Sunday, July 9, 2017

Three Rings: Sonship

If you missed the lead up to this short series, go back and read about the Thailand ring. If you’re all caught up...

Here is the story of the second of those three rings.

The Sonship Ring

The first part of June was Training Camp around the office. This is when new Racers come to our campus and go through a 10 day training, which many members of the staff help put on.

This camp was special for a few reasons. First, I had proposed to Ashley only a few weeks before. Second, she was going to be mentoring one of the squad’s at this camp. This meant that I got to help train this group of Racers she’d be taking care of. So it was just cool to meet a new squad as someone who would sort of be in their life by association. Third, I was finally going to meet the Banse’s.

Dan and Ruanne Banse are coaches for the World Race, meaning they are basically elders that speak into the lives of the Racers. They also get to travel to the field for debriefs. Dan and Ruanne have been working with Ashley for a year or so now, and I had heard tons of stories about them. I was excited to finally get to meet them!

They’re a spirit-filled couple who always seem to be in tune with the Lord. And always seem to know what He’s saying. They’re also pretty goofy and seem to bring the party wherever they are. Basically, they’re great.

One day around halfway through camp Dan asked me what my ring size was. Dan likes to play around a good bit, so I just kinda laughed this question off. The next day he came back with a black ring and asked me to put it on. Not really following, I did. It was a little big, so he said he’d bring another one the next day.

At this point I had picked up the obvious, Dan was going to give me a ring for some reason. As I said, rings don’t really pique my interest typically. So the previous two days hadn't meant much to me. 

The next day Dan comes up to me with another black ring and tells me to put it on. It fits perfectly this time, and I actually get a good look at it. A black band with a gold cross inlaid on either side of the band. It seemed a little cliché to me at first, until Dan told me what it was for.

He said that this ring signifies my sonship into the Kingdom. It means that I am a son of the King. A son of the Father in Heaven. It showed that the Father recognized me as His son by giving me a ring, or a reminder.
The ring

Much like the Thailand ring, I didn’t quite know what to do. I thanked Dan and walked off to think. To be honest I didn’t really process what this meant until a week later.

I know that I am son of God. But to be recognized as one carried weight to me. It’s a physical reminder of who I am and where I come from. A reminder of what the Lord thinks of me.

I’ve realized that being recognized or being claimed is such a want in life. To be known, seen, spoken for. To know who you are and where you come from. But for whatever reason, it’s actually terrifying. 

In essence, I’ve come to realize that it is so important that it makes me wary. I don’t trust it. There’s too much of a risk of the disingenuous. Of the whole thing being false. So I don’t want to put any trust or stock in it. Better to be where I am than to trust in something that might not be true, right?

Of course not! Of course that’s not true. Sheesh, people. I feel like that’s the way our culture sees things. Until its been proven, it can’t be true. Seeing is believing, right? Not the other way around, no not never. It makes me wonder if this is one of the reasons so many people have such huge issues with being claimed by the Father as a daughter or son. Because it seems too good to be true. 

And I'd wager that we as a people don’t know how to be loved. 

Which is something I imagine the Father wants to change. Maybe He’s trying to tell you how much He loves and claims you right here and now? 

That’s the major lesson for me in this ring. I’m claimed. I’m loved deeply. My Father is proud of me. I’m His son. Good grief, guys... I’m His son. And I can trust in that. I really can. And I really will.

I keep the ring on my bookshelf usually. It reminds me when I’m feeling low. Reminds me if I’m feeling angry or lost. Reminds me when I need to know who I am again. When I lose my way ever so slightly.

It might seem silly. But in my opinion it can never hurt to have a reminder of who you are or where you come from. To know who’s watching out for you. To know who you can come back to. To know who claims you. Even more so when it’s the God of the universe.

This ring perfectly accompanies the Thailand ring in that they both show me that not only do I have worth in Christ, but that I’m a son as well.

Both worthy and claimed.

I find that to be important.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Three Rings: Thailand

To say jewelry isn’t my thing is something of an understatement. I’ve invested very little time and money in jewelry of any kind. The most being super cheap braided bracelets I got on my Race. And I even haggled for those.

So after setting that stage, I feel like you could understand that I don’t have a huge fascination with rings. I’ve only owned a few throughout life, and only one did I buy myself. I don’t wear rings, so they’re pretty easy to forget. That is until recently.

See, I proposed to my wonderful girlfriend (now my fiancé) Ashley recently. And that requires a pretty nice ring. So suddenly I started to care a whole lot about rings. As in, more in a few months than the entire sum of my life.

It got me thinking about one ring I got on my Race that I’ve had for almost 4 years, another one I got last month, and of course the engagement ring. And how these 3 little loops of whatever they’re made of can actually signify lessons in my life.

So here is the story of the first of those three rings.

The Thailand Ring

December 2013 was month 4 of my World Race. We were in Thailand serving a church with one of the most amazing men I’ve met. His name is Pastor Ekachai, and he is joy personified. I’ve seen him belt out Christmas carols, dance with Christmas trees, and joyfully pursue fitness like no one I’ve ever met. He’s hilarious, he’s kind, he’s faithful, and he’s a man I’ll never forget.

At the end of the month I had to leave my team early to head to Bangkok, I was a logistics leader on my squad and had to head to the city to take care of some visa issues. Pastor Ekachai drove me to the bus station early one morning. We were making small talk when we arrived at the station. Suddenly he turns to me and tells me to hold out my hand. Not super sure where this is going, I just do it. He then puts this ring on my finger and says in his Thai accented English:

The ring itself
“The Holy Spirit said that if this ring fit your finger that I needed to give it to you.”

I was stunned. I tried to tell him that it wasn’t necessary, that it was his ring. But he wouldn’t have it. So I got on the bus wearing his ring, absolutely in shock. 

You see, Pastor Ekachai had been bragging about this ring all month. It was a prized possession of his. His brother had gotten it for him, and he loved it. For Pastor to decide to give me this ring at the word of the Spirit was something I couldn’t understand.

It fit perfectly. It still does actually, I’ve kept it all these years. None of it made sense to me at the time. In fact, it still doesn’t totally. It wasn’t some exchange of goods. This ring meant something to Pastor Ekachai, and the Spirit told him to give it to me. That carries weight. A weight that I couldn’t figure out.

I pull it out from time to time to look at it. To see if his gift suddenly made sense to me. I mean, why did I deserve this possession that has so much value to this man? To sacrifice something he loved so dearly? And on top of it all, he himself probably didn’t know either.

It was ridiculous. And I’m still floored by his willingness, generosity, and the love I felt from him in that moment.

Basically, it was a surreal experience for me.

The fantastic Pastor Ekachai leading worship
And now as I sit here typing I think I get it to some extent. This ring was meant to begin the journey of worth in my life. To understand that I’m worthy of such gifts in the eyes of the Father. That I’m deserving of good things for no other reason than being one of His. I’m worth a gift of such value.

This has been a journey I’ve been walking over the last year specifically. Who knew it started so long ago? That it started with the Lord whispering something to Pastor Ekachai. Something that he could have easily ignored or questioned. But because he didn’t, I’ve been working towards understanding my own worth for years. Something I’ve greatly struggled with.

This ring is hugely important to me, now. It represents a great deal of journey for me in understanding my own worth. I’ll always be thankful to Pastor Ekachai for giving it to me, and being obedient to the whispers of the Lord. Especially when it doesn’t make sense.

Anyway, that’s just a snippet of what I’m mulling over.

Catch the next two blogs to hear the stories of the next two rings!

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter and Story

I’ve done Easter a few different ways.

One year spent it in a cabin set in the Blue Ridge mountains with good friends. In 2016 I was in a wonderful church full of fantastic people in Costa Rica. On my Race I was in Nepal, where I worshipped alongside Nepali people high in the mountains in the Tibet region. I also gave a word to the church… all while having a giant rip in the crotch of my pants. One of the young children was kind enough to point it out. Basically the rest of my life has been spent doing Easter in Mississippi in my local church with my family.

This year I did something a little different. I decided to get in my truck (named Ivan, to those who have not met him) and drive into the mountains. I wanted to spend this Easter having some quality time with the Father Himself.

So away I drove. Into a part of North Georgia I’m well acquainted with.

I quickly noticed that I wasn’t alone. Everyone and their mother seemed to be thinking the same thing. Though, I can’t vouch for their motivations.

Regardless, all of my normal spots were taken. Inundated with people driving in and out to take a quick picture of a mountain range cloaked in clouds. Which I couldn’t quite understand.

Realizing there was no deep contemplation to be had here, I took off and explored. This is where I found a nice little spot tucked into the woods. No one stopped there because there didn’t seem to be anything to find. A small dirt road with a Smoky the Bear sign in front that led into the forest. I’ve learned that some of the best places to explore or meet the Lord are the ones that people don’t find interesting. The places that are unassuming or inconvenient usually are the best ones in my opinion.

I walked in. Took a several minutes to scout around, and found that I had walked into a semi-used campsite. There was no grand view, but it was insulated from the nearby road, caught the breeze wonderfully, and had some beautiful trees and plants.

It was perfect.

I setup my little REI camp chair, whipped out my journal, clicked my clicky pen, and asked the Lord what He wanted to talk about.

Seth Barnes (Adventures CEO, my boss) sends out weekly emails with his thoughts. Recently he sent one out that got me thinking. He was talking about telling a good story. He said this in the email:

“My story is one of a young man looking for acceptance and adventure. I traveled the world, wanting to make a difference while caring for the least and the lost. Eventually I began to realize that a whole generation of young people had the same foundational urges that I did. 

When I realized that Jesus gives us all the opportunity to live a good story journeying the world with him, everything changed. Since then, I've devoted my life to helping people trust Jesus in crazy ways and then to tell others about it.”

For a while I couldn’t understand what he meant by “story.” I’ve been trying to figure out what the point of a good story is besides entertainment. I mean, we pay to see movies, we buy books, we waste scads of time watching Instagram or Snapchat stories. Why would we need to live a good one? Especially when we can watch the doctored up versions up other people’s.

What I’ve decided is that it comes down to motivation. Why are you trying to live a good story? To be someone great? To be recognized? To find fame? Status? Friends? People to look up to you? Maybe it’s acceptance. Maybe it’s pride. Maybe you just want to go viral.

I began thinking about the people we find to be “great storytellers.” Or just great people. Mother Theresa, Billy Graham, Paul, martyrs throughout the ages, obviously Jesus Himself. The common thread here to me, is that none of these people were interested in telling their story for their own gain. They didn’t tell it for anything other than the point of it. To glorify the Lord and make Him known.

It’s easy to get caught up in telling a story to see what people think about it. To post something to see how many likes, views, or shares you get. I mean heck, It’s something I run into every time I blog.

We’re vain. It’s kinda the way of it, but that doesn’t mean we have to stay that way.

Now, what the heck does this have to do with Easter?

The thing the Lord really told me in the woods was this: “I died so you could be free. I died so you could live a wonderful life. So you could tell and live a wonderful story. Go and live it.

This Easter it was easy to think about all the crazy things going on in the world around us. But, it can be a time to really understand another dimension of why Christ died for you.

Go and tell a story. Tell your story. Tell your story for the simple sake of telling it. Live you story because you can. Live your story because you were made to. Tell others about it. Do not worry what they think, be concerned with living the story God made you to live.

He has risen indeed. Why not go tell some people what that means?

Anyway, that's what I’m mulling over this Easter.