Moon Mission Cut Short

Well…it looks like my 6th grade Social Studies Moon Mission (see my previous post) will be cut short. A couple of weeks ago, the principal came to me and said that although she’d like to rehire me, the school district (BISD) would probably not allow it. The district must cut quite a few positions and everyone who is on a “limited term” contract (those of us who were hired mid-year) will lose their position in August. Without taking into account our teaching ability or our teaching team interactions, we will simply be replaced by other teachers who have been with the district longer.

I’m extremely disappointed. I don’t like the situation at all. I love my job, my coworkers, and my students. I feel like I really “fit” here that I’ve been able to make some great positive contributions during my short time at Rasco. I still hope BISD will be able to find a way to fund all the positions, but will also be watching other job openings carefully. Miranda and I have gone through this before, and we have learned to trust God. Ultimately, He is the only provider that we can truly count on and He has never let us down.

Please say a prayer for us as we board this roller coaster of uncertainty once again. . . Wait. . . There is no uncertainty in His hands, just an unknown path.

Troop Carrier or Luxury Liner?

In his book Radical, David Platt writes:

In the late 1940s, the United States government . . . construct[ed] an 80 million dollar troop carrier for the navy. The purpose was to design a ship that could speedily carry fifteen thousand troops during times of war. By 1952, construction on the SS United States was complete. The ship could travel at forty-four knots (about fifty-one miles per hour), and she could steam ten thousand miles without stopping for fuel or supplies. She could outrun any other ship and travel non-stop anywhere in the world in less than ten days. The SS United States was the fastest and most reliable troop carrier in the world.

The only catch is, she never carried troops. At least not in any official capacity. . .

Instead the SS United States became a luxury liner for presidents, heads of state, and a variety of other celebrities who traveled on her during her seventeen years of service. As a luxury liner, she couldn’t carry fifteen thousand people. Instead she could house just under two thousand passengers. Those passengers could enjoy the luxuries of 695 staterooms, 4 dining salons, 3 bars, 2 theaters, 5 acres of open deck with a heated pool, 19 elevators, and the comfort of the world’s first fully air-conditioned passenger ship. Instead of a vessel used for battle during wartime, the SS United States became a means of indulgence for wealthy patrons who desired to coast peacefully across the Atlantic.

Things look radically different on a luxury liner than they do on a troop carrier. The faces of soldiers preparing for battle and those of patrons enjoying their bonbons are radically different. The conservation of resources on a troop carrier contrasts sharply with the opulence that characterizes the luxury liner. And the pace at which the troop carrier moves is by necessity much faster than that of the luxury liner. After all, the troop carrier has an urgent task to accomplish; the luxury liner, on the other hand, is free to casually enjoy the ship.

The SS United States = The American church

Unfortunately, most churches in America resemble the luxury liner. Although God designed us to carry soldiers into battle, we’ve become more interested our own comforts during the journey – so much so that we’ve actually quit moving toward the battle! When you attend a service at the average church in America, you typically hear more about the programs/amenities you can find on the ship than you do about the mission which is ahead. I guess it is what they say it is: a service. Like the staff on a cruise ship, the church is there trying to serve it’s patrons/members. Unfortunately, those members are there selfishly “getting fed” and consuming those services when they should be thinking in terms of being transformed/trained by the Gospel so they can accomplish the mission of “serving the world” with the Gospel.

To borrow a phrase from James, “My brothers, this should not be so.” (James 3:10)

On the other hand, what if the church was coming together to equip it’s members/troops to take ground for the Kingdom of God? What if we didn’t have “services” but “training exercises?” What if we removed the luxuries from the church and focused on the mission? What if we saw our ultimate goal as sending troops into the world rather than catering to the whims of our members? What would it take to convert the luxury liners that we have into troop carriers again? What organizational changes do we need in order to make quick, in-the-heat-of-battle decisions? If we were to return to our “troop-carrying calling,” would the church be able to accommodate 15,000 soldiers who shared space as opposed to 2,000 patrons fighting for position and space? If we focused on this calling, would the church move at a faster pace unhindered by petty internal arguments?

Anyway, these were just a few of my thoughts after reading this section of Radical.

Man, Movement, Machine, & Monuments

Leigh Anne, Trey, Steve, & Miranda
Leigh Anne, Trey, Steve, & Miranda

Miranda and I got to hang out with some friends who are missionaries a few weeks ago. Trey and Leigh Anne are some of the coolest people I know. Anyway, during our time together, Trey and I had a great conversation and he said something I wanted to share with you. I’ve caught myself sharing it in a few conversations since then already. (That means it’s something I really latched on to.) I can’t remember where he got the info, but I know it’s not original to him either. Anyway, here it is:

The changes that take place in most organizations over time can be defined by these stages:

1. A Man on a Mission – is how things get started.

2. A Movement – is formed as this man and his mission attract/involve other people who are passionate about the same things.

3. A Machine – is built as the movement grows. The loose organization of people decides to be strategic in planning and sets standards for how they will operate.

4. A Monument – is ultimately formed as people begin to expect certain behaviors/services from the machine. Unfortunately, machines break. Many times (if leadership is not careful and intentional) the maintenance of the machine begins to take precedence over the original mission. Financial resources which originally were intended for the mission are spent to support the machine. (85% of the average church budget is spent inwardly.)

In Trey’s description, he also said that the man who shared these ideas with him made it his goal to never become a machine. A movement of many men on mission can become a revolution, but a machine. . . .

These are ideas worth passing along.What do you guys think?

A Quarter

Week 8 – Well, I guess I’m a quarter of the way now. Down to 227.5 lbs. I have lost 12.5 lbs of the 50 lbs that I need to lose – that’s a fourth of the way – 25%!! Since this is a lifestyle (and lifelong) change, and I’m only 9 weeks in, I figure I’m doing pretty well.

Last week was interesting. I didn’t eat well at all! I was on a mission trip with our youth and I ate anything and everything that I felt like eating. Sometimes (but not always) there were more healthy choices, but in general, I still just ate what I wanted. I knew that I was working hard and sweating like crazy on the work sites for large portions of the day, so my hope was that it would somehow balance out. Luckily, I was right. Even with the bad eating habits, I ended up losing another lb and a half. That puts me @ 227.5 lbs now. I wonder how much I would have lost if I had done well with the eating part too???

No pics this week – something is wrong with the camera. 🙁

Story as a Guide

story1If your life were made into a movie, would you want to go see it?

That was the tag line for a video series I just watched by Donald Miller (author of Blue Like Jazz) called “Let Story Guide You – Life is a Story. Make Yours Count.

It really resonated with me.

Using Biblical examples, Donald Miller describes the power of story for teaching and influencing others.

He suggests that most American Christians have been allowing others to write the stories that they live in and encourages them to write our own stories.

Every good story has four elements –

1. A good protagonist/hero/lead character,

2. a risky mission/worthy objective,

3. a conflict,

4. and a resolution.

After watching, I wondered if most of us have been so concerned about protecting our families from the conflict that we have forfeited our mission and purpose? The problem is that if we don’t have a good mission/purpose, then our story is not one that most people would want to watch – it’s a boring story if the mission isn’t important enough to require sacrifice and effort. Miller relates it to watching a movie about a guy who is trying to buy a Volvo – not a very worthy mission.

He goes on to describe a friend who had a troubled daughter. She was involved in drugs and had a boyfriend that her father did not approve of. After a long talk, his friend (the girl’s father) realized that there were two stories being offered to his daughter. She could live in the exciting, on the edge story with her boyfriend where she felt loved and accepted, or she could live in the story she was finding at home where things were sort of boring and she was ignored by her parents who seemed to be fighting all the time. Once he came to this realization, he decided to write a better story for his family. At a family meeting, he announced that together they would raise money for a $20,000 orphanage in Mexico. Conflict ensued since he hadn’t warned his wife. With the new story being offered, his daughter was intrigued enough to start searching for ways to raise money on-line. Within two weeks, she had broken things off with the boyfriend and was focusing her attention on getting outside of herself to raise money and serve that little village.

I wonder if this is why men hate church so much. I mean. . .think about the story offered to men by the church. It’s a story where the heros are the little old men who have been “faithful” to the church by sitting in their pews for 40 years. Where’s the adventure? Passion? Like most families, the church has been so concerned with protecting itself, that it has lost it’s purpose, it’s mission. What if the church was everything God had called it to be? A place where people are willing to sacrifice everything to take the Gospel to a hurting and dying world. Now that’s passion. That’s a story that men want to be a part of. That’s a story worth dying for.

What story will be told by your life? Will you live in God’s story or allow the world to write it for you? Is your life story a page-turner? Are you a strong protagonist/hero? Is your mission/purpose worthy of dying for? Is there sufficient conflict to make a great story? (Jesus says, we will be persecuted if we follow Him, so we should have conflict.) Are you hanging on to the promise of Scripture for resolution?

Arizona

Our mission trip to Arizona was amazing!!! We took 28 people to the Tohono Oodham Reservation to work with children doing VBS. Our youth had to learn to give their testimonies and present the gospel in order to attend. Once we arrived on the reservation we were split into 3 different groups who each traveled to separate villages to do ministry. My team went to the village of PiaOik (sounds like Bee-oik). Anyway, this village was abandoned by the Catholic church about 15 years ago and we were the first people to do any sort of official ministry in the village since that time. That means that some of the children we worked with had never heard the name of Jesus. Some had heard through their families, but unfortuantely, much of what they knew was a mixture of Catholicism and native tradition. Anyway, it was truly a pleasure to get to know these kids and to tell them about Jesus.

Bringing Light

For me, one of the biggest experiences happened the last day we were there. Well, it started the first day, with a little girl (3 yrs old) named Sadie peeking around the door of her house at these strange white people who were inviting her to VBS the next day. It was obvious that she was a little scared of us, but interested. The last day, as our van drove around the curve of the road, we could see Sadie, literally jumping up and down waving at us as we arrived. The transformation we saw in Sadie was a beautiful hint that we had certainly won her over and I feel confident that we had an impact on her. Sadie’s transformation was duplicated in each of the kids we worked with. Chelyssa, Listen, Jayden, Brent, Sidney, and Colin.

The Darkness

Life on the reservation was also very eye-opening. The average income is just under $7,000/year. (Lake Jackson FUMC averages $100,000/year) Most people didn’t have running water and still used outhouses. The kids only go to school 120 days a year (as opposed to our 180) which means that the few who graduate will still only have an 8th grade education. Many don’t graduate ’cause it’s sometimes a 2 hour bus ride to get to school. When they do graduate, they struggle at a college ’cause they’re so far behind academically and so most end up coming back to the reservation to live. The reservation is the largest crossing point for drug traffic and mexican illegals and so Border Patrol presence was everywhere. We also met the gang task force leader on the reservation. Because of the environment in which they live, gang activity is rampant. He has a staff of 4 in a huge area which has more gang activity than most states. The native religion worships a god called I’Itoi. He is believed to have led the Tohono people into this world from the underworld and when someone dies, he leads them back from the light into darkness.  They use a symbol of a man in a maze to depict it.

God is Sovereign

Interestingly enough, the grandfathers also speak of a time when their people worshipped the “Creator God.” They say that in those days (less than 100 years ago) the land was much more fertile – even describing walking through grasses that were waist deep. Today, however it’s just desert – dry, dusty, nothing but cactus. Anyway, they have a legend that says that when the Tohono people go back to worshipping the “Creator God” there will be “Streams in the Desert.” Isaiah 43:19 also speaks of Streams in the Desert when Jesus returns. It’s amazing to me that two totally different cultures are saying the same thing. God reveals Himself all the time in so many ways if we’ll just listen.

Anyway, all this is to say, that it was a great trip! We got to learn alot about the Tohono Oodham culture, and we got to tell them about Jesus. Our group also had the chance to bring a slip-n-slide to PiaOik the last day. The kids had a blast on it. In the desert, there was no grass so we slid across the concrete bastball court. We also had fun watchin fireworks on the fourth of July which were lit by hand about 50 yards from us – I kept wondering what would happen if someone accidentally knocked one over in our direction. We also had “Hampster Races” on a T.O. ranch one night. You’ll have to ask someone about that one.

Another Culture given the Gospel

I’m so glad that there are Christians all over the world who are trying to interpret the Gospel message to all sorts of cultures. I just discovered a new version of the Bible that’s written in the “Manga” format. For those of you who aren’t familiar – Manga is that Japanese animation that fills complete sections of your local bookstore.

I ordered a copy of the Manga Bible to use with the students in our church. It’s an interesting way to consider the scriptures and in general, it’s pretty accurate to the original. (There is certainly some creative license used, too.) Anyway, I just think it’s cool that like Jesus, the Gospel message is becoming more and more incarnate in different cultures.

Pretty cool animation of David and Goliath on the cover, huh?

UM ARMY

Our UM ARMY camp this year is using 1 Timothy 4:12 as their theme. It says, ” Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believes in speech, life, love, faith and purity.” This is a classic “youth ministry” verse which has been used for camps for years and years. It lays out really well to focus on each of the five examples for a week long theme too. (Anyway, I thought it was funny ’cause we’re studying Paul’s epistles right now at school too.) The director of the programs for the week sent me an e-mail asking me to put together a banner for each day’s theme. I used a program called the “rasterbator” (weird name huh?) to take the work I did on the computer and blow up the images to about 4 feet tall by 5 feet wide. The youth helped me put all the printed pages together today to make the large pictures. They turned out pretty well. Here are the images that we used. (I’ll attach them here tomorrow when I have the files.) UmarmyspeechUmarmyactions

Umarmylove_2 Umarmyfaith Umarmypurity

Welcoming or Welcomed?

Welcome I had a random thought today when I was in the shower. (The shower seems to be a good place to think.) Anyway, I’m not even sure why, but I was thinking about what it means to be a “Welcoming Congregation.” For some reason, that phrase “Welcoming Congregation” was in my head. I don’t know maybe it was an official title that my previous church was trying to obtain through some sort of higher organization, or maybe it was just a phrase someone used in a conference – I honestly can’t remember. Anyway, I think every church should be really good at welcoming, but I wondered this morning if we as the church might oughta strive for something else besides being a “welcoming congregation.”

Here’s what I was thinking: Instead of working towards being “welcoming,” what would the church look like if we worked towards being “welcomed?” Instead of focusing on welcoming the visitors that we have in church, what if we focused on being the visitors who were out and about the community serving others. Trying to be the kind of people that others would “welcome” into their lives. Instead of trying so hard to have our church services attract visitors so we could welcome them, what if we tried to be attractive people who sought to be welcomed? What if the church went to the community with blessings instead of blessing the community when they come to church?

Anyway, all this is to say: Lord, help me to be attractive and welcomed into the lives of the people I come in contact with. I truly want to be a blessing to others and it’s only by Your Spirit that this can happen. Fill me with You Spirit.

Check out this post too: 3rd Space