Lift Up Your Eyes

Stories in the Missional Journey of Bruce & Deborah Crowe

Prayer for Brent

Last week, our 21yr old son Brent, began experiencing a major mental health crisis. I sent out a call for prayer among friends and partners –

Blogging about our journey over the years has had it’s filled of up and downs. Mostly ups, but a few deep difficulties. I recall Noah, at the age of 5-6yrs old fell out of our van while Deb was driving down the highway outside of Kyiv, cracked his skull and ended up being hospitalized in very difficult conditions. The Lord was gracious. I had my health scare back when covid broke out, loss of breath, sleepless nights, and anxiety that crushed my own mental health. God was merciful.

We have journeys in this life, into the valleys, the places of formation. When we’re on the mountains of joy, we want them to last forever. The valleys of formation, they seem like they do. This past week has been one of those life formation valleys, an eternity of holding on, waiting for news, thinking the worst, losing hope that hope exists.

Brent has been in a manic, psychosis state for the past week. We flew over from Romania last night, after a wild few days of required visa travels to Hungary, and re-packing the suitcases Deb had just unpacked after almost two months of travel, temp stays. We’re here, but unable to visit Brent yet. Today we heard the first positive news of the week, that Brent is finally sleeping, his mind having been in a constant place of speed, and energy. The doctors have been God’s answer to our son’s cry for balance and stability. He was starting to lose grip on what was real, what was within his control. He was hearing things, and filled with the symptoms that point to the diagnosis of clinical Bi-Polar I.

Up until this event, I knew little about Bi-Polar, and dismissed it earlier because I thought it was only for those that struggled with depression. Brent is the opposite, struggling with the over excited mind that is crushed under the stress of change and incapacity to regulate sleep, then it spirals to the point of a ‘break’. Some breaks can last a few hours, but a typical first time break, one that reveals the true nature of the health issue, lasts days, and even weeks.

We are here in PA, we’ll settle this weekend and get adjusted to the jetlag. We’re unable to be with him, until either he is stable, treated and released or after May 15th when the final covid regulations are lifted. We have daily updates with the doctors, and the team of nurses. They have been professional, compassionate, and really take a liking to our Brent who has thankfully be willing to be treated, for the most part, and decreasing in stress and fear.

I wanted to post this, for our family, and for Brent as this becomes part of his, and our story. There’s still so much stigma and fear around mental illness. We’ve been so encouraged by the outpouring of empathy among friends that have emailed, messaged their gratitude for us sharing and being open – I didn’t realize so many out there are, and have battled similar scenarios personally or in their families.

How do we integrate our faith with the emerging knowledge of the brain, neuroscience and other advances? What is spiritual, what is material and physical? Could it be that this dichotomy is a false one, that these ‘either-or’ categories are misguided in the first place? What if it’s both? What if our spiritual reality is embedded in material one, and some of our material bodies are broken, but through the mercy of God we’re learning, as a humanity, to address those things that once seemed impossible.

We have prayed so much this week, we still very raw. God has, however, been encouraging us to trust Him, Brent is God’s son first, and God has something special in this life, in relationship in Him and to the world.

Thank you for praying, still. We are humbled, hurting, but all being guided through a valley by the love that is Christ and his church. We’re also learning a lot, knowledge that will make us more merciful, we pray.

Bruce & Deb

Radio Free Europe

Thank you to our new friend, Ovi who is a journalist at Radio Free Europe. They made a video about our life and work in Ukraine and now Romania. Radio Free Europe was a freedom of the press outlet that worked primarily by radio after WWII and during the Cold War. They worked to provide access to the truth outside of state controlled narratives. They have since re-started a few years ago, and are again in post-Soviet spaces.

A home, visas, grateful

Last week, in our quest to find a space for our family this coming year, Deb and I visited a couple of available rental properties in the Cluj area. As a larger family, finding houses or apartments that have more than two bedrooms isn’t that easy. Cluj is also an expensive city, second only to Bucharest in Romania for cost of living. We had a team from the US coming for 5 weeks the next weekend, so with a looming timeline, we weren’t exactly panicking, but we were definitely praying!

We ended up looking at only three places, the third place was like a miracle for us. Firstly, it was plenty large enough for our needs with 3 bedrooms plus a basement apartment which initially was going to be rented separately but the landlord changed his mind and included it. Secondly, the price was $250 more than we have budgeted, so we offered what we could, and it was accepted. Thirdly, its perfectly, for us, outside the city but close enough (10 minutes by car) to the center where we have regular meetings. Fourthly, I’m not sure why I’m numbering these, but the owner couple are super nice, down the street, and speak english really well having lived a few years in the US themselves. Finally, the views, stunning, inspiring, and both Deb and I are genuinely thrilled to have space to walk, pray, and I even have an office, something we were also hunting for separately for both my own work and Deb’s spiritual directing.

So thank you God for caring for us, and blessing us so specifically. We, for the first time since the war began, feel ‘at home’. It’s a strange feeling. Last year was so chaotic, and jarring for everyone, everything just felt like a dream, one that you want to wake up from. After our time in the US this past winter, we started to sense not only that our family won’t be fully returning to Ukraine even if the war ended tomorrow, but that this coming season God was opening doors for us to re-root, and begin a new chapter.

New chapters are scary. When you are young, at least for us, new chapters were fun, exciting new adventures. As we approach 50 years in this journey, we’re taking stock more carefully to number our days, to live more intentionally into the present moments, seeing them for just how precious they are. Less is more, we don’t have former grandiose visions of saving the world for Jesus, we are increasingly content (Deb more than I admittedly) with going deep in relationships with fewer, investing in what’s in front of us, rather than potentialities. We still have vision, but the vision is related more to being shaped by God’s love, and being more vulnerable, more true, more integrous and whole than it is what we can do outwardly with our skills and talents.

Anyway, we found a home. We’re renting it for the next 11 months, and have no idea what this coming year will entail exactly, and what God has for us, but we’re grateful for the friends, neighbors, and coming season with our 4 youngest, who are growing up fast and journeying through change with us. We’re also really happy to have Broderic and Kristin just across town, at the guest house. Hopefully they will be able to raise enough support by the fall for their own place. We’ll be, Lord willing, releasing that space as we transition away from refugee care to new things in Romania and Ukraine.

As much as we relish the new space, having been here now just a few days, we don’t relish the visa process. In Ukraine, we didn’t have to worry about visas for the past 10 years as we have permanent residence there. In Romania, it’s back to the drawing board for us. We have to leave the country this week, to Hungary by car, and return with new stamps to begin the process again for another year as ours expire on May 1. Tomorrow night, Clark may have to stay overnight as did Broderic for their visas at the mall, to make sure we can be seen Wednesday morning at immigration. We hope and pray all goes well, in the next 24hrs we’ll need to get insurance, health certificate, pay for stamps and lawyers, then if all goes well, drive on the weekend to Hungary.. it’s a bit risky that we’re leaving, we could be denied entry back into Romania, as the law is not so clear in our case. Such is life with visas, a throw back to our early days in Ukraine.

Next week there is a story being published with Radio Free Europe on our family. I’ll post it here. I want to try and write more and blog again now that I have a stable place, with stable internet. I thought I should at least give thanks, and if you read our blog still, say thank you as well for praying, supporting us, we are so thankful for the friendships and ways God has provided for us through the past 17 years, or however long its been.

All we can imagine

“Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine..”

Ephesians 3:20

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, several themes emerge. One that I am freshly digesting, and challenged by, is the nature of this ‘inheritance’ he refers to that believers have access to, or rather, already possess. As followers of Jesus Christ, the church has taken comfort through the ages that this life is not all there is. But, is eternal life the primary gift, or even what the early Christian writers focused on as the glorious inheritance?

As I trace the themes through the letter, it seems to me that Paul’s heart cry is not that folks would go to heaven, but rather that they would experience something in the present, that something of heaven would invade their present reality individually, and as a community of faith.

The bulk of Paul’s devotional encouragement, his charge to the saints in Ephesus, lies in chapter 1:18 – 2:22. The outline, in a condensed version goes something like this:

  1. I pray that the Father of Jesus Christ would give you wisdom and revelation as you come to know him… (1:17)
  2. So that you would know the glorious inheritance among you all… which is His power working now among you.. (1:18-1-19)
  3. This power is the power of Christ’s own resurrection, which rules over your every enemy, in this life and all eternity… (1:20-22).
  4. Through this resurrection power, we have been united together under His rule, and care, being built into a spiritual dwelling for God.

In short, Paul is saying, “in our journeying of knowing God, our inheritance is not a future hope only, but a present one as well. We have been raised to life by a power that destroys death. With this backdrop he then inscribes, “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine.. ” Eph 3:20.

What are you struggling with today? What powers, what instruments of the world seem to have dominion over your mind, your will, your heart? What habits sneak around in the corners of your mind, waiting to condemn and keep us in bondage? Our hope, according to scripture, is not to escape this life, and enter another free of temptation and turmoil. Our hope is rather to fix our heart’s gaze on our own individual and communal access to Christ’s resurrection power. This place, where “God put this power to work” (1:19), is not an annual event called Easter, it’s the believer’s foundation, it’s our experiential reality, a place of emancipation from sin’s power, from all that binds us, and keeps us from love’s liberty.

When I struggle to live freely in God’s perfect love, perhaps what I’m really lacking is a better imagination.

I have no problems imagining the frivolous , even the fleshly and selfish desires of the heart. Why can’t I imagine the capacity of the resurrection to instigate change, to renew and release my own heart? Paul goes to lengths in his writings to remind the reader that this power at work is not a humanly powered activity, but a free act of mercy, of God’s grace.

My prayer today is to be free in my imagination, to take on Paul’s challenge to see Christ’s resurrection power working in my “above and beyond all I can ask or imagine.” I believe this power adopts me into the fellowship of Christ’s church, but I need a wider, more lofty imagination. I need an imagination that experiences my inheritance, the power of release, liberty, and measureless love (Eph 3:16-19). We have been rescued from the domain of darkness, today, in my present reality.

Help us dear Savior to live into our glorious inheritance today with fresh imagination, and renewed minds.

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