Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?
So I’m driving down Argwings Kodhek in Nairobi road a couple of years ago smack in the middle of evening traffic (for those non-Kenyans, rush hour in Kenya closely resembles a disturbed ant colony), minding my own business, feeling rather chirpy and humming a Britney Spears tune (for those rolling their eyes, Britney is the queen of pop. Case closed). I had just flown in from the USA at the time so I was still disposed to my co-opted American sense of justice and fairness and had the belief that I could effect change in the minds of drivers - I would lead by example by not wildly zig zagging across lanes trying to find the fastest moving one or by jumping the "queue" and in so doing be a shining beacon to be emulated by my fellow Kenyan motorists.
Well, somewhere around Chaka road, as the traffic is moving slower than a walking pace, a driver cuts in right in front of me with nary a thought. However, given my aforementioned blissful and magnanimous mood, I did not object to his churlish behavior - in fact I gave him way. To my chagrin though and in typical Kenyan behavior, the driver of the car behind Mr. Churlish also tried to squeeze in after him and at that point my vaunted driving etiquette went out the window. I accelerated and in a very charming way gave the driver of the second car a reverse peace sign as I blocked his determined entrance into my lane. Having said that, the reverse peace sign I flashed at driver number two was unfortunately not of the ordinary kind. You see, my index finger seemed to curl beneath my thumb and so the reverse peace sign turned out to be a very rude gesture that is only preserved for and used by those who do not know Jesus. Upon viewing the somewhat unpeaceful sign, driver two jumped out of his car and proceeded to make menacing steps in my direction. I too dove out of my car in order to prove my manhood, thump my chest a little bit and maybe trade a few fisticuffs. It was when I was out of the car in the middle of the road, surrounded by cars, buses and a very curious public that I noticed that car number one was towing car number two with a chain that I had not seen. I was the idiot. And everyone knew it. So thouroughly chastened, into my car I meekly went to let incapacitated car number two through and ignore the scores of disapproving stares and clucking tongues.
So to answer Groucho, I shall believe my own eyes - but what I see depends on the thickness and the color of the lenses I’m seeing through.
The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it... I can resist everything but temptation. Oscar Wilde.
I have an incredible nose. A nose that can sniff out the most ethereal scents that waft up and across the lands that mortals traverse. A nose that compels me to wander up and down the byways sniffing the wondrous smells that reside in most instances within malls. Within those malls, a store exists with white walls and with attendees who wear blue shirts. These attendees preside over wondrous goodies that have such a phenomenal and seductive smell, a scent that cannot find compare.
Like clockwork, my eyes will water in joyous abandon as I place the goodies under my nostrils and inhale slowly, not wanting to get drunk too quickly, desiring the rush to every limb, the tingle on every inch of my skin to last forever.
But as the Malthus so said as he described the Law of Diminishing returns and as we read in the first chapters in the book of Genesis, taking a sniff or even a bite of the apple might very well take me I know not where, by way of a road I know not which.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity.
William Butler Yeats.
Early this month, Scott Roeder was sentenced to a maximum sentence of life in prison without the eligibility of parole for 50 years for the killing of George Tiller, the late-term abortion doctor who lived in Kansas, USA. The humorless irony of Tiller’s death was that he was killed on a Sunday morning while serving as an usher at his church. The question is: was Roeder justified in killing Tiller?
According to the law, no. According to pro-choice activists, no. For pro-lifers, Roeder’s actions are a lot more nuanced & rightly so.
At first glance, Christians saw Roeder’s action as cold-blooded murder. However, from a foundational basis, what should Christians do when the law of the land advocates that which can be perceived as immoral? From the gulags and forced marches of the Soviet Union that massacred millions to the killing fields of Cambodia the 21st Century has shown how the law has and can be used as a tool to advance evil. Nonetheless, as the Nuremberg trials ruled, "The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him." The claim that one was simply "following orders", was not an excuse for genocide. In other words, natural law supersedes internal/societal laws that are specific to tradition and the like.
In regards to abortion on demand, the laws that permit this procedure seem to be arbitrary: a woman can choose to have an abortion and be within her rights yet if she is attacked and in the process undergoes a miscarriage, the assailant is guilty of second-degree murder. Which is to say that a woman is the sole decider of the value of her unborn child or for our pro-choice brethren, her foetus. In addition, we find that by law aIf we are to follow this argument to its logical conclusion, one can argue that natural law is capricious and that we individually determine between good and evil. Obviously that is false because we cannot be both be referees and players at the same time – there has to be a higher authority to define what is good, what is fair and what is just. More so, the same law that sentenced Roeder to death in prison also says that it is legal for a man to kill in defense of another, and incidentally, that was Roeder’s defense - he saw the unborn as human and Tiller as a murderer of the defenseless. In that context, what is our Christian response?
I would like to suggest that this is one case that only God can ascertain. Our call is simply to be passionate about our Christ-like convictions and in so doing affect society not for convenience, not for deference, not for personal gratification, not for our wayward predilections but for Good.
Christ in seemingly a life that seems so far removed said that He came so that we may have life and have it to the full, to its abundance. Life is contains all that is good and is antagonistic to death and all that is evil. Christ came so that we could leave in a prosperous state, one filed with comfort, one filled with joy. We humans live in a world that is defined by natural laws that we have to abide by which is to say, that unless you are an evolutionist, we humans have always been humans therefore Christ’s definition of life is as applicable now as it was then.
The basic tenet of Christ’s proclamation is freedom. Granted, true freedom is only obtained within parameters. However, the Bible sheds light via the Ten Commandments onto how we are to live, breath and have our being. Once we live along those lines, independence is achieved. It is quite interesting to note that the Ten Commandments describe what we are to do to others but not what others are to do to us, that is, the commands that we are to follow are unconditional - we are not to be just because the world is just but we are to be just because God commands us to be just. We are to be good not because the world is good but because it is inherently good to be good.
How then do we translate living within the law and consequently in abundance to our 21st Century life? Do we view the Bible as a living and breathing document that is not applicable to us in this age? Obviously not because as said above, that would have to assume that we are evolutionary beings, that the ills that pervade humanity now are neoteric, and furthermore, that we are in control of ourselves and our destiny, that we are masters of the universe. We are to live in abundance by giving. Giving does not mean advocating for central planning. Giving in this sense means employing as Ayn Rand so penned, Objectivism, that is to say, self-interest because it is out of the over-flowing of our cup that we can give. We have to be able to feed our children before we can feed a child in Haiti. We have to pay our light bill before we can donate to the homeless shelter. We have to have to acquire skills that we can trade in the marketplace in order to get monetary means to effect change and to do good - we cannot give that which we do not have. Christ thus commands us to work for our living and for those who are otherwise incapacitated.
The obvious results of this personal responsibility world-view that in turn leads to societal generosity is evidenced in the reaction to the earthquake in Haiti. Arabia has donated a pittance. China has donated one million dollars. The European Union has “pledged” half a billion dollars (the word pledged is in quotes because in a few weeks, who will remember?). The USA by contrast has donated two hundred million dollars via cash donations, a further one hundred million through the government and I’m assuming another two hundred million in military aid. Are Americans better human beings than Arabs? No, but Haitians are not Muslims. Europe is by and large secular. China is communist. America is the only country in the Western hemisphere whose citizenry by a large majority espouse a Christian world-view and for that, Christians all across the world should be proud.
Let us go out and continue living life abundantly.
I do have pet peeves. However, my peeves are few. And far. And in between. One peeve that ranks up there is sound. I with a few others had the opportunity to be part of Sting’s devotees when he played in Dallas a few years ago. I meticulously sought out his concert itinerary and purchased tickets that I thought would sit us at a decent spot within the amphitheatre only to discover as we were being ushured to our seats, that the tickets sat us where the “desinfranchized” people have sat for centuries, which is to say, way in the rafters amongst the cobwebs. Being endowed with God-given rights nonetheless, we purposed in ourselves to move to an empty row immediately behind the sound-desk, which is the sweet spot in live concerts as sound authorities will claim. I was excited. Very excited. Giddy even. I found myself glancing at the 50-something bearded guy tweaking the knobs on the sound desk as the pre-concert music gently blew through the PA system and sighed in anticipatory joy at brilliant sound that the decades of experience the hirsute dude had beneath his belt would produce. His hands on the faders were akin to Keith Black’s fingers on a scalpel. Marvelous.
Sting comes out and has a great show. Obviously, the word "great" is relative. The sound? Pathetic. Horrible. After thirty minutes of “Field’s of Gold” et cetera, I was getting irritated not to mention frustrated. The questions in my mind were simply, “How can this be happening? Did they not have a sound-check? Why does Mr. Hairy not hear the rubbish coming out of the speakers?” My mind simply could not reconcile Sting’s fabulous tunes with mediocre sound.
The problem I have is that my pet peeve is transported to churches as well. Sting is/was entertainment. However, church is worship, or at least, it should be. I remember visiting a famous (at that time) black church in Los Angeles that had a reputation for having an excellent worship band and charismatic pastor. I walked in and I immediately got a headache. The sound was loud. Way to loud. And not only was it loud, it was unintelligible. All I saw was a choir swaying from side to side with mouths open wide accompanied by a deafening low-frequency mumble and mutter punctuated by a sporadic hallelujah and Jesus. I am gracious and slow to anger, so after throwing down twelve tablets of Tylenol I awaited the preacher. He turned out to be a narcisistic druid-like dud. I’ve never gone back. Consequently, my philosophy regarding church services has been distilled to two components; sound and preaching. Both can/should be good. Both cannot be bad. I know that may seem self-absorbed to some, but Christians should have expectations too. However, I’m not claiming that my pet peeve is not distracting; it is. But as I grow older, it’s becoming less of an issue. But I still stand on my rationale till death do me part.
What is your pet peeve that hinders your worship experience? Is it that God says homosexuality is immoral? Or is it that volunteer who stopped you to let pedestrians pass and made you miss your favorite parking spot in the church lot? Or is it the greeter who is just too cheerful given this economic instability? I remember sitting on the front row of a church whose pastor had a speck of spittle at the corner of his mouth. God knows I could not hear what he was saying. Even when I closed my eyes all I could see was a piece of white wiggling and waggling its way into my sunny Sunday morning.
As Christmas approaches, what incident, circumstance or phenomenon is hindering your relationship with worship and in effect with God? It could be miniscule. It could be large, but as the Psalmist wrote, we should cast all our burdens, all our silly pet peeves, all our family members and friends we love to hate but cannot do without on the Lord for He does sustain. We can all look back and say that despite adversity, and due to God’s grace, we are still standing. Merry Christmas to you and have a blessed and beautiful 2010.
So a hotshot lawyer sat next to a lovely woman on a plane for a five-hour flight. The blonde was tired, wanted to sleep and was in no mood for any chit and chat the lawyer may have thrown her way as he inevitably did. The lawyer finally came up with a very simple and enticing game; he’d ask her a question and if she got it wrong, she’d give him $5. For every question she asked him and he got the answer wrong he’d give her $50.
He went first, “What’s the distance between the sun and the planet Neptune?” She looked at him blankly and handed over $5. Her turn: “What goes bounces sideways instead of up and down?” The lawyer launched google on his laptop and took off on a hungry pursuit of knowledge. After a few hours though, he was still searching. He even called a few friends using the plane’s air-to-land phone. Frustrated, he conceded defeat and handed over $50. He then asked her, “What’s the answer? What bounces sideways as opposed to up and down?” Without saying a word, the woman handed him $5.
The things we do to achieve what we want seem in retrospect silly and childish don’t they? How many of us try to impress acquaintances with time and/or expensive meals only to find out they were not the least impressed? Nor did you get that promotion or acknowledgement. How many of us have bought a pair of shoes or a flat-screen TV that we did not need but convinced ourselves that our very lives depended on it? And when our credit card statement came in at the end of the month, the $1,500 64” LG was not all that warm and cuddly? The fact is that in the back of our minds, we always know that we are cheating ourselves but we always cheat ourselves that we are not cheating ourselves.
Mark Twain once said that history does not always repeat itself, but it does often rhyme. Take for example this good-looking woman I met in a garage where both our cars were being worked on. She turns out to be a conservative catholic who is nonetheless moving 600 miles to live with her boyfriend who she has been dating long-distance and with whom she has bought a house. To say the least, I was confounded by her rationale; she claimed that it was for economic reasons. I found that to be a tad bit too pragmatic for a woman, so I assumed she meant that she loved the man and was overly optimistic - actually irrationally optimistic - about the relationship’s future but the only way to wrap her head around her cognitive dissonance was to try and define her situation on emotional terms: who in their right minds ()hearts would frown upon an opportunity to cohabit and save money in a great city in the worst recession since the Great Depression? Notwithstanding, her parents were against the move and furthermore, she knew the dire statistics on cohabitation. However, the “now” trumped the “later”.
G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “There are many angles at which you can fall, but only one at which you can stand straight.” In hard times, in good times, in times when we have the opportunity to have it all, the seemingly attractive guilt and worry free internal pressures to shirk and redefine and compromise and have it all abound. Indeed, those willing to take the ostensible short and easy road almost always end up spending $50 to get $5.
I'm not an avid fan of Buddhism, let alone a fan, but their leaders do sometimes have some sage offerings. Take for example, Chögyam Trungpa, who once opined that, "Happiness is not the goal of existence but a by-product of a life well lived." Succinct that. As pithy as it is, the statement does not begin to illustrate how one can live well. Does living well mean vacationing in St. Tropez every summer or does it involve driving down to Mexico every month to build a home for the poor & destitute in Tijuana? Could it simply mean dining at Nobu every Friday night or lying on the couch watching tivod shows? Or does happiness entail getting stuff for "free", for example, healthcare? Or education?
It is very curious to read that Jesus in his commands to us to love others as we would love ourselves, to honor people as humanity is God embodied, the implication is that we can not love without first loving ourselves. It is out of the overflowing of our cup that we assist others. And therefore because we are healthy, we have the wherewithal to help the ailing. Furthermore, Christ commanded you and I to take care of the indigent and the underprivileged - He did not command the sanhedrin and/or the Roman government to do so.
So as the healthcare/government entitlement debate rages in America, we Christians need to understand and help others see that government largess robs humanity of their humanness, that is, the natural compulsion (that we tend to ignore) God has bestowed on us to assist those in need. Once government comes between me and the man who has just lost his home, or the woman with cancer, or the college student who cannot afford school tuition, Jesus' command to take care of the impoverished on a primarily personal level and secondarily in a practical sense, loses significance. In serving as the knight in shining armour, the government's faceless and benign act of benevolence makes life less meaningful, unhappy and even hopeless for both the giver and the receiver.
You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes you might find you get what you need. Interesting. Epiphanous. In light of the worldwide economic deterioration, it's definitely vogue. And comprehensible. How then are we to interact with the multitudinous & constant campaigns that try peddling goods and services we do not need? Is a 56? flat-screen TV necessary? Can you do without the $2,000 Carlos Falchi clutch? In these fiscally adverse times, of course. In fact it?s increasingly d?mod? and politically incorrect to flaunt prosperity, to display success & the fruits of accomplishment, the assumption being that the wealthy have gotten to their status by ill methods and that the poor and down-trodden are in their squalid circumstances not by their own volition, but by exploitation and abuse.
On the other hand, one can look at the poverty and hopelessness in North Korea, China, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Africa and even in the opulent West, and observe the abjection and consequently feel the rush to rescue. However, what is the Christian method of assistance? The Bible clearly commands us to help the poor, the widows & the orphans (James 1:27) not with a hand-out but with a hand-up. Empowerment is always more beneficial than welfare. The Bible also commands us to work for our living (2 Thessalonians 3:7-11), and furthermore the Bible clearly states that remuneration for our labor is not only pecuniary but also emotionally gratifying (Ecclesiastes 2:24, 8:15). The essence of the Christian perspective on work is contentment not envy and living outside one?s means.
Furthermore, in most if not all areas whose citizenry lies mendicant, hopeless and desperate, corrupt, oppressive and suppressive regimes rule and laws meant to limit freedom abound. Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian, opined that the more corrupt the state, the more numerous the laws and according to Lao Tzu, the more thieves and bandits there will be. Consequently, the population of the pauperized will grow. In many areas of the world Like Papua New Guinea and the Kalahari as epitomized by Jamie Uys' movie "The gods musyt be crazy", where inhabitants seem to survive on nothing, joy and contenment seems to flourish simply because the men and women in those cultures are born emancipated and continue to live and die as free men.
Numerous Laws are antithetical to the Biblical worldview - Christians live by one; Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind, and love your neighbor as you love yourself. That one law is then embodied in the Ten Commandments that have governed thriving, prosperous and enfranchised civilizations from the beginning of time. Within that framework, you might not get what you want, but as the Rolling Stones intoned, you might just get what you need.
Shelby Steele, a Hoover Fellow, once said something as profound as it was straightforward, something that epitomizes human nature from birth. He said, “Often people don’t listen as much for the truth as for the necessity that will hold them accountable to the truth. Failing to hear any such necessity, they can conclude that the truth itself has no relevance.” In practical terms, children do not play on car-infested streets because they don’t want to – they obey their parents because failure to do so will result in a belt to the buttock. Similarly, most drivers do not stop at red lights because they care for their fellow humans – they stop because if they were to be caught for running a red light by the men in blue, there will be a hefty fine to pay.
In a similar fashion, The Christian paradigm calls man to heed to God’s warnings the same way a father calls on his children to heed his, because, he the father knows more than the child. However, since an adult knows what is best for him, both his biological father and God the father become more and more irrelevant as wealth, prosperity and independence grow. At this state, the necessity to heed the Truth diminishes. That is until calamities that are beyond our control strike; when the child runs out to the street to catch a loose ball and is run over by a speeding vehicle. Or when one is caught by the police driving under the influence of alcohol. Or most recently, when one is caught living way outside his means in an economic downturn that results in a lost career, an auctioned home, a repossessed car.
The Christian's response to the aforementioned situations should not be piety and/or sanctimony. It should be love, understanding and compassion with the understanding that decisions have consequences in the natural world. In as much as pain and suffering are opportunities to share Christ by deed, we should also remember that Christ preached accountability not only to God but also to our fellow humans. In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus speaks on the separation of the sheep from the goats revealing that the consequences in heaven are an outcome of actions on earth.
So as we start this year, a year that is full of change for many, change that is in a myriad of colors no less, let as remember that were we to trust God entirely, were we to embrace His commands, were we to sit by His feet and listen and apply His Word, were we to shed our arrogance and love Him, Truth then would have relevance and there would be no necessity for the proverbial rod.
To quote Publilius Syrus, Honesta turpitudo est pro causa bona; for a good cause, wrongdoing is virtous. Really? How does Syrus' maxim fit within the Christian framework? Is it mutually exclusive to the biblical worldview? Does the aphorism reconcile with Romans 8:28? One can argue yes and no, but I dare to argue that Publilius' adage is woven well within the Christian fabric as long as I do not serve as the arbiter, the judge & the jury.
A child endowed with omniscience as all children are, might view eating vegetables as wrongdoing, but his parent knows without the necessary vitamins found in the greens, the child will have health problems down the road. Thousands of people decried the USA's involvement in Europe during the 2nd World War, viewed the death of American troops a waste and America's crusade against Nazi Germany a misdeed. Similarly as depicted in the movie "Hotel Rwanda", was it immoral for Paul Rusesabagina to lie about the identities of his Tutsi neighbours and house them during the Rwandese genocide in the early 90s?
Further back, one can look at the horror described in the Bible as God orders Canaanites with their families and possessions destroyed and claim violation of basic human rights, wanton blood lust and thirst for power. That is until one swings back and looks at the Cross, where our Lord and Saviour was flogged, tortured, tried and crucified by an overzealous kangaroo court. However, the abject injustice, suffering & poignancy that the Cross reveals serves to ratify and buttress God's love for us. The end justified the means.
What then is our role as Christians in a world of constantly shifting morality? Are we to be relativistic in our definition of evil, suffering, wrongdoing? Obviously not. What the Bible clearly commands is to love our neighbour as we would love ourselves, meaning like the resented parent, like the selfless visionary leader, we have to inspire people to eat their lousy broccoli.
But those who hope in the LORD
Will sit in a BMW M3,
They will feel the warmth of anthracite and black leather upholstery
They will mount up on 18 inch M double spoke, satin chrome finish light alloy wheels like eagles;
Blessed are those who mourn,
for they will see Xenon Adaptive high-beam headlights with auto-leveling and cornering lights function
Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit 414 horsepower.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will feel the wind at 155 Mph.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not a BMW M3, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.
Those cars are enchanting, raw, alluring; the BMW M3 is the exquisite point when the multiple flavors of your favourite burger combine on your tongue, the first spoon of tres leches cake, the poignant muscular union of machine and man at its finest.
Can I afford the ride? Ehh ... nope. But Milele can; imagine Milele zipping across the infamous 5, 10 and 405 freeways in Los Angeles, taking a living Jesus to a dying world in that exhilarating machine; it would be such a great testimony; people would embrace the God of miracles, the God who has seen it fit to reward His humble servants with the car of their dreams. However, I doubt Mr. Jones over at the Internal Revenue Service would be as enthused. Or as gregarious. Or forgiving.
How are Christians then to respond to wealth and the finer things in life? Are we to shun those Christians who are wealthy? What about pastors who are millionaires? Are we to eschew wealth in general? I am no theologian but I would point out that Job was wealthy. So was Abraham. Solomon was a trillionaire - maybe. Joseph of Arimathea, a member of the Sanhedrin, the man who donated his tomb to bury Jesus, had more than a little bundle of cash at his local bank. Jesus' teaching about wealth in Luke 18 alludes not to wealth as being the complication but rather, the young ruler's fixation to it. As with anything in life, moderation is the key - our earthly desires should not take precedence over our heavenly prerogatives. We are, as Abraham was, blessed to be a blessing. Consequently, personal wealth should be a tool to alleviate evil, suffering and poverty in this world. Notwithstanding, like the widow at the end of Mark 12, we do not have to be affluent to impact the world.
I Kaima Mwiti, therefore solemnly swear, that I will freely give up my beloved BMW M3 whenever and wherever it is in my possession as the Lord requires me to. On condition that there is a newer model for me to replace it with.
Pasadena, California circa October 1999.
Halle Berry looked at me. She did. For at least ten minutes. I kid thee not. So I’m walking down Colorado Avenue for my date with chocolate malt shake from this “frou frou” over-priced, over-worked, over-hyped, over-massaged fast-food restaurant and a couple of hours with the latest Wilbur Smith Taita novel, when I just happen to look left. Right there and then, this elixir of beauty makes eye contact with me. At that point of course, in my youthful twenty-two years, I knew who she was – which virile good-looking young man like myself does not? – so you can imagine the perplexity coupled with irrational sanguineness that washed all over me.
To the foolish, hopelessly romantic, stalker-type idiot, this would be manna straight from heaven, but people know me as being urbane and I do know I’m cosmopolitan, so I opted not to walk up to this lovely creature and strike a conversation but to maintain the eye-contact, albeit not with the demented glazed stare but with a cocky, playful look that I’d read about somewhere – it really works wonders I hear, but I digress. So I walked past Berry, confidently knowing full well that if I would have wanted to, I would have ___________.
In reality however, that ___________ would have been impossible because the Halle Berry I saw on that balmy October afternoon was on a poster representing an obscure, irrelevant cosmetic product. But the good Lord knows that she looked good, and for a few seconds there, I would have sworn that I felt a connection with her! Some may say I was nitwitted but the fact of the matter is that we as humans imagine the impossible, see the incomprehensible, believe the illogical, and for whatever convoluted reason/s, untruths become axioms that govern our lives.
Christ calls us to use our minds even when it comes to our relationship with Him. Hebrews 11:1 gives us a definition of what faith is, the bottom line being we cannot have faith without evidence, the same way we cannot know we are loved unless someone shows us through words and action. A child may not understand a mother’s love but the child is unmistakably drawn to it. Christ demonstrated His love for us by taking on the sin of you and I by dying on the cross and living again on the third day. Consequently, His arguments for love, morality, heaven et cetera prior to and after His death and resurrection are not based on abstraction and sophistry; they are based on evidence of lives changed and fortified by the scars on His hands, feet and side.
The fundamental question we should then ask ourselves is; do we see what we believe or do we believe what we see?
Those of you who have kept abreast of Milele's growth, transformation and/or metamorphosis, do understand the gumption it takes to embrace change. As they say, paradoxically of course, the only constant is change. And any wise person will tell you that those who don't adapt get left far behind (take Cuba for instance). Our desire as a ministry therefore is to embrace change and consequently maturity. As we begin a new year, surround us with your prayers, encouragement and love as we strive not only to represent Christ, but also to practice true religion - to look after orphans and widows in their distress. Join us.
August, 25, 2006.
Have you ever tried to do something that you have never done before? There are many times we fear or refrain from undertaking new challenges for whatever reason. I am one person who vehemently abhors getting into something that i don't believe to be my forte. As a result when moments like those show up I tend to run rather than face the task. If you are there and have such a fear, please share and i will shed more light on what i am getting at. Have a blessed day, and if you can go out there and venture into something you have never tried go scuba diving, love on someone you don't like very much, try a new dish, try speaking in public, and see what happens.
Have an adventurous week.
July 22, 2006
We all have our pet peeves, those things that bug us about everyone else or that irritate us about life in general. Then there are those things that burn deeper within us, bigger things that we can't quite explain and we fear we can't change. These could be your holy discontents. If you aren't sure what yours are, here are a few questions that may help narrow it down.
What can't you stand?
What wrecks you most?
What makes your heart hurt?
My holy discontents are AIDS- and poverty-related injustice and mediocrity especially in Christian ministries.
The founder of World Vision International which is currently the largest Christian relief organization in the world wrote, "May my heart be moved by the things that move the heart of God."
When you find your holy discontents, feed them. Don't allow them to discourage you or give up. Paul says to Timothy in 2 Timothy 1:6 , "Fan into flame the gift of God which is in you..."
Let me know what your holy discontents are....
Talking of discontents check out this story of DJ Awadi's song, Sunugaal (Our Canoe). Click Here to read the story and Click Here to watch the video and listen to the song.
June 30, 2006
Do you ever wonder why we go through so much stuff in this life? Sometimes it appears to me like we followers of Christ seem to have a lot of strange, weird, bad things happening in our lives.
I once heard an analogy about trials and temptations that likened them to ingredients. A few months ago, I volunteered to make coffee cake for my family-in-law and my amazing mother-in-law decided to teach me. So I'm standing there looking at the recipe thinking to myself, "How do all these ingredients end up tasting good...and who thought of it?" If you were to taste the flour by itself, it would be disgusting; same thing about the eggs or any of the other ingredients. And yet I remember the great aroma after the cake came out of the oven, and the quick devouring that followed.
In the first chapter of his New Testament book, James wrote:
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything."
Are you wondering why you are going through stuff? The reason lies in verse four...that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. I've had to remind myself that 20 times this week.
Now go and face your ingredients.
Here are some comments on this devotion from some of our friends.
Wonderfully written, my friend. I like this piece very
It reminds me of my great uncle Kris, who was a POW (taken at the beginning of the Korean War) and was held captive for 35 months; marched from camp to camp so he could not be traced; was hardly fed or clothed; suffered more things that I could ever imagine and witnessed even more horrors than seems possible. Yet, we recently discovered a letter written by him after he was home again and recovering from starvation, parasitic infections and heartbreak. In this letter, dated June 1953, he wrote "Yes, God has indeed been good to me, and although I should not want to repeat the experience of these past thirty-five months for anything, yet, as I have said so often during these last months home, now that I have lived through it, I would not have missed it for a million dollars".
We all have our "stuff"... our ingredients...and instead of wasting so much energy being frustrated or complaining, I just so love this idea of using it instead to complete ourselves and to mature. Our sufferings help us to be compassionate. Without them, we cannot understand ourselves nor others around us.
I actually giggled a little when I read the part you wrote saying "I've had to remind myself that 20 times this week." -
The observation you have made is simple and therefore profound. I laugh at myself when I catch myself reminding, reinforcing and calming down from the unnecessary angst I put myself through. Its easy to take for granted that we are works in progress...
At the end of all these ingredients I hope I'm a yummy sponge cake with custard and strawberries...
This is a good thought that raises as many questions as it answers, and to me there is no better question. I've thought often about this idea "that we may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" and I find so much in those little words.
My first thought is that we are in fact complete. Maybe even perfect (the Bible tells about mankind being made in the image of God and that would be a perfect image, right?). I am not sure that our awareness has yet equalled our true nature. That IS maturity. So often we allow expectation to shade our experiences, and in it we see more of what we are not that what we are. And this is our immaturity.
James hits at a tough thought: do not dwell on your trials. We are made to be tested. I think its the only way we really ever learn.
Thanks for sharing this.
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May 12, 2006
"Surprises of the day"
A few years ago, I was going through a really hard time, some of which was the result of poor choices I'd made and some was just simply life. I lost 50 lbs, was very restless, slept only three hours a night and had a heart rate of 120 at rest. After seeing a medical doctor, I was diagnosed with Graves Disease, a hyperthyroid disease caused by excessive stress and anxiety. 1 in every 5000 American men have this disease so it is quite rare.
When people get sick, they often get very irritable and are not fun to hang around. As a result, most of my friends just disappeared and I hit rock bottom. Everything around me seemed to fail and most of all, I felt so alone.
I remember one day sitting at my desk in my bedroom looking out the window asking God to give me a sign that everything would work out. Almost every morning since I had moved into this apartment a small bird came to my balcony. The bird would just sit there looking at me and after a few minutes would fly away. On this particular day it was different. I remember hearing God say to me, "Look at this bird. I take care of this bird, I provide for all the needs of this bird...." This reminded me of the verse in Matthew 6:26, when Jesus says, "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?"
If God cares so much about the birds, he must be nuts about us. From that morning on I started looking for what I call "surprises in my day." I believe that God wants to speak to us through so many surprises but we have to be willing to listen and to look for these surprises. I have found these surprises in talking to a complete stranger on the plane, talking to an old man in the store, finally reading those annoying forwards that we receive and most of all listening to God speak through His Word, the Bible.
Go out and look for your "surprises of the day" and write to me, firstname.lastname@example.org
and tell me what they are.
March 14, 2006
I had the most interesting trip back to Wisconsin from
San Jose, CA on Monday. It started like most of my
return flights nowadays with an announcement by one of
the airline officials saying that there would be an
hour or so delay because of bad weather in the
Midwest. I was thankful that the delay wasn't more than an hour, unlike my previous flight from Los Angeles that was delayed for three hours. After a four-hour flight, I get to Chicago and the nightmare began.
First, my flight to Madison was cancelled with no
explanation and the only other available flight would
be leaving about five hours from then. I decided to go
on standby on three different flights to Milwaukee (about 70 miles from Madison) and hoped that one of them would work out. As I sat there waiting I enjoyed my favorite airport pasttime: people watching. If you haven't
done that you need to try it out sometimes. It can be
I remember seeing this woman who was maybe
in her sixties or seventies and you could tell that
she didn't do much flying. Her flight was delayed for
four hours and she was trembling and crying, not
knowing what to do. On another side of the room a man
was yelling at the airline official who was trying to
explain something to the customer and all around me
were people making phone calls to their loved ones
telling them that either their flight had been
cancelled or delayed. Then I noticed something to
the extreme left of the terminal: a group of about six young women holding hands and praying.
In the midst of all the chaos these young women got it.
They realized that this thing was out of their
control....yelling at someone or being so frightened
didn't quite solve anything but giving it to God did.
Philippians 4:6-7 says, "Do not be anxious about
anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And
the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
I know this is one of those things that is easier said
than done and that is why I am challenging you today
and for the rest of the week to practice this on a
daily basis in the midst of your crazy, chaotic life at
work, school, home or on the road.