R. Andrew Douglas

A place for me to write.

Share your feelings. And then stop.

Most of the time it’s good to share feelings. Talking helps me figure out what’s really going on inside.

I want to look more like Jesus. I want to be more intimate with Him. People around me have helped me get deeper into the Kingdom.

But there are important steps in healing and transformation that only happen alone, between you and God. There comes a point when you need to listen to only one voice. Talking won’t bring you any closer to God. Other people will derail you.

At this stage in the process if you keep talking about your stuff, with the best intentions friends will try and talk you out of what’s happening. They’ll say, “Oh, that’s not really a problem in your life,” which dampens the conviction of the Holy Spirit. Or your friends will say, “Don’t be sad, let’s make you feel better by watching a movie,” which can bury a problem instead of healing a hurt. Or they’ll pile on and try and convince you that you’re actually worse than you thought: “Yes, I’ve seen that in you and I think God wants you to change this ugly thing too.” The Holy Spirit convicts. Too often we judge.

You need to trust the process. You need to trust that Holy Spirit knows you better than your friend, your mother, your father, your spouse… better even than YOU know you.

Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me and know my anxious thoughts;
And see if there be any hurtful way in me,
And lead me in the everlasting way. – Psalm 139:23-24

Sometimes you need to talk it out. God loves community and friendship.

But sometimes you need to stop talking and be silent… still listening but to just One voice.

Trusting someone who is good

I was feeling a bit down in the gills about something that felt important at the time.

Thank goodness God had spoken to me earlier that morning.

One of the prettiest parts of spring in Ontario, the trillium. They're everywhere on the Ranch property.

I’ve been reading about Moses and ended up in Numbers 14. The Israelites had rebelled against God… again. They chose to weep and grumble when they heard about the giants in the Promised Land from the spies that Moses had sent out. God was angry. “How long will they refuse to believe in me… they have disobeyed me and tested me ten times,” He said.

I wonder if things could have been different. What if, when the people saw the figs and pomegranates and grapes brought back by Joshua and Caleb and the other spies, they had danced for joy instead of “weeping” and “grumbling.”

God saw Caleb’s faith. “The Lord is with us,” Caleb said, even though circumstances might have felt otherwise. God told Moses that because Caleb had a “different spirit and follows me wholeheartedly” he’d see the Promised Land.

I thought about that for a while: Caleb had a different spirit – opposite from the Israelites who disobeyed and tested. The opposite of what the Israelites did is obeying and trusting. And you only willingly obey someone you trust. And you only trust someone you know has your best interest at heart – someone who loves you.

I know God is good. I know I can trust Him. It makes me want to obey Him. Throughout scripture he calls me to joy and tells me not to worry. Those are commands I’m going to choose to obey today, especially.

I'm sick

I'm in bed. Sick. With the sniffles. 

Our busy life goes on without me. It's dark. Anne's at the barn with the vet. The girls are eating leftovers at the Ranch. Cam's at a volunteer fire department meeting in the village.

I'm alone.

And God is speaking. 

Earlier I sat in a hot tub trying to sweat out the sickness. I read my book. And then I heard His voice, whispering: "Come to me."

I climbed out, dried off, grabbed my Bible, and curled into bed. The dogs took their places... content. I picked up where I'd left off in Mark -- the crucifixion.  

Simon of Cyrene, father of Alexander and Rufus, innocently passing through town, is pulled into service to carry Jesus' cross. Mark mentions his sons as if to say, you know Simon, he's Alexander and Rufus' dad. The readers, Christ followers in dangerous times, know the sons. The father carries a cross and fifty years later when the gospel is written the sons are following Jesus. A stranger pulled out of the crowd and generations are saved. His sons believe. They know the Father's love.

There's more, says the voice: Remember what I said about following me?I flip back the pages. 

Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. - Mark 8:34

Instructions for living -- a way to hear the sweet, beautiful voice. A lifetime I'll spend figuring out what it means to carry my cross. And as I do carry the cross, maybe a way to see my children walk in glory too. 

Sick.

In bed.

And the glory is falling.

Moving into reality

This is where we stopped 18 months ago in Redding, California. Five people and a dog wearily getting out of a stinky car, a continent’s worth of fast food wrappers and dirty socks spilling out onto the hot pavement, the car sagging beneath the weight of all our earthly possessions packed into the trunk and roof rack.

That was a lifetime ago.

Today, I’m leaving from the same parking lot, catching the airport shuttle to Sacramento. Maybe someday I’ll be back. I don’t know. I hope so.

I’ve just kissed Anne goodbye. She's staying in Redding until mid May so the kids can finish school. I interrupted an important meeting she was having with an instructor at a coffee shop. We kept it cordial in such a public place. We’re best friends. It’s hard to say goodbye, even when it’s for only five weeks. She's a radical, sold-out lover of Jesus. She knows God's heart. She’s so beautiful and wise and fun. We laugh a lot.

I said goodbye to the kids this morning. A quiet, "I'll miss you," from one. Another with eyes brimming with tears that say more than words or a hug can convey. A final giggle with another. I grip the steering wheel tightly as I pull away. 

What am I doing? I don't want to leave them. "There's more here than you can see right now," I sense Him saying. 

And He is good.

So now I’m alone, sitting on the curb in a familiar parking lot. My father-in-law would quote Harry Chapin right about now: “All my life’s a circle.” I’m back where I began.

Life’s a circle, maybe, but I wouldn’t recognize myself this time around.

Last time I was here my present condition seemed so real. My immediate circumstances were all that mattered. We were alone in a strange city. The obstacles we faced were almost overwhelming. There was nothing to hold on to, no one to lean on.

Eighteen months ago we had just rolled in from Canada. We’d sold our house, I’d left my career and friends and everything we’d ever known as a married couple and family.

We pulled into California after an exhausting summer ministering at camp followed by a cross-continent drive in a tiny car, hurtling down the highway into very uncertain tomorrows.

We had no house in Redding. So we parked our family for a while at the Oxford Suites Hotel. Crammed into two rooms – and then, when one week of house searching in a very tight rental market stretched into two – all five of us jammed into one room.

Emotionally, I was a mess. I was scared, angry and suffering through some serious doubts. Why had God led us here? What was I doing being so irresponsible? What pain were my kids going to endure, heading into strange schools without even a bed to call their own?

And then, the fog started to lift. First, our circumstances changed and we got a house. Then Redding became home. We got used to the new city, driving without the aid of our phones for navigation. The landscape started to look normal and the people seemed more kind.

Yes, the circumstances changed. But more importantly, my heart was renewed.

I started to taste God’s love and learned that He is good. I started to experience a greater reality where the brightness of the unseen makes the reality of the seen, fade.

My heart and mind are in a different place than they were then. I’m at peace.

I trust Him now. God’s been so good. My children have exploded in love and power. My marriage has been completely renewed. I have huge expectancy of His kindness.

Real is real. Only fools deny reality. What I can touch is part of what's real. Our bank account balance is real and we'll manage it with all the sound, logical personal resources God has given us. But that’s not the ultimate reality. And to steer your life down a road that isn't the most true path is dangerous. The on-ramp to the wrong way on the highway seems just as good as the right on-ramp until you see headlights coming straight at you.

The true reality is that God cares for us. He wants the best for us. He is leading us to greater things. He is bigger than my mistakes. He’s gracious. He loves me. Real is the fact that I've learned I can’t out-give Him.

I no longer set my heart on solving real problems. I set my heart and eyes on Jesus. My mind and my hands still tackle real issues. But my heart stays fixed on Him. I will not let my heart be troubled.

Our next stop isn’t much different from our last one. We’ve moving back into uncertain arrangements. We’ll park for the summer in camp beds. We’ll step into huge leadership boots to lead a large staff and a thousand campers closer to a reality of God’s indescribable love, sensing where the Spirit is blowing and trimming the sails and steering the rudder to pick up the strongest breeze.

But before then, we're on the move. Moves are jarring. They force you to think and reflect. 

I'm no super hero. What we did is what anyone would have done considering what we'd been through. It's my story, not yours. I'm not boasting in our sacrifice. I'm giving testimony of God's goodness.

These are uncertain tomorrows. All our earthly possessions could still fit into the back of our car.

And for us, this is life. It's life to the full because it's where we've been called. It's life with Jesus.

My reality is no longer just what I touch or the fact that, yet again, we’ll be sleeping in temporary quarters.

My reality is now much greater. God’s love is real.

And He is good.

Peace through praise

It's raining here in California. We need it desperately. The giant reservoir north of Redding that feeds the Sacramento River that in turns waters much of the northern part of the state is at 27% of normal. 

Yesterday I captured a breathtaking view of heaven over Redding on Instagram.

Yesterday I captured a breathtaking view of heaven over Redding on Instagram.

So the rain is good.

But, unfortunately, it reflects my heart right now. I did something mildly dumb yesterday. Not epically stupid, just something that backfired.

Sometimes it's easy for these kinds of things to throw me off. I get a terse email and I read way more anger into it than the person writing it meant. Or I look at some monumental task and see the mountain instead of the peak.

Luckily, God knew I'd need help this week. This Sunday at church, Eric Johnson mentioned Psalm 71 before his sermon. Even then, it resonated with me. 

"But as for me, I will always have hope;

I will praise you more and more.

My mouth will tell of your righteousness, 

of your salvation all day long,

though I know not its measure."

Psalm 71:14-15

I love the, "but as for me." Especially when everyone else is heading in a different direction, I will have hope. After all, Jesus died on the cross so that I can have life. 

I made a decision this week to praise Him more and more. No matter what, I'd worship Him. Even if my heart didn't feel happy, my mouth would tell of His righteousness, almost as if my voice was independent of my feelings. You praise and your heart follows.

I'm training myself. I've been praising a lot this week. During one long stretch of work I felt a desire to reconnect with God. So I paused and turned on IHOP-KC just in time to hear them sing:

"When you walk into the room, everything changes. Every heart starts burning. Nothing else matters more than to sit here at your feet and worship you."

Ah yes, God is good. 

And finally that last line of verse 15 of Psalm 71 -- "though I know not its measure." What a beautiful, inviting phrase that hints at greater wonders yet to be discovered -- greater treasures of His love yet to be found. 

It's been a good week. 

 

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Touch

Lately I’ve been reading through Matthew. Sometimes I’ll read a verse, sometimes a whole chapter. I read until I feel God prompting me to stop, and then I park for a while, letting Him speak, remind me of things.

But today I woke up troubled. I have a new job and there is a lot to do. This morning, all the work and targets and goals seemed overwhelming. I couldn’t keep my mind on the bible so I just prayed. I said, “God, help me. Show me how to pray. I don’t even know where to start. Show me a verse or something to give me hope.”

I sat there for a while, praying.  Then I had to get up and shower. 

My girls walk on water -- this time south of Long Beach, CA in December.

A week or so ago I hit Matthew 14. It’s the story of Peter who was in a fishing boat with the other Apostles. Jesus had told them to go to the other side of the lake. It was late at night when suddenly Jesus comes walking out on the water. Wild-man Peter jumps right out of the boat and starts walking out to Jesus… until he sinks and, terrified, yells, “Lord, save me!” So Jesus reaches out his hand and catches him.

I’ve always had trouble imagining how this all went down. Was Jesus crazy strong and just hoisted a grown man like Peter up out of the water with one hand?

I don’t think so. I think the same power that allowed Jesus to walk on water lifted Peter up too. All Jesus had to do was reach out His hand and touch Peter.

Five verses later, the disciples and Jesus have landed on shore. A crowd shows up.

And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.” (Matthew 14:35-36)

The crowd knew that all they needed was to touch Jesus. One, single, powerful, touch.

I don’t think it’s just by chance that both stories – where touch is featured so prominently – are so close together.

After I got up from my chair I went to shower. While I was in the shower I suddenly remembered this thing that happened to me a long time ago. It was when I first started to feel God’s love. I was remembering how much it rocked me. I actually started to tear up I was so overwhelmed remembering God’s goodness.

As I was drying off I knew God was speaking to my heart. He was saying, “You don’t need a verse this time. Don’t worry about making mistakes or asking for the perfect thing in prayer. Just know that I love you. I have the best for you. We’re in this together.”

All my worries faded.

One touch from God. That was enough.

No matter where you are, no matter what you’ve done, no matter who you’re with… everything can change with one touch from Jesus.

Now, close your eyes and hold out your hands, palms up.

Say, “Jesus, I want to feel your love. Take me deeper. I know you forgive me. Now help me walk on water.”

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Intersection

"The reason that Apple is able to create products like iPad is because we always try to be at the intersection of technology and liberal arts, to be able to get the best of both."

                                        - Steven Jobs, his farewell speech, March 2011

I spent Friday with an old friend -- a smart, thoughtful, hard-working, Godly man. I hadn't spent an afternoon with him in 20 years. He's become an executive at Apple. It was a powerful day. I knew it would be so I brought my son. I love using my favor to bring my kids into places they wouldn't otherwise be welcome. They're worth it and I trust them.

We toured the Apple main campus in Cupertino, California. My friend took us to a cafe inside the headquarters. We sat beside a noisy door that clicked loudly every time someone held their ID badge up to a reader to unlock it. And there were throngs of employees. Ten thousand of them work in this building. So we moved to a grassy lawn and watched software hipsters hustle past drinking tea out of fancy paper cups. After lunch we strolled aimlessly through the nearby neighborhood.

We talked and walked. Walked and talked.

And everywhere there were intersections.

As three Canadians, we admired the trees in the warm California January sun: God's creation. Crooked branches. Swirling leaves. Nature doesn't like perfect right angles. Neither did Steve Jobs. The Apple main campus is an enormous round building. Man imitating God using his inherited brilliance and heaven-given capacity to create beauty. An intersection point between Creator and creator.

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Apple-owned bikes are parked everywhere. Employees grab the nearest one to get to nearby buildings and then lean them up against the wall for the next passenger. Highly paid designers in the ultimate time-is-money environment peddling down sidewalks to their next meeting, brains released to wander, a brief breather in a packed schedule. An intersection point.

There were all kinds of intersection points that day. Memories of my youth meeting my hope for tomorrow in my son. The intersection between Canada and California. God and family and humility and compassion colliding with one of the most competitive, pressure-cooker work environments on the planet.

Life gets interesting at intersections. They're jarring. Summer camp is an intersection point. Device-addicted kids go back to the stone age of meat, fire and dangerous feats of strength and willpower. No screens, just wood and water. The experience can leave kids changed forever. Throw faith and God into the mix and summer camp becomes an explosive laboratory.

You can create your own intersection. Maybe you're best with a spreadsheet. Clear plans help you manage the unknown. But what if you asked an artist whether you should sell your house? It's a sound financial move, a good plan, but there's such beautiful light in this room, they might say. And the trees are so big. And small spaces invite tight community. Art and financial planning intersecting. What would happen?

Or maybe you're an artist. What would it look like to meet a lawyer friend for coffee and ask them for business advice? Art meets practicality.

Fire Within, by Miguel Cruz. Miguel uses wax, oils and full encaustics to create these deeply textured works.

My favorite artist is Miguel Cruz, a science-driven veterinarian by day, passionate, messy, unruly, raw artist by night. His work is a visceral rush of emotion splashed and carved into canvas. It's like his methodical brain that speaks in diagnoses and dosages is unleashed violently in paint and wax. The intersection produces brilliance that moves me.  

Are you an accountant? Go by the craft store on your way home and buy a canvas. Set up an easel in the spare bedroom. Throw an old sheet down on the floor. Paint. Ask God to meet you in color and mess. Read Psalm 145. See what transcendent beauty spills out of your God-given analytical mind. 

I think we'll be using intersection points a lot over these next years. I think they can be a path right to God. Forest meets hard-knock city kids. Businessmen meet horses.

When cultures collide safety nets are stripped away to reveal the heart. And once the heart is revealed... God moves.

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Digging for mysteries

Anne usually beats me to the big comfy chair in the living room, eyes closed but not asleep, feet up and chair clicked back, bible resting on her tummy on top of a mound of blankets, house still dark, worship music playing quietly in the background.

I leave her there.

I creep back to our bedroom leaving the kids a few more minutes of precious sleep before the morning routine begins. I find God as I sip on a steaming cup of coffee.

I start by turning on worship. Usually it's Jon Thurlow from IHOP-KC. He sings my heart. He looks hungry -- like he's not satisfied just knowing about God. He wants to know God, to see inside His heart. Books and devotionals and sermons can point to the Almighty but sometimes it takes an painter's brush to reveal deeper things. Thurlow is my artist. 

I sit. 

"Lord, I love you."

I open my hands. 

Lately I've been reading through the Gospel of Matthew. Sometimes I only get through half a chapter. Or half a verse. 

I read, "So don't be afraid. You're worth more than many sparrows." I stop, set up my tent, light a fire and camp there for a moment. I poke at the flame. I listen to the crackle of the wood. I give room for God.

I whisper, "Lord, speak to me. Show me how much you love me, how you don't want me to be afraid. Take away my fear."

Jesus loved to speak through stories called parables. Sometimes I get frustrated because the truth seems shrouded in weird tales involving irrational humans making unfair business deals or farming or going to wedding receptions. Why can't it be easier? Why does God make me dig for truth. Why not just tell me what to do, straight up?

Yes, it would be easier if the bible were a big database. Wondering how to deal with that contentious relationship at the office? Just type in, "dumb co-worker" and get step-by-step, what-would-Jesus-do instructions. 

But no, God wants relationship. He wants us to hear His voice speaking right now. 

Deciphering God's voice from your thoughts and feelings takes practice. Practice and space. When we pack our lives full of TV and movies and books and work and, and, and... we don't leave much time for relationship with Him. 

There are mysteries to discover about God. There are treasures. We're invited to dig. Read a verse. Pray over it. Look for verses that talk about similar things. Follow the treasure map.

Even if you wouldn't call God a friend yet, He's waiting. Start by reading the Gospel of John. You can read it for free at biblegateway.com. I'll even let you invite Jon Thurlow. 

God is good and He wants to show you His love. Grab a shovel and find a quiet corner and go treasure hunting.

 

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The reward of risk

I find an excuse to get it out almost every day.

I have big black boots. They squeeze my feet. With a short breath my rip-proof jacket with reinforced elbows zips up tight. My helmet slips over my head with a pull of the straps. I close my fists to feel my leather gloves wrap tighter around my fingers.

I choose routes with smooth corners and lonely asphalt, the pavement a blur beneath the pegs where my boots rest, my eyes scanning the next intersection for cars. I give into the G-forces as I accelerate out of a long curve, letting gravity push me deeper into the seat. I wait a second longer after a stop before tucking in my legs -- just as I did as a little kid holding my feet off the pedals going down a long hill, like wings.

There’s no music. No talking. No texts. My mind is free to wander far ahead down the road, thoughts zipping through the trees flying by on my left and right until they swoop back into my consciousness, a little more sorted than they were.

My motorbike is a beater. We’ll sell it in the spring for the price I paid for it. It’s hard to start and it’s got some dings in it. But at a red light it rumbles, ready to jump. The scratches don’t bother me. It's for daily commuting, not a rolling chrome showpiece.

If I roll my wrist too far on the throttle it goes fast enough to scare me.

It feels risky.

It feels dangerous.

But I’ve done way more irresponsible things in the past two years than ride. We sold our house. I quit a job I loved. We moved across the continent. We sold everything we have. We pulled our kids out of schools and friendships and dropped them in a strange culture.

And God has been good.

In fact, in my life it’s when I’ve rolled my wrists too far that I’ve felt most alive in the grip of grace.

When I’ve risked something, God has met me. Sometimes it’s a big step, a sacrifice. But more often the risk is small, born of love. Like when I listen to that small voice prompting me to stop for a homeless person, or I choose to lay down my life and desires and ego for a friend, or volunteer to pray for a stranger at church.

Getting used to risk is a muscle. Exercise it and it grows. I should know now when I’m standing with my foot in the air ready to step out, judging the scene, measuring the downside, calculating the risk, that God is there. But exercise makes you sweat and so does risk.

God meets me not because of the sacrifice I’ve made but because of who He is. In risk I’ve stepped out from under the security blanket I’ve woven and looked up to heaven and said, “I need you. I have nothing else. I am yours.”

Jesus was about love so when He said, “The kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Matthew 11:12), I believe He was talking about that wrecking, rippling, powerful love that overwhelms us.

He wants passionate lovers.

Forceful people.

Loving fiercely.

That’s what this world of car bombs and starvation and hopelessness needs.

May 2014 be a year when you roll your wrists too far. 

 

In November I took Cam for a ride and a short lesson. 

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