Archive for October, 2007

Blowin’ in the Wind.

Bob Dylan first recorded the song “Blowin in the Wind” in 1963 on an album called “Freewheelin’ with Bob Dylan”.  He included it on at least 5 other albums including the 2000 release “The Essential Bob Dylan” that I am listening to right now.  It is #14 on Rolling Stone Magazines list of the Greatest Songs of all Time (1999).

Two things made me think about this song, this morning.  The first and most obvious is that the wind is blowin’ like crazy here in Oklahoma and if it ain’ tied down, at this point it is in Kansas.  I brag about the weather here all the time so I need to also ‘fess up to when it isn’t that great-like right now.  The wind really does “come sweeping down the plain.”  But the sun is shining…

The second thing that made me think about Bob Dylan and Blowin’ in the Wind was something that happened in our Convergence class this morning.  Part of our teaching commitment is to put the ideas, concepts, “teachings” on the table and let the students interact with them as opposed to lecturing.  The risk to this methodology is that there will be a “pooling of our ignorance” in the class rather than learning what was on the agenda for that day. But the risk is worth it because in these kinds of settings the Spirit is free to blow.

 The Bible says that the Spirit, like the wind, blows where it chooses and so no matter where you want a conversation or teaching to go, the Spirit is going to blow it a direction you might not have expected or planned, for His purpose.  For someone who spent most of his adult life teaching in a setting where there was very limited or no feedback or conversation, this type of interaction is really enjoyable.  But more important than that, there are so many Spirit directed understandings we would miss, if we never involved the students in the process of hearing from, and speaking out, what they are hearing as the Spirit speaks to them.

Linda was leading the class this morning, and she is really good at inviting participation and allowing students to share what they are hearing, and so twice this morning we heard things from the Father, through our students, who were sensitive to the Spirit as He blew through our class.

One Word was spoken from a woman who had studied the word “curse” in the Bible and learned that one meaning of cursing was to “devalue” the uniqueness of the individual and as she received it, the way to bless another person and thus remove the curse, was to speak their value to them. This was such a good Word from the Word.  But what was special was when she finished speaking she was embarrassed and began to devalue her Word and herself and as a class we were able to break that curse off of her by doing for her what she had just taught us from what the Spirit had taught her.

The point here is not so much what she heard or to evaluate her Word, but to say the answers to life are Blowin’ in the Wind, the Wind of the Spirit and if we will listen and invite people to share what they are hearing from the Father through His Spirit it can be life changing.

The wind is blowing out here in Oklahoma and it does get old, but the Wind is also blowing out here and it never gets old.

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October 31, 2007 at 11:22 am 3 comments

Visit with injured Bull Rider Lee Akin and Mary Akin.

lee-akin.jpg  

For the most recent update on Lee and Mary (as of October 2008) click HERE.

Just looking at Lee Akin across a table in Lucille’s Roadhouse in Weatherford, Oklahoma you would never know that his skull was crushed in a bull riding accident less than 8 months ago. He looks great, he feels great and in fact he is great. That he is able to even sit up is a miracle.

But what makes his recovery even more of a miracle is that he is able to walk and play with his daughter Jada, something that seemed impossible at the time of his accident during the Southeastern Livestock Exposition and Rodeo in Montgomery, Alabama last March 8th. 

According to Mary Akin, Lee’s beautiful and energetic wife (she had just run a half marathon in New Mexico the weekend before our visit), no one in the medical community gave him much of a shot at living, let alone living with his family in their western style home, filled with pictures and buckles from Lee’s successful rodeo career. Mary told us the doctors say Lee’s progress is way ahead of anything they would have predicted if they would have predicted recovery at all.

There is no question that Mary is a major reason for Lee’s recovery (see her MySpace page here). If you are around her for any time at all you see that she is has amazing faith in her Father and her conviction that He would heal Lee has kept them both going, even when the human odds were stacked against them. A mutual friend who knows Mary well told me “she never says anything negative, never gets down and just walks in faith everyday.” That was certainly true in the time we were with them.

In the four hours my wife Linda, my brother Mike, sister in law Vicky and I spent with the Akin’s last week, Mary was the consummate optimist, but her optimism wasn’t some phony “rose colored glasses” optimism but a sure conviction that God was going to give her husband back to her, whole and healthy. She spoke with confidence and gratefulness about how well things were going and many times during our conversation she gave all the glory to her Father for His healing grace.

Last April, Linda and I stood with the Trinity Fellowship family in Sayre, Oklahoma (the Akin’s church family), extended our hands toward Montgomery, Alabama and prayed for Lee’s healing and for Mary’s strength. There is no doubt in anyones mind, especially Lee and Mary’s, that prayer is what has turned Lee’s recovery from no hope to a conviction of full recovery.

Lee is working hard to get all the way back. Each day means a morning trip to either physical or speech therapy and the day we met with Lee they were just back from a trip to the speech therapist. Lee has no trouble understanding what you ask him but he still struggles to get the words from his brain to his tongue. The injury was to the side of his brain that controls speech, so forming words is something he is having to relearn. But with a little patience and some real effort on his part he is able to answer your question. He still walks with a slight limp but that too is getting better. This kind of therapy is very hard work and leaves Lee tired from this daily regiment but he still works out on the treadmill, takes walks outside, plays with his daughter and is doing the hard work necessary for full recovery.

Mary’s patience is amazing. A physical trainer in top condition herself, she is balancing the care of Jada, their energetic 1 year old, household and financial responsibilities along with the the extra effort it takes to keep Lee going. There is no doubt Lee is working hard to gain full recovery but without Mary along side it probably would not be happening as quickly as it is. Mary will have an opportunity to share her story at the PBRO Sunday worship service this coming Sunday in Las Vegas. If you are in Las Vegas for the PBR Finals don’t miss it (location of service here)

There is still a long road ahead of for Lee, Mary and Jada. Lee’s physical healing is moving steadily ahead but there are many months of therapy yet to come. No one doubts, least of all Mary, that Lee will one day be able to do whatever he chooses to do, but it is going to take time and incredible patience from both of them.

When I asked Mary what she needed and what we could do for her, she was quick to respond, “Don’t stop praying”. But as I pressed her for more she reluctantly mentioned concern for finances and how they would be able to make it when some current resources were no longer available. However, even as she mentioned the need she mentioned how grateful she was for the tremendous support they have already received from the rodeo community, sponsors, family, friends, people they don’t even know and of course their church family. What amazed us was her confidence that it would all work out and she was not worried about it. She even laid out plans for returning to her work as a physical trainer when the time was right.

I know our visit to the Akin’s brought some encouragement and support to Mary and gave Lee some of the mental stimulation he needs, but the four of us who came to visit with them received the greater blessing. Courage like the courage Lee and Mary display does not magically appear when disaster strikes. Trusting in God with this kind of faith was built into their lives during months and years of reading God’s Word, prayer, relationship with a great church family and striving to live each day in step with the Spirit. The faith and courage we witnessed in Mary was birthed long before the accident through her commitment to follow Jesus everyday in good times and bad.

If you are interested in helping the Akin family in a financial way, the Pro Bull Riding Outreach, led by former bull riding world champion Cody Custer, is a place you can send gifts and be sure the entire gift will go to Lee and Mary. Please go to Cody’s website here if you want more information. You can also send gifts to Trinity Fellowship PO Box 452, Sayre, OK 73662. Please put Lee and Mary Akin in the message line of your check. All gifts are tax deductible and will go in there entirety to the Akin family.

Remember Mary’s request: “don’t stop praying!”  lee-and-mary-akin.jpg

For more pictures of the Akin family click here.

(all pictures by Vicky Scandrett)

October 30, 2007 at 9:27 am 5 comments

Monday morning meanderings. Vol.18

Another beautiful Monday in Western Oklahoma.  Clear sky, brisk temps and a great place for a morning walk.  Can’t ask for a lot more than that in very late October.  If you had told me we a year ago we would be enjoying a new ministry, blessed with such consistently good weather in a place 1500 miles from our home in Washington, I would’nt even thought it possible but here we are.

I feel quite blessed as I write this Monday morning meandering for the 18th time.

Item one. We had such a great time with my brother Mike and sister (in law) Vicky.  After 35 years it is hard to think of her as anything other than a sister.  They drove here from Colorado Springs on their 35 anniversary and we served them pizza to celebrate.  They went on to San Antonio for a wedding and this morning left there headed home.  They will stay in Amarillo tonight and then on to the Springs in the morning.  It was really fun to have our first visitors.  I doubt Western Oklahoma would be on anyone’s list of destinations but don’t knock it till you try it.  Ya’all get down here!

Item two. Ugly, ugly, ugly. That is my description of the World Series.  Was it just me or were their more Red Sox fans in Coors Field than Rockie’s?  A couple of weeks ago I was pretty excited about the Series but it was a pretty sad showing by the National League and I lost interest pretty quickly.  Nice to have some bull riding to watch.  It must be my east coast bias but I really don’t like the Red Sox or the Patriots, may be because the teams I like are not as good as them and I am just jealous.

Item three.  I had a great time preaching yesterday.  After preaching 2-3 times a weekend for more than 16 years I have missed preaching, especially the last year, but it seems the opportunities come at just about the right intervals to satisfy the desire, so I really don’t think much about doing it every week. I like what I am doing, teaching classes, planning for Convergence growth (our school of ministry), writing for the Juniper Tree and other writing projects and being part of a staff that cares about each other and tries to make ministry about people and not programs.  I also enjoy that Linda and I are able to work together.  She helps out in the office, but she is also co-leading the birthing of the school of ministry, so much of what we do is together.  Our trailer is parked just behind the offices so the commute is pretty short and this really is a beautiful place to stay.

Item four.  With the PBR in full swing out in Las Vegas my visits from people searching for information about Lee and Mary Akin has gone way up.  I promise, tomorrow morning I will publish a story about our visit with the Akin last Tuesday.  I hope I can do justice to the incredible story Lee and Mary are.

Item five. Prayer for the week. Give it a try, it will grow on you: Almighty and everlasting God, increase in me the gifts of faith, hope and charity; and, that I may obtain what you promise, make me love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.   No need to explain the prayer to you but think about the words and what you are asking for when you pray them.  There is a strong connection between loving, as in following the Father’s commands, and the obtaining of the Promise.  Worth praying for.  (more like this here)

Item six. Please pray for our daughter Traci and her husband Brandon (blog here).  The long wait to go to Africa to pick up their son is getting to be an ordeal.  They have put themselves on the line to follow the Father’s call to care for orphans, they have spent thousands of dollars already and more yet to spend doing what they know they are supposed to do, but the wait if getting hard. They are not complaining, just getting weary waiting for the Ethiopian government to move on their paper work. Please pray for patience and for perseverance for them and for the government to act today on this adoption.  We are so proud of them for choosing to invest their limited resources in something so important and critical, like rescuing African children, rather than spending it on themselves.  I know they would appreciate your prayers and support.

Have a great week.  Thanks for reading.

October 29, 2007 at 9:10 am Leave a comment

PBR World Finals, PBRO and Trinity.

The World Finals for the Professional Bull Riders (more on PBR here) begins today in Las Vegas and continues through next weekend.  So what, many of you are asking?  At least for us the answer is that bull riding has much to do with how we ended up here in Western Oklahoma and even more to do with the way the Father chose to bring wholeness and restoration into our life. 

Of course we haven’t started riding bulls but the relationships that brought so much healing to our lives is rooted in the ministry that is around the PBR.  Almost two year ago, Doug and Jeanee Wright took Linda and me over to visit with Todd Pierce (info here), who ministers to bull riders at the PBR events each weekend, around the country. The Father used that weekend to begin introductions to a whole group of people who are associated with Trinity Fellowship here in Oklahoma.  We met Brooks and Stephanie Brewer at a PBR event.  Brooks leads worship at Trinity.  We met Cody and Stacey Custer through the PBR and they now live in Sayre. Their ministry Pro Bull Riding Outreach (more on PBRO here) is covered by Trinity and I am on their board.  Through our attendance at several PBR events we met others who have relationships here and over time those relationships led to an invitation to come to Sayre for a couple of weeks the last two years where we met Pastor Andy and the other leaders of Trinity Fellowship which then led to our coming here to be part of the ministry in early September. 

So you can see why bull riding is important to us even though we know very little about it and don’t even watch it that much, bull riding is what got us here so what is taking place the next 10 days is important to us as well. 

There are quite a few people from here, including Cody and Stacey Custer who will be in Vegas doing ministry through the PBRO.  The PBRO will have daily Bible study for riders, PBR staff and the public as well as a time of worship each day in the hotel conference center.  There will be rider testimonies and other events to attract people to the PBRO booth in order for the fans of the PBR to be introduced to the Gospel.  Pray for Cody, Todd and others who will minister each day at the Finals.

Pastor Andy and his family will all be in Las Vegas during this time because Andy and Julie’s son Cole (info here) is a PBR rider and they are all there to support him.  Bull riding is really a part of the Taylor family DNA.  Andy rode bulls professionally and all four of their sons have been riders with the younger two having a lot of success in the Built Ford Tough series and the Challenger (info on Clay here) series.

I don’t know how many of the riders are Christians but there is a large percentage that are, so we are praying for a move of God through these young men, in Las Vegas these next 10 days.

Linda and I met with  Lee and Mary Akin last week for several hours and early next week I will post an update on Lee’s recovery from being stepped on by a bull 8 months ago and how they are doing as a family. They will be in Las Vegas next week where Mary will be sharing her testimony at one of the services.  Pray for her.  New post is here.

For a lot of us Professional Bull Riding is a foreign sport but for a large portion of the culture it is almost life itself.  Pray for our friends as they seek to bring Kingdom life into this culture over the next 10 days. 

October 26, 2007 at 10:27 am 2 comments

Down on the farm.

I have roots in the Iowa farm country where I was born and my father was a dairy farmer. Linda’s roots go far deeper into the farm life than mine as she was born into several generations of farm families.  Though her father was to leave the farm for agricultural research and teaching, the farm is still in her family as it has been for 120 years or more.  In some ways both of us feel at home here in rural Western Oklahoma because of the early years of life down on the farm. 

There is a charm to the rural lifestyle that is both spiritual and Spiritual.  There is a slower pace to life, an appreciation for the seasons and the weather that is more than just whether or not the rain will ruin whatever event we have planned or whether it is football or baseball season. There is an understanding in the country about what goes into the milk we put on our cereal and the tomato catsup we put on our burger. I also think there is a clearer understanding in rural America about creation and the Creator because life is more identified with both.

I just read an article from christianitytoday.com about a small but committed segment of the Christian culture that is trying to do farming and rural life in a more Creator centered way.   Neither liberals nor traditional evangelicals are flocking to the countryside, but another group is, says Salatin. “Thirty years ago, 80 percent of all visitors to our farm were hippie, cosmic-worshipping, nirvana earth muffins,” he says in his typical rambling manner. “Today, 80 percent are Christian homeschoolers.”

There is something about the farm life, the country life, the small town life that enhances the Spiritual.  Of course few are able to afford the farm life, including many farmers, but there is no doubt that many are drawn to it because it is a connection to the Creator in a way almost impossible in the city. “Evangelical Christians give a biblical basis for why they’re doing what they’re doing. I think most rural communities are going to be a lot more open to a Christian family starting a farm and saying we want community, we want a better place for our family, we want better stewardship of the earth because God commanded it. That people can buy.”

The “new farmers” are discovering there is a “Creator way” of doing farming and they are finding it works.  For example: In contrast to industrially produced chickens that can’t leave their cages, that need to have their beaks cut off so they don’t peck at each other, and that are ridden with disease, Salatin allows his chickens to poke freely around his pasture. Salatin says he is just copying creation. “We use God’s design and take it as a template,” he says. “Our overriding question is not how do we grow the chicks bigger and faster and cheaper. The goal that we have is how do we … create a habitat that allows the chicken to fully express her ‘chickenness.’ “

In an age where hormone injected meat is being rejected in ever increasing numbers the God way to raise food is working. If you raise these animals the way God intended,” says Mike Hansen, a farmer in Wisconsin, “you get healthy meat.”

Economically it doesn’t make a lot of sense to raise chickens this way, and I understand why farmers trying to make a profit that allows them to stay on the farm must raise chickens the way they do, but that doesn’t mean it is the best way to do it.

America needs farms and farmers for reasons that are greater than just supplying our food, and sadly the family farm is disappearing at an alarming rate from rural America and in the wake of those disappearances are some silo sized problems.  As rural businesses close, as children leave for jobs in the city, and as fewer resources are directed to rural areas, social problems run rampant. “It used to be urban areas had the highest crime rates, drug-use rates, alcoholism rates, and suicide rates, especially among young people,” says Mangis. “Now that’s all reversed. Rural rates are higher.” Today, Mangis says, rural towns are either being depopulated or are becoming suburbs. 

Perhaps Christian agrarians can be part of the answer to this huge cultural and Spiritual problem.  Christian agrarians reinvigorate rural communities with their traditional approach to agriculture and their entrepreneurial businesses.  Spending time out here in rural middle America it is clear to me that we need farms and farmers not just to grow our food but to show us our connectedness to the Creator in a way you just can’t see in the parking lot freeways of the big cities.

If you are interested in learning more about this subject read the whole article here.  Be sure and check out a few of the blogs that are listed at the bottom of the article.  Even if this lifestyle is not for you I think you will find it interesting. 

October 25, 2007 at 1:42 pm Leave a comment

29.

Today is our son Paul’s 29th birthday.  This is the 12th birthday in a row we have not been able to celebrate with him, and it is still really, really hard.  Hard not to imagine what he might look like, who he might have married, hard not to think of the grandchildren he might have added to our family.  Hard not to think of the contributions he certainly would have made to this world and to the Kingdom of God. 

Hard not to think of he and his mother getting in the car to go to a soccer match somewhere and him bugging her to let him drive. Hard not to think of him teasing his sister Traci and hanging with his brother Brad.  Hard not to think of him with his brother in law, Brandon or Summer, the sister in law he never got to meet. Hard not to think of him playing with Sloan, Sean and Canyon Paul, his 3 nephews and hard not to think of him getting excited about the new little boy we are all anticipating together.

Hard not to think of him playing soccer, riding his bike, snowboarding or talking with his friends.  Hard not to think of him sitting too close to the TV, watching the World Cup or a war show.  Hard not to think of going by his room at midnight, finding his light on, in bed reading a book, especially after being told to turn it off an hour before.  Hard not to think of him laughing, acting goofy and encouraging everyone around him to do the same, especially when they shouldn’t be.

Hard not to think of him enjoying the company of others we know who have been lost to us here on earth.  Hard, especially to not think of him and Willie finding ways to do whatever it is they are doing where they are, differently then they are supposed to.  While I doubt anyone gets in trouble in heaven, it is hard not to see the two of them trying!

Hard not to think of him enjoying the company of his grandmother and his great-grandparents and other family and friends who are with him in heaven. 

Hard not to think of him giving me one of those big hugs he was so good at giving.

Hard not to think of him at the feet of the Father taking it all in and smiling.

It is hard not to think of him….so I am.

Happy Birthday, Paul Scott

October 24, 2007 at 2:35 pm 2 comments

The voice still cries from the wilderness.

I think (but I am not certain) it was Oswald Chambers in his classic book on leadership who said: If a pastor seeks to be both a pastor and a prophet he will fail at both. Pastors face a pretty difficult choice these days between being a popular leader as well as a popular prophet.  Is it any wonder that the prophetic voice is almost completely gone from the evangelical church?

Most of evangelicalism has taken the gifts given to the church, lopped off the gifts of apostle and prophet, made the evangelist a crusade director and focused almost all the credibility on the gifts of pastor and teacher.  In my seminary days I don’t remember one lecture, one conversation or even one reading assignment on the role of the prophet, let alone the apostole in all my years of graduate school education.  I often wondered what Paul had in mind in Ephesians when he writes about the five gifts for the church, but questioning those things was not the fast track to graduation or placement.

But being here at Trinity has allowed me to see the prophetic gift in action (as well as the other 4 gifts to the church) and I wonder if its absence from most of the evangelical church is the reason why it is floundering so badly.  Without the prophetic there is no corrective voice, no one to call the church in a new direction and no one to question or challenge the popular or “newest thing” direction so many churches gravitate towards.

The prophets of the Old Testament served as the voice of correction, the voice of conscience, the voice of God Himself.  There is little doubt the church today would be more effective if all three of these voices were speaking into it.

So where has the prophetic voice gone?  Three things come to mind.  First, it has been driven out by bad theology.  What kind of theological gymnastics does it take to relegate 2/5 of church leadership to an age long past because it is deemed by theology as no longer needed for this age.  Since the theology of gift exclusion is practiced in most seminaries and Bible Schools, as it relates to the five-fold gifts to the church (true for the sign gifts as well), they are not training apostles and prophets and doing a poor job of training Biblical evangelists, because in this age all that is needed is sound Bible teaching and innovative pastors.  Until theological education sees the value of these gifted individuals to the church, much of the church will continue to muddle along.

Secondly, the prophet by definition, is going to disturb the status quo and make people uncomfortable and that leads directly to job insecurity.  The lack of a true prophetic voice in a congregation leads to institutionalism and institutionalised churches will never tolerate the voice of correction or conscience, because it often means a disruption of the very things the institution needs to continue to function.  Most pastors who have a prophetic voice, stifle it for fear of losing their income and give in to maintaining the institution.  It is a vicious circle. 

A third reason why the prophetic voice is almost entirely gone from the evangelical church is what Dallas Willard refers to as the ABC’s of ministry.  Attendance, buildings and cash.  These three are the measuring sticks for effective ministry.  A leader who can increase these three elements will assure himself of the continuing mantle of leadership.  But the prophetic voice is often heard speaking against these three evaluative tools, so when these are the evaluators of ministry success the church is not going to tolerate a voice that says otherwise.

Every pastor who has ever attempted to speak prophetically has had a visit from the chairman of the board, or some other influential member who puts his or her arm around their shoulder and quietly whispers in their ear “that kind of talk is not going to work here”.  “Of course you are right, son, but look at what the cost will be if you continue to say those things”. If the prophetic voice continues the whisper will become an outright shout for a vote of no-confidence.

It is no wonder John the Baptizer was called the “voice crying in the wilderness.”  They would have crucified him if he had tried to say those things in the synagogue. Little has changed.

The five-fold ministry gifts given to the Family when functioning as intended work and work well.  The  2.5-fold ministry of most evangelicalism works about half as well. 

October 23, 2007 at 6:52 am 1 comment

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