Monthly Archives: May 2018

Dog in the Glass



I have a little, black toy poodle. His name is Bokkie. This morning Bokkie discovered his reflection in the glass doors of my office. He saw a black toy poodle moving back and forth in the panes and didn’t like it. He saw himself and it made him growl and bark.

Bokkie’s adventure in the glass reminded me of some of my less pleasant moments with people. Like Bokkie I too see myself in the words and actions of those around me. Their words often trigger something deeper in my story, something I don’t like about myself or some memory that causes me not to like myself. Like Bokkie I am unsettled and sometimes respond with loud barking.

This happens most often with my wife. The other day she made a comment. Her words were benign, something like “Have you finished your expense report?” And for some reason her question triggered something in me and I “barked” at her. Now I realize that I was barking at myself. I hadn’t looked at my expense report and knew that I should have. In that moment I saw the Gabe I didn’t like in her words. I saw the Gabe that doesn’t live up to my standard. I saw the Gabe that isn’t as diligent as I would like to be. And in her words I heard the lie, “See you are pretty worthless. You can’t even get an expense report done on time.” Those weren’t her words. She loves me. She was asking about my work because she wants to help me. She is my best friend, the one who knows me the best and yet I responded with barking. And my barking wounded her.

Today I hope to have more self awareness than my dog.

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Fears Over Forty


I am forty years old. I have many friends who are also forty years old. One thing that I find we have in common is an increasing desire to for our days to count for something of value. Forty is an interesting age. In some ways I still feel the energy of my youth. I still have the desire to compete, to spend myself for something worthy. I still possess a youthful optimism that the best is yet to come.

I also feel the creaking of my bones when I wake up. The glasses that hang, usually a bit skewed on my face remind me that my vision isn’t what it used to be. At forty I know the wisdom of numbering my days.

Like any season of life, this one is marked by certain hopes and certain fears. The hope is that I haven’t wasted my life, that my days have counted for something of worth and that there are still days ahead where things might even make more sense. There is hope that my mistakes haven’t been fatal, that I will still grow and improve and become what I am meant to be.

And then there are the fears. This morning I realized that I live with two levels of fear. On one level I fear not making enough money, losing the bit of material stability that I have. I fear losing influence and relationships. I fear a life of mediocrity. These are fears rooted in one story, a liturgy if you will, of the world. This story says that becoming is about being valuable – relationally, financially, vocationally. In this narrative I earn my value through the sweat of my brow. I win in relationships when my goodness outweighs my brokenness. This story exhausts me. In this story I can never win. In this story I can never be certain of my value because it’s determination is subjective and comparative in nature.

I also live with a second level of fear. On this level I fear living on the surface, giving into the liturgy of the first story. I fear living without courage and faith. I fear taking the easy road. I fear making decisions that make life comfortable but lifeless. I fear not fully drinking in the joy and peace offered without measure. I think these are good and helpful fears. These fears are also rooted in a story. This is the true story of the world. This story tells me that I am the beloved. This story says that I am made to live full life marked by a reckless faith, trusting that even my pain makes sense in the long run and is leading to something beautiful and whole. This story always says that the best is definitely yet to come, that I was called valuable before I ever did anything. In this story I am free to dream and explore and trust. This story is exhilarating.

Today I see the two stories and their promises and fears. Today I choose the second story. I choose a life of faith. I choose to believe that I’m beloved. I choose to believe that joy and peace aren’t a product of my circumstances rather they free gifts that are mine for the taking. And I choose to believe that my best days are yet to come and that my best will come not out of a clawing and grasping for meaning and value but from a deeply settled sense that I am chosen, loved, forgiven, and blessed by the King who is good and who will one day make all things new.

The Beauty and Pain of Forgetfulness


To be human is to be forgetful. We forget more than we remember. Think about it. In the last year every one of us lived 8,760 hours. How many do we remember? Each day we speak thousands of words. How many do we remember? Over the course of our lifetime we watch thousands of television shows, listen to thousands of podcasts, speeches, and participate in countless conversations. How many do we remember?

In some ways forgetfulness is painful. As we age we forget where we put our keys, what we had for breakfast and eventually events and people of greater significance. We forget birthdays, names, the sound of loved ones voices after they walk the earth no more. We also forget the beautiful things we are privileged to experience. We forget blessing. We forget the gifts we are given. This forgetfulness is part of our brokenness and weakness. It disempowers and shames us. We wish that it weren’t so but it is.

And yet in other ways forgetfulness is a gift. We forget many of the wrongs done to us, allowing once acute pain to dissipate into distant memory. We also forget how ugly we were to others, the harshness of our words, the intensity of our hatred and so we are able to move on. Forgetfulness allows us to be forgiven and to forgive. This is a divine quality for he who made us chooses to remember our sin no more. Perhaps we do not possess the same power of volitional forgetfulness, but it empowers love for others all the same. Forgetfulness is gift.

This human quality of fading memory is blessing and curse. Like an anchor our memory steadies us when we need hope in the midst of raging swells our lives inevitably bring. And like an anchor pulled onto the deck in calmer waters our forgetfulness allows us to shove off and continue course towards new destinations.

Let us lament the curse and mourn our low estate. Let us celebrate the blessing and revel in the glory that our past does not always dictate our present. And let us keep moving towards the distant shore where memory will lead to thankfulness and the shadows of glory we once saw in part give way to the fullness of glory without end.

**(Painting: Sea of Forgetfulness by Missy Borden. Located at

Next Things

(Picking out our first live Christmas tree in 7 years)

The frost of winter is fading. This is a statement full of meaning for the Smith family as we enter this new season of life and ministry. As the new tulips break through the hardened, dark dirt on the edges of our lawn in South Carolina, new opportunities and vision are also breaking through the newly turned over soil of our lives.

The three months of sabbatical provided a space for our fields to lie fallow, for pruning lifeless areas and for new things to be nurtured. The fallow field is a metaphor for a place of rest. In the ancient days the Lord instructed the forefathers of our faith to “let the land lie unplowed and unused” every seventh year (Exodus 23:11). This was a discipline of sabbath rest, a place to do the uncomfortable thing of not working the resources entrusted to their care. The seventh year was an invitation to a sort of wholistic rest that precipitates life.

The sabbatical in our seventh year since beginning the work of East Mountain was a place of wholistic rest. During this time we intentionally set aside the work of doing ministry, building Christian community and making disciples. In the absence of these activities some of the things that needed pruning were given space to fall away. One of these things was the lie that our ultimate value is in what we can do for God. This year we wrestled with the theme of identity, realizing that too often we have connected our worth as people to the work entrusted to us. In the ninety days of sabbatical we were forced to face who we are without our titles, positions in organizations, and places to use our giftedness outside of the home. What we discovered is that we are deeply loved by our Father in Heaven who calls us his beloved. What an incredible joy it is to discover that despite all of our shortcomings we are his beloved, chosen by him and invited to be part of program for the world!

This theme of letting dead things die and allowing new things to be sown in our lives took on different meaning for each of us. I (Gabe) was confronted with my propensity to feel responsible for everything and everyone. This soul killing belief had too often governed my decisions and motivated my actions, leaving me drained and apathetic. For Janet it was letting go of the idea that she needed to be a stay at home Mom to be a faithful Christian wife. For Madeline it was a painful process of mourning the departure from South Africa, the place she considered her home.

On the other side of the letting go and leaving we discovered new life.

(Our farewell committee from East Mountain the day we left South Africa)

I (Gabe) am growing increasingly confident and excited about my giftedness as a visionary leader made to build innovative, disciple-making Christian communities. Janet has embraced a new opportunity to start a business and is finding a big, new life in the marketplace where she is learning that she is really good at marketing, sales and motivating others on her team. Madeline has made four new friends at school and is finding new freedom as a creative person designing her daily outfits at her new school (no more uniforms!).

We are filled with incredible amounts of gratitude as we contemplate your generosity and steadfast partnership for the Gospel that enabled us to take this sabbatical time. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

So what’s next?

When we went on sabbatical we went with the idea that the Lord may be calling us to lay down the work of East Mountain permanently. We hoped that wasn’t the case, but also realized that we must be open to that reality. To our great surprise and joy what we discovered upon our return were multiple requests from all over the world from people and organizations interested in starting new East Mountain communities. There is too much to share in one letter, but in short we are in conversations with leaders in Australia, Germany, Thailand, Scotland and India as they build or consider building an East Mountain Community in their context. I just returned from a two week trip to South Africa where I spent time with our two East Mountain communities there and to helped teach twenty or so pastors in the rural areas of the Eastern Cape.

Why East Mountain?

You may be wondering why folks are interested in joining the East Mountain movement. The easy answer is that the Lord is on the move and East Mountain Communities are part of his work to make all things new. The more complex answer is that people are longing for authentic Christian community where they are invited to be known, loved and given a place to use their giftedness in a common work of discipling others.

The East Mountain way is to build an authentic relational space where members are called to love God and neighbor as they find a rhythm of their life together, pursuing intentional relationships and living according to a common rule. The community seeks to partner with others for wholistic Kingdom mission, engaging in intentional relationships with church, non-profit, business and school leaders to ask the question, “How can we help?”. The community works with, and through, these partnerships to craft discipleship and leadership development pathways that make sense in the particular context.

(The East Mountain UK Community on retreat)

In the pilot community in South Africa, we started a year long residency, a six week summer internship, and several theological cohort models. As we engage with leaders interested in East Mountain, we are learning that our language of community, partnership, discipleship, and leadership development resonates with what people have already been contemplating.

What part does our family play?

I (Gabe) see very clearly that my role is to continue to envision, equip, and encourage leaders with a particular emphasis on those starting new East Mountain communities. This kind of work gives me energy and joy as I see other leaders move into their giftedness. What a joy it is to invest in a few who are investing in many.

We also see very clearly that the Lord has equipped us to start a new community here in the Greenville area. We will be sharing more about that vision soon so look out for our next letter!

Janet will also keep growing her business to supplement our income and explore a new entrepreneurial passion. In the meantime, we will continue to depend on the support of our friends who have chosen to partner with us in this amazing work for the Kingdom.

And last but certainly not least, Madeline can’t wait to finally finish the fifth grade and enjoy her first American summer vacation.

How can I be a part of what’s going on?

(With pastors in the rural Eastern Cape of South Africa with West Point classmate and friend Erik Borggren after leading a weekend theology intensive last month)


On sabbatical, we saw the viciousness of the forces of darkness that want to discourage and destroy us. We also experienced the incredible power of prayer. Prayer is the space where the temporary meets the eternal, the mundane the divine, the terrestrial the heavenly. We are desperate for people who will commit to praying with us and for us each week. To facilitate this serious Kingdom work we have set up a place to sign up to be a prayer partner. If you are willing to serve in this way, we ask that you commit to praying for us and the work of East Mountain at a designated time each week. You can expect to receive a special weekly email detailing prayer needs and invited to a monthly webinar prayer service online. You can register here to serve in this capacity. (


This kind of edge of the Kingdom, global work is necessarily funded by generous Christians who see it as part of their calling to commit to radical giving so that leaders all around the world can be properly discipled, envisioned and launched to build the church. Right now we have a BIG fundraising goal of finding families or individuals who can commit to giving in the following amounts for the next year:

  • Five Givers @ $500 per month or $6,000 per year
  • Ten Givers @ $200 per month or $2,400 per year
  • Twenty Givers @ $100 per month or $1,200 per year
  • Forty Givers @ $50 per month or $600 per year
  • Sixty Givers @ $25 per month or $300 per year

If we can successfully find and partner with these 135 Givers we would:

  • Personally be 100% funded for the year. A tremendous stress relief!
  • Be able to seed fund 2 new East Mountain Communities.
  • Be able to personally encourage, envision and equip leaders on 5 continents.
  • Be able to offer scholarships to deserving young leaders from some of the world’s poorest communities to attend East Mountain residency.

If you would like to either become a Giver or increase your current gift, please visit our donation site by clicking here

Much Love,

Gabe, Janet and Madeline