parody, tarp surfing, learning to teach, and open heaven

It's been awhile since a "this & that" post. There's plenty to look at, click on, hear, watch, and do. Do as little or as lot as you wish, but whatever you do - let knowledge be something that produces action. It's my hope that the more I know, the more I can translate that knowledge into love actions in a way that pleases my Lord. Just like all Truth is God's, all knowledge is possible only because He's allowed it to be so.

  • Andrée Seu is a woman I'd love to meet. This piece, "Under an Open Heaven," seems to be a page right out of my heart. Here's a taste, now please go read the rest!

My lover is the fresh wind of the Spirit, blowing through the rafters of my melancholy. My lover speaks of God "in season and out of season," like Jesus at the well in Sychar, in his fatigue and hunger. There is no difference between his "religious" talk and his regular talk. He does not sound one way in church and another at the mall.

Walking with him I feel no sides, no floor, no ceiling, and everything all new: No past, no future. No rules but God's. No servitude but to Him. No man-made impossibilities. We do the adventure called "where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." Let me be blunt: This is fun!

  • Wanna know what makes a great story? Seems like this post would answer it, "1+1=3 Ken Burn on what makes a great story" but it may not answer your math questions.
  • If I could choose a conference to go to this summer (in addition to the Muslim Missions Conference in Dearborn, Michigan), it would be the gem of a conference in Florida - The Gospel Coalition Women's Conference. The next best thing, of course, is to read/listen to everything. Carrie Sandom, hailing from the UK, will be speaking and here's an introduction that makes me excited to hear more from her. "Learn the Bible to Teach the Bible" makes a bunch of sense.
  • Do you doubt that a landlocked country could surf waves? Doubt no more. This is really sweet. [vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/17298096 w=500&h=369]
  • Not to be "that kind of fan," but Metaxas has proved himself as a brilliant writer and historian (Amazing Grace and Bonhoeffer). This article, "Spirituality as Parody" is definitely worth the read as well (and a lot shorter than Bonhoeffer).
  • What does your view of Scripture have to do with your view of God? See what J.I. Packer has to say about that, "Your View of Scripture and Your View of God."
  • If you haven't noticed, I've been grooving to the new band Citizen. They're cool enough to spend $3 on, for sure. [bandcamp album=2679071235 bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

Okay, friends. That's all for now. Click, read, listen, watch, and... then DO something.

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

"Occupy Wall Street" ruffles my feathers

Occupy Wall Street is quite the buzz lately.

Social media is on cyber fire with it. Talk radio either worships or attacks it. Conservative news networks can't figure it out. Liberal news networks can't see any flaws.

Prompted by this article, "Why I Don't Protest" by Pete Wilson (Pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville), I decided to join the milieu.

I guess what ruffles my feathers has something to do with the bottomline (another buzzword).

I'll go ahead and make this personal. If I am passionate about something, I would hope it is something that has three qualities 1) truth 2) significance and 3) possibility.

Let me break it down.

1) Truth I'm not going to protest a point that has been proven false. Neil Armstrong did walk on the moon, the Holocaust did unfortunately happen, and Al Gore did not create the internet. I like to think we can use the brains God gave us to decipher fact from fiction. There's a lot that doesn't get into the news headlines that might or might not be worthy of a protest (personal or otherwise) and that's where 1 Thessalonians 5 comes in oh-so-handy.

Paul reminds his brothers and sisters of their secure salvation and identity as children of the light. He encourages them to live peacefully with one another, rejoice always, and pray continually. Then he says in verses 20-22, "Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject every kind of evil."

Not everything we hear is true.

I know, it sounds crazy. Paul wanted his brothers and sisters to be discerning about everything and holding firmly ONLY to what is good (This begs a more lengthy discussion for what we determine to be good). In Galatians 1, Paul cautioned the people against "other gospels" preached by angels or even himself. We must have a discerning filter, even with people we trust.

Only with a serious pursuit of the Lord (Creator and Living Word) can we have the type of discernment that will allow us to know what is good/evil and true/false. In the same way we can discern spiritual matters of the heart, we are able to discern matters of society.

From a simple study in household income demographics, one can conclude that people living in the United States are easily part of the 1 and not 99 percent.

2) Significance You might say that the second naturally follows the first. If something is true, it is significant by default. Hm. Maybe some things that are true are not significant.

I am sitting on a sofa right now.

Is this truth significant? (Please don't answer that it implies such and such about who I am and where I come from... it happens to be raining in the Midwest right now, which means the tractors are in their sheds and we are praying against snow.)

There are certain truths that are significant because they reflect our relationship with our Creator and with others. God has been so good to give us His Word, by which we can grasp (Ephesians 5) His glorious and mysterious redemption story. Significance, I believe, starts there.

Then, we've got to take that beautiful gem called discernment into taxi cabs and general stores and news headlines to understand what God would call significant in our everyday lives. What would He say is worth our energy, time, and treasure?

Is the truth that some people in the world make a lot more money than other people in the world significant? I would say it could be.

3) Possibility That leads us to quality numero tres: possibility. It would seem pretty silly for me to protest the idea that everyone should sit on refrigerator boxes instead of furniture. Silly because it is not significant, but also because there is slim to none chance that I could ever recruit people to think furniture is a bad idea (apart from the hipster crowd who might jump on the trend wagon until they find something irresistible at a thrift store that would almost be evil to NOT sit on).

Here's an example (to throw another hot-button issue in them mix): I'm not going to protest abortion clinics and I'll tell you why (after I give you time to throw up your hands or furrow you brow or decide whether to read on.... done?).

I'm not saying I support the practice of abortion. What I am saying is that the presence of abortion clinics and women who use them reveals an issue deeper than any legislative reform could ever reach. It reveals an issue of the heart. It reveals the way we view the sanctity of human life.

David P. Gushee writes in his article "The Sanctity of Human Life,"

The belief that each and every human being has an inviolable dignity and immeasurable worth is one of the most precious legacies of biblical faith to the world.

It profoundly elevates the way human beings view and treat one another.

It restrains the darkest impulses that course within our fallen nature.

Every day for millennia it has both saved lives and enriched their quality.

Indeed, it provides the bedrock upon which the moral and legal codes of our culture and much of the world have been built.

He goes on to explain why the sanctity of life is worth protecting - apart from politics and debates. Gushee looks at the history of human dignity from the pages of the Old Testament. It is something oh-so-wonderful to be made in the image of God!

What I am getting at here is this: One does not fix a broken chair by getting a new chair (equally susceptible to breaking). The possibility for fixing the chair greatly increases by admitting the chair is broken and that there can be a solution.

The real Wall Street problem is not a few people with big money. The real Wall Street problem is people. The possibility for fixing the Wall Street problem greatly increases if we admit people are sinful. This is a heart issue.

And this, friends, is what ruffles my feathers. We spend a whole lot of time, energy, and perfectly good posterboard to protest ... well, sin.

We may not recognize it, but what rumbles up inside of us when someone has what we want... that's called coveting. A rich man can covet as easily as a poor man. A socialite can envy someone as easily as a nobody. A prosperous businessman can offer a bribe as easily as a shady used car salesman. A millionaire can misuse his money as easily as a beggar.

I'm into bottomlines. Here's one that is true and significant:

we are of the 100% we are all sinners

Where's the possibility?

We can be saved by grace. And, yes, I can get passionate about that.

UPDATE: Just in case you don't catch the comments on this post, my friend Scot Hekman at Slow Sand posted this article from the Economist, "Leaderless, consensus-based participatory democracy and its discontents."

Also check out my series called Occupy Life where I start to unpack some of the ways we choose to occupy every single day. Occupy Life: Lunch Hour Occupy Life: Ale Occupy Life: Roland and Delaney

a la orden: iowa

Okay, let me give you the skinny: a la orden (in spanish) means at your service

In some Spanish speaking countries, you'll hear it as much as you hear "Hola," which was the case when I lived in Honduras for the past three years. Bus drivers, taxistas, people in cafés and people on the streets - they all say "a la orden" for one reason or another. But it wasn't the common-ness of the word that got me hooked, it was a few particular instances.

I noticed, when I hung out with my high school girls, they would ALWAYS compliment each other on the clothes they wore. The girl wearing the complimented clothes would nearly always respond with, "a la orden." After a little investigation, I found that this translated to, "Oh, thanks! If you want to wear it - it's yours anytime! Just ask!"

This was their way of saying thanks for the compliment: Girl 1 compliments Girl 2 on her blouse Girl 2 recognizes the compliment and then makes the blouse available to Girl 1 Girl 1 could then ask to borrow the blouse if the need came up

Pretty simple.

So, I started wondering what would happen if we did the same with our spiritual gifts AND the material things we own. I wrote about it here and here and here. What would happen if we offered the things about our lives that draw out compliments? Because, generally, the things we are complimented on are things we get pretty excited about. A shirt, a car, an art project, guitar playing skills, hanging out with kids... you can fill in the blank with a possession or talent that has sent some compliments your way.

THEN, you take that compliment and turn it around to say:

a la orden

Yep. You make that gift, talent, or possession available to whoever recognized it was good in you.

There is nothing good in me (I know that for certain), save Christ. So, whatever is good about what I do, think, say, or have is only good because of Christ in me and I can't be selfish about Him.

This is the a la orden philosophy that I realize is not anything new or revolutionary (my friend and I found GOBS of a la orden examples in the Old Testament). But, it was something that put flesh on the bones of "put others ahead of yourself" and has kept me accountable to keep at it.

In Honduras, my friends and I kind of went crazy. We made "a la orden" a verb and a noun. We would have a la orden parties, a la orden discussions, a la orden clothes (if you so much as mentioned you liked it). We carried food and toys and clothes in my car to a la orden to the kids at stoplights. We tried to remind each other of the things we needed to make available to others - that we shouldn't and couldn't hoard the good things God has given us.

Now, I'm taking this sweet Spanish phrase to the great plains of the Midwest.

It's been interesting, but I guess it means helping with wedding plans, talking beside a campfire in the middle of the night, babysitting, meeting for coffee, calling my Honduran students who are now in college, talking on skype, driving to Colorado to encourage a sister who is struggling, functioning as a taxi for church events and a shuttle service for a mission conference. It means farming (and providing some un-farmer-like comedic relief) and writing and jumping like popcorn during game time at AWANA. It means letting a future missionary take me out for coffee and answering all her questions about "how to get there" with "Trust in the Lord, my dear."

It means a lot of things I never thought it would, but it always means thinking less of me and more of others. If I'm holding on to something to tightly, it might be something I should try to give up - like time and physical treasures.

I'm excited to find out there are OH-SO-MANY ways a la orden lives on here. I do miss doing a la orden lifestyle with my community in Honduras, but I figure we'd better spread the love around and what better place than Iowa?

Here are some of my favorite a la orden buddies.

[slideshow]

Here is a beautiful tune for your Tuesday! Enjoy!

[bandcamp track=4120787669  bgcol=FFFFFF linkcol=4285BB size=venti]

this & that

Here's another batch of links that wouldn't be a waste of time (in my opinion).

  • If you're like me, you've wondered a time or two if there is a way to discern what to do or not do in the next phase of your life... and what God wants you to do and how you can find that out. Well, here's a good start. "How to know the will of God" by Tim Challies is actually part of a series that you should definitely read.
  • So, apparently the new iphone is CRAZY awesome. So much so that movies (REAL movies) are 'bout to be made with it. Check out the comparison of the new iphone with a Canon 5D MKII (a really good camera).

http://vimeo.com/30606785

  • I always like to give musical suggestions and I don't mind if you don't share my taste. Take it or leave it, I've been enjoying the The Steel Wheels recently and think you might too. You can get an album for free at Noisetrade!
  • Are you into watercolor? Or maybe you just know good art when you see it? You should check out my good friend Natalie Groves. She writes a blog on the painting process and you can see some of her pieces. If you liked the movie Miss Potter, you'll LOVE her style and stories! Here's one of my faves:
  • If you're getting stuck when you start thinking about what you could make for Christmas gifts, here's a good place to start: Pinterest. Check out this list for Christmas DIY.
  • I read an article awhile back, an interview actually with Alisa Harris, author of the recent book, "Raised Right." She grew up in a very fundamental Christian home and the book is about her journey untangling her faith from politics as she grew older. She is now married on the East Coast and still holds to her Christian values without being ultra-conservative like her parents. Of course, I haven't read it but I would be so interested to see what she has to say.
  • This article by Paul David Tripp seems especially poignant in my current life phase. Read, "5 Reasons God Calls us to Wait" and let me know if you think the reasons are good enough to put us through the waiting ringer. :)
  • This link is the ultimate downer, so be prepared. The Atlantic published the article "World War II: The Holocaust" and with it a collection of photos. As hard as it is to view, it's a reminder of human depravity and despair.
  • I don't have children yet, but when I do they will NOT have a TV in their bedroom. "In the Danger Zone: Raising our Children in the Age of the Screen" is an article from Albert Mohler that should scare us out of the nasty habit of having the television on.
  • And last, because I want to end on a funny note, check out this Rowan Atkinson skit. It's hilarious. Good, old fashioned comedy right there.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Sf_pogZ8jE?feature=player_embedded&w=640&h=360]
Happy Monday, folks!

Mission 2011: Here I am. SEND ME!

Our theme verse for our week of focused mission service comes from Isaiah 6:8,

"Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!"

Our preparation has a beautiful, frantic fragrance this week. We are running around arranging, buying, planning, and chasing details like one chases a beach ball across a lake on a windy day. One thing is for sure: God is completely sovereign. Even in the foibles, I can claim this as true. I thought some of you might be interested in reading through the short devotionals for each day this week. I've included the passage (taken from The Message Bible) and the few questions I've asked the kids to ponder. Pray with us as God humbles our hearts and uses broken vessels to reveal His great Light of salvation!

Throughout the week, students will be updating on my blog to give direction to your prayers/praises and most importantly to give God the glory for the overflow of love. So stay tuned this week!

MONDAY: “costly sacrifice”

Scripture: 2 Samuel 24:18-25, the Message 18-19 That same day Gad came to David and said, "Go and build an altar on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite." David did what Gad told him, what God commanded.

20-21 Araunah looked up and saw David and his men coming his way; he met them, bowing deeply, honoring the king and saying, "Why has my master the king come to see me?"

"To buy your threshing floor," said David, "so I can build an altar to God here and put an end to this disaster."

22-23 "Oh," said Araunah, "let my master the king take and sacrifice whatever he wants. Look, here's an ox for the burnt offering and threshing paddles and ox-yokes for fuel—Araunah gives it all to the king! And may God, your God, act in your favor."

24-25 But the king said to Araunah, "No. I've got to buy it from you for a good price; I'm not going to offer God, my God, sacrifices that cost me nothing."

So David bought the threshing floor and the ox, paying out fifty shekels of silver. He built an altar to God there and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. God was moved by the prayers and that was the end of the disaster.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What are easy things you have given up this week? Was it hard to make the decision to give them up or go without?
  • What are hard things you have given up for this week? How did you make the decision that it is worth it?
  • What are things God is asking you to give up in your “normal” life, apart from this mission trip?
  • David was told to build an altar because his people were suffereing great disaster. He was asked to worship the Lord in the midst of great trial. Even then he didn’t feel right worshipping without great sacrifice. Is there disaster in your life and God is asking you to worship still? How has he shown you that He will be faithful to bring you through it and even bring relief?

TUESDAY: “think of others as better”

Scripture: Philippians 2:1-4, the Message 1-4If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Has the love of Christ made any difference in your life? Have you felt the power and comfort of community? Do you care about what God cares about? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this passage is for you.
  • Think about times when you agreed/disagreed with someone who is also a Christian ask yourself if your actions reflected the great love Christ has shown you. Can you give an example of a time when you did reflect Christ? And a time when you didn’t?
  • How many times have you “pushed your way to the front” or “sweet-talked” to get ahead of everyone else? Can you think of a specific time?
  • What can you do THIS week to “put yourself aside” and help OTHERS get ahead?
  • Apart from this one week of service, how can you “forget yourself” to put others first?

WEDNESDAY: “who we are instead”

Scripture: Isaiah 58, the Message 1-3 "Shout! A full-throated shout! Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout! Tell my people what's wrong with their lives, face my family Jacob with their sins!

They're busy, busy, busy at worship, and love studying all about me. To all appearances they're a nation of right-living people— law-abiding, God-honoring.

They ask me, 'What's the right thing to do?' and love having me on their side. But they also complain, 'Why do we fast and you don't look our way? Why do we humble ourselves and you don't even notice?' 3-5"Well, here's why: "The bottom line on your 'fast days' is profit. You drive your employees much too hard. You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight. You fast, but you swing a mean fist.

The kind of fasting you do won't get your prayers off the ground. Do you think this is the kind of fast day I'm after: a day to show off humility? To put on a pious long face and parade around solemnly in black? Do you call that fasting, a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9"This is the kind of fast day I'm after: to break the chains of injustice, get rid of exploitation in the workplace, free the oppressed, cancel debts.

What I'm interested in seeing you do is: sharing your food with the hungry, inviting the homeless poor into your homes, putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad, being available to your own families.

Do this and the lights will turn on, and your lives will turn around at once. Your righteousness will pave your way. The God of glory will secure your passage. Then when you pray, God will answer. You'll call out for help and I'll say, 'Here I am.'

9-12"If you get rid of unfair practices, quit blaming victims, quit gossiping about other people's sins. If you are generous with the hungry and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out, your lives will begin to glow in the darkness, your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight. I will always show you where to go.

I'll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—firm muscles, strong bones. You'll be like a well-watered garden, a gurgling spring that never runs dry. You'll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew, rebuild the foundations from out of your past.

You'll be known as those who can fix anything, restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate, make the community livable again.

13-14"If you watch your step on the Sabbath and don't use my holy day for personal advantage, If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy, God's holy day as a celebration, If you honor it by refusing 'business as usual,' making money, running here and there—

Then you'll be free to enjoy God! Oh, I'll make you ride high and soar above it all.

I'll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob." Yes! God says so!

Questions to Ponder

  • Read over the passage again, and this time think about what the people of Israel were doing and what God wanted them to do instead.
  • In your life, what have you done to make it “appear” like you are a good Christian – have you acted like a Christian for the right people, but acted differently elsewhere? How and when?
  • Right now, what do you feel God specifically calling you to stand up for or give up or do?
  • How do you think God might use your life to “glow in the darkness” of your family, friends, school?

THURSDAY: “who is my neighbor?”

Scripture: Matthew 9:36-39, the Message 37-40Jesus said, "'Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence.' This is the most important, the first on any list. But there is a second to set alongside it: 'Love others as well as you love yourself.' These two commands are pegs; everything in God's Law and the Prophets hangs from them."

Questions to Ponder:

  • What is the first on your list of things to love in life?
  • If you are honest, do you love God with all your passion, prayer, and intelligence? In your own words, what does this look like?
  • Can you remember a time in your life where you loved God in this way?
  • What is a practical example in your life as a way you would love others as much (if not more) than you love yourself?
  • Who are the “others” in your life? Is it next door, down the street, at the orphanage, on the street corner, in your classes, in your home? Who is your neighbor?

FRIDAY: “weary times and refreshment”

Scripture: 2 Samuel 16:5-14 5-8 When the king got to Bahurim, a man appeared who had connections with Saul's family. His name was Shimei son of Gera. As he followed along he shouted insults and threw rocks right and left at David and his company, servants and soldiers alike. To the accompaniment of curses he shouted, "Get lost, get lost, you butcher, you hellhound! God has paid you back for all your dirty work in the family of Saul and for stealing his kingdom. God has given the kingdom to your son Absalom. Look at you now—ruined! And good riddance, you pathetic old man!" 9 Abishai son of Zeruiah said, "This mangy dog can't insult my master the king this way—let me go over and cut off his head!"

10 But the king said, "Why are you sons of Zeruiah always interfering and getting in the way? If he's cursing, it's because Godtold him, 'Curse David.' So who dares raise questions?"

11-12 "Besides," continued David to Abishai and the rest of his servants, "my own son, my flesh and bone, is right now trying to kill me; compared to that this Benjaminite is small potatoes. Don't bother with him; let him curse; he's preaching God's word to me. And who knows, maybe God will see the trouble I'm in today and exchange the curses for something good."

13 David and his men went on down the road, while Shimei followed along on the ridge of the hill alongside, cursing, throwing stones down on them, and kicking up dirt. 14 By the time they reached the Jordan River, David and all the men of the company were exhausted. There they rested and were revived.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Can you remember a time someone “kicked you while you were down”?
  • How might your classmates “throw stones” when you return to “normal life?”
  • What does God promise us after we pass through a time of trial or persecution in life? (vs. 14)
  • What (evil) has God allowed in your life that, when you look back, you can see He used for good?
  • Are there any times in your life where you remember being refreshed and revived by God?

affirm-entum

Choose one of the following descriptions:

  • Espresso machines whir in the background of a coffee shop/art gallery where laptop computers provide electronic lighting, in addition to the vintage-looking lamps strategically (yet somehow sporadically) placed on end tables and hanging from unfinished ceilings. The aromas of imported, fair trade coffees seem a perfect backdrop for an emotionally charged philosophical discussion on the cultural implications for human rights violations in the country of Ukraine (thanks to a recent blue book exam in Modern European History class).
  • Classic carafes filled grace every perfectly stressed, re-claimed barn board tabletop. Modern color combinations inspire placemats and name cards in the exclusive party room at the uppest of scales restaurant where the sounds of the city's highly sought after jazz ensemble drift just under the murmuring conversation about the topic of the gala fundraiser: human trafficking.
  • An improvised family dinner, featuring items in the fridge and pantry nearing expiration, quickly evolves behind 12 foot cement walls and coils of concertina wire. The small, makeshift table overflows with potluck plenty and every fresh-from-college, penniless international volunteer settles in for the patchwork courses and three cups of tea to follow. The meatless menu curves conversation around to an all too-high-brow discussion of frightful fast food production and the undeniable consequences on the modern child.

Do you recognize these scenes? I do. I can put myself in each one, or a variation at least. These scenes play like merry-go-rounds in my generation.

In a recent conversation with a close friend, we were lamenting our generation's increased probability to begin (and become passionate about) movements and the equally probable end result: to bail out. We are obsessed with the idea that we can be a significant part of change but equally obsessed with the idea that we are entitled to choose NOT to. In this way, all our passion is like a high speed motorboat leaving havoc in its wake. We are good at starting things, planning things, dreaming things, and especially thinking about things - and it's good to start, plan, dream, and think. But, in five or ten years, will all these efforts be about us or will they be about a different object?

Don't get me wrong. Understand that I wonder these things because I am continually indicted by the person of Jesus Christ to examine my own motives and tendencies and this is one of those times. I love a passionate conversation, over coffee or wine, but I'm wondering if our convictions carry less commitment because of their root.

I wonder if our convenient conversations would bring anchoring commitment if grounded in the person of Jesus Christ instead of a cause.

We make and break commitments every day to each other, with excuses salt and peppering our well-planned withdrawals like seasoning on a mediocre steak. We expect people to back out because we back out. It's just kind of the reality for generation Y: don't expect too much, but then there's a chance you'll be pleasantly surprised.

Enter my newest created word: affirm-entum.

[af-er-men-tuhm]
–noun the movement resulting from the assertion that something exists or is true

You would have guessed rightly if you surmised this word is the wedding of affirmation and momentum. I think they will live happily ever, don't you?

After several minutes of frustration-directed conversation, my friend suggested it would make much more sense to just start encouraging one another. Isn't that what we're called to do, in Christ ("encourage one another and build each other up..." 1 Thessalonians 5:11)? This immediately inspired thoughts about causes focused inwardly on the cause itself as opposed to causes focused on a solution in the future.

Why don't we first assert what we know to be True. Christ is our one perfect example of man and Christ constantly reminded us of our purpose to exalt God rather than to exalt man. Christ pointed to God (and, Himself by association) as the fixed point in the distance. An assertion that this is True (the Gospel) will most definitely be followed by movement.

On a practical level, I am wondering if this means our coffee shop study groups, elite charity dinners, and friendly potlucks should all share this most important fixed point. If our passionate discussion comes from and leads to passionate proclamation of who Christ is, then we are inviting movement toward that fixed point in the distance. People will surely change along with their commitment level, but if we hope for true, significant change then we must defer to the only constant.

This must be our affirmation and encouragement to one another, so our efforts are not motivated by passionate anti-ideas, but rather by the positive agreement that God is greater.

.

.

.

Oh, goodness. I may have just ran around in wordy circles just now. In any case, can you please,

let LOVE fly like cRaZy!
Here's the sermon that provided some of the inspiration:
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cy1H2bJ_mHE]

thank you, for giving to the Lord

There was a Ray Boltz song that my dad really liked called, "Thank you." Actually, I think I might have sung it with him once or twice. Today, I thought of that song as I made this video with my students who are going on the mission trip on March 6-13. Each of these students have stories of lives changed by someone's willingness to share the message of the Gospel. Now, they are taking that hope and boldly walking in faith to share the message with communities around them. We are so thankful for sponsors and support from our teaching staff and community here, but we couldn't figure out how to express our gratitude for the ones far away. This specific video is a thank you to the church in little Atlantic, Iowa... where the people have hearts WAY bigger than the town! [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uyBzusHziM8]

I hope your heart is as warm as mine after hearing their grateful hearts! These kids are such a beautiful reminder that God is forever moving and working in our hearts to bless others. Each time I hear their testimonies or witness their crazy lives in motion, I praise God for his faithfulness. There are other sponsors as well, from both the States and here and we continue to be so thankful for God's provision through them!!

joyful readiness

Here is a combination of things (or is it more of a process of things) that will bring joy to my soul, without fail. students learning/loving God's Word --> responding to spiritual/physical needs around them --> bridging cultural gaps by one great need of a Savior --> God is glorified and we are satisfied

I'm not sure if this process/combination makes sense to you, but my heart understands completely! Coming up on March 6-13, eight of my students will embark on a mission trip to a nearby community. We have been preparing through Bible study, prayer, testimonies, and many organizational details. I keep hearing this beautiful phrase, "Miss, I want to be different and make a difference." Every time a student says some version of this declaration I get a little more excited about what God is doing in their lives. He is moving in marvelous and mysterious ways to bring glory to His name and true, deep satisfaction to His servants.

Please join with me in prayer for these students as we prepare for this mission trip. Below they have written their prayer requests and I would love if you prayed for them by name. We are also relying on God for financial provision in this endeavor, so please pray we will believe in His faithfulness.

[slideshow]

I love this quote from John Piper, "To be humble is to be a servant. They are not the same. But humility leads to joyful readiness to do lowly service." I hope and pray that we will enter into service with this kind of joyful readiness!

let LOVE fly like cRaZy

fathers be good to your daughters... and sons too

This is one of those "been-a-long-time-coming" posts. I remember calling my dad's cell phone randomly while working in Texas several years ago and just saying, "Thanks, dad. I know this may not make sense, but I just need to say thank you for doing what you do and being who you are."

I was spending all my days with college age students at work and some nights with the junior high youth group girls. Over and over and over again I heard about broken homes, a spirit of distrust, and a very real longing from these girls to know their fathers and be known by them.

I'm a fixer by Nichols nature, but as I listened to these stories one thing was certain: this was out of my league.

In every case, every 12-year-old and every almost-20-something, I searched for words and came up speechless. Now, several years later, the stories are piling up like postcards from similar destinations: despair, loneliness, anger, betrayal, pain, and sometimes hope. Those are the ones I like best - the hope ones. The others are ones that make my heart hurt. Those destinations are hard to explain, but they seem to keep arriving at my doorstep.

Tonight, during our Bible study on God's design for women, my heart broke again for all the girls in my life who have a hard time picturing God as a loving Father. If a father is someone who is silent and distant... or two-faced and secretive... or always offering empty promises, then it is hard to picture God's role as our Father much differently.

Oh, this hurts! In the French film Amélie, the little girl's father is a doctor and her mother is a headmistress. They are each particular about different things, but neither very particular about showing affection to their one daughter. One scene read almost exactly like one of my sad story postcards. Amélie, who looks about 5, sits like a statue while her father takes her heartbeat. Her face is emotionless, but the narrator informs us that she, like every girl, wants nothing more than to be hugged by her dad. Since he keeps his distance, she longs and treasures this yearly checkup - where he always finds her heart rate abnormally fast (due to her excitement in being near him).

Almost daily, I am reminded that I have no answers. Nothing I can say today from my mind or heart will hold up tomorrow and will certainly not pass through the many worlds separating me from the home lives of the girls who are so precious to me. I know of only one thing that is true always and it's the unchanging Word of the Lord. I know without that infallible Word, all of my words will fall flat.

As long as I'm on the subject... there are a few things I wish Dads knew. John Mayer's song, "Daughters," scratches the surface of the longing a daughter feels to be loved by her dad, but (not surprisingly) it isn't strong enough.

Fathers, be good to your daughters daughters will love like you do

It was simple enough to capture the attention of a whole crowd of daughters who wished for what this nebulously suggests, but I wish this song spelled out specifics.

Fathers:

  1. Be transparent about your first and greatest Love. For many daughters, your faith is a secret. You might go to church or you might have a Bible, but your ideas and convictions are as hidden and elusive as treasure on a child's treasure map. It's okay to be somewhere in the growing stages of your faith - in fact, it's refreshing for us daughters to know you haven't "arrived" yet. When your daughter can see you admit you need God, her heart and tenderness toward you will grow, but more importantly you will have pointed her gaze to the Father that never fails.
  2. Love your wife. One of the greatest ways you can love your daughter is to love and serve your wife. When they see you honoring, protecting, partnering, laughing, enjoying, and living in a way that reflects God's design, they will be confident as you lead the family AND you will give them an excellent example of a husband. (This is especially important in those years where you cannot relate to your daughter. When nothing makes sense, love your wife well and I promise your daughter will see it!)
  3. Choose to be around. Your daughter will feel special that you've decided the best place for you to be in that moment is with them.
  4. Get personal. Some of my favorite memories with my dad are simple ones that we shared while we did chores together on the farm or as we drove out to a football game or prepared our animals for county fair. Every discussion doesn't have to be deep, but if you open up first then you'll gain your daughter's trust and she'll likely reciprocate (even if it's not right away).
  5. Encourage, praise, love the God-honoring things your daughter does and push her in those things to be excellent. I'll never forget my dad's insistence that I study that little spelling book in preparation for the elementary spelling bees. My dad still types on the computer with his pointer fingers and English wasn't his strongest high school subject, but when he found out I could put letters together in the right order, he was going to make sure I did it excellently. Those little things (though I assure you I didn't love them at the time) made his love for me so obvious.
  6. Be gentle. Your daughter will appreciate well-placed words and respectable silences.
  7. Be good to your sons, too. Your daughters are smart. They will see the way you are leading and guiding your sons. Right now they are probably making mental notes in their heart about whether their dream man will act like the father and brothers in their lives. Many hold desperately on to the hope that it can be different. If they have to rely on Hollywood, they will be hoping for something unhealthy and unrealistic. But she's got a front row seat for what a man should look like, so show her!

I don't know where all this came from, but it is so my heart to encourage men to be men as God created them. I just read this blogpost the other day and it's a slightly different tangent, but with the same bottom line - that men would be true men.

let LOVE fly like crazy

giving PRESENCE this Christmas

I intentionally didn't start out my post yesterday with an apology because I wanted to get right into the strangeness of my gym encounter. Today, I want to post an ENORMOUS slideshow to give you an idea of what the last two weeks have been full of: PRESENCE. Awhile ago, I posted a video from Advent Conspiracy that challenges people to give more meaningful gifts of time and hand-crafted gifts rather than breaking the bank. Here it is again, if you missed it:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVqqj1v-ZBU]

I haven't quite felt up to pounding out life at the keyboard because there's been a LOT of presence-making! I finally got my handmade gifts off to the States, via someone's suitcase and now I'm working on finishing up the ones I still need to deliver here. There's A LOT of baking going on, to be sure. It could be granola, sugar cut-out cookies, pumpkin cake, or a number of other things... but there's ALWAYS something to do in the kitchen this time of year.

Well, enjoy this slideshow. I hope it lets you peek in and kind of sit with me as I go about being present this Christmas.

[slideshow]

movement madness

A little while back, I mused my frustrations in this blogpost about the fashion of movements these days. I rambled on about the ultra distracted, rarely committed, highly energized generation we seem to have become. Our obsession with trends, revolution, and being a part of something "bigger than ourselves" with buzzwords like "countercultural" is a thin veneer. Sometimes, the "make a difference" slogans and painted posters in picket lines advertise self-promotion instead of a cause. We are deathly afraid our lives won't matter, so we join the loudest crowd, learn their clever chants, and march in their lines, hoping our existence will amount to something.

It scares me to think about what will happen when the fad passes... when it is less trendy to identify with the broken and hurting in our world...

When we realize the $80 shoes aren't that cute and we'll never meet those barefoot kids. When we realize how awkward it is to wear a shirt that has the words "sex" and "trafficking" in bold letters. When we realize the chants we are shouting actually require us to buy less, have less, and give more. What happens then?

I'm not always this cynical, but I want to ask these questions of myself and our generation because I am concerned. I'm not worried. I believe the Creator of the universe has a plan to restore all of creation and that plan cannot fail.

I am concerned because we are given a very clear, very serious command to respond (not just with angry outbursts and clever marketing) in a very human way to the needs we see in this world (Isaiah 58).

I hope we can understand that at the end of the day, after all the cause-claiming blogs have been written and all the cause-supporting merchandise has been sent, that caring for the broken, the hurting, and the needy in this world is first and foremost a human responsibility. We can give up on t-shirts and recycled bags or move on to the next fad, but let us not lose sight of what is most important...

If the roots of our motivation reach deeper than trends to the rich soil of God's heart, we will see that responding to the needs of the broken is not a cause...

it's a lifestyle.

Just so you know I can be optimistic, too, here are some links that I think encourage the right kind of movement: Love in Stereo Nomi Network Dalit Freedom Network Gospel for Asia International Justice Mission Strategic World Impact

art is dead. your death killed it.

I was talking to one of my very talented, very artistic friends recently and he made this strong suggestion:

"Art is dead."

At first, it didn't sit very well. The period at the end is so... so defeating. If this statement stirs up a response, even indignation inside you like it did me, then I wonder why. Why are you offended by this idea that art and creativity have died a painful death?

I'm offended because I want to believe it's not so. Somewhere deep down, beneath the indigestion and tortillas, somewhere in that "gut" region people refer to when talking about instincts, I refuse. Something in me revolts at the finality - there is no room for explanation. Just a period and that's it.

It's like falling off the monkey bars on the playground and landing flat on my back. I'm laying there, with the wind knocked out of me, unsteady and unsure of what just happened.

After I caught my breath, I realized I agree with him. Nearly everything "creative" these days is a well-dressed marketing ploy to respond to our basest desires. With all our technology and supposed intellectual advancement, we tread the very same trail to bark up the very same tree, whose roots reach only as deep as our most carnal desires.

Instead of searching for music or entertainment that makes us think and question and understand life, we look for a spoonful of sugar so that (what we pass for) art goes down easy. We don't want art to challenge us or move us or convict us because... well, that doesn't feel good. We want to take in a movie like we take in the uber-buttered, theatre popcorn... without thinking. We want to walk out with our heads bobbing, digesting the plate full of artistic pudding without questioning the grumblings in our bellies for something of more substance.

The second part of my friend's thought took a step closer to my offended spirit. He suggested I'm to blame. Art is dead and my death killed it. I again had to shake the shock of such a suggestion, but again arrived at a convicted conclusion. I agree.

How can something dead make something living? How can an unconscious potter work with clay? How can life come from death? We re-work the same ideas, plots, notes, melodies, story lines centered around sex, money, jealousy, and greed. Then we pronounce it "version 2.0" and, with some clever advertising, have people believing they are consuming something that has "never before been seen." I almost apologized just now for being so cynical, but I held back because it wouldn't be genuine.

The Original Creator took great care in designing the smallest details, from the juice pockets in oranges to the strange mating habits of penguins. Creation is so complicated that we will never, ever exhaust its intricacies. If we let ourselves marvel, we will never be bored and the subject will never be dull. Never.

How does God accomplish this? How does He keep our attention?

He lives.

This is certainly not the end of my musings on this subject, but please chime in with your thoughts!

Also, I read this article over at The Gospel Coalition and I really appreciate the views on creativity, the arts, and the church.

social networks; freedom networks

Dalit girl, Andhra Pradesh, India

Thanks again to social networking, I'm making more amazing connections. Yesterday, via Twitter, I talked with The CO, a band who shares a love for Honduras (Troy came here in July) and also a love for living a life redeemed with a purpose to restore. The band promotes the Dalit Freedom Network through their music and presence on Brite Revolution. I love how they are using the gifts God has given them to make louder the call to respond to the broken.

The Dalit Freedom Network works in India to restore the dignity and freedom of the lowest caste (Dalits).

This is the kind of thing that gets me excited on a Tuesday... social networking that supports freedom networking.

Seems to me like it

lets LOVE fly like CrAzY

sleeping out for something greater

I'm so excited to post this link to Elemental Project, where the sleep out event is featured on their blog today.

Check it out today and share it across this crazy cyberspace so more people can get excited about what the Micah Project is doing on the streets of Tegucigalpa!!

And here's a video for your viewing pleasure!

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oik04YKRsZo]

something to shout about

Today my world both shrunk (in the global village sense) and exploded (in the opportunity sense) and I am practically bursting with excitement. In the span of a few hours, I somehow connected some intercontinental dots and I'm now finding myself in very beautiful company. I've written before about the beauty of friendships drawing out things we never knew we were hiding. In the past, this crazy exchange of joyful energy has happened in a very close-knit group of friends (which is, I'm sure, the kind of crowd to which C.S. Lewis is referring).

Today, something very strange happened. Today, I felt that same joy leap inside me in response to a circle of friends connected through this funny thing called the internet in different countries and states altogether.

Here I am, in Honduras, trying to stay hip and creative and on some undefined artistic edge while working with two drastically different populations in a country more known for its airport landing strip, drug problems, and coffee than artistic movements. I fail pretty regular with the hip/creative/artistic edge routine, but I don't mind because whatever comes out in the process is inspired by the people I'm rubbing shoulders with everyday.

So, back to that strange leap of joy earlier today. Thanks to two social networking sites, I found myself tweeting, direct messaging and emailing two fabulous organizations.

LOVE IN STEREO is all about "uniting people behind causes and social good using art, artists and fans." When I found their site awhile back, the words "cause," "social good," and "art" immediately captured my attention. I've followed them ever since... well, in a twitter/email subscription sense. Today, through some twitter exchanges, I got beyond excited about the possibility of being more than just an admirer in their efforts.

ELEMENTAL PROJECT is using their "website and digital magazines as platforms to showcase positive stories, and promote cause based businesses, charities, and individuals who are actively helping others." Whoa - super intense! I stumbled upon them through an acquaintance from college and I am so impressed by their commitment to make this explosion in social media and technology matter for the people who need it most.

I wonder what C.S. Lewis would say about internet-induced joyful episodes. Well, in any case, there is some beautiful potential staring back from this calendar day and I intend to claim it! I now have new friends in Michigan and Tennessee and if our inspirational conversations can't happen around a local brew, they just might percolate over these internet waves.

And that is alright by me.

Friday night was a strong statement

"Every contact you make with everyone you meet will help them or hinder them on their journey to heaven." C.S. Lewis

If C.S. Lewis is as trustworthy as I believe him to be (and of course he is), then this statement is worth the many times I have re-read it. It's got the "spit out, if lukewarm" severity hidden in between the words that describe our relationships in two ways. There is no in-between. Only two options: helping or hurting someone on their journey to heaven.

That's a pretty strong statement, Clive Staples.

Every single contact? Like, the gas station attendant and the beggar and the person who just passed by my window selling avocados, potatoes, and yuca? Every contact with everyone I meet has some kind of eternal echo?

This past Friday, about 40 ALP students/staff stayed after school for the SLEEPOUT event. After the last buses pulled out of the campus and headed out on their regular routes to drop off students, Micah Project met us at the soccer field to begin our night of fun, fellowship, worship, and service.

Here are just a few pictures. This is a taste of a longer reflection, but I did want to say that Lewis's words confirm my thoughts that on Friday we definitely helped each other (across lines of economic status, reputation, background, age) on our journeys to heaven. May God be praised for the way His children came together as one body!

[slideshow]

If CS Lewis can make strong statements then I can, too.

Friday night was a strong statement where

love FLEW like cRaZY!