We have been on the go today and it really started this morning with Bethany’s doctor appointment. I decided to stay home and watch the kids because her appointment was a longer one which required her to lay back and relax while they monitor the baby’s heart beat for fifteen minutes. She ended up taking a book and headphones to stay relaxed because laying on her back this late in the pregnancy is never comfortable for her. The doctor said everything is looking great and she said Bethany is “really close” and that things are progressing. We’re still a few weeks out, but I have a feeling we’re going to meet this baby this month!
As soon as Bethany got back I was out the door headed for the Josiah Venture spring conference where we were setting things up and getting it prepped for tomorrow night’s first session as well as the rest of the week’s activities. There is a ton of work that goes in to getting things ready for the conferences and I’m so impressed by the team of JV missionaries that work and serve to get it prepared. Below are a few photos I got during setup today.
This evening we enjoyed an easy spaghetti meal at home with some IKEA Swedish meatballs mixed in! They are pretty tasty and this week was the first time we had tried them. For dessert we had little ice creams that we enjoyed in the back yard. I got the below photo of the kids and even took some video of them. They were just kind of cracking me up as they were eating and talking. They were like an old couple just hanging in the back yard. I love it.
I’m playing drums this week for a few session during the worship music sets for conference and even playing guitar for another set. I just got off the phone because the main worship leader who was supposed to lead tomorrow is sick with the stomach (actually, his whole family is!). So right now the team is trying to rearrange the sets a bit and make sure everything is good to go. It’s great to see the team pulling together and trying to make it work. That’s just one of those things you learn often in ministry: be flexible. We’ll be ready tomorrow night, even if it isn’t all as polished as we would like. I’m looking forward to it!
You might say the day got off to an early start because at 4:30am we were up and at em’. No, weren’t catching a plane or train or going on a trip, but we were “meeting up” with with friends via video chat this morning. Since California is nine hours behind us, we had to get up early to try and meet them before they go to bed. Above is a photo I quickly took with my iPhone of us all “gathered” together, but we enjoyed a sweet time talking with close friends from our church in the States. It was actually the firs time we had done something like this with them and we’re hoping to do it more often in the future. They asked a lot of great questions and were just an encouragement and we ended with a time of prayer which was really nice. As always, we’re super thankful for the technology God has provided for us to connect in this way. It was great to see you, friends!
We ended up having time to go back to bed for a bit this morning, but the kids were awake not long after we fell asleep–such is life. Bethany made pancakes, bacon, and eggs this morning and we ended up having more of a brunch than a breakfast which was kind of fun. The kids were playing in the living room and were “camping” so I joined in on the phone while Bethany was doing laundry this afternoon. She also took a few photos, one of which is above as we were “sleeping” under the stars. The kids’ imaginations continue to grow and grow and I just love joining in on the process.
Titus got a letter today! He was pretty stoked when he opened our front door and found it sitting on the steps. I think it got a little rain on it, but there was no damage. We let him open it and inside he found $5 bucks (above are two photos of him opening it)! His aunt, uncle, and cousins are so nice to send this to him for his 5th birthday and he was excited to “buy a toy” with his new wealth. Obviously, American money isn’t accepted here in Czech, but I was able to exchange it for him at a very reasonable rate at the Parental Exchange (e.g. my wallet). Since I needed to go to the store anyways, this afternoon I took him along and allowed him to buy something from the toy aisle with his money. He ended up getting a new, small Star Wars lego set and I even let him buy it himself at the check-out line.
This evening Titus and I went to the youth group at church, but we arrived a little late because we didn’t know they had changed the start time again. The main church pastors were there sharing their testimonies and the whole topic tonight was on the Spirit of God. Our friend Martina helped translate a majority of their messages and Titus did a pretty good job of being self-controlled and sitting next to us. It seemed like the night went a little long and I had to take Titus home during their small group time at the end of the night. The youth group was going to be watching a hockey game after that, but I wasn’t able to go back tonight to join them. However, it was nice to be there, but the language barrier is still so hard and that’s often discouraging.
As the days continue to get longer and longer, the sunsets here are just incredible. When we pulled in to the driveway tonight, the church next door was so beautiful and golden. With a few puffy clouds above it in the blue sky, it just glistened so I had to take a photo (above). This is just an incredible time of year in Czech and if you’re ever coming to this part of the world try to come at this time of year. The weather is mild (not too cold, but not too hot) and even though there was a little rain this morning it cleared up beautifully this afternoon and evening. As much as I love California, I’ve enjoyed the new experience of weather here in Czech and am definitely thankful to the Lord for the beautiful sunset we saw tonight!
This morning during our international team meeting, we had a sweet time applying Philippians 4:6 together. We have been studying Philippians for a few months now and since Dave (who normally teaches) was out, Brian (who led today) decided to spend some time thinking about what we’re thankful for and what we need prayer for. We did this by writing things we’re thankful for on pink and purple Post-Its and then our petitions on yellow and blue ones. The result of the dozen of us there this morning is what you see in the photo above. It was a neat time and I enjoyed praying with our team as well as seeing this visual reminder in the office which will stay up through the summer. There’s a lot of ministry starting up here in the next month or so and our team won’t be meeting for a while. There is so much to be thankful for and so much we need to pray for. Praise the Lord He can handle all of it!
This afternoon Bethany took the kids to the park. As always they loved it, but today they did something a little different and collected rocks during their walk. The kids were really excited to tell me about when I got home and we even spent some time this afternoon playing with the rocks in the driveway. Avery named them “Mommy Rocky,” “Daddy Rocky, “Sister Rocky” and so on. I”m glad they had a good time and here’s a few photos of their time.
Lately the kids have really gotten in to these Steve Green “Hide Em’ In Your Heart” Bible videos. Bethany knows them for her own childhood and our kids are starting to love them. Below is really short video of the kids doing the motions to Luke 2:52 “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (NIV).
I’ve been thinking a lot today about a college friend named Bjorn. We haven’t had much contact (if any) since college, but I’ve been able to follow his life via Facebook since then. Bjorn is a godly man and was definitely example of Christian character to other men at college. During college his girlfriend (another friend of Bethany and me) was killed in a tragic car accident. I will never forget hearing Bjorn speak at a special memorial they had for her at Master’s and he was a testimony to all of us of Christ-likeness during that trial. More recently, however, his niece has been battling cancer and watching from afar has been hard. As we’ve watched post after post roll by on Facebook about her story, we have just been amazed at the faith of him and his family. And this past week we saw the news on Facebook that Bjorn’s brother was tragically killed in a skiing accident. When Bethany told me about it I think I just paused. I think my first words were, “Are you kidding me? That’s unbelievable.”
Last night Bethany and I watched a video sermon/message on trials and suffering. One of the repeating elements in that message was that “Life will come at you,” or said another way, “Life is going to go wrong.” The speaker then went on to outline a Biblical response to trials using the acronym G-O-L-L-D (or “Go for the Gold!). His outline reads:
G – God Doesn’t Make Any Mistakes! (Job 23:10)
O – Operate With Eternity’s Perspective! (2 Corinthians 4:16-17, 1 Peter 3:14)
L – Live One Day At A Time! (Matt 6:31-34)
L – Look For A Blessing In Each Day! (Philippians 4:8)
D – Do Something For Someone Else! (Matthew 25:40)
This was only the first half of his outline. He went on to describe a specific plan for responding to trials, including the acknowledgement of God’s sovereignty and even refusing to grumble and complain during a trial. It was a great blessing to be reminded of the truth of God’s Word during trials, even though I can’t say that I’m experiencing trials like my friend Bjorn right now. At the same time I want my heart to be prepared when “life comes at me.” I want to respond rightly to trials, much like I have seen Bjorn do. I want to respond the way Job did in Job 13:15 “Though he slay me, I will hope in him…”
It’s with that in mind that I leave you with this video that has blessed me often. It’s a song based on Job 13:15 and trials, along with a little excerpt from the preaching ministry of John Piper. I hope it ministers to you as it has to me today.
I’m not a great Bible study leader. I really want to be, but I just haven’t had a ton of experience at it. There are some guys I know who are masters at leading small groups and forming questions from the study and just have a knack for fielding those questions and watching the ebb and flow of the group. I’m not that guy. I usually prepare for Bible studies the way I have prepared for preaching. I realize that they are quite different, but they are very similar in that you still need to study the Bible to understand what is being said and then you have to teach it. All that to say, I had the opportunity to teach the international team Bible study today and I didn’t feel like it went amazing, but not terrible. This team is used to hearing Dave Patty, one of those master small group leaders, and I felt kind of like they called a Minor Leaguer and gave me an at bat. I fouled a couple off and hit a dribbler down the line. Despite my efforts, I do hope the truths of Galatians 2:20 were clear and the staff was encouraged by God’s Word.
There were some great discussions after Bible study amongst my team today and that was a blessing to continue to talk about God’s Word together. Things are going pretty well at the Josiah Venture office and there will be a lot of staff going to Israel at the end of next week. Everyone is gearing up for summer ministry and our Spring Conference coming the first week in May. My team is prepping a lot of different materials for upcoming ministry events so we have had full, but fun days.
When I got him this afternoon Titus was playing with some Army guys that the kids had dug up. Bethany and the kids were cleaning up their room today and they found a bucket of todays they haven’t played with in a while, so the kids were kind of rediscovering them. I hadn’t really ever seen Titus playing with Army dudes so I got down with him and we were having a “battle” together which mostly consisted of his men knocking my guys over. During the “war,” Avery was busy pulling tiny animals in a tiny toy wagon (also toys she found in the bucket). At one point the animals got caught in the cross fire and she wasn’t super happy about it, but we brought in a medic and all was well in the world of tiny animals.
I got some resources tonight on the doctrine of the Trinity which I am excited about working through. My friend Landen asked if I could teach on the Trinity to the youth group at our church on April 18 and we finalized that today. I’ll be speaking through a translator, so that will be different, but I’m excited to get up in front of the students and teach some of these core truths. Please pray as I study and prepare that I would be clear and it would be helpful to the students.
It’s past midnight now so I’m off to bed, but here’s a little video of me jumping over a creek today.