After the Arrows Have Flung.

You raise them, form them, and then fire them out into the world. What’s next? Plenty!

Broderic (22) is working full time at Disney in Orlando and taking online courses with University of Florida (International Business).

We’ve arrived in Canada. It’s such a blessing to have a family, and a such generous one at that. My parent’s house is large, the food is plenty, we even have an extra car here to use. We can take for granted the trickle down effect of marriages sticking it out, hanging in there. I’m thankful to God for His grace in my parents marriage – it’s been far from perfect, they’ve come close to calling it quits on several occasions over the years.

As Deb and I grow older, we identify increasingly how difficult marriage really can be and have a lot more sympathy for those who don’t make it. In the valley, we fail to recognize the vast implications, the countless ways remaining together will impact those we love. Beyond the immediate, the number of souls a united family can influence and bring hope to is staggering to me as well.

We simply have to swim upstream you marriages out there. Remain united in our families, offering our culture a taste of something out of this world as we too enjoy the reciprocating benefits of God’s best of community.

My parents and sister Lorrie visiting with her family from British Columbia. My parents now have 20 grandkids, and one great grand kid 🙂

A united family is like a garden, rich with an abundance of ripe fruit.

My parents remaining committed to one another have provided such emotional and tangible resources for not only their children, but also their grandchildren and even their first great grandchild. I think we discount the spiritual influence of this family thing. Even while we are here visiting North America, our houses in Ukraine are being used to encourage, provide a haven of rest, and bless several friends. Our ‘big house’, the guest house which was a blessing from Deb’s parents, has been deeply blessing many in need of a quite retreat to work through some difficult times. We families, no matter the size, open the garden of our lives and allow hungry souls to eat from the fruit. We give vision for the world, what we’re designed for and a hope that seems to be evaporating in our day. We Christ followers can get so sidetracked with what we ‘think’ is spiritual, when the most obvious spiritual realities are right in front of us – self sacrifice & love towards those living alongside us.

Healthy souls = healthy marriages = healthy families = healthy churches = healing to the nations.

Broderic has met a super sweet girl named Kristen from Orlando area. She’s a lifeguard and was cool to spend a few days with them both!

Our family lives on a farm. We harvest wheat, corn, The farm over the years has provided summer work and a place for growing a work ethic for budding young adults. The longer we have lived in Ukraine in a very broken economy, the more thankful I’ve become for this place. It’s not only a place for earning some money, but growing character, learning self discipline, failing, and learning about oneself in the context of committed relationships. It don’t write to boast, but to highlight the importance of staying united, building as family units – the gifts just keep giving and trickling down to our heritage which Jesus can abide in and bring His kingdom through. When we seek our individual needs in an attitude of independence from God and others, the system simply breaks. Instead of winning the sense of hoped happiness, we are duped into more striving.

We were so happy to see our two oldest for a few days, Broderic (and his girlfriend Kristen) from Florida flew up, and Bronwyn our daughter who is now working and going to college in Pennsylvania. This parenting thing just keeps surprising us. The oldest kids become adults, and you go through that initial letting go, flinging the arrow into the world. You’re done. You think.

Once the arrow is flung, the parenting role doesn’t end, it just changes.

The pea field! I grew up driving pea combines in the summer. It’s long hours, sometimes weeks without a break, but it’s good money.

No longer needed for daily operations, the departed young adults are still in need of wisdom and encouragement. The guide on the side! Some of them still need emergency funding too 🙂 Andy Crouch wrote something I really appreciated concerning surrounding ourselves with healthy relationships, “We need those in our lives who will champion our dreams, but also puncture our illusions.” A parent, when in trusted, honest, transparent relationship with their adult children, I think, are the best ones suited to do this. We love to see them building their lives, struggling through difficult decisions, but we also walk alongside to keep them focused on reality.

The greatest gift, the best friend, is one who speaks the truth in love. We love that our arrows are embracing this gift because its been our aim to make them confident in our love.

Our love must be affirmed as something detached from performance or their doing.

They are deeply loved by who they are, as image bearers of God, intrinsically valuable. We can give them this love when we ourselves are receiving love’s gift too.

Deb with her two giants – they are working all summer harvesting peas in Western Ontario.

I didn’t intend to write about parenting. I simply intended to update my blog, and post some photos! There are, I know, some friends and family that read and follow along that have reached out and thanked us in the past for our notes on parenting. You are journeying along with us as parents, some of you have younger kids, some of you older and identify with the changing seasons. The main thing I wanted to highlight was how incredibly important it is for us to stay united in our marriages, because this blessing of walking alongside the flung arrow is one that is so powerful, so essential I think to this next stage of parenting. The continued blessing of families that stick together, and grow together in learning Jesus and their own formation must not be underestimated.

For our young adults, to have the balanced united support from both a mom & dad is essential when everything in their new life seems, to them, to be incredibly shaky – it’s our gift to our kids to come alongside as a heritage & union. Everything from advice on a car purchase to the healthy pacing of budding romantic relationships – this involvement can’t be forced, it must be earned through the earlier years. Our goal has been to move from the positional relationship as authoritative parent to sojourning friend as they leave the nest. That migration from coercion to influence takes a self knowing, resting into the grace of God yourself. To do this, your identity can’t be in being a parent, but a child of God. It’s a freeing place, resting in our individual weakness and finding Christ our ultimate strength. This allows us to come alongside our young adult kids in the reality that we too are still trying to figure out life – we’re just a few miles ahead on this thing and here to help.

“Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards” – Kierkegaard.

As an a man now in his 40’s, I continue to receive blessing, assurance, grace, encouragement from the united commitment of my own parents. As I receive that gift, in its many facets, I have vision to intentionally develop this now for my own young adults & their future families. This, I believe is the beauty of God’s intended design – an union of fellowship, displayed and enjoyed by our heritage, but also as a conduit of grace for the world. This interdependence, this offering of imperfect beauty in an increasing independent and lonely culture.

It’s not as easy as it looks to jump up on that thing.

If you don’t receive our private newsletter and would like to be added to learn more specifically about our ministry and journey along with us, we really would be honored to add you – just email me at bruce@liftupyoureyes.org and you’ll be added!

Our three girls in Lake Ontario.

Thanks for reading and your support!

Bruce & Deb live in central Ukraine and serve as directors of Mir Ministries (www.mirministries.org)

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Two Battles

In reading Christianity Encountering World Religions, the author makes this statement, “Paul, in effect, was fighting two battles, a frontline battle with the Gentiles, and a rearguard action with his own constituency” (Muck, 80).

Right from the onset, the missional heart of God face two challenges – those from without, and those within. It’s encouraging to know this march, this mystery revealed in the formation of the Church throughout history is birthed through trial. The world doesn’t lay out a red carpet, and the people of God prefer comfort and security.

Sometimes we can become weary, and even question whether our efforts are meaningful when they don’t produce the kind of results we might consider as successful. Maybe we should be embracing the trial, the objections of the world and religion, and high-fiving those who’ve gone before and encountered the same things. It was Jesus, after all, who led the way in this regard, rejected by all of humanity, with a resounding slam of the 9 inch nail.

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Basketball Goal

Every day kids come to bounce balls and skateboard at Lighthouse Park!

This past week our basketball goal, which was brought over from Texas 11 years ago, finally bit the dust. Here she is reclining, begging us to let her rest in peace. After several repairs, it won’t stand up anymore, much to the dismay of little monkeys who are learning how to dribble and shoot.

Basketball is still in its infancy in Ukraine. Equipment options are slim, but we have found some options in Kiev and would like to raise $500 if possible to put in a permanent goal.

Would you consider helping contributing towards a new basketball goal for Lighthouse park?

https://www.liftupyoureyes.com/make-a-donation-2/

The beauty of community inside and outside our property is such a joy to participate in. So cool to see this new sewing ministry take off, at-risk kids being ministered and several other ministries growing in depth like our widows care program. Our cafe is non-profit, in a very literal sense! We truly appreciate any investment you can bless us with to keep things running and a blessing to the families of our town.

Outside still has some work to do. This year we have added, thanks to a family sponsor, some benches and plan to add some garbage cans, shrubs and hopefully some swings.

One of my favorite things to see each day when I come to the Cafe and pull into the parking lot is little toddlers with their parents running around, sliding down the slide, going face first, on their belly on a skateboard. There is still so much more potential in our park area – but without the basketball goal it’s definitely less fun

Step by step! Bounce by bounce.

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Another Weekend. Fresh Grace.

The dust is now settling on our leaders weekend here in Rzyschiv. It’s interesting how each gathering evolves. I’m learning to prepare a lot of material but hold things loosely how the weekend unfolds. This is not an easy learning process for me. I like to have things locked and loaded, so that I can relax and work through a schedule like clockwork and have a sense of accomplishment at the end. The goal however is not the passing on of information, but to experience and interact with our Creator, and one another in deeply meaningful ways.

As believers, we gather not to simply absorb information but intentionally commune with God and one another.

The art of knowing yourself is a dangerous duty! Living into the place where true spirit-led transformation takes place… versus the easier, and false place of pseudo spirituality.

We dove into the Triune nature of the Father, Son & Holy Spirit. How often do we consider the loving, diverse union of our Creator within himself? This perfect union is what Jesus prayed we would experience in John 17, the purpose of the Son being sent, “that they may be one, eve as We are.”

“To be a person is to be made in the image of God: that is the heart of the matter. If god is a communion of persons inseparably related, then.. .it is our relatedness to others that our being human consists.” -Gunton

We often think that independence, particularly in the west, is always a sign of strength. To not ‘need’ anyone, to be on your own, isolated, strong. Yet, do we consider the Trinity as the ultimate revelation of perfect power? Is God weak because within Himself there is a mutual interdependence, a humble reliance on relational love? Creator God is perfect freedom, yet that freedom is woven into the fabric of harmonious relationship. To be free is to be in whole, sincere, vulnerability with others. To be isolated from meaningful relationship with God and others is to be something other than God’s image. In essence, our rebellion from God is expressed as we imprison ourselves in independence. We flourish in His free flowing relationship in Himself and are given a blueprint for lateral human relationships. God is not codependent, nor is He independent by nature in Himself, but rather interdependent – and that is not weakness, but what perfect wholeness and harmony looks like.

The problem lies in our broken world. Relating to one another is a tricky task! We spent time discussing the concept of differentiation, how to know where ‘you’ begin and end. How to be a non-anxious presence, particularly as leaders, around unhealthy people who unwittingly bring their stress and problems to you. The difference between burden bearing, and enmeshing ourselves in situations that are unhealthy, and yet recognizing the tendency as well to isolate ourselves – why we do these things, and what we can learn from the Father-Son relationship.

We also looked at culture, worldview, and the nature of expressing our faith in a way that engages the world around us – our experience with God’s missional sending heart should move us into transforming our world around us. If we just meet, our faith is broken, or as Volf says, simply ‘mystical’:

Christian faith malfunctions when it is practiced as a mystical religion in which ascent is followed by a barren rather than creative return, a return that has no positive results for the world.

<Mirosolav Volf

Our theology (how we view God) should form our missiology (how we enter His pursuing heart). From there we figure out the most effective forms of ecclesiology (forms we gather in to accomplish God’s heart). Religion typically flips this completely backwards, as if the primary mission is to gather in some prescribed format instead of entering God’s sending heart.. I like this quote:

It is not that God has a mission for his church but that God has a church for his mission. The problem comes when mission becomes the exclusive domain of a few.

We enjoyed having Matt Coss from Visible College in Memphis here this week with his family. We had some wonderful times of open prayer, worship, and simply resting in the presence of our loving God. It was really nice, like previous weekends, to have some international folks with us, and contribute their giftings to our weekends. God truly does gift for the equipping of the saints, and supplies in really neat ways!

For some of the leaders, they are in seasons of making life decisions, marriage, career changes, even which country they will live in next. It was a blessing to sit, pray with, and just listen to their hearts and affirm the love and work of God in their lives. He is with us in the valleys, comforting us vicariously through the church, and surprising us with glimpses of His heart.

I loved seeing our kids really engaged this weekend – some other families also brought their kids, and from Carpathian weekend the families have begun connecting on deeper levels. Watching them all play, run around and just be kids – knowing memories are being built, and friendships forged even cross-culturally.

I don’t know what the future holds for our leadership weekends. I felt strongly to journey through this year with this core – and God has added random (seemingly) guests that have really helped to equip, and some new folks along the way. Is this a community that should be further developed, or is God calling us to something new for 2020? We have one more weekend planned this fall, perhaps two if the finances allow. I know they have been really meaningful for those who come, and for us too.

We closed by looking at the nature of the mystery of Jesus, God’s incarnation as the ‘riches’ we dive into, but never reach the bottom. This is what Colossians says when Paul tells us to ‘let the Word dwell in us richly’. He uses ‘logos’ here, the revelation of God on earth in Jesus – that this would fuel our hearts, live in us, enrapture us and motivate us. We often think just digesting scripture somehow magically transforms us – yet, the Word of God is a Person, and like the star was for the wise men, scripture points us to Jesus. In Him is life, our lives hidden in the coming of the Son of man! This is why Paul can say that he desires to know nothing but Jesus and the power of His resurrection – because there is fountain of reality, the coming, death and resurrection of the eternal Son, glorifying the Father, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the culmination of God’s revealing of Himself, and as such, it is Jesus that is the glory of God!

What an incredible God we serve, sheer power in divested humility. Fuel us Lord with this rich reality.

We now have a week of cleaning, catching up, preparing for Canada trip. I am behind now on Fuller but wanted to document our weekend and learning. I love the depth of unity and grace evolving in our fellowship of believers, locally and among the Mir crew. The more we look to becoming a discerning, learning, transparent community in Jesus, the more healthy we become, and the more our missional activity is fueled by His Spirit and not our striving. Sustain us Jesus.

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