Friday, October 18, 2013
Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Friday, September 13, 2013
Monday, August 5, 2013
|Mission Team: Americans and Venezuelans working together...dirty, tired, and completely happy!|
Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Saturday, June 29, 2013
Sunday, April 28, 2013
As an adult, I still love to hear the story of the lost sheep (found in Luke 15:4-7 in the New Testament):
“Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Doesn't he leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.”
The parable is lovely…the rescue wonderful.
As an adult with good, modern leadership training, I can’t help but think things through to the next step—I’m a ‘problem solver,’ so let’s solve this! Okay, so the Shepherd has a problem with wandering sheep? The answer, of course, is logical—build an enclosure. With a simple fence, the sheep won’t be wandering off. The Shepherd won’t have to waste important time chasing lost sheep who knows where. The 99 need not be abandoned for the foolishness of the one who doesn't know his or her place. I mean, there is already a night enclosure; why not a day enclosure as well? No more lost sheep. All’s well that ends well. End of story.
But wait. The Shepherd once recognized every sheep…knew the spots and peculiarities of each sheep. Before, He knew the bleat and baa of each ram, ewe, and lamb. He counted and recounted the sheep…slept among the sheep…played His lyre or flute for the sheep. If the sheep ran off, He knew where they probably were…and went after them until He found them
Not anymore. What happens to the Shepherd now? His real concern now becomes the fence. His work becomes maintaining the fence. The attention is now on the fence…the quality and solidity of the posts…the integrity of the wire…the possibility of holes. Time is spent replacing posts, repairing fencing. Instead of walking among the sheep, the former Shepherd-turned-‘fence tender’ is walking the perimeter, eyes on the fence, back to the sheep. If he’s strolling the outside of the fence, the sheep are just something in his peripheral vision.
So, the Shepherd in Luke 15 never considers a fence. He rescues the lost sheep, returns her to the fold. The next day, He again takes the flock out to the green pastures where He watches them…and watches over them. He gives His sheep the freedom to wander, to roam…and to return. He focuses His life on His sheep…to know them by name…to recognize them from afar. He looks for one lost sheep after another so they can have the freedom of a fence-less life and the joy of knowing their Shepherd. The sheep know their Master’s voice. They go to Him, and He scratches their heads, behind their ears. He pulls out His flute and plays that same simple tune they've grown to know and love. They feel safe with Him. Yes, they place their trust in their Shepherd…not in fences.
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Monday, April 15, 2013
Sunday, February 17, 2013
In a perfect world, what we do and who we are fall into a beautiful alignment. Even in our imperfect world, there are those who find this alignment…some for a season and a few for a lifetime.
My job title is “Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment Analyst.” Seeing my title, you might actually think that I am an analyst. But, you’d be mistaken. You see, in my heart, I am a teacher, an educator. A set of circumstances in the last year moved me into this position, but I’ll save that for another time. Suffice to say, what I do is not in line with who I really am. I don’t love that, but it is what it is.
However, in my position as an analyst, I do have the freedom to teach a course each semester at our college. The Office of Institutional Effectiveness & Assessment ‘owns’ me for eight hours a day, but before or after those eight hours, I am free to do as I wish. And, thanks to a wonderful English department chair and a constant need for adjunct instructors, I get to teach an evening course each semester.
Now, I could have taken an attitude of “all or nothing”—I want to be a teacher, or I want nothing to do with it. But if I did that, I would miss out on knowing the 18 wonderful students I have this semester, students whose lives I’m entering, with whom I’m sharing my life. I’m teaching them writing…and—hopefully!—a whole lot more. Since I need to work to support my family, I’ll take the analyst job and make the very best of it; since my soul burns to teach and be with students, I’ll take whatever teaching opportunity—large or small—that comes my way.
I have a feeling that this same disjunction happens in the life of faith. What we do and who we are spiritually often doesn’t line up either. So many followers of Jesus want to spend their lives in service to God…but there’s work at banks, firms, restaurants, etc. Many, I’m sure, would enjoy spending day after day losing themselves in Scripture, song, or prayer…would prefer to be far away in a distant land sharing the faith through friendships…would rather be constructing a house of worship or training young Christian leaders. But, what they do and who they are just don’t line up.
What to do? The same thing I do—take every opportunity large and small that comes along to live that life of faith. If there is a mission trip, jump on it! If there is a project in the community, latch onto it. If there is a chance to spend 20 minutes in Scripture, song, or prayer, enjoy those 20 minutes. If there is a short-term trip to a distant land, save your money and take the trip. If there is a mission team going to build a church or going to help train and encourage new Christian leaders, go for it! Don’t “wait for retirement.” And for goodness sakes, don’t take an attitude of “all or nothing.”
Yes, I wish that my work and my passion were better aligned, but they’re not…for now. Just another reminder that we live in a ‘broken world.’ But, I don’t have to let that ‘brokenness’ break me. I will do the work I have to do in order to be the provider I must be as a husband and father. But, I will also keep my eye on the dream…I’ll keep the passion alive…and work in that direction. And, every time I get a chance to take a step towards my true self, my passion, my faith, I’ll take it…and enjoy it…and make it count. We aren’t what we do—we are who we are…with the call and passions that God has placed in us.
Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Sunday, January 27, 2013
The story of the “Tower of Babel” is well stamped in my mind. When I was a child, my parents gave me The Children’s Living Bible…a delightful rendering of the Scriptures, complete with full color, impressionistic-sort-of illustrations. As a child, I didn’t pay much attention to the sermons from the pulpit—I looked through my Bible at the illustrations, wondering what life would have been like in that Biblical world. The Tower of Babel was right there…one of the first two or three pages of illustrations—a tall ziggurat, climbing into the clouds…abandoned.
As I got older, I actually read the story from Scripture…how in the early days of humanity, men and women came together to construct a tower to reach the heavens…to reach God. This is when God ‘confused their tongues’—created languages. The project screeched to a halt…and humanity divvied up and went their way, everyone according to their own language groups. The Tower was stopped and humanity never reached God.
Many years later, I realize that we are still striving to build that tower. Babel is a human construct—a way of putting things—reality—together in our own way. The tower is our insistence on doing things our way, on creating our own world, of making our own way to God…of reaching the heavens. The Tower of Babel is about living in a human-made reality in place of the God-made reality. The Tower is about living in our own creation rather than in God's creation. We insist on living in a world of our own making.
Our creations are supposed to be steps forward as we reach for the heavens. Our human technology has produced a plethora of ‘labor-saving devices'. But, there’s a problem—with all of these labor-saving devices, we should be the best-rested creatures on the planet, but what we find are the ‘tiredest,’ longest-working, least-vacationing people in the world. We work and work to build this grand Tower, to create our ‘amazing’ reality…but we are no closer to God or the heavens than were the mono-lingual people of the young earth.
Likewise, we’re trying to build our own forms of community—virtual ones. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—I’m a part of them all. Yet, they all leave me wanting. In the end, I feel that all that happens in these ‘communities’ IS babble. I have two Facebook accounts—one for our ‘missions’ side…and then a personal one for ‘Jon.’ I find that I have two personas—or at least I did until today. Finally, I’ve come to realize that those FB accounts were places where I tried to create a comfortable reality, where I made my own realities that were convenient to my own ends or to the perceived expectations of my readers. What’s missing here in all this paragraph?? God. I was wrapped up in my own reality rather than living in God’s reality.
This immersion in our self-created worlds is part of our difficulty in connecting with our Creator. So, how do we escape this massive human construction project? How do we connect with our Creator? In some way, to come degree, we have to walk away from the Tower. Some how, we have got to move towards God’s reality, God’s creation, God’s rhythms. Perhaps that is what Paul means when he writes about “walking in the Spirit”. Perhaps that is why Jesus was off in the ‘wilderness’ to pray and spend time with the Father. Perhaps that is why we find so many of the “leaders” in the Scripture out in God’s reality—creation—to recharge their batteries, to commune with God. Babel may be under construction again, but we don’t have to join the project. Perhaps today is the day to lay down the hammer…and seek a living God in His living Creation in community with living people.
Monday, January 7, 2013
My present intellectual diet:
Under the Unpredictable Plant - Eugene Peterson
The Next 100 Years: A Forecast of the 21st Century - George Friedman
Brother Roger of Taize: Essential Writings
Experiences in Translation - Umberto Eco
I hope that you are reading also. If you've found a really good book, share the title with us in the comments below.
Hoping you all are off to a good New Year!
Tuesday, January 1, 2013
Happy New Year to all! I hope that you are as happy to see this year beginning as I am. 2012 was a pretty good year…but this year will be even better!
I wish you and yours the very best in the days, weeks, and months to come. May we live well, live to the full, and live lives that impact others.
More to come…!
Feliz año!! Espero que también estás muy contento ver el inicio de este año como yo. El año 2012 fue bueno…pero este año será aun mejor!
Les deseo lo mejor por los días, semanas y meses por venir. Que vivemos bien, que vivemos con abundancia, y que vivemos en una manera para impactar las vidas de la gente alrededor.