Thursday, September 29, 2011

lightning rod

When life gets hard, or the ol' lady is driving you nuts, or ALL your kids just up and decide to boycott their school work, you need someone to dump on. Someone that doesn't judge, someone that doesn't one-up, someone that just listens.


A lightning rod.

I want to tell you that I came up with that little nugget all by myself, but I heard it from some speaker at some conference. While the name of the guy has slipped my mind, the idea has become part of me.

Its easy to be the storm, to find someone and unleash a steady stream of hate-filled verbal diarrhea. Seriously, its part of our nature to bitch and moan. The only concern is finding someone safe who won't sell you out for their own 30 pieces. Being the lightning rod, that’s hard.

You have to keep your ears open and your mouth shut. You have to be concerned, but not preachy. And perhaps most importantly, you have to be available, but somewhat distant.

I would like to say I possess some superhuman ability to listen and comfort those in need. An ability that brings folks from all over the globe to my virtual doorstep to vent. I would like to think that I am created to be a lightning rod, but its most likely due to my distance, actual physical distance, that makes me a safe bet. Regardless, I have become a lightning rod to many.

Last week one of these storms rolled my way. A missionary working for another organization called me up to tell me about some marital issues he is experiencing. Before he even starts talking about the stresses, frustrations, and fights they are dealing with, he tells me that nobody knows. 

What?!

This guy is working for a missions agency and has a church back home. How is it possible that he has never told anyone? So I start asking him some questions about his church and his organization to see whats up.

Is someone from his church or his organization caring for him and his family while they are in the field?
No! They say they are there for me, but they don't listen to what I am saying.
Is there someone, a pastor, a person, anyone to care for them?
Yes! That is the most frustrating part. They have people to care for me, but I never hear from them.
Has this person ever contacted them in the field?
Yes, but its superficial. They send me emails, but no one ever really talks to me unless they want something from me.
Has anyone organization ever asked him about their marriage?
No! Not even once. To be honest with you, I don't think they want to know.
Has he told this person about their marital issues?
No, I don't trust them.
He doesn't trust them?!

Why should he. No one is taking the time to get to know him, to build a relationship, to be his friend. He is alone in a foreign country and everyone is waiting for someone else to step up and take care of him. The family is waiting on the church, the church on the organization, and this guy is just waiting!

I don't want to be the lightning rod to all the world's missionaries. I don't have the time. I don't have the emotional energy. I don't even like people all that much, even missionaries. Anyway...

ITS NOT MY JOB!

Cold, maybe. Heartless, NO!
Its not my job because its your job!

So here is what you are going to do.

If you are a average everyday person that calls themselves a follower of Christ:

Follow Christ!

Read John 17 and pray for us like Jesus prayed for the disciples. Pray for our protection. Pray for our ministries. Pray for those who will carry on the work because of us. After your done praying for missionaries in general, pray specifically for the missionaries you know. Seriously, pray for them, by name.

When you get done praying, contact them and get to know them. You want to get a conversation started, ask them about their ministries and where they see God moving. Build a relationship. Build confidence. Build safety. If you are safe, and they need to vent, they'll seek you out as a lightening rod.


If you are a missions pastor or a member care professional for a missions agency:

First and foremost, I want to say this with as much dignity and professionalism as I can muster, 

Get off your ass and do your job!

You are there to care for missionaries, so do it! You may be the only connection they have with their home country in days, weeks, months, maybe even years. It is inexcusable to NOT contact your missionaries from time to time, to NOT send them a card on their birthday, anniversary, or just because, to NOT contact them unless you need to tell them they are running in the red or you want some pictures for a brochure.

If you are already doing this, great, I'M NOT TALKING TO YOU! However, if you have maybe been a bit lazy on connecting with your missionaries, here is a little nudge to get you back on track.
ecwrites

I have never asked for this, and to be honest I feel a little weird, but please share this. Not for me, and not because this is a particularly eloquent dissertation on the subject, but because we, the collective Church, have sent out these people.
Don't forget them.

Friday, September 23, 2011

winner!



Nate who suggested "The Man Who Was Thursday" by GK Chesterton, just won a bag of Britt!

You had me at anarchist!

Thanks to all for your suggestions, I will be doing a lot of reading in the near future.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

poverty?

Poverty: "a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information."
The United Nations



Poverty is a difficult concept for us in North America. Even though we are in the midst of an economic recession, depression, whatever you want to call it, we still live in some of the wealthiest countries on earth at one of the wealthiest times in history. Poverty, true poverty, is difficult to understand because we just don't see it.

We want to draw lines and redefine terms because we, as a people, as a nation, don't want to say that we don't have poverty. You can quote me statistics about the number of people living below the poverty line, you can call me insensitive about your situation, but there are virtually no impoverished living in the North America!

People struggling, YES; people just barely making it, YES, but in poverty, NO!

  • What does “poverty” look like in the states?
  • Virtually all those living in “poverty” have a refrigerator, a stove, and the vast majority have a microwave.
  • Almost all have a television, 97%, and about 2/3's of those living in “poverty” have more than one television.
  • Almost 80% of those in “poverty” have air conditioning and over 60% have a clothes washer, cable TV, at least one DVD player.
  • Over half of those in “poverty” have a cell phone and almost 1/3 have a video game system and slightly more than that have a computer.


Our “impoverished” count among the wealthiest in the world!

OK, I know there may be some questioning the validity of those stats because, for sure, The Heritage Foundation is a bit on the conservative side, who cares that the information is taken from census data, right? However, in the interest of fairness and for those skeptics in the crowd here are some statistics from the US government.

9% of those living in the US experienced what is termed low food security, 
These food-insecure households obtained enough food to avoid substantially disrupting their eating patterns or reducing food intake by using a variety of coping strategies, such as eating less varied diets, participating in Federal food assistance programs, or getting emergency food from community food pantries.”

5% of those living in the US experienced what is termed very low food security, 
In these food-insecure households, normal eating patterns of one or more household members were disrupted and food intake was reduced at times during the year because they had insufficient money or other resources for food. In reports prior to 2006, these households were described as “food insecure with hunger.

So, at times, 9% of our poor have to eat less or ask for some help to eat, and 5% of our poor have to skip a meal. Only 5%! Now, lets assume that those going abroad to serve the impoverished of the world come from the other 86% that are not experiencing low or very low food security, they have no context for what is poverty. Not only do our poor have food, access to medical care, an education, clean water and a wide array of governmental programs to help them, they also have things: TV's, DVD players, video games, cell phones, air conditioning.

We see poverty everywhere because we experience poverty nowhere!

Look, he is riding the bus, POVERTY! Over there, he is wearing used clothes from the states, POVERTY! Hey, the houses are ugly, there are potholes in the streets, there are dirt roads, that person has a dirt floor, POVERTY! They eat rice and beans every day, POVERTY!

El Chupacabra, you self-righteous a-hole, if we want to go into some developing nation and throw 'em a bone, even if its not poverty, what harm could that cause?

I know a long time missionary that was working with a national pastor. The area where the pastor lived was rural and the kids, including the pastors kids, did not have shoes. The missionary, thinking of a way to bless the pastor, buys the kids shoes. Those kids, feeling special, feeling blessed by this man of God, start to belittle their shoeless friends. Obviously God didn't love them, obviously they did something wrong because if they were living right, living for God, they would have shoes!

Missions should be about passing on Jesus, and NOT about providing economic support. Can those in poverty know Jesus, YES! Can those in poverty be followers, true followers of Christ, YES! Can those in poverty lead others to Jesus, YES!

If you feel compelled to work with those in poverty, do it, but please don't equate receiving economic or developmental aid with receiving salvation, and yes it really happens. We should never make listening to a sermon, going to church, sitting through a gospel presentation the condition for receiving help!
ecwrites

Have you ever seen or experienced poverty, true poverty? Has your standard of living ever shaped your view of a country, a place, or a group of people? Have you ever seen people damaged by people offering help in exchange for Jesus?

Monday, September 19, 2011

this is my son, whom I love

The older I get, or rather the older my kids get, the more I understand God. Not in the sense of understanding my own perfection, although, well you know....but in the sense of the love He has for us, his children, and how pleased He can be with us.

I have 3 boys that I love immensely and every day I see more and more of me in them. Lets be honest, some of my traits I would rather NOT see in them, but those moments when they get it, when they exemplify what it means to be a Chupacabrita (little Chupacabra), the times when they live by those positive fundamental character traits that have made me the man I am today, in those moments I am filled with so much pride I just wanna pop.

Jamison is a rough and tumble kid. He likes to bang around, but like his old man he also wants to be pampered a bit when he is not feeling well. While I like that about him, I must say when I see his creativity and his gentleness it gets me. He is always coming up with random stories and pictures that scream out there is a creator inside, and I've never seen a kid that better lives out:

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” Romans 12:15 

Dylan is my most analytical and ambitious of my brood. He is constantly probing and questioning what he hears, what he learns, and what he sees. Like the Bereans, he never takes things at face value, but is always striving to find the truth, not just someone's particular version of it. Now that can be frustrating at times, especially when I am the target of his cynicism, but I love that fact that he does not just believe because he is told to. It is that very same analysis that will help him become the success he is always striving to be.

Stephen, well Stephen is so much like me that it is hard. When I look at him, I see myself, I mean literally the kid looks just like me. However, its not just a similar size and facial structure that we share. My flaws, my struggles, my weaknesses I see in him.  At times it is hard to interact with him and not be overly critical, you know, like I'm trying to fix myself. Anyway, last night Stephen played his first football game ever and I got to see some of the good parts of me that are growing in him.  He played against men, but held his own. He is new on the team, but played with heart. We lost, but instead of bitching about the refs or blaming it on the coaches, Stephen had a determination in his eye that showed me he will do whatever it takes to help out his team.

When I see these things in my boys, the best parts of me that by the grace of God I have been able to pass on, I know, at least to some extent, the way God feels when we are living up to our potential. I mean, its His potential that we are trying to live up to so why wouldn't he be ecstatic when we live it out, right?

Now I must admit, when I think about God being proud of me the first thoughts that pop into my head are always a bit on the negative side. I begin looking back at all the times I have failed God, all the times I acted out of my own desires, regardless of the consequences, all the times I was a douche, but that is not what He wants for me. God doesn't want to sit back on his throne and berate his kids for their failures just like I don't, although sometimes I do.  He wants to praise them for their successes. 

Ok, ok, lets not get wrapped up in this statement either.  I know we need to be disciplined in order eliminate all the crap, but God is not some cosmic killjoy trying to point out how shitty we are.  He truly wants us to succeed and live abundantly!

Anyway, the more I see the good in me being lived out in my boys, knowing the joy it gives me, the more I want to please my own heavenly father in the same way.

I want to be more like Him so I truly live up to the identity I have as a follower of Christ.


"This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased."

ecwrites

What good things about you do you see in your kids?  How can we pass on those good things and not just our flaws? How can we live up to our potential, to exemplify the character of Christ so we can please Him, today?

Friday, September 16, 2011

suggestion box: books




I've noticed that Fridays seem to be the day where people feel free to give out opinions and advice.  People tell you what you should do on the weekend, tell you what you should have done all week long, just check out the popularity of the Friday Follow #ff on Twitter.

So its Friday, and I am asking for your input, or better yet asking to know more about you, your likes and dislikes.

TheVWM and I are getting ready to head up north to go to Catalyst in Atlanta, and I want to do a little reading on the flight.  So tell me what are you reading that you are really enjoy.  I don't care what it is, just tell me a little about it and why its so compelling.

I will be choosing my next read from your suggestions !

To provide a little incentive, if I choose your book there will be a bag of some of the world's best coffee, Cafe Britt, being shipped to your doorstep directly from Costa Rica, via Atlanta of course.  I will announce my choice next Friday, September 23, 2011, so be quick!

Lets hear it!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

masculinity and the church


As a father of 3 boys, an American football player and coach, and someone that works closely with construction workers and the trades I find myself constantly surrounded by guys.  Its a comfortable world for me.

As a big, crass talking, tattooed, bearded, beer swigging guy, being around other dudes who are like me works. Its a world of competition: punching contests, one-up contests, I can hold out longer with the alligator clips from jumper cables cutting into the flesh on my knuckles contests.

We are constantly testing each other to see who can handle more pain, can lift more weight, can handle more insults.


We are men, real men! The embodiment of masculinity, right?

Masculinity is something passed on from man to man, specifically from father to son. Anthropologically, it is our attempt to pass on the skills to fight off an attacking horde, to hunt a savage beast and put protein on the table, and to woo a mate by our feats of strength and endurance, but masculinity is under attack!

We want to change it, redefine it, even eliminate it because we ONLY define masculinity in these rough and tumble terms. Masculinity is fighting and rage. Masculinity causes interpersonal conflict and strife. Masculinity tears apart the family and thrives on pain. Masculinity is threatening because...

We are living through a crisis of fatherlessness.

About 1/3 of our children are living without their fathers, but who cares, right? We can raise kids without fathers!

Whatever kids need development-wise they can get from uncles, from neighbors, from teachers, even from friends. Even though masculinity, or lets just define it as what it is, what it means to be a man, can be passed on from ANY person with a penis. A father is not only not necessary, they may even be contributing to societal problems with their violent ways, right? These masculine traits just end up getting our kids into trouble.

Masculinity = trouble = jail!


Now I want to scream out,
HELL NO,

masculinity is NOT the problem!, but I just can't get myself to say it. Why? Because it kinda is the problem, well, not real masculinity.

Fatherless boys grow up seeing only one side of masculinity, the rough side. They see the fighting, the swearing, the picking on the weak, but they don't learn about being a real man. They learn hyper-masculinity.

As much as male influences are a great thing, even necessary for the fatherless: friends, family members, youth leaders, even Big Brothers only give the child a small glimpse at masculinity. These boys often can't, or don't see that even though a man lives smack dab in the middle of a testosterone fueled culture, a culture that at times requires a bit of conflict and even the occasional fight, there are times that a real man, even within this culture, needs to modify his "violent" behavior. 

A real man takes time to comfort those suffering around him, to lend a shoulder to cry on, and to be vulnerable with those around him, but he doesn't lose his man-ness. There is a moment for everything in life: living and dying, laughing and crying, even fighting and running away, but our fatherless all too often don't see it.

So why am I talking about this here, and now?

Masculinity in the church has become a frequent topic during my discipleships, during my conversations with my boys, even during our conversations  here about short term missions. Its on the mind of everyone around me and I think I know why...

While the world is in the midst of a crisis of fatherlessness, so is the church!

Our men are being forced onto the pew, because there is no one like them there, or at least that is the perception.  They are being asked to check all their roughness at the door and told by their wives, their girlfriends, their mothers, “If only you were more like [pick your meek mild soft spoken man in the church], things would be so much better.”

While the world learns hyper-masculinity without a dad, the church learns hyper-pussyness. There are no spiritual fathers to help show us when to fight, how to fight, even how to grab a whip and clear out the temple. We leave our men on their own to define masculinity in the church because we don't want to be a father, a spiritual father, to someone else. I mean, seriously, I don't have the time, or I don't know enough, or maybe I just don't want to do it.

No, I am not saying lets start a fight club in the youth room on Saturday nights, although I'm not opposed, I am just saying lets step up as men and teach others what it means to be a man in the church.  That does not mean organizing some retreat where we wander through the wilderness, stake up tents, and live off the fat of the land like the Marlboro Man! It means teaching a man what to fight for!

Someone told me that masculinity is about respect, and in the church its no different. People want authenticity, they want to know they are not alone in the world. We, as men in the church, need to earn the respect of the men around us, to fight for it, if we want to have influence in their lives, but respect is hard to come by if we are living like Mr Rogers at church and like Rambo on the job site.

ecwrites

I would like to say thank you to my dad. He was the one who taught me that there are times when a man needs to fight for his own, while at the same time showing me how to care for others. He was the one that taught me the value of hard work, and the futility of complaining. He was that one that taught me that a real man stands his ground.

Thanks dad!

How are you living out, or how have you seen men living out, true masculinity within the church? Have you ever felt like you couldn't be a “man” in a church setting? Are you, or are you willing, to be a spiritual father to someone?

Friday, September 9, 2011

short term missions: why?

For the past few weeks we have been looking at short term missions; not through the lens of a program, anthropology, or even results based evaluations, but rather through scripture. Specifically, we have been using the Matthew's account of the sending out of the 12 as our “model”, but now we are going to be borrowing a little from the other versions to wrap this up.

We have examined who should be involved, what they should be doing, when they are ready, even where they should go. We are now left with the question...

short term missions: why?



I am going to throw in a little disclaimer here: I am at best an amateur theologian. I like to drop that any time I am giving people El Chupacabraisms as a warning to check out what I'm saying. If you think what I'm saying is off, feel free to chastise, rebuke, or correct.  

So anyway back to these guys, these 12. Remember Jesus sent them out and told them to take nothing, He warned them it was not going to be easy, He gave them a lists of all the terrible things that could/would happen to them and sent them on their way under His authority.

Jesus is basically saying, go out and see if this is for you, and well, it worked!

When they get back they are PUMPED!

In Mark we learn the first thing they do is break it down for Jesus, The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught.” (Mark 6:30). So how do I know they are pumped? They are talking about it.

Guys talk about victory, not failure. To the be-peniled amongst us, even semi-failures sometimes become victories (see fishing stories), but only in order to enhance the excitement of a positive experience. If there is truly failure, there is silence. So while it scripture doesn't exactly say that these guys are fired up about their trip, I like to think they were.

Not only did this short term mission trip help amp them up for ministry, but it helped teach them to trust in Jesus.

Immediately after the disciples get done telling Jesus what happened on their adventure, Jesus busts out with the feeding of the 5,000, with 5 loves of bread and 2 fish! Again, showing the disciples that He will provide for them, and Peter is learning.

After leaving the 5,000, Jesus sends the disciples on their way, by themselves, in a boat. Sometime later, while the disciples are bobbing in the middle of the lake, Jesus shows up walking on the water, and what does Peter do? He says if YOU tell me to, I can walk on water.

Why did Peter ask? What told him he could do it?

Jesus told him to go and he would be provided for, and he was. Jesus told him to feed 5,000 with only 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, and he did.

Jesus is showing disciples they can trust Him! If Peter did not go out on that short term mission as a disciple, when he was ready, with nothing but faith, he would not only not have been able to walk on the water, he would not even know to ask!

Why is this trust so important?

Jesus' teaching are about to get really hard. In John 6 we see this teaching pissing off some of Jesus' other disciples, yes he had more than 12, and many of them bail, “On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” (John 6:60). But not the 12!

Jesus asks them flat out if they are going to bail too, and its the very same Peter that trusted Jesus enough to walk on the water, who answers:

Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.”
Peter (John 6:68-69)

So why short term missions?

Because when short term missions are done according to His plan:
  • disciples being sent,
  • sent out with nothing but faith,
  • sent when its truly about someone other than themselves,
  • sent to all people in need not only the most “sexy” of the least of these

those being sent are learning to trust in Jesus!

What can be done with people that truly trust in Jesus?

Well, with 12 Jesus built the Church!
ecwrites

What do you need to do to be apart of His plan in His way? How can you live out a missional existence where you are right now? What could you, your church, your community, do to change YOUR world if His plan was being followed?

the rest of the series:
short term missions: who?


Friday, September 2, 2011

thanks!

I would just like to take a moment to say thanks to everyone for the overwhelming show of support these past couple days.


Thanks to JamieTheVWM for the kind words.  I know I don't say it enough, but I love you and am very proud of you!

Thanks to all of you that have been following the chaos for a while for sticking around.  I have enjoyed our conversations more than you'll ever know.

Thanks to those noobs dropping by for the first time.  My goal is to spark conversation to initiate change in you, the church, and the world.  If I say something to piss you off don't just run away, speak up!

Finally, thanks to all that sent good vibes via twitter, facebook, and comments here!  I'm a very proud man and often won't admit it when things are bumming me out, but your words do mean a lot to me.
ecwrites

If you are new, I will be wrapping up a series on short term missions next week.  Look for short term missions: why? soon.  If you need to catch up, start off with short term missions: who?!

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