Merry Christmas!

I’m writing this blog from Clear Lake, SD. We took a 4.5 hour drive in my Uncle’s borrowed Pacifica, all the while dealing with the smell of a mouse who crawled up the heater and built a next and probably stole the air freshener from the cabin to build it. It smelled rank. We tried to crank the heat and burn the smell out, but it pretty much just left us cold AND smelly from having the windows down.

My favorite part about Christmas is, of course, family. This year, I’ve already enjoyed- a lot- helping my cousin Dayton learn a bit more guitar. You know, I feel so much better about myself and life in general when I’m giving. It may be just taking time away from the tube to teach guitar, or whatever the case may be, but when I invest into people, especially younger than myself, I get a great sense of accomplishment and I feel proud.

This week I got to worship with Rachel Ranfranz a lot as well. There is nobody alive whom I have more of a connection with in worship than her. Worship is my #1 priority in life, and if God ever allows, I would love to do it more often.

Tomorrow my cousin Amy will be back from the military for Christmas! Yay! I am also excited because for the first time in 20 years I’m going with my grandparents to the Hutterite colony for duck soup!!!! I remember VERY clearly eating that soup when I was little. But I haven’t been back sense. Man, I’m eager!! I’m also excited because it is such a different, arguably better prioritized culture. (Hutterites are like the Amish). I really, really am looking forward to it!!

The plans to visit Peru are coming along nicely! It now looks like Steve, myself, and maybe one or two other people will be going. Steve and I decided on a pretty rigid schedule the first week, but at the end of that week we will be crossing over by catamaran into Bolivia and then will have a week to bum and decide what to do. I may even end up taking a flight to Chile, Argentina, or Paraguay if I have enough money and time. Talk about COOL!! The first week we will be doing Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu (YAY!!), train to Puno and Lake Titicaca (no joke, that’s it’s name!) and then over to Bolivia. I’m considering seeing the floating islands and the tribe with knitting men while I’m down there. Could score some cool gifts I imagine.

Anyway, I didn’t get a chance to send out my famous Christmas e-mail this year. Perhaps later, but regardless I wish everyone I know and who reads this a very, very merry Christmas and a blessed new year! Love in Jesus, Justin.

5:30

My brother Travis is having some personal trouble lately. I have been praying for this man for years, and over the last few weeks my prayers have felt “different”. Usually I feel like I’m praying against a brick wall, but recently I started picturing Travis looking at God and saying, “Hey, that’s not so bad!” as he looked at Jesus and saw how cool He is.

Things have changed for him recently, and he’s going through a rought time. I’ve felt great about this, because I believe God will finally have him. And today, for the first time, I was surprised to feel in my heart as I talked to the Lord that Travis will definitely be saved. And I got the time 5:30, although I’m not sure if that is for me or Travis, or what it is for yet. But this is a big thing.

There is a verse in the Bible that I would like to share with you. Romans 4:18. It is speaking of Abraham, and God revealed to me an aspect of the kingdom and faith that many people don’t latch on to.

“Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be. “

Read that again. Carefully. “Who AGAINST hope, BELIEVED in hope!” Abraham had no hope. He DIDN’T “feel” it! But He BELIEVED that God could do all things, and so prayed and believed against that brick wall before him. And as he did, that brick wall started to crack, and eventually the dam gave way to an outpouring of God’s love and mercy so extravagent that we are still talking about it to this day. Don’t get me wrong, it was all God. His will, His desire, His mercy. But Abraham pushed in against hopelessness. AGAINST HOPELESSNESS.

Have you found yourself in a situation where you didn’t believe even prayer or God could come through? Do you know somebody that when you pray for, you just can’t find any feeling in your heart that they will ever be saved?

Break that wall. Push in until God honors your faith and smashes that wall for you. He loves it!! He honors it, and He is searching this earth for a person who will believe against hopelessness so that he can make them the father (or mother) of many nations. That is you! That is your destiny!! Will you grab onto it?!

Awesome story

With everything God has been showing me lately, this story spoke to what God has been telling me. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but I could honestly say that I can see myself in this man, and I pray I can be even more like this. “It’s all about the relationships!”

The Cab Ride I’ll Never Forgetby Kent Nerburn
Twenty years ago, I drove a cab for a living. One time I arrived in the middle of the night for a pick up at a building that was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away. But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.
So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute”, answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80’s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing”, I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated”.
“Oh, you’re such a good boy”, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice”.
I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers”.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware–beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

Rock Climbing

So tonight I went rock climbing with my buddy Steve (video will be on MySpace tomorrow!) It was my first time officially doing this, and it was pretty fun. I love heights, so I was bouncing around like a monkey every chance I got. Repelling was definitely my favorite part. Mike Culver came as well, and he did great.
Afterwards Steve and I went to Chipotle and gorged ourselves on the heavenly bliss that is Chipotle soft tacos and burritos. It’s almost unbelieveable that place is owned by McDonalds!
My back and neck are now really tight, though. I figured that would happen.

Smells

Today I felt the need to see my parents again. Thankfully, they were available, and I picked up some Rainbow Cafe food (our favorite) on the way there. We hugged and talked and laughed at Everybody Love’s Raymond together. That’s what life is all about. I especially enjoy my relationship with my parents. They are great, loving, and Godly people.

Before I left I helped them start the movie (at the theatre they own and live above), and standing in the entryway I smelled the strange mix of popcorn, warm radiator vent, and other theatre smells. To me, that is home. That smell reminds me of many good things. It reminds me of my parents popcorn, which is the best in the business. It reminds me of the night Grumpy Old Men played and the line was down the street. It reminds me of sitting there and enjoying the movie, and taking tickets, and how much I love meeting new people. Of the dignity and pride I felt in knowing that it somehow belonged to me. But mostly, it reminded me of the love of my parents. Funny.

I had a teacher once who named off, “gasoline, tobacco smoke, dirty oil, roast beef” in class to start a lesson. After we were thoroughly sure it smelled nasty he told us it was the smell of his parent’s house (and my Grandparents, consequently). They were farmers, and had gasoline and dirty oil on their clothes, a roast in the oven, and his dad smoked a tobacco pipe. After he said that I remembered the smells at my Grandma and Grandpa Hawley’s house and decided he’s right- those are great smells, and even better mixed together. Not because they inherantly are, but because my mind created a relationship between those smells and the rest, love, peace, and warmth of that place.

Dear reader, I pray that every smell you encounter in life is filled with great memories.

Simple life.

God has been restoring to me the importance of the simple relationships with him and others as the cornerstone of the Kingdom. Nothing on earth is more important. Not fasting. Not being productive. It’s all about the relationships.

Today after church I got to hang out with Dan and TJ Hiebert, and TJ’s sister Shannon. It was a very fun evening! They are all great, Godly people with awesome senses of humor. Thank you, Lord, for a great day! Bless my new friends!

I got to play with Derek Loux today and yesterday, and one of his songs really spoke to me about something. I am a Godly man, but on occassion I sin in a way that I know is sin and I do it anyway. And then I have to work through the aftermath of the mess I created! (That sucks!) His verses, “A bruised reed, You will not break. You will not crush. For You love mercy. A dying flame You shall not quench. You shall not quench. For You love mercy,” really spoke to me. I may feel at times like my flame is going out. Like I have sinned that fatal sin, and judgment feels more like my companion than the purity and righteousness of the Lord. But God doesn’t give up on me so easily. He will put more tinder on the flame if it is necessary, and gently coax it into a roaring fire. He loves me. He would rather bless and is a patient, gentle God. It is SO refreshing to know that God is a God of mercy, grace, and love. THANK YOU, JESUS!!