Tuesday, January 29, 2008

P-Town Thru KC

Leaning on Proverbs 16:9, "In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps," we set an estimated departure time for June 16th, 2008. We will be first heading to Boise, Idaho for a few weeks, and on July 1st begin the journey north to Kelowna, BC for the wedding of our friend Bahati on July 12th. On to Calgary, Alberta for 2 weeks, then Denver, Co. in late July and early August. We will then head east to Kansas City, Mo. in mid August. We will continue east from there, but this is the extent we are "planning."

What exactly will we be doing? Listening. Serving. Loving. Following God. The Lord is making it clear that we need to be open to anything. We plan to connect with ministry organizations, churches and other groups in Boise, Calgary, Denver, Kansas City and in between, but mainly we just want to show people that God loves them by demonstrating the love He has overflowed on to us.

I know, I know, this is way too vague for most of you. I would love for it to be more concrete too, but that usually isn't the way God operates. I envision us volunteering with organizations that serve the poor and marginalized. I see us working on our own to reach out to the homeless who live in the areas we come across. However, our prayer is to live like the early apostles: to spread the "good news." What exactly does that mean? Nearly every time Jesus or the disciples mention "spreading the good news," they also add "to the poor."

"The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me,
because the LORD has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
to proclaim freedom for the captives
and release from darkness for the prisoners."

Isaiah 61:1

Many on the streets of America are tired of "hearing" about Jesus, they want to see Him move. We plan to "do" what He has anointed us to - spread the good news to the poor - what that is exactly going to look like only God knows.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Our Mission Statement

We went downtown again yesterday. Fed probably 60 or so people, gave out countless blankets, sleeping bags, jackets, sweatshirts, and sandwiches to take with them. After set up, I went out on what my buddy Ross would call a "sortie" - to find men and women who could use a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee. The first guy I came across was a man named Michael. He had a little dog with him named Gidget. We asked him if he would like some home-made soup and a cup of coffee and he said that sounded great. He began walking over and we continued on the other direction to find more "homies." When we got back to our little sanctuary under the Burnside Bridge I struck up a conversation with Michael. He said him and God had a "falling out, if you want to call it that." I dug a little deeper and he said that after 19 years in a church in Billings, Montana he had fallen on hard times and had lost his job and was in the process of losing his house. He went to his church for help and they said they couldn't do much for him. So, he quickly became homeless, angry and bitter. Tired of the chilly snow storms in Montana, he headed west. He had been in Portland for 4 months and was a cook still looking for a job.

After 30 minutes or so of conversation, I could tell that Michael was a kind man with a big heart, one who put others first. Take for example his dog, Gidget. He could easily qualify for a bed at the Rescue Mission, but he refuses because they will not take Gidget, and he is unwilling to leave her out on the streets or give her up to an animal shelter, so he takes care of her and she takes care of him (she sleeps at the end of his sleeping bag and keeps his feet nice and warm). He said he hadn't eaten in a day and a half, but his dog had a full belly and plenty of food in his pack - he would give you a look like he was extra serious, turning his head slightly sideways and look at you mostly through one eye - "she eats first, period." Michael is loved by God.

Michael is angry at the people in his church in Billings, but he is also angry at God. He blames the church, what he called "God manifest on earth," for not being there when he needed them. Michael's anger is displaced. So how do we reach people like Michael?

You can't shove the Gospel down Michael's throat, he has heard it all before. You can't tell a guy like Michael that God loves him, you have to show him that God loves him, you have to prove it to him.

Our "mission statement" of sorts, for our journey is "Bringing the love of Jesus to the poor and marginalized through life's basic necessities." I believe this is what Jesus wants for all of us, to bring the love of Christ to others through simplistic acts of kindness and love. So many of us just don't get it, we try to convince intellectually when what we should be trying to do is demonstrating tangibly. We over-think things, we make it too complicated and complex. Christ's mission statement was simple: "[part I] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. [part II] Love your neighbor as yourself.'

I'm not sure what Michael's church in Billings mission statement is, but if it is similar to Christ's, they aren't following it.

So how do we reach out to Michael? We give him a cup of coffee, we listen to his story, and we pet his dog. Hopefully, all of this whispers from the depths of his soul, reinforcing something he already knows - "my God loves me." I pray that Michael knows this tonight.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Satan's Crappy Plan

I was having a conversation with my wife today about the movie Amazing Grace, the story of William Wilberforce and his fight to end the slave trade in England during the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Wilberforce was a great man, and I think the movie was very good, but I kept thinking throughout the movie that there was a better story imbedded in this one, one of evil turned good, one of flesh overturned by the righteousness of Jesus, one that showed the true power of Christ, one of "amazing grace." That is the story of John Newton, the slave ship captain who brought literally thousands of Africans, shackled and naked to the shores of North American along the Triangle Trade routes of the Atlantic. As his ship was sinking during a violent storm, Newton prayed for God to save him. Newton lived, accepted Christ, but continued to captain slave ships. Eventually he became an Anglican priest, renounced the slave trade and completed the hymn "Amazing Grace," which is probably what he is most known for.

Amazing grace, how sweet the sound
That sav’d a wretch like me!
I once was lost, but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

To me, knowing the history behind the lyrics, gives a better understanding and deeper meaning to my own life. (See, there is a reason to study history!) I have a story of redemption and grace as well. My wife, also has an amazing story which nearly brings me to tears every time I read it, or hear it (if you want to read it, click here). We all have a story, a testimony of what God has done in our lives.

I began thinking of the Parable of the Sower a couple of days ago and then a speaker in church today mentioned it again, so I am taking it as God prompting me to write out my thoughts. The birds who come and eat up the seeds that the farmer is sowing represent trials, sins, poor choices, or even the Evil One himself, attempting to steal God's harvest. But what happens when a bird eats seeds off the ground? Eventually the bird craps it out and many times, completely unintentionally, the seed finds its way back to good soil, and now with a little fertilizer. The seed sends down roots, grows strong, yields a crop, and has a story to tell his children. Life’s trials get to us, but God allows it to strengthen us (see the book of Job), we make poor decisions, we sin, but God allows us to be redeemed (see King David). The greatest part of this version is that Satan, the thief, the liar, the Lion who comes at night to kill and devour thinks he has foiled God’s plan for you, but everything works for the good of the Lord, Satan crapped you out and gave you a story to share with possibly thousands of people who could be impacted by your life and could change the course of history and add to the Kingdom – ALL in God’s plan!
Take John Newton. Satan was doing exactly what he believed would do the most damage to God’s plans. Eventually, God uses Newton to inspire William Wilberforce to end the slave trade, and his story is portrayed in the lyrics to possibly the most famous Christian hymn of all time, impacting literally millions more.

Thro’ many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come;
’Tis grace has brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.

Monday, January 14, 2008


I have talked about our "big board" before, the huge sheet of white paper in our dining room that we put down ideas and remarks about our upcoming trip. It is mostly a way for us to organize our thoughts. Some friends of ours, Seth and Amy, were over a while back for dinner and Seth started laughing about something we had written down. "Your not sure if you want to convert people" he said, looking puzzled. "Yeah, we want to convert people, that is why we are going, so people see the love of Jesus and can't resist it," I responded. He pointed to our big board where I had written some things down about whether we should convert our diesel RV to run on vegetable oil. On it, in black sharpie, it read: "Convert or not convert? Conversion is not cost effective, however, it is better for God's environment and it will allow for more conversations with people."

I just got done reading a biography on Francis of Assisi. Very interesting, I can't necessarily comment on Francis, I am still processing, but I can say - very interesting. In one section the author, Donald Spoto, comments on conversion as something that is a process more than an event, "to covert is to embark on a process." I believe one of the great myths of Christianity is that everything will instantly change when they "convert," people mistakenly believe that it is an event, not the beginning of a mysterious, and sometimes arduous journey. Conversion is a process, a constant search for the heart of God. He may reveal things to you in one area then expose you in another. You may be able to turn over one area of your life completely to Him, when He is really asking for some other corner. All of this humbling you to the understanding of your need for God. Molding and shaping you into a vessel in which His will is done. "This cannot be achieved by a single act of will, nor does it occur in a day, or after a single event," Spoto says. It is simply - consistently responding to God, who invites us to know Him deeper in subtle and sometimes subversive (and always radical) ways.

As Spoto continues: "We begin to acknowledge, accept and know God -- always imperfectly and darkly -- when we seek to be free of our idolatry of self, love others unselfishly and accept our existence as meaningful, despite its unmanageability. When we renounce our fear of life and give up trying to have it under our control -- that is, when we acknowledge our contingency and utter dependence on God -- then God comes to us and turns us toward Himself. Seen in this light, conversion means not only a turning away from one's past but entrusting oneself to the unexpected, uncharted way into the incalculable future in which God comes to us."

I want to continue my conversion by following the one true God, whom I can trust, into an unexpected, uncharted and incalculable future.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Miniature Earth

Just in case some of you have never seen this, it is pretty cool, check it out:


Puts things in perspective.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Obe Won Kenobi

One of our prayer requests has been that someone would adopt our dog Kenobi when we leave for our trip. I'll admit, Serenity has been praying harder for this one. I love this guy. He is my best buddy and even though I don't have as much time for him as I should, I still love him and it would be very hard for me to give him up. I am actually working on Serenity to possibly take Kenobi with us - he offers a lot of things, mainly protection on the road, and would be a great icebreaker when approaching the homeless ;) Right?

That being said, I do desire a better home for him, someone with lots of acreage, and a love for dogs. Kenobi has one major flaw: 3 years ago he was attacked by some pit bulls (his fight-or-flight instinct kicked in, he fought and then ran towards the safest refuge) since that incident, he has not got along with other dogs. Got along is actually an understatement, he attacks most dogs he sees. He is awesome with kids however, and has never been aggressive towards any of our three. I think some of his anger towards other dogs is that he is trying to protect us. He is an Alaskan Malamute mixed with what we think is Australian Shepherd, and weighs in at a lean 128 lbs. We have had him since he was a puppy, and we both have a pretty deep connection with him.

My actual prayer is that someone would be willing to "temporarily" adopt him so that when we return we can reunite our long friendship! This family will need to be very flexible since we do not know exactly how long we will be gone, and "temporarily" might turn into "permanent."

You do not need to have Star Wars tattoos, or even like Star Wars, but it might be advantageous to keep the name. You also need to be willing for us to tell you "no" because we don't feel comfortable with your set-up, or because I was able to talk Serenity into the benefits of a 128 lb dog in a 30ft. RV.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Jesus showed up to our banquet

"Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous." - Luke 11:12-14

Jesus' words were the inspiration for the banquet we held yesterday for 32 homeless men and women from the Portland area. We had a wonderful group of volunteers who helped feed, gave of their clothes and time, cut hair, cleaned up messes, gave up their home for a day, and generally loved on people who have little or no hope.

Shane Claiborne, author of the book Irresistible Revolution, used the Indian word "namaste" which means seeing "the Divine within someone," or literally "I see God within you." The obvious connection here is that those who we blessed with our time and effort saw God within us, but that is not entirely true. Many did, one man who lost his wife in a car accident 5 years ago and has never recovered from the depression that set in, mentioned that he had seen a lot of Christians in his life, but we were the first to "talk the talk and then actually walk the walk." (This guy was very interesting, he had two degrees from Princeton (English and History) and was a high school teacher for years before the accident. His wife was African and he had traveled extensively.)

However, it was much easier to find Christ in these broken and hurting people. Jesus said, "whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me" (Matthew 25:40). Jesus was running around everywhere in Aurora, Oregon and we had the pleasure of serving Him, loving Him - face to face. This is the joy of serving the poor, especially when it is your calling.

Most of the 32 had some sort of story, some true, some not, but one thing I know is that God loves all of them no matter if they are living a lie or not. Many of the stories broke my heart, stories of tragedy, of death, of estrangement. Some of drug abuse and poor choices, some about how God has worked in their life, and some who question the reality of the Trinity and whether God truly exists. All of the stories reminded me how we all need a savior, how we are all broken and need Jesus to patch us up.

Not only did I see Christ in many of these people, I saw myself. Where I could have been if I would have made different decisions, or if I would have made the same ones, just at a different time. And that just drove my point home even more - we are not better or superior, we have nothing "figured out." As Brennan Manning writes in Ragamuffin Gospel, "we are all, equally, privileged but unentitled beggars at the door of God's mercy" Christ has just showered His love and blessing down on us and rather than hoard that we are pouring it out onto those who need it just as bad as we do. I like to use the term "voluntary redistribution:" because Christ is in us we choose to pass along (or redistribute) or Earthly goods to those who need them (or don't). Hopefully, this action will evoke the response of "namaste."