Nehemiah and Jungle Pastors

Special Guests: Beth Moore, Lisa Harper, and other people we all love.

On Feb 1st, my 3rd bible study releases,Nehemiah: A Heart That Can Break. On Feb 3rd, I leave for the Amazon jungles of Brazil for the 2nd Annual Jungle Pastor’s Conference that several dear friends and family launched last year with Ray of Hope. Without being overly dramatic I feel attached to Joshua’s words to the Israelites before they were to cross the Jordan, “Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you.” This is a sacred time as I look back over a year of studying and writing about Nehemiah, with two trips to the Amazon thrown in. It is not lost on me that 3 days after this study releases I will have the privilege of meeting up with 65 modern-day Nehemiahs, 40 of them pastors and 25 of them pastor’s wives. We will gather together for the 2nd time in jungle history to study, worship, fellowship, catch piranha and eat a lot of tapioca. (I am personally packing Kind Bars this year.)

Last year with Pastor Jucimar. He traveled 17 days by boat to get to the conference

I can’t describe in a blog post the impact that last year’s conference had on me, though I am contemplating writing a book about my adventures. More on that when I recover from the pounding I took from Nehemiah (half-grin). In the meantime, it would mean so much to me if you think to cover our time in prayer. Essentially my dad will be doing the lion’s share of the teaching, while I and a few others will be teaching the wives – okay, in reality they will be teaching us by their very presence, it’s just how it works over there. Many of these Brazilians will leave several days ahead of time because it will take them that long by boat to get to where we’ll be. On my side of the equator I just don’t know this level of zeal for God, His Word and His people. Like I said, they will be teaching me.

My dad’s the one in the middle. Jungle pastors on either side

On another note, please, please join us for tomorrow’s (Feb 1st) free webcast that begins at 11 AM (CST). I hear Beth Moore, Lisa Harper and a couple other surprise guests will be dropping by to say hello. I can’t wait to share with you in person what this book has meant to me, and the word is we’ll be doing a little cooking on the “show” as well. Rumor has it that Lisa Harper will be showing up with onion goggles. What more needs to be said.

Stuff I’m Writing And Reading

As some of you know I spent all of last year studying and writing about the book of Nehemiah. Well, I did other things like eat and sleep and complain about how “hard” this all was. I traveled some and cooked as many meals as time would allow. I spoke a lot and met a lot of people which was fun, but I discovered after all these years that I might be a bit of an introvert. I realized, while sitting in the midst of my bible, commentaries, laptop, and utter silence, that this space made me very happy. More than all these little joys however, steeping myself in Nehemiah has changed me, and I hope it will do the same for you. The study and videos release on Feb 1st, but more about all this in the next few days…

In addition to what I’ve been writing, I want to share with you what I’ve been reading. *First, a little disclaimer. Throughout 2012 I really want to share with you the books I come across and love, even if I don’t mesh with every word. So, in the spirit of “Hey, we may not all agree on every page or idea, but the overall message is absolutely riveting and I understand the author to be sincerely biblical,” here are two must-reads:

First up, 7 by my friend Jen Hatmaker. I say friend because we’ve talked maybe twice since we met 6 years ago while at an event where we may have conversed for all of 10 minutes. I say friend because I follow her on Twitter and now FB and we occasionally write warm and/or sarcastic notes to each other. Mostly, I say friend because Jen is the wife of a pastor, has adopted two children from Africa, written a book about mission and sacrifice, and has done so because of Jesus. See? She and I are tight.

I highly recommend this read. It will stretch, challenge, and prayerfully sculpt you more closely into the image of Christ. And, her writing is so full of humor you may find yourself laughing while all this gut wrenching conviction is taking place. She’s sneaky, that Jen. To find out more about 7 click here and/or to check out her hilarious and extremely challenging blog click here. If you read and love it, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Next Up: Mark Batterson’s The Circle Maker. This is a book on prayer that I haven’t even finished yet, but I can’t possibly recommend it more highly. His stories of what God has accomplished through the church he pastors, National Community Church in Washington, D.C., are utterly mind blowing. God has been teaching me more and more about prayer over the past couple years and this book reminds me that we haven’t yet scratched the surface of what God desires to do in our lives when we petition, throw ourselves before Him and seek His face. Mark is a down to earth, accessible writer, though his stories are anything but ordinary. This is a great book to start off your new year. You can check out The Circle Maker by clicking here. I think it’s already on The New York Times Best Seller List.


Happy New Year

The Minters attempting a poised family photo.

Poised Family Photo.

I’m about to pluck the ornaments from the Christmas tree and wrap the lights into a quasi-organized ball of tangles. The mantle will be cleared, and my Vietri santa sugar and creamer that my Mom graciously splurged on for me will be put away until next November or so. The shimmering green, silver, and red wrapped Hershey’s Kisses will remain on my dining room table until they’ve been eaten, because I think you can get away with those well into January. It’s when you’re offering them to guests in August that they become a problem.

Gathering up the Christmas decorations and making way for a new year’s reality can be both disheartening and invigorating. Though I’m always sad to see the holiday season come to an end with its family gatherings, rich foods, post-season football games, times of relaxation, and of course its unparalleled focus on Christ’s birth, I am usually ready to begin the year anew. Like most of you, I’m sure you’ve been pondering the experiences that you were ready to see vanish into 2011 and the ones you hope to see dawn in 2012. I hope the following will be of some encouragement to you…

I was reading in I Samuel 25 last week, and was stirred by a phrase in verse 28 that will usher me into the new year. The following words were spoken by Abigail to King David, “…the Lord will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my master, because he fights the Lord’s battles.” I don’t know what battles lie in front of you, but in the spirit of transparency I have wasted precious moments of my life fighting battles that were not the Lord’s. I have spent valuable nights worrying about relationships I wasn’t supposed to be in in the first place. I’ve needlessly toiled over obstacles in my career that weren’t part of God’s plan. I’ve fretted over finances when the Lord had already promised to provide for my needs.

When I read the above words that characterize David’s life, I was inspired to specifically seek God’s direction for this coming year. “Lord, I don’t want to waste valuable time that I can never get back fighting battles that are meaningless.” This year I want to learn more of what it means to fight where it matters. Whether it’s struggling in prayer for those in the Amazon region of Brazil, studying the Scriptures, designating money to the needs God has put on my heart, spending time over coffee with those who could use encouragement, learning a new skill, cooking a new dish… I want to contend where God’s asked me to.

How beautiful that according to John 15, we don’t have to do this alone. Christ is the vine, and we are the branches that naturally grow out of that vine bearing the fruit He authors. I am excited for this coming year; Thankful for what God has done in my life in 2011, and looking forward to the ground He will ask me to fight for. In the meantime, I’m going to cook some kale, cannellini bean, sausage soup for tonight, and watch pieces of the numerous college bowl games. I may even take a nap.

Thank you so much for your incredible support of me over the past few years. I am thankful for each and every one of you, even if we have yet to meet. May God’s favor rest upon you in 2012.