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A little wave, I think he saw me.  He is young, I thought.  Is that his wife?  Wow, he has a little girl too!  My new neighbors.  God, please connect me and them.

I remember the day when he had me over for a barbecue.  He started to open up and so did I.  I learned about him, his past, his hopes and dreams.  I soon noticed that Jesus wasn’t his central focus.  In fact, we didn’t talk about God much the first couple years.  We just hung out as guys.

Then I knew the time was right.  If he would give the word, I would be more than happy to come over and teach them truth in love.  So I asked one day, “Hey would you and your wife wanna do a Bible Study with me?”  And to my surprise he said, “Yeah.”  So once a week we would meet and we would talk about Jesus and faith and truth and all.  They shared how they had tried doing church in the past but it didn’t “work.”  They felt judged, unwelcomed and uninterested in religion.

I just told them that where they needed to look for the facts behind Christianity was Christ himself.  So they did and they like what they saw.  In fact, they kept nodding their heads at what we were covering.  Then they shared about their deepening suspicion that something just wasn’t right in their souls.  That maybe Jesus could change things.  That maybe this crazy Christian neighbor was right.

But once they said yes the journey only began.  And it was rocky at first.  They just didn’t stick to Sunday services and soon there were excuses.  I was still there though, right next door.  Still praying and still wondering what needed to happen next.  I mean I’m an evangelist so just crossing the bridge with them was all I was needed for right.  Wrong.  What they needed most was what was the most helpful from the start: a trusted friendship and a Bible study right there in their living room.

So five years down the road and a new baby boy in the picture, we began to do basic Christian community together.  Sharing, listening, learning.  Life on life.  But now I had Joe to help carry us into a different place.  A place of deepening in Biblical truth.

So every Sunday night for the past year Joe and I would knock on their door, take off our shoes and plop down on their couch.  Little Trinity would have another dramatic story to tell and Tyler would want me to throw the ball for him again.  And then we would talk and study and pray.  Sometimes laughing at Joe’s super long explanations.  Sometimes crying over our sin and shame.  Sometimes we were just content on watching Travis play his video game.  Because it was home.  It was a small slice of Paradise.

And now they are headed west, out to Los Angeles.  Far away from just around the corner.  I can’t say that I’m not sad.  If I could do life alongside them for the rest of my days I would be happy.  Still at some point we all have to say goodbye here on earth.  We all have to let go.  And I know God will supply for their every need and pour out blessings on that family.  But I just won’t be as intimately involved anymore.

For all the things I’ve screwed up on and all the stuff I regret, I can at least say for certain that this one thing I got right.  I don’t take credit for it one bit but I’m so glad I got to get this gift.  This family.  This story.  My neighbors.  My friends.  🙂

So when we get to Heaven and I see the place that Jesus prepared for me.  You know I’m going to check.  Even before I open the door.  I’m gonna make sure that Travis, Lonna, Trinity and Tyler are right there.  Right next door.

Slippin’ Away

(Written about a Club Christ student named Allen on 4/20/2007)

It’s sad to see him slip away,

It started so subtly this spring,

One day went by without a hi,

Then another and yet another still.

And I can’t say that I didn’t try,

I did.  At least I tell myself that I did.

I knew there was something going on,

Something painful and dark was there,

Behind his door, between his absence.

As one with spiritual eyes can see,

This boy is chained, not free.

Held down by insecurity,

Locked up by an illusion,

He thinks he must fight his fight alone,

So he foolishly falls face first,

Over his misplaced faith.

If he could only see that what he runs from,

Could set him free.

For if the Son has set you free,

You are free indeed.

So please, please Lord take the lead.

Let him feel the fall as he hits the wall.

Will I be there Lord to help him up,

To dust him off and point him up?

For you alone can save him.

You alone.

Welcome Home Allen

(Written on 08/03/2009)

“It’s like I know of God, but I don’t know God,” Allen shared with me on the car ride home.  They are the words of realization that every youth worker longs to hear.

Especially from this kid.

Man, the effort, the energy spent reaching out to him.  The knocks on his front door to see if he was going to come to Club Christ today.  The “pulling you aside” conversations that led to nothing. The prayers pushed up amidst the series of disappointments.  The two hour long car drives to Caliente to get just two minutes with him.  The looks Candace and I exchanged when we found out that he wasn’t gonna show up that day.  Yet there was something about that kid that left room for hope, for that “I’ll keep trying” attitude to stick around.

So when he told me that he wanted to commit his 15 year old life to Christ, it made sense in a strange sort of way.  There he was, humbly saying that this was what he wanted.  He wanted that peace that he couldn’t find in his heart.  He wanted that joy that would carry him above all his hurt.  He wanted that love that would accept him for who he is and who he isn’t.

He wanted Jesus.

The one who has led this pursuit.  The one who bled to do what no one else could do.  Not you, not me, not anybody but Jesus.  He held the keys to Allen’s heart.  He has set him free.  He has given him life.  He is worthy of all the worship.  He deserves all the glory.  For this young man named Allen now knows his daddy loves him.

And I hear that proud father of us prodigals saying, “We had to celebrate and be glad because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.”  Welcome home Allen!  Welcome home : >)