a world where there are octobers.

1 Oct

Octobers

Last night was spent like a lot of other nights here in Gainesville – gathered around a table made out of a door with friends at a house nicknamed “The House with the Yellow Door” (so named not for the table, but for its actual entryway.) We’re pretty good at finding any reason to celebrate, and last night was no exception… we were welcoming Autumn with a night of “Pumpkin Mania” – carving pumpkins while we indulged in pumpkin treats – pumpkin pie, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin beer, even pumpkin martinis. It was pretty fabulous.

pumpkin mania

Tonight on my run I stopped for probably a solid four minutes to stand and stare at the way the light was hitting a maple tree whose leaves are already brilliantly red.

Some of you might have noticed my Facebook status today:

fb status

Yep, I LOVE the season of fall. And judging by all of the other posts out there on the interwebs, it’s safe to say many of you do as well. It’s a season that’s easy to be excited about: football, outdoor fun, special pumpkin flavored food and drinks, a break from the heat, the clothes… oh, don’t even get me started on the whimsy of scarves and boots and hats and layers.

When fall comes there’s just this magic in the air that’s hard to pinpoint or put into words. And today as I was basking in the goodness that is the first day of October I started rolling around in my mind, what exactly is it that makes fall so special? Aside from the pumpkin spice lattes and watching SEC football every Saturday, what is it that really stirs my spirit in the fall? Why is it that something in my heart comes alive as the leaves begin to turn?

I think it’s because fall reflects some of the innermost places of our hearts. Our deep longings and desires, the things that we were meant to know and want and walk in. Here’s what I mean…

Fall is a season of abundance. 

It’s not a coincidence that fall comes with laden tables and feasts. It’s the harvest season, which traditionally means that food is plentiful, and as harvest winds down, so does work… which means there’s more time to enjoy the fruits of your labor – literally. In older times, people enjoyed the abundance of available fresh food before preserving, storing and rationing it for the winter. I think that even though we now enjoy the blessings of modern agriculture, technology and transportation, there’s still something about the harvest season – the season of abundance – that resonates with us. I think that the way we gather around the table in the fall to enjoy good food and great company hints at the abundance that we were designed to long for.

feast

Everything is richer in the fall. 

Colors are deep and saturated- burgundy, burnt orange, sienna. Flavors are full of spices and things that are toasted and roasted to bring out the fullness. Textures are exaggerated and extreme – plush blankets, fuzzy flannel, scratchy burlap. We experience this season with all of our senses. Nothing is half-way, and it speaks to the richness we long for in every area of our lives.

fall collage

The splendor of fall is uncomparable. 

Nature is just spectacular. I mean, come on. Our souls leap as creation bursts forth and brags about the One who created it.

leaves

Fall reminds us of the promise of Life.

Yeah, fall can be bittersweet because we all know what’s coming after the excitement of the newly crisp air and the pumpkin lattes grow stale… The cold, dormant season where life gets sucked out of beach lovers and annual flowers. But I think that deep down we appreciate fall because it reflects the rhythm of life. We know that things have to die down so that new life can come. That’s just how it works. It’s how it has always worked. And the most beautiful part is the promise that lies ahead. That life is coming. That Resurrection will happen. And so as the air and the colors change, I think our hearts leap a little with the reminder: seasons change. Death happens. But life comes. It always comes.

throwing leaves

So yeah, me too, Anne of Green Gables. I’m also so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.

Happy fall, y’all.

pumpkins

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From Below the Mountain Top

26 Sep

A few weeks ago I sat around the dinner table with a wine glass in hand toasting to the past and the present. These friends and I had reason to celebrate – we’d been back from the World Race for one exactly one year. As we clinked glasses, broke bread and reminisced about the best and worst of times traveling around the world I looked around and marveled at how different life is this year.

That night I sat at the table across from a friend who the year before I was starting a brand new relationship with. This year though, we’re just friends. It seemed like yesterday our African diet consisted of the most simple carbohydrates and we lifted cans of just ok african beer. On this night the food was rich, abundant, and nutritious and the wine flowed freely. Just over a year ago we were dirty and disconnected from the world as we were having crazy adventures in Africa, but that evening we were freshly showered, our cell phones by our plates so we could Instagram at any moment, sitting around a dinner table in small town Georgia. Yep, life is different.

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I sat at that table with friends that have become like family reflecting on the incredible year of transformation we experienced overseas together as well as the year that’s passed since then.

This was a year of transformation too, but not the same kind. Not the mountaintop, snap a pic and tell the story without saying a word kind of transformation. This year has been different. It’s been the gritty, subtle, in the trenches kind. The looking for Jesus in the middle of the muck kind. The kind that in the center of it you don’t think anything is happening and then suddenly you look up and are astonished at all the Lord has done while you were busy searching for Him.

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In some ways I think maybe I’m still in the middle of that. Maybe that’s why it’s been so hard to write lately – to tell the story of this year (you may have noticed the lack of posts.) Because the last year has been gritty. And subtle. And different than I ever expected it to be. Everything has been filled with nuance – my relationship with the Lord, the way I’m growing, the decisions I’m making. It doesn’t feel glamorous and to be honest, sometimes it doesn’t seem significant. And so it’s been hard to share the story.

But I think that it’s been in this place of nuance that I’ve started to encounter God in a new way. That I’ve started to see Him for the actual Constant that He is. Because the truth is He’s not just a Top of the Mountain God. He’s in the dirt and the grit and the grime too. He’s in the mundane. It was easy to see and feel and hear the Lord when I was preaching at a different revival every afternoon in Africa. Or when my life was being turned upside down every time I encountered another broken child.

But what about those days that I just sit and stare at the ceiling and wonder where God is and what the hell He’s doing in my life? This year has had a lot of those moments. And I think it’s actually moving me more toward maturity and fullness and intimacy. Because I’ve learned to meet Him there, too.

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It’s not that this year hasn’t been good. Oh, there have been some sweet moments. Lots of joy and laughter and feeling so grateful and filled up. It’s been a good year. But it’s just been different.

I’m thankful for the year that’s passed since coming home from the Race. I’m thankful that the Lord has become more real in the every day. That he’s spoken to me in whispers and small ways. That even when I was in the trenches, He was there.

So here’s to that kind of transformation. The kind that happens when we aren’t looking and when we can’t see it. The kind that happens in the subtlety of everyday life and the grit and the trenches. It’s different than the mountaintop, but it’s just as good, for its own reasons.

Cheers, and happy (late) anniversary, B Squad.

highest hopes

13 Jul

Today starts my first Adventures in Missions training camp as a staff member. Today, 250 young people converge on a college campus to begin preparing their hearts and their minds to launch as missionaries to the nations. Sixty of them are college students who will go on a nine month trip called Passport: Immersion. And get this – I’m in charge of them. For training camp as well as the whole time they’re on the field. It’s crazy. And exciting. And exactly what I’ve been looking forward to.

As I type this I’m watching car fulls world racers and passporters roll up. They are decked out head to toe in their squad’s color – either red, orange, blue, green or purple. Their packs stuffed to the brim with everything they might need, and the look in their eyes is one that I love seeing… a little uncertain, but full of excitement, expectation, and most of all… hope.

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I love this day – the first day of training camp. There is an awareness that is swirling in the air – something tangible that speaks of the new season that is about to break open for these people. And everyone here who has gone before them knows that once that season begins, nothing will ever be the same.

It seems especially fitting because the same thing is swirling in my life. The same excitement, a tiny bit of uncertainty, abundant expectation and most of all… hope. Lots of hope.

If fact, as this new season begins, the Lord has asked me not just to hope, but to dust off my highest hopes. To pull them back off of the shelf that I put them on and open them up and live in the middle of them.

And so that’s what I’m doing.

And this week, training camp offers me the perfect setting to live in the hope. Surrounded by 250 people who are leaking it everywhere, how can I not?

moving for a bit

7 Oct

While I’m on the World Race I’ll only be blogging from my official WR blog. Follow me there. And when I return, I’ll be back here. Until then…

http://reneedurham.theworldrace.org

Peace.

Living the Questions

2 Jun

i beg you… to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language. don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them. and the point is, to live everything. live the questions now. perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer…

(rainer maria rilke)

Live the questions – it’s better that way.

(i’m working on it.)

-R

Oh, the Places You’ll Go!

17 May

It’s one of the most quintessential gifts a graduate can receive: “Oh, the Places You’ll Go!” by a wise Dr. Seuss at his best. I received my own copy at my college graduation party. What a fun book! It’s filled with inspiration, advice, encouragement, hope, wonder and wisdom. Every time I read it I marvel at where I’ve been, new beginnings, possibilities, and how we so often end up places we never anticipated.

You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.
You’re on your own. And you know what you know.
And YOU are the guy who’ll decide where to go.

OH!
THE PLACES YOU’LL GO!

…Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So… get on your way!

 

As I began my life adventure post-college I was so eager to experience the world – new people, new places and new undertakings were on my agenda. I had big dreams and big ambitions, but even given no limits, I don’t think I could have ever dreamed or predicted that I would be preparing for the journey that is ahead.  And that’s the sweetest part, isn’t it? My life has taken a direction so much bigger than my own, and for that I am so grateful.

So, here it is… the locations I’m so excited about! The places I will go (World Race edition):

Guatemala


Guatemala is a land in indigenous history and natural resources — fertile soil from volcanoes yield excellent coffee! Beside the beautiful landscape, Guatemala needs God’s touch. Gripped by poverty and bound to a spirit of religion, people hunger for the kingdom of God to invade their lives.We’ll work to change the spiritual climate wherever we find ourselves.We’ll have the opportunity to extend God’s kingdom by sharing the lifestyle and living conditions of the people, reaching out to the fringe people of society, working hard, and maybe being a part of a miracle or two.

Nicaragua

This location is always a World Race favorite. Full of wonderfully warm and caring people, participants leave impacted by the new partnerships and friendships. Hopelessness, addictions, destitution, and poverty, however, plague many in Nicaragua. There are orphans who have grown up without knowing the love of a parent and families who survive by scrounging for scraps from the city dump where they call home. In Nicaragua, we’ll have the opportunity to bring God’s love through slum ministry, door-to-door outreach, children’s outreach, and more.

Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a hot spot for surfing and just enjoying “pura vida” – literally, “pure life”, it’s a concept of a “chill,” relaxed, laidback way of life. The beautiful beaches that line both coasts are the perfect setting. Among the Central American countries, Costa Rica (“Rich Coast”) lives up to its name. While the natural beauty attracts lots of tourists, there are still large pockets of poverty and family brokenness. Because of its relative affluence, Costa Rica also draws in immigrants from neighboring countries, like Nicaragua, who don’t fare much better than they did before. We might help feed their physical and spiritual hunger – and discover other creative ways to give new meaning to the concept of “pura vida.”

Thailand

According to the CIA, the kingdom of Thailand, known as Siam until 1939, is the only country in the region not colonized by Europe. Approximately 600,000 people live with HIV/AIDS in Thailand. With nearly two million people estimated to be forced into prostitution, it has become one of the most popular places for sex tourism. Here we might befriend prostitutes in the city or serve youth, care for orphans, and encourage a remnant of believers in the countryside.
 

Cambodia

Cambodia houses one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Angkor Wat, a Hindu temple and monastery built during the Khmer empire in the 12th century. It later became a Buddhist complex a century later, and today, just over 96% of Cambodia is Buddhist. Almost 30 years ago, 1.5 million Cambodians died at the hands of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge regime. Today, Cambodia is a source, transit point, and destination of human trafficking. Unfortunately, the government is struggling to stop it. The people of Cambodia are thirsty for the hope we can bring. 

Challenge: Asia
          ???

Will we forge further inroads with a ministry from the previous months? Or will we blaze a trail for our team and future World Race teams? This will be the opportunity for us to continue flexing our faith muscles as we depend on a few words of advice from the staff and mostly God’s guidance to choose the country and ministry we will serve in. With God, all things are possible and the possibilities are endless.   

Malaysia

Enter a world entrenched in Islam. A people within the thriving metropolis of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysians still live in ignorance of the Good News of Jesus Christ. As we delve into this culture of works-based religion, strong self-discipline, and uncanny faith, we will have the unique opportunity to deliver hope and point the people to their Redeemer.

Uganda

This East African nation was once an autonomous kingdom and British protectorate. During most of the later half of the 20th century, Uganda was under military rule, first under Idi Amin, the subject of the film, The Last King of Scotland. Northern Uganda was also troubled by the Lord’s Resistance Army, which heavily recruited child soldiers. Often referred to as the Pearl of Africa, Uganda is diverse in topography and wildlife. We may find ourselves in the north partnering with ministries that are bringing still-needed healing and reconciliation or in the south working with churches to evangelize and disciple the next generation of Kingdom workers.

Kenya

Who hasn’t heard of Kenya in their lifetime? The Kenyan people are colorful, musical, artistic and hungry for the love of Christ. The Maasai bush, the Nairobi metropolis, and the Kibera slums comprise a country diverse yet unified in history. As a new era dawns in Kenya, so does the gospel of truth and faith. By meeting felt needs in the bush and the city, we will help bear lasting fruit with current ministry partnerships (ministries like evangelism, orphan care, and community development), and build foundations of future partnerships.

Tanzania

Roughly a third of the population in Tanzania consider themselves Christian, another third, Muslim, and the final third adhere to indigenous religions. In addition to the religious and demographic diversity, the relatively stable nation also houses Mount Kilimanjaro. Whether we are doing open-air crusades, door-to-door evangelism, or visiting hospitals and orphanages, Tanzania is sure to capture our hearts.

Malawi

Known as “the warm heart of Africa,” Malawi is definitely a place that you visit to ignite yourself with the fire of God. This country has a beautiful landscape and an even more beautiful culture and population. This month, we’ll be helping plant churches, raising up leaders, and infecting the people with the love of God. I’m guessing we won’t want to leave.

Today, the journey ahead seems like such a long road. These places seem so far away, there are so many unknowns. And yet as I pray for each of these countries  – for the people there, the work our team will do, the hearts of believers, and those that we will serve – these countries have already begun to etch themselves into my heart. I cannot wait for these places we will go… and I also can’t wait to share them with you!

Peace & Love
-R

So I GO.

28 Apr

my race my race my race
my race, more than the color of my skin and the language I speak
More than a 5 or 10k
More than a run in the park awaiting for the sound of the gun to blast
to activate my stride, my step, my course
Destiny in the making, purpose for the taking
Awakened in a season, rather forsaken a reason for my being, the reason
for my seeing
the reason for my hearing, my speaking, my life, my choice
My longing to dispose of a comfort and a fear that’s recycled and reused
me for too long
Too many tears not poured into the right soil, the right soul
Too many years not reaping the ripe harvest, the right mind set in my ways
reevaluating my calling because I couldn’t calculate it
Reconsidering convenience because I couldn’t handle the leaving of home
The known for the unknown
The digital follow me’s that have kept me at ease, appeasing the heart
of me
Keeping the real followers at a distance for the scared of me
Status-quos, fb statuses for real life and unpredictable challenges
so grow and break the rest of me, realizing that all of Him is the only
best of me for them to see
I lost part of me in the process, part of me in the nonsense
part of me to get sense but not change, my life is worth more than
dreams that keep me dreaming and people waiting, keep me waiting
and people dreaming about a love so deep it keeps them gasping for His air
His breath to keep them breathing, His words to keep them believing
Longing for more of Him in the form of me and me longing for more of
Him in the form of them, so I go
        – Michael Perez, World Racer

The World Race released a new promo video today featuring a current racer from the September 2010 squad 2,  Michael Perez. He wrote this poem in Africa and the video was filmed in Kenya. What an incredibly powerful, inspiring and challenging message. Check it out and pass it on to anyone who could be interested in this life changing adventure!