What if the Bible isn’t true,

that Jewish people invented the concept of God to make life easier?  And Jesus is a hoax?  That no God exists who is great enough to control every tiny decision of trillions and trillions of living creatures on land and sea of Planet Earth, along with all the thinking of all humans all the time?  Hurts my head imagining such a God, as the Bible claims.

Atheists need great faith to imagine the origin of all this, but so do followers of Jesus, and so do agnostics who don’t even want to think about the origin and maintenance of everything.

If the Jewish people had such a need to invent a Creator/Sustainer of the Universe for their sanity, because they were so pathetically fragile and insecure, I can understand that, because I’m just as pathetically fragile and insecure.  I neeeed to believe in a sovereign, loving Creator, and the message of Jesus, for me to have the amazing peace and I joy I have at times, regardless of circumstances.  I am weak and needy.  I am happiest when I’m a dumb sheep, and most miserable when I’m trying to be my own shepherd, captain my soul, master my fate.  I’m sticking with Jesus.  If that causes skeptics to pity me, oh well.  Bring on the pity.  I am so pathetically weak, that I need a Crutch, to get through my day.

–DumbSheepDave, small-brained barnyard animal who desperately needs a Shepherd to keep rescuing him from himself

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The worst thing about being DumbSheepDave,

is being humble.  My flesh hates the lowly place, clueless place, weak place, childlike place.  So it’s initially painful when the Spirit freshly convicts me of my independence, and I’m moved from being confident, competitive JudgeDave/ShepherdDave, analyzer/critic of all, down, down, down, to lowly DumbSheepDave, pitied by the strong, but indifferent to their pity.  Enabled to love them.

Once I’ve been freshly convicted/humbled, ahhhh, life is beautiful, peaceful, joyful.  Again.  Nomatter the circumstances.  I’ve concluded that the normal life of a believer, is moving back and forth between between sheep and shepherd.  Or trying to be shepherd.  Nicest, sweetest, kindest thing He ever does for me, is to freshly convict me of my sin of independence.  Ahhh.  Priceless.

–DumbSheepDave, having the best year of his life, hoping the pre-believers are noticing the difference Jesus is making

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My flesh thinks I will find love,

from performance/somebodiness, which is a conditional form of love, but my soul wants something better — unconditional love.  The flesh’s strategy for happiness depends on conditional love from others and self, a strategy that leaves me empty, unsatisfied.  By contrast, the Jesus-dependent’s strategy for happiness is to experience unconditional love from Jesus, and from self.   Ahhh.

Example.  All my adult life I have been captivated by cool, fast cars, and currently own one.  But my flesh is a bottomless pit of need, never satisfied, always thinking about the next one.  I’m an expert on them all.  I’ve finally concluded this hobby is dangerous to my soul.  Distracts me from Jesus.  So I’ve decided to end the hobby — stop looking for happiness in cool, fast cars, in automotive perfection, because this pursuit strokes me in a dangerous direction.  Independence.  Strong.  Winner.  ShepherdDave.  This decision is a death to my flesh, and painful, but the vacuum motivates me do what I can to experience unconditional love from Jesus and self.  Ahhh.  Priceless.  Incomparable.  Ultimate selfishness.

Interestingly, as I experience unconditional love from Jesus and myself, I find it so easy to extend unconditional love to others, even enemies.   Surprising.  Amazing.

–DumbSheepDave, enabled more than ever to ignore his flesh’s desire to be ShepherdDave, hoping the pre-believers around him are noticing the difference Jesus is making in 2013

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I love to judge everything,

and everyone, including myself.  Excellent, poor, mediocre.  I love having and articulating opinions on many issues.  Makes me feel strong.  ShepherdDave.  Winner.

I do not love being a dumb sheep, feeling weak, clueless, helpless, powerless.  Always needing to be rescued.  Loser.  I continue to be surprised at the strength of my hungry, needy flesh, and how much it gravitates to the right-side-up kingdom of this world.  Winner.

–DumbSheepDave, happiest when embracing the lowly place, hoping pre-believers are noticing the difference Jesus is making in 2013

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Impossible for me to love enemies.

I don’t have that kind of power.  I need Jesus working in my life, to do the impossible — love/enjoy/cherish those whose values are so opposite.  

So what can I do?  CONFESS my sin of unlove/contempt/ superiority/self-righteousness.  Jack Miller said the starting place for faith, is conviction of sin.  True for me.  The more the Spirit convicts me of my sin of independence/pride, the more faith/dependency I have, and the more dependent I am, the more the fruit of the Spirit oozes from my life — love, joy, peace.  And I get zero credit.

Instead of confessing, Satan wants me trying hard to obey Jesus, because there is so little power in human effort.  The watching world yawns at the difference Jesus makes in my life when I try hard to obey Him.  Self-reliant, independent, human power.

–DumbSheepDave, happiest when he’s depending on his ShepherdJesus, hoping the pre-believers around him are noticing a difference

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Wife of young missionary doctor with cancer,

team leader in rural Uganda, pointed me to Jesus today, through her story.

–DumbSheepDave, always needing to be reminded he’s a dumb sheep needing his ShepherdJesus

On Wednesday, we headed back to the Infusion Center for Round Three of chemotherapy. School is out so the kids went to the lake with my mother for a few days of fun and, honestly, so they would not have to be here when Travis is sick from the heavy medicines.

I had only stepped out of the waiting room for 5 minutes to call the kids to find that in my absence, Travis was holding hands with another woman!

A bit taken aback, I sat next to him and he introduced me to Virginia, an 80 year old angel who came to pray with us.

Previously, in the elevator to the Infusion Center, we had made small talk with Virginia before heading to our separate treatments. The typical: “You hanging in there?” “Yep.” “How about you?” “Yep, hanging in there.”

As her treatment was finished, she passed by Travis on her way to the elevator and heard the Lord tell her to pray for him. So, she turned from the elevator and told Travis, “I will pray for you every day” and then got on the elevator. Once inside, she heard the Lord say, “Virginia, why didn’t you pray for him then?” She replied, “Oh, Lord, I am sorry! You meant to pray right then too? Ok! But how do I stop the elevator?”

So, she rode the elevator to the bottom floor (because she did not know how to stop it) and rode back up to the Infusion Center. There, she proceeded to pray over Travis from top to bottom and loud enough for the other patients nearby to receive the blessing of her prayer.

And that is when I walked in and found them holding hands. Once I heard her story, I joined them in the hand holding.

And maybe that is what prayer has been for us lately. Hand holding. Like Aaron who held up the hands of Moses so that there would be victory. Like Jesus who reached out his hand to a drowning Peter who had started looking at the deep dark water surrounding him. Like Virginia who is bold enough to ride the elevator back up and hold our hands to remind us that God is with us.

I admit my theology of prayer is a bit wobbly right now. Maybe I am just growing in my understanding of how much I don’t understand the deep mysteries of God.

But what I do know is that God invites us to pray to Him. Alone in tears. Side by side in earnest. And with hundreds, thousands, in chorus, asking him for mercy and healing.

On Wednesday, we threw “the egg of disappointment” into the marsh. Every three years, World Harvest Mission gathers together for a week of teaching, singing, prayer, and just plain fun with other missionaries that are serving in some very hard places in the world. Instead of getting on the airplane to the Team Leaders meeting and then Mission Wide Conference, we were pleading with the airlines for a refund of our tickets. And instead of heading back into Bundibugyo to lead a full summer of interns, new ministries, and welcoming new missionary families, we sit with other cancer patients receiving chemotherapy and waiting for the side effects to subside. Yes, disappointment, indeed.

That is why one phone call was good medicine for our souls. As we were waiting to meet with the oncologist, Josiah Bancroft called us from Spain and we heard the voices of the hundreds of other WHMers that had gathered for the phone call and prayer. Our field director Scott Myhre began the prayer and then was followed by numerous teammates and friends who poured out prayers for courage, strength, and healing. Though we were continents apart, it felt like we were side by side, holding hands, speaking to the same Lord, and being held close to His heart.

When we decided to serve overseas, the advice we continually received was “gather a prayer team.” And we did. And you have prayed us through some really gnarly things: malaria, tribal conflict, dangerous traveling, sick friends, broken relationships, border violence, dengue fever, the need for teammates, and many times when we could not get an email out to ask you to pray, but knew to pray anyway. What a blessing to have a “prayer team” now! Hundreds of friends whom we can email to ask to stand with us, kneel with us, pray with us. To hold our hands.

Our mailbox has been overflowing with kind letters from people who remind us that they are praying each day for healing for Travis. Letters from fifth graders, former colleagues, people we have never met, friends overseas, and even from the “prayer warriors” at Leath Female Correctional Institution in South Carolina! They remind us that their friends are also praying for Travis. It is both humbling and encouraging. And needed.

Please continue to hold our hands in prayer:

Praying for courage to continue in treatment when the road of sickness seems so long…
Praying for the chemo to kill cancer cells and for no loss of feeling in Travis’s fingers…
Praying for faith to take today for what it is and not worry about tomorrow…
Praying for our hearts to be tender to the heart of God and to others who suffer…
Praying for our children to lean into Jesus when their world is shaken…

And we are praying for you too. As Travis is awake throughout the night, he prays for you. If you would like for him to pray about specific things, please email it to us.

Holding hands with you,
Amy and Travis

When I feel alone,

pressured, with a problem to solve, like it’s up to me, or when I feel confident-but-intense in attacking the problem before me, I need the Spirit to freshly convict me of my sin of independence/self-confidence, so I’m returned to Jesus-dependency, curious and expectant to see what my ShepherdJesus does next, in me, others, circumstances.  And thanking Him for me, others, just as we are, and Himself, and His perfect plan for my life that cannot possibly be improved.  Ahhh.

–DumbSheepDave, who loves his life as a dumb sheep more than he can express, hoping the pre-believers around him are noticing the difference Jesus is making in his life in 2013

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“When I strive for excellence,

accomplishment, performance, worthiness, righteousness, I will receive love from others and from self.”  This is the unconscious lie I have believed since high school, perpetrated on me by the world we live in, outside the Church and inside too.  I never understood why I have been such an over-achiever.  I always thought it was a good thing to be ambitious, hard working, dedicated, conscientious, concerned about my appearance.  I never understood that what I’ve been looking for, is love.

It was really helpful for me to go through World Harvest’s Sonship Course, and to spend the next 29 years discipling others to live out of the reality of being unconditionally loved by the Creator of the Universe.  In fact, I am convinced I would never have been able to look inside to see the major dysfunction/neediness I see today, had it not been for years of soaking in the Good News of His unconditional love for me.  But I came to realize, that I needed something more than His love.  I used to be a world-class people pleaser, desiring love from others through my performing well, appearing well, or loving them well, but that has dissipated over these 29 years, to where today I don’t feel the need so much for others to love me, admire me; I now have more of a healthy indifference; the idolatry has significantly dissipated.  Most of the time it’s none of my business what others think of me.

But.  It has become my business what me thinks of me.  I’ve begun to see how much I need me to love me.  And when my focus is on performing/accomplishment/goals/judging-myself-and-others, I’m distracted from loving the real me, and Jesus, and others.  I am using me, to get what my flesh thinks will bring me self-love/self-acceptance.  My flesh is woefully deceived.  My performance addiction or my judging addiction or my appearance addiction will never satisfy my need for me loving me, just as I am, just as Jesus loves me.  Jesus doesn’t love me more when I do more, do better: He loves me just as I am.  My performance/judging/appearance addiction — another way of talking about my flesh, doesn’t care about the real me: it only cares about my perceived worthiness/righteousness in the eyes of others and myself, when I win, and delivers self-contempt when I fail.  This is not self-love, but conditional self-love.  Lousy love.  No love at all, really.  My flesh uses me to get what it wants, to get what it thinks will satisfy my craving since childhood that I never understood I had — my love-vacuum.  Human accomplishment, reputation, somebodiness, will never ever satisfy a love-vacuum, because a love-vacuum needs unconditional love.   Jesus created us humans this way.  But not even the unconditional love of  Jesus satisfies my love-vacuum.  Unless.  I am enabled by Him, to accept, enjoy, love, myself, unconditionally, just as He loves me unconditionally.  I’ve believed for 29 years that Jesus loves me, just as I am, and now I’m coming to also experience the love of Dave for Dave, just as Dave is, the inner Dave, the true Dave, and this is satisfying my soul, filling my love-vacuum.  Ahhh.  Priceless.

All humans have a love-vacuum, and most try and get it satisfied by performance, or relationships, or judging, or better, by Jesus, but as long as the devil can keep a believer from loving him/herself unconditionally, the believer will be a workaholic, performance-aholic, over-achiever or under-achiever, constantly judging others and self, living on the edge of burnout or in the middle of misery, without joy and peace unless things momentarily go his/her way.

So these days, when I notice myself intense, hurried, or judging others/self, it’s a red flag, indicating that I’ve been snookered again, into a performance-based, pride-based, strategy to fill my love-vacuum.  Conditional self-love never works, never satisfies.  Pride.  Thank You, Jesus, for thwarting my attempts at getting my need met by performing/judging, instead of me enjoying the me You have been creating over these 71 years.  Just as I am, warts and all.  Thank You that I don’t get distracted from unconditionally loving You and others, when You enable me to unconditionally love myself.  Thank You for opening my eyes to see that dying to self, is dying to selfishness, dying to conditional self-love, dying to pride, dying to achievement-addiction, judging addiction, appearance addiction, being wise in my own eyes, leaning on my own understanding.  My flesh would love some of the credit for this awakening that is only due You.  Get used to disappointment, Dave’sFlesh/ShepherdDave.

My flesh needs worthiness, but my soul needs love.  Love from Jesus.  Love from Dave.  Unconditional.  A loved soul is a loving soul.  Loving others, even enemies.  Loving Jesus, and His perfect plan for my life, which includes suffering, sometimes brutal suffering, for my growth in Jesus-dependency.

–DumbSheepDave, experiencing like never before, the abundant LIFE, that his ShepherdJesus promised, hoping the pre-believers around him are noticing the difference Jesus is making

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