Dreadful Jesus Life

I saw this on the FB page of Author Jen Hatmaker and found it provocative and indicting. Thought I would share:

It really can be dreadful, this Jesus life. Just dreadful. I completely agree and suffer through all the same anxiety about it. I really do. I desire about 64% of Jesus. That is about all of Him and His ways I can handle. I really mean this. For every 6 things I like about Jesus' stuff, there are 4 that I am totally willing to ignore or discredit. I do it every day, you guys. I look several things in the eye and say NOPE. I hover around a D-.

Take Matthew 25, for example. What a disaster! Jesus so deeply identifies himself with the prisoner and the hungry and the stranger and the naked and poor, He says, "When you consider them and their plight, imagine that it is actually Me you are serving."

Let me tell you something, Jesus: LOW BLOW. I do NOT want to see your face in the faces of these complicated, hurting, needy people. When I see a prisoner, I want to see "criminal." When I see the homeless, I want to see "addict." When I see a refugee, I want to see "threat" or at least "financial drain."

What I do not want to see is your sweet face.

Why couldn't you identify with more stable people? We like you in the faces of our children and best friends, for example. We like you in our government and in our Family Friendly Movies. We like you in our pretty churches and gated neighborhoods.

We do not want to see you in the faces of the poor. That sucks. Now you are really messing with us. You do realize what this sort of holy identification will cost and require, right?

Why?? Why did you have to say all that in Matthew 25? I very much prefer Christian rules to this nonsense. (And it is nonsense, Jesus. Your ways do not make any sort of conventional sense.) I know we are to live this death and resurrection with you, but I only like the resurrection part. I'm serious. I want to skip the death part because it is too hard and requires way too much dying. Rules! You know we prefer rules! If we just dress modestly and don't say the f-word, can we call it a day?

It is so hard down here, Jesus. People are so hurt and scared and abused and confused. We want to follow you but your ways are so terrifying sometimes. Thanks for looking into our faces and seeing "brothers and sisters" instead of cowards and charlatans. You have always elevated our status. I guess if you can see us through miraculous eyes then maybe we have the capacity to look at others and see, well, you.

All this is so hard, Jesus. This world is so banged up. We need you. Help us. Strengthen our faith. Help us trust you. Break our hearts if you must. Give us new eyes to see. 

Redefining "Doing"

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It's been years now since I began thinking through this whole being versus doing thing. I have heard a lot of interesting thinking on it. I am convinced about our true identity needing to be rooted firmly in heaven’s opinion. Sold. But still keep processing this topic. Wrote about it HERE

In this ever-so-unique season of transition, I am facing new opportunities. New emotions. New lessons. All the “doing” I did in Africa is on pause. And there seems to be little “doing” waiting for me here. In the last weeks the Lord has been teaching me that my definition of “doing” is far, far too narrow. We all have an internal list of “things that matter.” Value-giving, purpose-filled, high-impact stuff. Stuff we know (think?) we are made to do. At least that is how it is for me. Here’s the real stuff:

  • Teaching
  • Training
  • Discipling
  • Coaching
  • Impacting Nations
  • Leading Schools and Teams
  • Making leadership decisions

Ya know, the stuff that makes ME feel good. But what happens when God says: “Leave all of that. Walk away. Go to America and take care of your family and your heart. And don’t get distracted with opportunities. Other than fundraising, sit still.” None of that was on my “things that matter” list!! Now, what?

Now, I have two choices. A pity party that will make me, Tricia and everyone else around me miserable OR let Holy Spirit shine the light on my heart and start speaking: “your definition of doing is too narrow and your stuff that matter list is too short!” Anything that God speaks to us has to make it on the list, folks. So, to my trusty internal list (that I barely knew I had), I must now add:

  • Husbanding
  • Fathering
  • Resting
  • Listening
  • Loving
  • Serving
  • Cooking
  • Cleaning
  • Nappy changes
  • Holiday time with friends and family
  • Attending church without a role to play…just sit there
  • Waiting (to be asked and not force things)
  • Driving kids to school

My list is growing. And changing. Now my heart has to catch up and begin believing that THIS MATTERS TOO! God said it. Which scores it an immediate place of the “things that matter” list that should make me feel full, complete, purposeful and obedient.

In ALL things, give praise. WHATEVER you do, do all to the glory of God.

Returning what I am learning….and boy, am I ever still learning. I know less now than I've ever known. 

Two Ways to Wait

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Waiting. It's what we do as we are expecting our next baby to arrive. ..Any day now. 

Waiting. It's what we do as we anticipate God's provision and direction for our family in this coming season.  

Waiting. It's what the advent season we are entering is about- hopeful expectation. 

Waiting. An idea that was pushed out more meaningfully last week when my mentor, Glenn prayed for a faith-filled waiting. He got me thinking. 

We are all waiting on something. Think about HOW you are waiting. 

Here's what I realized. There are two types of waiting.  

  1. There is passive, faithless waiting. Waiting with no hope, no engagement, no expectation. A boring and fatalistic waiting. Whatever will be, will be. Not the kind of waiting that engages anything in the natural or the spiritual.
  2. And thre is a faithful, faith-filled waiting. Waiting with hope, expectation, joy. The "wait upon the Lord...and soar like eagles" kind of waiting. The kind of patient waiting that awakens God's heart and stirs your soul. 

The first misses the formation IN the waiting. 

The second realizes that the formation may BE the waiting. 

How are you waiting?  

Psalm 23, NIV

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Every now and then I like to rewrite a passage of scripture in my own words. I like to call it the NIV (Noah inspired version). I can use it to reflect, memorize, or share and teach from in church  settings.  recently I shortened and paraphrased the 23rd Psalm… Something I have been reflecting on a lot these days. I thought I'd share it with you.

Jesus is my shepherd

He meets all my needs

He gives me rest and grants me peace

He makes me strong and leads me well

Even when life is really hard

You are there making us safe

You protect us from those against us

And you walk with us forever and ever and ever

My Friend, Keith Battle

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This morning, I had the honor of spending time with my friend, Keith Battle. 

It was about 22 years ago when I was in high school and had the most awesome Bible Teacher at my Christian School. Keith Battle. He was fun, personable and passionate about Jesus. I can remember as a young man thinking: "this guy is going places and I'd like to go with him!" Well, in some ways, that's exactly what has happened.  

Today, Keith Battle leads one of the most innovative and effective churches in the state of Maryland (and beyond, IMHO). You can check them out online at  http://www.zionchurchonline.com/

Recently, Keith released a new book called "A Second Chance". Buy it here

I just finished reading it and LOVED it. The book is loaded with real stories from a leader who is secure enough to be honest and vulnerable....despite the size of his church and breadth of his influence. That's a rare find today. I love how the book focuses so intensely on the heart and character of a leader. It will help you prevent failure and pick up the peices when things fall apart. I highly recommend you read it. 

Finally, Tricia and I want to express our deep personal gratitude to Keith and the Zion family for their incredible support of our family since we left for the mission field five years ago. After our home church, they are the most substantial financial supporter of our ministry. We are humbled and thankful. 

90 Years of Impact

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This morning we were honored to gather at our home church and celebrate with people from over 50 nations....a group of Mennonite and Anabaptist churches that are celebrating 90 years of ministry in the DC/Baltimore region. I remember the 80th anniversary and actually wrote about it here

I spent the first 15 years of my life in an Assemblies of God church and the last 20 years in a Mennonite Church. I graduated from a Pentecostal college and ordained with the Lancaster Mennonite conference. I'm Mennocostal. In fact, I wrote about that here

It was such an electric morning. A grand celebration. Tricia and I are so glad we were stateside for this. Here were my remarks in the service this morning (thought I would save them here for when we reach the 100th and can reflect back). 

It was 20 years ago last month that my family first attended CCF— the first day it was operating under that name.

This morning I stand before you as a leader shaped and nurtured by a congregation within this district. As a young man in the youth ministry, I was welcomed to explore and express the gifting and calling I had sensed since I was a young child. 

Then, in 2004 we were invited as a young married couple to serve as Associate Pastor of this congregation for 2 years, followed by 5 years as Lead Pastor. How grateful we are for your trust and empowering and encouragement. But also for your grace and forgiveness. 

How deeply grateful we are for leaders like Lew, Wilmer, Dave, Helen & Glenn, Caleb and Glenn. 

Our lives are fruit of what was started 90 years ago. Because after years of preparation, we were sent out from you as ambassadors on the mission field. We have just completed our first 5 years in Africa. We are sons and daughters of this house and this district. We are gladly sent and boldly going with your backing, your prayers and your finances.

As a result….we have been able to join with leaders making disciples and planting churches in South Africa, Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, and beyond. 

You have taught us something…not so much with your words, but with your actions. 

You have taught us a principle and a value that we will carry the remainder of our days….and here it is:  It is Not what you collect and count for YOUR credit, but what you release and mobilize for the credit of the one who matters most…JESUS! I see this movement as an example of this. You give away. In all these years, I have seen no big shot. No big show. Just a cluster of faithful and compassionate churches generously and consistently following and serving Jesus. Thank you for not seeking glory, but distributing it. We are honored to be family with you.

I leave you with a word about the future…the road ahead between 90 and 100 years.

Let’s work together more, shall we?

Let’s passionately spend ourselves and our resources on urgently announcing the kingdom of Jesus to a world begging for it?

Let’s take some risks, shall we? That may mean we break some rules and get ourselves into trouble here and there. But I think we will have some fun too.

How about this? By the time we gather here to celebrate 100 years anniversary, may the prophetic words of Hab 2:14 be true and accomplished…that that glory of God would cover the earth like the water covers the seas!

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An Emotional Home

Our living space.  

Our living space.  

On Sunday, our little family moved into our "new" and "temporary" home in the United States where we will spend the next 6 months. While we are here our little family of 4 will grow to 5...maybe that puts us to "medium" in size. Baby boy arrives in 29 days.  

We all LOVE the new place! We obviously had to take the place sight unseen, and It's bigger than we thought and nicer than we expected. Thankful for my Mom and Dad for their help in "selling" us to the owners. Our entire family has been totally incredible in receiving us. Not only them, but our home church, Capital Christian Fellowship blew us away by FILLING our pantry. 

The start of anything new is a good time to reflect. When we moved into this place on Sunday, we knew this was the Genesis of a season, a space and place that the Lord set up for our family. We prayed and commited this time and space to God. The prayer in my heart this week has been: "Lord, in these months, speak as loud as you want to, go as deep as you need to, utilize us however you prefer to, and keep us here as long as you want to." 

Tricia and I counted and realized that this is our 9th home since we were married. Seems we are more gifted in flexibility and adventure than we are in stability. But here's what's amazing to us. Each place we go (even amidst travel), the kids settle in and call it "home" instantly. They call a hotel room "home". They called our friends house "home". On day one, they called this place "home". When we get to Tanzania, that'll be home.  so I've come to believe that home is not a physical place as much as it is an emotional place. A place of safety and belonging and connectedness. And it's up to us to give our kids that. You can live in the same home 20 years and your kids not feel at home. 

I'll reiterate what we taught Davis at 3 years old as we prepared to leave for South Africa for the first time: "Home is where Mommy and Daddy are!" 

So I'll close this out with Lily's sweet prayer from the other night: 

"Dear God. Thank you for today. And thank you that there is a baby in my mommy's belly. And thank you that we could go to Grammy's. And thank you that we could stay at Aunt Ruth's house. And thank you that we will move to Annapolis. And I wish we were in Tanzania, but it's ok. Amen." 

Our kitchen and dining space.  

Our kitchen and dining space.  

Two happy kids this morning!  

Two happy kids this morning!  

Judgement

My friend Bethany is a woman who seeks after God and listens to what He says back to her heart. What you will read below are pearls of wisdom she has collected as she listened to Father. With her permission I am sharing them with you. Read slowly. Listen carefully. Follow this stuff and everything changes. 

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Judgement: 

It accuses more than it corrects.

It assumes.

It doesn't try to understand. 

It's closed off. Not teachable.

It points out faults for no reason except to point out or elevate itself in comparison (although it may be unconscious of this motivation).

It quickly points out what's wrong (implying that it is undoubtedly right). 

It does not consider being wrong about its conclusions.

It can't help but disclose its opinion, often passive aggressively.

It bullies. 

It provokes.

It antagonizes in order to prove its own point. 

It is more interested in speaking than it is in listening (the kind of listening that seeks deeper understanding).

It may ask questions but it already has predetermined what the answer will be.

The opposite of judgement is acceptance...It may observe faults but it doesn't assume the responsibility of pointing them out. 

Honor overlooks faults and governs ones speech to protect how others appear. 

Judgement seeks to expose faults and is not motivated by restoration...It's motivated by communication, "righteousness", gossip, often "truth" which is another word for condemnation.

Judgement & condemnation are brothers. They partner up a lot. Condemnation says you’re guilty and you’re wrong and "you should..."

Judgement enjoys discussing other people's faults, sometimes even in the context of "prayer" or "what happened " or "debriefing" an event.

The antidote for judgement is love & kindness, not just in words but in the heart. 

One doesn't ever need to speak to express judgement. Judgement emanates out of people just like love does. 

Judgement & Love could use the exact same words during confrontation, in the exact same order but come out sounding completely different. 

How do you know when to correct what you observe being incorrect? Holy Spirit. 

Is Jesus asking this of you, or is your belief, values, & judgments or observations compelling you? 

Also is it likely in the long run that this person actually wants to hear what you've observed? 

Is there any part of you that has been hurt by this person? This is often the sure fire trigger for judgement. 

Judgement wants to respond to judgement.

Love may observe what is wrong but does not assume responsibility to point it out or treat that person or even think of that person any differently becasue of it. 

Love may offer correction but this must be Holy Spirit lead. Most judgment assumes responsibility to change the person or at the very least make sure said person knows they are wrong. 

Love actually overlooks faults…that means it sees, but in essence says, "it's okay"... "That's ok. I won't let it bother me."  

Love prays about the issue or person much more than it talks about it. 

Love has a way of knowing every failure & fault and still saying "I'm proud of you"... "You are an incredible person."- "I see God in you."

Deception accompanies judgement (and most sins), to keep us blinded to our own sin. The only way to be safe from deception is to trust someone more than yourself... Ask a good friend. 

Combat- ask Him for more grace, more love, and more focus on what the good things in that person are. List them. 

Recognize that you are no better, you are only free in that area because God apportions various levels of grace & faith.

Communicate to them what you appreciate- affirm them. 

Recognize that this person has received less love in their life for whatever reason. They've experienced less of Gods love, that is where criticism & judgment are rooted, a failure to understand the manifold grace of God. 

When tempted to judge someone assume that there are variables in that person & situation that you just don't see nor can you fully understand. 

Access God's pleasure for them. If you can't feel that then it's likely best not to correct or confront. If you can't feel the love the Father has for them or how He sees them, keep your mouth shut. 

If you don't see their strengths, definitely keep your mouth shut!  This means your at risk for judging them & communicating judgement towards them. 

Love rejoices in the truth but judgement has a way of forcing the truth. (i.e gay marriage, abortion, enemy love)

There are definite truths associated with these issues but judgement feels personally responsible for making those who do not believe its own version of "truth" to feel rejected personally. 

Judgement says you are unacceptable if you do not agree with me. While Love is perfectly comfortable waiting for just the right & gentle opportunity (if any) to share truth. 

Love does not need to defend truth, but judgement sure does, judgement is both accusing and defensive. 

Judgement wants to prove what it believes way more than it wants to understand what it disagrees with. 

Chose the way of LOVE…the harder, more beautiful, challenging and highest way of love! So glad JESUS showed the way!!

One week in America and...

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Well, our family has been in the USA for one week now and...

  • ...we have felt so warmly and lovingly welcomed by our family, friends and church. It's been precious. So much warmth and peace all around. Really. 
  • ...the jetlag is over! It only took about 3-4 days. Jet lagging with kids is way more fun than without. ;-)
  • ...the re-entry has been way easier than previous visits. For Tricia and I and the kids, we have seemed to just slot right in. I think like most things in life, the more you do something, the easier it gets. Take heart, my fellow missionary friends...it gets easier. 
  • ...from arrival until 1 November, we are staying with an awesome friend (a lady in our church and on our MST named Ruth). Big house, loads of space, super comfortable...so thankful for this landing pad. On 1 November, we move into our own fully furnished place for 6 months! Woooohoooo! 
  • ...this weekend some angels from Pennsylvania delivered TWO cars to us! A Kia Rondo for Tricia and a Nissan Altima for me. They both run like brand new cars. The whole thing makes no earthly sense. In fact, the overall generosity everywhere we turn makes no sense other than God's grace and lavish love. 
  • ...our schedule has been fairly light (for this wild family). Next week Tricia and Davis will start homeschooling again, Lily will be in school and I will start engaging more with partners and such. 
  • ...of course, we miss South Africa and long for Tanzania (even started learning our Swahili flash cards as a family this week), but we feel rooted here for now....and it actually feels so right! God's time, God's place. Nowhere better to be. 

Would you pray with us that things keep going this well? We are grateful. 

Thank You, South Africa

Sunrise, Fish Hoek, Southern Peninsula, Cape Town  

Sunrise, Fish Hoek, Southern Peninsula, Cape Town  

After almost 5 years of living in Cape Town, South Africa, our family is ready to say farewell and move into our next season of life in Africa… But this time, a bit north and east in a place called Arusha, Tanzania. 

But, before leaving, there are a few things we must say to you, South Africa. 

You really do have the gift of African hospitality. Even when outsiders manage to take over your space and offend your customs, you still make us feel so wanted. You have the gift of welcome. 

Oh, and we love to eat, South Africa. And so do you. Perhaps it's why we got along so well. Your biltong ruined us. Your Rooibos quenched us. Your rusks comforted us. Your pap prepared us. And your nyama spoiled us for life! Lekker, lekker braais that we will never forget. 

Although I have only been in about 30 countries, there is nothing like you on the earth. You give meaning to unparalleled beauty. From the lowveld to the highveld, the forrest, to the dessert...from the oceans to the mountains, your vistas and sights are as stunning and diverse as your people...

Your people! They're what changed us the most. South Africa, you have a very unique gift found  few other places on earth. You need to know about this gift. You offer a world class, full-time cultural school and learning laboratory for all who come. Living here, you don't just learn South African culture.  You learn to know black South Africans and how they live. You learn to know Afrikaners and what they value. You learn to discover coloured culture and what make it thrive. As if that's not enough, you get the privilege of growing to know about Zimbabweans and Malawians and Zambians and Mozambicans and Ethiopians and Somalians. A school of culture. South Africa, you have had the ability to teach us more about culture in five years then some countries could teach us in 25 years. Thank you for making us aware and sensitive, and for broadening and deepening our love for the people of this great continent. 

But perhaps above it all, what we value and cherish most about you, South Africa, is your spiritual hunger and openness. We have been astounded at just how many moves of God you have started, hosted and fueled for the kingdom! Countless ministries, NGOs, NPOs, churches and movements have been started and sustained within your borders that are now impacting the entire African continent… And even the world.  Thank you! Thank you for opening up your land, your buildings, your communities and your hearts to us...for the Lord. 

So, this is our tribute to you, South Africa! Our family says thank you for these life-changing years with you. 

Satanic Toys? Really?

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(Warning: Another post to boost my popularity….NOT!)

About a month ago, our local supermarket began giving out little rubber “Stickeez" figures with each grocery purchase of R150. The kids have gone crazy. I Instagramed about it last week (pic above). It’s been crazy fun in our house. Most of these little things are animals or crazy looking characters. We have now made one set for Davis and Lily and have helped other kids finish theirs. 

Well, the other day while scrolling Facebook, I see this:

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And here is what it said below the picture:

“Recently, we have been receiving reports regarding small toys, given to children by tellers at an ubiquitous South African supermarket. We decided to investigate.
“These things are disgusting!” So says a renowned demonisticologist we approached, who prefers to stay anonymous due to his reasonable fear of the all-powerful Pick n Pay management.
“These ‘Stickeez’ (sic) are clearly miniature demons,” he continues. “There can be absolutely no doubt these are not harmless toys but satanistic fetishes, designed to soften up our children for subsequent satanic penetration.”
Why is Pick n Pay trying to get our children involved in the occult? Are they also behind the recent emergence of the Mozambican demon game “Charlie Charlie” in our schools? The answers to these ‪‎important‬ questions remain unclear.
One thing is definitely NOT unclear, however: GIVING YOUR CHILD EVEN ONE STICKEEZ (sic) IS EQUIVALENT TO SACRIFICING HIM TO SATAN OVER AND OVER AGAIN!!!

Are you kidding me? I initially thought…”oh, a funny joke!”  I wish it was. These people are for real. These little rubber toys are stealing our children away to Satan.  

It is actually hard for me to put into words how this makes me feel. But I guess the best word is SAD. I am sad. 

I am sad that Christians act this way. What a massive embarrassment to our faith and testimony. 

I am sad that Christians have found Jesus and His spirit to be so weak and useless in their lives and the lives of their kids that knowing him and living in his life is so terribly brittle and fragile that a piece of rubber can drag them away. 

I am sad that Christians have so much faith in Satan, that they give him so much credit and power and influence in their lives. Everything is his and power and authority has been given to him to attach his name to whatever he wants, and then they believe it! 

I am sad that Christians would miss out on a brilliant opportunity to connect with their kids because of their weird religious thinking. What a shame.

I am sad that this kind of thought and fear-teaching runs so rampant. And I am sad that people buy it. 

I am sad that my brothers and sisters miss out on living life to the fullest and miss the joy and freedom and liberty of what it means to walk with Christ, led by HIS SPIRIT! The Spirit of freedom and peace and joy…the spirit that always defeats darkness. 

It is so much deeper than Stickeez. It is mindset that affects all of life. 

Talking behind people’s back

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Gossip is destructive. It tears people down and breaks relationships. But it’s also strongly gratifying for some people…even addictive. Something about it boosts self image and self-righteousness. Hence, many folks “talk bad about others behind their back”— a common saying that suggests gossip. (I have written about gossip here and here.)

Over the years, as Holy Spirit has worked gossip out of my life more and more, I have learned to speak more honoring about people…to build people up. I enjoy it. I often do it naturally and personally, to their face.

Recently, I “coined” a new phrase to combat an old one…instead of talking bad behind people’s backs, let’s start “talking good about people behind their back”!  How awesome is it to heap honor on someone who is not even around…to share all the beautiful things about who they are to others. It builds. It edifies. I have been doing this more and more recently and it’s super fun.

So, I invite you to start talking about people more behind their backs….but, make it GOOD. Say things in a way that if they were listening in, they would feel joy.

Let’s do it. Let’s talk good about people behind their back!

From Somebody to Nobody

Just shot this photo where I'm writing right now. Downward mobility.  

Just shot this photo where I'm writing right now. Downward mobility.  

The journey from being somebody to nobody is much harder than the journey from being nobody to somebody. Many people have made the shift from nobody to somebody. Just do something big. Or invent something great. Or lead something well. And boom! You were a nobody and now you're a somebody. Which is great, because deep down we all long to be somebody. Somebody noticed, important, needed, admired, loved. 

However, the journey in the other direction is not nearly as simple...when you think you're somebody and you start to hear the call toward being a nobody. That is much, much harder to pull off. It isn't as glamorous. It isn't as rewarding. And It surely isn't as popular. 

Just think about most of the influential leaders and groups you know. They want more, not less. Bigger, not smaller. Popularity, not obscurity. But an honest look at Jesus, tells us that he saw things differently. I love how Philippians 2 lays out Jesus' quest to the bottom:

  • I am not grasping to be God
  • I will not cling to status 
  • I lay aside the privileges that could be mine
  • I become a human...a slave, even
  • Get majorly humbled 
  • Stay obedient 
  • Give my life 

I guess the truth is, that this lesson is getting more and more personal for me as the years go on. It feels like every step I have taken in my "career" over the last 15 years have been steps "down" the ladder. And some days I don't like it. But my spirit is telling me....keep going. 

I wonder if there is something extremely significant about becoming a nobody? Something I am still learning, and it doesn't feel like its ending anytime soon.  

Real People

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I meet more fake people than I do real people. Let me explain. I interact mainly with Christians (not proud of this, but it's true). And I have come to discover that in general, Christians are not good at being vulnerable. I think it’s mainly because we have so many expectations for perfection…that we would have our act together. So we put on a front and hide the real us. 

This morning I was thinking about real people. By real I mean:

  • Honest
  • Non-pretentious 
  • Authentic
  • Vulnerable
  • Non-secretive  
  • What you see is who they are

They can be so refreshing to be around. But as wonderful as that is, they are some other less pleasant realities of real people. They are often…

  • REALly messy when they share their issues openly 
  • REALly disruptive to the status quo
  • REALly wound your pride when they tell the truth
  • REALly difficult to work with 
  • REALly annoying when they say things you'd rather stay covered up 
  • REALly threatening to power seeking leaders 
  • REALly unable to go with the flow without questioning things 

Real people are rare and precious...and I think it's partly because most of us can't handle them.   

 

Going South

Each trip back to the USA, we ask God for direction. Where do we go? Who do we see? How do we keep faithfully cultivating friendships and mission partnerships? This time we sense we need to head south when we are stateside. Our hope is to see friends, see family, and share our vision and ministry with people, groups and churches that may be interested in getting involved with us. 

We will spend the month of February 2016 in the south. Here are the main cities we will be in. Take a look and let us know if you are nearby and want to connect! 

  • Virginia Beach, VA
  • Charleston, SC
  • Orlando, FL
  • Miami, FL
  • Atlanta, GA
  • Charlotte, NC

We can: 

  • Preach
  • Teach
  • Share with small groups
  • Share with youth groups
  • Share with kids
  • Drink Coffee
  • Share a meal 
  • Lead a training
  • Help you get involved in Africa! 

Contact us and let's make a plan! Email me at Noah dot CCF at gmail dot com. 

What is the Church doing right?

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Most of you probably know my story....one of a heart shifting away from traditional forms of cultural church for Christians and into a longing for something else...something new. The road for me has been a mix of obedience and rebellion. Apostolic discovery and critical skepticism. I haven't always been proud of the attitudes I've had, but I've also really worked at having more honor in my heart for the church. I don't want to be know for what I'm against. I want to be known by what I'm for. 

Last week I had coffee with an older Father in the faith. I shared my story and some of the ways I think the church is still not all that she should be. And he got it. He agreed. But then he asked me a question that is still working on me today. He asked me: 

What are we getting right? Where is the church winning?  

I answered him. But not without some effort and and a bit of digging and stretching. Truth is, I wasn't able to answer his question well. And it bothered me. I should be able to. Because there is much we are getting right. And I want to be able to draw those things to attention and to affirm them and celebrate them.  

So I committed to Rich that day...the next time we meet I'll answer this question again and I'll have much more to say. if you'll give me a shot, I'll do a better job next time. 

So, what do you think? What are we getting right?  

Abba's Child

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I have spent over a month dwelling in this book; Abba's Child by Brennan Manning. Finished it this morning. I would read and reflect deeply each day. I needed to not rush it and let it work into my spirit. It was my quiet time and my spiritual food. I won't insult the depth of this work by trying to explain it. I'll just urge you...please read it. If you want to shed off your insecure man or woman and step more deeply into your identity as Father's loved child, read this book.  I haven't read one this good on this theme since Nouwen's "Life of the Beloved" - which has carried me several years. You can grab it on Kindle. 

Why I love Africans

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I love Africa. Yes, it is physically spectacular and culturally rich. But, really, I just love Africans. The people. Fo so many reasons. God has given me loads of favor with Africans. They've been friends, not projects that help me raise support to be a missionary. Here are some of the things I love about Africans. 

Humble and gracious. I love the humility of Africans. The so easily admit what they don’t know and so openly avail themselves to learn. Even if they know more than you, they value honor and humility too much to stop you and school you. They are just so gracious— sweet in spirit. They exude honor. 

Incredibly Patient. I seriously still cannot fathom the patience of an African. They tolerate ridiculous lines with class. They endure bus rides that should be illegal. They gracefully navigate systems and processes that leave most outsiders dumfounded and angry. Waiting seems to be a gift— a gift of more time to tell stories and enjoy people. 

Sacrificially Generous. Starting as babies, Africans learn selfless generosity. What we have, we share. It's ours. It's about us. If I receive, you will too, because I will divide it up to make sure of it. One loaf of bread? Twenty people? No problem. When I have extra, you eat. When you have extra, I eat. Giving is more natural than collecting. It’s who they are. Seems that the insurance to always have is to always give. Works brilliantly. 

Relational. Relationship is always most important. It's even more important than principles. Or rules. Or straight facts. People matter most and Africans navigate their lives from that inner belief. It's why most Africans have only TWO time determining commitments; work and school. Otherwise there is nothing on the schedule for the day more important than you. In five years, I've never once been told no when I asked if I could stop by and visit an African friend. The answer is yes

Open & Hospitable. As I've already said, Africans have the gift of welcome. When I travel I always prefer to stay with the friends I am visiting instead of in hotels. To eat their food and sleep in their space. But it's majorly humbling to be served from 6am with warm bath water that took an hour to prepare to evening tea before bed...Africans, especially African women, are unfathomably hard working and hospitable to guests.  

Spiritually Passionate. And last but not least, the single greatest thing my African friends have taught me is about passion for the things of God. They have an unparalleled passion for the things of the spirit. The Supernatural seems their "natural" default. They pray hard. They sing with all they've got. The trust God in ways I'll only dream to one day. They feel and sense and know God. And they inspire others to do the same. I believe African passion is the key to igniting powerful moves of God on the earth in our time. 

I'll write more about Africa later...so much more I want to share about the things I've learned and my dreams for the future on this continent. 

(Obviously these sentiments are emerging from my personal experiences and are generalizing the majority, and not true of everyone, everywhere.) 

 

Doing Matters Too

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Countless times I've heard, read or felt this idea that we must be more focussed on our being, than our doing. Pastors, authors, mentors remind us faithfully..."it's not what you do that matters most, it's who you are!" 

Sounds so right. I can't count how many times I've pushed myself and others out of performance based identity and into God-based identity. I'm a believer. God's gaze toward us is because of who he sees us to be, never what we do. Try as you may, you'll never find true identity or security through religious acts and self righteous performance. 

However...I think I'm making a mistake on this one. A common mistake I've made too many times. You don't have to criticize one thing to accept another. Two seemingly opposing things can be simultaneously true. 

I've decided that DOING matters too! 

Brennan Manning writes that "what we do may be far more decisive and far more expressive of the ultimate truth of who we are in Christ than anything else." 

Who we are can be elusive. What we do is clear and observable. Jesus always reinforced his words with deeds. 

Genuinely knowing who we are in Christ leads to deep transformation, and this transformation leads to doing a lot of things we wouldn't have done before. Like extending friendship to someone everyone else rejects. Or quickly forgiving your offender before they've even asked. Or taking a gift to someone who hurt you. True followership of Jesus isn't about shrinking away into yourself, sure of his love...you and him in your little secret romance. No. It's about following his radical ideas, like loving your enemies and carrying another mans burden twice as far as he asked you to. Doing. In fact, if we wrote out all the "doing" Jesus commanded, it would be a long list. 

Manning continued to say that "the Christian commitment is not an abstraction. It's a concrete, visible, courageous, and formidable way of being in a world forged by daily choices consistent with inner truth." 

If you really want to know what a person believes, don't just listen to what he says, watch what he does. And while we encourage people into Godly identity, let's be sure we don't discourage radical kingdom DOING. We need both!

Two Honeymoons a Year

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Our Member Care Team at Eastern Mennonite Missions have some pretty nifty policies. One of their "requirements" for married couples is that they take 2 honeymoons a year. They value healthy marriages and push each couple to find space and resources for two honeymoon getaways each year. If even for a night or two. This is in addition to normal vacation leave. 

So, we do it! And we love it. Actually, we've come to value it so much that we depend on it as a couple. This weekend we'll be on a honeymoon at a secret hideaway only two miles from our home. No! Kids! They're old enough to take care of themselves now. For goodness sake, they're 8 & 3...they got this. 

What about you? Are you married? Have you developed a rhythm for times set apart for each other?