i love mondays because it means we get to shut off the phone, step away from the pressures of ministry for a day, and connect together. this morning, shanna and i decided to do breakfast at panera (an amazing place that gives away their left over bread every day to people in need) in the morning. if you haven't had their cinnamon crunch bagels... you really need to try them! pure awesomeness...

after our plans for the rest of the day got juggled and shuffled a little, we decided to do a quick 9-holes. i played (if that's what you call it) while shan kept score and snapped pictures. how did i do? all i can say is that i threw away the scorecard!


lcc joint service 2010

today has got to be one of my favorite sundays here at lakeshore! each year for one service in the summer we join up with other area churches to visibly and publicly proclaim that we are united in Christ (we all preach salvation by grace through faith in Christ) and that we are not divided by cultural, ethnic, or racial boundaries. it's always such a refreshing experience!

today we shut down our youth services to make sure the teens didn't miss this. we were joined by 3 predominantly african-american churches: ark of jesus ministries, new way christian fellowship, and victory fellowship, as well as 1 messianic jewish congregation: Shema Y'Israel.

i snagged the video below of one of the opening songs - it's "I Know Who I Am" and was a song that our mozambique team sang a lot when we were in country a few weeks ago. it felt like we were back there...and it was all so right and good.


3 square meals

warning: rant coming...

people have been asking us all the time how the mozambique trip went... and one of my "short answers" is that it has changed the way i see everything. about 5 minutes ago i found a good example of that.

i was reading matthew 6:9-13 (the lord's prayer)... first in the new international version:

"This, then, is how you should pray: 'Our Father in heaven,hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts,as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.'"

but then i read it in the message (which i often like to do in order to get a different "feel" for the text):

"Our Father in heaven, Reveal who you are. Set the world right; Do what's best— as above, so below. Keep us alive with three square meals. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You're in charge! You can do anything you want! You're ablaze in beauty! Yes. Yes. Yes."

and now i'm angry. at what point did we as americans develop such an ethno-centric rendering of God's Word that we move the concept of "daily bread" to "3 square meals"?!?!?! truth be told...a lot of us americans (myself included) would do well to have a few less square meals every day so that we come to the realization that we actually can still survive, like many around the world. i mean, wow... does this mean that if i only get 2 full meals today that God's somehow not meeting my needs?!?!?!

i understand the need to contextualize the Bible into each specific culture and language - i'm a fan of Bible translation...but i guess my question is: have we gone too far with this phrase in the english... so much so that we actually have removed ourselves to a place that the MAJORITY of the world simply can't comprehend?


pillow fight

we were gonna do this on the flight back from mozambique, but we were all too tired...


book recommendation: UNchristian

a few weeks ago a friend had suggested the book UNCHRISTIAN by David Kinnaman to read. it's been a great read, and while i'm only part way in so far, it's already identified with much of my own experiences and conversations with people in the 16-29 age range. if you're at all passionate about reaching this emerging generation for Christ, this book will be well worth the 10 bucks.


a man named ZITO

God tends to use people in similar life experiences to sometimes have the greatest impact on us. On last year's trip to Mozambique, God introduced me to a man named Manuel, and he had a profound impact on me as the leader of the church plant out in the "bush" in a place called "Savane". I thought I worked hard as a pastor, until I met him and understood all the "extra" items on his plate each week.

This year the Lord introduced me to a man named Zito, the leader of one of the other church plants that I can't pronounce or spell. Me and a couple other team members visited their service one Sunday after attending church at the Villa. He was such a good preacher and spoke with such clarity and conviction. Lots and lots of gifts inside him, and I could sense a real heart to lead the people in authentic ways.

But it wasn't till after the service that I connected the Zito I just met to the Zito I read about a few months back on a CRI newsletter. Less than a year ago, he lost his wife to the dreaded malaria, and is still grieving that loss. I can't even begin to imagine the pain and devastation of losing your spouse, especially during the sometimes lonely times that church leadership hands you. He's now raising his 3 small children, keeping up on the house, all while continuing to lead and feed his church.

We stopped at his home once during the trip to pray for him, his family, and the church. And I lost it. Throughout the entire lengthy prayer session I couldn't keep my eyes dry. I don't understand why God allows good people like Zito's wife - a person "breathing so much life" into so many women and children in the area - to just pass away so young...and why He allows so many Americans who don't give a rip about Him to live a long life till their 80's.

I know it goes both ways in reality, but it still feels unfair. And I'm sure there's some tidy theological answer...that's not what I'm looking for. It's just tough to meet him knowing the pain he's enduring and the loss the church is still trying to compensate for.

processing from a place of hope

We returned on Tuesday of last week from our 3 week trip to Mozambique, fresh with great memories and at the same time heartbreaking experiences. On Thursday and Friday we attended the Leadership Summit at our church, an annual leadership training event that always encourages us and challenges our thinking. I was definitely curious this year to see how the moments of disequilibrium would pan out with the two events so close to each other.

One of the speakers, Christine Cain, spoke of her great work rescuing girls trapped in the sex trafficking / slave trade. At the beginning I just wanted to walk out. My emotions were about at their breaking point. I think I had come to a point where I saw so much pain, poverty, sickness, and hunger in Mozambique that I didn't want to hear about more injustice and insurmountable pain around the world. It just seemed too overwhelming and hopeless. But I kept listening.

She said something profound that has freed my mind and heart to process all of this. She was talking about her own process when she first got started in her work, and she identified with the same thoughts I was thinking. She threw out the number 27 million... 27 million girls involved against their will in the sex trade, most of whom don't make it out alive. All for money and to please a bunch of horny men. She admitted that the number just seemed too great...what can I, one person possibly do to help 27 million?!?!? And that's exactly the question I've been asking too.

And then she challenged us to not look at the big number "27 million" anymore. Let it motivate you to get involved. But once you sign on to get your hands dirty, set the number aside. Because the reality is that there are 27 million "1's" within that number. Individuals. Each with a unique name and face and personality. She shared how when we look at the big number we depersonalize the need and remove ourselves from a place of hope. But when we look at the "1's" it gives us hope that we really can make a difference.

I don't know about you but that changes the game entirely! I immediately thought of all the "1's" in the project in Mozambique who are being fed, clothed, educated, and discipled. And it's given me a framework in which to process through. Over tne next few weeks I hope to record some thoughts about some of the "1's" we met in Mozambique. Lives are truly being saved and individuals are really being delivered from the generational clutches of poverty. But you can't look at the big numbers to see it.


messed up

it's hard to believe that just 2 days ago we got back into rochester after spending 3 weeks in mozambique. in about an hour the leadership summit will begin here at the church. and tomorrow night as soon as it's done we'll be taking off for a week of vacation in VA. i'm feeling all kinds of emotions this morning and i feel really messed up...

i feel incredibly blessed and grateful for the opportunity to not only have so much ministry training (like the leadership summit) available to me all the time, but even more so to be on staff at a church that hosts this high caliber event (and to have a boss that would MAKE me attend if i didn't want to). this event is actually called the "global" leadership summit because the feed is being sent to sites all over the world... but my heart still breaks for the many places like mutondo, mozambique - where leadership training like this may never touch. maybe it doesn't need to ??? i'll never forget meeting with the men and church leaders at the church plant there in mutondo: their questions, their eagerness to learn, and their resolve to lead their village to Christ.

every now and then i'll be driving down the road or doing something normal and my eyes will tear up as i think about fernando, captain, afonzo, ercilio, augustino, ohmi, zito, manuel... and so many others. i miss our friends in mozambique so bad right now... and words can't describe the bond that's been forged. will i see them again? i hope that our trip validated their existence and encouraged them to continue on in their great work and to not give up.

on vacation i hope to be able to blog a lot more about what we saw and experienced in mozambique, as well as some of my takeaways from the leadership summit. hopefully that will help in the process of sorting all these emotions out in my head. it's hard right now.