Contentment

One verse that I have had on my mind lately from the letter to the Hebrews:
"Keep away from the love of money. Be content with what you have."

I find myself thinking about this subject frequently, so while eating lunch today, I listened to a message from Tim Keller, entitled "Hope and Money." He had several timely things to say, as I have been thinking lately about money and its role in the kingdom, and consequently, its effect on our lives.

Keller didn't mince words in this fairly short sermon, in which he spoke from 1 Timothy 6:6-19.

Keller challenged me on many levels, but here are a few nuggets to chew on:

-Money has power. It has power to blind you to how much you have! That's why Jesus said in Luke's Gospel, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." Why would he say "Watch out!" for any other reason than the fact that we can easily be blind to it. He didn't say "Watch out!" about every kind of sin.

-Just as with drugs, there is a tolerance effect with money. We begin to think that our luxuries are necessities, and we are tricked once again by its power.

-When you see Christ as your treasure, you will finally be wealthy and content.

-Wherever you fall socioeconomically, be content with more simplicity. God wants his people to be involved in all spheres of society, but that doesn't mean we live the same materially.

-If you are in the Church, the older you are/the more money you make - the bigger difference there should be between you and your peers.

-In Christ, we can be content with what we have and forsake the pursuit of more, because:
1. Our Bad things will turn out for good
2. Our Good things cannot be taken from us
3. Our Best things are yet to come
(Jonathan Edwards)





Urban Farming and God

A fun story.

One of my supervisors, Nathan, who is also one of the elders in my house church, has been doing a lot of enthusiastic investigation into urban farming for our neighborhood here in Binghampton. The benefits would be copious: new jobs, fresh and locally grown produce, reduction of blight, an alternative to vacant lots in the neighborhood, a stronger connection to God's creation and an opportunity to teach kids about agriculture.

At CCDA in October, we were introduced to Will Allen and Growing Power in Minnesota. So, Nathan has been learning from him and another chap in nearby Arkansas. Because we are blessed to have the Binghampton Development Corporation in the neighborhood, their will be immediate access to necessary vacant lots. The initial construction of some hoop houses will afford the opportunity for a 365 day growing season here in Memphis. It will be fantastic!

Obviously, the one immediate hurdle is the initial capital necessary to get this show on the road. So, Nathan began investigating grants and keeping an open ear. He told me that he doesn't understand why he is doing this; it's not in his normal repertoire for ministry in the neighborhood. But, for some reason, he has felt strongly that God is doing something here and he doesn't want to ignore it.

Well, last week, a totally unrelated individual, we'll call him Ted, who is a local media executive, picked up the phone and gave Robert a phone call. He had an idea he wanted to chat with Robert about. Robert is the managing director at the Binghampton Development Corporation (see above). The man happens to be in Robert's church and knew that if there was anyone to talk to about his idea coming to fruition in inner city Memphis, it would be Robert.

His burning idea was that he had been following Will Allen and Growing Power and he really felt strongly about helping to develop something similar for the people of inner city Memphis. The problem was that he was just one man with a lot of money; he was disconnected from the personal and knowledge capital required to get this thing going. Robert told Ted that he knew just the person to talk to.

Ted meet Nathan. Nathan meet Ted.

Only God...

Our Somali Neighbors in Nashville

Here in Memphis we are working among Somali refugees. I found this video today - a story about our Somali neighbors in Nashville, TN.

Top Thoughts from the day

On Anxiety - Steve Moses, Francis Chan, David Gillette, et al

"Be thankful for what you have, rather than being so worried about what you don't."

"Our anxiety is sin; it's paralyzing us."

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you...1 Peter 5:6-11

On Discipleship - Alan Hirsch, excerpts from Untamed

"To be an authentically radical disciple requires a relentless evaluation of life’s priorities and concerns—together with an ongoing, rigorous, critique of our culture—to ensure we are not adopting values that subvert the very life and message we are called to live out."

"...the Western Church, because of its deep embedding into the prevailing consumerist culture, has all but lost the art of discipleship. Reggie McNeal has concluded that “church culture in North America is now a vestige of the original [Christian] movement, an institutional expression of religion that is in part a civil religion and in part a club where religious people can hang out with other people whose politics, worldview, and lifestyle match theirs.”

"To fail in discipleship and disciple-making is therefore to fail in the primary mission (or “sentness”) of the church. And it does not take a genius to realize that we have all but lost the art of disciple-making in the contemporary Western church."







God's Economy: 5 Incomplete Thoughts on Money

Ever convinced of my own greed and naiveté regarding money and its use in the kingdom, I attended J.W. Hartgrove's workshop at CCDA, appropriately entitled "God's Economy: Redefining the Health and Wealth Gospel."

Hartgrove, a leader in the New Monastic movement, author and member of the Rutba House community in Durham, NC, gave us his honest reflections on money and shared several stories that gave us a glimpse of the possibility of imagining another way.

Money is a force to be reconciled with; we all encounter the Siren call of the greenback. Jesus plainly said we can only have one Master. Will it be Christ or Money (among the ranks of similar idols)? As we consider money's mastery over us, Hartgrove's shared these five thoughts, summarized incompletely here.

He argued that Americans like to develop comprehensive strategies and plans for investing money, but perhaps Jesus offered us tactics instead. Tactics slowly infiltrate the system, cracking and eroding its oppressive power.

#1 - Subversive Serving

Matthew 20:26-28 - Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

Jesus did not squash the disciples desire to be great here. Those who do not have money, often desire money, b/c it is such a visible sign of power in our economy. But in God's Economy, serving is the new power.

#2 - Eternal Investments

Matthew 6:19-21 - Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.

Use money now as a means to store up treasure in heaven, i.e. have an eternal perspective - don't use it for yourself! As someone once said, "The best things in life are meant to be given away."

#3 - Use $$ To Make Friends

Luke 16:1-15 - ...The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.

Yup. Jesus said it. Use worldly wealth to gain friends. Seriously. Only Jesus could have said something this outrageous and have the Church take it seriously. But the problem is we don't take it seriously. We hoard our money and use it to bless ourselves.

#4 - "Give to the one who asks"

Matthew 5:42 - Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

Jesus does not necessarily say "give exactly what they ask"; he says, "give to the one." Should we be the poor man's first accuser before God by refusing him money "in case" he may use it for sinful reasons? This is a hard saying from Jesus. I'll be the first to admit it.

#5 - Gracious Politics

Matthew 22:17-22 - Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?...Whose portrait is this [on the denarius]? And whose inscription?" "Caesar's," they replied. Then Jesus said to them, "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's."

You can't help but chuckle after Jesus leaves his accusers silent here. He flips their question on its head. Caesar has his "image bearers" (i.e money) and God has his (i.e people). Caesar will ask for his taxes and we do well to respond graciously. But, Jesus wants our whole being. And we do well to give him everything.

Donald Miller Live

It's not every day that you have the opportunity to sit within the spittal range of one of your favorite authors. I just returned from an evening with Donald Miller, where I surprisingly found a front row seat along with two friends.

Don discussed the themes of his newest book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, as well as the vision of The Mentoring Project, a non-profit created to organize the Church to meet the needs of the fatherless generation in America.

Don talked about the four central components of every story: a character, the object of desire, the conflict and resolution (or attainment of desired object). He argues that our brains necessarily organize our thoughts into story form; narrative is a natural part of our existence. And every narrative has conflict.

Don camped here for a while. Conflict. We hate it. Advertising tells us to do everything we can to soothe it or avoid it. But change does not come without conflict. In fact, Donald pointed out, there was even conflict before the Fall of Man. Adam could not find a helpmate suitable for himself. Read: there was no one like his species on the planet. After naming all the animals for years and years, he noticed that he was alone as a human.

Donald also discussed the insanity of our belief that the climax of our story is our personal conversion to Christ. If that were the climax, then why do we still have bad days? Better yet, the climax is the Wedding Supper of the Lamb, when Christ will renew all things and we will live the eternal Celebration in God's presence.

Conflict is normal. The climax is coming. That's what makes us unique as the Body of Christ. We hope.

Thanks, Don.

Talking about Singleness

One of the main sessions offered a look at the gift of singleness. Wayne "Coach" Gordon led a panel discussion with Elizabeth Perkins, Shane Claiborne and others.

I thought that Shane had some profound things to say...always in the sincere and humble tone that he speaks with.

We need to cease from making single men and women in the church feel as if there is something wrong with them if they do not have a mate. Each person in Christ is valuable and whole in Christ alone.

"We need to celebrate marriage and singleness in the church."
"We don't need sex; we need love."
"No one would look at Mother Teresa and say, 'Too bad she didn't find her man.'"
"We need a single mindedness and a singular focus on Jesus first."
"We need healthy models of families and singles in urban ministry, and if we don't have both, then we do a great injustice in urban ministry, where many men and women never get married today."

Lastly, Shane, who confessed that he actually dating someone currently and evaluates God's call to singleness in stages of life, said "I don't think I have the "divine gift" of celibacy, I have some serious libido."

Synergy

On day two, we were visited by Gabriel Salguero of New York and Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners.

Salguero was a very engaging communicator and his wife was on stage to do simultaneous translation in Spanish. They made a hilarious duo. He told the story of his adolescent bully who would steal his lunch money and exhorted us to work together to take on the "grande, fuerte, feo" bullies of our day.

Wallis also encouraged us to synergize our efforts as the Body of Christ as we battle the injustice in our land. If our faith doesn't spill over and bring about change in society, then it's not revival, he said.

Perhaps the most challenging things that Wallis shared were the prayers of his two young boys, ages 6 and 11.

"Dear God. I want to pray for all of the hungry and homeless and sick people. Um....God...do you know there's a lot? Any comments or questions?"

"Dear Jesus. I want to pray for the 25,000 kids today who will die today from hunger and other stuff....Could you make that stop?....no that's dumb...Could you send people to help them all?...no that's dumb...God, Could you make this the best day they've ever had."


John Perkins

Each morning at the CCDA conference, we had the incredible opportunity to sit in on a study of 1 John with John Perkins. If you aren't familiar with this man, you need to be.

Perkins was a contemporary of MLK Jr. and fellow civil rights leader. He has lived in Mississippi for the better part of his 80 years on this earth, and suffered greatly at the hands of his Southern oppressors in the civil rights era. Along with his wife, Vera Mae, and their eight children, they stood firm on the foundation of Jesus Christ and persevered through difficult times, refusing to let hatred toward their white oppressors overtake them.

Perkins is the father of the CCDA and has been a champion for the marginalized and poor in our nation. His own mother needlessly died of malnutrition/starvation after his birth while they lived on a plantation. John said he couldn't imagine responding in another manner to his mother's death than to give himself to loving and serving the poor in the name of Jesus.

In addition to his firm faith in Christ and his courageous leadership with Christian community development in our nation and abroad, he is an engaging communicator who uses humor, honesty and southern charm freely and appropriately. He certainly didn't hold anything back on us!

I recorded countless soundbytes, humorous statements and prophetic words from this man during the week. I look forward to sharing them with you here; however, black and white print cannot capture the joy of sitting in on his preaching.

"We want community action that comes straight from Jesus and his Word."
"We've got to eat the Word and stop livin this hearsay, folklore Christianity. Stop livin' by reality (TV)."
"We can live a courageous life because death has been taken care of."
"[Christians today] don't have build into us what it takes to get hit 'n keep on goin'!"
After a fight one morning, his wife prepared a fabulous meal for him. "What Mama tryin' to do is get right without confession. Confession is just sayin what the other person already knows. So just come out and say it."
"When you walk in the world, your feet gettin' dirty. We need Jesus to wash us."
"We are all racist. We've each turned our racist way."
"Paul was the original Bin Laden and Jesus saved him."


Subversion

The five main sessions of the CCDA annual conference took us on a journey into five community development themes of Subversion, Synergy, Solidarity, Simplicity and Symphony.

Day One: Subversion

Our main speakers were Dr. Barbara Williams-Skinner, husband of the late Rev. Tom Skinner, and Dr. Soong-Chan Rah, professor at North Park Seminary.

How do we subvert the status quo? Can we imagine an alternative way of living out Jesus' kingdom values in a world that elevates the haves over the havenots and fear over hope?

Dr. Skinner was a powerful communicator and challenged us to mentor young people into the freedom we have in Christ, not fear. Freedom over fear.

Dr. Rah has studied and written extensively on the topic of the Next Evangelicalism. That's a fancy term for describing the movement of the global church. One hundred years ago, Europe and North America were the center of the Church. Today, the global South leads the way. Put simply: the Church is no longer "white", as the West has too long believed.

Dr. Rah challenged us to open our eyes to the present reality of the global multi-ethnic, multi-cultural Church. So, if this is true, he posed, then why are we beholden to an ecclesiology of the western "white" church? This is not a racist statement against Caucasians, but rather a wake-up call to see that God is turning the systems of the world upside down, the weak are surpassing the strong. "The white man" has held the power for centuries, but now the Gospel is empowering believers around the globe from every tribe and tongue. We have much to learn from our African or Brazilian or Indian brothers and sisters!

Focusing in on our own nation, Dr. Chah, told us to look around. We will soon be a nation of minorities, where the minorities will be the majority. How will we respond as the Body of Christ? If we want to work in the inner-city, and we are white and we have never had a non-white mentor, then we had better be careful, he cautioned.

Through the lens of the prophet Haggai, Dr. Chah encouraged us that the best thing we can "redistribute" (one of the three pillars of CCDA) to the broken heaps of rubble in our devastated inner-cities is Jesus, himself. Not another program. Jesus. He will bring beauty out of the rubble.

Tipping Points

I am confident that in the coming weeks and months, I will look back on this past week's CCDA annual conference in Cincinnati as a tipping point in my and Amber's life. It was absolutely incredible. Jam-packed? Yes. But, instrumental in our formation as members of the Body of Christ? Undoubtedly. And...it was so much fun! We were challenged and encouraged in countless ways. I look forward to reviewing the conference on this blog in the coming days.




Word of the Day: Reconciliation

I've spent a good amount of time thinking about reconciliation lately. The book we just read raised some good questions, so we have been wrestling with it in our Academy group discussions. And of course, we're encountering the challenges of reconciliation on the streets of Memphis, which has a history that we all know about.

But at the end of the day, this video sums it all up. :-)

The Three Rs

Currently, we are reading Restoring At Risk Communities for the Academy. It's more or less the official handbook of the Christian Community Development Association, a compilation of essays from various seasoned community developers.

We are all being really challenged by the thoughts expressed in this book. We're talking about painfully difficult ways of living as disciples of Jesus Christ that I would rather not think or hear about. These aren't lofty treatises for utopian societies, but instead Biblical, Gospel-centered practices that are being tried and tested by men and women in communities around the globe.

The content of this book - and ultimately the call to live incarnationally on earth as disciples of Christ - centers on the three "Rs" of Relocation, Reconciliation and Redistribution. We are being confronted by the difficulty of living this out in a city that is rich with segregation and self-protection.

In the posts to follow, I will share some of the inner conversation we are having here on these topics.

Neighboring

"Ding-dong"

It's 8:50 am on Saturday morning. I murmur to Amber, "Not getting out of bed yet."

The doorbell had just rung and I assumed it was one of the neighborhood kids looking for a ride or one of our other neighbors whose phone has been out of operation.

I was committed to sleeping in. And when I have my mind set on getting sleep, there is little to deter me from that mission...(Perhaps, I should "pray about that.")

About two hours later, I was sitting at my desk and Amber calls out, "Hey hun...There's food on our porch."

Nothing like free food to jolt me out of my chair and to the front door.

Sure enough. A large fresh baguette from "La Baguette" (imagine that) and a container full of freshly cooked and apparently deliciously prepared chicken wings. On the container, we read:

"Neighboring

Hao"

With his limited vocabulary, our kind and smiley neighbor, Hao, didn't realize how true the message of his broken english was. Neighboring.

By the way. The wings were absolutely delicious.

Question of the week

Can I really do life with the poor? I mean, really do life with the poor? Not just...hey, let's have our token poor friend over for dinner this month. But can we share our lives, our stories, our burdens, our resources, our precious time? Can we let them give to us? To give them the blessing of giving to us? Or, am I too hooked on life with people just like me? Yes, I can spend the occasional moment with a refugee family or an elderly social-security check holding neighbor. But to live incarnationally and sacrificially among the downtrodden, left over, marginalized people? ...

Theirs is the Kingdom


For our SOS Academy year, we will be studying several books on the topics of world missions, poverty, urban ministry, discipleship, etc. Today, I am posting a reflection paper from one of our first books, Theirs is the Kingdom by Robert Lupton of Atlanta.

“I want to stop reading this book!”

I scribbled those words in the margins after only thirty pages, my flesh bristling against the growing conviction that resulted from Lupton’s honest testimonials about 30 years of ministry in the neglected inner city of Atlanta. His short stories were serving as a mirror for my spirit, revealing the shallowness of mercy and love that I share with others. Reading his words, I heard the echo of some of Jesus’ most poignant words for any who would follow him: “No greater love has any man than this than to lay down his life for his friend.”

The brand of sacrificial love that Lupton describes in this book is painfully beautiful—painful in its sacrifice and discomfort, beautiful in its subversion to the world and submission to Christ. I deeply appreciate Lupton’s candor about the difficulty of such love, in particular among the poor. He doesn’t pull the wool over the readers’ eyes that true sacrificial love does not come natural to him or anyone.

Yes, Jesus’ yoke is easy and his burden is light, but his call to discipleship is radical. While viewing Lupton’s portrait of what sacrificially loving the marginalized can look like, my heart grew sad and perplexed. Why had I not previously encountered a portrait of this breed of discipleship? If loving Jesus and consequently loving my neighbors can look like this, why haven’t I witnessed it more often? Where did we veer off track?

There were countless thoughts of revolutionary simplicity that gripped me in this book. Lupton’s tells us about an evicted family moving into an overcrowded and nearly unemployed family member’s home, after he rejected them, and he states, “It is a haunting reminder of the energy I spend avoiding the cost of loving others.” I then wonder: How often do I give faith a chance? How often do I seek comfort and familiarity over the love and surprise outpouring of blessing that could be born in an uncomfortable arrangement like he describes? I am such a comfort-seeker.

I have suffered an addiction to efficiency for quite some time, so Lupton’s chapter entitled “Kingdom Efficiency” immediately reeled me in. Before reading his story, I could almost imagine what would challenge the natural lean of my heart: relationships rather than efficiency and productivity. Lupton takes it one step further and says that the building blocks of the kingdom are “inconvenient, time-consuming, intrusive relationships.” Oh, boy. I want to want that, but it’s so unnatural.

The wealth of Lupton’s experience and wisdom will largely be lost on me until I come face to face with situations like those he describes and I am forced to depend on God for strength as Lupton did. But if I take one nugget with me and treasure it, it might be the imagery that Lupton paints early on in his chapter “Please Sit In My Chair.” In it, he states, “To invite Mrs. Smith into our home…there will be stubborn offensive odors in our living room.”

Will I humble myself and open up the intimate places of my life, both in our home and metaphorically, to the uncomfortable stench of hurting people? Will I follow Christ in loving the unlovable and laying down my life for the least of these?

The Parable of the Chick-fil-A Campers

For the kingdom of heaven is like Chick-fil-A which went out early in the morning at 6am to open its doors to men and women to camp in its parking lot. They agreed to pay the first 100 campers 52 value meal coupons for the day and assigned them camping spots in the parking lot.

About the third hour, they went out and saw others who had arrived to get free coupons. They told them, 'You also go and camp in my parking lot, and I will pay you.' So they set up their tents.

He went out again about the sixth hour and the ninth hour and did the same thing. About the eleventh hour he went out and found still others standing around. Chick-fil-A asked them, 'Why have you come?'

" 'Because there are still spots remaining; one hundred people have not arrived yet,' they answered.
"They said to them, 'You also go and camp in my parking lot.'

"When the next morning came, the Chick-fil-A said to Mama Sue, 'Call the campers and pay them their wages'

"The campers who arrived about the eleventh hour came and each received 52 meal coupons. So when those came who arrived first at 6am, thinking they would have to compete for earliest arrival, they thought they should receive more. But each one of them also received a 52 meal coupons. When they received it, they began to grumble amongst themselves. 'These men endured this parking lot for fewer hours,' they said, 'and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the heavy rain and long hours in this parking lot.'

"But Mama Sue said, 'Friends, I am not being unfair to you. Didn't you agree to camp to be one of the first 100 and so receive 52 meal coupons? Take your pay and go. I want to give the man who was arrived last the same as I gave you. Don't I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?'

"So the last will be first, and the first will be last."

Warning

This video contains some graphic images. While doing some research today on the history of Somalia, the current civil war and the refugee crisis, we came across this video. I am sure there are many others that share different stories, but this video gives us a window into the lives of those we are working with here in Memphis, who have also come from the refugee camps in Kenya.

Free Food for a Year (or more)

When you move South you learn all kinds of things. Like how to get free fried food.

Apparently, every time a new Chick-fil-a opens, they allow eager patrons to camp out for 24 hours on site for a chance to win 52 free value meals good at any Chic-fil-a location.

A few friends down here in Memphis have done this previously and there is a big momentum to take advantage of this opportunity once again. This Wednesday there is a new location opening up nearby and we have organized a large crew to camp out for 24 hours in order to obtain loads of free food, in addition to the three free meals they feed you while you are camping out.

I'm not one to normally jump at fast fried food, but hey, we're young and all of us Academy interns have bosses who are giving us poor interns the day off so that we can get a chance at $350 of free food. They lavish a minimum of 100 people with such rewards, so the odds are good.

Hope everyone on my Christmas list wanted Chic-fil-a vouchers!

The Stop Sign

While driving a new Iraqi family home from the clinic yesterday, I slowed the car at a stop sign near their apartment. As I brought the car to a stop, the father looked over at me, smiled and said in broken English, "In Baghdad, no stop. Too dangerous."

Stop signs. Always taken for granted. Now a reminder of chaos and tragedy in our world.

Four Visitors

I experienced something new on Saturday. To frame it in, this house is the first house Amber and I have lived in, the first time we've had a front porch, and basically the first time I have had "neighbors" having grown up in rural Sparta.

While sitting on the front porch, working on Amber's bike, four boys approached the house, looking for Coach. Coach is John Geiger, who lived here before us. He helped coach some football in the neighborhood. The boys quickly realized he doesn't live there anymore, but I invited them up on the porch.

These kids are between 9 and 13 years old and have grown up here in Binghampton. They weren't shy about making themselves at home on our porch, staking out on the porch swing. We tossed a football around and one of 'em worked on fixing the bike with me. After a bit, they expressed interest in going to the Library, so I drove them over and picked them up later in the afternoon.

The two older kids came by again yesterday, ringing the doorbell only minutes after we woke up from a Sunday afternoon snooze.

I'm not sure yet what influence God is calling us to have on these young neighborhood kids, but I see great things in them - future leaders in Memphis and in God's kingdom. After only two weeks, Amber and I are already learning many lessons about what a "neighbor" is.

Do you speak Somali?

On Friday, I had my first real taste of working with refugees.

Wow. This is going to be harder than I thought, but also more rewarding than I imagined.

Yesterday I was paired up with John Geiger and we spent the day solely with three Somali families who have been here in America for about three months now. They all came here direct from the Somali refugee camp in Nairobi, Kenya, where they lived for an average of 15 years before being granted a release. You can read some updates about this camp here.

Somalia has been in civil war for 18 years and the Nairobi camp currently holds about 280,000 Somali refugees. We are learning bits and pieces from our friends here about their past. These families have lived through unimaginable circumstances.

Soon, I will take time to explain more of the refugee resettlement process, but for now, a window into yesterday...

John and I picked up a father and his 11 year old son to drive them to Christ Community Clinic. We weren't sure if they'd be ready to go, but we were greeted at the door by the father and son and they said "Sit. Sit. Sit." Very friendly people. The son has been having breathing and vision problems. John and I both sat in the doctor's office with them and we eventually had to dial a translator service to communicate more effectively. The son took four shots in his arms without a flinch.

Then we drove the son to Lester Middle School in Binghampton and spoke with the office about tracking down his immunization records. Our conversation with the teacher, from Berundi I believe, didn't bear much fruit and we walked away with only a copy of the record. We'll have to stop by the case worker's office to see if they have the family's records.

The clouds opened up at this point and we ran to our car in a torrential downpour to drive over with the father to Walgreen's to fill the son's prescription. After a long wait, we drove him back to his apartment.

John and I took a lunch break apart from the Somalis, who are in the middle of Ramadan and don't eat or drink anything during daylight hours.

We returned to the Hollywood Apartments to pick up a different Somali man at 1 o'clock, not really sure where we needed to take him, the words lost in translation on the phone. We arrived and found out he needed to go to the DMV to take the computer test for his driver's permit. We brought another Somali woman along - our Woman of Peace (Luke 10) for the Somali community at this point - who helped do some translating. So, we got to do some more waiting with them at the DMV. Unfortunately, he and another Somali man who met us there both failed their tests and will need to return this coming week to try again.

After dropping them off back home, we met up with our friends Catherine and Peter who were taking another Somali woman out to eat at a Ethiopian restaurant in the neighborhood. Eating?! We learned that she is a nursing mother and is exempt from Ramadan fasting. So, the five of us went to the Abyssinian and had an incredible meal together, communal Ethiopian style.

Our day wrapped up around 5pm. God granted us opportunities to serve these families in tangible ways and share simple words with them of love and thanks. As I look at these three families and the 13 children represented between them, I am filled with hope about the work that Christ will do in their lives over this coming year. We have much to pray for.

(I think I'm going to have to come up with a naming system for our refugees...these posts will get confusing)

New Running Trails and More

Over the weekend, Amber and I took advantage of some of our free time to explore new places around Memphis. One such place was Shelby Farms and it became quickly apparent that we will do some of our half marathon training there. They have lots of great trails, kayaking and fishing lakes, dog parks, athletic fields and more. It's just a 10 minute drive from our house (we can't do as much biking here as we'd like...or are brave enough to try yet rather).

From there we wandered around in our car and found the Agricenter where they were hosting "India Fest." Even though we had our running clothes on and every person exiting India Fest was dressed in saris and other colorful Indian garb, we decided to wander in check it out. It turned out to be a city wide gathering of Indians promoting Indian culture through food, arts and entertainment. We got a heaping plateful of tasty, authentic Indian cuisine for $2! Thank you very much, India.

As we moved on from there we bumped into a local Farmer's Market that was closing shop for the day, but we squeezed in for just a few minutes to pick up some fresh veggies, which were very cheap compared to other farmer's markets we've been to.

Oh, and we saw a herd of bison, too. Random.

Amber's 2nd Day on the Job

From Amber:


It's my second day of work and I almost started crying. My desk is in the front of the office, so I act as somewhat of a receptionist. A few days ago, BDC did a television promotion of it's job training program. The program hires around 4 folks to work in construction four days a week and on the fifth day the trainees do book work, financial training, and Bible study. The program lasts 6-9 months. Upon graduation the trainees are typically hired by a local construction company to continue their education and continue their income. In the past 2 days I have been working around 10 people have filled out applications that I added to the stack of 15. A few have even stopped by the office to check on the status of their application or bring pictures in of their work and construction experience. Did I mention the program only takes 4 people? Every 6-9 months..
And that is why I almost started crying as I handed out yet another application. People are desperate for work. I don't have the heart to tell these gentlemen that the odds are not in their favor to get accepted into the program. How do we get jobs for people? What's to keep them off the streets and away from drugs if there is no alternative for them? I hate sitting here feeling helpless and overwhelmed. I'm learning the lesson many have learned before me: I can give a man a fish and feed him for today, or teach a man how to fish and feed him for life.
Lord, would you provide jobs? Would you show us how we can help?

Day 1 on the job

Amber and I woke up today. That was a great start to the week. And we both headed off for our first day at our new jobs, Amber at the Binghampton Development Corporation (see sidebar) and me at Christ Community Health Services.

More specifically, I am working with Christ Community Ministries and a new outreach to the somewhat large and previously ignored refugee community here in Memphis. This specific ministry is headed up by Nathan and Steve, the latter of which I will be working with more directly. There are also a few other interns I am working with: Catherine, Peter, Madeline and John. I am so pumped about the team I get to work with!

Our first week is going to pretty much be an orientation to a world that is much different than the one we all have mostly grown up with. Today, Nathan, Steve, Peter, Catherine and I (the other two will arrive later) spent the morning sharing our stories with one another and praying for each other. I was really moved by what God has been doing in their lives - what a great way to start our year together.

Steve took us out to lunch at Soul Fish, which was another fantastic selection - I've tasted some great food down here! Afterwards, we spent some time studying Colossians 4:2-6 and 2 Peter 4:7-11, to lay some framework for our ministry this year. We wrapped up the day by gaining some orientation to the specific refugees and apartment complexes we will be working with, as well as familiarizing ourselves with Catholic Charities which is the current receiving organization for these refugees.

I couldn't have asked for more for our first day on the job. It's going to be an emotionally and relationally taxing year, but an incredible opportunity to love and serve a marginalized group of "the nations" right here in Memphis.

Close By

And I thought Amber and I were super lucky to have the brand spankin new Champaign Library less than a mile away...now we have the supersized Memphis Library also less than a mile away. Only bummer is that we don't get free DVD rentals down here...guess our movie watching quota will plummet.

Preparing for what's ahead

Amber and I don't start our new jobs until Monday, but yesterday I got a call from my "boss", Steve. He was trying to juggle two different refugee families who needed transportation, and he said he would possibly need my assistance. One family of six needed to visit the dentist, the other was an emergency involving a mother going into labor.

I had to stop for a moment and take a deep breath: I'm not in campus ministry anymore! Not only will we be working with adults and children, but they are refugees from war-torn nations trying to survive in a foreign land.

It turned out that Steve survived the day without my assistance, but it was a good wake up call to prepare for the work ahead. Steve took Amber and I and two of my new co-workers, Catherine and Peter, out for dinner last night. We went to Young Ave Deli, a local fav. The sandwiches were creative and tasty. The sweet potato fries were probably the best I've ever had and I was also introduced to deep fried artichoke hearts. Yum!

Better than the food, our new friends are awesome. Random fact of the day: all four of us working with Refugee Resettlement this year took Latin in high school. Weird.

Southern Shower Curtain


Amber and I couldn't find our shower curtain rings for the longest time. This was my makeshift shower curtain holder. Who says I'm not putting my Engineering degree to good use!

Wednesday Update

For the past five days, Amber and I have largely been settling into our house. And today, I can say, that apart from hanging a few pictures, we are done! Knowing that we are likely only going to be in this specific house for one year (it is owned by SOS and provided for Academy interns each year), we were extra motivated to get things arranged quickly so we could maximize our use of the house without our stuff being scattered everywhere.

Today we hopped over to SOS headquarters (only a few blocks away) to grab a few tools to start attacking the yard. It's nice having a "free" hardware store at our disposal! We trimmed some bushes and raked the yard, which is weird b/c neither of us have had a yard before that we are responsible for.

Last night, Eric and Shelly and their two kids stopped by the house. Eric is a former SOS director and former SOS Academy director. He and his family will be moving to Montana in a couple months, where Shelly will be starting a new job at a hospital. They have a boy and a girl; their daughter was just adopted five months ago. I don't understand the whole process, but basically they were on a list to adopt a child from Memphis and they could receive news that a baby was being given up at a moment's notice. And that's what happened. Whoa!

We also met our next door neighbor, Hah, who is Vietnamese. He doesn't speak much English!

New Beginnings in Memphis, Tennessee

Driving east on I-40, we were about seven miles from our new home, I turned the wheel, steering our 12' Penske moving truck onto the ramp for Danny Thomas Blvd. Amber was trailing in our Buick Century with her mom in the passenger seat, my parents in tow and Amber's dad and his friend forming the caboose. The nerves and excitement were surging through my veins. My stomach was turning circles like a load of laundry. Are we really moving to Memphis?! What are we getting ourselves into?! We need you, Father!

We drove down Poplar Ave, passing familiar sites from previous visits. Amber turned into SOS headquarters to pick up the keys to our new home, a house we had only seen from Google Street View when we were mailed the address. I led the rest of the caravan down the street a couple more blocks to Collins and took a left. The excitement was building; we were almost there! We passed the home of Ms. June where our team worked this past Spring; the grass seed we planted had turned into a lush green yard! One more block. I turned left into our new neighborhood to find a quaint home with a front porch and a porch swing. Amber pulled into the drive just a few minutes later and in a rush of excitement we unlocked the doors and hurried inside to get a good look.

Our house is incredible! SOS has really treated us quite well. It is very clean and updated. Plenty of space. Hardwood floors and windows in every room. A spacious backyard with a fire pit. Right across the street from an active park where we have seen several kids playing soccer already.

Within minutes, Amber's new boss, Robert, arrived to welcome us to the neighborhood. Towering about eight inches over my head, Robert was super friendly and very hospitable. About 10 guys and gals from SOS and the BDC drove up to unpack our things and 25 minutes later it was all unloaded! A few other new friends popped in throughout the day to welcome us to the neighborhood and see if we needed anything. We have been overwhelmed by everyones kindness and hospitality. We were especially blessed to have our parents there with us to help us unpack and clean (your stuff gets kinda dirty while in storage for three months).

We took our parents out for dinner at Corky's before they left and dad said that the Memphis dry rub ribs were the best he'd ever had. The fresh peach cobbler wasn't too shabby either!

Philip, the director at SOS, and his wife, Kelsey, invited us to worship with them yesterday and then over for lunch with a bunch of folks who have worked with SOS summer staff in the past. We had a blast getting to know some folks our age, and to hear their stories about living in the neighborhood.

I've shared a lot of facts here, but in terms of how we are doing: we have faced occassional nervousness, but all in all, we are doing great! We are really enjoying Memphis so far! The people and the weather have been fantastic. God is good and he is with us.

More updates coming soon.


Praying with U2

While lifting weights earlier this week, these lyrics from U2's How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb song, "Yahweh" gave me pause. I sat up, skipped back a few seconds on my iPod and listened once more. The words resonated with the struggles I have faced intensely of late.

Take this mouth
So quick to criticize
Take this mouth
Give it a kiss

These words are my prayer as I stick my foot in my mouth daily: judgment, criticism, cynicism.

"Reckless words pierce like a sword,
but the tongue of the wise brings healing."
-King Solomon, Proverbs 12:18

[Captures]

Only two weeks remaining in Colorado? The next month holds a flurry of travel and life transitions.

I've recently added some photos from the summer here:

http://picasaweb.google.com/jonathan.d.king

What do you want?

More than just a good slice of pizza (although that sounds deeelicious), what do you really want?

Jesus asked this question often. I love it.

"What do you want?" To see. To be healed. To be free. I hear your desire. I see your faith.

I was journaling this question yesterday and a few thoughts trickled out of my pen and onto the page.

What do you want? I ask myself.

-To be free of the frantic scrambling for that place where significance, intimacy, purpose, acceptance and grace are no longer divorced realities awaiting marriage under one vow, but are ever-present gifts where each of us is satisfied and living for the pleasure of her neighbors

-To see God, to hear his calming and creating voice, to dance in his presence not trying to prove my worth, but free from my self-promoting desires that have faded away in his radiance

-To sit on the porch swing on a cool summer's eve, iced lemonade in hand perspiring on our laps, our feet cooled by the touch of the wooden planks beneath, laughter the breeze on our cheeks, the sun's descending beams cascading through the tall green friends that encircle us, warming our faces, goodness and generosity the gifts we all freely share, hearts content in the abiding presence of Love

Long Absence

I am finding it increasingly difficult to make blogging a priority. I'm not sure what I will do in the future - maybe a rekindled commitment? maybe a new blog? maybe an extended sabbatical from the blogosphere?

Out here at LT we are nearly half finished. July is here. What am I experiencing? What am I learning?

God as Father. Me as a beloved son, the apple of his eye. A co-heir with Christ to the eternal kingdom of light.

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, "Abba, Father." The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God's children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory." Romans 8:15-17

"How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him." 1 John 3:1

It's a truth that is plastered all over Scripture, all over life. God is Fathering me. Do I believe it? Do I receive it? Do I live like it? Why do I forget so easily? Holy Cow - I have been saved from the destruction of the life I lived in the far country and now I have been brought home, embraced by my Father, forgiven and loved, now on a new pilgrimage of redemption, taking on the Family likeness, as embodied by Jesus, our True Elder Brother.

Moving from insecurity to identity, God is nudging me deeper into the reality of my new standing before my King.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me."
"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone and the new has come!"

I'm encountering this Radical Love Story with renewed eyes. In the midst of the lies and that flood the shores of our lives, I am being reminded to go back to the beautiful basics of my relationship with my Father: He is our Good Father, who is kind, engaged, loving, gentle, generous, fierce, wise, merciful and just. He is initiating me; he is fathering me as his son.

Mountains of Questions

Amber and I journeyed west for about 16 hours last Friday to arrive at our temporary home for the summer: the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, CO. This is my third summer out here, making it feel like a second home in some ways. Even though I am probably more of a beach bum than a mountain man, I love it out here! How can you not? It is ridiculously gorgeous and it's my "office" for the summer, where Amber and I are helping to facilitate our GCM Leadership Training program for college students.

I spent my first summer out here, and last as a college student, encountering the most unforgettable and transformational summer of my young life. Something mysterious, awesome and incredibly challenging happens here as we submit ourselves to our Father in an intense and unrealistic environment for eleven weeks. Little if any television or movies, minimal mobile phone use, buffet lines at mealtime, a one minute commute to "work", new and old friends all around all the time, all set in the majestic Rocky Mountains.

Now in my third summer, I experience "this" with different eyes and ears. I'm married now. I have three years of campus ministry under my belt. I've found healing from some old wounds, some are just rearing their ugly head, others have healed to give way to new ones.

What does God have in store for this summer? What lessons is he eagerly waiting to teach me? How is he waiting to surprise me with his love and grace? Where and how will he expose weaknesses, idols, insecurities only to pour out his favor and redemption? Will I receive from him? Will I be listening? Will my hands be open to receive? Will I ignore his whispers? Who will I build deeper friendships with? How will I encourage? How will I encourage? Where can I step down, empty myself and serve? Will I recognize Jesus right around me?

For now...I wait. I rest in his faithfulness and his love.

Dallas Willard on Community & Sabbath

In an interview with Relevant magazine, Dallas Willard talks about the connection between technology, sabbath, spiritual disciplines and authentic community.

We live in a world where technology… creates a false sense of intimacy and a false sense of sense of self. People today are being constantly pulled by things that they submit themselves to. That’s the great temptation and the great problem for many people today. Most don’t even notice the temptation, but their lives are being pulled apart by it. And when it comes to issues of exercising character and will, it simply isn’t there for them. They can only respond to things that are pulling at them.

We have a generation of young people now who are living in a constant state of “dropped out-ness” from the real world and from its history and from community and from the integrity of themselves. …And they don’t even know that …Most of them don’t know what community means because community means assuming responsibility for other people and that means paying attention and not following your own will but submitting your will and giving up the world of intimacy and power you have in the little consumer world that you have created… When they look community in the face and realize that it means raw, skin to skin contact with other people for whom you have become responsible…that’s when they back away.

[Interviewer: what recommendations do you have for someone who is struggling with this?]

You have to think in terms of radical disciplines that will return them out of this world of distraction they’re living in and help them find the center, and those are solitude and silence. You have to take yourself out of the place of running your world. And there is nothing that I know of that can do that other than the practice of lengthy solitude and silence. That will allow you to begin to understand what Sabbath means. But most people can’t approach Sabbath because they’re so revved up and so distracted by so many things that they couldn’t even begin to think about it… once you have begun to experience solitude and silence, you discover that you actually have a soul and that there is a God. Then you can begin to practice Sabbath and that will enable you to re-enter community. You can’t have community without Sabbath.

Law of Diminishing Posts

The frequency of my blog posts has significantly diminished over the past several months.

I'm strangely okay with that in part because it means I have spent less time on the internet and also because I am fairly certain that not too many people have been reading this blog. That said, I am sure I have now discouraged any current readers from maintaining vigilance for future new posts.

There are a few contributing factors.

One. Journaling.
I have been journalling in a physical notebook with much greater frequency over the past six months, which translates into fewer online posts.

Two. Busyness.
My life hasn't been overly stressful, but it has been very full with travels, campus ministry and quality time with my wife. I am only able to sit down right now and write this post due to the fact that I am sitting in a quiet living room at Chuck's house, watching out for him as he recovers from a surgery that he had this morning.

Three. Less Internet time.
I'm just not surfing the web as much these days, not scouring the blogosphere like I used to. There is a lot of chatter - a lot of soundbytes - out there and I find myself just focusing more on a few blogs of close friends. I've also realized that I turn to the internet when I'm lonely and maybe I just haven't been as lonely lately (which begs the question, "Is internet community true community? At best is it a helpmate to true community or at worst a hindrance?")

We'll see what this summer brings. I may be posting more from Colorado, which will be an entirely different scene, entirely altogether. :-)

Walkin in Memphis

Amber and I returned a couple weeks ago from a fantastic week in inner-city Memphis with about 45 of our friends in I-Life.

We've developed a nice partnership with SOS down there and it was another great week full of paradigm-shifting interactions with people whose lives look drastically different than ours here on campus. God continues to re-orient us around his upside-down kingdom.

These photos will help tell the story.

http://picasaweb.google.com/jonathan.d.king/MemphisSpringBreak2009#

SoulPancake

Anything that has pancake in the title has to be amazing.

I have to give a tip of the hat to my friend, Wayne, for passing along this link.

You might recognize our good ole friend, Dwight Schrut, on this here interwebs page:

http://www.soulpancake.com/

In Defense of Food, Part III

Not too much: How to eat

"Pay more, eat less." (i.e. quality over quantity)

"Eat meals." (it's scary to read about our on-the-go speed eating and snacking habits)

"Do all of your eating at a table." (desk doesn't count, he says)

"Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does."

"Try not to eat alone."

"Consult your gut." (i.e. stop eating based on an internal, rather than external sign)

"Eat slowly."

"Cook, and if you can, plant a garden."

In Defense of Food, Part II

Cont'd from yesterday...

Mostly Plants:
What to eat

"Eat mostly plants, especially leaves."

"You are what what you eat eats too."

"If you have the space, buy a freezer." (i.e. buy in bulk, freezing doesn't strip nutrients as much as canning does)

"Eat like an omnivore."

"Eat well-grown food from healthy soils."

"Eat wild foods when you can."

"Be the kind of person who takes supplements." (Pollan actually dogs on supplements themselves, but sees how people who take supplements are generally healthier people, but it's probably just not the vitamins that are doing the work)

"Eat more like the French. Or the Italian. Or the Japanese. Or the Indians. Or the Greeks."

"Regard non-traditional foods with skepticism."

"Don't look for the magic bullet in the traditional diet."

In Defense of Food

I managed to snag a copy of In Defense of Food from the library last weekend, and it has proven to be a worthwhile investment of some of my casual reading time this week.

If you are living in America (or any place where our western diet has strongly influenced your eating options) and you are perfectly happy with our addiction to reductionist food nutrition and processed foods then maybe this book isn't for you...or maybe it is. :)

Pollan claims that there isn't one cultural diet in the world for us to specifically emulate for its marked benefits (although he talks a good deal about the French and Mediterranean eating habits), but there is one diet that seems to be quite unhealthy - ours.

Pollan essentially holds up a mirror to the American diet to show us how non-sensical our eating and consumption habits have become over the past half-century. We've given into the food industrial complex that has us eating low-fat one decade, low-carb another and high-fiber the next.

Pollan's operating thesis is "Eat Food. Mostly Plants. Not too much." He doesn't advocate vegetarianism specifically, although its benefits are certainly not lost on him. I like that he doesn't try and ram home a handful of specific foods you should eat, but instead spends the entire final chapter offering some helpful filters for anyone wanting to eat in a way that is more healthy and sustainable. I thought I'd take a few posts and share these "filters" or "algorithms" with you. You'll have to pick up the book to fully understand his basis for making these claims!

Eat Food: Defined

"Don't eat anything your great grand-mother wouldn't recognize as food."
(I already asked my mom what her grandmothers cooked and she said that virtually everything - produce, dairy, meat, grains - was grown at home, with the exception of sugar, jello and the occasional sweet treat.)

"Avoid food products containing ingredients that are a) unfamiliar, b) unpronouncable, c) more than five in number or that include d) high-fructose corn syrup"

"Avoid food products that make health claims"

"Shop the peripheries of the supermarket and stay out of the middle"

"Get out of the supermarket whenever possible" (i.e. gardening, farmers markets, CSA box)

Essentially, Pollan is trying to help steer us away from processed foods and our nutrient-0f-the-month obsession and toward whole/natural/local foods that are better for our bodies and the earth.

Away too long

I'm a bit bummed that I've been away from this page for so long, but such is life. I'm back, nonetheless.

I recently spoke at SNG and thought I'd share the link to the mp3 for any interested persons. The topic for the evening - part 3 of our Curious Case of Every Human series - was "Why am I so restless?"

http://illinilife.org/study/audio/02-21-2009_Jonathan-King_Why-Am-I-So-Restless.mp3

A Story of Two Sons

In Tim Keller’s latest book, I found a 130 page gem that I will undoubtedly carry with me as a close companion for years to come.

I just set it down after reading it on this lazy Sunday morning and I found it to be like a mirror for my soul, exposing some of my deepest longings, darkest corners, wayward motivations and sincere needs. It served to elevate my appreciation and understanding of the material and spiritual unity of our humanity. Keller’s succinct approach in this little nugget has a beautiful simplicity that served as a gateway for me to encounter both eternity in between the lines but also not become weighted down by a cumbersome analysis.

Through this book, the Gospel has expanded both in width and depth in my heart and mind, or rather the book served to lift me up into the skies to capture a fresh perspective of the landscape of God’s beautifully Good News. I am indebted to the gifts found in the words Keller has penned and I can sincerely say that I met with my Savior and my Father while sojourning from beginning to end of The Prodigal God.

It’s through the oft-repeated and over-simplified parable of Jesus, “the Prodigal Son,” that Keller draws his discussion for The Prodigal God. I must immediately confess that I have glossed the words of this parable countless times, not infrequently moved by the forgiveness and compassion of the father depicted (God), but the depths of this subversive and stunning story have been lost on me until now. As Keller says, if the kingdom of God were likened to a lake, this parable seems to be a spot where we may be able to see down to the bottom.

Keller immediately points to one of the great disservices we do to this parable: we call it “the Prodigal Son,” when Jesus was really telling the story of two lost sons and the love shown by the father toward both. The word prodigal holds a gravity which we are not familiar with; it means “recklessly spendthrift.” Keller maintains that this parable shows us the recklessly spendthrift nature of God more than anything else, hence the title The Prodigal God. It’s the lavish grace of God our Father that ought to really send us off our rocker.

While reading this book, I saw the elder/legalistic and younger/licentious polarism that I travel between in my own journey with Christ. And it’s the True Elder brother I need to show me his entirely new way to live, the True Elder brother whom Keller so beautifully reveals in the person of Christ who went out in search of us to woo us home into the Father’s love and mercy.

If you want to continue gazing into the depths of the "lake" shown in this parable, I encourage you to pick up this book. I doubt you will be disappointed. We can chat about it here or in person!

We're no Brad Pitt, but...

We're starting up a new series at Saturday Night Grace this week, entitled The Curious Case of Every Human. Looks like I'll have the opportunity to get up and share some thoughts on February 21 - Why am I so restless? If you have any thoughts or questions you think I could address, just drop me a note.

Come and check it out. You're always welcome. Any Saturday, 7pm, 141 Wohlers Hall.

My brother at the Ball

While Amber and I watched the Inauguration from our living room couch (thank you for flexible jobs), at least a few friends were in DC for the big event. Not the least of which was my brother. He texted me a few images from the Mall, but none of them top the shots he got at the Western Inaugural Ball that he attended later that night. How he ever gets in on this kind of stuff is beyond me, but I'm happy for him (did I mention that he randomly bumped into Yao Ming in the LA airport about a year before he was a household name?...and that he was interviewed not once, but twice by Katie Couric on the Today show?...among other chance encounters around the globe).






On another note, I heard that there was not a single arrest in DC yesterday. Two million people coming into town, a peaceful transition of power. Amazing.

Rev. Lowery

Okay, this guy is like my new favorite preacher. Granted, that assessment is based on very little other than the benediction that he delivered at Pres Obama's inauguration yesterday. If you watched it, you know what I'm referring to. This guy worked with Martin Luther King, Jr. and has seen MLK's dream realized in Obama's presidency (commentary on lingering racism in 21st America for another discussion). As Rev. Lowery neared the end of his benediction, he closed with these words:


With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream.

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around...

(LAUGHTER)

... when yellow will be mellow...

(LAUGHTER)

LOWERY: ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.


Absolutely amazing. It was a priceless moment and I just couldn't pass up the chance to share it with you if you missed it.

Retreat


We are having a staff leadership retreat this weekend and we would all appreciate your prayers that the evil one would not divide us, but that the love and grace of Christ would unite us. After this weekend, the new semester gets rolling...Let the games begin.

Dear Tony

For probably four years now, Tony Campolo has been a source of great inspiration to me as I follow Christ. This passionate, prophetic and candid Jesus-loving Italian from Philly often challenges my ways of thinking and my proclivity for passivity and comfort. If you are not familiar with Tony Campolo, I would suggest you check him out. He'll probably kick you in the butt.

Tony is not without his share of controversy, but that does not prohibit me from listening to him, learning from his experiences and wisdom and seeing the love of Christ in him (and I like controversial people...Jesus anyone?). I was first introduced to Mr. Campolo by my pastor, Wayne, and began by just listening to old sermons on his website. Then I began reading some of his writings, such as 20 Hot Potatoes Christians are Afraid to Touch, Red Letter Christians and The God of Intimacy and Action. Lately, I've really enjoyed his podcast series that he does with Gene Dillard. You can subscribe here.

Recently, I've been in a place of more intentionally seeking God's wisdom and vision for Amber's and my future. That has involved talking with others who have more life experience and a heart for Christ and his kingdom. So, one day I got to thinking: "Why not just write a letter to Tony and see what happens? Afterall, they said on the podcast to write him!"

So, I sat down and wrote him a letter. Honestly, I didn't fully expect to hear back from him. I mean, this is a guy who has a lot on his plate. But after about four weeks, I got a letter in the mail from St. Davids, PA, and there is only one person I know from St. Davids. Tony shared some honest thoughts about campus ministry, graduate school and even responded to a random question I asked about his marriage.

Thanks, Tony. You're a swell guy. Christ shines through you. Keep on keepin' on for the kingdom!

Back in Los Estados Unidos

We're back in Champaign after a fantastic week in Choluteca. We witnessed and learned so much...a lot to process as we face reverse culture shock this week.

Here is a collection of photos taken on our point-and-shoot digital camera - nothing stellar, but still a good look at our week in Honduras.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded



For over a month, I had wanted to read Thomas Friedman's latest book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, but I was on a long waiting list at the library. But, the day before we left for our Christmas travels, my name came to the top of the queue and I was able to pick it up and read it over the past week and a half. I am glad I did.

I found Friedman's writing to be engaging and frankly hard to put down. The subject matter is very interesting and intensely relevant for us today as we look at our planet that is increasingly Hot (Global warming, or more accurately "Global weirding"), Flat (Friedman's book in 2005 about the flattening global economy was entitled The World is Flat), and Crowded (Global population is exponentially increasing, particularly in urban centers across the globe and expected to crest 9 billion by 2040).

Speaking of hot...Amber and I leave today for Choluteca, Honduras, where it is a balmy 90+ degrees. We will return on the 11th and I look forward to making a post about our mission trip as well as a follow up post to discuss some of the content of Hot, Flat, and Crowded. Please keep us in your prayers.