Remembering Mark

Rob and I received unfortunate news this week. Dr.R. Mark Beeson of Granger Community Church passed away. I first met Mark when I was eighteen years old when Rob started working at Granger Community Church in 1992. Rob and I spent the next 22 years of our lives leading with Mark and Sheila, serving Jesus together, walking through hills and valleys, and often awestruck at the miracles happening in our very presence.

Mark was a man who loved Jesus with all of his heart. He gave every breath for Jesus, his family, and the Church we built together. There are no words for this loss. Rob and I will be processing this significant loss in our lives for many years to come.

Mark spent hundreds, if not thousands of hours pouring into us everything he knew about Leadership. Directly off the plane from our Honeymoon at Disneyworld, we drove to some small church in the middle of nowhere, Indiana, to hear a guy named John Maxwell talk about courageous Leadership. Over the years, we spent time together at scores of leadership conferences at Willow Creek and Saddleback Church in California.

For Mark, leadership meant service. He served by doing things like parking in the furthest away parking space so others could have a better parking spot. He mowed our 2 acre lawn once while Rob was in Sudan and my girls were very young. When we obtained the land to finally build a building where the Church could meet after meeting in movie theaters for so many years, I remember Mark coming out of the six-foot-tall weeds, grinning ear to ear. He said he’d been walking the property and praying for those who would stand to meet Jesus there in the years to come. There are countless memories like these.

Mark was the first person to teach me about wildlife photography. Once I was showing him some photos of mine that I thought remarkable. He kindly talked to me about what makes a photo come alive. He said, “When you look at a person or an animal, what is the first thing that signals life to you? What reflects joy and radiance? It’s the eyes! Through eyes, we see the essence of a person or creature.” He smiled and told me, If you can capture the essence of a living being through their eyes, you will always have a fantastic photo.” He was so right. His photography skills were stellar. I am a better photographer because of Mark and his passion for capturing the essence of what is alive in a picture.

Mark gave Rob and me our first real hiking boots when we were young and would hike miles together in the mountains. Another time, he gave our kids a huge tent so we could go camping as a family. Once, Mark brought the girls all mini-Cabela’s flashlights so they could go on adventures together. He loved adventure and gave us more opportunities than we could ever count to do just that.

Those adventures brought so much richness to our lives. We circled the globe a few times, landing in places like the Taj Mahal, hiking desolate trails on the Sea of Cortez, and Jimmy Carter’s boyhood home where Rob and I had the privilege of a lifetime eating a barbecue lunch with Jimmy and Rosyln Carter. We were able to travel back and forth to Southern India countless times. In India, I learned about church planting from men and women practicing microchurch before microchurch was a thing.

Those were all thrilling and extraordinary opportunities, but the one memory of Mark that I will hold close to the rest of my life is of him at Camp Adventure in Syracuse, Indiana. Mark met Jesus at this United Methodist camp when he was in seventh grade. When Rob and I stepped into his life in 1992, I never imagined I would learn most about Jesus’s gentle heart and what Heaven on Earth looks like from leading middle school camp with Mark and Sheila.

We served at camp together for seventeen years. Mark masterfully created an environment of life, love, and joy that I have only rarely seen since. I remember walking Maddie to the restroom way after camp light’s out one night. We saw Mark with his hand on the wall of a cabin, head down, praying for the campers inside. He did this every night of every camp he ever led, and only a very few knew. His heart for middle and high schoolers and how well he loved them molded and shaped me more than the twenty years of Willow Creek Leadership Summits or John Maxwell conferences ever taught me.

We will miss him. His life and legacy will live on through us, our kids, and many generations of kids to come. I am so deeply and profoundly grateful for the lifetime of things he taught me over the twenty-two years we served at GCC together.

We will see you on the other side Mark. Rest in the arms of the Savior you love so deeply.

All of Creation

God’s creation is something I have been in awe of my entire life. Growing up in Chicago, my world included much concrete and not a lot of natural wonders. My bedroom window faced the sunrise, and I always loved watching the sun pop up, gray and dismal as Chicago could be at times. The light of the sun always brought me joy.

Living in that environment caused me to look harder at what was around me in nature and see beautiful, wonderous things many people walked past without noticing. I would lay on my roof, watching the clouds go by at night, gaze up at trees while sitting next to them reading. Once, we found a snake, and it was the most fascinating and fantastic thing that happened to any of my friends and me for that whole summer. We carried it around in a bucket to show all our less than excited adult neighbors. To us, this garden snake was an exotic creature. An alien could have landed on our front lawn, and we would not have been more excited or surprised.

I have to say, since moving to Kansas, my appreciation for snakes has declined a bit. Kansan snakes are scary, big, and some are venomous. I won’t be carrying any around in buckets, nor encouraging anyone else to do so.

I am, however, always in awe of the sky here in Kansas. I have never seen more colorful sunrises and sunsets, and they fill me with deep joy. The sunflowers, too…standing in an ocean of yellow as the sun rose on the edge of the horizon was a sacred moment, full of God. Capturing moments like those in words or photography will always be a challenge, but I am up for it. I want to share God’s artistic genius with the world so they will know and love Him, see Him for who He is, a wise and wonderful God who made all of it for us to enjoy.

Rebuilding Church in the Pandemic Storm

This post is for the women and men that have invested their lives in full-time ministry. It’s for the volunteers in churches worldwide that have had their lives and ministries interrupted because of the worldwide pandemic. It’s for those who love the Church and are doing all they can to keep it together.

I know you. I know you started in ministry because you have a wild heart with audacious tenacity. You have weathered storms no one has seen. You have fought battles on your knees and in board rooms. You have spoken up for the poor and the weak again and again. You work so very hard.

Rob, my husband, has been on Zoom calls hours every day since the pandemic began. Every day he speaks to pastors and church leaders around the country in crisis counseling through these troubled times. Some of the stories he tells me are remarkable. Some are tragic. Some leave me to hope-filled and others not so much.

Never in recent history has the Church been faced with the challenges we have in front of us now. Many churches have decided to open their doors so members can come to the weekend service. Many have not. Perhaps many churches will not make it to the other side of this pandemic intact. Church bodies that are stage-centric and dependent on Sunday attendance to maintain normalcy are shuttering windows and closing doors. These churches are filled with godly people with godly leaders, leading with wisdom and grace, but they are not immune to the ripple effects of this global crisis we are all facing.

With all of this happening, I see an ever-brightening glimmer of hope and light on the horizon. The Church of Jesus, the one that exists outside of church building walls, is ever more alive. Microchurches are springing up from where the Gospel has been planted in communities. In the KC Underground, we have 26 microchurches and have experienced a six hundred percent growth in the past year. It’s fantastic, to say the least. Small communities of people gather together in homes, workplaces, baseball games, rodeos, and many other places, multiplying growth and leadership by planting the Gospel, studying God’s word, and building disciples. These microchurches are mission-minded. They are not watch parties gathering to watch a video of a sermon; they are studying the bible, reaching lost and lonely people, baptizing, and growing their faith in Jesus together.

In our neighborhood, we meet on a driveway a few times a month to share a meal, do a Discovery Bible Study, and share what we are thankful for and where we need prayer. It’s been a great way to get to know our neighbors, especially during this very trying time.

While we are in this mush pot of political turmoil, racial unrest, and the worldwide pandemic, I hope that the Church worldwide will begin to think outside of the ordinary Church on Sunday box. How necessary is it for all of the church members to come together once a week, pouring mega dollars into lights and sound equipment, stage management, etc.? How can we begin to think of Church without a stage? Can that be a thing? What is the way of Jesus in this?

Let’s use this unprecedented time to rethink our intentional and unintentional racial biases. What are we doing in our churches that promote anti-racism? Anything? What is the way of Jesus in this? There is an epidemic that is so deeply entrenched into our culture; many don’t even realize it’s there. But it is. Racism is a systemic evil that needs our immediate attention. The Church in our nation needs to repent of our ineptitude and disregard for the cries and pleas of People of Color-Ignoring them or shaming them and setting them straight will not be tolerated by their Father God, who created them. Let there be light. Let there be joy and love and freedom. Use this time to examine your heart and your leadership in these matters.

We have the time. We have had to restructure. There are no excuses to leave these issues untouched as we begin to rebuild.

Are you going to rebuild your Sunday audience or rebuild disciples, so they are capable of planting the Gospel in their neighborhoods and networks, or even leading a microchurch?

We can all do better. Don’t skip the hard stuff on the way to rebuilding your audience. Look at the methods of Jesus and the early Church.

Big churches with big budgets, buildings, and staff are not wrong in and of themselves. They can Be instruments of tremendous blessing to their communities. So many of them are! I’m just talking about shifting a mindset away from keeping attendance high on weekends toward something else. Drawing crowds is easy. Building disciples into missionaries isn’t

Know that you are not alone. You are never, ever alone. You don’t have to do this work on your own. We have this chance to rebuild. Don’t rebuild alone, and don’t rebuild the same.

Let’s kick racism’s ass.

Let’s give more to the poor.

Let’s equip men, women, and children with the gospel message that Jesus loves them so deep in their souls that they cannot help but return the gift by loving their neighbors well.

God is good. He is in this. He was in the storm before, and he is here with us in the storm now. Ask Him to still the waters and waves and ask him to show you the way home. I know he will. God is able. He can do immeasurable more than all we ask or imagine.

Regardless of where your Church is or what decisions you have made, I’m guessing it’s been challenging. While the pandemic is still in full swing, the heat of the nation is rising around politics and racism. Never before have we experienced all of these things at once. An intensely heated political battle, a worldwide pandemic, and the embers of racial justice all heating us in a stew pot of feelings, mixed emotions, and strong wills.

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Last weekend, our family and a few friends from the KC Underground attended a rally for radical change, led by an African American church in our community. At the very last minute, I was asked to pray to begin the rally.  I was instantly and forcefully terrified. All the self-doubt thoughts came flooding in at […]