They sure are pretty when they’re finished.

Patience……………….. .





Patience is hard. I don’t know about you but I’ve been in what seems like a holding pattern for EVER. Yeah, there are bits of movement, but sometimes it just seems like the glimpses of the future I see will never get here.

Years go by. Children get older. Friends’ lives change and I watch.

What seems just around the corner doesn’t get closer because you look down and find you’re on a treadmill. Do you relate?

Being patient is hard.

This morning I took a few of my children over to a friend’s house to teach them about the art of lapidary–rock polishing and cutting for those who don’t know what lapidary means. Don’t feel bad, I didn’t either. I just knew it as rock tumbling.

I was kinda familiar with rock tumbling before–as in, I know you pick out some interesting, but common rocks you find here and there, and then put them in a little drum that tumbles them and they come out all shiny and smooth and GORGEOUS.

 (A rock tumbler looks like this.)

But I didn’t know that it takes a really long time …relatively speaking. The tumbler mimics the natural processes of a waterfall and its pool of eddies and swirls, gravity and movement and the passage of time.

Still, it takes six weeks of continuous tumbling with short breaks to check the rocks and add a series of smaller grit media to the tumbler with your rocks. Yeah, six weeks! That seems like an eternity in our instant culture. [Don’t you hate it when you have to wait for a new season of whatever favorite show you’re watching to come out and you’ve watched all the back episodes already on Netflix/Amazon/Hulu/Cable?]

I can’t show you any pretty pictures of our shiny rocks because it hasn’t been six weeks yet. Today was day one.

Looking at the rough rocks and thinking about how they are going to spend the next few weeks in a dark place banging into each other makes me think about LIFE and how our lives are shaped that way by God. [I promise this wasn’t a setup. I hate sappy life application stories written just to push something Christian-y. This is not that.]

He uses natural and supernatural forces to shape us into polished stones. And it often feels like that–being tumbled around over and over as abrasives cut, scratch and rub off your rough edges and other rocks bang into you from every angle–all of us along for the ride.

And what are we to do? Endure. Be patient. Close our mouths instead of swearing. Release judgments. Take a deep breath. Or three.

I was going to say there’s nothing we can do, but there’s a difference between us and inanimate rocks. The illustration only goes so far. The Bible says that God took out our hearts of stone and replaced them with flesh.  That means there’s something we can do and something we can keep doing even if it seems like you have done it again and again and again and again.

Soften your heart. There isn’t really anything the rocks can do to make the process go any faster. The harder the rock and the harder the heart, the more time and grit it is going to take. At least the One running the rock tumbler knows what He’s doing.

Father, let whatever sharp edges are still in me be smoothed away. Help me to lean into the abrasive and receive your work in my heart.

Until then:

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.
(Galatians 6:9 ESV)

[W]alk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
(Ephesians 4:1-3 ESV)

They sure are pretty when the process is finished.


Marriage Is Not A Democracy

I couldn’t agree more.

Tim's Blog - Just One Train Wreck After Another

I’ve read much on marriage over the years. Some is wonderful, some is funny, some is heart-wrenching and some is just plain stupid.

Here’s one of the worst: In a marriage the husband and wife each have a say in making family decisions, but if they don’t agree then the husband has the final say. They both get to vote; the husband’s vote just counts more.

Marriage isn’t a lopsided democracy

Marriage isn’t anything like a democracy. The Bible says that in marriage the woman and man become one, and that means they act together. There’s no tie-breaking vote because there’s no vote taken in the first place. It’s about working together at all times, mutually submitting to one another at all times, and going through life together at all times.

Why is it so hard for men-get-the-deciding-vote people to see this is what the Bible really teaches? I hate…

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Crabs in a Bucket

I’ve heard the “crabs in a bucket” story so many times as an illustration of how people hold each other back from escaping to freedom, but I’ve never seen a video of it. Here’s a great 20 second clip showing just what happens when one crab tries getting away to pursue his own dreams:

Your adventures will require boldness and conviction. They will require a good map, a good compass to keep you on track, and a destination worth getting to.

Take heart and don’t let the crabs keep you from moving up and out to where you’re supposed to go.

What Does God Really Want?

Copyright Jason Stern - Isaiah 58 Arbor

In reviewing a chapter of the book I am writing, a friend mentioned that something I said reminded her of Isaiah 58. I was discussing the futility of earning God’s favor through asceticism (severe self-discipline) and it made her think of what God told Israel. Here’s what He said almost three thousand years ago:

“They seek me daily and delight to know my ways, as if they were a nation that did righteousness and did not forsake the judgment of their God; they ask of me righteous judgments; they delight to draw near to God.

‘Why have we fasted, and you see it not? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you take no knowledge of it?’

Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure, and oppress all your workers. Behold, you fast only to quarrel and to fight and to hit with a wicked fist.

Fasting like yours this day will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? Is it to bow down his head like a reed, and to spread sackcloth and ashes under him?

Will you call this a fast, and a day acceptable to the LORD?

“Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of wickedness,
to undo the straps of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the defenseless, to shield him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?

Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry, and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

If you take away the yoke from your midst,
the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,
if you pour yourself out for the hungry
and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,
then shall your light rise in the darkness
and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually and satisfy your desire in scorched places and make your bones strong; and

you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.
And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of streets to dwell in.

…for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

(Isaiah 58 ESV, mostly)


God is good — and He doesn’t change. He’s been trying to tell us all along that he is not interested in treating our relationship with Him like a monetary exchange. He does not need us to pay Him off with bribes and He does not respond to our acts as though He is required to perform.

The Gospel — the good news — is that God sent His Son to pay the ultimate price for us so that we could be free again. He bought us out of the slavery of sin and judgment and adopted us as heirs. And He isn’t asking us to pay Him back. The price is too high. We can never accomplish it.

Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

So what does God really want? He asks us to humble ourselves and to accept that freedom — and then boldly mount up and follow Him.

There are adventures to accomplish. Let’s go!

Live Life… Boldly

Mike Turner and Andy

Nearing the lake, the hiker stepped onto a large boulder that shifted precariously under his weight. Instinctively, he leapt. The rock ahead was solid but tilted up at an awkward angle. His boots hit, and slid. The boulder behind kept coming, closing the gap. Just as his legs slipped off the edge, the boulders slammed together, catching the man above the knees, pinning him as if in the jaws of a trap. – Jeff Rennicke, Backpacker

So many times it seems that as we navigate life, the guidebooks are written in a foreign language, and when we do study the map, only part of it is there. 

I suppose if ‘happily ever after’ was easy to get to, there would be no stories: no tales of wonder, no hearts to win, dragons to slay, lands to conquer.

And sometimes ‘happily’ comes after ever.  As it did for a local pastor named Mike Turner, the hiker mentioned above. Mike died up there in the wilderness of Wyoming. And in the long last eleven days of his life, he journaled. He journaled his pain, his sorrow, his loss, his faith, his trust and ultimately, his readiness to meet God — much sooner than he’d imagined.

In a documentary narrated by his hiking partner and best friend, Mark Smith, this morning we learned the tale of this man of faith who lived by a creed to live life boldly.  Mike died in his prime, on an adventure designed to take him to nature where he could get closer to God.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him.
(Job 13:15a ESV)

At the beginning of his journal, Pastor Turner wrote of hope:

You send the winds and rain and yet even amidst the deep savagery and destruction of life, I sense your hand. In threatening my comfort, even my life, you challenge me to cope. In beauty and peace you refresh me. And all of it I need…God bless this trip. May it fulfill your holy purposes.”

After being pinned by the boulder, he wrote of doubt:

“God is with me but I am angry with him. Why this terrible injustice, or is it the product of pride? This sense of wrestling against God or the angel of God is distressing. What can I do against God?…I don’t want to be fighting against God’s will. How am I failing him or what does he need me to teach? What is the purpose of this ordeal? Will I ever know, or continue to be puzzled, angered, and feel quite abandoned by the one I serve?”

And in his final hours, after ten days, water gone, no longer hoping for rescue:

“Fill me with peace, Lord. May the conditions not deny my love for you…I am ready to die, though missing my family. To live is Christ. To die is gain…I will trust in God though he will slay me, yet will I trust him, he is the way, the truth, the light.”

What of this story, then? A cautionary tale to some, a story chronicling the death of a saint to others. How do we reconcile these thoughts, this loss?

Mike’s unexpected journey touches us as it encapsulates the unknown and the known – a short tale often stretched over decades of our own lives. How do we live responsible adult lives and yet recklessly take up our cross and follow Him?

How do we follow Him wherever He might lead? After all, respectable Hobbits don’t go on adventures. It’s not culturally acceptable.

The thing that keeps nibbling at me — and maybe it has all my life is this: Are we supposed to be respectable? To whom are we attempting to gain favor? Are we called to live lives of quiet desperation or even quiet quietness?

Is there more to this life than “living and dying– trying to make it through the day?*”

Sure, it’s peaceful to sit next to a pleasant fire with a nice book or kick back and watch a football game.  Or just to go to work, punch the clock, tuck the kids in bed, hit the alarm clock and repeat.

Yet. Yet… do you feel the FIRE in you deep down to do something? … to follow the Lion of Judah in the adventures of YOUR lifetime?

Because we only get to do it once.

Pray with me: Lord help us to live life boldly and with conviction. Amen.

May We Live Life Boldy.

*Bonus Points if you know the reference!


Copyright 2014 Jason Stern

It’s 2015 and that means it’s time for a new Word for the Year.  I don’t do resolutions.  Instead, I prefer to set goals and objectives.

We’ve been going through that healthy exercise with our family this week.  All of the children and Andrea and I are praying and considering what we want to accomplish this year and what steps it will take to get there.  We start out with general drafts and then refine them into something doable.

Last year, we joined the community in praying and asking the Lord to focus on one word for the year that will help shape our vision.  My word for 2014 was adventure.  Because of that, I spent more time thinking about the adventures I had hiking, writing, driving and living life out loud here in Idaho.  This year, my word is BOLD.  I believe God wants me to be bold this year in being who I am, sharing what I’ve learned, and forging ahead to new places.

Andrea is still praying about her word for 2015, so hopefully she will join in soon and share her reflections on 2014 and thoughts on 2015.

I encourage you to find your word for 2015 and keep it in the back of your head. You might be surprised at how much it pops up in your life.

– Jason

The Sabbath Means “Party!”

You’ve probably never heard a sermon like the one I preached this past Sunday. Let’s call this an introduction to an oft-neglected part of Scripture: The Sabbath.

Click below to listen and then let’s discuss.

I’ll expand some of these thoughts in the next few blogs, but for now here’s a teaser:

What happened to the church being the center of fun? The center of activity? The center of life in community?

Also, I want you to consider that last blog post in this light. This is going to be a fun discussion.

– Jason

The Fly Gospel

A fly is a perfect example of the status quo.  Young or old, a fly doesn’t change, and it remains the same size throughout its adult life.  Even after death, it does not rapidly decompose. Too many followers of Jesus are living a “fly gospel” that produces nice people rather than saints; that stands for convention rather than adventure; that is respectable rather than passionate; that calls for guarded, take-care living rather than heroic, take-risks living; that is more at home with the status quo than with living on the fly.

To drive rich trades at the bank of heaven requires not more work, but more play.
– Leonard Sweet, A Well Played Life
Great book by Sweet. I agree with him that it’s time for a Christian Play Ethic.  God is a Master Artisan and He made us to be so, too.

Out of the Dust… Out of Us.

This song (video below) has been my heartbeat lately. We’ve been playing it as we worship together and since I’m the drummer, the beat gets in my head.  But more than that, it occurred to me this morning (in the shower, ha!) that this theme is my life. When I create something new as an artist, a writer, a photographer — and especially as I see new life being given to us by the Father in the form of our eleven children, I can’t help but marvel that HE makes beautiful things — out of the dust — out of us!

Enjoy! – (Sorry I haven’t blogged in a while. It’s been a crazy summer!  And we had a new baby. And bought a bus. WHY didn’t I tell you about all that? [looks sheepish])