Monday, April 29, 2013

no matter what (Kenya repost)

*i originally wrote and posted this to renown on September 25, 2010 from Nairobi, Kenya. i can still remember the many emotions that surrounded Crystal and i on that very day. i can still hear the sounds, smell the smells, taste the dust and dirt from the road in the air... it was an awesome and powerful time for our faith.

i have to admit it was WAY different driving off on our own on Friday! Driving through Nairobi after everyone we knew had left was a different experience. being the only Americans around was a different kind of feeling.

For me it was fine. i actually kind of like it, but it was still different not knowing anyone and being "on our own". i know for Crystal it is much more scary and it takes big courage from her. she is so awesome and so brave. she's a trooper.

i thought it was awesome that the 1st thing i read while still in bed Saturday morning was this:

"Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for i have put my trust in You. Show me the way i should go, for to You i entrust my life." - Psalm 143:8
wow. God was speaking to me through this. 
driving through Nairobi Friday night, i know Crystal was scared. no idea where we were heading. even driving through a couple slums. millions of people were everywhere.
we were with our new friend Maggie we had met like 30 minutes before and planned to stay with her all weekend. Maggie is awesome and a super cool lady (i'll tell you more about her later). but there was a BIG need to TRUST GOD NO MATTER WHAT.
so Friday night was a little "rough". Crystal and i prayed together for safety and protection and to be aware of God's presence with us. 
it was so fitting that i have been studying Psalm 91 for several weeks BEFORE we came to Kenya! i even spoke on it recently. i really love that passage and it's so appropriate for us being here. in Psalm 91 God invites us to live in the SHELTER and REFUGE that is HIM! it's beautiful. When we make HIM our HOME we have rest and protection from everything.
Crystal and i read Psalm 91 together Friday night. it's awesome that it doesn't really matter where in the world we are if our "HOME" is still in God. He is our HOME in any country.
Then we read the Psalm that i read when we 1st got to Kenya. Psalm 139:5-12 = God is with us WHEREVER we are. there is no place we can go to get away from God's presence. we read that together and it filled me up with such peace and confidence in a God that i can trust no matter what. no matter how "unsure" our surroundings might be.
so, when i woke up Saturday morning - because of the roosters crowing at 4am - the sun started to come up shortly after. i read the next Psalm = 143 & verse 8 was shouting to me as the new day and sun peeked into our room = "let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love." and it did. the fact that we woke up safe and sound in this place that for many Americans may feel the opposite... pointed to the fact that God won't fail us. His love for us won't ever stop. i literally felt the sun bringing me news of God's unfailing love.
in America we have to "trust God" all the time. most of the time it's "different" though. Friday/Saturday Crystal and i were learning to trust God at another level. we are literally following this verse "to You i entrust my life." and that is a very beautiful thing.
i'm 100% confident in our God. He is with us and we trust Him no matter what.
going to church now with Maggie in Nairobi... then leaving for Meru = 5-6 hour drive. update when we get there.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

you need the glasses, man

One of my best friends wrote this recently literally while sitting in his car in a traffic line. He and I talk about everything - whatever thoughts cross through our brains. So he wrote this and shot it to me.
i loved it and asked if i could post it as a guest blog. so here it goes, from the amazing brain and heart of my blood brother, Ed Williams... his thoughts on John 1:37 and the narrative surrounding it as the apostles decide to up and follow Jesus when he poses the offer...
--------------------------------

Here are these men who, upon meeting Jesus, get up and leave their jobs and homes and begin to follow Him. Did they know they wouldn't be coming back? Did they leave all of their possessions? Did they even have any or much? How much does a middle eastern fisherman make?  A  Jewish, Roman-tax collector has to make a pretty good living.
I think it had to do with how, suddenly, the fog of the day in-day out blew away. They saw clearly that life was about MORE. And that MORE had just walked by in a pair of sandals. That MORE was their key to God and greater contentment and purpose than dragging nets and collecting money and things. They felt alive, invigorated in the idea that they had finally found something that mattered, something that made their previous worries and concerns trivial... something that gave their short existence here purpose.


It makes me think that people who live their life without God are like people who bought tickets to one of the first 3-D movies.  They only know a tiny little bit about the movie. They've read about it and the reviews are mixed.  As they walk in AND throughout the film, people say to them, "oh, you didn't get your glasses.  Here put these on." But the people refuse. They're not going to put something on their faces during a movie.  "I see just fine! I've seen movies before, I don't need glasses to watch a movie."  "But your missing the whole point!" say those with the glasses.
At the end,  people RAVE about it while others say it isn't that good and they don't get what the big deal was...they didn't see the same stuff that the other people saw and sometimes wonder if they saw the same movie. "It wasn't as good as as I thought it would be. There were some cool parts, don't get me wrong... but the whole thing... it just seemed a little fuzzy the whole time."


-------------------------------
BOOM. love it. brilliant.

as long as he keeps scribbling on his iPad in the traffic line at school, i'll probably keep having some awesome guest blogs to post.

Friday, April 26, 2013

why?

it seems to me as though the Church in America has become extremely moralistic. Entirely in some pockets.

and i mean moralistic/moral/morality based approach as opposed to a focus on who a person actually BECOMES. who they actually are. their character. their raw, true, real self.

and the 2 focuses are VERY different. radically different. they produce 2 different types of people. 2 different kinds of "Christians" really.

Moralism is a SHAME BASED approach.
Moralistic Christianity doesn't really give a rip about WHO a person is. character doesn't matter as long as the person follows the moral code.

and that shame based system dies hard.

one is about being inwardly "good" - being a passionate and radical follower of Jesus.
the other is about conformity to a moral standard.

one requires a transformation of the heart.
the other only requires a fear of punishment or being judged.

maybe this is why the American Church has notoriously and vehemently opposed homosexual people, socialism (or should i say anything that's not capitalism), etc... in fact, Christians have made a name for themselves by specializing in opposing practices like these and condemning the people who do them.
BUT American Christians have been much less famous for opposing injustice, racism, and poverty.

WHY?

i'm not making a comment as to the right or wrongness of homosexuality and/or capitalism. i'm just asking WHY? why oppose those so vehemently but not the other things i mentioned?

because Christianity in America is pretty much just moralism.

not much emphasis on a for real transformation of the heart.

but when that happens you can forget the moralism. all that stuff takes care of itself in a much more organic and beautiful way.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

my wife's beautiful thoughts on the boston bombing (guest blog)

about a week ago my wife wrote some raw thoughts on the bombing in Boston. it was basically her reaction to the general public's reaction as reflected by the media.
i love my wife always, but when she writes things like this it makes my heart skip a few beats because our hearts are in rhythm. Our 2 hearts are in sync when it comes to loving all people because God loves all people.
It makes me so proud to be married to a woman whose heart comes out like this. i love her transparency and raw honesty and she and i feel very much the same way. She just wrote about it in a nicer and more beautiful way then i would have... hence i'm posting what she wrote below instead of writing myself. (the emphasis in her piece is mine)
--------------------------------------------
"As I watch the unfolding coverage on the Boston bombings I am heartbroken.
I am of course incredibly saddened for those injured & the families of those killed. I have felt nervous for those living in the area who have been on lock down all day with the suspect at large in their community.

I am completely taken aback by the comments that I have heard about these 2 suspects. By no means am I justifying their actions or belittling the situation.

What has repeatedly come to mind throughout this whole thing is that God created these brothers & God loves them. 

I know the natural human response is extreme anger & wanting revenge. I feel some of that too, but it makes me sick to my stomach to hear some of what is being said about them

I have seen or heard comments such as "thankfully hell has a new member tonight & we hope it adds another very soon", "we are so happy that this man is dead." Those are pretty cruel & harsh statements!

I just don't think that someone dying or being in hell (if that's where he is) is something to be happy about.

The fact is that God loves this suspect just as much as he loves you or me & that God would forgive this man if asked.

That's a hard pill to swallow & I'm not sure that I can wrap my head around that right now. What I do know is that I am thankful for safety. I am thankful for police, FBI agents, healthcare workers who have worked so hard throughout this whole ordeal. I know that I am happy that the situation seems to be over. I hope that the city of Boston will be able to rest easier tonight. I hope that you will join me in praying for the people of Boston as they start to move forward & try to recover from this attack. I hope that I will be able to get past the anger & the desire for "justice" that I am currently feeling & get to a place where I can pray not only for the victims, but also for the suspect."
- Crystal Mitchell

old man winter

i don't like the cold -- at all. if it's in the 40s that is much too cold for me.

Thankfully it's usually not too bad here in Charlotte. But we do get the occasional snow during the winter.
i'm hearing that it's been snowing in different parts of the country over the last week or so... that makes me even more thankful for this beautiful 75 degree weather!

but not that long ago it was snowing cold here in Charlotte and my good friend Ed made an Old Man Winter snow sculpture in his front yard. crazy impressive.

i had to blow it up from the low res facebook pic, so i hope you can still appreciate the detail.
pretty amazing.


meant to ask him how long it took to make that?
i'm thinking this should be the new trend at weddings instead of ice sculptures of swans.

this makes me most of all thankful that winter is in the past because i hate the cold.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

we can find God in all kinds of places

just some thoughts i've had lately on the unforunate way we MISS God all the time in our world. we walk right by God and don't even know we missed Him.

God is intersecting with the world in all kinds of ways, but for some reason we only notice God in overtly "Christian" ways.

If we bump into something in life that is truly beautiful, something true, something good, and something that is a better way to live - that's from God. It doesn’t matter where I find it, who speaks or lives it, or what they believe -- they are showing us God!

our narrow mindedness has been costing us something very valuable. we've been missing God in the world.

because it's not that God is over here and real life is over there.  If it is real, then it’s showing us God. Remember that because God is the AUTHOR of that real/true/beautiful thing, originally. He is the foundation of that truth we are seeing.

you can't tell me that's not God because it's not directly linked.
sure it is. God thought that up. He designed that way of life. he designed the world to work this way! 

so i see God all around me, intersecting with His creation through people and systems and principles and flowers and poems and songs and books and every little corner of life.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

r u kidding me?


r u kidding me? with the cuteness...

daddy's little girl, no doubt.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

"whatchu talkin bout willis?!"

i originally wrote and posted this to renown on September 23, 2010 from Karima, Kenya, Africa. just reposting some thoughts from those days...

This is Willis Maina. (hence the "whatchu talkin' bout Willis" reference in the title.) Willis is a good friend of mine now here in Karima, Kenya.

He has an awesome home and we hung out at his place together for much of the day on Tuesday.

He spoke fairly good English + i could speak pretty decent Swahili by that time, so we could communicate pretty well. and i can still whip out my trusty iPhone app and type in any word to figure out how to say it.
Lucy came with us too (she's Tiffany's good friend and a teacher at the school) and speaks great English so is a great translator.
We hung out with the whole family (except the kids) = Willis, his wife (far left), and his mother (next to Willis). i didn't catch her age, but she is VERY old!

we hung out in the "kitchen" which was a mud hut with a fire in the middle. it was like they were trying to smoke us out of that place! i straight up just couldn't see like half the time. i think someone has a pic somewhere after i came out of there and my eyes look like i've been on drugs for a while. they were just laughing saying - "you can't let the smoke bother you." yeah, well...

Thankfully, Willis was still finishing up working in his shamba (farm) and asked me to come help him carry his tools in from the farm + he wanted to show me all his land and farm.
this was pretty awesome just getting to walk and talk with him! he had corn fields, and onions, and potatoes. i told him my wife loves potatoes.

He took me to the 2 homes where his children live - also mud walls and mud floors. only 20 feet from the home where he slept. he has 4 children and the youngest is an 8th grader at the Primary school i've been teaching at. she remembered me when she came home for lunch. his oldest is another girl who is married and works at a Kanisa (church) in another area of Kenya.

He was growing a ton of Cypress trees too. He showed me one that was like 50 feet tall. then he took me to the ones he was growing that were like 5 inches tall. he taught me how to grow them all in 1 spot & then transplant them to a bigger area when they grow. They have to constantly grow these trees to use for firewood. Fire is a pretty big deal in Karima. you need it for a lot of stuff!

speaking of that, the cool story of the day - when we were all in the kitchen, Lucy was teaching me how to make a fire if you don't have any money for matches. BUT you still have to have some dry leaves and/or hot coals. (it rains everyday in Karima, so dry leaves may be hard to come by.) she said that if you don't have anything to make a fire, you just go to a neighbors home and TAKE fire from them. she emphasized that you NEVER "BORROW" fire because that is TABOO in Karima! and she just left it at that.
* "Why is it taboo to borrow fire?", came the question from the Mzungu...
you would never say you are going to borrow fire, you just take it BECAUSE in Karima they believe every home, every family should have fire... you need it for everything. so, everyone should have it, SO WE SHARE. just come take some of my fire so you can have your own. of course you're not going to borrow it.

WE have a LOT to learn from the people of Karima!
that is some awesome true community and selflessness.

I thought Willis had a pretty sweet crib. looks like a futon.

During our conversation, Willis found out that i love eggs. He has 7 chickens, so he snuck off and then came back and surprised me with an egg! i tried to refuse but he insisted. that was an honor, because an egg is a valuable thing in Karima. he insisted i was his honored guest and i must eat some fried egg!
i had already finished the Chipati and Tea the women made for me. it was all really good. so, they fried the egg and i picked it up and ate it with my hands. best egg i've ever eaten!

Then Willis brought me outside and said "In Karima we say - 'when you eat an egg you must feed a chicken.' This is because you need the chicken to lay another egg tomorrow to replace the one you just ate, so you better feed it! haha... so i got to feed the chickens too.

FYI - women talk about a lot of stuff around the fire in the kitchen. Willis' wife was talking to me about my wife and how we've been married for 5 years, but don't have any kids, etc... all the women said that NEVER happens in Karima. when someone gets married they have kids 9 months later! every time. i was like "cool".
 Then she turns to me and says "So you are using contraceptives?" & i was like "uhhhh..." a little bit of shock that i was having this conversation with 4 or 5 African women. we had to talk through that a little bit and then she said "so you are doing Family Planning."
what in the world? Lucy even said she had never heard of it, but this lady had found out about it somehow - read about it somewhere? she finished off the conversation by saying "so you are not Catholic."

well, good eggs and good times with the Willis Maina family at his place in Karima.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

why i need it

i like reading the Bible. 
some people might think that's weird, but i really dig it.
in fact, i would sit around and read it all the time if i had that much time. that's how much i like it. (but for the record, people who sit around and read the Bible all the time tend to not really follow what it says, so... maybe i wouldn't want to.)

but beyond just enjoying it for being great literature, i love to read it because it DOES SOMETHING IN ME. it changes me from the inside and the way i live. it changes the kind of choices i make. it changes the way i think about what's good. and what's not so good. 

for example, i think we (our culture) tends to depend on our own nature/our own sense of GOOD to tell us what is good. & i do think there's some merit to that. i think there's a sense of what is good and what's not deep down inside of us, BUT it's not foolproof. we get it wrong sometimes.
so, i can't just depend on my own nature to tell me what's good & what's not. or as a follower of Jesus i can't just assume that the things i think are good are the same things that God thinks are good. i count on the Bible to tell me that kind of thing.
For example, in our culture we would never know that God hates coveting. Because to us coveting is good thing. In fact, coveting makes the world go round. It's the engine of capitalism. capitalism exists because it capitalizes on our covetous nature and boom - you have the U.S. system of economy. (my apologies to Adam Smith for that extremely crude summary of his intricate work.)

and there are all kinds of things my own nature tells me is good... but in fact, from God's viewpoint - it's not so good. and when i discover that in the Bible i work tirelessly to change.
that's why i dig it & why i need it. 


(side note - above i wasn't commenting about the inherent good or bad of the economic system of capitalism. i'm not saying it's bad. although, for many Western Christians it is VERY VERY bad because it has become an idol for probably the majority of Western Christians. In fact, beyond an idol and inseparable from their version of Christianity - much like being Republican, democracy, etc... but i digress. another rant for another day.)

Friday, March 15, 2013

these are the people...

these are the people i dream about being a part of a church with...

these are the people i want to hang with as a part of the same "church"
these are the people i want to be in community with.

these are the people i want to worship with, sit with, talk with, walk with, etc...

probly way different than most churches, but here they are. these are the people...
"The flunk-outs and drop-outs and burned-outs. The broke and the broken. The drug heads and the divorced. The HIV-positive and the herpes-ridden. The brain-damaged, the incurably ill. The barren and the pregnant too many times or at the wrong time. The over employed, the underemployed, the unemployed. The unemployable. The swindled, the shoved aside, the replaced. The parents with children living on the streets... The lonely, the incompetent, the stupid. The emotionally starved or the emotionally dead."
- Dallas Willard

imagine a church full of these people.
that's the community i want to be a part of. with all these people. being accepted and loved... and in their own time, even changing, healing, etc...

but to have a community... a church full of these people... you really do have to "do church" differently.

would it always be easy?
nope.

neat?
nope.

messy?
yep.

beautiful?
yep.

do i want to be a part of creating a place like this?
absolutely.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

changing as we age

a couple thoughts on getting older - both from dead guys who were very wise.
and both meant to make us chuckle, smirk, or at least appreciate the subtle truths...
"Young fellows are tempted by girls,
men who are 30 years old are tempted by gold,
when they are 40 years old they are tempted by honor and glory,
and those who are sixty years old say to themselves, 'What a pious man I have become.'
- Martin Luther
"If you’re not a socialist when you’re young you have no heart. If you’re not a conservative when you’re old you have no brains.” 
- Winston Churchill

and there are MANY many ways we change as we grow older. it's all fascinating.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

the 1st time i sent my wife off by herself in the backwoods of Africa

i originally wrote & posted this to renown on September 21, 2010 from Kenya, Africa. just a look back at my blog posts from our time in Kenya that i set up HERE.

haven't had any time to write lately, so here's just a quick update as i'm riding on the CRAZIEST road ever in the backwoods of the mountains in Kenya. i don't even know how i'm typing bouncing in the air, etc...

yesterday was awesome. crystal and i worked in the primary school (1st - 8th grades) in Karima all day. i taught 2 different classes = 6th & 7th grades throughout the day.

Amy & Tiffany taught a couple classes too + i hear Keith taught some kids the Hokey Pokey... that's awesome & i wish i had video.

another part of our team was working on the new secondary school (high school) that's being build and i've got some crazy stories from that too.

These kids are amazing. i could spend the rest of my life with them. many of the kids in this primary school are orphans and come to school from a nearby orphanage.
The teachers at the school are awesome. they're my new heroes.

my Swahili is getting a lot better and everyone just wants to speak Swahili to me all the time now, so i'm learning a lot more too. Catherine (who i wrote about on day 1) used to be a main teacher at the school and she and some others hooked me up with a 5th grade Swahili grammar book! they took me through like 2 pages of it during break time.

got to see my buddy John again.

it rains all the time in Karima because it's in these mountains. it's the dry season too so we weren't expecting rain. that makes things interesting. but it's definitely = mvua kwa Jesu (rain is a blessing from Jesus) especially for this largely farming community.

TODAY (it's 9am here) i am working in Karima again all day with the Ridge team and Crystal is actually going by herself to work at the clinic/hospital in Kwambakenya (a nearby village in Kinangop) and then she is going with the nurse to work with the sick people in Kiria... another village.

actually she just got off the bus to go. 1st time i've ever sent my wife off by herself to be a nurse in the middle of Kenya.
i think it is AMAZING & awesome... i think today will be an amazing experience for her. She is going to bring a piece of the Kingdom of God to that village. i only really wish i could go with her and see her in action. (i would just pretty much be in the way.)
they call her "Doctari" in Swahili. she got promoted i guess. There is only 1 nurse for the whole hospital... she runs the whole thing. no doctor.

gonna be an awesome day in Kenya.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

even the bank judges you

this morning i needed to get a large number of $1 bills from the bank. the ATM only gives you $20s, so i had to go inside the bank to get $1s.

i told my wife that morning, "this kind of sucks, because everyone at the bank is going to think i'm going to a strip club with all these $1s."

sure enough, i told the teller how many $1s i wanted and she responded "and you want it all in $1s?"

"yes ma'am."

"well, we know where you're going with these!"

i mean, i didn't think they were allowed to judge you at the bank?

or, put it this way - i figured they would all be thinking that but surely no one would say it. but there it is... outright judgment.

i kindly assured her that i wasn't going to a strip club :)
and furthermore, although i have never been to a strip club, my guess is that there aren't many open for business at 9AM.

maybe there aren't many places left in the world where you can go and not be judged (outwardly or secretly).
i'm stoked to be a part of creating one such place, though

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

our very own Harlem Shake

this is the Student version of the Harlem Shake @ ridge church this week.
every time i watch it i notice something new that makes me crack up. you almost have to watch it over & over and track with a different individual kid each time :)



Here's the big Question... have YOU been in your own Harlem Shake video yet?

i bet you can't pick me out in the video above. yeah, i snuck in there real sneaky like.

**the coolest part for me is this: when we started Student Impact the whole goal was to create a place where students belong. a place where they could be themselves and be accepted no matter what. EVEN IF they didn't feel accepted and "at home" anywhere else in the world - this would be a place they belong.

& in a funny way, the Harlem Shake embodies all of that.
think about it - a bunch of teenagers letting loose and acting a fool - literally doing whatever comes to mind without worrying about how they look or what others think of them...

and being accepted

and being able to belong.

you never knew the Harlem Shake was so deep :)

Monday, February 25, 2013

proceed

sometimes i wonder & wrestle with the idea that i might not always have the purest motives.

like am i really doing this with 100% humility or is there a tiny little bit of pride in me somewhere?

am i really doing this 100% for that person's good, or is it a little bit for my benefit too?

what's in my heart when i say that, do that, give that, write that...?

i wonder about my motives sometimes. because i desperately want them to be pure. i agonize over it sometimes. i talk to my wife about it and probably worry too much that i'm getting "off." all because i want to be genuine in my motives.

then i read this awesome quote a while back.
"Don’t worry about purifying your motives. Simply know that they aren’t pure, and proceed.”
– David Steindl Rast

i guess that's one way to look at it. :) 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

it's not what you think...

people think a whole lot of different things when they hear the word "christian."

i do too. usually not good things.

i posted earlier this week that i have these kinds of conversations a lot...

but all these crazy things that "christians" are today is never what it was meant to be like.
so, i don't blame you... i wouldn't want to be a part of a movement like that either.

so check out this other movement. it's also called "christian"...

but it's not what you think


NEW Series "Christian" Starting Sunday February 24, 2013 from Ridge Church on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

why do you let it happen?

i originally wrote & posted this to renown on September 20,2010 from Kenya, Africa.

"Where someone is born should not determine whether they live or die."
that's something else that's not OK and it's something i think about all the time. the thought was made famous by Bono, but i'm sure someone was saying it before He was.
I think God says something similar to US daily... so maybe Bono was just quoting God.
ironically, when serving in a community like Karima, this is something that many of us could tend to say to God. or ask the question = "why did you let them be born in a place that would determine whether they live or die?"
and of course the real question is God asking us "why would YOU let there be places on this earth where that is the case? that's not OK."
Karima is SO FAR off the beaten path. 
Tiffany (from our Ridge team) really connected with this lady named Lucy the very 1st day in Karima. She took us to church yesterday. (& she was part of another story i'll have to tell you some time.)
Lucy said that Karima is basically a forgotten village. They are so far out of the way that even the Kenyan government has FORGOTTEN them. that breaks my heart.

Thankfully, Karima is not forgotten by everyone. thankfully some Jesus followers don't think it's OK that they would die of preventable stuff and haven't forgotten the people of Karima.

BUT, i can't even guess at how many other villages in the world are FORGOTTEN... villages that we have never been to and just because someone is born there they will die because they don't have basic needs.

we - our generation - can do something about this.
we can change it.
we can make this quote irrelevant.

and because we can - we must.

"Where someone is born should not determine whether they live or die."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

is there room for more than 1 Fuhrer?

to choose to be a part of "The Way" in the 1st century was no joke. we don't really have a concept for what how crazy rebellious it would be to have been a Jesus follower in that 1st century.

utterly counter-cultural.

about a year ago i read an awesome story that i think partially captures the feel and emotions of what it would mean to spout “Jesus is Lord” in the 1st Century Roman Empire:

“Imagine it is the late 1930s and you are in a lavish hotel in Berlin for a sumptuous dinner with a cohort of German industrialists, bankers, barons, university lecturers and officers from a German SS Panzer division. The evening is relatively cheerful and the mood jovial; conversation revolves around the weather, advice on financial investments, holiday plans in Austria and the latest operas. Then an SS officer taps his glass and proposes a toast to the Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler, to his health and the new Germany, and everyone raises their glasses. And then you, being the committed Christian you are, propose another toast and bellow out in your best German, ‘Jesus ist Fuhrer!’ Now what manner of reaction do you suppose it would prompt from those SS officers? Do you think they would even entertain the idea that Germany has room for 2 Fuhrers, the other being a Jew?”
 
wow. hopefully that hits home like it did for me.

and over the past year it has prompted MANY more thoughts. hopefully i'll get to write about them and flesh them out.

mainly... that we in the West and yes, in America are in a similar situation in many ways.

there is still only room for one Lord. one King in this culture.

it's just that for most Christians that "fuhrer" is certainly not Jesus.

because that would require us to, in essence, stand up in the middle of our version of that German dinner and declare something with our lives that is so counter-cultural... so anti-everything socially acceptable & dare i say... American... (as it would have been anti-German)

that may be too far to go for most.

& so we settle back into our nice, neat, socially acceptable lives.

i'm sure that will change the world.

(thanks to scholar Michael Bird for the fictitious German analogy)

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

how i know what i believe

i've written many times on why i write. (HERE, HERE, etc...)

here is an awesome quote that resonated with me so deeply. & it's from arguably one of the greatest writers of our era. so, she knows a thing or 2 about writing.
"I know what I believe because of what I have written."
- J.K. Rowling

can't even remember where i saw this quote so i won't even pretend to know the context. therefore, i may butcher her intended meaning, but that's ok... 

i resonated with this so deeply because i feel this way every time i write & every time i read what i've written (which are both pretty often).

i work out what i believe when i write. writing is the way i figure out what i really believe/think, etc... 

actually in the writing.

NOT figure out what i believe & then write about it, but literally writing as a way to figure out what i believe. all in the process.

so when i look back on what i've written, the writings often serve as hallmarks of what i believe. 

there it is - all my beliefs... worked out in blog posts & journal entries, etc...
and so, i too know what i believe because of what i have written.

although, what i believe about a lot of stuff changes quite often. it's pretty fluid. so i guess my writings just need edits from time to time.

thanks for the quote, J.K., it is a helpful way to articulate how i feel.

Monday, February 18, 2013

drop your script

most people are actors.

we've been given a script by our culture, or our job, or our religious or political affiliation (or all of those things) & we simply memorize the lines & ACT.

not very genuine.

that's something that an actor is not. an actor is the opposite of genuine - literally portraying something they are not.
that's fine for an actor in a play or movie.

but so not cool for a human in life.

in fact it's great for an actor. that's what makes a great actor & a great movie.
but it makes for a really bad life.

i see a lot of Christians doing this for sure. & that's a bummer.
it's a bummer because when we become actors we just memorize the lines & follow the script. it looks good.
if you're a really good actor it looks REALLY GOOD.

but it is detached from the heart. from who YOU really are. again, not very genuine.

the only people who DON'T get caught up in this are CHILDREN.

because children don't really know a thing about acting.
they haven't yet learned to create an impression that's not really there.

whatever is in their heart is what you see.

whether it's good or bad, for better or worse, what is in their heart is what they live out.

i think that's beautiful. natural. raw. genuine.

most adults are incapable of that because we're following the script. we're actors.

*Keira, for example, moves through every second of every day completely ENGROSSED in that moment! it's unbelievable.
there is no script she is following, she is just flinging herself at the adventure of life, head first.

**For example, watch a child laugh some time. seriously. pay attention. it has never crossed their mind what they look like, sound like, or appear like to others as they are laughing.
they are simply... laughing.
that is they are completely immersed in the moment. full enjoyment.
and not just laughing - watch a child having any sort of fun. they are abandoned to the fun... to the moment. nothing else. no one else's opinion of them matters. they are LIVING their life.

that's how Keira does it anyway, & i think that's how all children do. until we teach them otherwise.

i want to learn how to do this again from my daughter. and then help her never lose that as she grows up and starts rubbing shoulders with all the other actors & screen writers out in culture.

no one has given my daughter "the lines" yet. she has no preconceived ideas yet about how to "do life." no template from culture, peers, christianity, etc...

Children only know one way to be.

THEMSELVES.

children don't know how to ACT interested, or curious, or nice, or sympathetic, or pious, smart, or any other thing.
they simply ARE or they AREN'T.

you feel me? trackin' with what i'm sayin?
children aren't really conscious of the fact that they could be coming across in a certain "negative" way (ignorant, selfish, etc...)

of course, it's not really practical for us to all drop our scripts & costumes & truly be ourselves, right? right?...

i do think that it is the SCRIPT, the lines, the ACT that is so so dangerous when it comes to whatever style of spirituality you embrace.
because at that point, YOU aren't actually involved anymore. you're just an actor playing some other guy who is a little more humble and a little more religious than you.

& it's really hard to follow Jesus if you aren't the one following.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

we agree

we're starting a new series at Ridge that i am pumped about. here's what we sent out as a little teaser/invite:

if you think those things then you are absolutely right. we agree. and we're as bummed about that as you are. hopefully we are MORE BUMMED than you are.

we don't think it should be that way and in fact we're trying to change that.

but there's no doubt that's not what Christians were originally known for and not what they're supposed to be today. it's all been warped.

& God is the most bummed one of all.

let's discuss it.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

my last First day of class

Yesterday was my last First day of class. that was a great feeling.

this is my last semester completing a Master's Degree that i started what feels like ages ago. after a long break i decided to start back and wrote about that HERE.

i'm taking my last 2 classes this semester. i already started 1 of them earlier in the Spring semester and my FINAL class began Friday & Saturday.
it feels pretty surreal. just knowing this is my last class for this degree. the last first day of class i'll sit in.

then there's just the small matter of a thesis to knock out.

i know that i'll be an intense lifelong learner. whether that means i'm ever a formal student again or not... who knows?
maybe i might as well get a doctorate. that really comes down to time and money though. and there's not really any extra of either laying around right now.

last class. you always look at those students with envy when you're in class with them and hear it's their last class... now it's me.
don't envy me though. i think that's one of the 7 deadly sins?

Friday, February 15, 2013

my "other" valentine's day

yesterday was Valentine's Day & Crystal and i had an amazing day together from start to finish. i planned a lot of fun surprises & a "pampered" kind of day for her along with some creative stuff.
in fact, she said it was our best Valentine's Day she can remember... (which might not be saying a whole lot because she doesn't have that great of a memory.)

but on Tuesday of this week i had another valentine's day. this time with a much younger girl... my 15 month old daughter, Keira.
Wednesday i posted a little of my philosophy of parents' TIME spent for their kids. the time that counts & time that counts less. you can read that HERE.
below is just one attempt by this Dad to use my time for my daughter in ways that she will remember. (obviously she won't remember this specific night--she's too young. i'm just setting the stage.)

Tuesday was the day we chose to celebrate "our" valentine's day & here's some of the fun we had...


we went on a date to Chick-Fil-A which is pretty much her favorite restaurant. i forgot to take a bib... oops, but all the better to see her Valentine's shirt...

[i will say i have  a new found respect for my wife and all the moms out there who take babies out to eat. i was exhausted just making it all happen :)   ]

of course we hit up the play place in CFA next. she loves that place and walks all around and giggles so excitedly as she plays. the only bummer is when you have to slow down long enough to pose for a pic with your Dad...

then we held hands and walked all the way down the sidewalk, across the parking lot to Harris Teeter. surprisingly this was actually her favorite part of the night. she just smiled and looked up at me the whole way - with this pride on her face that seemed to say "this is the best day of my life. i think i'm a big girl now walking a very long way holding my dad's hand..." 

we walked to Harris Teeter for Keira to pick out a V-day balloon. i even let her walk around the store holding my hand. she loved it. once she picked out her fav balloon, i made her sit on the curb outside and pose for a pic with her new gift.

and then we posed for some pics together...
sometimes she just sits in my lap and looks up at me as we talk
and then we start laughing...

when we got home it was way past her bed time, but as always she just HAD to wear daddy's hat for a little while. she thinks it's the funniest thing in the world.
on actual Valentine's Day i did have a trail of valentine's cards waiting for her leading to a rose of her favorite color on her favorite desk to sit at... had to save 1 last Valentine gift for the day of :)

just another day of making some memories that count.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

what your kids will remember

in the back of my mind (since i was in college) has always been an unofficial life motto = "work hard. play hard."

both are meant to be experienced to the full in life. i don't want to go halfway on either.

i also want to live by Jim Elliot's motto = "wherever you are, be all there."

in recent months i've been changing my life more and more to reflect that desire. so that every moment of every day i am fully engaged with whatever i am doing.

so, when i read this thought below on Twitter a couple months ago - it resonated with me deeply. and as Moms and Dads are about to go home from work in the next few hours, i thought it would be an appropriate idea to post:

When you see your kids today - play hard.
When they grow up they won't remember you worked hard for them.
They will however remember you played hard with them.

i hope my words at the beginning of this post are enough to convince everyone that i'm not advocating for lazy working fathers or parents who cheat their workplaces, dreams, or jobs.

but i am saying we should be careful not to get sucked into the lie that our culture sells us = that our kids need us to OVERwork & neglect spending time with them for their sake.
the lie that we need to spend less time with them and be slaves to our work so that we can provide for them.

provide WHAT exactly?

a way of life that again, is a lie our culture sells to us as necessary.

no, YOUR kids need YOU.
they need you ALL THERE. ALL IN. 

your kids need you to stop using work as an excuse - as if working excessive amounts of time to make $ to buy them stuff is ultimately important.

they won't remember those long extra hours you spent at the office killing yourself "for them" (i.e. a paycheck)

they will remember YOU

fully engaged

all there

rolling on the floor with them, finger painting, piggy back rides, pushing them on the swings, talking about life, drawing pictures, singing, dancing, wrestling, LAUGHING, and
pouring your life into theirs.

that is what they will remember.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

that's NOT OK! (me & John)

i originally wrote & posted this to renown September 18, 2010. just revisiting some of our time in Kenya...

[i’m thinking about only trying to tell 1 main story per day even though i have like 50… we’ll see how well i stick to that.] Today's will mainly focus on my new good friend John.
[if you are friends with Crystal on Facebook you can see her awesome recap of the day. better job than i would do of recapping... even though i also may post a recap at some point.]

When we arrived in Karima this morning we danced for a while in the clearing where the brand new well is. that's when i met John.
i hung out with John and he taught me the dances and the words to the songs. You know how when we’re singing a song we rock an AIR GUITAR? well, these peeps in Kenya rock the AIR ACCORDION instead. seriously.
Then John taught me the exact moment when to yell "WHOOOO!" each time during one song & dance, so we became fast friends.
I hung out with John most of the day. Our whole team from Ridge/410 Bridge walked about 1 mile down the one road through Karima. The people pointed out their homes and farms to us + the 5 churches in the village. (pics to come later - maybe when we get home?)

I just walked and talked with John the whole time. He has lived in Karima since 1963 (must have been young at the time because he doesn't look very old to me). He is now the chairman of the village council for Karima. That's a pretty big job.

I asked him how many people live in the village and he said almost 4,000. I asked how many of them he knew personally? 1,000? 2,000? he said - almost 4,000! he knows pretty much everybody! wow. (a man after my own heart... haha.)
 Karima has BEAUTIFUL mountains all around it. the temperature is perfect and it is just a straight up beautiful place to be. i told John that and asked if he ever climbed them. He told me about going to the top of the mountains in 1978 and the experience he had.
John has a son named Patrick! how cool is that? he is 30 years old and getting married next month. 

We talked for a long time and then John took us to 3 of the 4 water tanks throughout the village and the brand new clean water well that Karima has now! MZURI! he explained to me how the whole thing works.

as we were walking to one of these water tanks I asked John how the people got drinking water before this well. He said "we would just collect it from the rain or walk to the river." and almost indignant i responded - "but that water isn't clean, right? that makes you very sick..." 

John said, "yes, i know."

it was the way he said it that jacked me up. i was already jacked that these people have been drinking dirty water all their lives - because that's all they have access to... AND they are dying from it!
BUT - he said "yes, i know" and it was as if he were saying "that's just life. that's normal. that's all we've ever known. we need water or we die. but when we drink the water... we die." there was nothing abnormal about this for him... like it was almost "OK".

THAT'S NOT OK! there is no freaking way that this should be happening. it jacks me up so much. 
for some reason, most of the "rich" in our world live like it is OK. (i want to write a lot more about it but every time i think about this all day long i get so passionate that i just tear up, well up, choke up... so, maybe some other time i'll dive in more intensely.)

Thankfully - 410 Bridge & Living Water International (another awesome org. i've written a lot about via Advent Conspiracy etc...) teamed up to make sure these 4,000 people have clean water. The well & water are working and good to go as of this month! + hopefully this week they'll get the electricity to send the water down the pipes to the "areas" where the homes are.

Check out this SHORT (20 second) video of John talking about life in Karima before & after this clean water! (i lowered the quality because the HD video would take up all my MB, but i will post the full version later. sorry for the other loud voices in the background... just try to listen to John.)
video

i shot a video of a community leader in Karima pointing out the graves of two people he knew who died before they got clean water. i personally don't think that should be happening ANYWHERE in our world today. Thankfully in Karima, it doesn't have to anymore.

This is Danson (on the far right). i met him today. he's 6 years old and see if you can check out the logo on his sweatshirt. He is rocking a CHARLOTTE HORNETS sweatshirt! i tried to explain to him that that's where i lived and that was the team that used to be in our city, etc... but i'm pretty sure he didn't get it. (i have other thoughts on this incident from a 30K foot view, but more on that later.)
i also met Richard today. i could tell right away that Richard is a really smart kid. he's 9 years old & as you can see has an awesome smile. he loves playing soccer (kandanda), so we hit it off. we already plan to play some kandanda together later on this week.

*Here's what i get excited about:
Richard and Danson were born in Karima and will probably live the rest of their lives in Karima. They will grow up and live the rest of their lives always having CLEAN WATER! For my friend John, he only knew dirty water. but now for Danson and Richard, it's a new era.
Their children will never even know what it's like to drink water that kills instead of water that gives life.

that makes me so happy and excited. that makes Jesus so happy and excited. That's God's kingdom breaking through and coming to earth. that's the kind of revolution i want to spend my life being a part of.
Why? because God died for these amazing people. He didn't die for them so they could die because of something preventable. he died for them so they could know Him and know His Name and be satisfied in Him. Jesus died for them so His name could be famous in Karima. He died for them because He wanted their worship. 
and there was a ton of worship going down today. 
dead people don't worship. people who die from drinking dirty water don't worship.

but God, the God who gives water... and life... and satisfaction... and salvation... and joy...
is being worshipped in Karima today. John and I worshipped God together today and celebrated His renown in a tiny little village in some mountains of Kenya.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

1st WHO then what

this is a Jim Collins idea - that great organizations follow a "1st WHO then what" policy...

1st get the right peeps on the bus, the wrong peeps off the bus, the right peeps in the right seats, & then, only then decide where to drive the bus!

Collins had 3 big principles for leaders, but i especially dig the last 2...

2 important principles for Leaders
1          If you have the right peeps on the bus, the problem of how to motivate and manage people largely goes away. 
*The right people simply don’t need to be managed or motivated. They’ll be self motivated by their inner drive and desire to create something great.

2          If you have the wrong peeps, it won’t matter if you have the right direction! You still won’t have a great organization!
            ***“Great vision without great people is irrelevant!”

*Just focus on injecting an endless stream of talent into the organization. (maybe even with no specific job description in mind)

& that's the surest way to create a great organization = lots of great people.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

there's a difference

there's a difference between hiring and recruiting:

“Hiring is what you do when you let the world know that you’re accepting applications from people looking for a job.
Recruiting is the act of finding the very best person for a job and persuading them to stop doing what they’re doing and come join you.” 
Seth Godin

1 sounds exhilarating, ambitious, and fulfilling. the other not so much.

1 is a pretty exciting challenge. the other is easy and doesn't require much finesse.

1 leaves you one day with an organization full of amazing people. the other... not so much.

maybe we all need to start recruiting and forget this hiring nonsense.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

insatiable need to know more

i originally wrote and posted this to renown on November 18, 2010.

i want to do big things with my life. i want my years on earth to count in big ways. there's a certain renown i want to further... and it's not mine.

sometimes i get frustrated because there are a lot of abilities and qualities i don't have that seem to be the ones people need to accomplish big things. 
but... i was encouraged when i read this:

 

“The people who are exceptionally good in business aren’t so because of what they know but because of their insatiable need to know more.” 
– Michael Gerber, in E-Myth Revisited 

(we read this book and discussed it in the leadership coaching network i was in. Gerber was writing specifically for business people, but the principles in the book - including this one - apply to any type of organization.)

for the record, i think "insatiable" is a great word.

that sentence GRABBED me! because thankfully... that's ME! 
not necessarily the "good in business" part... but God has blessed me with an "insatiable need to know more". which some days i have felt like it is a curse. but i know it's not. it's a blessing. i hope i can steward it well.

i do not know a whole lot but i have this undeniable entrepreneurial spirit inside me coupled with an insatiable need to know MORE. it's not just a "desire", but a need that i can't do anything to squelch. i hope that can combine with all my shortcomings and imperfections to produce big things.


Monday, February 4, 2013

WHO not WHAT

Crystal and i have thought and talked a lot about parenting the past year and a half. understandably so.
i think about it constantly because we want to help shape Keira into the amazing person God made her to be.

this is a thought i was pondering recently:
*it SEEMS to me that many parents focus on WHAT their children will be when they grow up. as in what they will DO. what profession they will choose.
or maybe most parents don't really start with that focus, but that is pretty much the grid our Westernized American culture sees everything through. maybe parents just migrate their.

so the focus becomes helping my child become the WHAT - a profession. parents want their children to become good WHATs. help them get into a good profession.

*as if there is any such thing. as if there are some good professions and some bad ones.

i don't think there are.

i think there are good salesmen and bad ones.
good pastors and bad ones.
good janitors and bad ones.
good teachers and bad ones.
good missionaries and bad ones.
good doctors and bad ones.
good lawyers and bad ones.

a profession is just a WHAT. the person is a WHO and that's what really matters.

so, Crystal and i definitely take a different approach as parents. we are ALL about WHO Keira is going to be.
we focus on the person she is BECOMING.
WHO she is going to be when she grows up.
NOT what kind of profession she will have -- because, WE COULD NOT CARE LESS.

we do care immensely about the kind of person she will become.

that's why we chose 5 values before she was born that we would always focus our parenting around. these 5 values represent the kind of person we would love to help her BECOME. (and within each of the 5 values are a few more descriptive values that make up the main 5 values for us. 20 words in all... those sub-values are in parentheses.)
when we think about the end we have in mind for Keira, this is it:

Love - knowing she is loved, overwhelmed by that, & then LOVES all people. (respectful, welcoming)
Generous - GIVING (thankful, blessing, selfless)
Revolutionary - far from status quo (passionate, stories, dreamer, corageous)
Trust God - no matter what. unwavering faith. radical trust (positive, humble, wise)
Renown - everyone lives for a renown, my prayer is that Keira figures out the only one worth living for... (Joy, Live it, unique)

this is the grid we want to think and parent through. keeping these values at the forefront.
if Keira is an adult who lives that kind of lifestyle, i won't even worry about what she "does" for a profession.

Friday, February 1, 2013

talking to ourselves

i originally wrote and posted this to renown November 27, 2010.

a lot of the time we're just talking to ourselves. and that's about as useless as it sounds.


this week i finished Francis Schaeffer's classic - He Is There and He Is Not Silent.

This sentence was so simple, but so profound and practical for most Christians:
"You have to preach the simple gospel so that it is simple to the person to whom you are talking, or it is no longer simple."

That is brilliant. Whether you're talking to a middle schooler or a person who has never been to church or a true post modern... simple to them is WAY different than the way most people generally explain the gospel "simply".

"So why have we as Christians gone on saying the great truths in ways that nobody understands? Why do we keep talking to ourselves, if men are lost and we say we love them."
- Francis Schaeffer

Why do we keep talking to ourselves? Because it's just easier? Because we never really think about it?

Monday, January 28, 2013

do you hate your job? what about the people who work for you?

this is basically part 3 of me writing about our JOBS and how most people hate theirs, or at least don't love them. you can read parts 1 & 2 HERE & HERE.

but this post is more focused on leaders. maybe as a leader you love your job, but what about the people you lead? 
because as a leader you have a HUGE impact on whether or not the peeps you lead LOVE or HATE their job.

in fact, based on the 3 factors i talked about in Part 2 -- it pretty much all rises & falls on the leader. (as most things do) 

back when i originally wrote this (5 years ago, remember) Crystal was a nurse (& still is), but she hated it. she liked being a nurse, but she hated her job.
[just for clarity, she LOVES her current position - which allows her to be a stay at home mom & deliver babies every once in a while :) ]

the reason she used to hate her job was ALL ABOUT bad leadership. i started to listen to her frustrations about work and ask Questions... and it didn't take me long to realize that Crystal had an incredibly bad leader/manager in place.  
& i was also convinced that, UNFORTUNATELY, her job couldn't really get much better until her leader got better (or stopped being the leader).

to my knowledge, her leader never once praised or celebrated the employees/nurses!
i even asked her to think back in all her years to remember even 1 time where that happened - and she couldn't.
also, no "wins" were ever celebrated. i.e. - the leader never took time to celebrate things like "hey, we saved a baby's life today!" or "good job - without you guys doing an awesome job, this wouldn't have happened."

WHAT!? - i'm sitting there thinking that nursing has got to be one of the easiest professions in the world to do that with. i mean, you're basically in the life saving business! & this was in the NICU (neo-natal ICU)... so if there was a success it was usually a baby's life saved... or giving parents a few more days to spend with their newborn.
that is worth celebrating.
actually, i would say that is too important to NOT celebrate.

but never 1 time did the leader pull the nurses aside and say:
"great job, we saved a life today. there is a baby who is going to grow up into an adult because of YOU and the great job you did. These parents are going to watch their son grow up and graduate because of you. This dad will get to walk his daughter down the aisle one day because of what you did."

who doesn't need to hear that? who wouldn't be MOTIVATED by that. i mean, i'll put up with A LOT of crap at my job as long as i could hear that every once in a while. you know what i'm sayin?

but never once. are you kidding me?
people need to feel like what they're doing is RELEVANT. like it MATTERS. that what they're busting their butt to do for a paycheck is also MAKING A DIFFERENCE.

i remember feeling CONFIDENT that i could walk in day 1 and be a better leader than that manager at the hospital. that's not me being cocky. it's just basic leadership 101 stuff she was doing the opposite of. i don't know the 1st thing about nursing, but i felt like i could at least help those nurses be BETTER nurses and LOVE their jobs.
seriously, there's no reason a freaking nurse shouldn't love her job.

i can't explain how bummed i was for my wife. i felt trapped for her.
thankfully, Crystal moved to a slightly different unit and had a different leader that was a lot better. the years before Keira was born she LOVED her job (you know, most days). she enjoys it now when she gets to go back.
believe it or not, that crappy leader was PROMOTED. go figure.

*if you're a leader - do the people working for you love their job or is it just a paycheck?
as a leader, there is no feeling more sickening to my stomach than to imagine that people i lead don't love what they do. i want to work hard to keep the job misery triangle far away.

leaders, it may be as simple as ensuring your peeps experience the opposites of anonymity, irrelevance, & immeasurement.

Anonymity - do the people you lead feel KNOWN by you? most people working jobs they don't love feel like the boss has no idea who they actually are. sure the boss knows their name, but that's about it. how about as leaders we care about the peeps we lead. if i don't care about the people i lead, i shouldn't be a leader.

Irrelevance - MAKE SURE people don't feel what they're doing is irrelevant. & not relevance related to the bottom line for the company either... if people don't feel like they matter, of course they're going to hate working for you.
so, what MATTERS to them? i guess you have to KNOW them before you can know that. & again, if you don't... maybe you shouldn't (spelled "c-a-n-n-o-t") be their leader.

Immeasurement - ever told them they're doing a good job or bad job? how would they know? have you told them how they can know?

leadership is not really rocket science.

i feel like there are no such thing as good jobs and bad jobs. that's a myth. there are fulfilling jobs & there are miserable jobs.
choose wisely.
& if you're a leader, LEAD BETTER!