Sunday, August 28, 2011

Works and Costs

Once there were two men. These two men met for lunch at their favorite café. It’d been years. They had graduated high school together, and their lives had separated. One had become a faithful farmer and the other had gone on to become a mechanic. They talked and they talked and they talked. The whole afternoon they talked, about life, about family and about work. Lastly, they talked about their “religion.”

“You know, I can’t stand Christianity. I’m sorry. It’s so hypocritical,” Bill shook his head and leaned back in his chair. He waited for Clark’s response because Clark had always been the more “religious” of the two.

“In what ways?”

“Well, the preacher will start out a crusade thing with, ‘All you have to do is ask!’ and then he’ll end it with, ‘Now, just go out and work for Jesus! Spread the Word!’ Now, you tell me how in the world does that make sense! You claim those other people are wrong for thinking their works get them to heaven, and then you use your works as a crutch yourselves!” Bill had leaned forward and twisted his face into a determined set. He had heard this numerous times. His grandma, his ex-wife and many others had told him this or had dragged him to church to hear this. He wasn’t prepared for Clark’s response.

“You know, Bill? I don’t know if you remember, but a few years back my wife and I had a son. Ten years ago tomorrow, actually. I know we sent you a birth announcement. Anyway. He cost us a ton of money! We loved him to pieces, but we had to keep spending money on more diapers, medicine, clothes and man, did the food bill jump! We hardly ever got a night’s sleep. Well, I don’t know if you remember, but a couple years ago, he died. He doesn’t cost us a thing anymore. He’s dead. I’d do anything, anything, to get him back, Bill, anything.” Clark’s eyes had grown soft, but more intense as he spoke of his son. Bill did indeed remember this fact, but he didn’t see the connection between his friend’s son’s death and these Christians.

“I’m so sorry, Clark. But what does this have to do with Christianity?”

“Because while he was alive he cost me something. When he died, he didn’t. If having God as our closest Friend doesn’t cost something, your relationship with Him is dead. That’s what the preacher was talking about.”

I took this from an illustration my Daddy used in his messages on Saturday, August 27th, 2011 at Mayger Downing Community Church Family Camp.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Home….. or should I say, “In Transition?”

Home. Four letters. Two vowels. One syllable. Countless meanings.

Webster’s definition of “home”:

n. 1. One's own dwelling place; the house in which one lives; esp., the house in which one lives with his family; the habitual abode of one's family; also, one's birthplace. 2.One's native land; the place or country in which one dwells; the place where one's ancestors dwell or dwelt. 3. The abiding place of the affections, especially of the domestic affections. ....

“The abiding place of the affections”—home.

It’s not so much a place, as a thought. “Home is where your heart is” and “Where Mamma is, that’s home” are both quite true… But when both of those things seem to shift and change and separate, which one is home then?

What about when your whole family lives on one side of the earth, and let’s just give some random example, say, you live on the other side? What happens when your Mamma lives in one country and you in another? What happens when she’s in that other country with you, but her home isn’t yours? And what’s it supposed to be like when your best friend lives half a world away and your lives break apart? What is one to do when he wishes to comfort and love those he cares about but distance separates them? What then.

How can one be homesick when one doesn’t even know where his home is?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

When a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Words can be used to describe about anything. Pictures can be taken of almost any material thing. But neither can do justice to an experience.

When one looks at a picture, one sees a taste of an event. When one hears or reads words, one can sense an adventure. But when one experiences, one sees, one hears, one feels.

I can’t make you feel, but I’ll try to help you see and hear, if you’d be willing to spend the next few minutes with me in Uganda. :)

people & trafficYou’re with me, you’ve been down and through the airport. You’ve driven, and now we’re stuck in traffic. Beep-beep! HOOOONko. *knocknock “Sir! Sir! Airtime?”

Kampala is busy enough, and with the pedestrians…. Well, you see.

We’ve made it to Jinja. You were good, you didn’t complain about the roads too awful much, even though the potholes don’t give you more than a 2-foot long break at best. Now, we’ve begun to cruise through an area full of poverty. You may not have seen it like this before. The children are running around, happy as can be, in no more than two plastic bags around their waist. Those that have a jerry can (5-gallon jug) carry their family’s water for a miles a day. Some are lucky enough to find an old jerry can that has holes in it. They cut the side out of it, and are taking turns dragging it around with another in it—their own sled. But they’re hungry. They’re malnourished. And they’re only 6, but they’ve already lived 1/6 of their expected life span. This is the slums of Ripon. We’re on our way to the island. I tell you, you better watch yourself. This isn’t the worst yet.

But it’s pretty close.

153P- Sewage

Since we took the SHIM (Shepard’s Heart International Ministries) boat, we don’t have to face the horrors you’ve only heard about. We have a sGEDC0050mall space bubble, and we have room enough for all the things we wish to transport. Were we to take the public, well, you’d likely have 3 other people with you in your space bubble, 5 in a 2-seat area, chickens and goats and babies all over, and the scorching heat. That’s why we have umbrellas. Even with the sunscreen you lathered on, we still tell you to wear your baseball cap and duck under an umbrella—if you don’t, we can’t help a lobster with anything but aloe.

We told you at Ripon that you weren’t 22- Where the drinking water isallowed to touch the water because it was diseased and if you waded in it, you could get many boils. Not pretty. But the water didn’t look too bad there. Welcome to Lingira. Again you are carried out of the boat to the shore by a Kanyama (“strong man”), but this time that would have been your choice even if you didn’t know the dangers of the waters. The green slime abounds on the dirty sand and the plants that manage to live in it, are waxy looking—showing even they don’t soak the water unless necessary. It behooves you to think: this is the water the people drink. This water is their life, in essence. No other water source is available. IMG_2974

Time to trek to the missions building. The children of Lingira village have flocked to you. You are the new mzungu (“white man”) on the island. And you hear that name a lot. If you don’t have suitcases in your hands (which you don’t now, the kanyamas are taking it for you), each hand will likely have three little ones clinging to it until a fourth coms and knocks one out.

Alright, you’re thinking. We’re actually to the place of mission. Hold on a second. Yes, this is our mission base. But places to do ministry are all around you! You saw that child in the sewer earlier. The men running up and down the streets of Kampala. The lady sitting next to you on the plane. The man behind the ticket counter at the airport. The cabby driver. Your family. Here is where we reach out to the people of the islands. But, from here, we pray for those who can reach those in America.

Lippke085After a “good” night sleeping in your “bed”, you’re not totally ready for the day to ensue, but here we go. You discovered your “mattress” was merely 3 inches of foam and some fabric. No support, no firmness. When you saw the netting, you were informed if you didn’t have it, you were likely to get malaria from the mosquitoes.

Now, we won’t say too much on what you do, because we don’t even know what you’d be doing if you actually were to accompany me home. But we’ll go with what I’d do, and therefore take you with me to do.

You’re informed there will be about 50 children to come soon. We’re gonna sing lots of stuff_random 022some songs, tell a story and play a game or two. You had no idea what to expect. The songs we sang you’ve never heard the like of. More vigorous and lively praise songs than you’ve ever heard! “OH OH OH OH Yesu JAGALA! OH OH OH Jesu jaGALA!!” (“OH OH OH OH Jesus loves me! OH OH OH Jesus Loves me!!”) Clapping and dancing are automatic and the amount of energy there is 091unmatchable. And when Mrs. Peterson gets out the flannel board and tells the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho, the children gather as close as they can to the pictures to see. A Ugandan lady interprets for us, and the children are mesmerized by the story. They love it!

Now it’s time for the object lesson/game. I set up a bunch of boxes and stand in4B5P- Mzungus the middle. You join the legion of children marching around Jericho. Rehab (a.k.a., I) take pictures and act as though this is the most paralyzing event of my life! The kids don’t exactly get the whole, “Be quiet, for the Lord says so!” idea, but they definitely yell loud enough on the 7th round. “AAHHAHAHHHHHHHAHAHHA!!!” Yes, indeed, they were laughing during this process—I think it was a success.

After the kids have left, it’s time for a little walk around the island! Ruthie, a lady in charge of hospitality, offers to take you to the top of the “mountain”, or great big hill you see in the middle. The climb up is uneventful, and the view is breathtaking.4B6P- Christianity

After another boat ride, you’re back on the mainland. You drive past the same you saw coming, and the life that takes place on the road boggles your mind. The men sitting under the tree, the women graciously walking down the street with bananas on their heads, the children running with bicycle tires and sticks and the police officers patrolling the roads are so full of life. You feel their eyes as they stare at you. You’re a celebrity! Like my dad likes to say, “If you’re lonely, I’ve got a solution! Come to Uganda—everyone there calls you ‘friend’!”

This is pretty fast-paced. You tell yourself everything flies when you’re having fun. You step on the airplane and glance one last time at the palm trees and the banana trees that strangle the red dirt and the green grass of the Ugandan terrain. With a wave, the plane takes off, and you notice how your physical perspective now matches your emotional perspective—you see much, much more to the Earth and it’s Creator.

This world is more than America. It’s bigger than this.

Friday, August 12, 2011

No Words in Vain

I went to Grocery Outlet the other day.

Yes, I know, a very deep subject to start off with, but stick with me here.

Okay, so I went to Grocery Outlet. What we got doesn’t matter (I think some random food and stuff), but something happened I regret now.

We got to the check-out counter and our cashier’s name was Sarah. She was cheerful, pretty and definitely gracious. *BEEP* *BEEP* She worked hard and the bags were filling, mom was shuffling in her purse, people were talking, my brothers were walking past me, and I had a battle going on within me. Her name is Sarah. Sarah.

Now, the name Sarah means “princess,” as many of you may know. But this girl didn’t look like she knew it. She had no pride, no confidence. Oh, she was friendly, she was doing her job, she held herself in perfect posture—but she didn’t have a joy. This reeked my heart. A princess should have joy.

My dilemma was whether to tell her this or not. She was right in front of me. She was looking down. She would listen if I were to talk to her, if only for a moment.

I should tell her! No, no, then you’d sound like a know-it-all. But she doesn’t know me from Eve! Who cares? You don’t wanna offend her. But it’s a compliment! She’s a princess! It’s true! And her hair is beautiful today. She’d reject that—if you say it, she’ll react as you do when your best friend tells you you’re pretty. She’d give excuses and turn it into an insult. But that’s not what I mean!

And so, I walked with my brothers. My mother handed me a plastic bag with green grapes in it and we strolled out to the parking lot. Nothing said, nothing done. No words in vain. But no words in meaning.

I should have told her her hair was pretty and that her name fits her. That’s all I could have said. And then I wouldn’t have wasted so many breaths of life just THINKING about it. This test I failed miserably. I have even been reading in John where Jesus is saying over and over, “My words are not my own, but are of the Father, who sent me.” I know those words would have been from my Father—I on my own would never have thought to say such things. But I failed, Father. I’m sorry.

But next time. Next time, I will not use my breaths, my words, in vain. I promise.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Introverts

I am an introvert. Hands down. No doubt about it. You talk to me, I prefer to listen. You try to hang around me 24/7, I’ll let you know I need you to leave me be for a while. You give me an assignment, I’ll take time by myself for days or weeks on end to complete it. That’s just the way I am.

So, when I was reading Adam Young (Owl City)’s blog, I came across “10 Myths About Introverts” and nearly burst out shouting, “AMEN, BROTHAH!” He had read a book by Dr. Marti Laney called, The Introvert Advantage, and a blog by Carl King and had simply reposted it, as I am doing now. If you’re introverted, go ahead and nod right along with me!

“Myth #1 – Introverts don’t like to talk.

This is not true. Introverts just don’t talk unless they have something to say. They hate small talk. Get an introvert talking about something they are interested in, and they won’t shut up for days.

Myth #2 – Introverts are shy.

Shyness has nothing to do with being an Introvert. Introverts are not necessarily afraid of people. What they need is a reason to interact. They don’t interact for the sake of interacting. If you want to talk to an Introvert, just start talking. Don’t worry about being polite.

Myth #3 – Introverts are rude.

Introverts often don’t see a reason for beating around the bush with social pleasantries. They want everyone to just be real and honest. Unfortunately, this is not acceptable in most settings, so Introverts can feel a lot of pressure to fit in, which they find exhausting.

Myth #4 – Introverts don’t like people.

On the contrary, Introverts intensely value the few friends they have. They can count their close friends on one hand. If you are lucky enough for an introvert to consider you a friend, you probably have a loyal ally for life. Once you have earned their respect as being a person of substance, you’re in.

Myth #5 – Introverts don’t like to go out in public.

Nonsense. Introverts just don’t like to go out in public FOR AS LONG. They also like to avoid the complications that are involved in public activities. They take in data and experiences very quickly, and as a result, don’t need to be there for long to “get it.” They’re ready to go home, recharge, and process it all. In fact, recharging is absolutely crucial for Introverts.

Myth #6 – Introverts always want to be alone.

Introverts are perfectly comfortable with their own thoughts. They think a lot. They daydream. They like to have problems to work on, puzzles to solve. But they can also get incredibly lonely if they don’t have anyone to share their discoveries with. They crave an authentic and sincere connection with ONE PERSON at a time.

Myth #7 – Introverts are weird.

Introverts are often individualists. They don’t follow the crowd. They’d prefer to be valued for their novel ways of living. They think for themselves and because of that, they often challenge the norm. They don’t make most decisions based on what is popular or trendy.

Myth #8 – Introverts are aloof nerds.

Introverts are people who primarily look inward, paying close attention to their thoughts and emotions. It’s not that they are incapable of paying attention to what is going on around them, it’s just that their inner world is much more stimulating and rewarding to them.

Myth #9 – Introverts don’t know how to relax and have fun.

Introverts typically relax at home or in nature, not in busy public places. Introverts are not thrill seekers and adrenaline junkies. If there is too much talking and noise going on, they shut down. Their brains are too sensitive to the neurotransmitter called Dopamine. Introverts and Extroverts have different dominant neuro-pathways. Just look it up.

Myth #10 – Introverts can fix themselves and become Extroverts.

A world without Introverts would be a world with few scientists, musicians, artists, poets, filmmakers, doctors, mathematicians, writers, and philosophers. That being said, there are still plenty of techniques an Extrovert can learn in order to interact with Introverts. (Yes, I reversed these two terms on purpose to show you how biased our society is.) Introverts cannot “fix themselves” and deserve respect for their natural temperament and contributions to the human race. In fact, one study (Silverman, 1986) showed that the percentage of Introverts increases with IQ.”

Yup, yup! Introversion isn’t weird, it’s just a minority.

*Credits go where credits are due: Adam Young, http://owlcityblog.com/2011/06/27/10-myths-about-introverts/

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Bigger than All of Us

This Week of Missions was bigger than any of its participants. Pat’s devos got us in gear for a great day, but each day was bigger than him. My cousin J.J. Peterson gave AMAZING Bible talks, but even with each of us plastered to our seats at the end of his lecture, it was bigger than that. Jake, Allison, Nathan, Steven and Cole brought their instruments and gave us AMAZING worship music. But the amazing teachers, the awesome worship, and the incredible company that surrounded this week was much too small to describe it with.

The theme, I saw as I walked in on Monday, was Heroes. Personally, I sighed inwardly, because I had been through this theme many times and never really gleaned much from it before. Boy, was I wrong. But this week would have been just as huge even if the theme had been “The End of the World” or something—no, this week was bigger than that.

Each night the worship got progressively more and more deep into my soul. The songs didn’t really change much. The motions were the same, but the hearts involved in it weren’t. It was bigger than the music—it was something that touched each soul at exactly the same moment with a different feel and intensity.

It had to have been God. We all felt the Holy Spirit just move through the little building we gathered in. Pat taught the needed qualities of a hero—Empathy, Thankfulness, Trust and Humility. Everyone I talked to throughout the day used that word in some way in his convo.

It had to have been God. After each sermon-thingy that J.J. taught, there was a silence that told of wheels turning in heads and heavy breathing that clued those who would hear in to the fact that we had been holding our breath. It was awesome.

What if being a Christian is not so much believing in Jesus, as believing that He believes in you?      ~J.J. Peterson

It had to have been God. No one else could have gathered the amount of praise our group of 60 teens could muster and fill the space left with so much abundantly more than they could ever imagine. Each night we left with “glowing faces” (as told us by one of our missionary speakers) and hearts full to overflowing. But each day we awoke ready for more.

On Thursday, we had the main missions speaker, Dr. Mark Moore, come and speak to us. He challenged us to not just leave with a camp high, but to live it—to carry our Bibles around, to pray out loud and to start Bible studies on campus. We all nodded our heads and I whispered my approving “amen.” But that’s not as far as it went. Tim, one of our leaders, got up and said, “Now, I know Mark just gave you a challenge. But I challenge you to do his challenge. To really live it. … Now, I’m gonna pray in a moment, and when I pray, if you want to go home and live out this challenge, stand up. Just stand with me and pray. Okay?”

We all bowed our heads.

“Father,” Tim began with emotion flooding his voice. He paused as the sound of an ocean filled the room. Chairs moved back. Shoes rubbed the carpet floor. Almost the whole room stood at that one word.

For two moments, the whole room was quiet. The only sound to be heard was Tim trying to catch his breath. Over the microphone it was amplified and when his breath was knocked away by the roar we all felt the same. After a moment more, he began his prayer: “Father, I want to thank you for every person standing here tonight.”

And Friday? Friday was to equip us for carrying out our new mission. Our tool? Prayer. Prayer was to allow us to change from the rejects Jesus chose to the ones He calls us to be. And the reason we need prayer is because everything in life is supposed to be bigger than us. It’s bigger than the air we breath or this world we’ll leave—it has to be God.