The Beginning

dennis brockman —  September 5, 2014 — Leave a comment

Picture of a start.

A question many are asking me is, “How is your new role going?” I am grateful for the care and interest. However, I have not figured out how to give a simple answer, for it is a bit complex.

Before I am able to fully dive into my new role, I need to find the funding to sustain us in this mission. This is a challenging task, but incredibly rewarding. We have moved to 77% of full funding and I can’t wait to see it at 100%. Until that day, the majority of my time and energy is spent sharing our ministry with potential partners.

I am delighted that nearly all of my former team has joined Lisa and me in our move to the Global Advancement team. I know them well, and I am finding that the team we are merging with is filled with sharp, competent, and daring people. Yes, daring, they believe we can help mobilize 10 million multiplying disciples by 2020! Incredible.

We have a team retreat next week and a team photo is planned. I hope to share that with you next week. Thank you for enabling Lisa I to be one of those that dare to believe that God will enable us to mobilize 10 million multiplying disciples by 2020.

Banner for Global Leadership ConferenceRemember the story of the goose that laid golden eggs. I loved that story as a kid. I always wanted to have a goose like that. The point of the story of course is that you would want to provide for and protect that goose who brought so much value. Thankfully our leadership feels that way about me and our team. These next two days we will drink in the pearls of wisdom shared at this historic leadership conference. Thank you for enabling me to participate.

If there is a site near you and you can give the time to it I wish you could go as well. It is short notice, but I hear they take in walk ins.

 

loved like mad

dennis brockman —  August 1, 2014 — 1 Comment

We live on giving. To some, that's appalling. To others, it's faith-filled. Some are indiffierent. And others have no category for it…at all. It's a foreign thought. For us, it requires grit, trust, sacrifice, flexibility. It tests us like nothing else. And it is the hardest thing we often do.

But we both believe we were made for our work with Cru. And so we persevere in living on giving. On the flip side of the coin, these people who partner with us in reaching the world for Christ…they love us like mad. And we don't know why. It seems like another incredibly undeserved outpouring of our God's grace upon us.

We have been spoiled the past 10 days with a visit to see our ministry partners in California. A few days into our time here, two of our kids expressed, “Mom, I wish we could live here with these friends.” Our kids have seen and experienced much of the challenging side of living on giving. But from time to time, we head to the epicenter of our support and they are cocooned in with us into the silken threads of love. Today as we drive away from these ones we adore, we feel full. We are encouraged to press on in our work. Because we've been loved like mad.

 

As our flesh hungers for it's fallen vision of justice to be executed on others, judgment occupies such vast space in our souls that there is no room left for compassion, empathy, mercy, or grace. Judgment requires distance to take up residency in a soul. When we coddle judgment, a callous forms on the heart. And our vision of the other becomes skewed. I'm finding it's only when I am “with” another that judgment melts into compassion.

Dennis, Madison, and I approached the razor-wired fencing surrounding buildings expectant to commune with our friend who took up residency there months ago. Six months ago he left our community to serve time. A three-year sentence. The surreal hit us like a brick wall over two years ago when we received the news of his arrest. Our broken hearts pouring forth wails of grief over a friend who had fallen hard. Fallen into places unacceptable to our society…rightly so. He had poured into our sons and a thousand other youth at our church throughout the years. But darkness lurked and prowled and sought to devour. And he bought into the lie…as we all do at some point in time.

The exposure was merciless. Had I not known him, I could have poured out my judgment with the rest. But now this fallen one was “our” friend. “Our” fallen youth leader. The one who'd dined with us on Sundays and played with our family until sundown. Ache and tears and pain filled the space where judgment would have resided had he been a stranger. We were tasting the miracle of the incarnate Jesus. He released in us a hunger to walk beside our friend in the mire, to embrace him in his brokenness. To be “with.”

The One who came down to absorb all that judgment we so deserve. The judgment we brutally throw onto others. His name is Immanuel…God “with” us.

The revolutionary who lived out the loving the unlovely so we'd have a vision for entering into another's darkness. His name is Immanuel…God “with” us.

The One who showed us how to be “with” because it's so unnatural when someone's more broken that we think is acceptable. His name is Immanuel…God “with” us.

And this Jesus moved us to remain “with” our friend throughout his two-year sentencing journey. Because not many were moved as we were, we monopolized his weekends and he became one of us. We were graced to hold him in the darkness, where shame devours the bent over soul.

He spent the first two weeks of his sentence in the massive county jail. As Dennis, Keegan, and I entered the visitation center, surreal hit hard. These visitors were “our” people. People pulling out the stops to go be “with” the one they love. The one they love in spite of the brokenness. We sat at a kiosk in a line of three, only one of us able to talk through the phone at a time. The other two of us sticking our ears around the receiver hoping to capture as much conversation as possible in our 45 minute visitation. And we were surrounded by a roomful of others aching to hold the receiver and commune with their loved one. Laughter, sorrow, smiles, tears. All of us wishing we could touch the one on the other side of the monitor held in another building. These were now “our” people.

Dennis, Madison, and I arrived at the state penitentiary by 7:40 am last Saturday, hoping to acquire a spot at the front of the line. We had to leave the rest of the family behind because they were denied visitation rights. Two long rows of park benches lined a prison entrance. I'd never been so close to one before. The benches were almost filled and we arrived an hour before visiting hours began. We were surrounded by grandparents, mommas, papas, girlfriends, sisters, brothers, children, and friends. We spanned multiple ethnicities. There was no imbalance in color. More stereotypes shattered.

Within 30 minutes of our arrival, the door thunderingly unlatched and a young man walked out with a small Dillard's bag in his hand. His momma and another young man ran to him and embraced him tightly. Everyone began to clap so I joined the throng. With tearful eyes his momma yelled to us, the 40 there to witness his release, “My baby's been in there for three years!” That was the first time I'd witnessed somebody released from prison. And I felt momma's joy. And I ached for redemption to flesh into that young man's soul as one of the visitor's yelled, “Don't you come back!” I pray he doesn't.

I sat next to an older woman who, with a thick Cuban accent, was the consummate welcome wagon. She'd been there the day before as well, visiting her fiance. She'd befriended a striking twenty-something young woman who'd also spent the previous day there visiting her husband. Her style was punk. She had orange, black and blond hair with matching rainbow-colored eye shadow, perfectly applied. She was dressed to the hilt in black. Her daughter of two was decked out in a black sequined mini-skirt and tank with sequined skull and crossbones. They live three and one-half hours from this man they both love and adore. Spending their weekends in Ocala, Florida going between the prison and a cheap hotel, squeezing out every minute they can get with their man. This is their normal. A woman in her 90's dying of diabetes and her daughter joined us. They were visiting their son/brother. The woman's discomfort was great but nothing would keep her from communing with her son that weekend. She has another child in a prison in South Florida as well. Beside us was an academic middle aged man who looked like us, talked like us. He was visiting his brother. Another young woman on my right was visiting her boyfriend. They'd grown up in church together. With expectancy in her voice, she shared, “He gets out in 2021.” 2021. And there she was, faithful to drive the distance into the middle of Florida to be “with” the one she loves. Every weekend. This space was filled with a stunning collision of worlds. I longed to sit with these people, my people, and hear their stories. But there wasn't enough time because at 9:15 we were finally invited to enter.

After our processing, we were sent into a large cafeteria-like room to await his arrival. At 9:40 he walked through a door and never have we seen him beam so brightly. His entire being smiled. We embraced for the first time in months. Then we sat across from each other at rectangular tables, inmates on one side, visitors on the other. There we sat as we shared our lives for three and one-half hours, surrounded by our new acquaintances doing the same. Most visitors affectionately and excitedly embraced their inmates. However, there were some who couldn't hide the tension between them. The loss, the betrayal, the ache was too much. But the people still came, and sat across from the ones they love, willing to be “with” them in the pain.

A handsome, tall young man entered the room and the two-year old in sequins squealed and sprinted into his arms. Then his wife decked out in black kissed him like she meant it. Around 10:30, daddy's girl laid down on the table between her parents and drifted into dreamland. This is her normal.

The time came for us to return to our children not with us. As we walked out the door, we were filled because we'd been “with” our brother again. And our God was protecting him. And working in Him as He is in us. We tasted our Immanuel. God ‘with” us.

I was in awe of the commitment and love to these men who'd violated societal laws to such an extent that this place without rights or comfort had become their dwelling. Christ follower or not, these people are reflecting His heart for the world. Love compelled them to be “with” whatever the cost. Bringing tastes of Immanuel into dark places.

Judgment is our natural response to another in this fallen state. A friend of mine exhorted me years ago, “Hang in there until your judgment turns to compassion.” I've found the only way to enjoy that movement is to be “with” the one from whose eye I seek to remove the plank. Only in that closeness can my calloused flesh be crucified and the love of Immanuel pour forth offering life through me. In this pursuit, I think I taste true justice.

“This is what the Lord Almighty said: ‘Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. —Zechariah 11:9

 

Prayer Time

Perhaps you have been exposed to the helpful acronym to prayer “ACTS”. The “A” is for adoration, the “C” is for confession, the “T” is for thanksgiving, and the “S” is for supplication. We gathered our team as we do each Tuesday to come before our Father and pray. We engaged in prayer using this framework to talk with our Father. It was meaningful as we used Psalms 145 to inform our prayer. I was thinking about something I read in RC Sproul’s book called The Prayer of the Lord where RC says that often our prayer times take the format of ACTS and turn it into SCAT. We spend a lot of time with S and push quickly through CAT. That was not our experience, and it was important for us to to adore and give thanks to our Father who each of us has has experienced in so many wonderful ways. Have you found ACTS in your prayers with God?