Wednesday, March 28, 2012

We are prophets of a future not our own

Oscar Romero was assassinated 32 years ago this month. Some argue whether he actually spoke or wrote the prayer below, but either way, it is profound.

It helps now and then, to step back and take the long view. The kingdom is not only beyond our efforts, it is even beyond our vision. We accomplish in our lifetime only a tiny fraction of the magnificent enterprise that is God's work. Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us. No statement says all that could be said. No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness. No program accomplishes the church's mission. No set of goals and objectives includes everything.

This is what we are about: We plant seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces effects far beyond our capability.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of liberation in realizing that. This enables us to do something, and to do it very well. It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning, a step along the way, an opportunity for the lord's grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the difference between the master builder and the worker. We are workers, not master builders; ministers, not messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.


Friday, March 23, 2012

Why we do what we do. . .

"We can't love God unless we love each other. And to love we must know each other. We know Him in the breaking of bread and we know each other in the breaking of bread. And we are not alone anymore." ~ Dorothy Day

There is something very symbolic about food, . . breaking bread together. It transcends language and culture. We had a "leadership" meeting at our home amongst our friends from the Jubilee Food Pantry last weekend. It was amazing and remarkable. Simple too. We broke bread (well, actually not bread we had homemade and authentic posole and enchilades) with our amigos. It was really the first time that we had the opportunity to share our vision for the pantry: build community, love one another and enter deeper into the Kingdom. It was especially cool for me in that many of the husbands came with their wives, which is usually not the case on Tuesday evenings. As what I shared about our hopes and dreams with this community was communicated by one of the family's high school aged daughter, there were a lot of heads nodding and quite a few smiles. This is encouraging since many had no idea why exactly we do what we do ~ other than to love Jesus. I think the quote from Dorothy Day above sums it up very nicely and I will paraphrase: we cannot love God fully unless we are loving each other, we love each other by truly knowing each other, we can better know one another when we break bread together, when we break bread together we become community. Pretty simple and the posole was good!

Saturday, March 10, 2012


Don't have anything new to say on the subject, just thought I would tell folks a bit about our philosophy of tithing. Many may see it as faulty, that's OK. For years, we gave 10% directly to our local church. It was regular and consistent and it stretched us financially. Yet the past 3 years we have felt led to find ministries that directly support the lives of those in poverty. We have been able to give to different ministries and churches that we came across while traveling in 2008-2009. It has been a blessing to us to be able to reconnect with others in the Kingdom who are doing similar work and that we have admired and looked up to as lovers of Jesus. Our reasoning has not been because we don't believe churches do good things for the Kingdom, but rather that we believe that the money God has blessed us with needs to go directly to the poor. It is clear that one of the mandates that both God and Jesus gave was that of giving to the poor. As John the Baptist said: "If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry." It is also clear that for centuries, the early church took the same approach by giving over 90% directly to the poor rather than to salaries and building leases.

Much of our decision to shift away from giving to our local church was based off of writings such as:

EMBEZZLEMENT: THE CORPORATE SIN OF CONTEMPORARY CHRISTIANITY?: An Examination of How Local Congregations in the Early Church Spent Their Money and the Implications for Us Today by Ray Mayhew

It is a 26 page PDF, so it will take some time, but I highly recommend this biblical overview of tithing and the early church.

We have also chosen to use a portion of our tithing money to meet the immediate needs of those who we are in relationship with. We call it "relational tithe." It is a blessing and a joy to be able to meet some of the needs of those around us.

Lastly, and this isn't anything new, it was discussed by Ron Sider in his 1970s Christian classic Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, the graduated tithe is a very simple system to follow that allows for us to live at a basic level and increase our giving based on our increased salary / income. Here is a quick overview:

1. You set a starting amount or a base salary. The amount is often your current salary. The assumption is that if you are currently living on your income, you should be able to give away a larger amount of any increase you receive.

2. Commit to increasing the percentage of your giving each time you get an increase in your salary. The easiest way to do this is to increase your giving for every $1,000 you earn beyond your base salary. Again, for simplicity, you can give an extra 5% per $1,000 you make above your base salary. Per $1,000 annual increase, you increase your tithe by 5%, then 10%, then 15%, then 20% …

Just a few thoughts.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

My Hobby

I have come to realize that collecting and filtering vegetable oil has become a hobby. I have been doing this since 2008 when we began traveling with Mustard Seed Ministries and I just couldn't stop. I have been working on the filtering system that I have set up on our side yard since last summer, and it works really well thus far. I have 5 different locations that I pick up used vegetable oil from, one on a weekly basis, the others call me when they need the space. I walked out of a convenient store last week with around 30 gallons, which with the cost of diesel at $4/gallon, that will save me about $120. I have calculated the amount we plan to use this summer with trips to California, Eastern Oregon and Seattle and figure that whatever surplus veggie oil we have in September I can sell for around $2/gallon. That will free up a lot of extra cash to develop projects and purchase products that will help those in our community. But beyond the financial aspect of filtering my own fuel is the fact that my carbon imprint has been significantly reduced. Check out the video: