Sunday, December 23, 2012

Going Away...

Leaving friends and family is a hard thing. Leaving friends and family and a church you really love is even harder.

Even when you're as excited about where you're going (and what you'll be doing) as we are!

After a few weeks of "last things"...classes to attend, finals to mark, work projects to finish, churches to speak at, bags to pack, and loved ones to say goodbye to...we've accumulated our fair share of (really thoughtful!) going-away cards, notes, and mementos.

With that being said...we'd like to share one of our very favorites from among those cards with you.

It's from a dear friend at OKC First Church of the Nazarene, one we didn't know well before moving back to the States in August, and one we'll miss very much while we're away. And it's certainly among the most inspiring, most encouraging things we've read while we've been on this missionary journey.

"Aaron and Brittany:
It has been a crazy blessing to grow in friendship with you two over the last several months. I love your passion, boldness, and fierceness with which you do love. I know there's apprehension and sadness in your good-bye, but rest because you know God's hand is in it all.

"The joy in your return and all the work and love that is to be done here with us will be all the more sweeter after this good-bye. So go, and be all there, and enjoy all the shenanigans God has waiting for you.

"This will continue to be my prayer/blessing for you, so claim it, live it, whatever. :)

"May the peace of the Lord Christ go with you
wherever he may send you;
May he guide you through the wilderness,
protect you through the storm;
May he bring you home rejoicing of the wonders he has shown you;
May he bring you home rejoicing once again into our doors."

So as we look back with fondness and ahead with anticipation...
this is our prayer, too. :)


Sunday, December 2, 2012

How You Can Pray...

Hey all!

A number of folks have asked us how you can pray for us as we prepare to leave (soon!) for our next year of European coffeehouse ministry. Here are a few specific requests:

1.) IMMIGRATION. The UK visa application process has been long, slow, and expensive. Please pray that we're able to complete all of the steps and hear back from them on time to make our original travel itinerary (4+ weeks and counting)!

2.) FUNDRAISING. God continues to faithfully provide for our needs, and always in his time. Please pray that he will continue to do so...we're about halfway toward our fundraising goal of $25,000 for our one-year volunteer assignment. God's done it before; we're sure he'll do it again! :)

3.) LAST THINGS. We're very excited about the mission God is calling us to, but also a little bummed about leaving behind our families, friends, and home churches while we're away. Please pray that we'll be able to slow down (at least a little!) to savor these last few weeks with our loved ones in the States. 

Thanks so much for ALL of your prayers and support...we would never, ever make it without them. :) We love and appreciate you all!

Aaron & Brittany

Friday, November 16, 2012

The Great Thanksgiving, Part 2

In last week's Word and Table service at OKC First Church of the Nazarene, we were especially  struck by a portion the communal prayer incorporated into The Great Thanksgiving section of the liturgy (right before the blessing of the Eucharist).

As Christians, we are (obviously) called to emulate the life and person of Jesus...this prayer is a great reminder of what that looked like here on earth:

"Holy are you, and blessed is your Son Jesus Christ. Your Spirit anointed him to preach good news to the poor, to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to announce that the time had come when you would save your people.

"He healed the sick, fed the hungry, and ate with sinners. By the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection you gave birth to your Church, delivered us from slavery to sin and death, and made with us a new covenant by water and the spirit. At his ascension you exalted him to sit and reign with you at your right hand.

"On the night in which he gave himself up for us, our Lord Jesus took bread, gave thanks to you, broke the bread gave it to his disciples, and said: 'Take, eat; this is my body which is given for you.
Do this in remembrance of me.' When the supper was over, he took the cup, gave thanks to you, gave it to his disciples, and said: 'Drink from this, all of you, this is my blood of the new covenant, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.'

"And so, in remembrance of these your mighty acts in Jesus Christ, we offer ourselves in praise and thanksgiving as a holy and living sacrifice, in union with Christ's offering for us, as we proclaim the mystery of faith:

"Christ has died; Christ is risen; Christ will come again."


Tuesday, November 6, 2012

November/December Speaking Schedule

Hey all! Our updated November/December speaking schedule is below...we'll keep you advised on further developments, if any. Hope to see at one of these places soon! :)

11/18: Sapulpa (OK) Church of the Nazarene - Sunday AM service

11/25: Bethany (OK) Lake Overholser Church of the Nazarene - Sunday AM service

12/1: Cedar Lake Chapel (Hinton, OK) - Saturday AM all-church breakfast

12/8: North Dallas (TX) Connections Church of the Nazarene - Saturday PM service

12/9: Richardson (TX) Church of the Nazarene - Sunday School, AM service, Children's Church; Nexus Community Church of the Nazarene - Sunday PM service

12/30: Grace Pointe (MD) Community Church of the Nazarene

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Great Thanksgiving

As a part of OKC First's weekly Word and Table service, we have the opportunity to pray this prayer (as part of The Great Thanksgiving liturgy) every week before we take communion together:

"It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, almighty God, creator of heaven and earth. You formed us in your image and breathed into us the breath of life.

"When we turned away, and our love failed, your love remained steadfast.

"You delivered us from captivity, made covenant to be our sovereign God, and spoke to us through your prophets, who looked for that day when justice shall roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, when nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore."


Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shalom will be our reward.

For a Christian, an economic system is a means to an end - a mechanism for exchanging goods and services...nothing more. 

We steer our lives by a higher value - the love ethic of Jesus. Central to our bearing the cross is our acceptance of Jesus' love and our attentiveness to the needs of others...

Compassion will be our guiding light, our rule in life. Justice will lead us to faithful stewardship - to care for an work on behalf of others in the global community. 

Shalom will be our reward.
-Ann Hagmann, Climbing the Sycamore Tree

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Eating the Bread of Anxious Toil

The following passage is taken from one of last week's thematic readings from A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God:

"As we grow older, we tend to become control freaks. We need to control everybody and everything, moment by moment, to be happy. If the now has never been full or sufficient, we will always be grasping, even addictive or obsessive.

"If you're pushing yourself and others around, you have not yet found the secret of happiness. It's okay as it is. The moment is as perfect as it can be. The saints called it 'the sacrament of the present moment.'"

-Richard Rohr, Everything Belongs

Christ be in Your Head, and in Your Understanding...

Every week, Rev. Judy Cox dismisses the Word & Table service at OKC First Church of the Nazarene with the following blessing. We've come to love it as we try to get better at living it out!

"Christ be in your head, and in your understanding.
Christ be in your eyes, and in your looking.
Christ be in your mouth, and in your speaking.
Christ be in your heart, and in your thinking.
Christ be at your end, and at your departing.
Amen and amen!" 

United Methodist Book of Worship, #566 (modified)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Speaking Tour: Northeast Oklahoma District, September 23-30

We have been graciously invited to conduct a mini-tour of churches on the Northeast Oklahoma District from September 23-30!

A brief schedule of our speaking engagements is as follows:

Tulsa Central (9/23, AM)
Muskogee First (9/23, PM)
Wagoner/Coweta (9/24, PM)
Sand Springs (9/25, PM)
Miami (9/26, PM)
Okmulgee (9/27, PM)
Broken Arrow First (9/30, AM)
Tulsa Regency Park (9/30, PM).

Feel free if to send us an e-mail if you'd like more information (or directions)! :)

-Aaron & Brit

Word and Table Servcies: Liturgical Worship in the Wesleyan Tradition

One of our favorite things about our time in Oklahoma this semester has been the opportunity to attend Word and Table services on (most) Sunday mornings at OKC 1st Church of the Nazarene. The services are led by our good friend, Rev. Judy Cox, and emphasize the roles that liturgy and tradition have played in Wesleyan worship services since the church's very beginning.

Our first Sunday back was a few weeks ago; the following is a brief synopsis of the liturgical worship format and content that we've come to appreciate as a supplement to our "normal" worship services. Liturgy, Judy noted, celebrates (and demands) "the work of the we worship with our bodies: speaking, standing, singing, smelling, thinking, listening, eating, and drinking."

The worship service incorporated a number of different liturgical elements, including responsive readings, hymns, and Scriptural texts. We were particularly inspired by Judy's sermon, however, as she highlighted the historical background of the American Holiness movement in general and the Church of the Nazarene in particular.

John Wesley, she pointed out, simply wished to renew and reform the Anglican church; in the same way, Phineas Bresee wished to renew and reform the Methodist church. "Remembering means reliving where we have come from, and what we have believed," Judy noted. "We (Midwesterners) are not necessarily all Bible Belt Baptists," she gently pointed out. "And if we want to discuss what our church really believes, we have to go back to the Articles of Faith that it was founded on." It sounds so simple when you put it that way! :)

After sharing communally in the Prayers of the People and Passing the Peace, we joined together in praying The Great Thanksgiving before celebrating Communion together. "because we are Wesleyans, we practice an open table," Judy reminded us. "If you know that you need Jesus, you are welcome here."


Saturday, September 15, 2012

9/16: OKC 1st Church of the Nazarene

Hey all!

This Sunday (tomorrow) we will be speaking in the 10:30 AM worship service at Oklahoma City First Church of the Nazarene.

If you'd like to come here about what God is doing in European coffeehouse ministry...or you just feel like cheering us on...feel free to come on out!

Aaron & Brit

Sunday, September 2, 2012

In the United States, for now...

Well folks, that title says it all.

After 2+ years as volunteer missionaries in another whirlwind month of speaking and working in churches and coffeehouse ministries in the UK...we are finally back home in the United States.

For now. :)

We will spend the next 4 months working, teaching. speaking in churches, fund-raising, and generally preparing for our next multi-year volunteer missions assignment: helping with coffeehouse ministry projects in Manchester and London, UK.

This is fun, and tiring, and exciting, and scary...all at the same time. :)

Please continue to pray for us as we seek God's will for us during this short time back in the States. We are trusting him to provide adequate energy, transportation, and employment while we're home, as well the funds we'll need for our next volunteer assignment. He's never failed us yet!

We'll have more details for you always, thanks so much for your prayers and support. We could NEVER have made it this far without them! We love you!! :)

Aaron & Brit

Sunday, July 1, 2012

2012 World Barista Championship

We've been away from the blog for a few weeks now, mostly due to coffee- and coffeehouse ministry-related travel.

One recent stop was a 48-hour jaunt to Vienna, Austria, for the 2012 World Barista Championship and 2012 World Brewers Cup competition. Exciting times!

You can see some of our photos here and here.


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Prayer Requests, June 2012

Friends and Family: the following is a (partial) list of requests made by church members, fellow volunteers, baristas, and friends at our weekly Wednesday afternoon prayer meetings. Please continue to keep them (and us) in your prayers!

Please pray for the father of our friend E., who has been unemployed for many months;

For the father of our friend H., who has been diagnosed with very painful, terminal cancer;

For H., who has been struggling with persistent health problems, and for her strength as she travels extensively for work this summer;

For this Friday's Jazz concert, and for our friends and family members who might enter our coffeehouse for the first time because of it;

For the success and impact of the social justice conference that our friend T. is organizing in Southeast Asia; 

For our friend E.'s father, who will be undergoing significant medical tests in the next few days;

For our friends S. & I., who are providing much-needed emergency foster care to two infants here in Kraków;

For the effectiveness of our upcoming outreach events, particularly next week's Gospel Music Worship Service;

For strength and wisdom as we (Aaron and Brit) attempt to prepare and prioritize for our last few weeks in Poland;

For our friends B. & M., who are beginning the fundraising process to come to Poland as Mission Corps volunteers;

And for all of us -volunteers, staff members, and church families- as we try to discern God's will for ourselves and the Kraków coffeehouse/house church location.

Thank you so much for your prayers!

Monday, June 18, 2012

"If the LORD is God..."

I (Aaron) recently preached a sermon in our Kraków coffeehouse/house church about a simple (but not easy!, difficult (but not complicated) subject: knowing God's will.

The message revolved around four central texts the Holy Spirit has placed on my heart lately, including two from the Old Testament and two from the Old Testament.

1.) "Elijah went before the people and said, 'How long will you waver between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow him; but if Baal is God, follow him.'" -I Kings 18:21 (NIV) 

In the midst of a very tense standoff with the king of Israel, 450 false prophets, and a large crowd of desperately thirsty of his countrymen, the prophet Elijah succinctly summarizes the problem facing the people of God (then and now): "If God is God, then follow him. But if a false god -Money, Comfort, Power, whatever- is god, follow that." 

Like I said: simple, but not easy. And what, exactly, does "following God" look like? 

2.) "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God." -Micah 6:8 (NIV)

Justice. Mercy. Humility. This is the life we're called to; it's often difficult, but never complicated! Unfortunately, even Jesus' closest friends sometimes struggled to grasp this simple idea. 

3.) "Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?" -Matthew 6:46 (NIV)

Ouch.  This one hurts. But it's so often true! So what should we do in times of confusion? Of sloth? Of selfishness? What is this life that Christ calls us to?

4.) "Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'

"'Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.'" -Matthew 25:34-36, 40 (NIV)

THIS. This is it! This is the life we are called feed the hungry, replenish the thirsty, love the stranger (and the homeless), clothe the naked, nourish the sick, and love the prisoner. For of such is the kingdom of heaven!

In other words, we are called to be like Jesus. To obediently love the Father and compassionately love his creation. Every day.

It's simple (but not easy), often difficult (but not complicated).
It's our calling.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Prayers for Poland (and for us)...

While browsing through two very different books on the train home from Lublin this morning, I (Aaron) was struck by a passage from one (the Book of Jeremiah) that reminded me in some ways of the other (Schindler's Ark).

More than that, though, the verses highlighted below also struck me most forcibly as a sort of prayerful advice for missionaries (volunteer and otherwise) here in Poland:

"This is what the Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, says to all those I carried into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: 'Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease.'

"'Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you...Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.'

"This is what the Lord says: 'When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'

"'Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,' declares the Lord."-Jeremiah 29:4-7, 10-14a (NIV)

Continuity and cultural sensitivity, peace and prosperity. Seeking and finding, hope for the future.

These are the prayers of a missionary! :)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

More Green Book Goodness: Come Away, Redux

More confirmation that we (as Christians, as Nazarenes, and as missionaries) are called to simplicity, flexibility, and prayerful abandon, courtesy of the Green Book:

"If we ask God for so little it may well be because we feel the need for him so little. We are leading complacent, secure, well-protected, mediocre lives. We aren't living dangerously enough; we aren't living the way Jesus wanted us to live when he proclaimed the good news" -Anthony de Mello

"I am telling you my own experience and that of my colleagues: we could go for days on end without food; we could not live a single minute without prayer." -Mahatma Gandhi

"The less we pray the less we are likely to live the risky, challenging life that the Gospels urge us to; the less of a challenge there is in our life, and the less we are likely to pray." -de Mello

"Given the type of life I am leading, if I ceased to pray I should go mad!" -Gandhi

Which brings us back to a song that keeps getting stuck in our heads:

Here we go again...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Willingness > Willfulness

A few ideas (and one corresponding Scripture passage) brought to you courtesy of this week's Green Book readings:

"Willingness is the opposite of willfulness, being full of our own will and ways and satisfaction in being self-made or self-controlled persons...Willingness is a chosen position of vulnerability that recognizes we are ordinary beings in need of God's love, companionship, and guidance.

"[Willingness] includes our acknowledgement that we are not all we would like to be or all that God hopes for us and point toward our desire to hear and follow the Spirit's invitations even when it means giving up our ways in favor of what we perceive as God's ways." -Jeannette A. Bakke, Holy Invitations

This is a particularly tough pill for me (Aaron) to swallow, as I'm about as willful a person as you are ever likely to meet. And my own willfulness, admittedly, often leads me away from the path of of loving, Christ-centered willingness that I want my life to reflect.

Fortunately, I've discovered a solution! Well, God created a solution and helped me stumble gradually upon it: a life immersed in Scripture, sermons, devotional music, reading, and writing.

The Apostle Paul said it like this:
"But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you have learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus." -2 Timothy 3:14-15 (NIV)

What's your solution?

Mission Legacies

We've been listening to a lot of sermons lately. Live ones, of course, and weekly podcasts from OKC First Church of the Nazarene...but especially older, missions-themed sermons from various online archives.

Among our favorites are recordings of second- and third-generation Nazarene missions pioneers Dr. Elmer F. Schmelzenbach and  Rev. Harmon Schmelzenbach.

They encourage us, they inspire us, they invigorate us, and they (occasionally) shame us. Mostly, they remind us what Nazarene missions are all about, and who we (as Christians, as missionaries, and as Nazarenes) are called to be: simple, loving, trusting, passionate, hard-working, single-minded, sold-out followers of Christ. 

If you're interested, you can listen along with us here: and here:

Papa Els would be proud. :)

I Know That My Redeemer Lives!

One of our good friends and Krakow church members, Jarek, preached a few weeks over a passage from Proverbs 4:

"My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ear to my words. Do not let them out of your sight, keep them within your heart; for they are life to those who find them and health to one’s whole body. Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it."-Proverbs 4:20-23 (NIV)

As Jarek spoke about what it means to guard our hearts, I (Aaron) was reminded another passage, one from Christ's Sermon on the Mount: 

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 

I thought again how important the priorities we embrace are to our lives (and especially our ministry). What we value -what we spend our time, money, and energy on- make all the difference in our ability to deny ourselves, honor God, and love others. 

"Follow the example of Job," Jarek said. "He was the richest guy in the neighborhood, and he lost everything! And when that happened, he just said, 'What next, God? What would you like to teach me? What is your next lesson?'"

This got me thinking about Job, and about one of my all-time favorite Bible verses. These were Job's words to his friends after days and weeks and months of personal torment, heartbreak, and death: 

"Oh, that my words were recorded, that they were written on a scroll, that they were inscribed with an iron tool on lead, or engraved in rock forever! 

"I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes —I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!" -Job 19:23-27 (NIV)

And then we got blessed. :)

"All of these bad things happened to Job and his family," Jarek said. "He lost everything. But his heart was full of fear and love for God. THIS thing he didn't lose!"

Our fellow volunteer, Hannah, recalled a passage from 1 John. "Do not love the world or anything in the world," she remembered. "The world and its desires pass away, but whoever does the will of God lives forever." -I John 2:15, 17  

"The world will pass away," Jarek reminded us, "but God's Word will never pass away." 


Friday, April 27, 2012

Communion and the Last Supper

I (Aaron) led Communion time in our Sunday worship service a few weeks ago, and read from the account of the Last Supper in Luke 22. Several passages struck me in new ways.

1.) "When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. And he said to them, 'I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.'"

Once again, we're reminded that the Last Supper was, indeed, the last "normal" meal that Jesus got to spend with the disciples, his best friends in the world. He looked forward to it, and what he did and said that night took on even greater significance because of that.

2.) "And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, 'This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me'....In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.'"

When we eat and drink together -every time we eat and drink together- we're called to remember Jesus. His life on earth, his love for everyone, and his death that brings us new life.

3.) "A dispute also arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, 'The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves.'"  

Unbelievable. Almost before Jesus had finished his statement, the disciples were already bickering about their respective places in this new kingdom that their best friend and teacher was going to die a pretty horrible death in order to establish. 

But once again, Jesus gently corrects them. "If you want to be great in God's kingdom," he says. "Be like me. Live like me. Serve like me. Love like me. And if necessary, even die like me." 

That's love. That's greatness. That's what the kingdom of heaven is like! 

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Real Spirituality: Joining the Worlds

An interesting tidbit from this week's Green Book readings:

"Real spirituality dawns when our life with God becomes as real as the problems and joys we experience each day. Until then we live in two different worlds...

"This separation can not remain if all our life is to be filled with real meaning, peace, and awe, no matter how violent or stormy our days may become. When we are truly prayerful we join both worlds. As we become naturally aware of God throughout the day, we journey in both worlds simultaneously. That is truly the spiritual life."

-From Everyday Simplicity by Robert J. Wicks

Monday, April 16, 2012

Easter Sunday 2012

Aaron preached a mini-sermon during our Easter Sunday service + All-Church Breakfast a few weeks ago. His devotional message was inspired by the Christian calendar, liturgical tradition, and a healthy does of that week's Scriptural passages and suggested readings from the Green Book. The basic points went something like this:

"Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. “Woman,” he said, “why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?”

"Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

"Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her. Jesus Appears to His Disciples On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit." " -John 20:10-22 (NIV)

"The LORD is risen; tears of grief have given way to tears of joy; and followers of Jesus Christ now try to live in this world where evil, darkness, and death itself have been unconditionally conquered...To live in a world where evil holds no fear and death holds no threat requires a radical shift in understanding and attitude.

"Such a world is no longer under the dominant control of darkness, but is already showing signs of the healing and life-giving presence of light, God's light. The truth that darkness can never extinguish the light gives us confidence and hope in this Easter season, and in all seasons."

This is one of our favorite Easter the Christ candle from last year's Advent wreath, the candle that was so agonizingly extinguished during the Service of Shadows on Good Friday. In short: Love Wins!! :)

"The Season of Easter is set within the fifty days following our LORD's resurrection. Forty days after the resurrection we observe our LORD's ascension; fifty days after the resurrection, and ten days after we observe Ascension, we observe Pentecost...but it is now, in this Easter Season, that we begin to learn how to live (and love) in (and with) the power of the resurrected Christ!"

"Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you." -John 15:13-15 (NIV)

"Breathe on me, Breath of God,
Fill me with life anew.
That I may love what Thou dost love,
And do what Thou wouldst do."
-Edwin Hatch, 19th-century English theologian and hymn-writer

"You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.

"This is my command: Love each other.
" -John 15:16-17 (NIV)

"We know, O LORD, that if we follow close to you nothing will be able to separate us from your endless life and love and light. Please give us the grace to make your word our guide, so that we may know you more intimately and follow you more closely - forever.

"Father, we love you so much. We really do. Help us to act like it."


Saturday, April 7, 2012

Keeping it all together...

We've kind of been thinking about three things all at once lately:

1.) The work we're trying to finish now (in Poland) over the next 3.5 months..
2.) What we'll be doing next (in the States) between August and December 2012..
3.) Whatever comes after that (some details we know, some are still up in the air)...

As we attempt to responsibly weigh all of the challenges and opportunities that accompany these changes, one passage that has comforted us comes from Isaiah 43:

"But now, this is what the LORD says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:

'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.

When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
For I am the LORD your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;

I give Egypt for your ransom,
Cush and Seba in your stead.
Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
and because I love you,
I will give people in exchange for you,
nations in exchange for your life.

Do not be afraid, for I am with you...'"
-Isaiah 43:1-5a (NIV)


Monday, April 2, 2012

Wild hopes!

A particularly inspiring excerpt from last week's Green Book readings:

"Do you have any wild hopes?
Or tame ones for that matter?
The possibility of acorns becoming towering oaks,
or caterpillars blossoming into butterflies?
Or that dawn will chase away might night fears?

"Wild hopes!

"That all creation will learn the dance of joy,
And all humanity might taste the wine of peace,
And that our loving God will become transparent through love.
'Recast the earth, oh, Lord,
and move our hearts with wild hopes!'"
-From Resurrection to Pentecost, by Robert F. Mornea

Monday, March 26, 2012

Two songs; one message.

Two new-to-us worship songs have really spoken to us lately (in two different languages, funnily enough). :)

The first song is Matt Redman's 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord), which was introduced to us by our friends at Fresh Ground: London. Some of our favorite lines are included below:

"Bless the Lord, O my soul,
O my soul,
Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before,
O my soul,
I'll worship Your holy name.

"The sun comes up, it's a new day dawning.
It's time to sing Your song again.
Whatever may pass, and whatever lies before me,
Let me be singing when the evening comes.

"Bless the Lord, O my soul,
O my soul,
Worship His holy name.
Sing like never before,
O my soul,
I'll worship Your holy name..."

The second song is Polish singer-songwriter Mate.o's Przyjaciela Mam, which we've been learning from our Polish friends at the Sweet Surrender coffeehouse/house church here in Kraków. The (translated) lyrics go something like this:

"Przyjaciela mam, co pociesza mnie.
Gdy o Jego ramie oprę się W Nim nadzieje mam, uleciał strach.
On najbliżej jest, zawsze troszczy się.
I have a friend that comforts me.
When I lean on His shoulder I have hope in Him—
Fear is gone. He is so close, He always cares.

"Królów Król, z nami Bóg.
Jezus, Jezus...
King of Kings, God is with us.
Jesus, Jesus..."


Friday, March 9, 2012

Who the Christians are (and are not): a description of the Early Church

The following passages are taken from the Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus (c. 175 AD).

Mathetes is Greek word that means "disciple," and possible referred to one of the Early Christian Fathers. Diognetus was the Greek recipient of this letter, one of the earliest examples of Christian apologetics.

"For Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind either in locality or in speech or in customs. For they dwell not somewhere in cities of their own, neither do they use some different language, nor practise an extraordinary kind of life. Nor again do they possess any invention discovered by any intelligence or study of ingenious men, nor are they masters of any human dogma as some are.

"But while they dwell in cities of Greeks and barbarians as the lot of each is cast, and follow the native customs in dress and food and the other arrangements of life, yet the constitution of their own citizenship, which they set forth, is marvellous, and confessedly contradicts expectation. They dwell in their own countries, but only as sojourners; they bear their share in all things as citizens, and they endure all hardships as strangers. Every foreign country is a fatherland to them, and every fatherland is foreign.

"They marry like all other men and they beget children; but they do not cast away their offspring. They have their meals in common, but not their wives. They find themselves in the flesh, and yet they live not after the flesh. Their existence is on earth, but their citizenship is in heaven. They obey the established laws, and they surpass the laws in their own lives.

"They love all men, and they are persecuted by all. They are ignored, and yet they are condemned. They are put to death, and yet they are endued with life. They are in beggary, and yet they make many rich. They are in want of all things, and yet they abound in all things.

"They are dishonoured, and yet they are glorified in their dishonour. They are evil spoken of, and yet they are vindicated. They are reviled, and they bless; they are insulted, and they respect. Doing good they are punished as evil-doers; being punished they rejoice, as if they were thereby quickened by life. War is waged against them as aliens by the Jews, and persecution is carried on against them by the Greeks, and yet those that hate them cannot tell the reason of their hostility.

"In a word, what the soul is in a body, this the Christians are in the world."-The Epistle to Diognetus, 5:1-6:1 (L&H, 1891)

This is who we've been. And this is who we're called to be.
It's a lot to live up to!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Grandma Mac: In Memoriam

For those of you who might be unaware, Brittany's maternal grandmother, Mrs. Patty McDonald, passed away a few weeks ago. She was a great lady, a strong Christian, and fervent lover of both God and her fellow men (and women). Grandma Mac will be missed by her many friends, family members, and especially by those to whom she tirelessly ministered.

With that in mind, several of last week's Green Book readings seemed especially apropos as we grieved the loss (and celebrated the life of) Grandma Mac:

"And all of us, with unveiled faces, seeing the glory of the LORD as though reflected in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the LORD, the Spirit." -2 Corinthians 3:18

"I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?" -John 11:25-26

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed." -1 Corinthians 15:51-52


Monday, February 27, 2012

"Why I Like the Holiness People."

"I like their aim. They aim high. If they miss, nevertheless, they have scored one good point.
They are uncompromising.They are against sin and wrong, including Sunday trains, secular newspapers, Sunday cooking, Sunday gossip, tobacco, and other uncleanness.
They are Prohibitionists, almost to a man.
They are agitators.
They make and distribute tracts.
They circulate books.
They have a catching sort of degree of spirituality.
They are in for everything that is good.
They say "amen" out loud.
They shout as I feel.
They [root] for a fellow while he is preaching.
If the load is heavy, they all jump out and push.
Wherever you meet one, he is already organized and ready for work.
If they are scared, they pray and shout, and work and move, so that it can't be detected.
They always want to dig deeper, climb higher and know and do more.
They are long-winded in the closet, and nearly out of breath in a testimony service.
Every one of them will pray if you call on them, and if the fuse seems damp, they will pray, call
or no call.
They are God's globe-trotters.
They don't ask how many are the enemy, but where are they?
They can shout in the cemetery.
They actually use the Bible in their work.
They will go to China or Africa as cheerfully as to the market.
It is not a money question with them.
They know the Holy Spirit.
They love you hard.
Their experience throws up a highway I'd like to die on.
They've come to stay.
They are unpopular with dirt, dignity, and the devil.
They are not in "ruts."
They cry and run as if they had jumped the fox. That makes me spur on in the chase.
Whenever I meet or hear one of them, it makes me want to quit something, or do something,
or go somewhere, or be somebody.
They are my kinsfolk."

-Rev. John B. Culpepper, Holiness Advocate,
Fayetteville, North Carolina, August 15, 1903.

...with special thanks to Rev. Scott Sherwood.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Come Away

The song "Come Away," by a California-based worship band called Jesus Culture, has been bouncing around in our head a lot lately courtesy of some friends of ours from YWAM/Norway.

It's been particularly strange time for us lately, as a family emergency meant unexpectedly traveling from Poland to the US and back in the past two weeks. But these simple lyrics continue to bring us comfort and affirmation that God is still in charge, and still has a matter where we are, or what kinds of things are happening around us.

"Come away with me, come away with me.
It's never too late, it's not too late,
It's not too late for you.

"I have a plan for you.
I have a plan for you.
It's gonna be wild,
It's gonna be great,
It's gonna be full of me.

"Open up your heart and let me in."

Friday, February 10, 2012

Life of the Beloved.

Two gems from this week's Green Book reading, "My Beloved."

"But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. Do not be afraid, for I am with you.' " -Isaiah 43:1-5a (NIV)

"Listening to that voice with great inner attentiveness, I hear at my center words that say: 'I have called you by name, from the very beginning. You are mine and I am yours. You are my Beloved, on you my favor rests. I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother's womb. I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace.

"I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child. I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step. Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch. I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst.

"I will not hide my face from you. You know me as your own as I know you as my own. You belong to me, I am your father, your mother, your borther, your sister, your lover and your spouse...yes, even your child...wherever you are I will be. Nothing will ever separate us. We are one." -Henri J. M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

Thursday, February 9, 2012

The Church

Anytime I (Aaron) get anxious about what I think the future of the Church should look the midst of its brokenness, its imperfection, its humanity...I am encouraged to reconsider and re-imagine what we can (and should) be by a Derek Webb song called
"The Church."

The lyrics and a (super-cheesy) YouTube link are included below.

I have come with one purpose
to capture for myself a bride
by my life she is lovely
by my death she’s justified

I have always been her husband
though many lovers she has known
so with water I will wash her
and by my word alone

So when you hear the sound of the water
you will know you’re not alone

‘Cause I haven’t come for only you
but for my people to pursue
you cannot care for me with no regard for her
if you love me you will love the church

I have long pursued her
as a harlot and a whore
but she will feast upon me
she will drink and thirst no more

So when you taste my flesh and my blood
you will know you’re not alone

There is none that can replace her
though there are many who will try
and though some may be her bridesmaids
they can never be my bride

And now, a word from our sponsor...

‎"O begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercises. You may acquire the taste which you have not: what is tedious at first, will afterwards be pleasant. Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily. It is for your life: there is no other not starve yourself any longer. Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether." - John Wesley, 1760

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The prayer of a righteous man...

A couple of weeks ago, Rev. Jay Sunberg (the Church of the Nazarene's Field Strategies Coordinator for Central Europe, and an all-around good guy) spoke at our house-church meeting in Kraków. Jay spoke from II Chronicles 7:14 -an inspiring, challenging text under any circumstances- and used it to explore the ways in which the "bigness" of God's plans sometimes contrast with our own.

"What would GOD say needs to happen in Poland?" Jay asked us. "In our community? In our neighborhood? In our church?" (My thoughts: more prayer, more service, and more relational invitations!)

Here's what God says is possible:
"...if MY PEOPLE, who are called by MY name, will HUMBLE themselves and PRAY and SEEK MY FACE and TURN from their wicked ways, then I WILL HEAR from heaven, and I WILL FORGIVE their sin and WILL HEAL their land." -II Chronicles 7:14 (NIV)

Thanks to Jay, so many things strike me now about that passage:

1.) "My people. "
In other words...God's best plan to heal our broken world starts with (and depends on) us!?! We are his people. He has called us. And we are called to humility, to prayer, to righteousness, and to action. Only then can God move in the fullness of his purpose...which he chooses to accomplish through us! Not money, not governments, not power, not overwhelming resources...when we're obedient, he uses us. Wow. What a scary, exciting thought!

2.) "Humble themselves."
The sooner that we acknowledge that we don't have all of the answers and submit ourselves to God's will for our lives, the better it will be for all concerned. Especially us!

3.) "Pray."
Jesus taught his disciples to pray big prayers, saying "Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:10-12, NIV) We need to remember that God is not limited by the constraints of our circumstances...he's a good, all-powerful father, who longs to be at work in and through the lives of his children. We need to ask God to move in big, only-God-can-do-this ways, and then trust him to do so!

4.) "Seek my face."
We need to become ever more God-conscious in our daily seek God's face in prayer and meditation, and to see his face in the faces of the people that we live, work, and play with. In my experience, searching for God's will often simply means doing God's will -doing the good, God-pleasing things that we know to do- and actively listening for his voice along the way. God's not hiding; he wants more than anything for us to know him and be known by him!

5.) "Turn from their wicked ways."
To make a long story short, I've been kicking a passage from 5th Grade Bible class around in my ahead for several days now. "The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." (James 5:16, KJV). In other words: God can't use me (in full) until I stop doing A, B, and C, nor until I start doing X, Y, and Z...that's what it means -for me- to be a righteous man. One whose prayer availeth much. So I've got some work to do!

6.) The Payoff:
"...then I WILL HEAR from heaven, and I WILL FORGIVE their sin and WILL HEAL their land." This is big, exciting, only-God-can-do-this stuff!!! :)

Here's how Jay put it:
"If these things are true (and God says they are)...we need to pray for BIG things. We need to pray for POLAND. We need to pray KRAKÓW. For our NEIGHBORHOOD. For our FRIENDS...and how do we get from meeting people to building relationships to introducing them to Jesus? The bridge is PRAYER."


Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some habits to learn (and a few to unlearn). As always, your prayers are appreciated! :)


Monday, January 16, 2012

Knowing God's will = Not that complicated?

"Father, show us your will for our lives...and we will do it," is a phrase we seem to be praying over and over lately. You can imagine our relief/excitement/bewilderment, then, when we came across the following readings in Weeks 7 and 8 in our ever-present devotional guide, A Guide to Prayer for All Who Seek God:

WEEK 7: Sacred Reading
"My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope that I have that desire in all that I am doing."
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude

WEEK 8: Affirmation
"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind."
James 1:5-6 (NIV)

WEEK 8: Petition
"Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. Let your good spirit guide me on a level path." Psalm 143:10 (NIV, 1984)

WEEK 8: God's Promise
"I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me."
Proverbs 8:17 (NASB)

The moral? As always: God is good. God is at work. And God can be trusted!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Promises, Promises

We're in Year B, Week 7 of the Christian calendar, a chapter in the Green Book called "Dangerous Journey." The suggested Scriptural readings for this week include two passages (and promises) that have been particularly encouraging to me (Aaron) during the past few years:

"But now, this is what the LORD says— he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: 'Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior...'"


"The LORD gives strength to his people; the LORD blesses his people with peace."

In other words..."God is big. God is good. And God can be trusted."


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Tales from the Green Book

As always: we freaking love this book.

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law."
-Galatians 5:22-23

An excerpt from A Guide to Prayer, "Week 6: Reading the Signs."

"The creative venture for your generation is to determine what LOVE means for a nation; what JOY is for our civilization; what the shape of PEACE is among factions of ancient animosity; how PATIENCE is found for the slow processes of justice; what constitutes KINDNESS in helping the weak, poor, and oppressed; how governments can be GENEROUS without being patronizing; how people can be FAITHFUL to their traditions while responsive to changes; how GENTLENESS orders might to combat wrong; and how nations, civilizations, societies, governments, armies, peoples, and factions, as well as yourselves individually can exercise SELF-CONTROL in the face of enormous insecurity and competition."
-Robert Cummings Neville, The God Who Beckons


Sunday, January 1, 2012

There and Back Again: Spokane, WA & Poland

Hey, some friends of ours from the Spokane, WA, 1st Church of the Nazarene just posted a pretty cool video of their Work & Witness trip to the Poznań and Kraków coffeehouse/house church locations last can look for us at the 11:25 mark! :)