I’ve found that good editing, great filming, the right lighting and beautiful music can create a movie that feels larger than life. Almost better than what you could live in. Well, sometimes life leaves you in a rut. I’ve written of those times over the past few years. Today though, I’m going to talk about the other side of life. The good side. So if you want to read some happy stuff, read on my friend. The last few weeks have been incredible, even without soundtracks, scripts and lighting.
A few weeks ago, thirty in 20 Park went up to Joplin. We worked our tails off on that day, including a time of tearing a guys house down. Now, I understand this trip wasn’t so we could feel good, but we were blessed to be able to go and serve and share God’s love with people. Miracle stories were overheard throughout that day. Although my heart is still heavy when I think of the devastation in Joplin, I am filled with hope by the stories so many have. Continue to mourn over those who lost family and friends.
This summer, I have been spending a lot of time with 18 other people who are committed to a discipleship experience called NINE. It is a NINE week discipleship experience. It is rigorous, and it is challenging, but already we are seeing lots of growth in the people who are going through the process. We meet Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and every other Saturdays. One of the fascinating things about NINE is that you become truly close in proximity. You can be in close proximity though without being in close community. We are growing to the point though of being in true community I do believe. I am excited about this. Another challenge, is that we’re all going to have ups and downs in a season of stretching and taking God and His word seriously. So often, people are attacked more often than not during this process. It makes sense, but sometimes we miss that this is a good thing. Attack is positive. It tells you that you are fighting a battle. If you are not being attacked, it is probably because your faith is dormant. So it is a challenge. It is fun. And we keep growing together.
In the last seven days, we have had 3 baptisms. Once again, we get a taste of the harvest. The last time we did, we backed off because we were so excited. These baptisms came after long studies, some longer than others. Truly beautiful though, to see someone’s life changed forever. I can’t tell you how good it feels to lower someone in the water, bring them up and the first person they see is you, and they immediately hug you. One of our baptisms was Kerry, my roommate (and adopted little brother in Christ) baptizing his older brother Jerry into Christ. If you ever get to hear their stories, you’ll be blessed and better for it.
There are several guys in the college group who are looking at giving themselves to college ministry, and entering the Campus Ministry United program. You have no idea how excited I am to see that. These guys truly put wind in my sails.
Last night, Matt Crandall shared his full testimony with our group at his going away party. Let me just tell you that he has one of the most powerful God stories I have ever heard. The testimony lasted an hour, and there weren’t really any rabbit trails. The dude has been through a lot, but now God is taking him to new heights. Matt leaves tonight. We ate brunch this morning, and had a delightful conversation. When I got in my car to drive away, I told myself I wouldn’t cry. I got about 30 feet down Memorial, and started tearing up. I almost pulled the car over on the B.A. Expressway, cause I could barely see. Everyone in 20 Park can tell you about the joy in Matt Crandall’s smile. In February, he was lost as could be, in the darkest hour of his life. Then he gave his life to Christ via a Lucas Hall power baptism, and he is forever changed. Matt is always smiling. Since I left IHOP with Matt, I guess you could say I’ve had a little something in my eye all day that I keep having to wipe away. When someone like Matt Crandall comes into your life, they take up a big space in your heart. When they leave, they create a space in your heart that just kind of feels empty. I’m excited for him taking his next step, but I’ll tell you that I’m sad today.
Finally, a couple days ago, my Uncle Paul passed away. He was my great-uncle, and believe me, he was a great uncle. I think Paul Eckstein has the most evangelistic heart of anyone I’ve ever known. He would even take his “down time” of things like fishing, to try and share the gospel with someone new.
Like I said, it has been a great few weeks. GREAT! I am worn out right now, but that is in a good way. Going off to camp with Contact tomorrow, then on to the Vision Trip, then to Campus Ministry United. It’s gonna be good folks.
Now, I will say that I am convinced that even if you brought in a moving soundtrack, a tightly woven script, brilliant lighting, and great cinematographers, the last few weeks could not have looked better. Because it is in true joy, grief, love, and hope that you are truly filled with life and find yourself in the midst of a story worth living.