas, I find my spirit oddly aware of this invitation to trust Him, to be patient, to give thanks for this place of transition rather than fret within it.

It’s wild, really, that in our most uphended seasons, we find grace to not only weather the storm, but the secret of His near presence as the end our hearts long for. God, who so often becomes our instrumented means to an end, is permitted by our consciousness to move in as the Shepherd of our soul, not just our pocket book and belly. He invites us to just remain suspended, like that cross of old. It’s a place of trust, and there we learn just how panic stricken we are at the menial things, the transient, the temporary things of this life. It’s in this place of willing surrender, I think, that death really loses it’s power, it’s sting.

Nobody wants to die and leap into eternity when we’ve secured a sense of control in our surroundings, our lives comfortable and going somewhere exciting. When we aren’t sure what is next, when we’re looking at a series of all-way-stops and forks in the road, we pause, we reckon with what is most true – and that, for us, is that this life of faith and journey with Christ is a continual invitation to live into His presence each day, to enter the suffering and joys of others when presented with opportunity, and remaining ready to answer His call.

My prayer today was this, “Jesus either fill me from the inside with the knowledge of your will, or surprise me from the outside in a way that we will know and follow you.” Either way, the promise is that His will, will be accompanied with the desire, the infilled, unmistakable desire to do it (Phil 2:13). I have grown to appreciate the freedom the Spirit gives us to navigate this life alongside, along with. However, in the end, God has led me back to that simple place of surrender, where we gratefully hand our lives back and seek to do His will above our own. Whatever, whenever, Jesus we are yours. This is the work of the valley, the upended life, and it is good.

What do you in your valley, your crossroads?

I’m learning that what I considered to be faith in the earlier years, was really an underlying anxiety to be trusting in the Good Shepherd. It’s so much easier to plan our way out of stuff, but all that planning puts us back in control, and comes with all the stress of ensuring success.

Thinking upon true things. Today is where we live, where we love, and are loved. With more questions than answers, we hold onto Jesus and learn to value His nearness more than a cool plan. I’m learning not to leap down the first available road. Lord keep us from the unnecessary detour. The road is not, after all, unending.

Let our decisions come from that deeper places of united faith, as sojourners smiling into the unknown as we bask in the warmth of your affirming fire.

Closing Thought on 2022

In global solidarity, the year that was 2022 now closes behind us. Unique struggles, victories, all of us. Most will follow us into the new year, like it or not.

Yet, for those who are brave enough to puncture the allusion of falsity and begin living into person God has made us to be, we can live through this coming year with grace and beauty. We live into the year not through striving, nor the commitments we make, but through believing the love that already exists over us, even in our brokenness and yearning.

This world, particularly in the hyper-individualized western culture, celebrates being perfect, strong, certain, undaunted. Yet, I’m learning, experiencing a different kind of value, before my Creator. He sees through the shadows, beyond the ideas of myself, the false ways. He sees me, truly, yet somehow still loves me!

We are not loved for our action, or lack of action. We are not loved because we modify our behavior, or can’t muster the strength to keep resolutions. This new year, and our responses within it, have no bearing on our value, our worth. We have each been made into the image of God, and though broken this world is, and we within it, we are each given gift of our true identity. I’m learning to rest into it, liberated by a perfect love that beckons me to release all other fountains of affirmation.

If Christ is to be our guide, then we must allow him to bring us to our own place of surrender. In this place, we lift up the old version, the fleshly, fallen vision of ourselves onto a cross of it’s own. There, with Christ, we surrender the old, and embrace the new, which is made in His image, the person we truly are before Him in love. I once believed the old was the new, the manufactured the original, but no more.

I walk into 2023 as an uncertain, unsure, weak, and humbled husband, father, man. I don’t know what is next, and I believe God has a lot of forming remaining to do in my life, out of love. I’m being made, and re-made into that person, by His Spirit, through surrender and faith. What an upside down kingdom this is!

New Year. Same Invitation

Deb and I are in Canada for Christmas. We’ve been snug in my parents warm house as a ferocious blizzard rages over Eastern Ontario. Though the house shakes, and roads are closed, our hearts are full of gratitude for being safe. Our kids are all in the basement, in a makeshift bunker. It reminded me of the subways and real bunkers our friends have hidden in during this past war.

It’s been a wild year, full of heartache, instability. Yet, throughout this year we’ve experienced the invitation of our loving Savior, the Shepherd of our souls. This invitation is beckoning us still as we look ahead, or attempt to look ahead to this coming year. Each year we reset in some ways. The calendar turns, and we look with anticipation. What will this year bring? What will my relationships look like, my workplace, my health?

The older I get, the less is taken for granted, and the deeper satisfying things become hoped for. I hope to be with those I love, to visit with friends torn away by war, to enjoy the sense of control that comes with planning more than a week in advance (not that this produces the joy we hope it does!).

New year, but the invitation from our loving Creator remains the same. It’s the same invitation that brings the satisfaction we long for. Contentment, a restful place of being loved, where our fears melt away and we release the clenched fist over things we hope to accomplish. The same invitation of intimacy, of surrender, and trust. The place of joining Jesus way, the way of the cross, passing through the death of temporal, fleeting things, our souls enlivened in fresh ways that aim past this life and grab hold of anchored things. I sense the invitation to trust, to look beyond the vision of my eyes, to respond to the compelling whisper and wink of the Spirit. I’m in, Lord, as much as I know how.

I want to know you more Lord, Jesus. The invitation has been sent out, the table is set. New year, same invitation.

(below is a 2 minute audio message that automatically plays if you scan the QR code with your phone. It’s on our new bookmarks, which we wil hand out to friends as we journey around the US and Canada on this trip).

November 28, 2022

It’s hard to believe that a year ago, our family had arrive in the US for the holidays, were settling into our new place in PA. The providence of God amazes me, humbles to think that without knowing, we were not just investing in a future space for our family, a home base for growing young adults and emerging grandchildren, but an immediate haven for our family as well.

Our new bread oven at Lighthouse Cafe – received this week! We are searching for a high power output generator to power it this winter / spring as we look to provide free bread to our town. A ministry that works with orphans swapped this industrial oven for our pizza oven – I’m finished with gas in Ukraine, such a corrupt system.

Now, as we prepare to return to the US again, this time from Romania, our hearts are filled with so many mixed emotions. We haven’t been ‘home’ in Ukraine as a family now for over a year. Boxes are being packed here, stored for the next few months as we head back over to the US and Canada to reconnect with family, recharge and consider what’s next for 2023. The day has been spent sending over funds to friends at Lighthouse, prepping for energy sustainability through the next few months as Russia continues to bombard the power grid, anticipating a crushing blow to the economy, ability to survive and political will of Ukrainians.

This week we ordered 10 beds for construction workers in Boradyanka who are continuing to repair houses so they can sleep near the sites.

This week, thanks to Dima and Slavik, the fireplace was installed at Lighthouse and is now crackling with heat! We have plenty of wood stored up and stacked for this winter, enough to share, and Lord willing more coming. We have 4 generators among our community, and have sent funds to help keep them running – Currently, they are needed upwards of 10hrs per day. Some days less, but I personally don’t believe we’ve seen the worst yet. Winter is here, suffering is now upon the vulnerable and we’re getting calls and requests now from friends in Kyiv to come to Romania to our refugee house.

Guys got creative and paid a utility truck to help finish off the top of the fireplace.

Families don’t want to be separated. Young families with kids, doing their best to hold on, nobody wants to be separated from husband and daddy to a foreign place, dependent on others, it’s miserable, frustrating, humbling. Instead of focusing on quantity of individuals helped, I am feeling peace to just really focus on blessing, deeply caring for a few families, some grandmas, and trying to do what we can do keep extended families together.

Club 180 meeting each week, now with a fireplace on the main floor to add to the pellet stove in the main room. Should be toasty now!

We’re excited to see our kids, they are all up north now, Broderic and Kristin with Byron at our house in PA with Tucker and Brent. Bronwyn is happily married up in Rochester with Logan, just a 3-4 hr drive away, which is so great. So we’ll be all together, near, and appreciating the freedom and safety of the US. Yet, daily, our friends, their needs, their safety, on my mind and heart. We have resources, thanks to the generosity of hundreds of people over this year, but money can only do so much, and I’m not about to throw it into the wind. In the end, the testimony of Christ in our town matters, the love of Jesus in the hearts of our friends is what will have lasting influence through this moment in history.

We hired students to cut, stack and prepare wood for winter.

Lighthouse, through the leadership of those still there, continues to offer free coffee, hot drinks, and snacks. The youth at Club 180 meets each Wednesday evening, now, thankfully by the fire! Believers are gathering for food and times of encouragement at our house each Saturday. They are leaning in to one another, being strengthened by the faith shared in suffering solidarity. It is suffering, lives upended, routines and what is ‘known’ has been calibrated to adapt to the whims of Russia’s terrorizing. Air raids, alarms blaring, folks have adapted, focused on making it through another day, feeding families, warming houses.

Some of the prepared wood in our mission building.

Today in prayer her in Cluj, I realize I don’t have a clue what is next, or how to prepare. We’ve done the best we can, I think. I wish I would have bought more generators when they were available.. but we just received a donation last week, just as Russia launched a devastating attacked which caused folks to rush and buy all available generators in country. I feel like it’s too late now, more attacks are coming, and Russia’s goal of crushing the people’s defiant will is here. How much does freedom cost? In western countries we’re forgetting the fierce power struggle throughout history when freedoms are given to a select few at the top. It costs thousands of lives, perhaps hundreds of thousands. It costs harsh winters, freezing homes without water or heat. It costs families torn apart, and death of loved ones you never got to say goodbye to. It costs trauma, and generations that will be impacted by the cycles of fear, sleeplessness, high blood pressure, and other mental anguish.

Ahhhhh – warms the heart! They now meet for prayer as well, warming the soul each week in the mornings as well.

I will go and enjoy my family, my undeserved freedom purchased by others. I will be among those that have forgotten the cost, and complaining about problems Ukrainians would give their lives to exchange for. Indeed, they are.

I am thankful, sad. Praising God for his goodness, and lamenting that this evil is seemingly going unchecked. I will enjoy my kids and grandchild, and be mindful of our friends, our community, our home.

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