Monday, May 4, 2009

05-04 Update

Dear Friends,
Some thoughts on Isaiah 33.
"Woe to you, O destroyer, you who have not been destroyed!"
There really is one who desires our demise. We, modern folk, don't like to talk much about him. We think it unsophisticated and he likes that.
Since the first conversation, now almost two years ago, about the possibility of planting a church I, we, have experienced turmoil. Peace and rest have been illusive, like success or beauty, just beyond ones grasp. I have felt opposition, no I have felt one opposing me. We are not merely planting a church, but one that witnesses the glory of God and His gospel unite the deeply divided races and classes of Memphis. Something, someone hates unity, love, peace, and loves division, restlessness, and hate. There is a destroyer and he lives to destroy us.
"O Lord, be gracious to us; we long for you. Be our strength every morning, our salvation in time of distress."
There really is One to believe, but don’t you sometimes wonder? I typically question in times of bliss. The past few weeks have challenged my faith, created moments of intense fear and despondency, but in the end my faith is deeper, more seasoned. Having to reach deeper to find my footing in Him solidifies, even purifies faith. Jesus comes much more into focus in need than in plenty. Being threatened with loss, I have longed for Him more. And He shows himself true, gracious and strong.
“At the thunder of your voice, the peoples flee; when you rise up the nations scatter.”
I have never maxed out a credit card limit, until now. As of this morning, three are at their capacity. Fear grips me that I will receive a call and the voice on the other end declare, rather matter of factly, “Mr. Rieves, it appears that you missed an insurance premium payment. You have no coverage for you fire!” It is irrational because our mortgage company demanded and received payment for the entire year at our loan’s closing. However, when you are spending money faster than the speed of light, it is more unsettling than freeing.
I spoke with our insurance adjuster yesterday and told him my fear, “I am spending a lot of money and I don’t want to be left holding the bill!” He responded, “I am not going to let that happen.” I don’t trust him. It has more to do with past experience than his present demeanor. He wields a lot of power. He could get to my file just after an argument with his wife. He could resent the fact I don’t buy my suits at Sears. His daughter could tell him he is the worst father ever. That is how the real world, this broken world, works. I know because I am a husband, and father. I know because my heart resents more than it rejoices over those with nicer stuff.
I long for an advocate who is bad, like Stallone or William Wallace. I want someone with more influence to thunder into the uncertainty of my life using his authority for my certain good. That is how Isaiah got to see God, my God. When the situation becomes unjust and detrimental to His children, His heart is moved and He stands up and my adjuster, I mean, the nations scatter. He brings justice and righteousness to the oppressed. That is our hope and trust and that calms my fears.
“Look upon Zion, the city of our festivals; your eyes will see Jerusalem, a peaceful abode, a tent that will not be moved; its stakes will never be pulled up, nor any of its ropes broken. There the Lord will be our Mighty One.”
When I am driving, and not on the phone, I picture the open house we are going to have when this is all over. Well, it started as an open house, but now, in my mind, it is a block party. We are going to close the street, invite a band, maybe James Taylor, and I am going to get my dad’s smoker, the one on wheels, and cook pork butts and ribs. Our neighbors, the firemen, those that have prayed, given clothes, money, time and encouragement, even our friends from around the country, will all come and we will have a party.
Some Believers are dry, like melba toast. I hate melba toast and I don’t even know what it is. Is it in the bread section? Paul asked the Believers in Galatia, “What has happened to all your joy?” Joy is different than giddy. Giddy is canned cheese. Joy is sincere, authentic, real, enviable. Solomon said there is a time to cry and a time to laugh. I am ready to laugh.
We really do have a reason to laugh. Even in the face of tragedy and loss. God was gracious to give His people prophets. Prophets declared judgment, but they also spoke of joy and hope. To a distressed people they spoke of a city in which God’s people would enjoy festivals. A city with homes that would not be moved, or destroyed. A city of permanence, that was predictably good.
God gave us festivals and parties that we might taste and long for the more. Like our father giving us a taste of meat on the grill just before he takes it off, our Father gives us parties that we might long for what IS to come. It is hard to experience the goodness of what is to come when you are on the phone with insurance adjusters, or wading through burned out piles of stuff. Parties are like fast forwarding a movie to the end, it doesn’t completely dull one to the tragedy of the story, it, however, does make the tragedy bearable. So I dream of the party, knowing it will not end the tragedy, merely shadow a day that will.
~ Please pray for a church to rise out of this mess. It really is the perfect soil for a gospel church. it is really the only soil for a gospel driven church to grow. Pray it will grow. I continue to speak with candidates for the co, lead or assistant role. I am really curious about two right now. Please pray for God to move and provided the man of His choosing and soon!
~ Pray for all the decisions on replacing all the stuff of our lives and re-build a house. All the colors, tile, flooring, re-designs, etc. need to be firmed up in the next couple of weeks. Not much time for such major decisions!
~ Pray for our hearts. We really do have an enemy and his presence is felt daily.
~ Thank God for His faithfulness. He is answering so many prayers...many we haven’t even prayed.
We are in our rental house near our old house. We are settling a bit, which is wonderful. It helps knowing we will be in this house until the renovations are complete. Please know that we are more than grateful for the support, love and care you all have shown. It encourages us more than you know!
Grace and Peace,
The Rieves

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dad's Update

Dear Friends,
Feel free to pass this on...
I hate short pithy Christian sayings! Tragedy seems to attract these likesugar attracts ants or meat attracts flies. "This to shall pass..." "Theremust me a silver lining in there somewhere..."
I picked up friends today at the Memphis airport. They had a couple of hoursbefore their flight back to Colorado. After loading into the car, we metRachel for lunch. Neither Rachel nor I had time, but having lost so much, wefound ourselves clinging to the safe haven of old trusted, tried and truefriends. We have been through much together, know everything there is toknow about each other and still love.
As we were driving I found myself desperately wanting them to speak into mylife. One way to steer a rudderless ship is to come along side and nudge inthe right direction. I desperately felt my need to be nudged in a truedirection. They did not fail me. They listened as I spoke of the emotionaltoll of the past couple of weeks. They then began to speak of heaven and howphysical loss is true loss precisely because we were made for permanence.There is a sense in which heaven is heaven, not only because it is good, butbecause it is eternal good. Good without the possibility of, say, the goodburning up and away.
After my brother's death I would find myself getting anxious, having troublebreathing, panicking when I was alone. I thought I was loosing my marbles.My friend and counselor explained to me that I was experiencing posttraumatic stress syndrome. After receiving a call that my brother had takenhis own life, my body was anticipating another like call. My body wasresponding as if I would hear something equally painful.
Have you ever seen people hold newspaper over their heads in a rain storm?The paper doesn't survive it very well, nor does the hairdo! Paper wasn'tdesigned to withstand rain. We weren't made to withstand loss. Studies showthat stress, which is always related to loss or the fear of, ages us. Ithink I turned 80 this week. In one year, I have experienced the loss of achurch family I deeply love, the loss of a place that I'm certain is morethan a taste of heaven, much of my strength due to disk injury and surgery,my house, belongings, dog, etc., etc.
What my friends were nudging me toward is good. They were saying, "In lightof all that has happened, you should be hurting and undone." Christians thathave experienced loss need to hear that. Jesus wept because of the loss ofsomething good, a friend. He was affirming the legitimacy of our hurt andpain and I am so grateful for His tears! They justify mine! There really isa time to cry, but only this side of heaven.
My friends also, and ultimately reminded me of heaven. There is a home thatwill not be taken away. There is a community that I will not have to leave.There is a body that will not be injured, age and grow weak. There is aneconomy and a market that is stable and certain. And there is a brother whois the essence of life. And for this I was made! For this I was redeemed!
I picked up a copy of Newsweek in the hotel lobby yesterday. The leadarticle is entitled, "The End of Christian America." I used to fearstatistics like this article cited. "...the percentage of self-identifiedChristians has fallen 10 percentage points since 1990, from 86 to 76percent...people who say they are unaffiliated with any particular faith hasdoubled in recent years, to 16 percent."
"Oh no," I used to think, "Christianity is failing!" I now know that it isnot Christianity that is failing, but a religion whose deepest insights havebeen short, pithy and anything but Christian. I certainly need more, andJesus gives me so much more. Maybe as I begin to need and believe in theface of my need, others may as well. Maybe as I hold onto a real hope, ahope that holds much more onto me, the hopeless will hope.
That was neither short, nor pithy, but it was utterly Christian. Thank youfriends for the nudge!
~ It is death to have to think constantly about your own needs, to ask forhelp, to receive help... But we are moving into an empty house on Saturdayand must have stuff. Rachel and I set out to buy two mattresses today.Mattresses cost more than my 97 Ford Explorer! Thus, we concluded thedecision was too important to be rushed. We remembered that a family hadoffered a king size mattress and another family a full size mattress. Aphone call later, s friend volunteered to pick them up and bring them to ourrental.
~ The house we are moving into was inhabited by a family whose 4 or 5 yearold son, Shawn, has a brain tumor and has been receiving treatment at St.Jude. This family has five children! I met the family and they offered someof their furniture. They will probably be back in August for another roundof chemo. If our home is finished they will move back in taking the last fewmonths of our 6 month lease. God has put this family in our lives at thevery least to spread the word to pray for Shawn. Please do so!
~ Pray for patience, joy, and love as we progress forward. We need theseand more!
Thank you for praying and for all your encouragement. It encourages me toknow that my ramblings have meant so much to so many. It is therapeutic forme to get the thoughts in my head and heart out!
Much love and grace,
The Rieves

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fire Update

Dear Friends,
My daughter is a thespian and I am proud of it! Last night was opening night of her most recent performance: High School Musical II. It wasn't Les Misreables, but it was two and a half hours of singing, dancing, fast set changes and quit impressive acting! Because of her love of theatre, I am around a lot of teenagers and adults who share the same obsession. It is an interesting bunch, these actors. They endure long, and I mean long, hours of rehearsal for the curtain to open to convince others that they are someone else. The better they pull it off the more the applause.
I have a friend who has been an insurance adjuster for 30 plus years. He wrote to lend much wanted advice. He had many good things to say, but one comment won’t leave my mind. He wrote, "You should also know that Christians are absolutely the worst people I have to work with. I don't know if they are worse, or my expectations are higher, but I cringe every time I have a significant loss with any one who makes an issue of being Christian. So, don't hide the fact of your faith, but be aware that the adjuster may be on guard because past of dealings with our brothers and sisters.” I met with our new adjuster on Thursday and one of the first things he said was, “So the office tells me you are a minister.” I cringed!
The brand of Christianity we have today is little different than theatre. Most pour everything they have into convincing others they are someone else. What is worse is the better they pull it off the more the applause. I for the life of me cannot figure out how we got to this point. I can’t find it in the Bible. God seems to pour everything he has into freeing us from such futility. Most of the Old Testament is narrative after narrative of God recounting the colossal failures of HIS people. He seems to do so that we might read and exclaim, “It is not just me!” True, He does retell history that it might not be repeated, but it will and His point is not less than that.
Here is the good news and it is really good, “There is no one righteous, not even one...therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sigh by observing the law.” So how will we be declared righteous? “...but now a righteousness FROM God APART from law has been made known...this righteousness from God comes through FAITH in Jesus Christ to all who BELIEVE!”
And all God’s people said, “Yes, BUT it is our job now to make Him look good.” Really? How do we improve on the image of a God who receives, no adopts, children for Himself who are everything He is not, but loves and treats them as if they are everything He is? Anyone who takes that job will end up just acting, performing, longing for applause that will never come.
I had to sift through the trash yesterday to get Rachel’s knitting needles for “insurance purposes.” They were in a bag. On the bottom of the bag were maggots. They had been resting on the whole chickens I threw out of the freezer last week. I am really sick of this whole fire thing. It is old, not like good wine, but rotten chickens. We are moving out of our neighbor’s house today into a Residence Inn, before we move next week into our rental house in Harbor Town which is a move that precedes us getting back into our house sometime by the end of the summer. That will be seven moves in a year! The manna from heaven is our insurance money and new things, but yes, I am complaining. I have no right to, but I do. I am not a good actor.
Some may charge, “He is abusing grace!” I may, no I do, but allowing myself to feel and express what is really in my heart also allows me to boast, not in my performance, but someone else’s! Paul goes on to ask, “Where then is boasting?” He answers, “It is excluded!” We cannot boast in our performance for there is little to boast in. We can, however, boast, not in us, but Him! He came, He performed, the Father applauded and we get the love! That makes me want to go pack, my sacks (luggage is gone as well). That puts a smile on my naturally skeptical face. That makes me want to write emails and tell others that they might get off the stage and in the audience to sit a while and enjoy the performance of another. His was a really good one!
~ I met with the new adjuster from 9:30 – 3 on Thursday. It went very well!!! They are going to gut our house to the studs and build back. We seemed to work out the discrepancies between this adjuster’s direction and the first adjuster. Thank you for praying!
~ I am bringing in another company to reclaim the rest of our stuff. I will have to explain to the other company that I have done so. Their work was so bad I felt I had no choice. That will be a fun meeting!
~ As I stated we will be moving to a Residence Inn today. Next weekend we will move into a house in Harbor Town that we are so thankful to have. We got the lead from a high school friend who read one of these emails!
~ The contractor started the demolition work yesterday. It is actually satisfying watching all the burned out stuff being carted out to a dumpster!
~ Pray for peace, rest (Rachel hasn’t been sleeping well), wisdom and perseverance in faith!
~ We met one of the firemen who was at our house. His daughter is in the play with Amy Katherine. He was at the play last night. He is the one that found Zach, our dog, and led me to him and walked with me as I carried him out of the house. Little did we know that our daughters were together at that moment! Anyway, he explained what he saw when he got to the scene. It helped to hear how they fought, actually attacked the fire. He explained firemen go into burning homes on their hands and knees. The temps toward the ceiling are between 8-900 degrees. They have infrared cameras that show them the hot spots. You don’t actually see the fire because of the smoke. He said it was the carbon monoxide that would have killed Zach and it would have happened painlessly and fast. That was good to hear. Connecting with him was a gift for which we are thankful.
Thank you all for doesn’t get old!
Oh, our mailing address will remain the same. Many have asked: 938 River Breeze Drive, Memphis, TN 38103.
Much love and grace,
The Rieves

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Church Update...

Dear Friends,
I was recently teaching at Advance Memphis' Job's for Life class. It is aclass designed to train adults who desire to get into the work force. I wasteaching on the life of David. I described how God went to great lengths tocatalogue David's sin, the man after God's own heart. I told them that, yesafter being anointed King, he committed adultery, lied and killed. One ofthe men in the class had never heard that before. He got angry and told mehe was going to read it for himself. He didn't believe me!
We so want to believe that God uses strong people because we want to bestrong. But God uses, "...the weak to shame the strong, the things that arenot to nullify the things that are."
The night of the fire all of my neighbors witnessed me cry at least once.That was my first introduction to one neighbor. His wife cooked us dinner.Lasagna in individually wrapped packages so we could just heat the servingsup. She made these crab meat cheesy spread things placed on top of anEnglish muffin, pasta salad and some kind of cheese dip. All of it wasamazing! The husband has dropped by to check on us more than once.
Strength separates us. At the points I am stronger, I am better, or so Ithink. Weakness unites. There is nothing threatening about weakness. What ifwe all got together to see who could cry the most. It just doesn't work. Itdoesn't because weakness is not competitive like strength. Yet, when one iscrying, something happens in us all. We want do something. When one teambeats another, the winning team goes out for beer, but the loosing team goeshome. Weakness compels us toward one another and builds community.
God is much wiser than us all. God, in using the weak to shame the strong,is using my weakness to shame me. I have been praying for God to create anew community for this church plant in downtown. I have been praying for Godto bring together hundreds of people who might be willing to pray for thischurch. Yet, I have been praying for God to enable and show ME how to dothese. With one small spark, he has thrust me, us, into the lives of morepeople than we know and ignited more prayer than we could have everproduced! In the process, he has humbled me. I haven't even thought aboutthe church plant for a week. Yet, He has been busy at work, planting,building, igniting! I am so small, He is so big.
Now, don't walk away and think, "This is why the Rieves' house burned." Thatmerely reduces God to One whose purposes we can figure out. That is kinda ofthe point. We will never figure it nor Him out. However, He promised to workall things for good, that means even evil. So we can rejoice in Him whosegood purposes are running deep even and especially when we FEEL theopposite. He never sleeps nor slumbers. He never takes a day off. He isalways at work and He is good. May we all remember that, especially in ourweakest moments!
~ Thank God again for sparing us. I am retelling the story a number of timesa day. With each retelling I am overwhelmed with how different the outcomecould have been if the fire had occurred in the night. There were only acouple of hours in that day that someone was not home. That is not acoincidence!
~ Patience, perseverance and grace. It is easy to drown in the details. Praythat we will see a Father who loves us and not get too lost in the details.Rachel is having to remember every item in her kitchen. While doing so lastnight, she remembered a painting of Whitney that a Memphis artist and friendpainted as a gift. That is irreplaceable. Pray for peace.
~ We are looking at a house today to rent. Please pray that we might find aplace on Mud Island really soon. Like today!
~ Amy Katherine's play starts with a matinee in the morning!
~ I meet with the new insurance adjuster tomorrow. We will have to settlethe discrepancy between his direction and the first adjuster's directions. Ihave received good counsel from qualified folks. So pray for wisdom on howto best communicate and reconcile.
Please know we are not tired of hearing how you all are praying. Itencourages us more that you can know.
Much love and grace,
The Rieves

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Dad's Latest E-mail...

Dear Friends,
I am sending these to a few knowing you will pass it on...
God loves the weak, needy and broken and I hate to love that. When the University of North Carolina was in town a few weeks ago for the tournament I bought a ticket off a scalper and went to their final game against Oklahoma. I did, not because I love UNC, but simply because I assumed it would be my opportunity to watch the kids that would win the national championship. I even stayed after the game to watch them cut down the net and revel in their victory. I took pictures on my Iphone of Roy Williams and his players soaking in the moment. I love winners! I want to be a winner! I want to be Ty Lawson, defying gravity, flying through the air, slamming the ball home while thousands loose all sense of propriety, yelling like... You get the picture. You do because you have painted it too.
Movers came yesterday to take what can be salvaged. They were about as unprofessional as a group of guys could be. One of them found me and asked, "Hey, did you know the top on your roll top desk is loose?" When I walked in they had it on its side, no pad, the roll top part hanging off its track. That desk was my great grandfather's work desk in the courthouse in Marion, Arkansas back in the late 1800's. I didn't get mad this time. For some reason it became the scapegoat for the week and something in me said, "You win." I wasn't defying gravity, gravity was defeating me. I walked away.
Since Genesis 3, one thing is certain: the earth works against, not for us. Life is much more like quicksand than a slip and slide. Living in this world, in this body is hard. That is the story of God's people. It seems, however, that His job is to get us to get this. We still think we can defy gravity. We will, but we can't. One day, someday, but not now. There are forces working against us, but that is ok. You see, when we are weak, He really is strong. He was strong yesterday for me. His arms didn't fail me. I could fall into them again and I can fall into them today. The only question is, "Will I?"
God loves weak and needy people because His people are weak and needy. Listen to Isaiah 30:18, "The Lord longs (I love that word. It is strong, consistent, unable to be quenched desire) to be gracious to you; he rises to show you compassion. For the Lord is a God of justice. Blessed are all who wait for him!" His longing love is my gravity! When I bask in it roll top desks don’t matter as much. I can bask in His love because His love rests on the performance of another. His love rests on One who was strong, who did defy gravity for me. That is good news that gets into my soul and brings it life.
The thing that gets me though is that God not only loves the weak, but He uses the weak to shame the strong. He works through our weakness to bring the strong down. I think I will save that reality for tomorrow...
Please pray for:
~ We chose a contractor yesterday! That was a big relief! Thank you for praying.
~ Our case was put into the hands of another adjuster yesterday who is contradicting the information the first adjuster gave us. The first adjuster recommended we claim all our clothes and buy new ones. We have been buying new clothes. This new adjuster said we need to go through all our clothes and see what can be cleaned. We meet Thursday. This has sown real insecurity in Rachel and me in regard to who we can trust and how we are to progress forward. We don’t want to be left holding a large bill! Pray.
~ The emotional part of all this has hit the girls. Pray for Amy Katherine as her schedule is intense with school and final rehearsals for High School Musical II. She got home at 11 last night and will probably experience the same tonight. It opens Thursday. Pray for strength for her especially.
~ We couldn’t reach the real estate agent handling the rental house we have our eye on in Harbor Town. Pray that we will reach them today and secure a place to live. We have the house we are in until Sunday morning.
Thank you for praying and please do not stop!
Much Grace,
The Rieves

Monday, April 13, 2009

Dad's 4th Update.

Dear Friends,

Pass this along...

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed..." He really didn't you know.
He didn't in the way we think or want to think. He pawned or, as one friend
put it recently, pimped his wife twice, first to the Egyptian pharoah, then
to Abimelech. He also got tired of waiting on God to make him a dad. He took
Hagar, Sarai's Egyptian handmaid, slept with her and had a child.
Interesting who God uses to propel his purposes in His world. Astounding
that Abraham would be known as the father of faith.

I have had many respond to these email updates with the encouragement of how
our faith has encouraged their souls. I was thinking of this yesterday after
chewing out a Dish Network representative for not letting me out of my
contract. They are willing to down size my package and give me a $10 credit
a month to relieve the bill a bit! Are you kidding me? I think I said
something about her Indian accent and the stupidity of such business
practice. The language I used wouldn't really advance the cause of the
gospel. It felt good, but wasn't good at all. It is much easier to write a
faith filled email than it is to live a faith filled life.

So how could God say, "Abraham in hope believed?" You have to read the words
that precede these, "Abraham believed God and it was credited to him as
righteousness." How does God see and treat us as if we perfectly believe?
God was looking forward to a perfect faith. He looks back for us. It was the
faith of another man who came and lived under the law and treasured his
bride with impeccable love. Instead of fearing for his life when being
associated with her might cost him his life, He gave his life for her. It
was this man's obedience and faith, not Abraham's, that God "credited" to
him. Jesus didn't merely die, he lived under the law for us. He died for us,
rose for us, ascended for us. He did all of this perfectly and that is the
record and performance that God loves us out of! Wow!

So what does this mean? It means God was loving me, crediting righteousness
to me, even when I was doing evil to that poor Dish Network customer service
rep. That kind of love humbles me AND frees me. I don't have to suffer
perfectly, someone has done that for me. That makes me want to suffer
better. I am indebted to love like that. But I don't have to and that helps
me sleep, gives me peace and gives me confidence to face today with all the
inevitable challenges to faith. That, my friends, will preach!


We moved into our neighbors house last night. We also looked at the two
rentals. One an unfurnished house, the other a furnished apartment. The
apartment is tempting, the house may be the wiser choice. Pray for wisdom.

I am still trying to make the contractor choice. I am calling one today that
I am leaning toward. Pray for wisdom.

Give thanks to God that our neighbor's homes and lives were spared. My next
door neighbor told me last night that he was called and told to come home.
The firemen were afraid the fire would spread to his house. Other neighbors
couldn't at first discern whose house was on fire because of the amount of
smoke. He also told me that there were 8 fire trucks at one point at our
house. I don't even remember those details. They said it was the worst fire
on Mud Island.

We are still very humbled and appreciative of all the prayers and support.
Please keep praying and know, with each prayer, our Father hears and acts!

Much love and grace!

The Rieves

Dad's 3rd E-mail

Dear Friends,

Again...forward this on to friends.

We just want to affirm our love and appreciation for all the offers of help and the assurances that you are praying. Amy Katherine was hesitant going to school yesterday, and it was encouraging to be able to tell her that hundreds of people were praying.

Amy Katherine went to play practice last night for dress rehearsal for High School Musical Two. Opening night is next Thursday! After Act I, the entire cast threw a birthday, fire rehab party for her! She was bombarded with gift cards, clothes, jewelry, and notes of encouragement. She felt so loved!

We accepted the offer of our neighbors across the street to move into their house while they vacation for ten days. This will give us time to find a rental house downtown and make the transition. Folks have offered to help move, but it will take one trip from the car to get our belongings into the house! Easiest move ever!

We will be looking at two different rental properties today. One is located just a couple of streets from our present home. It is empty and would need to be furnished. The other is on the south end of downtown and is furnished. We are leaning toward the furnished one. Pray for wisdom with this as being closer would be better, but we have to weigh that with all the work of furnishing a house.

We have had many offers from many of you for rental properties and even free places to stay. Thank you much for these offers! We really do appreciate them. However, we feel a real need to be in downtown, even close to our house. We will be going back and forth many times a day and just need to be close. If all else fails we will take folks up on their offers to live in midtown, Desoto county, etc.

We are still making a decision on a contractor. I told you yesterday that we needed to make this decision then. I am not yet confident enough to do this and have communicated that to our insurance company. They seem fine with that decision. Pray that we would make a wise choice in a timely fashion.

My neighbor asked me yesterday if I had preaching responsibilities this week. It is the first Easter in 18-20 years that I do not. As I reflect on the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, in the face of this tragedy, I can't help but make the connection. While rummaging through Amy Katherine's room yesterday, Rachel found a painted portrait of Zach. AK was four when she crafted this work of art. It was in perfect condition. Out of the soot and destruction comes a thing of beauty. That is life in this world. Life erupts out of death and the contrast is the glory.

Framing this picture has become a priority. It will represent the glory in the darkness of this tragedy and thus, have more value than an original Picasso. It will be prominently displayed in our new home for all to see. Some will know, some will not, but we will certainly know its' significance: death, life, hope.

It is so encouraging to live life knowing the end from the beginning. Precisely because Jesus left glory to secure glory for us, burned out homes, pet grave plots, and disrupted lives are interruptions not endings. We know of an empty grave, a new body and a promise, "I am going to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me where I am." You see, even if we hire a bonehead for a contractor, even if the renovation isn’t what we want, one day some day we WILL know the handiwork of a perfect contractor. We will walk into this new home and feel at home, as if the contractor knew us better than we knew ourselves, as if he knew our souls.

So, I am not preaching this Easter Sunday, but I am receiving and believing! He really did rise from the grave and so will we. Does anything else matter that much? It does matter. The hurt, the tears are real, but someone sees them, and knows them for He has cried them too. The end from the beginning, makes the now bearable if not laughable! Happy Easter and to God be the glory, great things He has done!

Much love and grace,

The Rieves

Dad's 2nd E-mail

Dear Friends,

Please forward this to mutual friends.

There is no way our family can express how grateful and utterly humbled we
are by all the support we have received the last day and a half! The
prayers, offers of help, phone calls, emails, etc. have made us feel more
loved than you can know.

Please know that if we have not responded to your email, text or call it is
not because of a lack of appreciation. We are very encouraged by them all!
We are most encouraged by your prayers. You may think your prayers are
insignificant, but I can assure you they are sustaining us to an extent none
of us can truly comprehend. So, what can you do? KEEP PRAYING! God is very
much at work. I hope to be able to tell the stories one day.

Thank you for praying for Amy Katherine. She had a good birthday yesterday.
I had been looking for used cars for her for some time. I almost purchased
two different ones, but had misgivings about both. I had almost given up on
finding a car for her birthday, but Tuesday morning saw a new listing on
Craigslist and made the call. It was the perfect deal: low miles,
conservative driver, under priced, small, black, cool and reliable! The
owner allowed me to take the car to my mechanic to check out. After it
checked out I called and made a deal on the phone, got the cash and told him
I would bring the money to him around 7 p.m. Well, at 6:30 p.m I walked away
from the fire trucks and neighbors to make one of the more humorous calls
ever. When he answered I said, "If I were you, I would not believe a word
that you are about to hear, BUT..." He ended up coming to the house, getting
his money and he transferred the title to me on the hood of the car! Buying
a car in front of your burned out home is surreal at best!

The next morning we put the key in a Starbucks travel mug, presented it to
her and the rest is history. We have not been able to get to the beloved DMV
to get her license and I have had time for only her first lesson on driving
a 5 speed, but all of that will come in time. She was excited enough to take
the key in her purse to school this morning!

We buried Zach yesterday afternoon in the flower bed of our side yard. I had
never done a dog funeral, but I think it turned out ok. Many tears, laughs
and hugs. Burying Zach seemed much more about offloading the emotion of "the
fire." There is just something healing about digging a hole, placing the
dead, refilling with dirt, saying your good byes and walking away. I don't
know, It seems wrong but right. Maybe the beginning of healing over the
whole ordeal. It was impossible to go through the ritual without thinking
that it could be one or all of us that were going in the ground. So, hurt,
pain, tears and much thanksgiving! Oh, I don't know if all dogs go to
heaven, but I am pretty sure Zach has!

Here is how you can pray:

~ We are looking for a place to rent. There is a house for rent literally
behind our house. The owners have not returned our call. Our neighbors
across the street are leaving town for 10 days beginning today and have
offered their home. I believe we will be moving in there today or tomorrow.
Please pray we find a place of our own. Then we have to furnish it... Pray!

~ We must make the decision on a contractor today as well. We have
narrowed them to two. Pray for wisdom.

~ Rachel and I are beginning the task today of cataloging every item in
our home that was destroyed. Every pot, pan, napkin, nic-nac!!!!

~ It is suppose to rain today. Pray the patched hole in our roof holds!
The firemen cut a sizeable chunk out of it.

~ We are also beginning to buy clothes, phone chargers, coffee mugs,
etc., etc. Pray we will be wise with the money entrusted to us. Sounds fun,
and it can be at times, but it is also a bit overwhelming.

~ The community downtown has been amazing. God is multiplying our
friendships with business owners, and neighbors in big ways. People are
really watching how our family deals with this all. Doors are open to have
conversations we may not have ever been able to have without this tragedy.
So, pray for the gospel to be as powerful as the smoke smell in our clothes!
We have prayed that this gospel would "permeate" downtown. Well, here we go!

Again, thank you for all your prayers and love. We really do feel the
support. And we really will let folks know of practical ways to help if and
when they come!

Much love and grace,

Richard, Rachel and the fam

Richard Rieves
Last Tuesday, my parents house went up in flames. The next day, this is the letter my Dad wrote.

Dear friends,

I am writing to a few asking that you forward this email to our mutual friends.

Yesterday, sometime between 4 and 5 p.m., our home caught fire. Rachel left the house at 3 p.m to pick Amy Katherine up at school, hang out with her until play practice at the Desoto Family Theatre which began at 6 p.m and return home. At approximately 4:45 p.m a neighbor noticed smoke coming out of the back of our home and called 911. I left my office downtown a little after 5 p.m to meet a friend at Pearle's Restaurant and Oyster Bar. On the way I had to stop for a fire truck that was headed over the bridge to Mud Island, our neighborhood. Soon after arriving at Pearle's I received a couple of phone calls, which I ignored, and then a text from a neighbor asking me to call immediately. He informed me our house was on fire, the fire department was present and then he asked if our dog was in the house. For some reason, that question communicated the severity of the fire. I was home within minutes.

We lost everything, we lost nothing. Zach, our family dog for the last 11 years, was killed. Most everything in the house is ruined by either fire, smoke, or water. Our family photo albums, Rachel's pride and joy, seem to have made it because of her meticulous effort in storing them and God's mercy! I had my two bags with me. One that had my Bible and Mac and the other that had my running shoes! What else does a man need? Amy had her backpack of school books, which she would gladly have sacrificed!

The firemen believe the fire started in the outlet behind the built in microwave. From what I saw, that seems plausible. No words can convey how thankful we are to God for not allowing this to happen in the night. The kitchen is just below Amy's bedroom. A fireman told me the upstairs was black with smoke and they almost had to abandon it because of the heat. I'm fighting tears even writing those words. We lost everything, we lost nothing!

As I was watching all the activity, wondering if my files had burned that stores our house insurance info, a man introduced himself as the owner of our Farm Bureau agency. It just so happens he lives on the island and he was dropping off some paperwork to a neighbor three doors down. What a coincidence! For the next several hours he made all the necessary calls and walked me through all the responsibilities before me and answered my questions. It appears we had great coverage for which we are very grateful!

Well, in a couple of hours, we will wake Amy Katherine up and wish her a happy 16th birthday. Before she went to bed, she told us she would feel guilty celebrating her birthday. We assured her we would have no reservations doing so! I think she might change her mind when she sees her present. Shhhhh! That is another great story. To be continued...

Thank you all for your prayers, calls and love. We really feel it. Hear is how you can pray.

- Rachel and the girls have not seen the house. We will go this morning. Pray for Rachel as she lost everything in a fire when she was 18. This has and will bring all those memories up.

- wisdom as we map out a plan for renting a temporary home, renovating the house, buying new clothes, furniture...I guess new everything.
Much of this will fall on Rachel. Pray for her!

- wisdom for me with the church plant. I am launching a series of Bible studies in three weeks. I have felt this whole time that "someone" doesn't want this plant to happen. I am more determined than ever. Much more on this to come...

- join us in thanking God for sparing our lives. We don't deserve that so thanks be to God great things he has done!

Much love and grace,

Richard Rieves