Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's Amazing What You See

2 Corinthians 4:18
So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see
will last forever.

Revelation 1:7
Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him— even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world will mourn for him. Yes! Amen!

Luke 24:39
Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.”

Mark 8:33
Jesus turned around and looked at his disciples, then reprimanded Peter. “Get away from me, Satan!” he said. “You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

So the other day I decided to get up really early (5:15am) and get dressed and take the first bus into downtown. I wanted to see what the attitudes were of those on the bus on their way to work. I was pleasantly surprised at the gratitude and joy that was present. Next week I plan to tell you more about that, but this week I want to share something else.

It was a Friday and I was simply taking some time to be by myself and decided to walk around downtown with a specific mission. I was looking for something. See, I think it is always amazing what you see when you are looking for it. So instead of just walking around town, I wanted to look for something specifically and I chose to look for empty chairs. That's right, empty chairs. "Why empty chairs?" you ask. Well, because empty chairs are often discarded and set off the beaten path. I took pictures of all kinds of chairs. They were all different, and were all in different stages of their lives. Some were new looking and others rusty and broken. Some were dirty from lack of use and others were clearly used and cleaned daily. It actually reminded me of people in life. We were all created for the same purpose, and all of us, on our journey, have been treated differently and are at different stages in our lives, but still possess the same purpose.

As I took pictures and allowed my random thoughts to marinate on this analogy, I began to get excited about this city. My mind began to race, and this desire to help the people of this city rediscover their purpose became like a raging fire. I wanted to find people that had been broken and tossed to the side and help restore them so they could once again do what they were created for.

The verses I put at the top help us remember to see the right things. It is so easy for us to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of life on the busy streets and walk right past those that are discarded and broken. This begins by fixing our gaze on the things of Heaven and then looking for what our Heavenly Father wants us to see.

Pray for us as we are here in New Orleans and are trying to fix our gaze on Christ and trying to be open to seeing what God wants us to be doing here. Take some time in the next week or two and just walk around your town and take pictures of one thing and see how many of that thing you see. Remember, it is amazing the things you see when you are looking for them.

Enjoy some of my pictures of the chairs I found.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Giver of All Good Things

God’s economy is so different from ours—so upside down. Somehow in the giving away of our lives, we find real life. Somehow in looking out for the interests of others, we find our own needs met. It doesn’t make sense in theory, but in practice it is absolutely remarkable.

Dave shared with me the other day that he felt God was prompting him to give some money to help out a friend we’ve gotten to know here in New Orleans. When I asked how much, he didn’t respond right away. It took a few days, but finally Dave told me an amount. It was a sizeable amount, so he asked me if I thought that was okay. I’ve seen God use Dave’s generosity before and so I encouraged him by saying that if that’s what he felt we should give, then we should give it! So, I went to the bank last Tuesday to withdraw the money, put it in an envelope and passed it to our team leader who gave it to our friend anonymously. It was sweet to hear the response of our friend via our team leader because it was exactly the amount he needed.

Two days later, we received in the mail two separate checks from friends back in Kentucky. One check was for the exact amount that we had given to our friend. The check was dated the same day Dave had told me the amount he wanted to give. The second check was from someone who already supports us monthly. She had included a note with her support saying she had received some extra blessings this month from others because of her service and generosity to them. She wanted to pass on the extra to us. So, not only did God provide the exact amount for what our friend needed, he gave us more! And we didn’t even know we had that much to give! Sure, God could have just dropped that money into our friend’s lap. Sure, we could just all take care of our own needs and just worry about covering ourselves. But what happens when we trust the Lord and following His promptings to give? We see a more accurate picture of Who really is the Provider! We see God at work in the lives of so many different people. We see His amazing ability to coordinate the hearts of His children. We see His care and love for us and for those who don’t know Him yet. Yes, the giving and sharing and obeying the Lord results in thanksgiving to Him—the One from whom all good things come anyway!!

“This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you. Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” (2 Corinthians 9:12-15)

This passage is talking about you, my brothers and sisters, and your generosity and obedience that have blessed us in so many ways. But ultimately, it is speaking of Christ, for our grateful hearts turn to him and overflow in thanksgiving for who He is and for all the ways He has turned our lives upside down!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The sunrise on the darkest night

Do you ever have one of those days when you just don't hit on all cylinders? You know those days when things are just not going right no matter what you try? You try hard to pull yourself together and try to have a great attitude, but it just doesn't work? Well, last Thursday was one of those days for me and I was just not up to par. I wasn't sick, I was just filled with an assortment of emotions that left me feeling discouraged in my spirit. Mainly self-pity stuff. You know, those arguments you have with yourself and God that usually go round and round about how you think your plans are better than God's plan for your life? It's a lot like the conversations that the Israelites had with God in the wilderness after Egypt. They would be happy about being free one minute and then be complaining about not having meat to eat the next. Well, that’s what was happening for me and I was rolling around and wrestling with God about bringing us down here to New Orleans.

On my way home from work that day I cried out to God for some sort of encouragement for my spirit. Then when I arrived home I went in took a shower and did my daily check of my email and there in my inbox were two emails from godly friends in Kentucky. The emails were both very similar. They both basically said that they were praying for me today and that they felt God telling them to send a note of encouragement and on top of that, both of them had decided to begin supporting us financially!

I don’t know if you have ever been really discouraged and received a note from a friend far away, but it is so refreshing. It is like seeing the sunrise on the darkest night. It was an answer to prayer--a perfect ending to a terrible day. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to receive something when you are down. The emails weren’t very long, but they were just what my spirit needed. Then this morning during our time in God’s word as a community we read these verses from 2 Corinthians 9,6 Remember this—a farmer who plants only a few seeds will get a small crop. But the one who plants generously will get a generous crop. 7 You must each decide in your heart how much to give. And don’t give reluctantly or in response to pressure. “For God loves a person who gives cheerfully.” 8 And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others. 9 As the Scriptures say, “They share freely and give generously to the poor.
Their good deeds will be remembered forever.” 10 For God is the one who provides seed for the farmer and then bread to eat. In the same way, he will provide and increase your resources and then produce a great harvest of generosity in you. 11 Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. 12 So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. 13 As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. 14 And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you. 15 Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words!

You never know when what you write may be the sunrise on someone’s darkest night.When we are following God and aware of His presence in our lives, we have the opportunity to either bless others or be blessed by them. I came away from this week here on the mission field ready to love people more and to listen to His still small voice when He prompts me to contact or encourage or give to someone in need. May we all walk daily in the presence of God so we can be the sunrise in someone’s darkest night.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Getting There

The West Bank. Algiers. The French “Qwahtah.” The CBD. St. Charles. Freret. Uptown. It’s hard to believe that just two and half weeks ago those words were just a string of syllables attached to New Orleans. Now they hold meaning and memories and faces…and direction! Now those words conjure up thoughts about the DMV and how complicated it can be to change your driver’s license; about tiny cupcake stores in the midst of the inner city (thank you Sarah Collie); about bachelorette parties where friends care about each other; about local art and funny smells; about street cars and homeless people; about new businesses trying to make it and their owners who you know by name; about playgrounds and grocery stores and puddles knee-deep.

Part of immersing in a culture requires that we understand the place where we live and how to get around. We all do that in our own ways. Dave loves riding his bike a different route every other day and learning how everything connects. Others of us (like myself) prefer driving with someone in the passenger’s seat who knows the way, at least the first couple of times. And right alongside us, our kiddos are figuring out this place too. Silas has different “signs” that tell us we are almost home—like the clump of short palm trees about 2 blocks from our house. Even Myah knows the name of the street where the street cars run, St. Charles which sounds more like “Saint Chawuls” when she says it.

A couple of days ago, I took the kids out to run some errands with me. I was feeling decently confident about getting around and was narrating our progress to the kids. “Well, we’ve been to the post office and to the bank and now we’re on our way to the grocery store,” I announced. From the back seat, Silas pipes up, “And all that without Dad. Good job, Mom!” Well, I guess it’s no secret who is better at directions in this family!! Nonetheless, we are all navigating the streets of this new culture with excitement and joy. My prayer is that as we discover the culture, our love for the people deepens. May our understanding of the love of Christ for us compel us to meet the needs around us. May you be blessed as you drive or walk or bike the road you are on—familiar or not. The Lord is with you and with us. He guides our way, even if we don’t know the way yet.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Tree of Life

This morning we had the joyous privilege of participating in the wedding ceremony of Beth and Taylor, two single adults who are a part of our team here in NOLA. It was a beautiful day and an awesome wedding. The ceremony took place under this tree in a big Park here in New Orleans. The tree was called "The Tree of Life" and it was magnificent!!! It was probably 16-20 ft. in diameter and its huge branches reached down to the ground and was actually sprouting new trees. It is one of the coolest trees I have ever seen.

After the wedding Silas decided to climb the tree... well one of the branches anyway. You can see his face on the left there. He was so confident when he started. He had seen some of the other boys climbing it and wanted to do it as well, but when he got to be about 5-6' off the ground he began to freeze up and say he couldn't go any further. It wasn't until I took his hand and gave him some encouraging words that he was able to go past this point in climbing this awesome tree! Look at what Ephesians says in Chapter 3:16-19 -
"16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God."

To be honest, the last couple of months have been really exciting for us, but they have also been really scary for us. We have seen and talked to so many people that have left all the security of life to go to a place that God was calling them. We have seen God do amazing things in their lives, and like Silas seeing the other boys climb, we wanted to follow God where He was leading us. We got really excited, packed up our house, and quit our jobs and began the trek to New Orleans. Once we got into it though, I personally lived with a lot of fear. I had thoughts like: "What have I done to my family?" "What if it doesn't work out?" "What if people don't get the vision and support us?" "What if God wasn't talking, and it was just me?" It wasn't until people like you began giving us your hand so to speak, that we began having real confidence in what God was calling us to do. We have had people come alongside us and give us encouraging words, financial support, notes of gratitude and thanks, we have received phone calls (which I like a lot), and we have been prayed for by so many people.

This wedding today was such a beautiful picture of this for me as well. Here are two people totally sure they want to be together and they have seen other marriages work and they want that too. On the flip side though, we were there because we know that there will not only be smiles and joy in that marriage. There will be heartbreak and sadness. There will be misunderstandings and hard times. Those of us who came to witness the ceremony were also there to say, "Take my hand, we want to walk this journey with you. We want to encourage and help you on this new adventure."
So here we are in New Orleans. We have been here a week and the thing that I have thought about the most was not unpacking boxes, or figuring out where the store is so we can eat, although those are important things. The thing I thought about the most was how confident I was in the Lord because there are so many people who are holding our hands and praying for us and routing for us as we step out on faith on this new adventure. So I would like to say a big THANK YOU friends, family, prayer warriors, financial supporters, for being that hand that has given us the reassurance that the climb may be scary, but we won't fall and we won't be alone. YOU GUYS ROCK!!!

Before I end this short epistle of gratitude, there are two people that I really want to say thank you to. They have sacrificed their space, their food, their time, and their lives to make our first month of this journey a success and a beautiful launching pad for the coming months and years. Thanks, Mom and Dad Collie, for all the little things you did and sacrificed for us to be in this place now. We love you and are proud to call you not only family, but friends!!! Thanks for holding our hand and giving us confidence in the Lord God Almighty!!! Cheers!!!

Monday, September 5, 2011

NOLA - Home Sweet Home!!!

Well, here we are!! Look at the Collies sitting on their front steps in New Orleans!!! Three and a half days ago we pulled up in front of 2601 Octavia Street New Orleans, La. 70115. Within a few hours of arriving our new team of friends helped us unload our moving truck. By dinner time we and our new friends were eating and laughing in our new living room on our couches!!! That night, each one of the Collies fell asleep in their very own beds with their own pillows for the first time in six weeks. It was GLORIOUS!! Praise God for the journey, the safety, and the fellowship we enjoyed during the past six weeks. We would like to give a great big shout out and thanks to Buck and Sue Collie for making our California trip absolutely FANTABULOUS!!!!

We would also like to say thanks to The Weston Family in Jackson, Mississippi, for a great night on the town, delicious dinner, and their encouraging words!!!

Thanks also to The Clark Family in Jackson, Tennessee, that we had the privilege to spend time with and relive the old times, pray for each other, and make new memories as we were the first to wish Dave Clark a Happy Birthday since we were still up chatting it up after midnight.

Look at this cute picture here. These people we will miss greatly. Family is a wonderful thing, especially when that family loves God, loves each other, and is willing as a family to sacrifice so others can be introduced to the grace God offers to all. We had such a wonderful time spending the night and morning with such awesome loving people. Thanks Larry and Rita, Michelle and boys, and Trent and Sarah!! Our last night in Campbellsville, Kentucky, was amazing!!

As I mentioned before, California was superb. This wonderful family made it possible to get to the airport on time without having to get up before God on Tuesday morning. We couldn't have asked for a better last night in California. From the time relaxing in the pool, to the fantastic food for dinner, the wonderful company, and a great game of Settlers of Catan. Thanks Darryl and Tania and boys, for allowing your home and lives to be used to bless so many with your love and hospitality. Pleasanton, California, is a better place because you live there.

So as I close, I say thank you, God, for getting us here safely. We look forward to what God will do with us as His tools. We say thanks for all those who have made the journey to this point possible. From your support financially, to your wonderful hospitality and meals, your prayers and texts. We love each one of you who are behind us on this new ADVENTURE!!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

The Hike

Well, hello!!! It has been two weeks since we have updated this and I think it is time to let you know how things are going and where the Collies are at. I (Dave) have officially turned 34 since I wrote last and on my birthday, my wife planned the best day ever!!! She set up a whole day for us to go hiking with Thomas Atkins!!! Thomas is the one you probably don't recognize in the picture above.

I just want everyone to know, I absolutely LOVE hiking!!! Hiking is one of those things that takes lots of effort and is always more fun with other people. You get to see things that few people ever get to see for themselves and you often get the chance to experience dirt in places you never thought possible.

The hike we went on was called St. Mary's Pass. The views were spectacular and the things we saw I will never forget. The hike was intense and physically taxing. Actually it was one of the harder hikes I have ever been on, but at the same time it was one of the most rewarding.

I think this trip to California has a lot of similarities to my birthday hike. I want everyone to know, I absolutely LOVE California!!! This last month of being here has taken an extra dose of effort to plan meetings, help the kids adjust to a different environment and schedule, and living out of suitcases. At the same time though, we were able to live and spend time with lots of people. It has been such a joy to be with Nana and Grandpa. They are the BEST!!!! We have had such a great time living, eating, and just being with them and this time will never be forgotten. During our time here in Cali, we have had the opportunity to see things things that not everyone gets to see for themselves. Things like the sunset on the Pacific Ocean, California Costal Redwoods, bear poop, mountain streams, and high altitude wild flowers. One of my favorite things about hiking is the people you go with and for me that has been one of my favorite things about this trip. Not only did we get to see Nana and Grandpa, but we got to see countless other family members and long lost friends. We got a chance to share meals, swap stories, and encourage each other in life. The conversations shared were so great and uplifting and we will never forget this month in California.

Now as we think about our next adventure we are excited to see things that many people never get to see or experience and we are SO excited about going on this new adventure with some new friends. In less than a week we will be in New Orleans. Actually the next time we write on this blog, we will be in our new home. Pray for us as we prepare to leave. Pray that our final days will be glorious and fun. Pray we will be able to fly home and pack up with no glitches. Pray that we will have safe travels as we drive our family and all our earthly possessions into the swamps. Pray our kids are able transition into this new life quickly and easily. Pray we will be a blessing to those we meet and live life with in New Orleans.

Thanks, friends, for joining us on this journey. Thanks for your support and prayers. We are grateful for every single one of our dear friends and family. See you on the flip side!!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

There Are Greater Things Yet to Be Done in This City

I sit looking out over the beautiful yet simple skyline of Sonora, California. My window is open as the sun says it’s good-night and the breeze floats in gently. I can see a spire glowing somewhere downtown and the needlepoints of tall evergreens against the almost navy sky now. A motorcycle rumbles into the neighbor’s driveway next door, but it’s a relatively quiet night in this cozy little place. It reminds me of home back in Campbellsville a little…except for the blessed absence of humidity! And for a moment, I wonder why can’t this be home? Why does my heart feel so at ease here? Why are we moving to New Orleans?

“Because that’s where I’m sending you,” comes the reply.

But why, Lord, are you sending us there? And then, I begin to see past the tucked in town out my window. People begin to trek across my mind. Even in this quiet, comforting place, there lives the family who seems so put-together but are contemplating divorce, the single guy who struggles with the depression, the recovering addict trying to stay clean, the alcoholic who sees no hope. Even in Sonora, there are greater things yet to be done. Just as in New Orleans. Lord, help my heart long for the people to know and taste that You are good. That You give peace. That You are their Light in the darkness.

“Your home is with Me, Child.”

Yes, yes, I know, Jesus. Help me to remember. No matter where I am or what I am doing, my home is with You. My heart belongs to You. And that’s why you send us. So that others can come home, too.

Monday, August 1, 2011


Phil. 4:1 - "My Dear brothers and sisters, stay true to the Lord. I love you and long to see you, dear friends, for you are my joy and crown I receive for my work."

This past Sunday we visited the church we attended when we lived in California and we got to reconnect with old friends and we heard a wonderful challenge from Pastor Mark. They have been going through the book of Philippians and focusing on joy and how to experience joy in your life as a Christian. The main point of the sermon was stated like this: The quality of our relationships determines the quantity of our joy. How true that is. Pastor Mark asked two questions as he ended his sermon. The first was, "Who is your Paul?" which means, who is it that is mentoring you, challenging you, and causing you to grow as a Christian. The second was, "Who is your Timothy?" which means, who is the person you are mentoring, challenging, and causing to grow in Christ. I immediately thought of those who I have had the privilege to work with over the past few years and how my relationships with them have brought me so much joy. :) I also immediately thought of a godly man who has meant so much to me in my relationship with Christ and my journey of growth with God and others. He is pictured above. His name is Pastor Claude Short. He was my pastor from the time I was about 11 to age 18 and his influence cemented many truths about Christ, the church, and following God. We were able to eat dinner with Pastor Claude and his wife and daughter last Saturday. Eating with them was such a joyful thing for all. Not only was it joyful to him to see people he has loved and mentored following Christ, but it was a joy for me to see him still following and loving God after all these years. Pastor Claude was the one who baptized me when I was 14 and I was able to not only tell Silas about that, but show him the pool where I was baptized. We took the picture above last weekend. It is such a perfect example of joy. I am standing with my mentor and pastor by the pool I was baptized in. I am standing there with my son who I am discipling and training to follow God. And I also have Silas holding little Dave. Little Dave is a knitted doll I received from a eleven year old girl in KY as we were getting ready to leave. She said she made it as a thank you for all Jen and I had done for her and her family.

The quality of our relationships determines the quantity of our joy. Let me challenge you as I did in the last entry... Invest in people. Love people genuinely. Be willing to take the time to not just be their friend but speak truth boldly and disciple them. Find someone who you trust and let them speak into you. Then make sure you find someone and speak into them. When you do this, you will experience the joy Christ has desired for you to have.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Ordinary People

So here I am on a plane… the house is packed into a storage unit… new people are living in our house… we have said more good byes than I would like to endure again… and the adventure is underway! Thank you for your prayers and support! Thank you for encouraging us to follow God! The Collies are excited about what God has in store for our lives tomorrow and also stoked to see what God has in store for your life as well. I was reminded of a simple truth about following God this week and I would like to take a moment to remind you as well.

It was Sunday night and we were frantically trying to pack the final details of our home and also attempting to clean behind all the things we never clean behind… aka, the oven, fridge, dryer, etc., when I heard a knock on the back door. Most people knock on our front door or just come in, but not Jeremy. I opened the door and there he was, Jeremy in all of his splendor. He was dressed in basketball shorts and a tank top sort of shirt, his hair a mess. He had dirt all over him and he was standing there with a bucket of fish, yes fish. There were sun fish, bass, and bluegill just piled in a five gallon bucket. I opened the door and he simply said, “you want some fish?”

Jeremy is fourteen. He just got back from about three months in Juvenile hall, his family is broken like a window in an abandoned house, and his brothers are constantly coaxing him to sell drugs and do other stupid illegal things for them. He is a good kid with a good heart who happens to live on my street. Four houses up on the right actually. I met Jeremy a few years ago when he was eleven. I was out mowing one day and he walked up and asked if he could mow my grass for me in exchange for some cash. I said no, but introduced myself and began a simple conversation with him. It was simple and shallow, but I got his name and remembered it. Every time I saw him after that I would simply say hi to him and call him by his name. Over the next few years I would see him and talk to him here and there. He was usually walking down the street to the school with his girlfriend or something. Eventually I found out more and more about him and got a chance to get to know him on a little deeper level. I kind of became his neighborhood counselor. He would come and hang out and talk. We invited him and his sister to eat with us every so often and we simply became his friend. I would sometimes even invite him down to hang out around the fire pit with my friends and I. We would joke and talk about life. He always seemed distant yet hungry for someone to listen, so that is what I tried to do.

So there Jeremy stood, asking if I wanted some fish that he caught. I hadn’t seen him much lately because he was off doing time at juvenile hall, so he didn’t know we were leaving town the next day. So as I broke the news to him that we were moving out of town tomorrow, his shoulders dropped and this looked of sadness swept over his face. He stood there a second, then he spoke. What he said shook me to the bones. He simply looked at me with this sad face and said, “Now what am I supposed to do? This street is going to go to hell. If you take your Christianity and leave, this street is going to hell.”

Sometimes we make Christianity and following Jesus this really hard thing to do. I have been memorizing and studying Romans 12 and there is a verse that simply says, “be okay with spending time with ordinary people.” Jeremy is a kid most people have already written off. He comes from a low-income family that is broken all to pieces, he has been in the system already and done time. He is the “ordinary people” we all come across everyday. It is not always easy or comfortable to hang out and spend time with people who don’t act and smell like you. They may even seem like an inconvenience, but it is our responsibility and calling to be okay with spending time with ordinary people. In doing so, you have the opportunity to share love, encouragement, safety, a listening ear, and truth with them.

My challenge to you and to myself as well, is to live a life for God that has time allotted for ordinary people. And when you spend time with them, love them, listen to them, encourage them, and give them truth. Live in such a way that when you leave they don’t miss you, they miss the love of God you displayed.

Love God. Pray always. Make time to love ordinary people. Keep the faith!