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!
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).
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.
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, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This past season has been a continued invitation from the Spirit to let go of previous ways of being, to embrace vulnerability, living into our brokenness instead of denials and quick fixes. We’re being freed by the experience of God’s deep love, despite having nary a clue what is next for our family and friends in Ukraine.
His loving depths are dangerous, but oh, the resurrection freedom on the other side. It’s real!
Now if we can just to stay there, resting, embraced in our daily moments, sustained by the love of Christ.
I’ve been trying to teach Claire how to swim. I’m not sure a rock would sink any faster. She is quite a dense, sinking girl in the pool and no matter how many sessions we have, panic is in her eyes. The more she tries to swim, the faster she seems to sink. The water holds more easily those that rest in it, trusting that it’s working with us. She needs to learn to trust the water, and her dad!
Deb and I learning just how difficult it is to trust the love of God. Letting go of outcomes is a bit of a cross, isn’t it? As we let go, and embrace an unknown future to the possibility of a loving Creator, we sit sort of suspended. In this way, swimming, trusting, letting go, are all ways of the Cross, daring to believe and hope for the resurrection on the other side of surrender.
I think the Cross is a pattern, an invitation, a way of life. It’s not just a historical event. Each of us, called to embrace Christ, which leads inevitably to an opportunity to surrender. May his love flood us, keeping us from clasping the hands, and frantically splashing about in our circumstances!
This isn’t much of a practical update, but an encouragement to our friends learning to trust, again, like we are.
We’ll be in the US and Canada this December and January. We do hope to see you, to hug you, to laugh with you. For those of you we don’t get to see, thank you for journeying with us in prayer, solidarity, and your much appreciated generosity.