All posts by Jonathan

Husband, father, friend, disciple, teacher, thinker, encourager, rider, runner, giver.

Fragile

middle Rhine bridge
Mittlere Rheinbrüke

It happened around the time I was 37.2 years old. How do I know that? …because I was on a weekend retreat called The Walk to Emmaus and someone made a comment that the median life expectancy for an American male was 74.4 years. I did the math instead of listening to the speaker. Give or take a few days, my life was exactly half over! Sure that was only statistically, but it was a real wake up call for me. I barely heard anything else the remainder of the evening. I kept repeating in my head, “My life is half over. I only have half of my life left!”

It’s a humbling thought to consider how temporary and fleeting this life is. In James 4:13-15, the Bible speaks of our lifetimes as “a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” Even Sting the pop star has a beautiful song with the repeating chorus “how fragile we are.” I’m not sure where I heard it, but I say this phrase a lot, “Life is terminal.”

So am I a fatalist? Am I a Debbie downer? No. I’m really a guy who’s very hopeful and optimistic. Those of you who know me well… help me out here! Here’s what I’m trying to say. If your life is half over, what are you going to do with the rest of it? Pastor Chip Ingram tells of a retired church member who long outlived the 74.4 year average. This elderly gentleman showed his wisdom when he told his pastor, “If I would have known I was going to live this long, I wouldn’t have spent so much time working on my golf game.”

Valerie and I both celebrated birthdays this month, our first since heading out to serve in international missions. It’s not been easy, but every day of our remaining “37.2 years” is a gift from God that we wanted to give back to Him. Yes. We’re another year older. Yes. My half-way marker was awhile ago. But I love the Apostle Paul’s words paraphrased by Eugene Peterson, “So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace.”

2 Corinthians 4:16 [The Message]

No matter how young or old you are, not a day goes by without His unfolding grace. Not a day. I hope that you will experience that in your life and make the most of every day you are given!

Photo note: This picture was taken at the halfway point across the Rhine River in Basel, Switzerland on the Mittlere Rheinbrücke or middle Rhein bridge.

The Days Ahead

The path to Omaha Beach, Normandy, France
The path to Omaha Beach

Two down. Only one resolution remains. I’m not sure why we set resolutions each year, but I think part of it is so that we can cling to some tiny piece of false control when we look ahead at the unknown in the 365 days ahead. Thankfully my final goal that remains has a lot more to do with God’s great love and less to do with my daily habits or personal performance.

Last week, I ran across a story, one of the “behind the scenes” pieces of the Israel’s Exodus and the Ten Commandments. In Exodus 33, we catch an amazing dialog between a merciful Heavenly Father and His reluctant but willing servant, Moses. Note: this is the same righteous, “Old Testament” God who brought death and destruction earlier in the story; both are part of His divine nature.

In verse eleven, it says, “The Lord used to speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.” That is an amazing statement that stands in sharp contrast to the gods of other religions who are defined by their inapproachability. This is centuries before Jesus arrives in Bethlehem, an unmeasurable example of the Father’s love for His creation!

Because Moses has already been a witness, an undeserving recipient of God’s grace, he reminds Yahweh of the bond they have and the promise He has given. “You have said, ‘I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.’” But he also makes a confident request of the Lord, “Show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.”

We have that same opportunity to come before a God who loves us. Because of Christ’s death on our behalf and His resurrection, we can speak directly with him “as one speaks to a friend.” This is true no matter where we are geographically, politically or spiritually! But even if you don’t want to “be God’s friend,” His words to you in this new year are still the same, “I know you by name, and you have also found grace in My sight.”

So how will we respond? Well, that is my last remaining resolution. In 2011 I want to consistently ask my Heavenly Father, my friend, “Show me now Your way, that I may know You and that I may find grace in Your sight.” Maybe you can make it your prayer too. Another one of God’s character traits that Valerie and I can tell you is true… He is faithful! If you want to know Him better, just ask Him. He will do it. You can experience His love and grace in 2011.

Our Holiday Greeting

Please take 35 seconds to watch our Christmas eGreeting. Thank you to all of our friends, family and supporters!

We survived the first semester at Black Forest Academy. Final exams have wrapped up and other than a final grade report and lots of prayer and planning for the spring semester, we get a short break. Jonathan hopes to get some “fun” reading in, maybe some painting in the house and a few fix-up projects. Valerie is looking forward to doing some interior decorating, maybe some knitting or painting, and definitely more reading (she’s become quite a book worm!)

It’s hard to describe the joy we are feeling during this holiday season. We have so much to celebrate! It’s difficult though, because we’re far away from our family and friends. It’s in these moments of missing the ones we love that we’re really able to understand what missionary families and BFA students must feel during the entire school year.

Pray for the kids during the Christmas break, that they would have a peaceful, meaningful time with their families. Pray for strength and patience as we continue to adjust. Most of all, pray that the world would know the true meaning of Christmas… Jesus the Christ-child has come! Emmanuel, God is with us!

PS – Sign up for our eNewsletter or visit our DONATE page to make a tax deductible, year end donation.

Blessings and Beauty

We hope you take time to celebrate God’s loving kindness this week. We have much to be thankful for! As we’ve spent time with the Black Forest Academy students and visited places near our home, we’re especially grateful for special memories that lie among the long days of serving and encouraging others. We wanted to share a few pictures with you from the past three months that are reminders God’s blessings and beauty.

BFA Volleyball - European Div. II Champs
Basel, Switzerland on the Rhine
St. Martin's, Colmar, France
A blue gate just down the hill
Our little church in Riedlingen
Waterfall north of Kandern
The Swiss Alps
The Swiss Alps at our faculty celebrity nude retreat
Beautiful, delicate flowers near the pathway
Bottle tree outside a local shop

This Is Not My Home

It was just a few weeks after we got here to Germany. We came home from a long day and saw a piece of mail at our door. Inside the oversized envelope was a picture, a beautiful, artistic print from our friends back in Arkansas. It made us cry. We remembered our house in Sprindale, our dog Boy who wasn’t able to come with us, our families and friends who seemed so far away, the many faithful supporters who have sacrificed so much for this ministry… and we cried.

The print was an porno gay original drawing by Amber Perrodin of their house, a place where we’ve spend many hours over the past two years. It brought back more memories. But the hand-written, cursive words just above the roofline hit me the hardest. This is not lesbian videos my home… five simple words. They have not left my thoughts since then.

If you’ve ever visited a culture unlike your own, you’ve discovered that you do things differn’t than some folk. Not just other countries. Cities to rural areas. Affluent to impoverished. East to west and north to south. You do things differently and what you do will often tell others where you’re from. There are folks who don’t know what Rotel is and have cartoon porn videos never tasted a black eyed pea. There are folks who have no idea who or what a Tim Horton’s might be or that a brat is something you soak in beer and cook on the grill not spank or put in time out.

Now I’m guessing some of you have had the thought that Springdale or Arkansas or the United States is home for the Griesses, right? We do miss it and the milf porn comfort and familiarity of being there, but those locations aren’t home either. You see, as soon as Valerie and I signed up for this whole “follow Jesus” thing, back before  we met, we became like aliens in a foreign land. If were really doing it right, what we do everyday should look different than what people when they follow other gods. Our actions and decisions should look weird or strange to people who see death as an ending and earth as all there really is. This place here on earth and this life full of struggles is not our home.

Jesus understands this. He was a foreigner too. “He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.” (Eph. 2:17-19) He came to bring peace and compassion to this world of confusion, anger, loneliness and turmoil.

He came to help us see past all the clutter and the things that make us feel attached to this place; a place that’s gonna look a lot different when He gets done with it!  Our home is with Him, with the saints who have gone before us and with everyone else in the family we have been adopted into. That gives us strength and reminds us why we are here, not to make a new home or survive until we can go back. We’re here to bring peace and welcome others into the household of God.

You can view the This Is Not lesbian porn My Home image in the “prints” milfs gallery on Amber Perrodin’s website.