Jun 12, 2015 - travel    1 Comment

Salerno Team 2015

I made six great friends.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-409

Being knee-deep in black mold has a way of bonding people!

We are the Salerno Team!

Italy-Salerno

Salerno 2015 - Mike-13

We traveled to help the Valiquettes and the Davidsons in Salerno, Italy. We painted, we cleaned, we constructed a stage, we disinfected, we ran cables, we swept, we sealed, we organized, we vacuumed and mopped, we declared war on mold!

war on mold

Those are the tasks we were assigned. But here’s what we really did. We encouraged those who serve on the front lines. We made a house a home. We encouraged restfulness. We built relationships among a scattered network. We showed people, and were shown the Gospel in a new way. We created a space for worship. We fell in love with a people and a culture.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-24

We worked hard. We played hard. We prayed hard.

It was awesome.

I am thankful that blessing goes both ways. We went to serve and to be a blessing and ended up immensely blessed. I appreciated the Italians who befriended us and asked real questions. I appreciated the pace of life and frequent rest times in Italy that made me relax. I appreciated the welcoming table and never-ending food supply we experienced. I appreciated my team who got sillier as the week went by instead of irritated. I am thankful that it was va bene. Good. Good because God was in it all.

Thank you to everyone who gave financially, prayed, asked me questions, wanted to see pictures, and was excited as I went on this trip. It was delightful. Thanks for being a part of it!

Here’s some more beautiful pictures of our time!

Salerno 2015 - Mike-224

Salerno 2015 - Mike-394

Salerno 2015 - Mike-8

Salerno 2015 - Mike-45

Salerno 2015 - Mike-460Ciao!

Jun 2, 2015 - travel    No Comments

A Very Present Photograph

I just returned from Italy, the land of good food, large gatherings, and plentiful hand gestures for communication.

I had a delightful time. Va bene.

I traversed hundreds of miles via planes, trains and automobiles. I hoofed dozens of miles with my own two feet. I witnessed literally centuries of history: People, places, vistas, monuments. And in all of this travel, I took only one photograph.

Would you like to see it? Would you like to see how I summarized the entire experience of a lifetime in a single picture?

photo

Could have done better, eh? This sign in the airport bathroom made me giggle so I snapped a picture of it before I turned off my phone. We had strict packing guidelines for this trip and my digital SLR just didn’t make the cut. I also chose not to upgrade to an international phone plan so my cellular phone spent ten days off to allow me to be off the grid.

Both of these decisions were made purposefully to allow me to be fully present. I took one photograph not because nothing else was worthy, but because everything was worthy! I wanted to be immersed and fully present where I was for the short time we had in Italy. I wanted to see the sights with my own eyes and trust my teammates (who had better camera equipment than me anyway!) to capture the beauty. One day, I sat on the boat returning from Amalfi, perhaps the most beautiful coastline in the world. I was drowsy and tempted to nod off through the steady rocking of the boat. And yet I thought to myself, “These sights will not be before these eyes forever. Enjoy them today. Soak it in.”

Be present. Enjoy. Take mental pictures. I long to capture moments by turning off my phone and camera and enjoying the setting in my being instead of through my technology.

So I only took one photo. And I’m totally okay with that. Va bene.

 

What will not be in front of your eyes forever? Children, views, art, projects, cities, concerts, ceremonies. What makes you want to be fully engaged now and how can you be better at being present? 

May 30, 2015 - travel    2 Comments

Va Bene

Officially my favorite Italian phrase, va bene means, “It’s going good” and could be substituted for “sounds good” in a typical English sentence.

It is decidedly how I describe our trip to Italy.

Va bene.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-24

It was good. It was life changing. It showed me a people and a culture in a way I never imagined. We worked hard and we played hard. We scrubbed mold and killed bugs, and constructed stages, and served those on the front lines of the gospel. And we played hard. We visited one of the most beautiful places in the world, saw 15 miles worth of sites in Rome, and played bilingual Pictionary.

Va bene.

We became a team. We made lifelong memories. We served. We were blessed. Immensely.

Salerno 2015 - Mike-13

 

 

Va bene. 

What defines goodness? Was it how much we got accomplished or how many Italians we interacted with or the sights that we saw? No. That was amazing, but the presence of the Lord was what made this trip va bene. The Lord was present in our team, in the church, and in my heart. I got to thinking that every time I give my time, heart, and life, to the Lord it “is going good.”

Thank you to everyone who made this trip a reality. I am excited to share more as I continue to process nine days of amazing people, work, sights, and lessons learned. Thank you for being a part of this goodness.

Va bene.

 

Apr 26, 2015 - My Story    No Comments

Goodwill Hunting

I love treasure hunts!

Every Christmas Eve my family creates searches for each other so that we have to earn our first present of the season. On my 24th birthday several friends made a scavenger hunt for me and I still laugh about the crazy things I had to do and find. I like the search better than the present in many cases.

That’s why I go to Goodwill.

Goodwill Hunting (see what I did there?!?) is just a big scavenger hunt. I pride myself on being able to make costumes for under $5 with the help of felt, hot glue, and Goodwill. And this is the best fodder for white elephant gifts around! I knew the joy of these excursions long before Macklemore popularized the idea.

A cluster of Goodwill finds to recreate Mrs. Doubtfire!

A cluster of Goodwill finds to recreate Mrs. Doubtfire!

I was Goodwill Hunting recently and met a kindred spirit in this regard. She had a shopping cart full of items: linens, bedding, an odd piece of furniture. I commented on her finds and she said, “Yes, I love me some G-dubs. My friends comment on my style a lot and that’s what I tell them. Go to G-dubs.”

She was hilarious. She got the treasure hunt mentality. That day she had a cart full of booty and she was ready to celebrate.

Goodwill Hunting: what will you find?

Apr 22, 2015 - Devotional, My Story    No Comments

Valuing Your Future Self

I think about a special someone often. I care deeply about her. I want her to do well in life and be set up for success. She’s kind and funny and warm and (hopefully) more wise, stable, and adventurous than me!

I’m thinking about Future Kelly.

I know that all my decisions affect my future self and I take that seriously. I want Future Kelly to be set up for success. I want my hard work and efforts to pay off. I think about my future self when I contribute to my 401K. And when I say no to a second serving of dessert. And when I push myself during a work out. And when I invest in relationships that matter. And especially when I think eternally.

 

Future Kelly benefits from me eating vegetables, having a healthy cardiovascular system, and a growing nest egg, but what she really needs is an eternal perspective. More than healthy eating and wise investments on this side of Heaven, she will benefit from eating the bread of life and investing in eternal matters. I care about Future Kelly and I want to focus on the things that will be important to her.

images-1

 

Matthew 6: 19-20

Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust[e] destroy and where thieves break in and steal, 20 but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

How are you valuing your future self?

Apr 18, 2015 - Uncategorized    No Comments

Efficiency is my Love Language

Manna. Bread from Heaven. A gift… and an assignment? I spoke at a women’s retreat in February and we focused in large part on Exodus 16, the passage about manna. Here’s one of the lessons I learned.

Exodus 16:16-21 

16This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” 17 And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. 18 But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. 19 And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.”20 But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. 21 Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted.

So what is the deal with the short shelf life? I mean, this seems so inefficient to my practical nature! Why can’t manna be saved for the next day? I sometimes joke that my language of love is efficiency! Why couldn’t they save time by gathering a week’s worth of manna at a time? Maybe freeze some casseroles, get a rainy day stash going?

Commentator Peter Enns reminds my heart that, “This gracious provision of food is not to be hoarded, but God is to be trusted anew every day, a lesson they will have to learn for their long trek in the desert and their life as a nation thereafter. Israel is to be kept in a perpetual state of dependence.” (Enns, p. 326) The same is true for us.

Now, I am not saying God wants us to give away our refrigerators or only get food for one day. This is a spiritual analogy. Has your relationship with God gone stale? Are we gathering fresh manna daily, or trying to live off old moldy manna because we don’t want to admit that we need to depend on God every day?

manna jar

It started with trust. Trust that God is God, that He is good. And that He knows and does what is best for His Beloved people. Sometimes that is hard to believe. Why wouldn’t God want His people to stockpile food and divide it up themselves? Why would He expect them to wake up each morning for forty years and gather food, only to have any leftovers spoil overnight? Isn’t that inefficient? Streamlining this process could have freed the Israelites to do so much good.

Maybe God isn’t concerned about efficiency.

Maybe He is concerned about our souls. Maybe He provides this strange new food not only to feed bodies, but to feed souls. Manna reveals the glory of the Lord (Ex.16: 7). Maybe He wants to prove to us that His word and His character are trustworthy, steadfast, and sure. Maybe that is our first hurdle on the road to Sabbath rest. We need to trust in and depend on the Lord’s provision.

come to me and i will give you rest

Apr 13, 2015 - Devotional, My Story    No Comments

Seeking Aquila

I have little experience with personal ads.

I don’t troll the newspaper or the internet for a date. I tend to go about my life and work and ministry and just expect someone to suddenly show up.

But maybe that’s wrong. Maybe I need to make my wishes for a mate known more widely. I was listening to the sermon at church yesterday and heard of the fame of Priscilla and Aquila, a couple who labored tirelessly in the early church. Aquila was a tent maker and worked alongside Paul the Apostle. They hosted a church in their house in the fledgling phase of the church. They were thanked repeatedly at the end of epistles. They even sought out an evangelist, Apollos, to correct him and give him a fuller understanding of the Gospel.

They worked hard. They were a team. In short, they rocked. 

After studying more about this dynamic duo, I’ve been rethinking the personal ad idea. So here goes:

One single female, we’ll call her Priscilla, who enjoys at caregiving, teaching, study, writing, laughter, and the obligatory long walks on the beach, seeks male for the following line of work:

I want a partner in mission and ministry. I want someone to keep me focused on what is truly important. I want someone who works hard as a tentmaker and a disciple-maker. I want someone who can exhort and correct me in love and show me the bigger Gospel that I sometimes miss. I want someone who is hospitable and will host others joyfully sharing his home and his life with them. I want someone who will recognize and encourage my gifts as well. I want someone who is adventurous for the right cause.

I want a vision caster.

I want a servant leader.

I want a team.

I am Priscilla. I’m seeking Aquila.

(applicants welcome).

Space Available

References of Priscilla and Aquila: Acts 18:1-3, Acts 18:18, Acts 18:26, Romans 16:3-4, I Corinthians 16:19, II Timothy 4:19.

Apr 4, 2015 - Devotional    3 Comments

Easter Saturday

I love books.

Just one visit to my house will confirm that fact. I love re-reading and re-living a beloved novel. I love the pages which have become wrinkled with interest and vigorous page-turning. I love the crease in the spine which allows the book to lay flat, opened to my favorite scene. I love knowing how the story will end.

I’ve found that as much as I enjoy experiencing books for the second or third or fourth times – there is something special about a new novel. I read it differently because I cannot anticipate the ending. When I don’t know the ending, I live the highs and lows of the characters a little bit deeper. When I can see the finish line so clearly, I read a little bit faster to get to the “happily ever after.”

I do the same thing with the Bible.

I think we all do. When we’re familiar with the stories, we can skim past the painful times of waiting to get to the good parts, the periods of resolution, celebration, and praise. The intention is good, but I think we miss out of the fullness of the story and all the emotions when we skip to the end.

As I thought about this tendency, I remembered a Max Lucado book that I read a few years ago. He discussed the crucifixion and resurrection and how we celebrate them today. We have Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services to focus our hearts and soak in the mourning and darkness of the death of Christ. But then, reading the Scriptures like a well-loved and well-known novel, we jump straight to Sunday and celebrating the resurrection.

orlando grace church easter2007 Good Friday. Resurrection Sunday. But What About Saturday?

But what about Saturday?

We have to stop and think about the familiar story, not just skip to “He is Risen!” (As amazing as that knowledge is!) What did the disciples feel on Saturday? Sorrow? Numbness? Disbelief? Hope? Did they intuitively know of the grandeur coming on Sunday? Did they think the past three years of their lives were a loss? Did they yearn for a miracle? I think there is something healthy to think of Saturday- to know of the sorrow and the disappointment and, above all, the waiting.

For in a larger way, we live in Saturday.

We have experienced the mourning and the grief of the brokenness of the world in many ways and we know that God wins in the end! We have an amazing hope beyond all that we can think or imagine (Eph 3:20). But today, in many ways, we are waiting for the miracle, waiting for the resolution, waiting to see and understand the larger story. In this life we get glimpses of heaven and glimpses of life without God as well. This is our Saturday as we live in constant sadness for the state of the world and hope that it is not going to remain this way!  We are challenged and refined on Saturday in the midst of the waiting. It contains truth and encourages me in the midst of my Saturdays to continue to wait on the Lord who is constantly at work!  May you too experience an ever-present hope of the coming Sunday, the eternal Sabbath, as you wait in the Saturday circumstances of you life today.

“Wait for the LORD;
be strong, and let your heart take courage;
wait for the LORD!”
Psalm 27:14

Wishing everyone a very happy, and hopeful, Resurrection Sunday.

Apr 3, 2015 - travel    No Comments

Support Group for Support Raising

Shortly your mailbox will be filled with letters from willing and eager missionaries radically going somewhere for the cause of Christ. Summer projects, week-long adventures, state side and international endeavors all seem to coalesce in the summer time, and that can only mean one thing – Support Raising!
This blog post is meant to give those raising support hints on how to effectively invite people into what God is doing in their lives and in the place where they are headed. Support raising is difficult, uncomfortable, awkward, and faith-stretching work. How can one possibly take all that God is doing in his or her life at a moment in time and put it on paper? I’ve written some helpful hints from some experience with past mission trips to help anyone who will be shortly be starting the adventure called support raising!

orlando grace church IMG 3968 300x225 Support Group for Support Raising

Support Group for Support Raising Hints:
 
1.Share your heart, not just details about the trip. Consider answering some of the following questions in your letter: Why do you feel called to go to this place? What has God been doing in your heart lately? How did you decide to go on this trip? What are you excited to learn about yourself, about God, and about the people you will be ministering to? People do support organizations, but even more than that they support people who they know, trust, and can relate to — so make yourself relatable! Include pictures, itineraries, prayer requests or other personalized touches.
2.Plan ahead! Know your deadlines, and don’t start raising support at the last-minute. Gather a file with potential supporter’s names, addresses, etc. Save this file for sending thank you letters and an update after you return sharing what you learned on this trip and thanking them for their help to get you there!
3.Use this as an opportunity to share your heart and the Gospel even with non-believers. Don’t be surprised when crazy Uncle Harry (who is hostile to Christianity) actually sends you a generous check to help you have “a cultural experience.” He may not call it a mission trip, but he is helping you get there anyway! (By the way, this is a true story!) Even if you don’t get any money from these people, you’ve had the chance to share part of your story and planted a seed of the Gospel. These can be powerful tools as people see the sacrifices you are making and the lengths you are going through to bring the good news to a lost people. Share your heart freely and don’t limit the work of the Spirit!
4.Be clear about logistics! Amount of and date that money is needed, dates of travel, where to send support, who to make checks out to, etc.  Put all this information together so it’s there for easy reference later. Make things easy on your supporters. Consider including a self-addressed stamped envelope. You may want to check the current IRS standards for tax-deductible gifts to make sure you are staying within the parameters of the law.
5.Have someone proofread your letter. Nothing is so distracting from the point of your letter as misspelled wrods (my point exactly!)
6.Lastly, and most importantly: Remember you are asking for supporters, partners, encouragers, prayer warriors, and radical senders…YOU ARE NOT JUST ASKING FOR CASH! God is sovereign. If He wants you to go on this trip, He will raise the money for you. Your job is not to convince people of the financial worthiness of your endeavor, but to ask for supporters because you can’t do this alone! I have had many people who have never had the means to send me a single dollar, but these saints have encouraged me, prayed for me, and been behind me 100% over multiple mission trips. I am so thankful for them.  You are not just asking for financial support, you are inviting others into your life and creating community through this letter. [Note: One option is to create two versions of your support letter: one with the details about financial support and the other sharing the details of the trip, but not specifically asking for financial support. I’ve sent the latter version of my letter to some people who I know do not have the financial means to support me, but still want to know an update on my life!]
For years I’ve said that I think the mission trip does not start the day you get on a plane to fly to some distant land, but with the moment you decide to go on the trip in the first place. Support raising is an integral part of preparing for the mission trip. It is both a bonding experience for the team members and a faith-building activity for you. God does amazing works, but almost never in exactly the same ways. Some trips I’ve raised my entire required amount in a week’s time – and I’ve praised God for His quick, overflowing provision! Other times I’ve had a generous, anonymous donation come just three days before I’m scheduled to leave – and I praise God for his faithfulness and His timing. Both stories are faith-building. So, open your laptops and begin pouring our your heart through the keys! Support raise for the logistics of plane tickets and food, and for the glory of God!
orlando grace church IMG 3618 300x225 Support Group for Support Raising
“I do now know what tomorrow holds, but I know Who holds tomorrow.”
Mar 29, 2015 - travel    No Comments

My Latest Adventure

disney osbourne lights

Want to know why I’m this excited? My latest adventure will take me to Italy this summer!

Why does Italy need missionaries? Didn’t the church start there?”

That question has been posed repeatedly as I’ve told people that I am planning on going to Italy this summer. Italy has a long history with Christianity, but most Italians live in a post-Christian world. They are in many ways over-familiar with the old stories, but under-gospeled. There are reminders of miracles, church councils, and Christ throughout the scenery, our hope is for new life to be breathed into this beautiful country.

I will, Lord willing, be traveling on a nine day service-oriented mission trip this May. My church has a partnership with a church plant in Salerno, Italy called Nuova Vita (New Life). We will be a nimble seven person team who will participate in physically labor intensive service for the church plant. The purpose of the trip will be to increase the visibility, perception, and influence of our church partner by transforming and beautifying a neighborhood in the city. 

Italy-Salerno

I am excited about this trip for many reasons. First, the team! Those committed to the trip are delightful, flexible, team players and I anticipate good things coming from this group of people working together. Second, the work! I love seeing physical, tangible movement and progress. I want to encourage those who are in Salerno long-term who will see the fruit of what we start on this trip. I am looking forward to having both physical and spiritual goals for this trip so that progress can be seen (and anticipated in faith for what cannot be seen!) And third, the church planters! Justin and Abbey Valiquette (and their four children) are our missionaries and church planters in Salerno, Italy. I have known them and worked in ministry with them for a dozen years. They were on my Summer Project through Cru in 2003. We labored together, sharing the gospel and our lives for an entire summer and I am delighted to see them again and understand more fully the work of the church they have undertaken in Italy.

How can you help? Great question! Thanks for asking! First, please pray! I am a firm believer that mission trips don’t start the moment we get on the plane, just as they don’t end when we return home. The prayer, team building, support raising, and preparation are all part of the trip experience. Pray for our team and Nuova Vita that we would be a blessing to each other and the city. Second, support me financially. I am raising tax-deductible contributions through Orlando Grace church. The cost for the trip including air fare, lodging transportation, and food is $3000 which I must raise by April 15th. The faith building portion of the trip begins now for me as I humbly ask for partners. I believe that missions requires go-ers, welcomers, and senders and that we can each participate in different roles at different times. It is my turn to be a go-er! 

If you would like to join my team of senders and support me financially, I will gladly send you the details! Just leave a comment below!

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