Monday, December 29, 2008

Under Two weeks...

We leave in 13 days... Crazy!

We are big time finishing the packing details this week and would love your prayers...


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Humble me...

What a great, er, grace word by Tim Keller I just read this morning on humility... Please, grab a cup of coffee or tea, and click on this link... You will be rewarded joyfully.

Click on this link!

Monday, December 22, 2008

21 days in counting...

We just wanted to wish you all a Merry Christmas. I sit here with my wife on this snowy and quiet evening contemplating and thinking through the next 21 days... It is beyond surreal that we are going to be leaving for Zambia in just three short weeks... We thank you for remembering us during these remaining days. Our time home has been both a blessing for all the opportunity to minister and be ministered to, but it also has been confirming, assuring us with confidence that our time in Zambia is not yet over and we are excited to get back. We wanted to communicate our schedule again and especially let you know of one change* to the schedule that will/may affect our Bellevue friends...

Here is the formal schedule (weather pending):

December 24 - Attending Crossroads Bible Church Christmas Eve service

December 28 - Preaching at Northlake in the morning
* Steve's preaching at the Downtown Church has been moved to January 4 because of the weather (see below)

January 4 - Preaching at Northlake in the morning
- Preaching at Downtown Church (the Church plant of Crossroads Bible Church) in the evening and Johanna will be dedicated at this service.

January 11 - Attending Crossroads Bible Church
- Leaving at 6:10pm for Zambia.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Garbage Day + Snow = Happiness

I have a confession to make. I love Fridays. But, not because of why you think. I love Fridays because Friday is garbage day. And, I really like taking out the garbage. There is something deeply satisfying about taking out a full garbage full of junk and trash and smelly stuff and then to have someone come and take it away. It is just a wonderful weekly reminder of the beauty of forgiveness and repentance. We take our junk to God and He is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. I was reading a book today called "How People Change" and he brought up a good point about the importance of repentance. He said, "Repentance is a form of emptying the heart." He then went on to explain how this works by quoting the verse in James 4: 1 "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you?" He said that the desires that are within us need to be emptied so that the Holy Spirit can have full access and control in our life. We need to believe as Romans 3:10-17 says is that their is no good in us, that our tongues and our hands and our lives are bent toward doing evil. And, God has given us such an amazing gift that we can empty our sin and be replaced with his righteousness. The more we understand his holiness, the more we want to be like God. But, when we are not, we can come to him, pour out our sins and he takes it away, every day, any minute, and not just once a week. I am looking out at world that is covered in snow, and it is so beautiful. May this verse be a reminder to us: Isaiah 1:18 - “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool." May we receive this gift and may we give it to others, forgiving them as God in Christ has forgiven us.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Psalm 90:14 (NIV)
Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love,
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.

I found this picture as I was going through all our 2008 pictures to try and get a photo book done before we leave. I was just struck by the serenity and the beauty of this picture. It was taken early, before my kids had awoken and the day had begun. I was able to just be quiet before the Lord that morning. As I look ahead to Zambia, I love this idea of being satisfied in the love of the Lord, whether it be looking out at Puget Sound in Washington or the wall around our house in Zambia. May His love alone satisfy and may it lead us to singing and gladness despite whatever our days may hold.
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Thursday, December 11, 2008

A month away...

It is crazy that we are a month away from leaving for Zambia and enjoying Christmas as we can... We are in the buying and packing mode, hoping to get it all done by Christmas so we can ENJOY what is left of the Christmas season. I have a bit of a break from speaking until December 28 which is perfect timing to begin to prepare to leave. Thanks for all the prayer for the speaking opportunities... The most recent one that I did at Northview Church in Canada has both an audio and video version... Yep, you can see me on TV:) Here is the link if you dare: Northview


Saturday, December 06, 2008

A new year and a new start...

Looking for a read through the bible program for the new year... Look no further than this link here at Bible for a 4different tracks that can be done online or printed out... Now is the time to being planning for a new year and a new start!!!! I am excited for a new year and a new change to grow in the Word!

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Sharing the ministry...

We have been pretty busy these days preparing for Zambia. I have had a lot of fun sharing the ministry with a variety of groups this past week. I say I because of having some sick kids this past week, so we has mostly become I much to 'I's dismay. I shared our ministry with a couple of groups in Idaho this past weekend and then came back to Bellevue and we shared with some supporters. I then shared with a home fellowship group of believers from India. I am preaching this weekend in Canada and then we will have about three weeks to pack before Christmas. Thanks for keeping us in your prayers as we prepare to head back to Zambia.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sharing about Zambia...

We have had a busy schedule with a few astericks in them... We have had many plans, but they have been changed due to sickness in our family.

This past weekend we went to an Indian small group and had a great time of sharing... So thankful for the diverse body of Christ!

Monday, November 24, 2008

forty-eight days in counting...

It feels a bit like deja vu to be counting down like this again... But, it is our life as the "take to Zambia" pile begins to grow in my office and we find ourselves speaking more, setting up get togethers and sharing about ministry with our supporters.

I preached last Sunday at Oikos Fellowship in Bellingham, sharing a bit about Zambia and more about how God completely rocked my world in Zambia. I called it a "preachimony." It was fun to have some former students from Crossroads there as well. The pastor, Pete Williamson, will be coming over to Zambia in April to teach at a pastors conference. I am super excited to have him come out and see what God is doing in Zambia as well as be able to teach and preach to my pastor friends. I am sure that he will find out as I did, that you will learn a lot more from them than you could ever teach them. I covet this experience for every pastor...

And then tonight we got together with a few of our Bellingham faithful supporters and friends to share about our first nine months in Zambia and what the next two years hold for us. (In case you haven't heard, we are going back for an additional two year term. What life will look like after that is unknown to us right now but thankfully God knows...)

This weekend we head to Spokane/Idaho area to see family and friends and share with two churches there. We will be back in Bellevue the following week meeting with more friends and supporters.

I will preaching at Northview Community Church on December 7 in Abbotsford, Canada where my good buddy Jeff Bucknam is the lead pastor.

It is amazing how fast the time has gone by here in the U.S. The family is healthy and excited to get back to Zambia. But, the time here in the states has been very good for our family. And not just for our family, but God is putting us in touch with families and college students who are interested in joining us in Zambia. That is exciting.

Thank you for your prayers for us as we come into our final month of our furlough. Thank you for your support of us this past six months.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Africa in Bellingham

It has been really cool to be home during the month of November in Bellingham. Our church, Northlake Community Church, has been doing what we call "The Micah Project." In order to help reach both the community we live in as well as the world we need to love, we have embarked on an adventure as a church body.

This Micah project consists of four things:

We are having a three week food drive to stock our food pantry for about needy families in our community.

We are raising money for caregiver kits through Worldvision to send to Zambia. They are small kits that help trained caregivers the medicine and the training to hep those suffering with HIV/AIDS in various villages.

We are doing a sustenence diet for a week, which consists of rice, beans, an apple and some oatmeal, to better empathize with the hungry and option-less in the majority third world.

And, we are doing a World Vision Experience tour at Western Washington University where you walk through a life of a young child in an African village.

It has been a joy to be a part of helping plan it and think through the different scenarios because of our experiences in Africa. I had a chance to preach today as well. You can hear it online at sometime later this week.

I am encouraged by our church and its hunger to love not just with words, but with action and in truth, to love orphan and the widow, and to open their heart to the heart ache that awaits them.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Sunday, November 02, 2008

A trip to Portland

We were in Portland this weekend visiting friends and family that support us in Africa... We saw Stephanie's Aunt and Uncle on Friday night and then spent a couple nights at the Knifongs. We went to Mt Hood Community Church church this morning with them. We saw the Schwartz family at church as well... John and I were roommates in college. He just had his sixth kid. The Knifongs have five. We only have four:)

We had a chance to share about Africa during their weekly shared meal after the service, showing a video as well as answering questions. As for the picture above, Stephanie and the girls sang Takwaba (their favorite African worship song) and the other picture is a game that our kids were playing with the Knifong kids appropiately called "10 days in Africa." We arrived home at around 7:30 pm and the kids were begging to go to bed. I like that when that happens:)

Monday, October 27, 2008

"leave" - ing well

I was thinking...

So, a friend wrote something the other day in response to a blog... He said that the 20's were better than his teen years, his 30's better than his 20's, and now his 40's are better than his 30's... I thought that was insightful and I have been mulling it over for a few days. That life gets better as you grow in love and understanding despite the fear of the unknowns and the trials that knowingly await is an encouraging fact. I am not sure if this always true, but it seems to be true for me. I love my wife more today than when I first met her. My heart swells with love for my kids and they only get more fun and cute and quotable the older they get (o.k., I know they aren't teenagers, yet:). My understanding of God and life and people and the Bible grows... It gets better.

So, I, during this fall season, as the trees are changing colors, I have found myself more and more just in awe of their beauty. And I realized today, that I really think I grow in my appreciation of the beauty of God's creation. I notice and appreciate the leaves more today than I did last year. I think that is cool. I hope that trend continues.

But all this leads me to another thought which is actually a question... Why do the leaves turn the most beautiful colors when they are dying? Why is that the most beautiful and amazing the leaves will ever be is when their days are at their end? And, I was thinking that is not only what I want in my life, but I what I also look forward to. I want to finish well. But I want to finish well, knowing that my end is just my beginning. It seems there are so many cases in so many arenas of people not finishing well. I see marriages that started out with so much promise end in divorce. I see athletes do stupid things and end poorly. I am thinking of like Woody Hayes whose whole career was tarnished by hitting a player at the end of his career or that soccer player Zidane whose last game ever during the world cup, he lost his temper and head butted a guy. He was thrown out, his team lost and he never played again. I see politicians who have brilliant careers go out in flames because of affairs or corrupution.

But there are some people who end more beautiful. I think of Billy Graham or Mother Teresa or mentor of mine, Sherb Heath or even the Apostle Paul. He wrote, " 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." I think that finishing well really is a matter of living well, not for the present, but for the future. I am still relatively a young man and I can't talk about what I don't know, but I am sensing that the ones who end well are the ones who know their end and they approach with joy and confidence and joy. It changes how they live. They live like Heaven is real.

C.S. Lewis said, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were precisely those who thought most of the next. It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at heaven and you will get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither.”

I think when we focus on this world and we are afraid of death, we die early, like when a leaf falls off in spring. No matter what the age, I think beauty comes in when we live life for eternity, no matter how old we are. And so there are two things from that: 1. Back to this idea that life just keeps getting better. I think that is a small taste of Heaven, and a gift from our Father. In Heaven, we don't get bored, but we worship and learn and serve and love. It just keeps getting better. And 2, our love and desire for Heaven is the secret for finishing well here, however long our lives last...

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Is He really enough?

This morning I enjoyed a great service at Crossroads Bible Church... It was great to see Timothy James Meaney leading worship and he started off with a great song by Chris Tomlin called Enough... As I sang along, it was like I was thrust back into my first six months in Africa when I was challenged as never before by the truth of this song... Do I really believe that God is enough when all my friends, family, comforts and security are gone? As we prepare to go back in Africa in January, I am encouraged by this mornings' reminder that God is enough...

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You are my supply
My breath of life
And still more awesome than I know
You're the coming King
You are everything
And still more awesome than I know

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough

You're my sacrifice
Of greatest price
And still more awesome than I know
You're the coming King
You are everything
And still more awesome than I know

More than all I want
More than all I need
You are more than enough for me
More than all I know
More than all I can say
You are more than enough for me

Friday, October 10, 2008

Reflections on my Zambia Trip

Well, I am home and I couldn't be more excited. I just finished my third trip to Zambia. It has been a whirlwind to say the least and yet before all else, I must start by being thankful to God who answered my prayers in some very unique, amazing ways.

First and foremost, I had almost no jet lag. Really, the first and second day were composed of meetings all day and I was all there, both days. I have never experienced that before. That was a first. All week I felt really great. God also answered my prayer for health. I felt amazing the entire week until... Tuesday. Another first... I got a nasty 24 hours stomach flu. Never had that in Zambia before. I wasn't alone. My host and director and his wife, Tim and Andrea Hilty, both got it too, at the same time, 2:00 am. We experienced commiseration in a whole new way. Enough said. I am feeling better and so thankful that flu is only 24 hours.
At our Action Zambia retreat on Saturday and Sunday, I saw my first real live wild snake, a huge Puff Adder. It was a bit surreal and lot scary. (It wasn't until later that I learned that Puff Adders are very slow but they are the most lethal snake because they have huge fangs and they don't move when you come upon them. Good to know.)

I saw my first campaign for presidency as the previous president died a few months ago and they are having a new election. I saw my first change of phone companies, where the incredibly red Cel Tel was replaced by Zain and its funky black and green and purple logo.

I saw my first engine truck going to the first fire I have ever seen. The only fire station, Central Fire Station, with two fire trucks was going across to put out a fire at another first, a two car fire in the impounded parking lot at the Central Police Station.

I took my first 2:35 am flight out of Lusaka. I didn't know any airline ever did that.

I experienced another first, seeing Action Bible Institute live in action. What has been a dream for so long for our mission, finally got its start, and Tracy Singleton was teaching the first course. A bunch of the pastors were from either my inductive bible study classes and/or at conferences I spoke at. That was a great reunion. I sat in on a class and it was a great time. Another first, I will be teaching Ephesians when I return in January.

I had some hard firsts as well. I saw a young man who had been hit by car and was lying in the street. Considering the health care in Zambia, the very reality that he probably didn't have money to get help, the future looked bleak and it broke my heart.

I think that is where the firsts end, because what really stuck with me wasn't so much the firsts and the new and the different, but rather how nothing had changed since I was gone. The same lady was at the same corner still selling the same tomatoes. The people are still pounding rocks day after day. The bicyclist were still peddling charcoal from the airport to town. The little girls were still holding their little baby brothers and the same heartbreak, difficulty and poverty still has its grip on Zambia. I was just thinking as I sat in my comfortable airline seat looking out in to the dark night that it just isn't right to be able to go from such extremes in such a short time. To be able to go from where poverty and despair reign to a place where prosperity and opportunity abound in a week is just crazy.

Life in Africa just keeps on going and the poorest live without opportunity or hope that things might get better and with that, all my previous feelings of guilt and heartache and pain came roaring back. And, truly, that is O.K... It is good to live with that tension because as Ecclesiastes 7:3 says “Sorrow is better than laughter, because a sad face is good for the heart.” It doesn't really make sense that a heartache is good for the heart, but I think it is because it purifies, and provides perspective and gives a bearing to life, a compass of sorts.
So, my heart is broken again and will continue to be broken. I will continue to wrestle with the tension and I continue to learn how to live from my fellow Zambians. They are gracious, grateful and joyful and persevering and faith-filled. They love heaven. They love people. It is a love/hurt tension and it is good for the soul. Thanks for your prayers as we prepare to head back in a few months, for which I am sure will go by quickly.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

My bags are packed deja vu

Well, it just seems like I was doing this but I leave tomorrow which is tonight plus 2 hours... 2:35 am... Nairbi/London/Seattle...

Thanks for your prayers... I have lots to report!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Say hello to the Puff Adder outside our gate!

We were leaving the head home when we saw a Puff Adder outside our gate... It's a bit freaky if you aren't a snake person. But it might be worth a watch because it is pretty funny if you listen you will hear me scare Andrea when she comes and takes a peak. These kinds of snakes are very poisionous but they are pretty slow moving and docile. The Zambian ended up putting it in a bag, but the process of that was a bit out of my comfort zone that I didn't stay around to watch:)

Untitled from Steve Allen on Vimeo.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Hot and Tired...

Wow.. Hello 95 degree weather:) I am pretty tired but I made it through the day and now I am heading off to bed... Thanks for your prayer for a good flight. It was really great!

A two day retreat/strategic meeting starting tommorrow... Please remember me!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

From Home to Home...

It is 12:51 am and the gentle hum of the Jet's engines fill in the background noise. I am listening to my Ipod, dozing a bit, knowing that sleep is a hopeless cause. I have never been one to sleep well on a plane. I am listening to a song by Toby Mac, “I don't want to gain the whole world and lose my soul.” I am heading back to Zambia for a third time and I am looking forward to it. I am excited to see my friends. I am looking forward to the surreal once again being all to real.

We have been home for four months today. I have had many people tell me that they miss my blogging in Africa. My daughter Kamryn when writing in her blog one day after being home said, “Writing in America isn't as interesting as it is in Africa.” And, I mused on that for awhile. I decided my next blog would be “Living a life that is blogworthy (no matter where you are.)” What does it look like to live a blogworthy life? What does it mean to live a blogworthy life? Exciting, daring, adventurous, interesting? Is it just that Africa is different, is it because we long to live different or is it more?

There has been a ringing phrase in my head lately... “Don't waste His grace.” Wasted Grace. What is wasted grace? Here is how Paul defines it in1 Cor. 15:10
But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them--yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me.

Paul was saved and made holy and made an apostle by the grace of God. Was Paul going to waste that gracious gift lavished upon him? He said, “It is not without effect” which means it was not in vain, or it wasn't wasted. As a result he worked harder than any of the other apostles, but even that ability and passion to work was grace. What does wasted grace look like? It looks our kids who after receiving a gift play doesn't say thank you and then plays with the box instead of the gift.

Eugene Peterson says it even better:

1 Cor. 15:10
But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I'm not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven't I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn't amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it.

Wasted grace is forgetting who we really are (sinners with no hope) who are lavished with gifts to bring God glory and then doing nothing with those gifts. What do we have to show for His grace? What ongoing difference has grace made in our lives?

I think this is the start of living a blogworthy life. We can take no credit for it and we can't plan for it, but it is God working in us to give us life and then use that life to bring life to others...

I am heading back to Zambia and you can be sure that you will hear about it. May grace lead us whether in Zambia or America or wherever he leads us to live a life that others want to read about...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sunday, September 21, 2008

A surprise worth mentioning...

It has been great being back home for a number of reasons. When you are away, you know that you will miss out events both big and small and that is just part of the sacrifice. But, when events happen (like a baby, for example) and you are home, it is fun to be a part of the fun moments that you would have missed out on, like today, for example.

Sam Mullen is a young man who I had gotten to know through the college ministry during my first year in Bellingham. Though he was going to W.S.U., we often met together during his trips home and enjoyed a great friendship despite the distance. So, you can imagine that I was pumped when Sam, now a college grad, knowing I was coming home, asked me to do the premarital counseling with his fiance, Amy. During the counseling, as we were talking about wedding details and what they were looking to do, the idea of a wedding in the midst of their crazy schedules was overwhelming. In passing we talked about doing a surprise wedding, but I didn't really think it was something that they were going to do.. Well, he called me a month ago and said, "We want to do a surprise wedding!" He only told myself so I could help organize the script of the wedding for his dad who was going to officiate the wedding and his brother who lived in Houston. The rest of the people knew that their was going to be a surprise birthday party for Amy. It was brilliant. Sam could talk to all his friends and family about the surprise, he could talk to his wife about the surprise, and everyone, but Amy, was going to be surprised! Sam organized a casual football throwing, outdoor beach BBQ, where everyone else brought the food and BBQ and chairs (and God provided the sun).

After everyone arrived, Sam sent the father in law to get Amy at the Ferry Terminal, where on the walk back, she broke the news to her dad that he was going to walk her down the makeshift aisle in about 15 minutes. And then Sam and I told Marc, his dad he was going to officiate the wedding in about 15 minutes as well. I gave him the service outline with the vows that Sam and Amy wanted and said, "Here ya go!" Then Sam told the mothers... "Surprise! I am getting married:)"

He gathered the 70 or so family and friends together and then shared the "surprise" and the reason why he chose to do this. He shared some personal things about family and then he said this:

"We love our familes and friends, and we have you all here with us today. We love summer, and despite the weather this is the last day of summer. We love fun, and barbeques are fun. And we love surprises, and I think this is a surprise to all but 3 of you. But mostly, and this is the big one, we love each other. We love each other and we don't want to wait until the stars perfectly align to get married. We've planned this out for about 2 months now, Amy and I together, and it has been a lot of fun. We want you to know that nothing is wrong, if we had to have waited until January we would've been just fine, we just didn't want to. This is our elopement, and we're happy to be able to share it will all of you.

On that note there has been talk of a December/January wedding. That is going to happen. This is our wedding, and that will be our reception. Unlike most receptions it will feel an awful lot like a wedding. We have a beautiful location picked out that Amy's mom found, and it will let us do all of the things we want. There will be a marriage sermon from my dad who will have much more time to prepare, a renewal of vows and a rededication of us in front of all of our friends and families, cake, dancing, karaoke, and car decorating. We will leave on our honeymoon from there, and it will be similar to a normal wedding, but without all of the stress. We will send out formal save the date cards and invites. For all practical purposes we are the luckiest people in the world, we get the two weddings we've always wanted."

The wedding was sweet, emotional and intimate. Other than my grammatical error from my outline in which Marc asked Sam to take Kari (his sister-in-law, which I had copied from Marc's previous officiated wedding) instead of Amy, it was perfect. Marc did an amazing job officiating the wedding considering the surprise... Overall, it was a great day and probably the only surprise wedding that I will ever go to in my life. What a joy to be back for occasions such as these...

Friday, September 19, 2008

More (or less) sports...

Back in the day when Seattle was good at sports (there was a day, wasn't there) when the Mariners tied the record for most wins and Sonics were playing the Bulls for the championship and the Huskies were top 10 in the nation and the Seahawks were in the Super Bowl, there was a skip in this rain soaked state. But things have been gloomy as of late, and a friend made a comment today that this past year has been the worst sports year for our (any?) state ever... The Mariners officially are the worst team in baseball, the Huskies and the Cougars are battling it out for the basement in their division, the Sonics are now the Thunder and the Seahawks are 0-2 (I am still hoping for the best despite 6 receivers out with injury). I am not sure what did it, but I am thinking this article by Rick Reilly might have jinxed us (though I don't really believe in jinxing). I am just glad that life is more than sports and I feel bad for the sport worshippers out there (i.e. Big Lo). If you need a chuckle during this dark time in Seattle sports, read this article and laugh... And thank the Lord their is more to life than sports!

By Rick Reilly

Okay, Seattle, grab a grande, skinny, no-foam, half-caf Espresso Macchiato and let me explain why the Pittsburgh Steelers are going to grind you up like a Sumatra blend in Super Bowl XL.

You suck at sports.

You always have. You make nice motherboards, but you're dweebier than Frasier Crane's wine club. You've had the big three pro sports for 30 years now -- almost 40 for the NBA -- and you have one lousy championship to show for it. Uno. The 1978 Seattle SuperSonics. My goodness, you people have fewer parades than Venice.

What's amazing is, you do college sports even worse. In the 70 years that a mythical national championship has been awarded in college football, the University of Washington has one half of one title: in 1991 (with Miami). Zippo in basketball, baseball, track or field. O.K., the Huskies are good at crew (three women's titles, one men's). Wonderful. Somewhere, three salmon cheer.

Your most famous athlete is a horse, Seattle Slew. Your most famous athletic moment was Bo Jackson's turning the Boz's chest into a welcome mat on Monday Night Football. Your greatest contribution to sports was the Wave, the fan-participation stunt that screams to the world, "We have no idea what the score is!"

And do you know why you stink, Seattle? Because ...

1. You're too nice.

Look at your Seahawks. Your MVP halfback, Shaun Alexander, teaches kids chess. Your scariest player is named Pork Chop. My goodness, last week, you offered valet parking service to reporters at Seahawks headquarters. (Seattle fans: If you see valet parking at Detroit's Ford Field this week, they're trying to steal your car.)

Nearly every five-dollar-steak-tough athlete who comes to Seattle leaves -- Gary Payton and Randy Johnson for instance. Consider Seattle's two favorite athletes -- Steve Largent and Fred Couples. Those guys wouldn't complain if somebody extinguished a Cohiba in their ears. Your sportswriters are more forgiving than Hillary Clinton. If they covered Jeffrey Dahmer, they'd refer to him as "a people person."

You Seattle fans don't just accept mediocrity. You crave it. You support your boys come hell or low water. You show up at the rate of three million a year for the Mariners, who never fail to let you down. Even the stadium sounds cuddly: Safeco Field. You pack the house for the underachieving SuperSonics, led by the NBA's nicest loser, Ray Allen. Your Seahawks went 21 years without a playoff win, and the fans didn't so much as clear their throats. Everybody just goes, "Well, that was fun. Let's kayak!" Hey, you can't spell Seattle without settle.

The whole town is 100% June Cleaver. I once walked into Nordstrom, the Seattle-based department store, and sheepishly asked if I could bring back a shirt I'd bought a month before in another town. The clerk said, "Sir, this is Nordstrom. You could wear it for 10 years, throw up on it and roll down a mountain in it and we'd take it back." Ask that at Neiman Marcus and they call security.

It ain't happening. Walruses don't do triple Salchows, and Seattle teams don't win titles.

2. You're too geeky.

Your owner, Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen, looks like the kid in high school who always got taped to the goalposts. If Allen wins, will he call all his friends from band camp? Throw his slide rule into the air? Plot his joy on a scatter chart?

Look, your average Seahawks fan drives a Prius. Your average Steelers fan drives a Ford Excursion, which has Priuses in its tire treads. Seahawks fans own poodles. Steelers fans eat them.

3. You're too wet.

Seattle is a great place if you happen to be mold. It just rained 27 straight days and it wasn't even a record. Seattle is basically a lot of guys waiting for a bus with rain starting to seep into their socks. Most kids are seven years old before they realize the umbrella is not an extension of the right arm. No wonder most great athletes leave. Ken Griffey Jr. left, basically saying, "I want my kid to be able to play outside once in a while."

In short, you people are too peaceful and happy in your Emerald City. You ever know anybody from Pittsburgh? You want this Super Bowl. Pittsburgh needs it. You're going to get smoked like a platter of smelt.

(But do you mind if we come live there?)

James 1.27 lived out and made practical...

This is an amazing story of a family that you may remember that we blogged about... Rob and Christa Murphy spent lots of time with us when they were in Zambia adopting their little boy, Isaiah (you can see him in the carrier behind Rob). They stayed at our house, and our girls played together. We were there when they got the call that the visa had come in and we drove them to the airport... Anyway, check out the article below in their paper...

ZEELAND -- A few years ago, Zeeland doctor Christa Murphy watched a Zambian mother and her young son waste away and die of AIDS.

Not long before the boy died, Murphy looked into the child's eyes.

"He just stared past me with hollow eyes. My heart was really broken," Murphy said.

Not long after, Christa, 33, and her husband, Rob, 38, decided at least one HIV-positive Zambian child would not suffer the same fate.

Today, they are the proud parents of Isaiah Murphy, 2, a Zambian orphan they adopted in December.

A boy once likely to die by age 3 is now healthy, smiling, and with no sign of the virus.

"There is just a lot of hope when you see him," Christa Murphy said.

The Murphys are to be honored for their commitment today at the White House lawn, part of the annual Angels in Adoption ceremony. Nominated by members of Congress, recipients from all 50 states are recognized for giving permanent homes to children in need.

"When you have a family like this who makes a decision to adopt a child, it just sends out such a positive message," said U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Holland. Hoekstra nominated the Murphys for the honor.

"People in these other countries, they notice that Americans are not going over and taking the healthy kids."

For the Murphys, their journey toward Isaiah began with a trip to Zambia in 1996. We decided we would like to spend a year somewhere serving in another culture. We ended up in Zambia and just falling in love with the Zambian people."

Nine years later, they were back on another mission trip, this time with two daughters of their own. The Murphy family today includes three biological daughters, Acacia, 8; Christianna, 5; and Katriya, 2.

Christa Murphy, a family practice physician, encountered a woman at a hospital in northwestern Zambia in the late stages of AIDS. The Murphys were there as part of World Medical Missions, the medical arm of the international relief organization, Samaritan's Purse.

"She was lying on her back. She didn't have the strength to sit up," she recalled.

About a month later, the woman's 5-year-old son was admitted with severe malnutrition. He was emaciated, his eyes sunken, his body defenseless against infection.

"It was really too late for him," she said.

In September 2007, Rob Murphy returned to Zambia with a team from Grand Rapids-based Bethany Christian Services.

"I got a call from the orphanage that said they have a little boy. They asked if we wanted to adopt him."

He was able to spend a few hours with him before returning home. Murphy learned his background: Born in June 2006, he contracted the virus at birth. His mother died of AIDS. His father was reported to be unable to care for him.

Left to the Zambian medical system, he would have been lucky to survive past age 3.

But as their adoption date approached, the Zambian government sent out mixed signals about whether it would continue to allow international adoptions.

The Murphys boarded a plane in December with no certainty the adoption would happen.

"He was actually the last child adopted out of Zambia internationally at the time," Rob Murphy said.

When they brought him home, Isaiah had 475,000 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood. Thanks to a cocktail of antiretroviral drugs not generally available in countries such as Zambia, the virus today is undetectable.

The Murphys expect a long and productive life for their son.

"His prognosis is very, very beautiful. The data says there is no reason he can't grow up and have a family and not pass HIV on," Rob Murphy said.

The Murphys hope others see the same need they witnessed in the eyes of a child.

"These kids are dying, five a minute every day. We really have to do something," Rob Murphy said.

Friday, September 12, 2008

One step at a time

Some good friends of ours loaned us a standing keyboard while we are in Bellingham. It has been awhile since our girls had played the piano, so they were playing on it all afternoon. Their favorite part of the keyboard is the demo key, where with just one push of a button, an assortment of beautiful songs are played. They have listened to the songs enough to know how can move their hands around the keyboard as if it is them playing. My niece was over this weekend and the girls were "playing" the piano. Her eyes were wide in disbelief that my girls could play the piano this good. It was pretty funny. This afternoon while I was watching Kamryn DEMOnstrate her abilities, I thought to myself, "It will take a long time for you to be able to play that for real." And truth is, she could someday play that good, but she will need to discipline herself greatly to get there.

I was reflecting on that thought later this evening and life really is about small steps in the same direction. We all see the Michael Phelps and the Lebron James and the Tiger Woods, but we don't know the daily discipline that goes on behind the scenes for them to be able to perform at the level that they do. Tonight I was reading an article about a man who went from jail to Yale Law School. The author of the article wrote, "It has been anything but easy. Idarraga will always have to fight his past, to convince those who have not walked in his shoes that they should take a chance on him. He tells kids that the way to keep moving ahead is by having goals and a plan to reach them.“We can learn to define our own goals!” he exclaims. “How do we get there? It begins by taking small, purposeful, consistent, disciplined steps … if you do not learn to define your own future, you already know that it will be defined for you.” He shared in this article that he would study 15 hours a day in the prison library... In Africa, there is a saying that we achieve things in life, bit by bit. I have learned personally that every marathon begins with the first mile. It is the discipline and the small steps and time that allows a person to be able to do something tomorrow that he couldn't have done today.

I fear that we have forgotten this in our spiritual lives. We are either discouraged because we are not what should be or want to be and/or we have forgotten that our spiritual lives are full of daily decisions to choose God's will and not our own. It really is about forgetting what is behind and pressing on towards what is ahead and daily moving forward in light of the great goal of Heaven. It is the discipline of being satisfied in Jesus and serving when no one is watching and recognizing that Heaven is the ultimate goal that changes how we live here. As great as it is to be an excellent piano player or basketball player or whatever else, nothing compares to the rewards that will last forever in heaven. Mayb it is memorizing a book of the Bible one verse a week. Maybe it is serving the poor once a month. Maybe it is starting to sponsor a child. So much can be accomplished for Jesus if we just do it, one day at a time. So, start today, forget what is behind and press on toward what is ahead. Contemplate the greatness of the goal that lies ahead of you. Reignite the fire that God wants to use you to make a difference in this world and that you are part of the big picture. Whatever you do, do it one step at at time, walking in the fullness of His Spirit for the glory of God.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Pastor Leadership Development

I thought this was a cool post by my teammate, Tracy Singleton... I worked directly with a bunch of these pastors and it is really encouraging to see them moving ahead with this class. Enjoy!

This past Monday marked the commencement of the Veritas Bible class. Comprised of fifteen students~ thirteen pastors and two seminarians~the class is held Monday, Wednesday, Friday, for two hours each day. On the first row, second from the right, is Glenn Ripley, the founder of Action Zambia. Since he and his family are returning to the states, this picture is significant~a "passing of the baton" picture, if you will. This class marks the beginning of one part of the vision for pastoral training that Glenn has nurtured for several years. In the second row, third from the right, is Alfred Mulenga, Tracy's language helper.

With almost a whole week of teaching under his belt, Tracy has found the students willing and eager to learn, enthusiastically participating in discussion. These students tend to be an older, more spiritually mature group. Most of them are preaching weekly and all of them are actively involved in ministry.

This week Tracy laid a foundation of the inspiration of Scripture, a brief overview of the Bible, and expectations for the class. Tracy strongly feels the privilege as well as the responsibility of teaching these men. We look forward to how these men will benefit from as well as use their knowledge to bless their congregations. To God be the glory!

Sunday, September 07, 2008

How exactly to celebrate...

It is pretty obvious that I love sports and really wish they were eternal. I guess what I mean is that in the long run, it really doesn't matter who who won and who lost and what player got this hit or scored that touchdown. But, there are lessons you can learn and insights you can gain and analogies you can draw. So as to justify or satisfy my love for sports and love for eternity and my desire to see them unified as much as possible, I hereby give you another lesson...

I remember when I was playing for the Huskies (yep, I was walk-on player a long, long time ago, back when were good, with the likes of Mark Brunell and Napoloen Kaufman) and the new rule was brought to our league about how celebrating after a touchdown would be penalized. I still remember how the coach described how you had to celebrate with your teammates (it didn't really affect me... I wasn't going to get in, let alone worry about celebrating) and not showboat it by yourself (think soccer). So, team celebrating was not only encouraged but mandated. It was a good rule that served the game, keeping gloating showboaters celebrating with the other players that blocked and passed and helped to make the touchdown happen.

Now, fast forward many years and though my playing days are over, this rule is still in place. Like I said, it is a good rule that serves the game well. But, rules, all rules should exist to serve the game, and not vice versa. Someone doesn't make a bunch of rules and then try to fit a game into it. You make the game and then create rules so that their are boundaries and fairness and right and wrong so that players are able to play the game freely and fully. Last week, when Jake Locker was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct for throwing the ball over his shoulder and then celebrating with the team was an example of putting rules above the game. Jake Locker was quoted after hearing there was a flag on the field, "That was stupid. Who got the penalty?" He didn't even know he did it. I doubt any player, fan of either team or coach of either team even noticed it. The rule was put in place to keep the spirit of showboating to a limit, not just so they could add another rule to the game. As Ty Willingham, the coach of the Huskies said, "There are rules written for them to use discretion, and in this case they didn't do that. Proper judgment was not used. That was not an act of a young man taunting, not an unsportsmanlike act at all, and therefore it should have been viewed in its totality and not just isolated as to the letter of the law."

So, the Huskies lost a heartbreaker when the a short kick was moved back and it was eventually blocked. And like I said, when I get to Heaven, I won't really care who won or how it happend... But to make it eternal, it reminded me of an interaction Jesus had with the Pharisees. The Pharisees loved talking about the rules and making more rules to keep rules. They were all about rules and laws (just not obeying them). For example, the Sabbath. This was a rule God made for man to help them rest and to set aside time to worship God. It was a rule made for man by God to help man. But the Pharisees started adding more rules to the Sabbath about how far you could walk and not walk and what you could do and couldn't do. They got really mad at Jesus a bunch of times because he would heal people and eat food on the Sabbath. They said he was breaking the laws of Sabbath. But, Jesus understood the difference between the Spirit of the law and the letter of the law. He understand that man weren't made for rules but that the rules were put in place to help man. Jesus said in Mark 2:27 - "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath." It is easy as Christians to get so focused on the rules and the doing of this or that that we forget about the point of the rules is to help Christians love God and love people with all our heart, soul and mind and strength.

So, my plea to the referees who watch these kids play their hearts out, don't forget that the rules still serve the game and do not let the the letter of the law determine the outcome of the game. A hold is still a hold, a pass interference is still a pass interference; that is a different thing all together. What we are talking about is why this rule was put in place just 15 little years ago to keep glory hounds giving glory to the team that helped get him there. And may we realize why the law was given, to show us that we are sinful and to give us boundaries, not so that we can create more and more rules, and not because the rules makes us religious. We must see the rules in the spirit that it was given so that we could have opportunities to and the way how to love God and other people.

So, there you have it... Any thoughts?

Saturday, September 06, 2008

ACTION Zambia continues...

Here is a good post from my buddy Brent over in Zambia... It gives you the complexity of what we are dealing with in Zambia...

Pastors Discipleship

On Thursday, Graham and I, along with 10 Zambian church leaders (mostly compound pastors) started a new discipleship program.  Over the next year, Graham and I will be leading this group through some material focused on Deepening Our Intimacy With God.

The first meeting went really well.  We did the normal introductions, introduced the material and then tried to memorize a verse from scripture.  Everyone seemed to be really excited about what God is going to teach us as a group.  Our desire is that the pastors attending this discipleship program will take what they learn and start similar discipleship programs in their own churches.

One of the biggest needs in the church here is discipleship.  In most compound churches, the pastors have no more than the equivalent of a 7th grade education, coupled with little to no theological training, which is the case of most of the pastors in our discipleship program.  Imagine having only a 7th grade education, no theological training, struggling to read English (in some cases) and overseeing congregations where 70-80% of the members cannot read and therefore are unable to learn from God's word unless taught by someone else.  Now, you can somewhat understand what these men are up against.

Please pray for this group.  Pray that God would use this program for His glory and for the benefit of these men and their churches.  Pray for the daily physical provisions of these pastors.  Many of these men struggle to provide for their own families, much less their churches physical needs.  Pray for Graham and I.  Pray that we would be sensitive to culture, and would lead in a way that equips these men for effective ministry.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Amazing what a year will bring...

This day last year, September 4, 2008,  we were leaving America behind for a new adventure in Africa.  Who would have thought that we would be writing this blog from American soil with girl #4 living in our house?  We are learning to live day by day, trusting the Lord, and living in His will. Thanks for all your support and prayers for us.

James 4:13-15 (NIV)  
    Now listen, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money." [14] Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. [15] Instead, you ought to say, "If it is the Lord's will, we will live and do this or that." 

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Loving My Child

I was holding my little girl today. She is so small that she fits snug in my arm. As I stared and admired and watched her, my heart was bursting with love and joy and delight. I had been reading a little about heavenly rewards in the Bible this morning and how what we do here matters for eternity. Paul commands us to forget what is behind and press on to what is ahead and to beat our body and make it our slave so that we will not be disqualified. And, yet, it hit me that as I looked at my girl and just cherished her beyond belief, I realized that she has done absolutely nothing to make me love her the way I do. (Well, I mean she has the cutest grunts and she is so cute and she is such a content baby... I digress) I had this a renewed sense of how much God loves us simply because we are his child. That is so comforting in the midst of the battle for holiness, the pressure we put on ourselves to live wholly for Christ and the pressures of life and the failures we feel. We need to understand and live within this understanding that He loves and delights and cherishes us with a love that is perfect and fatherly and wonderful. Be encouraged that you are loved even before you did anything. Rest in His love tonight: Jeremiah 31:3 - I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Don't let pride kill you.

I was talking with my wife a few days ago and sharing how God was revealing my pride in a certain situation. I said, "I wish that there was a finish line in being humbled so that I would never need to be humbled again." What is the evil that lives deep inside of me that lurks its ugly head in the most sinister of ways? Why is it that I work so hard to keep life about me. I have seen so clearly how pride ruins marriages and jobs and friendships and hopes and dreams and so much more... I have learned over the years that humbling situations truly are a gift. It is God's gift to remind us that He is God and we are not. The more humble we are, the more available He is to use us for His glory. The more humble we are, the more glory He gets. Why would God not use someone like that? There is nothing God could not do through you if you humbly recognized that apart from Him you can do no good thing.

John the Baptist said it best, "He must become more and I must become less." Today and tomorrow, when you get humbled by something you do or say or don't do or don't say, don't fight it. Just confess your sin to the Lord and say thank you to the Lord that he is continuing to make you available, humble yourself before your wife or husband or friend or boss by saying sorry or admitting you were wrong and then be free.

We all know the proverb, "Pride comes before the fall" and "Honor comes to the humble." Humble yourself under the Lord and HE will lift you up.

May our attitude be as our Savior, our example and our pastor...

Philip. 2:5-11
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

[6] Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
[7] but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
[8] And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to death--
even death on a cross!
[9] Therefore God exalted him to the highest place
and gave him the name that is above every name,
[10] that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
[11] and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Luke and Elise are ALIVE in Africa...

Read this update from Luke and Elise, our good friends and teammates in Africa:

Dear Friends

Greetings from increasingly hot Lusaka, Zambia. I (Luke) wanted to write a quick note and let you know the latest on new ministry opportunities and development with us. As Elise has mentioned in a previous update we have been investigating ways to “mobilize” the churches we are working with. We have realized, during our two years here, that there is much knowledge transfer going on in churches but very little mobilization of the congregation. While knowledge and study of God’s Word is essential, if that knowledge cannot be transferred into practical actions are we really helping the Zambian we came to serve? It to this end that we have been intent on developing outlet ministries that allow different congregation to see the power that exists when we take the knowledge of the Word of God to the streets. This has mainly been in the areas of door to door and open air evangelism, as well as hospital visitation.

The past two weeks I have gone over to the main hospital here in Lusaka, UTH, and spent time visiting with various patients. I always take a member from a local church with me because of the language barrier and most importantly because we are hoping they will catch the vision for themselves. Yesterday, 25/08, we went to the pediatrics ward and all I can say is that I left broken hearted. So many little ones with tubes stuck all over their bodies and anxious mother with looks of desperation covering their faces. We went to visit a little 8 year old boy named Enzo. This little guy has a significant hole in his heart which means you can literally hear his heart murmur without a stethoscope. With or without treatment the diagnosis is that Enzo will probably die in the next year but the hope is that treatment might prolong the inevitable. We went to love on little Enzo and pray a pray for healing in faith, what a privilege to serve this little one in this manner. While there we also meet a little girl name Musonda who, just like Enzo, also had a heart condition as well as problems with her lungs. As we prayed for her she labored heavily to take each new breath in, but when we finished she rewarded us with a big smile. Her mother, a Jehovah’s witness, was reluctant at first to let us pray for her but finally agreed. After we had finished we noticed that all the other patients in the ward has gotten up and left the room we were in. We took this a clear rejection of our prayers and proceed to leave the ward. As we enter the hall, Musonda’s mother came running after us and frantically explained that she was concerned that we had only prayed for her daughter, what? As I asked the Zambians who had come with me to explain what she was so concerned about, they told me that there is still much superstition towards whites (we are sometimes thought to be Satanists) and she believed bad things would happen to her daughter if we only prayed for her. We assured her that we had just prayed for a little boy in the next ward named Enzo but she would not be satisfied until she asked him for herself. These are the little ways satan has bound these people in fear and keeps them from receiving the healing message of Jesus Christ. Continue to pray that the name of Jesus would break down these spiritual barriers and that He would continue to equip us to do battle for His name sake.

We are also still organizing a meeting with the head of all prisons here in Zambian with the hope that we will be granted permission to begin work in the prison system here in the country (amazing opportunities for ministry). I continue to help lead, with my good friend Brent Roberts, a small group ministry with Great Commission Baptist Church. We are excited as we have identified two future leaders in the group and are hoping they will partner together to start a new small group within the church. This is such an answer to prayer as our mission, from the beginning of our small group ministry, has been to see replication happen (praise God). We also began work a couple of weeks ago on creating a curriculum for evangelism that will be piloted at Evangel Baptist Church, which is the church we are currently attending. I have begun a five week program on evangelism with the men’s group each Saturday morning a 7:30 and I am excited at the evident eagerness to see a heart for evangelism fostered at this church. Please pray as the long term vision for this program will be to implement it into all levels of the church—leadership, men’s/women’s ministry, youth programs, AWANA, small group, etc. Elise and I feel that this type of training and educating is why God has called us to Zambia. Also, as you continue to pray for us you might be interested to know that last Tuesday 08/19 the president of Zambia passed away in Paris, France. This has been such an interesting time as the government has decreed that there will be 21 days of national mourning which will end with his burial on my birthday September 3rd. Things remain very stable here but the implementation of the new government would prove to be troublesome. I am sure that violence will be avoided at all costs but as we have seen in other instances bathing these types of situations in prayer is essential. Pray that Zambia would continue to remain a beacon of stability in a somewhat unstable region and that the Christian heritage they claim would continue to be the cornerstone on which this great country rests. FYI—please check out our blog at: as we have added some new feature that will allow you to give online and also sign up for email updates ever time a new entry is posted. Thanks again for your continued support and prayers. We are so appreciative of your partnership.

His Servant

Luke <><

If you want to invest your money in eternity in a way that will reap rewards for years to come, invest in this young couple... They are amazing.

And just an added thought: there is nothing they are doing that we can't be doing back in America, per se... And what is even crazier, most of it is biblical:)

Matthew 25:34-40 (NIV)

"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. [35] 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, [36] 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.'

[37] "Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? [38] When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? [39] When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?'

[40] "The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'