Lance & Megan's Blog

Coming Back “To” Ukraine: The pain of language shift


Thoughts by Lance

As I start typing up this blog post. I receive another phone notification that Ukraine is under missile threat.  For the next 3 minutes of my typing, my friends and coworkers will be hearing air raid sirens. Some are checking their phones to see where the missiles have been fired from, gathering what they can about the kind of missile or drone it might be as well as projected trajectories.  They have done this so many times, they can calculate how many minutes it will likely take to reach where they are if it is coming their direction. This is now normal life in Ukraine. And the normalcy of this reality often makes me cringe. But another shift that I have been noticing is my language surrounding Ukraine and travel… And I don’t like it.

The last couple trips into Ukraine,… wow, I just did it… let me explain what I just did and restart this paragraph.

The last couple times I went to Ukraine, I started to realize that I have inadvertently adopted a language that I have never before used in context of travel to and from Ukraine. It was not an intentional shift nor have I seen it as a welcome one.  And sadly, it was not just me using this language.  Anyone going to Ukraine started unconsciously using it as well. We no longer say, we are going “to” Ukraine, we say we were going “into” Ukraine. What makes it even worse, now saying “I’m going to Ukraine” feels abnormal and insufficient. This may seem silly, but this frustrates me so much. So much so, I have been making a conscious effort to reinstate the proper preposition of “to” back into its rightful place.

Sure, we use into and to interchangeably very often to describe our going to some place. For instance, “Megan, I’m going into Irondale.”  It is natural and it works. But there is a difference, and that is context.  Irondale is not at war. There is not a distinct “being in” and “being out” of Irondale. Men in Irondale are not being stopped at the city limit and told they can go no farther.  Irondale is under no threat of missile attack that will come indiscriminately at any time in any apart of the city. If it was a place of combat and danger, “into Irondale” would be a very different meaning. You would probably stop saying “to” and exclusively start saying “into.”

I very rarely before used “into” to describe my going to Ukraine.  As I think about it now, when I would talk about travel, I would say I will arrive “in” or “to” Ukraine at such and such date, but rarely “into”.  So, what has changed?  The context Ukraine is in has changed. My relationship with the nation of Ukraine has had to shift. How I approach my going there and my staying in country has changed. It is so incredibly inconvenient to get there now.  The freedom of my movement and my friend’s movements have been hampered inside and outside. Before the war and after war started is strikingly different.  

But what has not changed?  My relationships there. My love for Ternopil. My love for the Ukrainian people that have changed me so much for the better. When I am here or there, relationally I am still in. We have never been out even when we have been here in the states. For me, to say “to” is relational openness. In the context of nations, it rings of freedom. Just like when my kids say, “we want to go to Grammie and Grandpa’s” or “I am going to Europe.”

“Into” compartmentalizes Ukraine into a mere conflict zone. A scary place that we must go “into” and “out of.”  It shortcuts our brain to make Ukraine an unsafe place that should be avoided. I know it is a small shift in language that may not mean very much to most people. But it means a lot to me.  Ukraine is not just a nation for me.  It is where I learned how to be a friend. It is where some of my deepest sense of purpose and community was fashioned. It is where Megan and I met and grew up as a couple.  It is worth changing my language for.

So, I am choosing to combat this language of separateness, of distance and of isolation. I will again, for my friend’s sake, do a small honor and say, “I will be coming to Ukraine as soon as I can.” My language will reflect my heart’s stance to this wonderful country. And here in the states, I will unashamedly say, again and again, I still love going to Ukraine. Missiles, drones and hatred may be coming into Ukraine, but I will always be coming to Ukraine.

posted under cultural, Lance, Thoughts By Lance, Ukraine, YWAM | Comments Off on Coming Back “To” Ukraine: The pain of language shift

Practicing The Way: Be with Jesus. Become like him. Do as he did. By John Mark Comer


Formational Book Review by Lance

5/5 stars

“To follow Jesus is to become his apprentice. It’s to organize your entire life around three driving goals:

  1. Be with Jesus.
  2. Become like him.
  3. Do as he did.

Apprenticeship to Jesus—that is, following Jesus—is a whole-life process of being with Jesus for the purpose of becoming like him and carrying on his work in the world. It’s a lifelong journey in which we gradually learn to say and do the kinds of things Jesus said and did as we apprentice under him in every facet of our lives.”

“Practicing The Way” is less of a book and more of an introduction to John Mark Comer’s new program called, you guessed it, “Practicing The Way”. Though, I do have to say, it is also a really good book.  In general, I am a pretty big fan of Comer’s books and framework around the Christian life. I am drawn to the contemplative nature of the way he encourages us to practice our apprenticeship to Jesus.  In the world today, we have so many people, things and causes drawing our affection and dedication. There are so many distractions it is hard to know how to move forward with a sincere Christlike lifestyle. In this book John Mark introduces us to a way or “rule of life” for this day and age to be a disciple of Christ by being with Jesus, becoming like him and doing as He did.

Reading as a Disciple:

“The question is not, Am I becoming a person? It’s, Who or what am I becoming?”

“Christlikeness is possible, but it’s not natural. In fact, the gravity and inertia of life will likely take you in the opposite direction. “Small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it,” as Jesus said.  Put another way, there are no accidental saints.”

I know I am a child of God.  But sometimes I do not look or act like a Christian. I often think that just reading the Bible, going to church or being a missionary somehow forms me into a person that exudes Jesus in any situation… Sadly, this just not the case. I love that Comer frames this all with a question. Am I a Christian, or an apprentice of Christ?  To be a Christian is to do what Christians do. To be an apprentice, however, is to abide with the Master, emulate what I observe Him do and obey what the He asks me to do. 

Comer argues that we all “make our home (abide) somewhere, the question is ‘where?’” I have seen myself “rooted in the infinite scroll of social media” and from it have been “angry, anxious, arrogant, simplistic, and distracted.” My willpower seems to have no power to actually do much against this very real force of “abiding” in things other than Christ. So, if I cannot, from my own willpower, combat this current barrage of other things that ask for my undivided loyalty and sacrifice, how do I live a life of a disciple in this current age? How do I stay an apprentice while getting woken up in the middle of the night by a crying baby, or reading another devastating article about more people dying in Ukraine or navigate yet another difficult relationship in the body of Christ?

I think Comer may be on to something… Just do the things Jesus did, while being content in a relationship with God where “I look at Him, He looks at me, and we are happy.” I so want that kind of acceptance and response to God. Most of my Christian life has been doing the right things for God because I have to.  But I am hoping my perspective is shifting to wanting to be like Jesus simply because it is the most loving and fulfilling way to live. Right now though, I am taking tiny steps toward this. Discipleship is a whole lot slower than we all want.

Reading Pastorally:

“For those of us who desire to follow Jesus, here is the reality we must turn and face: If we’re not being intentionally formed by Jesus himself, then it’s highly likely we are being unintentionally formed by someone or something else.”

“If “they” (whether multinational corporations, politicians, anti-democratic government agents, marketing departments, influencers who just want more followers, etc., etc.) can make us believe that each person is a blank slate, just following the inner compass of our “authentic self” in an upward march to happiness, then they can keep us blind to all the ways we’ve been “discipled”—formed and manipulated—by their desires.”

It is hard to keep a pure heart.  It is harder to shift ourselves away from things that we “like” and “want” that are actually doing us harm. It is actually even harder to identify what is even causing us harm. I have found, just telling someone who is constantly on their phone (which I have been known to do sometimes) to put their phone down does very little to bring an “aha” moment of their dependance. However, when I have seen people take a fast from social media, or actually rest one whole 24 hour period, tensions in their mind, emotions and body emerge. This tension emphasizes our living outside of God’s design for our human life and work. That is something way more than just knowledge will accomplish. That is a practice (or discipline), in apprenticeship to Jesus, working against our unhealthy coping strategies that “deform” us.

“The life of the Christian faith is the practice of many practices.”

I think there is something to, in the light of being loved by God and learning to love him back, a framework of consistent practices. The difficulty is that it is not easy (it may be impossible) to do on our own. So the challenge, I think, is to actually do this in community. And I love Comer says that, “love is the metric of spiritual maturity, not discipline.”  This is an important part of having a “rule of life.” It is not for perfection, but for love.

Other thoughts:

Why do I love Christian formation?  This style and emphasis in Christian living has been a solid rock for me these past 6 years. I remember the first time I was challenged to “ruthlessly eliminate hurry” (another book by Comer) from my life. It was then I started a very simple practice, driving the speed limit.  I was shocked to see my anxiety start to lift, my attitude to other drivers become more gracious and in general I became more peaceful… until I came back to the states and drove in the Seattle area… I increased my speed by 4 above the speed limit for my family’s safety… It was also the same time I started to have to initiate “The practice of being misunderstood.”  It is amazing how many people assumed I was just was trying to be a jerk by controlling the speed of others. I promise, I was not…  But I found that as I initiated a regular practice into my life, I was exposed to my inner life like I was not aware of before. And, in turn, I was able to love others better.

More about Practicing the Way at:

Other John Mark Comer Books:

  • Live No Lies: Recognize and Resist the Three Enemies that Sabotage Your Peace
  • The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry

Other Spiritual Formation Books:

  • Dwell: Life with God for the World- Barry D. Jones
  • The Life You’ve Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People- John Ortberg
  • Streams of Living Water: Celebrating the Great Traditions of Christhian Faith- Patrick Foster
  • The Other Half of Church: Christian Community, Brain Science, and Overcoming Spiritual Stagnation- Wilder and Hendricks
posted under Book review, Christian Formation, cultural, Lance | Comments Off on Practicing The Way: Be with Jesus. Become like him. Do as he did. By John Mark Comer

Where is home?


Thoughts By Lance

Early on this trip, while on the Port Townsend to Sea-Tac airport bus, I took this photo. I sent it to a friend in Australia whom it reminded me of. We did photo club together. We lived and worked together in Ternopil. 

Then while on the Kingston-Edmonds ferry I remembered a conversation I had with a friend who lives in Gig Harbor, WA. We had a conversation on that same ferry a few months ago, and I looked at where we sat then. So I sent him a voice message.  We met in Europe and worked together in various places in YWAM. On that trip, we were on our way to see two other friends who were in Edmonds. One now lives in Edmonds, the other… globally. We all used to work together in Europe.

While at the Frankfurt airport, I sent a message to Megan about a “photo memory” that popped up on my phone from six years ago. It was Benaiah in our old apartment in Ternopil. I met Megan in Ukraine, and we worked together in Ternopil, now in Discovery Bay. I also sent a voice message to a friend who lives in Arizona.  We met and worked together in Kyiv.

At my hotel in Krakow, I sent a funny engineering fail video from my room to a friend of mine. I thought he would like that the vent fan for the stove went directly into the cupboard above. Just into the cupboard… He liked it like I thought he would. We work together at YWAM DB… Though he is moving soon. 

I’m currently on a train from Krakow to Przemesl (pronounced Pshemesh) texting an old friend who lives in Rzeszów (pronounced Zheshov), which is a stop along the way. We met and worked together in Ternopil. We are excited about maybe seeing each other at a friend’s wedding later in the year in Sweden. Our mutual dear friend lives in Sweden now. We both (literally) lived and worked with her in Ternopil.

I’m about to go across the border and jump in a car with friends whom I met and worked with in Ternopil. More than friends really. I’m really looking forward to our chat. 

Then I will arrive as a guest in the town I thought I would always call home. And in some ways it is home. But alone, without my family, it isn’t. I will be going to the sauna with friends tomorrow though, so it still is. 

My bags are full of things and food for friends… And even rocks from my hometown, picked by my parents on “Robert’s Hill”, for a friend’s aquarium. He, his wife and their pets live in Kyiv. We met in Ternopil before either of us were married.

Where is home? No longer is our stuff spread over 2 continents and 6 locations. It’s at least all in one state now… Except my bass guitar. It’s still in Ternopil. Should I get it now, or when the war ends? But now, so many of our friends, that were so close, are spread over states, countries and continents. 

Home is where you are rooted. I think sometimes home for Megan and I will be a longing and an ache. Home is learning contentment while rooting on ferries, in staff meetings, in Bible studies, and in the One who seems to be the central figure in all our rooting.  

posted under cultural, Lance, Thoughts By Lance, travel, Ukraine, YWAM | Comments Off on Where is home?

Questions To Mary- A Poem


This year, our Christmas card was a stamp of Mary. Megan challenged me (Lance) to write a poem for the card. To be honest I was a bit reluctant, but after a nights sleep I got excited about the challenge. Megan has a much higher opinion of my poetry than I do. But sometimes you just have to trust your wife knows something about you that that you may not know about yourself 😉

Admittedly, the poem is a bit darker. Yet, I couldn’t help but think how hard it was for Mary to be the misunderstood mother to a misunderstood Messiah. We see her story through the lens of the joy filled resurrection. She was living a normal life then was thrown into a life altering situation that is mostly dark history for us, but to her quite real and all consuming. I’m not convinced Mary had any foreknowledge of what was coming. She didn’t know she would be fleeing to Egypt or she would have left sooner, but this also shows her deep trust in the Yahweh and the equally deep character that made God choose her to hold this incredible responsibility. I mean, look at all the art we see about Mary. She looks so happy and gentle all the time, but it had to be super stressful at times.

I was keenly aware that I was walking along side the song “Mary Did You Know?,” but I wanted to reflect more on the human aspect rather than the salvation aspect of the untold story of Mary’s experience and really, our human existence is full of suffering. I have to assume that Mary had more than her fair share. I find, in the evangelical world of which I live and work, we often find it quite difficult to reflect on suffering without changing the subject or shifting in our seats uncomfortably. We often say something like “the Lord is in charge” or “joy comes in the morning.” To be honest, this has come into sharp focus for me as I have had to deal with my own pain of the war in Ukraine as well as have no good answer for my suffering Ukrainian friends.

However, in reflecting on Mary and her entangled story with Jesus, I am reminded that suffering is not the end. Even with all the difficulty, we are able to look at her story through the lens of the resurrection and see God’s faithfulness to a helpless baby that happened to be the savior of the world and taken care of by an ordinary young woman and carpenter of not so ordinary character. They must have had an absolutely wild ride of a life. Can’t wait to ask all my questions to Mary face to face some day.

I hope you enjoy.

Questions to Mary

From the beginning to very end, 
You were there, it is written
Painful joy at birth, 
With death, grief stricken

Your story so pivotal 
Impossible to comprehend
Without it my life
Or most of it would wholly upend

But wow! Mother of the Son of God
What a noble, grand title.
Pray, let me tone down the reverence
And ponder for a while

Was the angel's visit enough
To endure the shame of scandal?
"Adultery" shadowing Joseph's gaze,
Was it more than you could handle?

Did you tell your father all,
did he too have a dream to understand?
Or being blight on the family name,
Did anger burn, rage quiver in his hand? 

All the pictures I have seen
Show you happy in the stable
But was there any angst you felt
As animals shared your table?

When at His face you gazed
As brand new mothers do,
Did you recognize any features
Did He look at all like you?

In the silence, then the crying
In the middle of the night,
Did you find it frustrating 
When He wouldn't latch just right?

Were you ok with the rabble,
Brought by Jesus birth
Strange foreigners from afar
Shepherds smelling of animal and earth.

When news came to Egypt
Of all the young ones slain;
In agony of friend's children,
Did you feel at least partly to blame?

As a toddler did He play?
Did He grope for things absurdly,
Or was He more refined,
mannerisms other worldly?

What about when you rebuked Him,
Like that one time at the temple?
Did He always give it back,
Or in understanding was he gentle?

Better than the rest, you knew him
Thirty years living in your shadow
Darkness, is this time for us
For you only to intimately know

But you seemed to have a clue
With the lack of wedding wine.
So was young Jesus like other boys,
Or was his housework divine?

When his purpose became public
And he stayed away from home
Did you feel left out, forgotten,
When with misfits he would roam?

I wonder, was it painful 
As Jesus pointed to others
While you waited for Him outside,
He asking who is my mother, my brothers?

When you saw him on the cross,
Did pain-filled doubt creep inside?
"Blessed are you" now a joke
Because messiahs can't have died.

From joyful promise of messiah 
Hope growing in your womb,
To bringing once joyful spices
For anointing the dead in a tomb.

I guess what I am asking,
If I may be so bold,
Were you like the rest of us?
Or was there deeper faith to hold?

The Mother of the Son of God
The more I look, the more I see
A pain filled journey for you
Meant a grace filled life for me. 

Did you know this from the start?
In the middle, did you get a clue?
Was there a post-grave visit,
A tender moment meant just for two?

Even though no answers given
To my questions of you and Son,
You were picked for a reason
All I can say is, job well done.
posted under Christian Formation, Holiday, Lance | Comments Off on Questions To Mary- A Poem

The Wise Woman (AKA a Double Story, AKA The Lost Princess) by George Macdonald


Formational Book Review by Lance

5/5 Stars

“To be conceited of doing one’s duty is then a sign of how little one does it, and how little one sees what a contemptible thing it is not to do it. Could any but a low creature be conceited of not being contemptible? Until our duty becomes to us common as breathing, we are poor creatures.”

This fairy tale follows two foolish young girls and their very foolish parents. One is a princess who is aggressively spoiled rotten and the other a poor farm girl who only hears praise from her parents and is incredibly conceited. A very mysterious and wise old woman shows up and uses her knowledge and bit of magic in her curious house in an attempt to reform the girls and maybe even their parents.

Reading as a Disciple:

“But the wise woman had, in truth, heard the first sound of her running feet, and stopped and turned, waiting. What with running and crying, however, and a fall or two as she ran, the princess never saw her until she fell right into her arms—”

No matter how many smart books I read or techniques that I implement in my pursuit of being a disciple of Jesus, I find myself being either or both of the daughters.  In the end, I need divine guidance to show me the real depravity of my conceit and entitlement. This is a parable that helps to console with hope the part of me that understands the deficiency in me and my easy forgetfulness of this deficiency. It also confronts my pride and reminds me that I have a guide that will allow my sinful nature cause me pain while working a more beautiful creation in me. I have a wise counselor who continually and creatively pursues me and draws me toward my true self away from the false self.

Reading Pastorally:

“As she grew up, everybody about her did his best to convince her that she was Somebody; and the girl herself was so easily persuaded of it that she quite forgot that anybody had ever told her so, and took it for a fundamental, innate, primary, first-born, self-evident, necessary, and incontrovertible idea and principle that SHE WAS SOMEBODY… in this odd country there was a huge number of Somebodies. Indeed, it was one of its oddities that every boy and girl in it, was rather too ready to think he or she was Somebody; and the worst of it was that the princess never thought of there being more than one Somebody—and that was herself.”

Macdonald does a great job weaving “nature/nurture” into this story.  Both the girls have a will to do what is right or wrong, however they are also influenced by the faulty care of their parents.  In the end, misguided “love” created two atrociously selfish little creatures. Both sets of parents, in their discomfort or blindness, gave the wrong base idea to their daughters; that they were the only somebody. A person being a person is not for the sake of their own specialness. The reason for personhood in the story is a bit hidden. But it is very clear that each is loved by the Wise Woman and the more they know it, the more that transformational love is shown to others.

“…you (parents) are sufficiently punished by the work of your own hands. Instead of making your daughter obey you, you left her to be a slave to herself; you coaxed when you ought to have compelled; you praised when you ought to have been silent… She is your crime and your punishment. Take her home with you, and live hour after hour with the pale-hearted disgrace you call your daughter.”

 This hit home for me.  How many times have I only focused my care for people on being “somebody” in this world without reenforcing the reality that they are not the only somebody in the room. If we care for others without the context of character growth and being a person in a community, we can unintentionally and unfortunately cause harm to those in our care.

Formational Reading:

“I could tell you a great deal more concerning them all, but I have already told more than is good for those who read but with their foreheads, and enough for those whom it has made look a little solemn, and sigh as they close the book.”

The very last paragraph of the book is a glimpse into George Macdonald’s philosophy on what story should produce in a person. And I can say the first time I read this story I was more of a forehead reader. Time and trial, I think, has made me read this story a bit differently this time.  I believe that story should be a large part of our joy building. And I also believe that digesting a story takes practice and effort. I hope I sigh after every book I read.

Other thoughts:

Formationaly speaking, George Macdonald has been a huge influence on me and my view of God, human nature and God’s work of redemption. He is known for being a large influence on Tolkien and C.S. Lewis with his fairy tales and sermons.  In some circles George Macdonald has been a figure of controversy.  Towards the end of his life his theology had a hard universalist bend. More specifically, in Lance paraphrase, through our own hell of depravity and the consuming fire of God’s love, over time, everyone will eventually yield to the love of God and accept His embrace. As Paul Young (who wrote “The Shack”) said in the documentary “Restoring the Shack”, (again in Lance paraphrase) “I don’t necessarily hold to George MacDonald’s view on hell, but I hope he is right.”

Other George Macdonald Favorites:

  • Lilith
  • Phantastes
  • The Princess and the Goblin
  • The Princess and Curdie
  • The Shadows
  • Back of the North Wind


  • “George Macdonald: An Anthology 365 Readings” by C.S. Lewis
posted under Book review, Christian Formation, Lance | Comments Off on The Wise Woman (AKA a Double Story, AKA The Lost Princess) by George Macdonald
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