Sunday, September 20, 2020

When Things Burn Down

Above: Wrong city, but right sky color

What an eventful two weeks this has been. Classes started and I was the first student in the Western library in the C-19 era when those doors opened. They hadn’t had a student in that building for nearly 7 months so I’m really not sure who was more excited, myself or the librarians. The last day (Monday 9/7) Door of Hope held it’s month long, early morning prayer meeting for revival, was the first day the smoke hit. I actually had a vivid dream the night before that someone tried to break in, and the apartment burned down, so it was on my radar strangely. All the recent poor sleep has left me exhausted. Then the wind and smoke came. Wind like I haven’t seen for years. Having thought about what possessions I’d prefer not to lose, we began packing our bags ‘just in case’ as the evacuation line crept 9 miles from our complex. I began tearing the place apart for my external hard drive to backup my precious laptop memories (essays, sermons, pictures etc.) but couldn’t find it. I went to bed that night discouraged. Tuesday (9/8) rolled around and I tried to study but another poor sleep from the windstorm brought fog to my brain as I tried to read and retain scholastic material. Another hard drive search proved fruitless. I decided to go back to bed in the middle of the day which isn’t my style at all. This is when God began to work. Upon waking up out of a groggy afternoon sleep, I accidently knocked my wife’s watch off behind our bed. With how small our room is, it was going to take some work to get to… then I had the idea to pull the mattress off and see if I could reach the small item between the wooden frame slats. What I discovered was that I could remove the slats and get to the packed contents under the bed. Instead of finding the watch at first, I found my hard drive. I know it sounds trivial, but in that moment (and even today), it was a small miracle for me. I saw God working in the struggle, leading me directly to what was missing, in my sleep almost! What a sweet reminder of his presence. On the 9th the Oregon fires started getting real bad real quick and when we left at 5pm, it looked like it was night. The sky was an ominous red-orange ashen color making the city look like the surface of mars. Breathing was a challenge and it wasn’t until nearly Olympia that we saw the stars in the in the night sky. 

We celebrated a wonderful weekend with family and DCC at their first live service since March. What was supposed to be a quick weekend trip ended up being a 10 day excursion as Portland reported the most hazardous air in the world and it was clear we shouldn’t return. This combined with a lack of sleep and falling behind in studies (all but one study book was in Portland) produced some serious discouragement especially when already struggling with online learning (not my strength) and limited M/W/F library hours. Were we on the right track in the right place? Did we hear correctly? Should we be in school right now? I spent an early morning in the woods praying as we prepared to go home the next day.

We returned home 9/17 and the air cleared completely 9/19. Tremendously grateful, especially hearing from a fellow pastor how multiple families in his church lost their homes. Today we celebrated the first in person service with Door of Hope in 7 months and it was a sweet time. Next week I begin ushering and I’m thankful to be learning what I’m learning, just taking things one day at a time. 

“And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” -Jesus, Matthew 28:20b  

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Not the Way it's Supposed to Be

Maybe you’ve looked out your window or scrolled through your news feed when this horrendous feeling squeezes you with, “everything is wrong.” Yesterday, I saw a cardboard sign in the middle of the road pointed to a vast homeless camp with the inscription, “Turn right for stolen bikes.” This occurred at 1pm, off a major Portland road in broad daylight. 100’s of bikes and tires were strewn about. This isn’t even a unique experience. To be honest, I’m not sure if I’ve been this heartbroken or angry with all that is happening in the world than at any other point in my life. Let me back up a minute though and start where we left off together...

On August 16th, I started attending early morning prayer on Mt. Tabor with Door of Hope Church, meeting some truly fantastic people. The first guy I met was a wild prophetic type dude known throughout Portland as *Bob from QFC*. Bob and I got talking, and he found out that I had been to an underground church of 50ish people or so in China. We began talking about small groups meeting and praying as a means to revival. In North Carolina the week before, a good friend speculated that the next revival in this country will be of quality in the church, not quantity of people. That resonated with my spirit. Bob believes the American church will need to go underground in a couple years. This resonated with my spirit too. The next day at early morning prayer I met a guy named *Charlie* who ended up inviting me to an Ezekiel Bible Study that also promised a bounty of Chick-fil-A goodness. Lauren and I eagerly showed up on time. From the Bible Study we were invited to serve the homeless at the Portland Rescue Mission (if you have spare Gideon Bibles around your house, the Mission could really use them) the following night. Parking near downtown and walking across the Burnside Bridge with a group of Door of Hopers, I met a guy named *Hendrix* who like me, had had his bike stolen. He shared his story and I shared mine. He told me not to lose hope as his stolen bike had been returned by the police a month after it was taken. Little did I know in that moment that his insurance had already replaced his stolen bike and he’d end up selling me his returned bike for 10% of what it was worth. That night I got to look 100’s of homeless people in the eye and tell them Jesus created them and loved them profoundly before handing them a meal. When the evening ended, I experienced God’s love afresh with the gift of an essentially free bike; a true answer to prayer. Incredible.


Returning back to Sequim to prepare for the DCC summer celebration was beautiful and devastating. After a string of disappointments surrounding school, we found out my last remaining ‘in person’ class was canceled. “What are we even doing here in Portland paying outrageous rent for? With Zoom, we could be anywhere in the world.” Driving down a forest road later that day that had meant so much to us over our April/May sabbatical as a healing spot to pray, a ‘CLOSED FOR COVID’ barrier stood. I lost it. I’ve literally not sworn that much for just over a decade when God transformed my heart in early 2008. Fuming, I drove half an hour all the way back around to Lake Sutherland when it was only minutes away via the closed road. Getting into the lake water seething, I clearly heard “do you want to enjoy this or do you just want to be angry?” I responded, “I want to enjoy this.” Swimming a bit further, the line from the movie ‘Grand Canyon’ popped into my head; “it’s not the way it’s supposed to be.” “You’ve got that right,” I replied. I finally reached my swimming destination and I clearly heard God say, “do you trust me?” In this way, God affirmed my feelings but called me beyond them. I began crying, then asked His forgiveness. I left the lake water differently than I entered. I believe what God, in his kindness, lead me to that afternoon is true for us today.


1) Do you want to enjoy my presence, or do you want to be angry? 2) It’s not the way it’s supposed to be 3) Do you trust me?


School starts tomorrow and despite circumstances, I’m excited, knowing and feeling God is in control. There is a heaviness and weight in this city over the people we meet. We don’t really know why we’re here, but confident in what God is doing around us. In Exodus 2:23-25 God hears the cries of his people and remembers them in their suffering. What a tremendous passage reminding us that even when it’s “not the way it’s supposed to be,” God is still present and active even when we can’t feel it.

Above: Inaugural ride on amazing new bike God provided 

Above: One of the many bike theft camps in our area. The one closest to our apartment uses marketing

Above: A couple students spontaneously came down to Portland to say hello

Above: After worshipping in Pastor Evan's backyard on August 22nd, we made a new friend walking back to our car

 If you have spare Gideon Bible's around, Tim+Linda and Amaury would love to hand them out at the Portland Rescue Mission