My weakness.

Jesus, you said that foxes have holes and birds have nests, but you have no where to lay your head.

Last night I slept in a queen sized bed.

You were among the poorest of the poor.

I have two cars and a house, which puts me among the wealthiest to ever live.

Your word says that you willingly “took our weaknesses and bore our diseases.”

I work diligently to preserve my own life.

You were mocked, spit on, tortured.

I experience none of those things.

You consoled the poor and hurting while you demanded justice from those on top.

Much of my life has been spent managing my reputation.
 
Jesus, if one of your disciples from ages ago met me today, would they recognize me as their brother in Christ?   

You say that your power is made perfect in my weakness.  Well, Lord, there’s a whole lot of weakness here, so feel free to unleash some of that power!

Posted in Jesus | Leave a comment

Miracles, dirt, and thank you very much.

I’ve been back from Zambia for over a month now and haven’t yet posted a blog about it.  Or about much of anything, for that matter.  It’s time to break the silence.  🙂

First of all, a miracle.  I sold a song I wrote to raise money for my trip.  Anyone who reads this probably knows that.  What you may not know is how successful of a failure that whole thing was.

Here’s what I mean.  I needed to raise $3900.  That’s a chunk of change.  And about three weeks before I left, I had raised less than $1500.  Don’t get me wrong, that’s a lot of money.  But it’s a long way from what I needed.  I was feeling discouraged.  I was doubting if I should go or not.  Maybe it was stupid of me to commit to going back so soon.  I was thinking, “if I’m going to make Zambia a part of my life, I’ve got to do better than this.”  

A little more trickled in over the next few weeks, but I had resigned myself to the idea that our savings account was gonna take a hit with this trip, and that it’d probably be my last trip to Africa for a while.  That was until the last three days before I left, when the last $1700 dollars I needed came to me from some places I least expected it.  If you’re reading this, you know who you are. 

So I got to see some miracles happen, learned some valuable lessons, and I want to thank everyone who was a part of that miracle.  Everyone who donated toward my trip, I realize that you didn’t have to do that, and I sincerely thank you.  Some of you gave big.  Some of you gave really, really big.  To those who gave, I want you to know something.  This trip was significant because I realized on this trip that Zambia is a part of me now.  It’s become a marathon, not a sprint anymore.  I didn’t take any pictures and I didn’t buy myself any souvenirs, because it’s moved from being a novelty in my life to being a staple.  

One of the guitar cables I brought back with me is still coated in Zambian dirt.  I don’t want to wash it off yet.  That red dust that covers the cable which connects my guitar to my amp is probably a better reminder of Zambia than anything else I’ve brought back.  When leading worship in the affluence and apathy that can often characterize the American church scene, I don’t mind sending my guitar signal through a little of Africa before it hits my eardrum.  Maybe it will bring the sound of hope with it – not for them, but for us.

Posted in Zambia 2011 | 1 Comment

Catastrophe.

Today is a day that stands out from all other days.  Today is the day that God died.

I have to wonder how the disciples must have felt.  Overwhelmed, defeated, lifeless, sick.  Not sure what to do next.  Maybe they didn’t care what they did next.  Their hope had vanished; and where there’s no hope, there’s no motivation.  Perhaps they just wanted to crawl into a corner and let the world move on without them.

What do you do when the catastrophe is so big that it seems to be beyond hope?

Today I am in Zambia, Africa.  Here, 1 in 4 people are infected with HIV/AIDS (from what I understand, in the area I’m in right now, the stat is closer to 1 in 3).

Today I visited a mom of 6 whose husband is ill and has been gone for a month now.  He went to visit the local witch doctor because the hospital has not helped him.  After that, I visited some people on their death beds.  We then proceeded on to a hospice day care, where 120 orphans and vulnerable children are cared for. 

We threw frisbees, sang songs, jumped rope, learned some wild African games, and I even got to play a little trumpet.  It was probably the sweetest, most adorable, and most joyful assembly of humanity I’ve ever been a part of.

86 of those children are infected with HIV.

Of those 86, 36 have full blown AIDS.  Imagine being 10 years old, both parents are dead, and you have AIDS.

What do you do when the catastrophe is so big that it seems to be beyond hope?

It’s Good Friday.  But Easter is coming.  Lord, we need some Resurrection power in this place.  Resurrect your Body on this continent.  Let this catastrophe consume us, overwhelm us, until we stand up and declare with one voice that there will not be another generation that grows up without hope.  Not on our watch.

It’s Good Friday in Africa.  But Easter is coming.

Posted in Zambia 2011 | 1 Comment

Politics.

This is from the second century writing, Letter to Diognetus

“Christians are not differentiated from other people by country, language or customs; you see, they do not live in cities of their own, or speak some strange dialect, or have some peculiar lifestyle.

They live in both Greek and foreign cities, wherever chance has put them.  They follow local customs in clothing, food, and other aspects of life.  But at the same time, they demonstrate to us the wonderful and certainly unusual form of their own citizenship.

They live in their own native lands, but as aliens; as citizens, they share all things with others; but like aliens suffer all things.  Every foreign country is to them as their native country, and every native land as a foreign country.

They are treated outrageously and behave respectfully to others.  When they do good, they are punished as evildoers; when punished, they rejoice as if being given new life.  They are attacked by Jews as aliens, and are persecuted by Greeks; yet those who hate them cannot give any reason for their hostility.

To put it simply – the soul is to the body as Christians are to the world.  The soul is spread through all parts of the body and Christians through all the cities of the world.  The soul is in the body but is not of the body; Christians are in the world but not of the world.”

Taken from Darrell Guder (ed.), Missional Church.

Posted in Bible, Missional Church | 1 Comment

For Lent.

I’m pretty sure that every society has memories.  These memories work to bring identity to the people.  They give the the people stories, commonality, and are foundational in forming their culture.  Memories help give cultures their flavor.  Today, in both our nation and the church, we’re pretty crummy at remembering stuff.  Perhaps this is one of the reasons why we in the church aren’t always sure about who we are and what we’re about anymore.

But anyway, in Exodus 12, we read about a particular event that has been seared into the memories of the Jewish people.  They’d been held captive for centuries, being treated as slaves.  But this night, God is on their side.  God has heard the cries of his people.  This night, God is gonna move.  He is busting them out.  Cue the slow motion action sequence.  This is going down.  Tonight, Pharaohs are gonna scream like little girls.

God’s chosen are going to be set free.  Those who disobeyed will be punished.  

God had made the instructions to his people pretty clear.  Get some lambs, and make sure there’s enough for everyone.  Slaughter those lambs and collect the blood.  Then, slather the blood up on top of your door frames, and on the sides as well.

They were supposed to mark their households with that blood.

After that, cook those lambs and eat them.  But eat them with your sandals on, your cloak tucked in, and your staff in your hand, because this is your last night in Egypt.  It’s time to move.

That night, God’s spirit moved through Egypt and killed the firstborn son of every family.  Even animals weren’t spared.  But every household with lamb’s blood on the door was passed over.  For centuries later, the Jews remembered that night.  They call it, appropriately, the Passover.

Shortly after midnight, one could hear the wailing start to rise all throughout the land.  Mothers and Fathers discovered their firstborn sons dead.  Even Pharaoh himself was not spared this tragedy.  It wasn’t that they hadn’t been given chances.  They had – lots of them, in fact.  It truly is a tragedy when people force God’s hand by disobeying him time and time again.

The Jews continued to remember the passover every year.  They even took time to prepare for the coming of that special day, during a festival called the Feast of Unleavened Bread. 

It was at this time thousands of years later that Jesus sat with his disciples in an upper room, about to remember the passover.  He took the unleavened bread and the wine and passed it out.  But this time, Jesus did something a little different.  He compared them to his body and to his blood.  Then, he said, “do this in remembrance of me.”  

Jesus, knowing full well what he was saying, on the most significant day of the Jewish year, which commemorated the most significant event in Jewish history, told them that they ought to instead remember him.

They took the bread – the body of Jesus – and they ate it.  They took the wine – the blood of Jesus – and they drank it.

It’s like they marked themselves with it.

Jesus wasn’t replacing the passover.  He was finishing it.  That night would lead to another firstborn son dying.  There would be no escape route this time.  Blood would be shed, but not as protection.  There would be more wailing as well, but not from a whole nation.  Just one mother and a few friends.  But I imagine that Heaven wept, too.


God turned the tables that day.  God’s chosen was punished.  And those who disobeyed were to be set free.  God suffered the fate of Egypt to give us the freedom of Israel.

If that’s not worth remembering, I’m not sure what is.

The kings of Gentiles Lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors.  But you are not to be like that.  Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves.
Luke 22:25-26

Posted in Bible, Jesus, Lent | Leave a comment

Hey mean religious people, relax!

Humans are forgetful.  Either that, or we’re just easily distracted.  Whenever a movement comes along and good stuff is happening, I think it usually just takes a few generations (sometimes much less) before we’ve gone and forgotten the entire point.

Here’s a common progression.  The movement begins, and is having an impact.  Whether it’s just the ingenuity of those involved, their talent and dedication, or maybe even the movement of the Holy Spirit, it takes off.  People start noticing, and they want more.

That’s where we often derail.  We see something great happening, and we start to say, “Look at what they are doing!  I wanna do that TOO!”  So we mimic the actions of those whom we are joining, thinking all along that we are now happily a part of this exciting new phenomenon.  But we’re not – we’ve just made a hollow copy of it.

Days, months, years, and generations pass.  It’s moved from the practical to the theoretical, now: people study the mechanics of the movement, seeking to discern what makes it tick.  How-to books are published.  Conferences and seminars are held.  Degrees are offered.  We exalt those who seem to have mastered the craft.

And at some point, I’m not sure where, but eventually there comes a time when those who have mastered the actions involved in this (now virtually forgotten) movement start to observe others who are doing it a little different.  They, who have for so long dedicated themselves to doing it right, are offended.  They are angered, and they feel threatened.  So their lives become much more about protecting their methods than it is about what the movement was about to begin with.  Different sects of the movement break out, each one practicing in a slightly different way.  And even though they technically agree on the vast majority of their mission, they can’t seem to remember what their original vision even was.  They’re too horrified by their different approaches.  So they fight among themselves.

This is how a faith is turned into a religion.

This is also how great Christian leaders, who claim complete allegiance to a man who started a movement founded on principles such as enemy love, humility, and graciousness, can rip others to shreds on their blogs or via twitter without even a second thought.

This is how churchgoers can quote more phrases from their pastor or favorite author than they can from the Sermon on the Mount.

This is how a movement whose founder was poor, loved the poor, and taught us to love the poor can argue about the stained glass windows, the color of the carpet, or disregard the environment.

This is how mean religious people are born.  They are more concerned with protecting their methods than with having an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ or with helping others know him.  At one time, we burned people who taught things we thought were wrong.  Today, we just blog about them.

So beware of mean, religious people.  They enjoy going to church, but they have lost sight of (or maybe never even knew) the fact that their movement began with the notion of actually following and knowing Jesus.

Posted in Jesus, Religion | Leave a comment

Daughter.

Hello, my daughter.

I saw your face for the first time today.  I think you’re beautiful already.  I hope you look like your mom. 

I could see your hands.  I can’t wait for those fingers to be grasping mine.  I want to teach them how to make music.  All in due time.

I could see your legs, too.  Someday soon you’ll be able to stretch them, and there won’t be anything in your way.  I want to take you on walks in the park.  But I’m getting a little ahead of myself now.

I saw your heart pumping blood.  You are not just alive – you are thriving in that little world of yours.  I want to teach you how to thrive in this world too.

I’m going to write you songs.  You’re going to love them at first.  But I imagine there will come a day when they’ll embarrass you.  But I bet I’ll write them anyway.  And then, someday far from now, you’ll learn to cherish them again.

You’ll probably cause me pain.  But it’ll be the good kind of pain.  It’s the kind of pain that proves that love is there.  The kind of pain without which our lives would just be numb and sterile. 

I will probably stay up late waiting for you.  I’ll probably stay up late praying for you.  Where you are, who you’re with, what you’re doing…these will be the questions in my mind.  Just be sure to check in with us.  I’ll want to be sure you’re safe then – just like I want you to be safe now.  If you don’t, I might have to take your keys away.  But I’m getting a little ahead of myself again.

I gotta warn you, daughter.  This Dad is gonna be ground zero for cheesy Dad jokes.  I mean, I can feel it coming already.  People think I’m funny now, but you won’t.  You might roll your eyes, but deep down I think you’ll like it.  Very deep down.

Thank you, daughter, for bringing tears to these eyes that had forgotten how to cry.

Thank you, daughter.  You’ve already taught me more than you know.  I am catching a glimpse of how my heavenly Father might feel toward me.

And I haven’t even met you yet.

Love,
Dad

Posted in Daughter, family | 4 Comments

Break me.

Not long into our trip, our team sat down for a team meeting.  We’d had a few days of camp under our belts and had started to acclimate to our new surroundings (at least as much as one can after only a few days in another country).  We’d each had the American in us challenged at some level – for some it was the spiders, for others the different food, for the control freaks it was the relaxed sense of time, and of course there was the different approach to driving that had most of us on edge.  We’d been exhausted and shocked out of our comfort zones, but we’d also begun to bond as a team and with the Zambians.  We’d experienced the thrill of leading worship for a people who know how to sing – seriously, Sioux Falls, these people would open their mouths and go for it.  Let’s see a little of that sometimeBut that’s another matter.  Suffice it to say that the trip was off to a great start.

But on this night, Micah asked us to open up a bit.  His question was something to the effect of, “what’s been your high, and what’s been your low?”

And that’s when it hit me.  I didn’t come all the way to Zambia to have some fun, meet some nice people, and play rock and roll.  I came because I knew that there was a part of me that was not yet wrecked.  There was a part of me that couldn’t yet join with John the Baptist and say, “He must increase; I must decrease.”  And I’d hoped that coming to another country and being around poverty would somehow work like a heat seeking missile or something – that it’d find that little stronghold somewhere in my heart and then blow it up.

And I guess I was a little frustrated that night because it hadn’t happened yet.  But as I think about it more, I slowly start to realize that maybe I was being selfish.  Or, more accurately, I was being lazy.  I wanted one face melting encounter with poverty, assuming it would melt my heart just enough to turn me into a super saint.  Well, I got my face melted, no doubt, but I think I also learned something about what it means to be broken.

I was wrecked at the hospital that day.  I was cut to the heart during my visits to the compound.  If getting shocked out of my American middle class bubble was what I wanted, then I got it.  But here’s the catch: I got to come back here.  It was all just temporary.  I remember it like it was yesterday…but it’s still only yesterday.  Tonight I lie beneath piles of warm blankets.  Broken?  I don’t know.  Maybe I was.  Or maybe it was just a flesh wound.

Or maybe brokenness is more than just a moment.  Maybe brokenness is not only falling at Jesus’ feet…but it’s never getting back up, ever.  Lord, I don’t want to get back up.

Being broken – which, I think, is probably the most fundamental ingredient of discipleship – can happen in a moment, as I imagine it might have for Peter when he heard the rooster crow.   But here’s the deal: being broken is easy – in fact it’s usually done for us.  I didn’t have to try to be broken that day as I held the hands of dying babies – there were forces much stronger than me which were doing the crushing from the outside.

Staying broken is hard.  Those forces seem far away now.  The memories, no matter how near they seem, will grow more and more distant with every passing day, month, and year.  This is the part that comes from within.  God will not force me to take up my cross daily and deny myself for his sake.  These forces must come from within.

It means deciding now to follow a man who lived a long time ago and taught some pretty crazy stuff.  Stuff like how the last are really first, and how we should sacrificially help those in need, and how we should reach out and love the people who hate us in real, concrete, tangible ways (not some ambiguous conceptual way).  It means It means centering my life around what he taught and who he was and never getting off that bus.  It means more than going to church – it means knowing this man intimately.  It’s taking his words seriously…like the part where he says, “If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers.”  It means letting him decide what I should look like when I’m finally put back together.

I was broken in Zambia, and I don’t want to be fixed.  At least, I don’t want to be the one to do the fixing.

I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death…
Philippians 3:10

Posted in Worship, Zambia 2010 | 4 Comments