The blog is back

So I figured today would be as good a day as any to resurrect the blog that’s laid dormant in the deep recesses of the internet for almost two years now. Actually, this is something I kept telling myself I’d do soon but soon hasn’t had a deadline until now. That deadline is July 2. Boom! punch in el estomago de procrastination.

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A lot of big things have happened but I’m pretty sure that anyone reading this is, for the most part, pretty current on our goings on. The main reason I wanted to get this blog going is to keep you up to date on things the Lord is doing in our lives and to keep you praying for us as we continue to run this race.

I will, however, fill you in on a little bit of what else we’ve been up to. First of all, there’s six of us now. In February our daughter Naomi was born, evening out the sides and making our family an even 3 dudes/3 ladies. Levi the Canadian is doing awesome. He is a brilliant, hilarious, chubby two year old who pretty much fits in anywhere except for his jeans. Ruthie is now six and is growing up way to fast. She is doing great with school and is an all around awesome kid. Johnny is seven. Geeze. He’s already got two seasons of baseball under his belt and caught more fish that most people ten times his age. He’s the best old brother that any of his siblings could ask for. Rachel is the glue holding us all together. I could write and write about her but you’d be better looking up Proverbs 31. I don’t even want to speculate on where I’d be right now if it wasn’t for a completely supportive, sacrificial, understanding, loving, patient, perfect, smoking hot wife.

People ask me all the time how I’m doing. I usually just say that I’m living the dream or something. That’s such a tough question and more often than not is asked without seriously wanting to know the answer. I’ll pretend now that someone has just asked me and I’ll answer for reals:

“Ryan, what’s up homie? How are things?”

“Things are good. We’ve all been really busy but keeping it together. The Lord has been moving us in directions that we would never had pursued on our own. Over the last couple years we have been forced into corners where we have had no other options other than to trust in God for His provision and direction. I strongly believe that the strengthening of our faith as well as new doors that have been opened to us are direct results of us submitting all to The Lord. It’s usually counterintuitive and almost always goes against the counsel of the world but as Brett likes to say, “There is no safer place than in the will of God.” I know there’s no place I’d rather be.

Rachel, myself, and a solid group of good friends have recently started a home fellowship over in Tampa in an area that is in need of some Bible teaching. We are waiting on The Lord, being patient, flexible, and letting Him lead it in His timing. It’s an exciting time and I can’t wait to see where He takes it but at the same time I am thoroughly enjoying where we are right now. You can be praying for that.

In my quiet time I have come back ’round to Acts. Which is super encouraging and timely being that we are in the same situation as many of the folks in the first few chapters of the book. I love how there is so much emphasis placed on waiting on The Lord and being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit. The church starts with them going to Jerusalem, praying, and doing nothing until the Holy Spirit shows up. I think that this should be the broad instruction for the Church in everything absolutely. However, in a more focused aspect, this needs to be our direction in all we do as individuals too. In our decision making, our thoughts, ours hopes and dreams, etc. “Unless The Lord builds the house, the workers labor in vain.”

I am encouraged by Peter in the first couple chapters of Acts so far. A man who we are used to acting quickly in the flesh in the gospels is now filled and led by the Holy Spirit. You compare his response in Luke 9:33 where “Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out…” to where he is now in Acts 4:8 where “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said…” and you see a man who has been truly transformed by the renewing of his mind. A man who, being obviously untrained and uneducated, makes the religious leaders marvel because they can tell that he has been with Jesus. My prayer is that it’s obvious to those around me that I have been with Jesus.”

So you wanna know how you can be praying for us? Be praying that we will be being filled with the Holy Spirit. That as I am excited to see what The Lord has planned in the future I can be focused on the ministry I have at hand. I don’t know if it a result of our culture or what not but it is a dangerous trap to be so focused on our goals that we forget or even worse neglect the opportunities that we have right in front of us. I think one of the best examples of this is Paul, especially in his time in prison. Never once do you hear Paul talk about how he’s biding his time so he can get out and get to work. Rather, in Ephesians 6:19-20, he asks for prayer that he may open his mouth boldy to make known the mystery of the gospel of which he is an ambassador in chains! Now I’m not literally in chains but I can sometimes lose focus on the work at hand. Please pray for me that in the opportunities that I have that I will be able to open my mouth boldly to make known the mystery of the gospel of which I am also an ambassador.

Other than that, all is good. The family is great. Catching big fish and keeping on keeping on.

Grace and peace,
Ryan

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The last couple weeks

Sooooo….

The past couple weeks have been a whirlwind and super busy, all culminating with a long awaited Labor Day weekend at the beach. I’m sunburned, I smell like fish and squid guts, and I’m more full on pulled pork, collard greens, and bacon wrapped/jalapeno stuffed tator tots than I have been in a long, long time.

We said goodbye to what has been our home for the past year at four in the morning on Monday, August 22nd. We will, no doubt, miss it. Our experience in Canada has been, for lack of a stronger word, invaluable. I say that for several reasons. First, the growth that Rachel and I both experienced was unreal. On a spiritual level I feel that we have both grown tremendously. The Lord has shown me things over the past year that I don’t think would have been revealed had we not been obedient and ventured out on this journey of faith. I have learned to become all the more reliant on Him for everything; provision, direction, guidance. Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “trust in the Lord with all our your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all you ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” I’ve learned through many experiences this past year how true that really is. Aside from our spiritual growth on an individual level, I feel we have grown in maturity. We have had to leave all we know and every bit of comfort that we can cling to in turn cling to the Author and Finisher of our faith. We have moved to a different country, had a baby there, raised our family there for a year, adapted and fit in. I believe that one of the reasons, if not the main reason, the Lord had us do this was the unbelievable growth that would occur through Him. On top of all this our marriage has grown so strong. What a beautifully orchestrated plan by our Maker to have us in a situation where we would have to cling so tightly to Him and to each other. He knew what He was doing. Secondly, the friendships. The Lord led us away from our family and friends in Florida and filled the gap with some of the most amazing people I have ever had the privilege of being able to call friends. We have developed irreplaceable friendships that will last for eternity. And lastly is experience. God has given me some ministry opportunity and experience that have developed who and where I am now and will continue to act as a mold for who the Lord will have me be. I’ve always been a big believer in on the job experience as greater than any classroom you may sit in. You may know what your textbook says about a three point turn but that knowledge is pretty useless if you don’t intend drive. I have been given a ton of opportunity for “on the job training” over the past year and I am so thankful for it. Thankful to God, to Rachel, Andy, Brett, Jon Ruby, and many others. If I had the chance to go back and talk to myself before I made the decision to move our family to Canada I would have said to do it exactly like we did.

So we left Canada at 4am on the morning of the 22nd. As soon as we got on the Queensway I noticed that my tail lights were out. Turns out the trailer blew a fuse. After driving for three hours with the hazards on so as not to lose time, we found an open wal-mart and fixed the fuse. We drove for 17 hours on the first day. I couldn’t sleep until we were south of the Mason Dixon Line. The second day we drove for nine hours from Roanoke VA to Atlanta. We stayed the night with our brother, Chris Robinson. We had an amazing dinner with Chris and our good friend Drew. The next day we left early and trucked it home. Crossing the Florida/Georgia border was such a sweet thing.

As we were finishing out the last leg of the trip my excitement started to mix with knowing that I was going to have a few days of tough, solid moving ahead of me as we get situated at our new place in Palm Harbor. My mom and Rachel’s mom called and wanted us to meet them there so they could show it to us, we hadn’t seen it yet. I was exhausted and the plan was to stay at my parents the first night and to move stuff over the next day. Our mom’s were excited, though, so we went to the house. As we pulled up I saw a bunch of cars out front. Turns out that a bunch of the dudes got together and moved our stuff for us and the girls cleaned the house for us! We are so blessed by our friends and family. I can’t explain how big a relief it was to have that stuff done.

Since we’ve been back we’ve been busy. We are settling into our house and a new routine. I am getting used to my schedule at the church and have found a part time job that will be starting soon to supplement my income a little bit. It’s really been crazy and awesome so far. I’ve only run a couple times as I’m trying to nurse my foot. I think it may be back though, we’ll test it with a good long run in the morning. A few weeks before I got here, Andrew Chung came to join us at the church as he leads worship. Andrew is super talented and I am pumped for the chance to serve with him. He lives right down the street from me and is Korean, meaning that he is a good cook. I’ve already walked to his house. And the answer to what everyone is wondering, yes, I’ve been to Taco Bus. I’ve been to Brady’s. I’ve already eaten conch fritters and alligator nuggets. I’ve had pulled pork, collard greens, biscuits and gravy, Ted Peter’s smoked fish spread, cole slaw, bacon wrapped/jalapeno stuffed tator tots, sweet tea, and a few burritos as big as my head. I’ve already caught a few fish and lost a few more. We’ve been to a Ray’s game. We are back in Florida.

A few ministry updates. I am starting a men’s discipleship group that begins tonight and Rachel has a woman’s group that is also starting tonight. Please be praying for those. I am still beginning to settle into my role here at CCPH. Although mine and Rachel’s location has changed, our hearts haven’t. We are both seeking the Lord and looking to Him for guidance. We just want to serve Him in whatever area and capacity He has planned for us. Over the past year my heart has really grown for men and women in addiction recovery. I, along with some men at church, are praying for God to equip us and give us the resources to pursue some longer term, more full time recovery ministry. Please be praying for that as well.

I think I covered a lot and I don’t want this to get too long. If anyone, Canadian or other, has any questions for Rachel and I please feel free to ask or tell me if I have left anything out.

We miss Canada and our family there. We are happy to be home and are so thankful for our family here. We are excited to see what the Lord has planned in this new season that we are in.

Let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Galatians 6:9

God bless!

Grace and peace,
Ryan

Matthew 9:37-38

Jeremiah 29:11

I just had lunch with Jon Ruby and the guys from the Jericho Road “D-house”. What a blessing. When we moved up here I had no idea the impact that those guys would have on my life. I sat with a couple guys today and was completely blown away by what the Lord is doing in and through them. I sat with a real good friend of mine, a brother, and told him how he’s been such an encouragement to me. This guy, who just a few months ago without hesitation would rob his own grandmother for crack, is sitting in front of me and showing me what God has been showing him in his quiet time. Understand this, my friend has been nothing but a statistic since he was 12. In and out of group homes as a kid because his parents gave up on him. In and out of jail. Living in crack houses. Abused young so he became a violent adult. An addict. A nobody. Loved by no one. Hated by everyone. He opens his Bible to Jeremiah 29:11, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'” In tears he turns to me and says, “God has a plan for me and a future. I’ve never had a future. I’ve always been told by everyone that I’ll never have a future. Now I have God telling me that He has a plan for me, and it’s not a plan to harm me.” My friend has come from a place so dark, a place that very few have ever experienced, and has walked right into the light and has been blown away by the love of Jesus.

My heart breaks for the lost. It absolutely breaks. But I thank God that I have the opportunity to know these guys and to be a part of their stories. I have no doubt that God has plans for my friend. Great plans. How many more are out there like this guy? How many more are lost and hurting, searching for this freedom from what enslaves them. This freedom and joy that I have and that my friend has. Please take some time and pray for God to give you an opportunity to be a light to someone. As Andy likes to say, “We need to keep praying for God to bring us broken, messed up people.” Amen. The fields are white and the clock is ticking.

Grace and peace,
Ryan

Matthew 9:37-38

Jericho Road, Johnny

I wanted to take a moment and ask that you continue to pray for Jericho Road and the ministry that is going on there. As you may or may not know, I have been teaching a Bible study there for the last 10 months or so. This past week was my last time teaching there and I am really going to miss those guys. There is an awesome crew of guys there right now. We spent the last 10 months in the book of Mark and wrapped it up in the last couple weeks with the betrayal, death, and resurrection of our King Jesus. I wanted to share a sweet story and an awesome way to close out my time there:

I have been bringing Johnny with me to the Bible study off and on. He loves it and they guys like him. I brought him a few weeks ago as we studied in detail the death of Christ and the sacrifice that was made. Perhaps a lot more detail than he has heard in Sunday school and coloring books. I could tell that he was affected by the fact that he was beginning to understand what, exactly, Jesus took on our behalf. The beatings and the mockery alone is enough to make you cringe, not to mention the actual act of crucifixion. I decided beforehand, knowing what Johnny was going to hear, that I would bring him back to hear the next part of the story. The Resurrection. Equally heavy. Rachel told me before I left for Bible study that she felt led to pray for someone to be saved that night and you could feel the Holy Spirit in that tiny classroom at the Jack Purcell Community Centre. After Bible study was over Johnny and I had to take a carload of the guys home. When we dropped them off, Johnny started asking some deep questions about jail and punishment. Questions you know he had been thinking about for a while. He asked me first, “How long do you go to jail if you steal something?”, then “How long if you kill someone?”. I told him about different laws and the accompanying punishment and how they vary in different countries. I told him how there is a punishment, or consequence, for everything that you do wrong. Whether it’s life in prison for murder or a couple hundred dollar speeding ticket, there is going to be a consequence. Johnny fully understood this.

The door was opened to tell him, as I have before, about God’s law and the punishment that comes along with that. I said that the Bible says that if you break one you break them all and I asked Johnny if he had ever sinned. Reluctantly he said that he had. I told him that God’s standard is perfection and when we sin we fall short. If you can’t meet God’s standard of perfection you can not spend eternity with Him. I then went on to tell him that I’ve sinned, Mommy has sinned, everyone he knows has sinned. By this point his eyes began to well up. He really understood this. I asked, “what does this mean, then?” Very shallowly, he answered, “Nobody goes to heaven.” I told him that he was right. Praise God, though, that He didn’t chalk up humanity to a loss and walk away. I told Johnny that we all deserve punishment and there is nothing that we can do ourselves to get out of this. But then I asked, “What if I told you that someone else, someone Who loves you so much has already taken the punishment for you and that you don’t have to suffer now?” Johnny began to smile and asked, “Jesus?” Proudly, I said, “Yes! Jesus loves you so much that He died on the cross and took the punishment that was meant for you and me. All you have to do is put your faith and trust in Jesus and surrender to Him.” That may have been a little deep, Johnny said, “I want to do that, how do I do that?” Fighting back tears, in the car on the way home from Bible study, I said, “Well, let’s pray together.” Johnny asked me to help him so I started and told Johnny to say what I was saying from his heart.

It’s amazing to see the Holy Spirit work in the heart of a five year old. I know that God has big plans for Johnny. He has such a big heart and loves people. I am thankful that I can already experience the joy that is talked about in 3 John 1:4: “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”

Please take a minute and pray for Johnny as you think about him during your day.

Grace and peace,
Ryan

Matthew 9:37-38

Monday’s the New Sunday

I think Ryan has mentioned lately that we spend Mondays together as family day. It is the only day off that he has a week. So we have decided that each Monday we are going to go to some really cool place in the Ottawa region, explore and have some great family memories up here in Canada. It’s been awesome so far. We have been to Gatineau Park, Museum of Civilization, Mer Bleue Bog and this week we travelled over to Quebec to go to Parc Omega.

The drive was great. We took a ferry across the Ottawa River a little bit east of where we are at here in Orleans and landed just on the other side in French Quebec. We drove about 45 minutes through rural farms and little pockets of cities until we got to Montebello, where this amazing park was just north of.

Parc Omega – it’s a drive thru wildlife experience and it is massive. You drive your car through the park, and Red Deer, Fallow Deer (my favorites), Wapiti aka Elk, hogs and boars would come up to your car, stick their slobbery, wet and buggy mugs in your window and demand a carrot or two.

It was awesome. The kids fed them. Ruth would yell from the car, as if these animals could hear her, and say “Hey Hog!! I’m going to feed you a carrot.” Johnny shied away from it a little bit but did feed some. And poor Ryan, I heard him say, “I feel like a kid in a candy store and I can’t have anything. I can’t believe I am feeding these things instead of shooting them.” (I think that was mostly directed to the huge boars)

There were amazing animals that we saw beyond those who walk up to your car to be fed – Bison, Arctic Wolves, Black Bears. Obviously, you were not allowed to feed those.

We had this one amazing experience that made the drive and the money we spent to get in totally worth it. We went down by this lake where we could feed some fish in a pond. And then all of a sudden a huge pack of beautiful Fallow Deer gather around some food the park ranger just dropped for them, and surrounded us. It was surreal. No one else was there but us. They ate all around us. Ruth was in heaven. They let her feed them, touch them, hug them a bit. If she could, she would have gotten on one of their backs and ridden off into the mountains.

I was able to get some good pictures out there. I’ve put a few in here but check out our Flickr page for more.


friendproject

I had an idea the other day that I would start another blog where I would write about a different friend of mine every day. I’d write about where we met, three things I like about them, my favorite memory of them, and a picture of me and them. Well, I started it today. The blog is friendproject.wordpress.com so check it out and subscribe to it. Of course the first post is about my wife but the rest will be as random as possible, showing no favorites. My thought behind this is to just encourage and edify each other. Sort of considering one another in order to stir up love and good works. I’d also like to encourage you, if a friend of mine is a friend of yours, to leave some of your own thoughts and memories in the comments section. Help me out and let’s encourage each other.

First Post: Rachel Saul

Grace and Peace,
Ryan
Matthew 9:37-38

Oh, Hey

Sorry for the absence in writing this blog. We have been busy and time has slipped by. Lo Ciento.

So what have we been busy with?

-Baby, obviously.

-We have had a series of amazing visits over the last few months. In April we had were lucky enough to have Barbara here for a solid 10 days, I believe. She made us some awesome dinners and helped with the kids. It was awesome having her here. I am so thankful to have her as a mother in law. I got lucky, I don’t think I could have gotten anyone better. In May we had Brett and Kara and Zac here. What a treat that was. Late nights just talking. We got the chance to hear Brett teach, in person, not online. I got to proudly sit next to Zac as he shared his testimony and taught from Mark at the Sunday night Jericho Road Bible study. I was amazed at how Kara ingests Sriracha like it’s water. In June my mom was here for 10 days as well. What a blessing. She shared her room with the kids the whole time. It was a great relief for us. She made some more awesome motherly dinners and left our freezer full of lasagna and french onion soup. Each visitor was especially hard to say goodbye to but with each visit came a renewed affirmation of God’s plan for our lives.

-Monday is my day off so we have decided that each Monday until we leave we are going to do a family outing of some sort. Two weeks ago we had a picnic and spent the afternoon at the Mer Bleue Bog. It had a beautiful boardwalk through swamps and woods. Johnny was quick to say that there would be gators EVERYWHERE if this was in Florida. Instead there were beaver trails and funny plants. This past Monday we spent the afternoon at the Museum of Civilization. Impressive for sure. We still don’t know what we’re doing this coming Monday so if you have a suggestion, bring it on.

-We have begun packing early for several reasons. 1)Again we have to make the decision of what we are and aren’t taking. 2)We don’t want to put it off and freak out about it as the day is quickly approaching. 3)Our landlord is beginning to show the place so instead of putting things in the corner we decided this would be a good chance to just box them up.

-I have been running lately. You may be familiar with the #HASSELHOFF phase I went through. Well, that turned out to be a one hit wonder just like the program’s namesake. Now my program is the 1 Kings 18:46 program. I’ve always hated running and never been very good at it. I prayed a while back that God would give me the desire and discipline to run and He has. Over the past couple months I’ve been running 20+ miles a week. I usually do a 5k early in the week, then a couple 4-5 milers during the week, and then a long run on Saturday. The longest run I’ve done so far is 13 miles. I’ve become obsessed with distance and for some stupid reason I really want to try to run 50 miles in one day. Anyway…

-I took Johnny to see a longtime hero of mine play in Ottawa. Chuck Ragan of Hot Water Music. I’ve known Chuck on an informal level for a while now and had the opportunity to interview him once for REAX magazine. An interview that turned into talking about fishing instead of the tour I was supposed to be asking him about and got cut majorly short in the final print. I got a hold of Chuck before his Ottawa show, a show that was supposed to be 19+, and asked if he could do anything to get Johnny in. Not only did he get Johnny in but made it one of the most memorable nights that Johnny, and I, will have for a long time. Chuck gave Johnny a harmonica, a shirt, and a record signed by him and the band. He also had Johnny help him with his soundcheck. It was an unreal experience. You can see some photos if you click here.

-The kids are in VBS this week and loving it.

-Lastly, and most significant, to me anyway. Rachel. Rachel is amazing me everyday in many ways. Her wisdom, her patience, her love. Daily she goes above and beyond, both as a mother and a wife. Proverbs 18:22 says “He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.” I can attest to that. It’s true. You want a biblical picture of who Rachel is? Read Proverbs 31:10-31. I knew that I loved her when I married her but I had no idea the deal that I was getting. I have been incredibly blessed by her. Proverbs 27:17 talks about how iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. I usually think of men in my life when I read this, guys like Zac, James, Brett, Andy, my dad and so on. However, I realize that daily Rachel and I are sharpening each other and it’s amazing. God knew what He was doing with marriage. It’s a sort of self sustaining fire and as long as both are earnestly seeking Him, He will provide more than enough fuel for that thing to keep going. Praise Him!

Anyways, as you can see, we’ve been busy. I promise I will get better at being more consistent with the blog. Until then, be excellent to each other.

Grace and Peace,
Ryan
Matthew 9:37-38