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Apr
16

unpleasant surprise

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It was a glorious night at the furthest corner of a sprawling, underground restaurant / pub. In this bunker, we shared our stories, laughed with and perhaps a few times at each other, and had a couple Czech guys tell what the Lord has done and is doing in their lives. (Audio of the stories will be posting soon at the Upstream site.) If for no other reason than this night, the trip was a personal gain–an enriching time. All the while though, something dreadful was taking place. It was something none of us could see, but it was among us and impacting our lives both that night and, undoubtedly, for the rest of our trip.

Each of us as we put on whatever we deem sleeping attire (though I am not certain I wonder if Frost was wearing his white satin nightgown that he finds so inspiring), it hit us. Now woven into our clothes was “the stink”. Not only was it now part of our clothes it had been baked onto our skin and saturated our hair–not exactly a problem for all of us. Tossing the clothes aside and scrubbing well, I thought it was all over–we had conquered. That was until I repacked my stuff to head for the train this morning. Folding up a shirt it hit me again. The reek of the stink is pervasive.

So now with my shirt and jeans laden with the stink packed in a closed case with my clean clothes, I am afraid that the stink will have multiplied and nested in each fiber by the time we open our bags. I’m afraid we will be living with the stink for the rest of our time. Of course it’s not such a big deal to stink if everyone else around you does also, but then again maybe we can try to have an upcoming missional conversation in a laundromat.

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Mar
21

adult theater

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“I hope you can make it.” The youngest son of one of our neighbors had just invited us–excluding kids–to his first play at a local community college. The content would be, he assured me, inappropriate for children. “Yeah!?!? We’ll definitely be there…maybe.”

For us this began a brief discussion of what to do. We arrived at the decision that for a Savior that spent time with sinners and tax collectors with the former category including prostitutes, that our going to the performance was probably the thing to do. Of course it didn’t hurt to know that it was at a community college; how bad could it be? I was reminded of a time when an acquaintance told me of his invitation to an avant garde theater  overseas by the lead actress of the production. While she had some clothes on during the performance, the rest of the cast proved to be a lot more free-spirited. Surely that wouldn’t be the case here…at least I hoped not.

Upon arriving at the theater, we encountered bold yellow signage warning that the production was “M for mature” and that the content was not appropriate for children. While this is an interesting commentary on our society, we continued in our theater going. Cautiously.

Yes it was uncomfortable at a few points along the way. But, we made it through and didn’t even have to run to scrub our eyes and ears after it was over. Upon leaving the auditorium, our neighbor was shocked to see us as we chatted for a bit, congratulated him and hugged him on the way out.

Not going to offer a moral to this post. That’s for you to work through if you choose. I will share that the play had a strong point. The main character was pretty pathetic until he learned that a better story existed and he could play a key role. Moving from being the heroine in a worthless story to being the hero in a life-like drama was reason to believe in something better and to live differently. Changed.

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Jan
23

as the world turns

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It has felt a bit like a soap opera of late. First I write a few posts back about what a difference she is making in a neighbor’s life and then suddenly she turns gravely ill. In fact, there were two different occasions over the course of a week that I thought she wasn’t going to make it.

Strangely enough, all of this drama was over our dog. We have since seen her come through parvo. As a family we prayed a lot and not just a few tears were shed. Thankfully she is back at home and doing well. The vet asked us to keep the pooch calm, help her not to bite or swallow foreign objects and not to let her run free in the yard. I have wanted to call the vet many times and ask her if she has ever been around a 12 week old dog. Sometime this weekend she is supposed to be given her freedom to go and run and explore and dig in the back yard.

Just wanted to let you know the latest as some have known about the illness as we were going through it. (At the same time I promise all readers here that this blog has not just turned into a dog’s tale.)

Also, a quick update on our neighbor is that we continue to have amazing and at times awkward opportunities to be involved in their lives. Good things are happening. Soon the missional pooch will be back in the back yard to wake Gus up at irregular times in the early morning so that he may have opportunity to read more of the gospels. 🙂

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Jan
03

missional pooch

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With tail wagging wildly, our new Christmas puppy has found her place in our home (though not exactly inside it) and our hearts. She goes from a flutter of spastic activities before hitting the wall and crashing for a time only to get a full recharge. We have laughed a lot over the past days and tossed a few things that Super Pup bested.

Our biggest concern with getting a dog in the first week was the whimpering and whining at night and the resulting displeasure of the neighbors. Just separated from her mama, the new love of my children’s lives proved true to nature and whimpered intermittently through the first several nights. A couple days into it though, with no complaints from neighbors, all seemed well. But actually it was better than that….

On New Year’s Eve night, my father-in-law and I visited my neighbor who washes his Jesus to share some food and wish him well. Gus was broken prior to our arrival and often incoherent due to some amount of alcohol and large amounts of emotional pain over the last year and anger through recent events with others. Through our time together, he shared that he had been awakened by a whimpering puppy the previous morning at 4:00 AM. Then, for the first time, he began to read his Bible. We finished our time together praying a prayer of blessing over a man who was at first scared to be holding a bottle of Bud Light while we began to talk to God. By prayer’s end, he was deeply moved and thankful.

The story continues…now with Super Pup in the cast of characters.

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Jul
26

a walk

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Having just moved into the new place a couple of days ago, we are still settling, unpacking, cleaning, organizing, etc. But we took some time out this weekend to pray as a family in our home and out in our community. As we were walking along, something simple, yet beautiful happened.

My youngest daughter has been praying for a couple of years now thanking the Lord for such a wonderful day and usually praying that He would have a wonderful day as well. But as we walked along in our community praying for our neighbors, she began to pray that our neighbors would see Christ in us…that they would come to Him…that He would touch their lives.

It was a blessing for me to be walking along, holding her hand as we agreed in prayer for what God may do in our community. It was a blessing to see her self-focused prayers switch to be prayers about seeing God’s glory revealed so that those that are around us may come to Him. During this time she had learned something from me and I was learning something from her.

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Jul
14

a good scrub

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Lots happening lately, so much to write, so little time to put it down on digital paper. But a brief story real quick…

Sometime recently (my days are running together both figuratively and literally right now) I went over to meet one of my new neighbors. Walking toward his porch, I see soap suds and water flowing freely. Turning the corner I see Gus with a stiff, soapy brush and the water hose giving Jesus a good scrub. Yes, he was washing the grime and dirt off of Jesus. In spite of the fact that his Jesus had either a party hat or a horn coming out of his head–it didn’t seem appropriate to do a micro-examination of his Jesus statue when we were exchanging names and pleasantries–what surprised me most was his attentive, diligent concern for cleaning Jesus.

I have been in his home briefly twice already and his sons helped move some furniture. Gus is already showing himself to be a person of piece. More on this in the future as we are days away from moving in among a people who scrub their Jesus.

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Jun
29

Hello BK?

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OK, so I said goodbye to Starbucks. Since that time my closest Starbucks closed up shop. No kidding, there is now brown paper taped over the windows. I didn’t expect my departure to have such an immediate impact. In fact, if my occasional purchase was the difference between viable operation and butcher paper, then maybe it needed to close or relocate.

Since my last post, several have inquired about the next move. Perhaps with the move I will be able to spend some time at the local Burger King. I am a fan of their Mocha Joe–good stuff if you like sweetened, ice coffee. I am doubtful, though, that this will be my main hangout as it has patronage of the locals, but is not representative of their food and culture. More on this later….

One interesting, comical event from this week occurred when a friend and I were making a quick run from the house to Home Depot for some more of some important something or other to prep the new place for my family. My new neighbor’s family friend, Francisco, was outside drinking a beer. He apologized for not having more beers to share, but wanted to know if I would like to come over and share his.

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Jun
21

Farewell Starbucks

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It is time for me to say adios to my backyard coffee vendor. Goodbye Starbucks.

We are not parting on bad terms. In fact, I appreciate how St. Arbucks has always been there for me when I could not find a quaint, local-flavor coffee shop that had a beverage that was at least as good. Though I am not a big fan of their normal coffee, I do enjoy a Starbucks frappucino, caramel macchiato, and mocha–especially with a bit of peppermint added. But my consistent patronage must end. I will still be able to come and see you from time to time when I am on the road, but no more visits in my hometown. This also goes for my other local coffee shop that has such amazing pastries. Though I may still stop by, it will be very, very rare.

As we move into another part of our town where Christ needs to be exalted among an exploding, low-income minority group, I don’t find any of your stores for miles. The roads that demarcate where my new people reside are still at least two miles from your kind, green sign. Though the future place(s) for my work on all things digital while interacting with the people on some level is not clear, I will find a spot where the language and culture reflect the people rather than my more accustomed, U.S. environment. My drink(s) of choice and normal fare will need to change as well.

Thank you Starbucks. I will see you in the future. But until then you can find me in….

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Jun
09

A Tragic Tale

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While on the recent JetSet, we had a missionary / church-planter–T.J.–share some of his story. He has been in France more years than not. While so much of his talk was fascinating to me, there was one slice that grieved me. This is a paraphrased version of that story told in 3rd person.

As the “French” guy, TJ was invited on multiple occasions to be present at Sunday lunch with U.S. families that had finally convinced their French exchange student to go to church for the first time. The best he could understand is that these families wanted him to do a church debrief as he was uniquely qualified to understand and communicate with them from a French vantage point. This scenario played itself out on five different occasions with five different students. When TJ asked the young person how they liked their church experience, the responses were similar. Each thought the music was good. Each thought the preaching time was interesting–but not in a good way. They were surprised at how passive and compliant the audience seemed to be to whatever the preacher was saying. Each of them shared some variation of the following idea: “I felt like I was in a Nazi war rally.”

This is the unique, growing challenge of working in a post-Christian context.

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Jun
01

God save the Queen!

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After helping host last week’s JetSet trip with The Upstream Collective, I had some additional meetings in Spain before returning back to London for a return flight home. With all of the conversations and things to do while in London last week, I never had a chance to break away and see Buckingham Palace. But today I took that opportunity on the way from the airport to the hotel. And….

Upon arriving there in the constant dreary rain, I walked past the front of Buckingham wanting to take pictures, but not wanting to ruin a SLR camera. Then I decided to come back to the entrance and try to snap a couple quick picks with the iPhone. That’s when the guards moved from inside the fence to the outside and began stopping all passers-by. Then just moments later, out rolled the Queen of England and Prince Philip.

Then I remembered that: He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. (Daniel 2:21)

Note: In the upcoming weeks I plan to spend more time debriefing some aspects of the trip and the conversation. I am still processing, and still trying to get back home. Some themes I am still thinking about and praying through include global cities, contextualization, presence vs. proclamation, working in a post-Christian context, etc.

Categories : Bible, story
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