Wednesday, January 30, 2008

High School Yearbook

I sat in on a workshop/seminar lead by Richard Coleman (The Mission Society) titled "How to Grow a Missions Minded Church."  The topic was well addressed. Richard was engaging and smart and motivational. It was a good investment of an hour or so.

Richard made a few statements in the midst of things that have required further thought. Really good stuff. Consider this: We look at the Bible like we look at our high school yearbook. Think about it...when you first got your hand on your yearbook, what did you do?  Well, maybe I'm more egocentric than you are (I expect I am...I mean, I am blogging and actually think people read it). I started flipping from front to back or back to front looking for all the pictures of ME.  And then my friends. And then other things.  

Do we do that with God's Word -- flip through the pages looking for the places where we can see ourselves?  Or do we look for God in His book?  It is GOD'S WORD, not RUTH'S WORD.  

And like my yearbook, when I find a photo of myself that I don't like -- the lighting isn't complimentary or I was "caught" making a face or doing something stupid, I blame it on someone else or start trying to figure out how to remove/mark out the photo. Or, more likely than that even, I twist the reality and turn it into a joke like I intended to look that way.  

Hmmm.  I'm still thinking about it. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I Voted

Today, Florida held it's primary elections and I voted. It was way too easy for me, so I really shouldn't be too proud of my patriotism. I entered the building through the WordSpring door instead of the main office door, signed my name, used a touch screen twice to share my choice on two candidates and one amendment. Then I got a sticker. (See...I'm still wearing it at the end of the day.) I then walked down the hall and took the elevator up to my office. Wycliffe is the polling place for my neighborhood. I kind of felt like we should all push the Easy button after we were through. It's so easy, it's easy to take it for granted -- the privilege we have to vote. The responsibility we have as well. I'm trying to not forget how this, too, is a blessing.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Like Incense

(If you are going to watch this video -- and I hope you do -- may I suggest you eliminate as much distraction as you can and come to it in a spirit of prayer? It's not a story. It's not a promotional for Wycliffe. It's not funny or entertaining. It is a reminder of the sweetness of prayer. Beyond that, you'll have to see it to understand it. I don't want to reduce it to summary or commentary.)

PHOTO ESSAY: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Time created an online photo essay that I enthusiastically recommend you experience. 25 images with informative captions. Truly worth your time. Click the title of this blog -- it is hyperlinked to the Time website.

Friday, January 18, 2008

An Act of Contrition

SIM-USA (used to be "Sudan Interior Mission") has been on a "diversity journey" for a number of years. Their Director was present at the Missions Seminar held at CIU for an expressed purpose.

He shared in the Friday night session that as they were exploring their own issues around exclusivity and racism as an organization, they were aware that some mission organizations had (in the past) had policies that excluded Black Americans from service and they wondered if SIM had been one of those.

Research revealed that they had, in fact, had an "unwritten" policy that excluded service with SIM in the early decades of their existences. Further research showed that it had been motivated or justified (in part, at least) by the request of some of the countries where they worked in Africa to NOT bring African Americans into their countries. In 1957 the Board of SIM-USA passed a resolution ending that practice. (I did not take notes when the Director was speaking, so this is from memory. I'm confident that I got the heart of the history, but may have a detail a bit off.)

Once they discovered this reality about their own institutional reality, they began exploring what they might do about it. They determined that they wanted to not just ignore it and "do better in the future." They decided to corporately apologize. So, an apology was written -- but how do you apologize to a community that is so large and wide-spread? They asked the leadership of this conference if they could come and voice this apology and request for forgiveness to the African American pastors and leaders gathered for the event.

The Director read the apology and then knelt and washed the feet of three gentlemen who had agreed to accept his act of contrition on behalf of the organization.

It was silent in the room as he poured the water and dried the feet of the first two men...and then, as he began to wash the feet of the third, a single voice began to sing. A woman sitting in the middle of the congregation began to sing. The song was about Jesus washing the feet of his disciples and the goodness of that symbolic act of humility. I'd never heard it before, but others there surely had and they soon joined.

What is it about washing someone's feet that can be so powerful?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Missions Seminar @ Columbia International University

I'm in South Carolina for a small missions conference where the focus of the keynote sessions is reconciliation. I came with an open mind -- not sure what I was expecting in some ways. I'm learning a lot already. The majority of people in attendance at this event are pastors/church leaders. They are also Black Americans of African decent. I can't tell you how significant and good it is for me to listen and learn in this environment.

One of the seminars I attended addressed how Black Americans of African decent (the teacher of this session is the man who used this descriptor -- I like it) are equipped to be uniquely effective missionaries in the early 21st Century.

He asked two of his friends to share a testimony -- one man who is African American and has been serving as a missionary in Uganda for 7 years and another man from Togo who is with YWAM serving in the Atlanta area.

A few others volunteered to share as well -- an African American pastor who was challenged to missions by a missionary from Africa to his church in California, a CIU student from South Africa, and a Nigerian who now lives in the U.S. and leads short term trips back to Africa. The wealth of wisdom and experience and vision in that room was invaluable.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008


One of these days in the near future I'm going to visit a local Apple Store to do some research. Really. I'm not kidding.

I'm calling this OPERATION: iphone. It is a covert operation.

Well, not really "covert" exactly.

A guy I met recently (who serves with Faith Comes By Hearing) has one and he uses it really well as a ministry tool. That has inspired a few of us to consider how things like this technology can be used on behalf of the Bible translation cause... and what we would have to do to make it viable. Would they be practical or appropriate for everyone? No. Or at least not yet. But I think they might have a role. That is the question we are going to try to ask and answer together.

I'm going to invite Troy (the guy from FCBH), a Wycliffe MK who uses one of these already and who is also a brilliantly creative techy-marketing guy, and a couple others to become the OPERATION: iphone UG (user group). We'll see what happens from there.

Does this mean I'll soon be an iphone user myself? Unless I discover something in my early research to make that a really bad idea, yes.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Remember When Santa Smoked Camels?

I forgot I'd not posted this yet. So, it is (like a few other things "Christmas") a bit late this year.

I also forgot how funny advertising was "before" we became, as a society, so moral.

We no longer advertise smokes on TV at all and frown upon the use of any fictional character beloved by children (camels, Santa, Mickey, Elmo) from promoting such behavior.

We do, however, find it appropriate to call pornography "advertisement" when it promotes Victoria's Secret (how could she have any secrets? where would she hide anything?) and plays during prime time.

No wonder kids are confused.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Feiry Dung

If you were a livestock herder in the steppes* where no trees grow -- only bushes and grasses -- what would you use for fuel to boil your tea and cook your bread?

People in these regions have an efficient and ecological solution. They gather up what the animals drop behind, press it into bricks, and dry it. This yields an excellent, hot-burning fuel.

If you were translating Romans 12:20 ("…in doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head") for these people, what word would you use for "coals"?

Don't feel bad if you have never heard of a steppe. I looked it up in Wikipedia (I find that a decent source for this type of information). Here is what I discovered there:

In physical geography, a steppe (Russian: степь - [sʲtʲepʲ], Ukrainian: степ - /stɛp/, Kazakh: дала - /dɑlɑ/), pronounced in English as /stɛp/, is a plain without trees (apart from those near rivers and lakes); it is similar to a prairie, although a prairie is generally considered as being dominated by tall grasses, while short grasses are normal in the steppe. It may be semi-desert, or covered with grass or shrubs or both, depending on the season and latitude. The term is also used to denote the climate encountered in regions too dry to support a forest, but not dry enough to be a desert. The term steppe originally comes from the Russian word /stɛp/ which means a flat and arid land.

[The first photo above was photographed in August 2002 near Kharkhorin (Harhorin), Övörkhangai, Mongolia. The second one is a steppe near Kamyshin, Volgograd Oblast, Russia.]

Thursday, January 10, 2008

It Ain't Easy Being Green

Pastor Joel Hunter (Northland: A Church Distributed) reminds us that no matter what a person believes about global warming, we have a biblical mandate to care for God's creation -- to steward the resources placed into our care.

When I was growing up, the two messages we heard over and over about this came from Smokey the Bear ("Only YOU can prevent forest fires?") and Woodsy the Owl ("Give a Hoot. Don't pollute!"). Actually, more memorable for most of my generation was the Native American man who stood, looking at the pollution, with a big tear slowly streaming down his cheek.

I'm afraid that somewhere beyond that two things happened for too many of us in my generation -- first, we grew to love a lifestyle that is marked by "easy" and "mine." Second, we isolated those with strong voices for the protection and preservation of the environment into a category: liberal, tree-hugging, granola-eating communists.

Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration...but only slight.

Today, I find myself wrestling with what God wants. I'm not willing to adjust my life for what is PC -- I've demonstrated that before, but I will do this for the Creator.

I'm trying to get into the habit (that is at least 2/3 the battle) of taking my own bags to the grocery story and places like Target where I can collect way too many of those plastic bags. I'm trying to combine errands (the cost of gas has helped me be more committed to this one, I confess). Probably the light bulb thing needs to happen next. Am I justifying my slowness to transition to those oddly twisted bulbs because I don't want to waste the ones I currently own? Or is that right?

This past weekend, Northland had a Creation Care Expo where various vendors offered ideas and products and such that are "green." Later this month, Northland is hosting a Creation Care Conference (C3).

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

do you facebook?

I've been on facebook for a few months now and am finding it an interesting experience. I didn't expect to get pulled into some of the things which I have -- like the strange "need" to keep building the friend file as if it is a measure of anything significant at all.

So, once the honeymoon phase ended (that's when it's all just too wonderful to imagine and you think about checking your page when you're away from it) and I'm now enjoying this thing for the parts I want to use and ignoring the other stuff without guilt.

I "ignore" half-a-dozen invitations to try new applications or take personality tests or compare my pizza preferences with those of all my friends each week and don't apologize. I write on walls of friends when I have something to say or just want them to know that I noticed...or I'm thinking of them...or have an opinion about something they've done on their page. I sometimes poke back...or even initiate a poke. I don't "super poke."

I rejoiced when facebook removed the "is" from the status statement and do like to update that with some regularity. I often change my profile picture, but not as often as I did for a while there. One of my favorite applications is Entourage. My true favorite is Scrabulous. I love playing that with friends from all over as often as people will play.

Now, if none of this makes sense, that only means that you're not a facebooker. It is NOT reflection on your intelligence, your taste, our values or your "coolness."

It only means you don't do facebook, and that's okay.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Sabbath Snacking

Matthew 12. Jesus and the disciples are walking along their way and, hungry, the disciples are pulling grains of wheat off stalks as they go through some farmer's field. They rub their hands together, blow away the chaff and pop the grains in their mouths.

The pharisees cry "FOUL!" at this sinful behavior. Their fingers point. They accuse these men of breaking the law.

Before you misunderstand, the itinerant snacking is not illegal. They were not stealing nor were they being thus accused. The problem was that is was Saturday -- the Sabbath. They were, by their actions already described, gleaning, thrashing, winnowing and preparing a meal. Sin, sin, sin, sin -- because each of those activities were defined as WORK by their accusers.

Read Jesus' response. It is beautiful. Liberating. Truth-filled and grace motivated. He came, according to his own words, to FULFILL the LAW (not abolish it). He provides the experts of the law a 4-point argument for why they are incorrect -- an argument that demonstrates precedent, based on both law and tradition, and that is dripping with the authority of the Lord of the Sabbath. They weren't so happy about any of it.

Here is the really odd thing. After this encounter is over, the pharisees go and begin plotting Jesus' murder. So, they point fingers for Sabbath snacking but apparently it is okay to plan murder on the Sabbath. That is not work.

(The substitute teaching leader at BSF pointed out that irony tonight.)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

I like the way...

...light bends and twists and twinkles in a kind of dance when it encounters glass.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Trading Spaces with Myself

Over the holidays I got motivated to paint my bedroom/office.

I used birthday money to purchase paint and Christmas money to purchase a couple things from IKEA (duvet cover, desk) and Dad made the IKEA curtains my Christmas gift from him.

I emptied, cleaned, sorted, moved, repositioned, cleaned some more, re-filled, painted, hung, and labeled (don't ask) for three weeks. I filled in all the spaces around other more normal holiday behavior. It was wonderful.

I promised a couple people that I'd show some "after" pics, so here they are. (As is true with blogger photos, if you click on them, they open in the browser to their full size. I left these large when I imported them for those who like to look more closely.) The one above is the view from the doorway to my room. The wall color is gray and it's appearance changes as the lights change through out the day.

This is my desktop (obviously). I went with an simple white table top and 4 metal legs. It is going to help me not stash and store so much junk under and in and behind. I chose white because I think it makes the e.mac look smaller and it looks good in the room with dark woods and white trim. And it was cheap. $29 for the top and $5 for each leg. Holes were all pre-drilled. It was a breeze. If I want to add different "legs" to it later (ones, for example, that are actually book cases of sorts). I can do that and will just have spare legs to use elsewhere. (I like IKEA a lot...and not just for their meat balls!)

One of the things you might see on the wall is a magnetic strip (I have one in my kitchen for knives) and it holds things I'm often looking for and using...and a few other odd things that are metal and that I just plain wanted to hang for fun.

And this is the view out my window. Just to the right of that little table is a chair which makes a great place to read or just sit and look out from.

More importantly, those red flowers you see out the right side of the window are from a poinsettia plant I got last Christmas and which spent about six months on my patio in a clay pot...lost all it's red color. So, when it outgrew the pot, I jammed it in the ground and in mid-November, it began to turn red. Further left, beyond what you can see in the photo, is a new poinsettia TREE which I picked up at Target for 75% off. It is gorgeous right now and I hope it will do as most plants seem to do here....GROW and grow and grow.

Amador Capcha Balvin

Amador Capcha Balvín worked as one of the translators of the Wanca Quechua New Testament in Peru. When he started working, he had no idea that he’d one day be training as a translation consultant with the potential to impact people far beyond his own community.

Why was his work on the translation of his own mother tongue so so important to Amador? “I am so grateful for God’s love and mercy to me, and I want others to know also, but it is impossible for me to contact each and every other speaker of my language to tell them. But by doing a good job on the translation, my work can go to places I’ve never been to before, that that they, too, will be able to know how much God loves them.

(This photo of Amador was taken at the celebration held this past summer in the highlands of Peru which marked the arrival of the Wanca Quechua New Testament. To read more of the story, visit Wycliffe's website.)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Good Morning! from Wycliffe's Mobilization Center


I've worked my way through overnight emails and responded to the most critical ones and a few "easy" ones along the way.

The staff in the Offices of the President has met for prayer together.

I brewed a cup of Chai which I'm enjoying in my 1987 Bethel Alumni mug and I thought I'd say HELLO before I dig in to more work.

The cold temps have produced their needed effects. A few plants were killed off and some of them needed to go anyhow, so that's fine. We officially recorded snow at the Daytona Beach airport, so we've checked that off the list for 2008 as DONE. And this afternoon, when temps return to a high in the low 60's we'll be saying how nice it is to be warm again rather than fussing about how cold it is. Until we dip near freezing for a night or two, we whine in the 60's here. The frosty winds remind us to shut up and enjoy it.

Besides, there are so few days when I crave chili and soup and hot tea...

Thursday, January 03, 2008

If life were more like Scrabble

I love the game Scrabble. I've been playing it for years. I remember spending a week or two in the summers at my grandparent's house in the Ozark Mountains and playing a lot of Scrabble (and Uno, which I don't like nearly as much).

Lately I've been playing Scrabulous on Facebook and enjoying that greatly. No surprise there. I mean really, at one point I was playing one game with a friend in California, another with a friend in Pennsylvania, and two others with friends in Texas.

I tend to play the tiles I draw. Grit it out until I get better tiles. On a rare occasion, I turn in the tiles for new ones rather than taking my turn. Sometimes you simply know you can't make words with what you've got.

I kind of feel like doing that with presidential candidates with 306 days until the election (I read that on Google News...I didn't count).

I mean, these are people with extraordinary capacity and intellect. Truly. I even believe that each one desires to serve us in this role of leadership -- none of the more viable candidates are so naive to think that it is all about power and glory. I just haven't found one yet that catches my imagination and inspires me to get out of bed early to check their name off the list.

I don't want to be unpatriotic. I'm just not yet motivated to say THIS is the person who I hope is our next president. Bummer.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008


(First, let me give credit to a guy named Joe Bollinger who is the photographer. I found this image on and saved a copy to use as wallpaper on my home computer for a while. Then, suddenly, I'm looking at it tonight and...)

Wondering what stories are here behind this door, beyond this illuminated window?

Some times I imagine stories from an image like this. As a teacher I used to make my students write stories from evocative images I'd cut from magazines like LIFE when it had a large format.

The art of creating story from a few bits is underrated and, worse than that, under-encouraged. So much of what we surround children with have too much of the plot provided -- movies and books and toys all pre-scripted. Some kids overcome the disadvantage of being advantaged. Most do not.

One of the movies I enjoy is Out of Africa. Years after seeing the movie, I read the book and loved it even more. It is great story. Anyhow, my favorite scene in the movie is at the dinner table -- after the meal. The friends are entertaining one another with song and then story. Denys (Robert Redford) gives Karen (Meryl Streep) the first part of the first sentence and she weaves together a tale of intrigue and passion as the candles burn low.

Unrealistic? No. Perhaps in our own culture most of us are on diets of processed and practiced and unappetizingly predictable story, but there is hope. Every time the power goes out, we remember.

Maybe that is one of the reasons I love a good storm.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

"A New Year" or "Just Another Day"?

I went to bed last night around 11 and the new year started just the same as if I'd watched the ball drop and shot off fireworks and clinked glasses of bubbly -- well, the same except that I got a full night's sleep. Eight hours.

I remember the days when I felt somehow that my consciousness was required for the old year to end and the new one to begin. (I have some great memories from NYEve parties from junior high, high school, college...a few years ago.) Still, time marches on whether I'm paying attention or not. Time has proven that fact over and over.

The answer to my question? Yes. 2008 has begun all shiny and new -- filled with potential and hope. Just like every day, really. It's all grace.

I'm starting the new year with fresh paint on my bedroom walls and neatly printed labels on magazine file boxes filled with this and that. In the last days of 2007 I checked off dozens of boxes on my TO DO list and it felt great.

One of those things was "switch to a different desk in my home office" (BIG project) and one of them was "hang magnetic knife bar in the kitchen" (small project).

All this work (HGTV would be proud) and I feel rested and ready for the year...or at least for one more day.