From Morocco With Love

A year ago (July, 2012), Jordan & I accompanied my friend (and fellow pastor here at BHBC), Mike Lewis, to Morocco. Mike has been working with these wonderful people for a number of years. Last year, we had an amazing trip getting to know the people, building relationships with them, and praying for them. Jordan, especially, connected with many of them.

There are six photos below.  This first is of Jordan in our room, shortly after arriving in Morocco.  The next three pic’s are what I’ll remember most.  Mike asked Jordan, who was studying art in college, if he would be open to drawing portraits of the Moroccan people.  Jordan said, “Sure!”  Mike announced it to the people.  As you can see, the initial interest was limited.  But, after Jordan drew the first portrait the people came in droves!  They LOVED the portraits.  Jordan drew around 100 portraits. 

The last two pictures are from this past summer, 2013, after Jordan had passed away.  When Mike was finishing up his most recent trip to Morocco the people presented him with the gift you see below. It’s a tapestry they hand-wove with a photo of Jordan on it from last year’s trip. The photo is along side a picture of their beautiful city. Mike presented our family with this gift after he returned to the states. The embroidered inscription (they stitched in English) says, “Forever in our mind.” The last photo is one Mike took of these amazing people after they’d presented him with the tapestry.  nw

Jordan - Morocco tripJordan - Morocco trip - drawing picturesJordan - Morocco trip - drawing pictures - 1Jordan - Morocco trip - drawing pictures - 2Jordan - Morocco - tapestry - wide angleJordan - Morocco - tapestry - photo of moroccan people

That’s Why They Call It the Present

No doubt, you’ve heard the saying that goes something like this: “Live neither in the past nor the future. Focus on what you have in the now. The ‘now’ is a ‘gift’ – that’s why it’s called the ‘present.”

A sobering line from the play “Our Town” says, “Few people enjoy life while they’re living it.”

A dear friend of mine once taught me this abiding biblical truth: “Faith only works in the present. This is why the enemy works tirelessly to try and focus our minds on either “regretting the past,” or “worrying about the future.”

For someone like me – who continually struggles with the habit of “regretting the past” & “worrying about the future” – this brief excerpt from “Jesus Calling” is like fresh, spring water to a parched soul. Here’s the entry: “You have journeyed up a steep, rugged path in recent days. The way ahead is shrouded in uncertainty. Look neither behind you nor before you. Instead, focus your attention on Me, your constant Companion. Trust that I will equip you fully for whatever awaits you on your journey. I designed time to be a protection for you. You couldn’t bear to see all your life at once. Though I am unlimited by time, it is in the PRESENT MOMENT that I meet you. Refresh yourself in My company,…. The highest level of trust is to enjoy Me moment by moment. ‘I am with you, watching over you wherever you go. Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul.” (PSALM 143:8)

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Truth vs. Lies

In times of distress and acute pain, our “bent-out-of-the-shape-God-intended” minds seem to gravitate toward lies rather than truth. (At least, mine does.)

Like flaming arrows, our minds are battered with the unrelenting assaults of the enemy, filling our minds with all things untrue i.e. “Life is hopeless now,” “I’ll never know joy again,” and, for me, the most tormenting thought of all (when considering my son’s death), “If only I had…..” What are we to do against this non-stop onslaught? WHAT AM I TO DO!!

But, therein lies the error: I’m asking the wrong question. I should be asking, “What did HE do?” When my focus fixes on Christ rather than my fears a transformation takes place: peace fills my soul.

However, like Simon Peter, when I focus on the tempest rather than on Christ, I sink like lead. There is ancient literature, unlike any literature on this planet, that quiets the tempest in my mind, gives purpose to the pain, restores my soul, and helps me focus on what is TRUE rather than lies. The psalmist summed it up perfectly when he wrote, “The sum of Your Word is truth.” The psalmist continues, “The unfolding of Your Word gives light; it imparts understanding…., Great peace have those who love Your Law; nothing can make them stumble.” (Psalm 119:130, 160, 165)

In my house, we have approximately 30 sheets of copy-paper hanging up literally everywhere – on the oven door, on the cabinets, down the hallway, on the washer & dryer doors….everywhere. Every sheet of paper has a different scripture on it. In a life (or home) that’s been hit with an “emotional tsunami” – and you feel yourself tossed like a leaf in the West Texas wind – the Word of Almighty God is our “true north.” It never changes. It’s always true. And, more than that – it’s ALIVE (Hebrews 4:12).

So, this I know: when the enemy viciously attacks with his lies & deception (which he does every single day in my mind), I do my best to leave the response to the One who, Himself, is the Way, the TRUTH, and the Life: Jesus Christ.

Once again, the psalmist says it perfectly: “I shall have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in Your Word.” (Psalm 119:42)

Soul Dance

When interpreting Scripture (and most any literature) correctly, “context” helps greatly. Someone once said “a picture says a thousand words.” True – but not always. To this day, five centuries after its creation, da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa” still perplexes experts in regard to the context surrounding the painting i.e. “Who is the woman in the painting?”, “What was the occasion?”, etc.

Below is a video clip, barely over 10 seconds in length, showing me “dancing.” My dance moves, disturbing as they are, take on significant meaning once given the context of that moment. Here’s the context: This video was taken on Wednesday morning (6/19/13) at Super Summer (the best youth camp on the planet) at HSU in Abilene, TX. Due to the recent loss of my son, Jordan – and his strong connection to Super Summer – the week, for me, vacillated between “joy in the morning” and “the dark night of the soul.” It was a RELENTLESS mental & spiritual war. Many times, I had to literally force myself to survive the week as I would have to often, out loud, say to myself: “Nick, breathe in, and breathe out…”, “Nick, take a step…put one foot in front of the other…”, “Nick, get out of bed,” and “Nick, do NOT isolate yourself from these people.” Super Summer, my FAVORITE week of my year, was brutally painful for me. However, as my dear friend, Mike Martindale, helped me understand, the only thing worse than coming to Super Summer this year – would have been NOT coming to Super Summer this year.

Christ was waiting for me at Super Summer. Waiting for me IN the pain? Yes. In the darkness? Yes. In the loneliness? Yes, yes, yes…. And, what you need to know is that, no less than ONE MINUTE before this video was taken, I was suffocating in the thickness of “the dark night of the soul.” I was sitting alone. My 16 year old daughter, Macy, was using God’s Word to encourage me to “stay the course.” And then….., all of a sudden – the best way I know how to describe it is like this: Jesus said, “Nick, I’ve got you – let’s dance.” 🙂

So I did.

It just came out of nowhere. It was a FORCE. All of sudden I found myself ENRAPTURED in the joy & love of Jesus Christ amidst 600 teenagers. I found myself mindlessly doing the only dance moves I knew – not caring who was watching (or filming.) And, for the first time since my son went to dance with Christ for eternity, my soul learned to dance again. Did I struggle the rest of the week at camp? Horribly. BUT…., the “dance moves” of my soul had begun again. I like how The Message Bible renders Paul’s words to the Thessalonians: “One final word, friends. We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited DANCE.” (1 Thess. 4:1-3)

My life’s prayer is that of John’s: “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20) But, until You get here, Jesus, let me dance. 🙂

The Lord Gives….The Lord Takes Away

A friend of mine snapped a pic of me leading the music yesterday morning during our Sunday Morning Worship Service here at Super Summer. Notice the lyrics on the screen.

My 19 year old son died one month ago.  I have a choice to make.  I can curse God.  Or, I can trust that He is still God, that He is still good, and that my son, Jordan, is now in His very presence.

God…I choose You.

“Satan – you are defeated in defeat by the powerful, sufficient BLOOD OF THE LAMB!”

blessed be your name - pic at SS 13

What’s In a Name?

If you grew up in ancient Israel, your name represented a lot. Every name meant something theologically significant. After all, the Hebrews were “God’s people.” The Old Testament name “Joshua” means “The Lord is Salvation”. More importantly, it corresponds directly to the New Testament name “Jesus.”

The other day, to help change the decor in our house (which helps me psychologically after Jordan’s passing), we bought a couple of chairs for our Family Room. As we were leaving the store, the salesman (a friend who was aware of my family’s recent tragedy) said, “Nick, by the way – there’s something you should know. The style of the chair you purchased – it’s called “Joshua.”

Common Grace

There’s a theological term used by scholars to describe the common good in all people: “common grace.” For example, one doesn’t have to be a follower of Christ to exhibit kindness, patience, love, etc. So where does that “charity in us all” come from?

Scholars attribute “common grace” to the Bible telling us that all mankind is created in the very image of God (“Imago Dei”, Genesis 1:27). I read a sobering argument for the biblical principle of “common grace” a few years ago, based on the following questions: “What if God removed His ‘common grace? What would the world look like? What would WE look like?”  I found a most striking answer to those questions in “The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions”:  “O Lord, I am astonished at the difference between the heaven I am bound for, and the hell I merit….O God, it is amazing that mankind can talk so much about our power and goodness, when, if you did not hold us back at every moment, we should be devils incarnate.”

BUT GOD…. – “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Paul to the Romans; 7:24-25)

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