Why don't "Christian kids" become "Christian adults"

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The reality is, there are many reasons. Some very painful and sometimes, nearly impossible to pinpoint. Here, I want to address one that I have seen a few too many times throughout my journey. 

Inauthenticity. Two faced parents. 

I have heard accusations and read studies of how children who grew up in a ministry or Christian family are often the most likely to rebel and walk off from the “faith” of their parents. I’ve watched and wondered. I’ve seen it over and over again. But, then I have also seen the other side… Kids that absolutely go for it and carry their parents faith even further! 

And here’s what I’ve observed:

When “Christian” parents act “Christian” when others are around, and unchristian at home when no one is watching, kids see it, hate it and say “no thank you” to this fake shit. And they rebel and run off looking for something honest. 

When we model equal amounts of “Christian” no matter where we are or who is around, kids see a faith that is embodied, real and attractive. They want it, keep it and go even further than we could. They know it's something honest. 

Yet ANOTHER reason I’m pioneering Integer Network with a hope for eradicating fakeness and creating authentic people that model and live authentic faith. I keep seeing the costs of inauthenticity biting us again and again. 

God, help us to learn honesty and vulnerability. 

(One day I would LOVE to find the time to develop content and teaching around this to help people see it and change it, so that our kids don't blame God for something he never did or someone he never was.)

Financial Partnership with Integer Network

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Here is a moment of honest sharing: We need financial partners to back us as donors as we start Integer Network! Maybe you want to be one of them? Simply put, if you feel that inauthentic and broken leaders and teams are hurting the church and the cause of Christ and you want to see them be real and whole, Integer would be a great place to invest some resources. 

More honesty: After more than 7 years of being fundraising missionaries, it would have been a nice treat to just "take a ministry job" somewhere that came with a salary and some security...but that was NOT what I heard from the Lord when we asked "what's next"? So, we jumped out in faith that if we started a ministry initiative consistent with my calling and God's leading, that the finances would follow. Fear isn't one of my biggest struggles, but I will say...this step has required lots of faith to combat the fear that lingers around the corner! As with any new venture, there is always risk. 

Ministry or Business? Some have asked...is Integer Network a business or a ministry? It is a ministry and we answer that question very thoroughly right HERE. 

The financial plan: Integer Network will function from the following income streams (in order of amounts):

  1. Donors making charitable contributions to the ministry which makes it possible to coach, train and mentor leaders both in the USA and abroad. 
  2. Clients paying for coaching services.
  3. Churches and teams hiring Integer for workshops, events and staff development. 

Money donated or generated will be spent in the following ways (in order of amounts):

  1. Staff Salaries 
  2. International Leadership Development 
  3. Administrative Costs for coaching and events 

Integer Network has an overseeing Board of Directors that has already begun functioning to provide accountability and wisdom to our decisions and development. Will introduce them soon over at the Integer Blog. 

We have made the giving process as easy as possible right here at the Integer Website where you can make one time gifts or establish recurring monthly gifts. Just click HERE. 

Thank you for joining in the early stages of a much needed network that will bring freedom and healing to many people! 

4 ways to actually love people

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After traveling many places and making many friends with people from wildly different backgrounds and cultures, I asked myself: "What worked everywhere?" I took time to examine the patterns and behaviors that seemed to break down the real and imagined walls that naturally separate me from others. At the end of the day, I discovered it was really just love. Love breaks down walls. So, here are 4 great ways to actually and practically love people:

  1. Ask, don't assume! Ask questions. Ask good questions. Ask non-googleable questions. Ask because you actually care and really want to know. Ask to learn about the other. Ask to clarify misunderstanding. Do not guess and assume you just know. Asking questions draws the other out and allows them to form their own story instead of you assuming you already know it. A good question can feel like a rare gift. Proverbs 20:5 says that they heart of a person is like a deep well; one who has insight draws it out. 
  2. Listen, don't lecture! If you ask good questions, but don't practice deep listening, you haven't loved, you've patronized. Secondly, lectures belong in a classroom...leave them there. They do not belong in interpersonal relationships. Hold your convictions, don't distribute them. We hold our beliefs, we distribute mercy, grace and compassion. No one else is nearly as concerned with your opinions as you think they are. Listen well, listen deep, listen long, listen for what is said, listen for what isn't. Often the thing you waited most patiently to hear is the thing that impacts you most deeply. 
  3. Authenticity, not acting! From the home of Syrian refugees to a village in rural western Kenya to the Maasai of Tanzania to the Afrikaners of South Africa, real works. In America, real works. People do not feel loved when you hide and deceive. However, everyone values truth...it is part of the God image in all of creation. Be real and people feel loved. Be fake and people feel handled and mistreated. Truth is attractive and honesty builds trust. Entrusting people with who you actually are is a brilliant way to communicate love. 
  4. Compassion, not comfort! As I said before, we hold our convictions, we distribute compassion and grace. It is an unavoidable reality that people hard to love are hard to be around. Hence, your comfort cannot be your priority. Love is a stronger and better cause than comfort and ease. If followers of Jesus want to actually emulate Jesus, we better get way more comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

Now, go try these four. You'll be astounded at how well they work together. 

Learning from addicts

Lately I have been thinking a lot about authenticity. It’s what you do when you are launching a leadership network with that focus. As one who values REAL, I love to find it on display in others. 

I spent this past weekend at a ministry in Kentucky restoring addicts…men who have just come off the street, out of jail, off of cocaine, etc. It has been a long time since I have been so refreshed! What a blast to be among real people, with real problems who really admit them. When everything is out in the open, there is nothing to hide. When you have done the worst, everything under that is fair game. When your offenses are in the public, you no longer need to hide in private. 

I think us holy Christians have a LOT to learn from addicts. We have been so good at creating rules, doctrines, lines and boxes that we can easily become professional hiders. The rules we make and enforce naturally create fear for what happens when we break them. We are prone to put so much energy into maintaining our (fake) perfections that we don’t talk freely about our (real) imperfections. We don’t want to be kicked out. None of us like being excluded. 

An atmosphere of grace and a room full of addicts turning to Jesus is a sure recipe for authenticity if I’ve ever seen one.

Don’t Push It

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We all like to get our way. We naturally think our ideas and plans are good ones and want to make them happen. That’s just normal. But there’s something I’ve observed in my own life that I thought might be helpful to share with you.

Most of the time when we have to push really hard to get our idea to happen, it’s probably not the right idea, the best plan or the right time.

You know what I’m talking about… You feel like you have to sell the concept. When people offer what feels like oppositional feedback, there is an inner feeling of defensiveness that leads you to begin pushing and explaining why this thing really should happen. When we have to sell it, and spin it and push it, it should immediately throw up a yellow flag in our soul.

Wisdom is a really beautiful gift. She flows into our hearts and minds through the many streams around us. When we fight against the current, it’s tiring and probably a sign that we should stop and rest. A better idea or better timing is up ahead.

Don’t just barrel forward with your great idea when wisdom is whispering to you. There are a million good ideas out there and you’ll get another one soon enough. And perhaps that will be the one that goes flowing down the river with the wind at your back and people standing on the banks cheering you on. Listen to the voices around you.

I’ve pushed too many things in my life that I shouldn’t have. And as a “salesman” by nature, I’ve maneuvered into plenty of things I probably shouldn’t have. Trying to grow here. Let’s go with the flow of favor.

Don’t push it.

Confidence & Humility

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If we struck a balance between a Godly confidence and a Godly Humility…learned to walk in both, it would be a really powerful Jesus type of spirit! Confidence and humility are not opposites or contradictory, but rather hand in hand and a powerful combination for high impact! I meet many people afraid of confidence, worried they might become proud, and holding back the gifts clearly given them by God. It's a shame. 

There is a difference between confidence and arrogance (few people are truly arrogant, most are insecure and masked with false arrogance). And there is also a difference between being humble and being pitiful. In Psalm 51, David gives us a great example of the dance between confidence and humility. David writes this Psalm after committing adultery with Bathsheba and the Psalm kinda goes like this (in my own words):

Humility: God, I messed up please forgive me. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit in me.  

Confidence: I will teach people, they will respond, I will joyfully sing and my mouth will praise!

Humility: But the only sacrifice that you desire is a broken and contrite heart, so make mine so.

Confidence: We will make Zion prosper and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem and we will be back in your grace. 

My short version of the whole Psalm: I am not going to walk around BEATEN UP because I SCREWED UP, but I am going to MOVE ON UP…with a broken and contrite heart!

Confidence, when properly carried can actually lead to incredible humility. The more we feel the weight of our gifts, the more we feel the need for the humility to not misuse them. It leads to meekness which my friend Keith taught me last week is "strength under control."

Leonard Sweet calls this a Jesus Spirit….the bringing together of these 2 powerful dynamics! It is an emptying and a filling. Remember, humility is NOT putting yourself down. And humility is NOT denying your strengths. It is honestly accepting your weaknesses. You strengths are gifts from God to be welcomed and carried out.

I guess the key to a big head is a big heart. 

What belongs in the back seat of your car?

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Most of life's emotions are gifts to us. They guide us, protect us and whisper to us each day. Emotions have a vital role to play. But there are many times when we allow them to play a harmful role or steer us the wrong way. Recently, I came across an idea on a podcast that has impacted me pretty profoundly lately...and at a time I need it! This week I began putting the plow to the field on the next season of my life and work. This is a big moment for us! (Credit for this idea goes to Author Elizabeth Gilbert of 'Eat, Pray Love' fame).

Here's the gist:

Fear is one of our most common emotions. Before beginning any exciting new creative project, we must have a conversation with fear. Look, we need to accept that we can never get rid of Fear — that it follows us along wherever we go, and that it is especially provoked whenever we try to be creative. (This is because Creativity demands that we constantly enter into realms of unknown outcome, and Fear HATES realms of unknown outcome.) So I always explain to Fear that me and Creativity are about to go on a road trip together, and that Fear is invited to come along (since it always comes along, anyway!) and that it has a role to play— but that Fear is not allowed to drive, not allowed to make decisions, not allowed to choose the songs on the radio, not allowed to select the snacks, not allowed to suggest detours. Fear is welcome in the car, in other words — because I do not exile any of the parts of myself along the creative journey — but Fear must sit in the back seat! 

And the same is true of many other partners on the journey. Like Ambition. It can come, but it better get its butt in the back seat, because when ambition drives, we run over tons of pedestrians and neglect things that matter most. Or anxiety. It will come, but get in the back! Or pain. It will come, and it may help us spot a few potholes, but it may not drive!

So, who can you put in the backseat today?

And whose hand needs slapped if it reaches for the radio to play songs you do not want to hear?

Thank You, Dr. Swanson

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As most of you know, our 2 year old son, Graceson suffered a stroke at our home in Tanzania back in May of 2017. There were so, so many stories that unfolded during that time, many of which we will probably never be able to even retell. But here is one that I've felt compelled to share. 

It just so happened (God) that a few months after we arrived, we met an American Pediatrician from Minnesota living in Arusha. We took the kids to him and he offered us immense comfort, just knowing he was there. "There", meaning direct access to his cell phone at any given moment, not "there" like in the states. When Graceson became ill and lost function, it was Dr. Swanson that walked us through each step. The man just exudes peace and gentleness and is of the highest caliber workers in his field. It was Dr. Swanson that realized there was some form of swelling on Graceson's brain. It was Dr. Swanson that organized the airplane for the medical evacuation to Kenya. It was Dr. Swanson that we talked to each step of the journey as Graceson received diagnoses in Kenya. It was Dr. Swanson that encouraged us to get Graceson back to the USA. And throughout these many months he has cared, checked in, prayed, advised us and given us perspectives that no other Doctor (even in the states) has offered. Dr. Steve Swanson was one of our great gifts from God to get us through the hardest moment of our lives. And Tricia and I will forever be deeply grateful for him. 

I connected with Dr. Swanson when I was back in Tanzania last month and had the opportunity to hear more about the magnificent work he is doing in Tanzania, a land we love so much. I want to share it with you. You can watch this video below to meet Dr. Swanson and hear more about his work with prematurity in Africa. Enjoy! And donate if you feel so moved

Thank you, Dr. Swanson. One day we will see to it that Graceson visits you and offers his personal gratitude for helping save his life. 

Ahsante, Agnes

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Today is New Years Eve, the close of a year...a wild adventure for our family indeed...an adventure that took us all places we never expected. Even Agnes. Our precious friend Agnes returns to Tanzania today. Here I want to brag and rejoice over Agnes! We love her so dearly. 

We met Agnes in June of 2015 on an exploratory trip to Tanzania. She had us from “Karibu.” We stayed in touch the year leading up to our move and she met us at our guesthouse in Arusha the morning of June 2, 2016 in the midst of our jet lag and 22 suitcases...and we never looked back. You see, in Tanzanian culture, you hire helpers. It’s unaffordable and almost inappropriate here in the USA. But it’s normal and expected there...and when you’re new to the country, you’d be lost without it. Agnes was one of the team members we hired to help with the house, the kids, the cooking, etc. But we don’t have “staff”, we have family. We have team. Agnes has been with us through it all...language learning, cultural frustration, setting up house in Africa, hundreds of guests, sick kids, countless chickens, motorcycle rides to get Lily from school, market runs, she’s saved us from humiliation and pushed us past our fears. She protected us, served us, challenged us, shaped us, inspired us and loved us like we are her family. 

Then Graceson had the stroke. In an instant we lost her and she lost us. During those dreadful days in Nairobi, Tricia and I asked ourselves “what does Graceson need most?” Our answer was: Agnes! They had formed such a precious bond already. So, we set out, with the help of the Lord and a great friend to get Agnes a passport and a US Visa (a process that could take 3-4 months) and she got both in 30 days! Two days later she was on a plane to us here in the states. And just like that, it’s been over 6 months...in our cozy little apartment with us, taking each step of this journey. She has kept my Swahili sharp, learned way more English, and she is now a physical therapist for the most precious little guy around! Our whole family here has fallen in love with her. Since we couldn’t be in Tanzania, Tanzania came to us! 

Our hearts hurt a lot today, for ourselves and Agnes, but mostly for Graceson. Graceson and Agnes have a very, very special bond. He has no idea what’s about to happen. In fact, just yesterday, Agnes’s aging mother called from Tanzania rejoicing: “we have a name for Graceson, we have a name! It’s Immanuel!” In African culture, when there is a very special relationship like this, they’ll give them their “African name.” Graceson got one yesterday. Graceson Brave Immanuel Kaye  

We hope to have Agnes return in March in order to utilize the remainder of her visa. Mungu anaweza! 

One last thought: after this experience, we will never again in all our lives see cultural differences as barriers that separate, but adhesive that bonds us together! 

Dada Agnes, safari njema, tunawapenda sana sana, na Mungu akubariki sana. Tutaonana. 

Three Parting Words about Africa

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As I spend my final days here in Tanzania, I want to openly process some of my thoughts, feelings and learnings about how seven years in Africa changed me forever. I have tried to share lessons and feelings along the way as well so I post them below if you want to read them.

But now, in a tad over one short year in Tanzania, something else profound happened in me— Africa crawled even deeper into my heart than I thought possible. There are many reasons why, but the main one is called: language. Learning the language of another person is like taking two people and glueing them to one another…a great bond is formed and something profound is exchanged. 

It is hard to put my thoughts into words because words seem unable to capture what I feel. But let me just try by sharing some of what I learned and what changed me…using 3 Kiswahili words. 

Karibu.

Hamna Shida.

Mzungu. 

Karibu! One word. Means everything. You are welcome. You are wanted. You belong here. Have a seat. Take a sip. Have a bite. Come again. Karibu! It strikes me that we don’t even have a word that is equivalent in the English language. I have learned the value of “wantedness” after never once feeling unwanted by an African friend, old or new. Here I have found hospitality on steroids. I wish to do even half as well as my Tanzanian friends when I return to the USA at living in the spirit of Karibu!  

Hamna Shida (pronounced hahm-na shee-dah). Meaning: No problem. Everything is “hamna shida”! It’s simply astounding. Have a wheel fall off your car? Hamna shida, we will fix it right here right now for $3. You don’t have money? Hamna shida. Just pay some other day. You will be 6 hours late? Hamna shida, Karibu! Can you please come visit me on a 16 hour bus ride? Hamna shida! I planned to come but can’t make it. Hamna shida. The shop is closed and I need some salt. Hamna shida, karibu. The flexibility, adaptability, resourcefulness, creativity, patience and grace of Africa is unparalleled! What a joyous ebb and flow life takes on when everything is just “hamna shida.” I am still waiting to meet my first uptight Tanzanian. I have learned so much about relaxing and letting everything go as it flows. 

Mzungu. Meaning: White person. That is what many call us…at the store, on the road, at the bank. They loudly yell it and assume it to be a compliment. But I have learned a few things about what it means here. It means I am instantly given status I never earned and privilege I don’t deserve. It means I am rich, have power, and can easily abuse it. Mzungu is the clarion call to check myself, my heart, my intentions, my entitlement and submit them to the low and humble way of Jesus to come under, to wash feet and to serve. To me, Mzungu means I have a new kind of power…a power to override colonial thinking, to surprise a brother or sister with grace, and to lift them far above me in any way I can. A power called “self control” that allows me to listen instead of speak, to learn instead of lecture, to by humbled…and in this, we are both healed and changed.  

I close with the words of my dear friend John Arndt… “I have learned that the Africa I know and love will always be waiting for more adventurers, but asks of its many visitors to come in humility, because the Africa I know will change you, carve you deeper and twist you tighter than you could have ever imagined.”

Africa, it’s not over! We have many more years ahead together. Tutarudi!! You’re an amazing teacher and a precious friend.

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One must be careful not to generalize Africa (which I write about here), so I speak only from my experience in just 12 of Africa's 54 nations. 

HERE I write about why I love Africans— and it captures much of what I still feel today. 

Also, when we departed South Africa after five years, I wrote THIS…which was my tribute to South Africa.  

Leaders vs. Influencers

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I have been a student of leadership ideas for most of my life...I used to read every leadership book I could find, though I don't anymore. As I have watched, learned and led, I have discovered something very interesting. Most prominent leadership gurus like Maxwell would define leadership AS influence. I don't think so anymore. I think that there are "leaders" and there are "influencers" and the two are unique and different.

  • Not every leader is an influencer: The most common understanding of a leader is someone that is leading something or someone(s) and people are following. But very often this is "positional" leadership and people HAVE to follow, whether they WANT to or not. In most arenas of life, you don't get to chose your leader or whether you actually want to follow them. The rules are set. Fall in line. As a result, your body follows, but your heart doesn't. This might be "leadership" but it's not true influence that shapes the follower. Not ever leader is an influencer. You already know that because most of us have been under a leader where we had limited interest in their influence
  • Not every influencer is a leader: Influence is different. We have the power to chose who influences us, whether they are our leader or not...and often they aren't. We innately feel something flowing from an influencer that we WANT and we open ourselves up to receive it...even pursue it. They can be anyone...not necessarily in leadership over you or in "leadership" at all. I can think of 4 different people that have had major influence in my life that weren't in positional leadership over me at all. In fact, a few of them just know their lot in life is to drop back and influence the leaders that people follow and listen to... and they do it very intentionally. They make their voices heard through another. It's a choice to influence the leaders instead of lead the followers. Not every influencer is a leader. 

You might say "well those influencers ARE leading"...but I feel that the word leadership has been so overused and overstressed and misunderstood that it's helpful to find new language...language that more accurately describes reality. 

Think into this. Who is leading you? Who is influencing you? What do you discover? 

What we CAN do

Like so many of you, I am sick and tired and angry and confused and dumfounded and disgusted and broken hearted over the latest mass shooting, now in Vegas. Each time these happen, I see a gazillion people say they are praying. Frankly, that's losing meaning for me. I still believe prayer works. But I do NOT believe prayer is a replacement for love, action and compassion. And that is what bothers me each time these things happen. What can I DO? I feel so helpless. 

I am aware that I can give money, give blood, give organs, give time, give assistance, etc. However, like many of you may also experience, some of those things are practically impossible or else incredibly difficult for whatever reason. Some will be able to, some will not. 

So, the more I pondered this, the more I thought that the best thing I can do is to genuinely love as many people as I can today! To have meaningful connections with every human being I can today. To reflect the value of another. To make eye contact, smile, and speak. To promote connection, not isolation. To create community, not fuel loneliness. These are things I CAN do today. And I think they matter...a lot! 

A friend of mine in South Africa sent me the following sentiments that so deeply resonated with my heart. It is written by a man named Gabriel Snyman:

More than fifty people died and many got injured in a shooting attack in Las Vegas. A Police officer got run over and stabbed and pedestrians got injured in a terrorist attack in Edmonton over the weekend. These two incidents have important differences...But there is to me one glaring similarity between the two perpetrators. They were individuals that operated in isolation. The Las Vegas suspect had a girlfriend but according to reports she didn’t even know of his plans. One would expect the ideologically motivated Edmonton suspect to operate in a group...yet he seems to have operated all on his own. Both these men were lonely. When asking ourselves how to respond as church and how we can deepen involvement apart from the customary condemnation of the attacks, maybe this similarity of isolation could be a good place to start. Men (and woman) isolated and disconnected from deep, lasting and meaningful relationships seem to be a growing trend. This is ironic as technology like social media that makes contact possible is a rising trend. Violence, addiction to pornography and drug addiction are all problems related to individuals being isolated and disconnected....So if you want to respond in a God honouring way to the violent, unpredictable world we woke up to this morning-Here is a suggestion: Don’t vilify doctrine. Don’t think hiding away with your family behind the walls or better security and policing is going to solve the problem. Respond by reaching out. Invite the neighbour you know nothing about, over. Chat to the stranger next to you in the shopping line (if you are an introvert respond to the weird extrovert that dared to talk to you kindly). Go to church…and to the sport club and other community initiatives. Develop a habit to take an interest in others because it has a way of opening people up and nudging them towards community. You cannot fight terrorist groups or twisted ideologies on your own. You don’t have the capacity to check surrounding hotel rooms and high balconies of every place you attend-neither has the police. But what you can fight is isolation. I don’t know about you but I am going to make eye contact and smile at the very next person I see when I leave this desk! It might be a more Christian thing to do than the Bible study I have done all morning!

So, in the words of my friend Jeff, I think I will go hug my kids. And when I go out later today, I will be on a mission to talk to people. I can't do it all, but I can do something. And so can you. 

Looking to 2018 & 2019

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(Below is the newsletter we recently sent to our missions partners. We wanted to publish it here too.)

It seems for the last four months we have been the parents of Graceson. And while that's a wonderful joy, there is more to our story. Today we write to you as a family on mission to Tanzania

Just last week I (Noah) returned from a quick trip home to Arusha. It was indescribably special to be back, to connect with friends, to reassure our community that are hearts are set to return to them. It was a major blessing. 

And here's another win: after plenty of days of doubt and pain, Tricia "misses home and is ready to go back!" It's a gift to be unified and have our hearts moving in the same direction. We are still operating on "plan A", which is to be back in Tanzania by the end of 2017. And that brings us to why we are writing to you today.

A few facts about dates and dollars:

+We will head back (by faith) the last week of December.

+We will serve an 18-month term ending in the middle of 2019. (We will discern anything beyond this later.)

+We had already raised funds and commitments through mid-2018. 

+As a result of this unexpected medical leave in the states, we will need to raise funds for an additional year now.

So, after collaborating with our Missions Team...here's the fundraising goal for our family for the next 3 months

$15,000 in gifts & $700 in new monthly commitments

In order to reach our goal, we will need to get out there now and connect with churches, groups and people to raise awareness and share our hearts. This will be our focus for the next three months. 

Below, you will find a list of where we will be speaking in the coming weeks. As of today, we still have the following Sundays available for teaching or sharing at churches:

  • This Sunday, October 8
  • October 22
  • December 10 (available to speak in the VA Beach area) 

Just email us about opportunities!

Thank you all for your love, your care, your friendship and your support. If you want to discuss any of this, just reply now and we would love to engage with you and discuss what partnership would look like. 

Online contributions can be made HERE!

With love and joy,

Noah, Tricia and the Kids 

www.noahkaye.com

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Oct 15- Foundry Church, Morgantown, WV

Oct 29- Capital Christian Fellowship, Lanham, MD

Nov 5- Living Hope Fellowship, Houston, DE

Nov 12- New Life AG, East Greenbush, NY

Nov 19- Life House Church, Laurel, MD

Dec 3- Grace Bible Church, Lanham, MD 

What am I waiting for?

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Let me be honest with you about one of my greatest recurring struggles: I tend to get discontent quite often. The people closest to me know about this the most. I can swing from feeling satisfied and fulfilled to feeling agitated and unproductive quite quickly. I think it is one of my mid-life challenges, and an area that I still need to mature in.  

Yet, I am also just as aware of the importance of BEING, of ABIDING, of BECOMING, of WAITING so that what I DO doesn't get ahead of who I AM, bringing imbalance and self-promotion. I want my life to count for God, not just for Noah.

But...I see the clock ticking and it seems to move faster each year. There is so much in me that I want to get out, so many people to touch, so much I want to still accomplish in my days on this earth. And then I look at my life and examine my dreams and wonder things like:

What are you waiting for, Noah? Why are you moving so slow? What are you afraid of? If you have something in you, let it out! The time is short!

I guess it is a journey of learning, of leaning in and pulling back, moving out and sitting still, trying to listen to the Holy Spirit for direction and peace. 

Lately, I have been living in the place of wanting to run and fly...feeling full of things I want to let out and tempted to stop holding back. And in that space, 2 things have inspired me. A quote. And a song. I want to share them both with you. 

Quote by Brenè Brown:

''I think midlife is when the universe gently places her hands upon your shoulders, pulls you close, and whispers in your ear: I’m not screwing around. It’s time. All of this pretending and performing – these coping mechanisms that you’ve developed to protect yourself from feeling inadequate and getting hurt – has to go.

Your armor is preventing you from growing into your gifts. I understand that you needed these protections when you were small. I understand that you believed your armor could help you secure all of the things you needed to feel worthy of love and belonging, but you’re still searching and you’re more lost than ever.

Time is growing short. There are unexplored adventures ahead of you. You can’t live the rest of your life worried about what other people think. You were born worthy of love and belonging. Courage and daring are coursing through you. You were made to live and love with your whole heart. It’s time to show up and be seen.''

And then there is this song that my friend inspired me with almost a year ago when he told me that it makes him think of me each time he hears it. I derive inspiration from it: 

Three Months Later

 Tricia and Graceson in flight to Nairobi on May 23.

Tricia and Graceson in flight to Nairobi on May 23.

It was exactly three months ago today that our sweet boy Graceson Brave suffered a stroke. There are many, many parts of the story. Some we haven't even been able to tell yet. It's funny how these things just leak out over time, after a crisis. Here's the beginning of the story...

He had been sick over the weekend with some type of cold or chest infection. With limited medical care in Tanzania, we are often unsure what is going on and what to do. So, we got him some common medicine and hoped it would pass. Graceson woke from his nap on Monday, May 22 and was just walking across the living room when he suddenly fell forward onto his stomach, stopped breathing for a moment and then started screaming. He was weak. So weak that he refused (so we thought) to sit up normally. (Mind you, I had flown out of our city early that morning for a trip.) After a few hours of concerning signs, Tricia took him to the hospital where he was examined and we were told to see if he starts to strengthen by the morning. He was so immobile that he could not turn over in his bed. It was a long night for Tricia. The next morning at 5am, Graceson still had zero function in the right side of his body. As we collaborated over the phone, Tricia prepared to return to the hospital in town. Sometimes you just "feel" it...something is not right. So, I packed up and found a taxi to start the one hour trip to the airport in Dar es Salaam. I was just unsure where I would fly...home to Arusha to be with them, or to Nairobi, Kenya where we always knew we would have to go should we ever face a medical emergency. So, I stood by near the airline offices waiting for word. Tricia and Joni (thank God they were there!) headed back to the hospital and within an hour, they were instructed to run home quickly, pack a bag and head to the airport where there would be a medical plane waiting for them. Tricia and Graceson flew on a tiny plane from Arusha, Tanzania to Wilson Airport in Nairobi, Kenya where an ambulance met them and transported them to the hospital where Graceson would be treated. I landed 2 hours later and met them at the hospital. The emotions were so high. We had never seen any of our kids as afraid and unsure as this little guy was in those moments. The days that ensued at the hospital in Nairobi are filled with stories that shaped us, hurt us, taught us...stories that we have barely told and certainly not fully understood yet. Cultural lessons, medical lessons, life lessons. It was two days later before we even knew that our son had suffered a stroke...through a text message...from another country. But, I will leave that story for another day. 
 Tricia in the Plane.

Tricia in the Plane.

We cannot begin to express the joy we feel when we look at Graceson and see how far he has come so quickly! Here he is below...just yesterday. The face says it all: "Look at me, Daddy! I am trying the stairs now!" 

Keep climbing, boy. Keep climbing. 

 Graceson at therapy August 21. 

Graceson at therapy August 21. 

Bell & The Bible, Part 2

The other day I reviewed Rob Bell's recent book "What is the Bible?" You can read it HERE. In it I offered to do a follow up if there was interest. I got a number of requests for it, so here we go. Y'all know that you are more interested in what I did NOT like, than what I liked, so let me start there. 

Dislikes:

  1. Human? Bell repeats this idea again and again that the Bible is a book about what it means to be human. A book written by humans for humans. And he says a few times that its about "elevating the human consciousness," whatever that means. I think he makes a book with far too much divine inspiration, power, and life a little too human-ish and normal, downplaying the life of God in it. Lost something for me. (Though there was an aspect of this that I did appreciate which I will address below.)
  2. Where did you find that? As you read this book, Bell points out the most fascinating insights and angles on stories you have heard a thousand times and you think: "Where did you find this? How did you come up with that? Who told you this?" Because you WANT to find these things, but most of us never can or will. If we could, it would revolutionize our read of the Bible. But, there are basically no citations or credit given and no teaching the reader "here is how you get as smart as me." So, it keeps you reading Bell, not searching for yourself. Seems non-reproducible. I wish he would guide the reader more practically into how to find this depth and beauty he so easily stumbles on.
  3. All truth is God's? Using the 1 Corinthians 3 "all things" idea, Bell makes his case that all truth is God's truth. Not the first time I have heard this unhelpful idea. Maybe I am just too stupid, but what does this mean? It's simply not true! It is "truth" that there was a hateful clash in Charlottesville last weekend. Is this "God's truth"? There is plenty of sad, distorted, awful, ungodly "truth" in our world. What does it mean to be "God's truth"? Or is this a semantics thing? What am I missing here? Makes no sense to me. Never has. 

Likes:

  1. Literately. Instead of "literally", Bell urges us to read the Bible "literately" which I found very helpful. Meaning, read the scriptures according to their genre...read poems as poems, gospels as accounts, the Psalms are to be read differently from prophetic books, etc. Coupled with this, he stresses context, context, context, which I used to fail to see the importance of but now I realize it makes or breaks the entire way we see the Bible! You absolutely and totally cannot pull a passage out of the Bible and make it mean whatever you want. The why, who, when, where and what of "back then" matter immensely. 
  2. Jesus' life, not just death. As one who is wrestling through challenges with "penal substitution atonement theory" (google it), I really appreciated Bell's consistent focus on the Life of Christ (then and now) over just his death. This is in the "dislike" column for other readers, I'm sure, but I have long wondered why we make the death of Jesus a bigger deal than his life (a mean God had to kill his son and definitely needed the blood for this to work). It was LIFE that God was after in the garden, LIFE that he was after through the law and the prophets, LIFE that he was bringing in Christ, the crucifixion was about LIFE, LIFE that we were given in the spirit, LIFE that we are invited into now, LIFE that will reign at the end as we see Revelation's paradise culminate like the Garden before the serpent. My thing is life. Bell's is too. And I liked that. 
  3. Questions without answers. Yet again in this case, I have heard others hold this against Bell, but I want to state it as one of my favorite aspects of the book. Bell asks hundreds of questions in the book and answers but a fraction of them. I was a bit bewildered in the first half of the book and then I got it...this is revealing a very, very important reality of how we ought to handle the Bible. Asking deep questions while resisting the urge for fast, traditional answers might feel rough on the brain, but can be so good for the heart. Because there is beauty in the asking, waiting, considering, listening and not "knowing"...a seemingly appropriate way to handle the mysteries of God. (Which reminds me to suggest to you the book I am finishing now called "The Sin of Certainty" by Peter Enns. Brilliant one.)

Latest Family News

Here are some of the family updates we recently sent out to our partners and supporters. Wanted to share here too for those interested in our plans and such.

  • Graceson is progressing very well! He is in therapy 6 times per week now. In most areas of development he is right where he needs to be. We still watch him in awe of the miracle we have seen! We will update on the medical testing as we have answers. 
  • At this point, we do plan to return to Arusha, Tanzania the last week of December to continue our life and work there. Would you cheer us on and pray us back? We don't think we were quite done yet.
  • Davis and Lily will start school (Praise the Lord! Oh happy day!) at Davidsonville Elementary on September 5. They are excited for the experience, it seems. We will be more than happy for them to have something to do! They will attend there until December. In January, they will start back at the International school in Arusha. 
  • Noah and our nephew Gabe will make a quick trip to Tanzania September 8-18 to tend to some matters there. This will do Noah's heart good. 
  • Tunajifunza Kiswahili! Tricia and Noah will both continue focussing on learning Swahili in preparation for the return. It is a major perk and blessing to have Agnes (our Tanzanian team member and friend) with us here in the states for a few more months to help us along. 
  • We would love to connect with local churches and would be available to do some speaking and teaching between now and December. Please contact us if that would be of interest to you or your church. 

A few things about our finances...

  • The PayPal gifts that we received when Graceson became ill are serving to carry us through this entire, unexpectedly long stay in the USA. How grateful we are each day for those that helped us. Looks like what came in is exactly what will be needed to carry us to December and back to Tanzania. We will share with you if that changes. 
  • As for our "Missions Budget" which was already set and in place before this happened....it is imperative that those contributions keep coming in. We are maintaining our home and team back in Africa and many other pre-determined priorities. To all financial partners....thank you for your continued giving through these months! We will need your support and likely have to also raise new partners soon as we look at possibly extending our stay due to this interruption to our term. More on that later. 

One last thing for local folks...

Are you local to the Washington DC area? We would LOVE to see you and spend time with you this Friday evening at our home Church (CCF in Lanham, MD). CLICK HERE for the details

And please write to us anytime! We would love to hear from you if you have ideas, questions, or just want to catch up.

With all our love,

Noah, Tricia and the Kids 

Read some of what Noah has written lately at: www.noahkaye.com

Financial Contributions can be managed HERE.

Bell and the Bible

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Well, here we go. The day I have not looked forward to at all. The day that I would share my thoughts in response to Rob Bell's latest book, "What is the Bible?" Over six years ago, I read and reviewed his unnecessarily controversial book "Love Wins," otherwise known as "Lose Friends." (You could read all my posts about it in my blog archives from 2011 using the search below.) Bell has a unique anointing for writing awesome books that make people hate him (many of which never read his books). 

Look, I really like Rob Bell. And I love his writing. He has an exceptional gift for communicating and talks about things I care a lot about! Thank you, Rob. 

And let me come out and give my soundbite one sentence review: It has been a long, long time since I have read a book that made my love for the Bible come alive and feel refreshed the way this one did!! I've also read few authors with as much fascination and love for the Bible as Bell has. I guess God uses heretics! Oh, and I have been on quite the spiritual pilgrimage myself the last several years, so this stuff was just right up my alley. Questions and exploration don't scare me, they enliven me.

Ok, here's my review. Bell writes a book about the Bible and:

  1. Does not treat it like most people always have.
  2. Opens up new ideas about what it was and what it is.
  3. Employs different language to define, describe and defend it.
  4. Asks really wild and weird questions most people would never ask.
  5. Has perspectives that are super different than 9+ out of 10 Christians you know. 
  6. Sees things in stories and historical accounts that you probably never even heard of or saw before.
  7. Uncovers unhealthy and idolatrous ways of treating the Bible.
  8. Takes a few shots at traditional religious thought. 
  9. Opens up new brain pathways and conversations about the Bible that some would not want to have or didn't know they could. 
  10. Suggests some pretty out-there theological ideas that he seems to be working at still himself. 

Ok, so some of his main things in the book....themes that kept repeating themselves:

  • The Bible did not fall out of heaven, but is written by real people, at a real time and place in history, with real circumstances and real worldview, dealing with issues real to them....as they saw them at their time and place. God let people tell their stories. Then real people compiled this into an ancient library of poems, letters and stories. 
  • This library is not just a normal library, but is charged and teeming with the life of God, filled with revelation and beauty that invites and beckons humans into the life of the Spirit and into the story of God at work in our world. There is a reason this book stood the test of time and has transformed so many people! And still is. 
  • We have failed to let it be what it is and do what it does. Instead, we have forced the Bible to become something else....something we have needed it to be to bring us the security and certainty we so desperately long for as people (and use the same book to call it "good doctrine"). 
  • And then we have imposed the wrong questions, descriptors and adjectives onto the Bible. Like inerrant. Or inspired. Or infallible. Or literal. Bell suggests that these very modern ideas zap the life out of the scriptures and turn it into something it was never to be. These are wrong, new and unexciting questions and labels. 
  • There is always more going on! Bell finds many ways to make this same point...we have to look deeper and longer and further into a story and it's context and we will almost always find some deeper and beautiful narrative about God's loving compassion and Kingdom unfolding. Like this quote: "The point of the Abraham-Isaac story isn't that you should sacrifice your kid, but that you can leave behind any notion of a God that would demand that you sacrifice your kid!" (read the book to see how he got there...and what he did with Jonah!! I was crying.)
  • The Bible is not a book of rules, or science, or precise facts, or even perfect history. It's a book of life! And life is messy. A book that unpacks the foundational stories of our faith and invites us to keep going and discovering and finding God. A doorway, not a destination. A starting place, not a finish line (my words...better than Bell, in my opinion). 

Does Bell say some things in his book that I do not agree with at this point in my journey? Yup! He sure does. But, if I am honest, I have little desire or energy for needing to defend my ideas or attack Bell. The book was mostly brilliant. I never finish a good meal my wife makes me and then take time to explain all the little things about it that I did not like. Accomplishes nada. That said, I would be more than willing to discuss some of my disagreements with anyone who has ACTUALLY READ THE BOOK (not just reviews slamming the book and Bell). Contact me. I learned the hard way in the past arguing about books people never even read.

Finally, a word to those that hate this. A good pal of mine often tells me after reading some of the comments on my FB threads, "Noah, have the most diverse group of friends of anyone I have ever seen!" He has a point. I have great friends that would LOVE some of these Bell-type explorations. And then I have other friends, that I dearly love and honor, that would really struggle with this and want to pull me or anyone that reads this stuff off a cliff to save our lives. The tension is marvelous. May all of our hearts resist the pride that says "my way is the only or right or best way" and rather walk with our hearts postured toward and filled with trust for JESUS, the way, the truth and the life! 

 (Let me talk out the other side of my mouth and say that I am considering/willing to write a follow up post with the three things I liked most and the three I liked least. I'll see if there is interest rising.) 

Racism & One White Man

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This morning was very unique, an experience I won't soon forget. Most Sundays we are committed to preach or at our home congregation.  Since we arrived home early from our vacation, I decided to attend the massive, well known, First Baptist Church of Glenarden, an African American megachurch just minutes from where we are staying. I've tracked with and appreciated FBCG for years. 

As I went to bed last night, I found myself wondering what Pastor John Jenkins would do or say about the events in Charlottesville yesterday. Would he ignore, downplay, or exaggerate the events? After all, the local news stations were already calling asking his response. The topic of his message: Racism! Clear enough? My experience this morning was awkward, but beautiful. Let me share why...

Awkward because I just "happened" to be the only white male (that I could see) in a room of thousands of black worshippers. Whether anyone else felt this way or not, I couldn't help but feel like an oddball in a place I didn't belong. It didn't matter how sweet people were (and they were!). When only one race meets in a space and you join, it creates weird emotions. But I live in Africa! I got this, even though it's very different. But it was awkward. I felt embarrassed for how white people acted yesterday. I felt ashamed that we are still in this place in history. And I felt a weightiness that's hard to describe. 

Yet, somehow this experience was beautiful. It was beautiful because Pastor Jenkins called the church to act like Jesus! And they agreed. You knew they longed for the same. You could feel it and sense it all around you. He challenged the church toward a Christ-like response from Romans 12:

  1. Do not fight fire with fire or evil with evil. 
  2. Recognize and confirm God's perspectives.
  3. We have a responsibility to cultivate and maintain relationship with those who look different from us.  

There wasn't a single word about retaliation. Or payback. Just friendship and love. That's how we win!

And here's what else is beautiful and hopeful.  Most people in the United States of America are not racist at all! Very few are (See addition below). It's just that the ones who are get our attention. And the attention of the news agencies. 

So, this one white male sat with thousands of black brothers and sisters this morning as they dealt with racism and they committed to the way of love. We got this. We can do this. We are together. There is way more hope than the news and FB are portraying today. All is not lost. Let's keep going.  

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(Addendum to original post: Let me openly share my regret for the line in this post that says Racism is rare in the US. I've received personal and helpful feedback that I may be living under a rock having spent the last 7 years overseas. Fair enough. I also want to say that perhaps I actually don't have the authority to make some of these claims as a white male. I'm an open processor learning out loud and sharing my experience. Please forgive me if my sentiments were in any way dismissive of the pain you may have felt as a result of racism. I have much to learn still.)