Friday, December 28, 2012

Thank You From Cru!

Thank you to those of you that partner with us in ministry to see the hope of Jesus Christ brought to people throughout the world! Please watch this short video to see some of the faces of those that represent our global ministry.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

A Prayer Of Peace For Us All

Photo Credit: Mr. Ducke
In the midst of troubled times, this peace prayer of St. Francis of Assisi is fitting:
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
and where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen"

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Why Missionaries Must Love The People They Are Reaching

With Impact student leaders in 2011
Ed Stetzer offers a challenging perspective to all Christians who feel called by God to reach out to a specific community. It is a mindset that of missions that I hope to live out in my own life and ministry.

He says this:
""Give me Scotland or I die!" That's what John Knox said of Scotland. I would say: To fall in love with your community, you have to die--to yourself, to the mission and to your own preferences. 
If you are going to reach a community, you need to be deeply in love with it. Jesus, looking down on Jerusalem, cried, "They are like sheep without a shepherd." We have to say the same, about Plainview, Philadelphia and Pasadena. I am convinced you will not reach a community for Christ unless you are deeply in love with the community and its people
I have often called for Christians in our world to think like missionaries in the Two-Thirds World. If you have ever been around a missionary, you know that the good ones all love the people they are sent to--they can't stop talking about the culture and context. 
When missionaries take up residence cross-culturally, they truly love the culture where they live, sometimes even more than the culture back home. In the same way, a person looking to minister in a specific community cannot be disinterested in it. If it is a fishing community, you had better love fishing or learn to love it. If the community has a high school football team, you had better keep up with it. If you are a church leader, the community and its people must have an important part in your heart. 
I think you and I need the same passion in our contexts--our own personal "Scotlands"--for the Gospel. 
Jesus demonstrated this very concept in His earthly ministry as He: walked with the people in His culture, lived with them, listened to them, told stories to them, welcomed their children, and recognized and met people's needs. 
Too many church leaders read a book or go to a conference and get a great vision of a church in their heads. The problem is, they don't have a great vision for their community. The catch here is that part of you often has to die. Your own preferences have to be laid down to receive Christ's call and mission to the community. I don't care what you like; I care that you love the Gospel and the people God has called you to reach."
While Stetzer words are true for any Christian hoping to reach out to a certain community, I believe it is especially true for those of us that minister cross-culturally. Above all else, a cross-cultural minister needs to live their life in a way that the people to whom they minister will never question either God's love for them or the love their experience by the missionaries serving their community. It's not enough to just love God...we must also love the people to whom he sends us.

To read the rest of Stetzer's post please click here.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

U.S. Colleges Recruiting More International Students

Photo Credit: Eastenhuh
From MSN News:
"Want to see how quickly the look and business model of American public universities are changing? Visit a place like Indiana University. Five years ago, there were 87 undergraduates from China on its idyllic, All-American campus in Bloomington. This year: 2,224. 
New figures out Monday show international enrollment at U.S. colleges and universities grew nearly 6 percent last year, driven by a 23-percent increase from China, even as total enrollment was leveling out. But perhaps more revealing is where much of the growth is concentrated: big, public land-grant colleges, notably in the Midwest. 
The numbers offer a snapshot of the transformation of America's famous heartland public universities in an era of diminished state support. Of the 25 campuses with the most international students, a dozen have increased international enrollment more than 40 percent in just five years, according to data collected by the Institute of International Education. All but one are public, and a striking number come from the Big Ten: Indiana, Purdue, Michigan State, Ohio State and the Universities of Minnesota and Illinois. Indiana's international enrollment now surpasses 6,000, or about 15 percent of the student body, and in Illinois, the flagship Urbana-Champaign campus has nearly 9,000 — second nationally only to the University of Southern California. 
To be sure, such ambitious universities value the global vibe and perspectives international students bring to their Midwestern campuses. But there's no doubt what else is driving the trend: International students typically pay full out-of-state tuition and aren't awarded financial aid. 
Public universities hit hard by state funding cuts "really are starting to realize the tuition from international students makes it possible for them to continue offering scholarships and financial aid to domestic students," said Peggy Blumenthal, senior counselor at IIE, the private nonprofit that publishes the annual "Open Doors" study. 
Nationally, there were 765,000 foreign students on U.S. campuses last year, with China (158,000) the top source, followed by India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia (the fastest growing thanks to an ambitious scholarship program by the Saudi government). Altogether, IIE calculates they contribute $22.7 billion to the economy, and many stay after graduation. For the first time in a dozen years, there were more foreign undergraduates than graduate students."
To read the rest of the article please click here.

(h/t to Trae Vacek for the link.)

Friday, November 09, 2012

It's Not 1951 Anymore: What Cru Can Learn From The 2012 Election

Photo Credit: jamesomalley
"Either [Republicans] press the snooze button on the Latino electorate and continue with an exclusive Southern strategy that is no longer applicable in a 21st century reality, or they have a 'come to Jesus' moment ... where they realize America has changed," Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference

The re-election of Barack Obama as president of The United States has served as a stunning wake-up call to many evangelical Christians that our country is different than what it used to be. No longer can a candidate focus their attention on the white population and win a presidential election and gone is the day where a candidate can ignore historically marginalized groups and still come out on top.

Here is the breakdown of how various ethnic groups voted in the election:
  • 39% of Whites voted for Obama. 59% voted for Romney.
  • 71% of Hispanics voted for Obama. 27% voted for Romney.
  • 93% of African Americans voted for Obama. 6% voted for Romney.
  • 73% of Asian Americans and other ethnic groups voted for Obama. 26% voted for Romney.
As I sat and watched the election results roll in on Tuesday evening, I heard much discussion of how Latinos (now numbering over 50 million in the U.S.) were affecting the vote. No longer feeling accepted by the Republican Party, over seven out of ten Hispanic voters chose to vote for President Obama. As a result of these shifts in voter preference, I believe we will see the Republican Party change. But why? Because they really care about ethnic minorities...or because they want more votes in order to retain the power they once held?

In reflecting upon these results, I can't help but think of how these current realities affect the ministry I work with, Cru. Being in existence for over 60 years, our reach has been widespread. Our ministries exist on well over 1,000 campuses across the U.S. and we have tens of thousands students involved. Countless lives have been changed and there's no doubt that God has done some great things through the work of Campus Crusade for Christ (now known as Cru). But with now nearly 40% of U.S. college students either American ethnic minorities or international students, our U.S. movements are still overwhelmingly comprised of students and staff members of European descent. It's not 1951 anymore.

Similarly to the identity crisis that the Republican Party is going through, our ministry is wrestling with the realities of the changes that we, as a largely white ministry, need to make so that ethnic minorities are effectively reached, equipped and empowered by the gospel truth that enables them to live out their faith as who God made them to be. Change is never easy...but change we must.

I've continued to work with Cru all these years because I believe our leaders and our staff genuinely care about giving EVERY student and faculty member an opportunity to respond to the love and forgiveness offered in Christ. I truly believe that we are committed to seeing students and faculty of color empowered as leaders that will not only impact their campuses but also their communities and the world.

However, I'm concerned that our unspoken motivation to see these changes may have more to do with how we feel about ourselves or what others think of us rather than being compelled by the love of God. We fear of becoming "irrelevant" in the eyes of others. We agonize over our "lack of diversity" and what universities may think of us. We become wrapped up in "white guilt" and minister to students of color because "we're supposed to." I'm worried that we will change just enough so that we can breathe a little easier when we evaluate ourselves.

Jesus did not come to live among us because of guilt or fear of what others might say or to do just enough to be satisfied. He was motivated by His furious love for us and His absolute commitment to the glory of His Father. Cru staff members share our faith with students of color for the same reason we share the gospel with white students -- because they matter to God. We trust God to plant movements among all ethnic communities because God receives the glory He deserves when His gospel flourishes among all peoples everywhere. We equip leaders of every culture (in the U.S. and around the world) because their contribution is needed in order for us all to thrive and for God's plans to be fulfilled everywhere.

For Cru to change, we must release our power and empower those that don't currently have it. We must humbly leave behind that which is comfortable for us so that others don't have to leave what is comfortable for them to hear about Jesus. We need to realize that our ways of doing things might not work in contexts we're unfamiliar with and we must be willing to learn from those who come from those contexts. We need to take some God-inspired risks to learn from and influence those that we've historically failed. 

Our country may be changing but God hasn't changed. He has always cared about people whether they represent 1% of the population or 100% of the population. So if we see the lives changed of massive amounts of white students but fail to effectively impact students of color, then we are simply not being who God has called us to be. I don't want us to become like a political party that only changes because it doesn't want to miss out on votes. I want us to change because we miss the heart of God if we don't.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Tim Keller on Sin & Idolatry

Photo Credit: johanmede
Pastor Tim Keller offers how he shares about sin with young, urban non-Christians:
"Sin isn’t only doing bad things, it is more fundamentally making good things into ultimate things. Sin is building your life and meaning on anything, even a very good thing, more than on God. Whatever we build our life on will drive us and enslave us. Sin is primarily idolatry. 
Why is this a good path to take? 
First, this definition of sin includes a group of people that postmodern people are acutely aware of. Postmodern people rightly believe that much harm has been done by self-righteous religious people. If we say “sin is breaking God’s law” without a great deal of further explanation, it appears that the Pharisaical people they have known are ‘in’ and most other people are ‘out.’ Pharisees, of course, are quite fastidious in their keeping of the moral law, and therefore (to the hearer) they seem to be the very essence of what a Christian should be. An emphasis on idolatry avoids this problem. As Luther points out, Pharisees, while not bowing to literal idols, were looking to themselves and their moral goodness for their justification, and therefore they were actually breaking the first commandment. Their morality was self-justifying motivation and therefore spiritually pathological. At the bottom of all their law-keeping they were actually breaking the most fundamental law of all. When we give definitions and descriptions of sin to postmodern people, we must do so in a way that not only challenges prostitutes to change but also Pharisees. 
There is another reason we need a different definition of sin for postmodern people. They are relativists, and the moment you say, “Sin is breaking God’s moral standards,” they will retort, “Well, who is to say whose moral standards are right? Everyone has different ones! What makes Christians think that theirs are the only right set of moral standards?” The usual way to respond to this is to become sidetracked from your presentation of sin and grace into an apologetic discussion about relativism. Of course, postmodern people must be strongly challenged about their mushy view of truth, but I think there is a way to move forward and actually make a credible and convicting gospel presentation before you get into the apologetic issues. I do it this way, I take a page from Kierkegaard’s The Sickness Unto Death and I define sin as building your identity—your self-worth and happiness—on anything other than God. Instead of telling them they are sinning because they are sleeping with their girlfriends or boyfriends, I tell them that they are sinning because they are looking to their careers and romances to save them, to give them everything that they should be looking for in God. This idolatry leads to drivenness, addictions, severe anxiety, obsessiveness, envy of others, and resentment. 
I have found that when you describe their lives in terms of idolatry, postmodern people do not offer much resistance. They doubt there is any real alternative, but they admit sheepishly that this is what they are doing. I have also found that this makes sin more personal. Making an idol out of something means giving it the love you should be giving your Creator and Sustainer. To depict sin as not only a violation of law but also of love is more compelling. Of course a complete description of sin and grace includes recognition of our rebellion against God’s authority. But I’ve found that if people become convicted about their sin as idolatry and mis-directed love, it is easier to show them that one of the effects of sin is to put them into denial about their hostility to God. In some ways, idolatry is like addiction writ large. We are ensnared by our spiritual idols just like people are ensnared by drink and drugs. We live in denial of how much we are rebelling against God’s rule just like addicts live in denial of how much they are trampling on their families and loved ones."
To read more of his article please click here.

Friday, November 02, 2012

My All-Time Baseball Team

Baseball has often been referred to as America's pastime and, as such, it carries a rich history. Perhaps unlike any other sport, fans and historians alike remember the great players of yesteryear, along with the legendary statistics of the game. 56, .406, 4,191, and 755 are all numbers that even casual baseball fans recognize.

As with any sport, it is difficult to compare players from different eras due to changes in the game and to its athletes. With the recent "steroid era" that Major League Baseball is just now emerging from it makes it even more challenging. But here I have attempted to compile my all-time baseball team.

The roster is comprised of a squad of 25 players, with starters listed first and backups at each position. I've attempted to place personal biases aside (which is why you won't see any '84 Tigers yet so many Yankees on the list) and to examine not only career statistical output, but also how a player compared to his peers during the era in which he played. For this list I've decided to include players from the steroid era if they dominated relative to others that played at the same time.

Any list like this will obviously leave out some worthy candidates. But with only 25 slots, there will be some great players not included. Without any further adieu, here's my roster along with some pertinent statistics & awards: (Note: This list was last updated upon the completion of the 2012 season)

Catcher
Yogi Berra (.285 BA, 2,150 hits, 358 HR, 1,430 RBI, 15-time All-Star, 3 MVP's, 13-time world champion)

Johnny Bench (389 HR, 1,376 RBI, 14-time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, 2 MVP's, 2-time world champion)

First Base
Lou Gehrig (.340 BA, 493 HR, 2,721 hits, 1,995 RBI, 7-time All-Star, 2 MVP's, 2,130 consecutive games played, 6-time world champion)

Jimmie Foxx (.325 BA, 534 HR, 2,646 hits, 1,922 RBI, 9-time All-Star, 3 MVP's, 2 world championships)

Second Base
Rogers Hornsby (.358 BA, 2,930 hits, 301 HR, 2 MVP's, 6 batting titles, 1 world championship)

Joe Morgan (2,517 hits, 268 HR, 689 stolen bases, 10-time All-Star, 2 MVP's, 2 world championships)

Third Base
Alex Rodriguez (.300 BA, 647 HR, 1,950 RBI, 2,901 hits, 15-time All-Star, 3 MVP's, 2 Gold Gloves, 10 Silver Sluggers, 1 world championship)

Mike Schmidt (548 HR, 1,595 RBI, 2,234 hits, 12-time All-Star, 10 Gold Gloves, 3 MVP's, 6 Silver Sluggers, 1 world championship)

Shortstop
Honus Wagner (.327 BA, 3,415 hits, 1,732 RBI, 8 batting titles, 722 SB, 1 world championship)

Cal Ripken, Jr. (3,184 hits, 431 HR, 1,695 RBI, 19-time All-Star, 2 MVP's, 2 Gold Gloves, 8 Silver Sluggers, 1 world championship)

Outfielders
Babe Ruth (.342 BA, 714 HR, 2,873 hits, 2,217 RBI, 2-time All-Star, 1 MVP, 94 wins & 2.28 ERA as a pitcher, 7 world championships)

Hank Aaron (.305 BA, 755 HR, 3,771 hits, 2,297 RBI, 25-time All-Star, 1 MVP, 3 Gold Gloves, 1 world championship)

Willie Mays (.302 BA, 660 HR, 3,283 hits, 1,903 RBI, 20-time All-Star, 2 MVP's, 12 Gold Gloves, 1 world championship)

Ted Williams (.344 BA, 521 HR, 2,654 hits, 1,839 RBI, 17-time All-Star, 2 MVP's, .482 OBP)

Ty Cobb (.367 BA, 4,191 hits, 1,938 RBI, 892 SB, 1 MVP, 12 batting titles, 54 steals of home)

Stan Musial (.331 BA, 3,630 hits, 475 HR, 1,951 RBI, 24-time All-Star, 3 MVP's, 3 world championships)

Barry Bonds (.298 BA, 762 HR, 1,996 RBI, 2,935 hits, 514 SB, 14-time All-Star, 7 MVP's, 8 Gold Gloves, 12 Silver Sluggers)

Mickey Mantle (.298 BA, 536 HR, 1,509 RBI, 2,415 hits, 16-time All-Star, 3 MVP's, 1 Gold Glove, 7 world championships)

Pitchers
Walter Johnson (417 wins, 2.17 ERA, 3,508 strikeouts, 110 shutouts, 531 complete games, 2 MVP's, 1 world championship)

Cy Young (511 wins, 2.63 ERA, 2,803 strikeouts, 7,354 innings pitched, 740 complete games, 76 shutouts, 1 world championship)

Roger Clemens (354 wins, 3.12 ERA, 4,672 strikeouts, 11-time All-Star, 7 Cy Youngs, 1 MVP, 2 world championships)

Warren Spahn (363 wins, 3.09 ERA, 2,583 strikeouts, 14-time All-Star, 1 Cy Young, 1 world championship)

Christy Mathewson (373 wins, 2.13 ERA, 2,502 strikeouts, 79 shutouts, 434 complete games)

Mariano Rivera (608 saves, 2.21 ERA, 1,119 strikeouts, 12-time All-Star, 3x MLB saves leader, 5 world championships)

Dennis Eckersley (197 wins, 390 saves, 3.50 ERA, 2,401 strikeouts, 6-time All-Star, 1 Cy Young, 1 MVP, 1 world championship)

So there's my all-time 25 man baseball team roster. What changes would you make?

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Fun 2012

My Power Ranger, Ninja, Katniss (Hunger Games) & Hawkeye (The Avengers)

Me dressed as a middle-aged, white dad

Our Pumpkin Creations: The Avengers Logo & Hunger Games Mockingjay

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

One Christian's Response to Halloween

Photo Credit: -Snugg-
Looking back on my childhood of the 70's and 80's, I seem to remember that nearly everyone, Christian or non, participated in Halloween. When I was a kid, the only family I remember that didn't recognize Halloween was a very strict Catholic family that lived across the street from us. We children thought it rather odd that they didn't give out candy and we especially enjoyed knocking on their door all night knowing that, though the lights were off, they were certainly home.

In recent years, there has been an increasing trend within communities of faith to not have anything to do with Halloween or to offer an alternative party on church property.  Although I do respect Christian families and churches that choose not to participate in Halloween at all or provide another option for how to celebrate the holiday, I do wonder if there is a different perspective on it. Here's a thought provoking article that I read a number of years ago in CCM Magazine by a favorite writer of mine, John Fischer:
What will you do this Halloween? Fearing the worst on an evening many Christians believe celebrates the wiles of the devil, some will choose to have no part in the traditional neighborhood trick or-treating that accompanies the 31st of October formerly known as All Hallow’s Eve.

This boycott of neighborhood dress-up and doorbell ringing is relatively new on the Christian scene, at least in my experience. As a child in an evangelical Christian home, I was right in there with all the other gremlins and witches on our block trying to scare as many Snickers bars as I could out of our neighbors’ stashes and into my bulging pillow case. And you can be sure that every home on my block was always duly prepared to be scared by us.

The anti-Halloween movement among Christians didn’t catch my attention until after my own kids had outgrown this annual neighborhood siege. So you can imagine the shock and surprise on the face of the pastor’s wife who came up to me after a talk on Christian worldview I gave last November and wanted to know what I did with my children on Halloween. When I told her I helped them into their costumes, put on a monkey mask, turned up “Ghostbusters” on the stereo, and hit the streets with the express purpose of scaring all the neighborhood ghosts and goblins before they scared me, her face turned white. Apparently what was okay for my parents in 1958 and me and my wife in 1988 was no longer acceptable Christian behavior in 1998.

The more acceptable Christian thing to do on Halloween now is to close up the house and have an alternative party for our kids at church. This is usually around a harvest or a biblical character theme--no ghosts or goblins allowed. Though I understand how this safer alternative came to be, I wonder whether a blanket boycott is the only way to handle this controversial holiday. Is this just one more time when we Christians isolate ourselves from culture for religious reasons apparent only to us? Have we really thought through what our dark houses are saying to the rest of the block? While we’re off having our alternative party, I can hear the neighborhood kids shuffling by our house, saying, “Don’t go there, they don’t give anything.” Is this what we want to be known for in the community--a dark house on the one night you can be guaranteed neighbors will visit?

My kids are older now but when they were little, Halloween in the Massachusetts town they grew up in was nothing short of an informal neighborhood progressive party. I’d start out with my immediate neighbor and his kids and then run into other parents standing outside other houses. Soon we were a small crowd making our way up and down the street while tired little feet slogged through the fallen leaves of October. By the time the kids had filled their bags, I had been in and out of a number of homes, met people I never knew, started some relationships and renewed others. Meanwhile my wife was home dumping huge handfuls of candy into open bags, raving over costumes, inviting kids to come back and visit whenever they wanted, and entertaining other parents that I missed. It was a major community event and opened many doors for fruitful relationships we were able to continue the rest of the year.

Not to diminish the reality of spiritual warfare--something to be taken seriously by all believers--but the last day of October is not a spiritual battle any more than any other day. If Satan comes out on Halloween, he doesn’t go back into hiding the next morning. Whether the origins of Halloween are pagan or otherwise, what we have today is a culture-wide event that glorifies pretending more than the underworld. It’s actually one holiday that adults haven’t taken over--the one time kids get to “be” whatever they want to be. Our participation--or lack thereof--in such a popular, cultural event is only indicative of our ability to have a good time with silliness, not a measure of our standing in a fight between good and evil. If Satan wins anything on this day, he may win more through the darkened homes of Christians than anything else.

The truth is, Christians never have anything to fear--on this night or any other--or God is not God and His promises are not true. What we should be concerned about is a retreat from our homes, when, more than any other time, it’s important to be there with our lights on and a bowl full of treats near the door. If there is a darkness on Halloween night, I, for one, am going to at least make sure that it will not be on my block, at my house."
My family does choose to take part in the fun and celebration of Halloween.  We do not glorify the darkness and death that some choose to emphasize during this season but we do try to take this small window of opportunity to engage with our neighbors and the culture at large.  However you decide to handle Halloween this year, I hope you have a great time with family and friends.

For another perspective that touches on some of the Christian origins of what we now know as Halloween, please click here.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Chens Tell A Beautiful Story of Adoption

One of the most moving aspects of becoming a Christian is the experience of having been adopted as a child of God. Adoption provides a beautiful example of what it means to demonstrate God's love in a meaningful and lasting way. Our friends, Dennis & Carita Chen, enjoyed the privilege of having aspects of their adoption journey captured on video. The video takes less than nine minutes and I promise you that your eyes won't be dry after seeing them meet their son, Jacob, for the first time. You can watch it below or by clicking here.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Debt Is On The Rise For College Graduates

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012
From USA Today:
"It's the latest snapshot of the growing burden of student debt and it's another discouraging one: Two-thirds of the national college class of 2011 finished school with loan debt, and those who borrowed walked off the graduation stage owing on average $26,600 - up about 5% from the class before. 
The latest figures are calculated in a report out Thursday by the California-based Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) and likely underestimate the problem in some ways because they don't include most graduates of for-profit colleges, who typically borrow more than their counterparts elsewhere. 
Still, while 2011 college graduates faced an unemployment rate of 8.8% in 2011, even those with debt remained generally better off than those without a degree. The report emphasized research showing that the economic returns on college degrees remain, in general, strong. It noted the unemployment rate for those with only a high school credential last year was 19.1%. 
"In these tough times, a college degree is still your best bet for getting a job and decent pay," said TICAS President Lauren Asher. "But, as debt levels rise, fear of loans can prevent students from getting the education they need to succeed. Students and parents need to know that, even at similar looking schools, debt levels can be wildly different. And, if they do need to borrow to get through school, federal student loans, with options like income-based repayment, are the safest way to go."
To read the rest of the article please click here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

What Sign Language Teaches Us About Culture & Language

Photo Credit: pennstatelive
This article from Frances Stead Sellers of the The Washington Post offers some fascinating insights about the influence that culture has on how deaf people express themselves through sign language.

She says this:
"Carolyn McCaskill remembers exactly when she discovered that she couldn’t understand white people. It was 1968, she was 15 years old, and she and nine other deaf black students had just enrolled in an integrated school for the deaf in Talledega, Ala. When the teacher got up to address the class, McCaskill was lost. “I was dumbfounded,” McCaskill recalls through an interpreter. “I was like, ‘What in the world is going on?’ ” 
The teacher’s quicksilver hand movements looked little like the sign language McCaskill had grown up using at home with her two deaf siblings and had practiced at the Alabama School for the Negro Deaf and Blind, just a few miles away. It wasn’t a simple matter of people at the new school using unfamiliar vocabularly; they made hand movements for everyday words that looked foreign to McCaskill and her fellow black students. 
So, McCaskill says, “I put my signs aside.” She learned entirely new signs for such common nouns as “shoe” and “school.” She began to communicate words such as “why” and “don’t know” with one hand instead of two as she and her black friends had always done. She copied the white students who lowered their hands to make the signs for “what for” and “know” closer to their chins than to their foreheads. And she imitated the way white students mouthed words at the same time as they made manual signs for them. 
Whenever she went home, McCaskill carefully switched back to her old way of communicating. 
What intrigues McCaskill and other experts in deaf culture today is the degree to which distinct signing systems — one for whites and another for blacks — evolved and continue to coexist, even at Gallaudet University, where black and white students study and socialize together and where McCaskill is now a professor of deaf studies. 
Five years ago, with grants from the National Science Foundation and the Spencer Foundation, McCaskill and three fellow researchers began to investigate the distinctive structure and grammar of Black American Sign Language, or Black ASL, in much the way that linguists have studied spoken African American English (known by linguists as AAE or, more popularly, as Ebonics). Their study, which assembled and analyzed data from filmed conversations and interviews with 96 subjects in six states, is the first formal attempt to describe Black ASL and resulted in the publication last year of “The Hidden Treasure of Black ASL.” What the researchers have found is a rich signing system that reflects both a history of segregation and the ongoing influence of spoken black English."
To read the rest of the article please click here.

(h/t to Racialicious for the link.)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Becoming Broken Bread and Poured Out Wine In God's Service

Photo Credit: spiritedbebop
From Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest:
"We take our own spiritual consecration and try to make it into a call of God, but when we get right with Him He brushes all this aside. Then He gives us a tremendous, riveting pain to fasten our attention on something that we never even dreamed could be His call for us. And for one radiant, flashing moment we see His purpose, and we say, “Here am I! Send me” (Isaiah 6:8). 
This call has nothing to do with personal sanctification, but with being made broken bread and poured-out wine. Yet God can never make us into wine if we object to the fingers He chooses to use to crush us. We say, “If God would only use His own fingers, and make me broken bread and poured-out wine in a special way, then I wouldn't object!” But when He uses someone we dislike, or some set of circumstances to which we said we would never submit, to crush us, then we object. Yet we must never try to choose the place of our own martyrdom. If we are ever going to be made into wine, we will have to be crushed—you cannot drink grapes. Grapes become wine only when they have been squeezed. 
I wonder what finger and thumb God has been using to squeeze you? Have you been as hard as a marble and escaped? If you are not ripe yet, and if God had squeezed you anyway, the wine produced would have been remarkably bitter. To be a holy person means that the elements of our natural life experience the very presence of God as they are providentially broken in His service. We have to be placed into God and brought into agreement with Him before we can be broken bread in His hands. Stay right with God and let Him do as He likes, and you will find that He is producing the kind of bread and wine that will benefit His other children."

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Three Churches That Demonstrate Ways To Do Mercy Ministry

Photo Credit: Paul Hedges
Lifeway Research recently completed its study of the largest and fastest growing churches in America for 2012. Lifeway president Ed Stetzer shares some of these findings in a recent post and highlights three churches that seek to serve the marginalized of society.

Stetzer says this:
"The past several years have seen a needed return to biblical compassion and action to help those affected by injustice. Organizations that fight sex trafficking and human trafficking and promote adoption and mercy ministries dot the church landscape. Many of the churches on this year's list are excelling in this area and raising the standard for all churches. 
Vineyard Community Church of Cincinnati is heavily involved in mercy ministry. Although that particular label has never been used, Kande Wilson, senior director of Outward Focused Ministries, says: "Helping the poor is part of the DNA of the church. It has been a part of who we are for 27 years." 
In a myriad of ways, Vineyard brings the Gospel to the poor, homeless and others combating life's struggles. In the tougher areas of the city, the church distributes food, clothes, hygiene items and more. 
"There are lots of groups that serve food," Wilson says. "If anyone wants food, they can get it. We have a group that is committed to helping people who have made the decision to get out of transiency. There are people from our church who have been deeply involved in the lives of the poor and homeless for 14 years. They are downtown every week-- rain or shine, holidays, snow, whatever. They do ministry on Christmas. This longevity is a key factor to gaining trust. Our members view these hurting people as their own congregation." 
For many years, Vineyard Community Church had an on-campus ministry that was "a food pantry on steroids," Wilson recalls. "In 2007, we did the Luke 4 Challenge, focusing our capital campaign on our city, our future and our world." As a result, the church expanded its ministries to provide help for the whole person. "This meant bringing divorce care, lost job ministry, homeless ministry, and others similar to these under one roof," Wilson says. "This was our outreach to the city."
Glen Berteau, senior pastor of Calvary Temple Worship Center in Modesto, Calif., cites not only specific biblical texts like the Great Commission and Ezekiel 16:14, but a biblical template as well: the Old Testament city of Nineveh. "Our social justice ministry is called Nineveh Outreach because Nineveh was the only biblical city that completely came to the Lord," Berteau says. "We want to see our city saved. I believe if that can happen then, it can happen here and now. 
"Nineveh Outreach provides food and clothes for our volunteers to distribute when they visit more than 30 parks every week. For Modesto Park alone, we distributed $5.5 million dollars in food last year. We also send out a nonprofit mobile medical and dental truck to help kids. We received a letter from the local police department telling us the crime rate in our area declined as a result of our ministries. 
"We also run Without Permission, a ministry that stands against human trafficking, which is a big problem in our area. Calvary Temple paid the fee to procure our local police department a state grant. Now they are able to send patrols specifically to safeguard against human trafficking." Berteau sees beauty as the core of outreach: "Our world is attracted by beauty. If the church would become beautiful, the world would be attracted to it. Beauty means reaching out to people as they are--seeing each of them as one of God's masterpieces."
Street GRACE, which 12Stone Church in Lawrenceville, Ga., helped start, is the only organization dedicated to eradicating commercial sexual exploitation of children "that leads people on a comprehensive path to leave a social injustice," says Executive Director Cheryl DeLuca-Johnson. 
DeLuca-Johnson explains: "Our comprehensive path includes awareness, education, engagement and social change. Currently Street GRACE has 80 partner churches in Georgia. We are now moving into Tennessee and Alabama. We are blessed to have 1,950 volunteers at some level in Georgia alone. Recently, the Department of Education contracted with us to present information to all the teachers and school staff in Georgia. This training includes not only how to help children, but also how to stop the demand. We include legislative efforts to get laws changed. For example, through the year 2000, the law in Georgia for sexual exploitation of a minor was a misdemeanor with a $50 fine. As a result of our efforts, the penalty is now a $100,000 fine and up to life in prison."
To read the rest of his post please click here.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Remembering Rich Mullins 15 Years After His Homegoing

My wife, Lori, and Rich Mullins in 1993
I’ve appreciated the art of countless musicians over the course of my life. But few have actually changed my life. Rich Mullins was one of those artists whose craft resonated deep within my soul and impacted the way I view God, myself and the world.

Mullins, a self-described “ragamuffin” who did not exactly fit the mold of his peers within the Contemporary Christian Music industry of the 80’s and 90’s, left this earth and entered into his eternal resting place fifteen years ago today. While on his way to a benefit concert in Kansas, the driver of the Jeep Rich was riding in lost control. Mullins was thrown from his vehicle and was hit by oncoming traffic. He was 41 years old.

I was first exposed to the music of Rich Mullins shortly after I entered into a new relationship with Christ as a college student. Upon listening to much of his music and learning more of his story, there was something about his lyrics and -- to a greater extent, his life – that compelled me to learn more about the man behind the music.

Rich somehow seemed to be okay living with the tension of worshipping a God that is almighty, yet also difficult to understand. The same man who wrote the well-known Christian praise chorus (“Our God is an awesome God/He reigns from heaven above…”) also wrote the following lyrics, “So hold me Jesus/’Cause I’m shakin’ like a leaf/You have been king of my glory/Won’t you be my prince of peace.”

Although he was a well-known musical artist in Christian circles for a good portion of his adult life, Rich did not live the life of a rock star. He intentionally lived on a limited income (taking only what the median income was for the average American) and gave the rest of his earnings to charity. Heavily influenced by his Quaker roots, Rich was particularly committed to issues of peace, social justice and caring for the marginalized of society. His final years saw him taking a break from the Christian music industry as he moved to a Navajo reservation in New Mexico to teach children about music…and about Jesus.

After becoming introduced to the writings of Brennan Manning, I began to listen more intently to the music of Rich Mullins. Brennan Manning’s “The Ragamuffin Gospel” had a profound influence upon me. Rich and his Ragamuffin Band did the same. While dealing with some particularly ugly sin in my life, I realized that I was somehow under the impression that God was nothing more than a distant, angry judge waiting for me to mess up. But Rich help me to understand that it was okay to be imperfect. God still loved me and my imperfections only demonstrated my need for a Savior.

Rich aided me in seeing that during his time on earth, Jesus tended to identify with the broken and forgotten people of his day. Just before his death, Rich was working on a new album which eventually became known as “The Jesus Record.” Containing ten songs about Jesus, Rich demonstrates remarkable vulnerability in describing a Savior that identifies with mankind, while also exhibiting a love that can only come from the one true God. "A Man of No Reputation", one of the songs on the album sung by a member of Rich's band, does not include Rich's vocals because Mullins himself could not sing of his great Savior as described in this song without breaking down in tears. I hope to experience the person of Jesus the way Rich Mullins did.

I’m thankful for the life and music of Rich Mullins. Through Rich, God changed me. He helped me to view God differently and forever affected how I interact with my fellow man. Fifteen years after his death, Rich continues to have an influence on others because he invested his life in that which matters for eternity. I hope the same can be said of my life once I'm gone.

To learn more about the life of Rich Mullins, you can check out James Bryan Smith’s Rich Mullins: A Devotional Biography: An Arrow Pointing to Heaven.

Or you can check out this video, Homeless Man, which tells the story of Rich Mullins.



Tuesday, September 18, 2012

2012 Demographics For U.S. College Students

Photo Credit: CollegeDegrees360

The nation's college students are growing in number and our campuses continue to become more diverse. Taken from the most recent edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education Almanac and the Open Doors Report, the following statistics from the 2010-2011 school year contain some interesting facts concerning the current make-up of college students in the United States:
*There are now over 21 million college students in the U.S. 
* Of those 21 million students, nearly 4 out of 10 are American ethnic minorities and international students studying in the U.S. 
* Within the state of California alone, there are over 2.7 million students. This is an amazing 13% of the country's total! Of these students, over 1.7 million are American ethnic minorities or international students. 
* Texas has over 1.5 million students in the state, including nearly half a million Hispanic students. 
* Primarily due to the presence of New York City, over 1.3 million students attend college in the state of New York. Nearly 600,000 of them are American ethnic minorities and international students. 
* The number of Native American students across the country is close to 200,000. 
* Asian Americans now number nearly 1.3 million students. 
* There are more than 3 million African Americans on our campuses, more than 14% of all students. 
* Hispanics and Latinos are rapidly growing in number and influence and now comprise nearly 13% of all students, totaling over 2.7 million students. 
* There are well over 800,000 international students currently studying in the U.S., many of whom will return to their country of origin a different person than when they came here. 
*In demonstration of the country's increasing cultural diversity, over 300,000 of America's college students define themselves as being multi-ethnic. 
* Students of European descent are still in the overall majority with 12.7 million. If current trends hold true, however, there will be no ethnic majority by the time we reach 2020.
What does this all mean? The college campuses of the United States are becoming more diverse, the coasts are rapidly growing and our cities are home to many of the nation's students. In order to reach these students, campus ministries like those that I work with need to adopt new approaches that will effectively reach: 1) students of color; 2) those that speak a primary language other than English; and 3) those in our major cities. The world is here. How will we respond?

Monday, September 17, 2012

How The Love Of Jesus Trumps The Politics of Polarization

Photo Credit: aftab.
Taken from Philip Yancey's, The Jesus I Never Knew:
"People who looked to Jesus as their political savior were constantly befuddled by his choice of companions. He became known as a friend of tax collectors, a group clearly identified with the foreign exploiters, not the exploited. Though he denounced the religious system of his day, he treated a leader like Nicodemus with respect, and though he spoke against the dangers of money and of violence, he showed love and compassion toward a rich young ruler and a Roman centurion. 
In short, Jesus honored the dignity of people, whether he agreed with them or not. He would not found his kingdom on the basis of race or class or other such divisions. Anyone, even a half-breed with five husbands; or a thief dying on a cross, was welcome to join his kingdom. The person was more important than any category or label.
I feel convicted by this quality of Jesus every time I get involved in a cause I strongly believe in. How easy it is to join the politics of polarization, to find myself shouting across the picket lines at the "enemy" on the other side. How hard it is to remember that the kingdom of God calls me to love the woman who has just emerged from the abortion clinic (and, yes, even her doctor), the promiscuous person who is dying of AIDS, the wealthy landowner who is exploiting God's creation. If I cannot show love to such people, than I must question whether I have truly understood Jesus' gospel.
A political movement by nature draws lines, makes distinctions, pronounces judgment; in contrast, Jesus' love cuts across lines, transcends distinctions, and dispenses grace. Regardless of the merits of a given issue -- whether a pro-life lobby out of the Right or a peace-and-justice lobby out of the Left -- political movements risk pulling onto themselves the mantle of power that smothers love. From Jesus I learn that, whatever activism I get involved in, it must not drive out love and humility, or otherwise I betray the kingdom of heaven."

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

A Reminder For Christians This Election Season

Photo Credit: theocean
We are in the midst of another presidential campaign season and with election day now less than two months away, the intensity of the discussions and arguments about the candidates and issues seem to rise with each passing day.

As an evangelical Christian and a citizen of the United States, I often need to be reminded that my primary allegiance rests with God and His kingdom and not the country in which I live. While it's important for Christians to be actively involved in the political process, we must also remember that our Christian faith, and not our political affiliations, should inform how we engage with others about our politics.

The manner in which we interact with others about our political convictions says a lot about whether we are "safe" people when it comes to the more important matters of faith and eternity. When we confuse our politics with our faith, we can unintentionally add on conditions to Christian discipleship that were never intended and unintentionally push those away that might be otherwise open to the gospel.

Pastor Dave Bruskas offers an insightful perspective on the effect that a Christian's expressed political opinions can have on other people. He says this:
"My last two pastorates have been in very progressive communities. For eight years, I served as a church planter in the Nob Hill area of Albuquerque, New Mexico. For the last two years, I have served in Seattle. For those who aren’t familiar with New Mexico, it is in the continental United States, and it shows up on a map once every four years on the late news during the first Tuesday of November as a blue state island surrounded by a sea of red states. And Nob Hill in Albuquerque is bluer than the blue New Mexico sky on a crisp, clear November day. 
The importance of my political party affiliation came into play when I was sharing the gospel with a young woman in Nob Hill. She told me she was intrigued by Jesus but there was one thing keeping her from becoming a Christian. I asked for her reason, expecting her to cite her boyfriend’s objection because she had already informed him of the change it would bring to their relationship. But she shocked me when she said, “I don’t think I’m ready to become a Christian because I know I’m not ready to become a Republican.” Imagine how relieved we both were when I explained the second category isn’t a mandatory next step from the first! She placed her faith in Jesus. 
It was from that conversation that I began to realize how political partisanship, particularly in those who lead and speak on behalf of the church, could become a stumbling block for those being drawn by Jesus into relationship with him. As an evangelical pastor, my intent goal is that the only stumbling block to a person meeting Jesus is the offense of his substitutionary death for sinners."
Perhaps we would all do well to consider if the approach we take in sharing our political persuasions with others is more motivated by a commitment to a political party... or a commitment to the King of Kings.

To read the rest of Pastor Bruska's post please click here.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How The Internet Helped One Imaginative Boy's Dream Come True

Caine is an intelligent and creative elementary school student. The nine-year-old boy built a cardboard arcade at his father's used car parts store in east Los Angeles and was "open for business." The only problem was that none of his dad's customers took him seriously. That is, of course, until one day a gentleman who played some games in Caine's arcade decided to tell his friends on the Internet about it.

Watch the video to see more of the story...



(h/t to my friend Dave Smyth for the link.)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Unhappy Kids Tend To Be More Materialistic

Photo Credit: royalconstantinesociety
From The Times Herald:
"Unhappy kids are more likely to become materialistic than children who are happy with their lives, a new study from the Netherlands suggests." 
Children who were less satisfied with their lives do become more materialistic over time, but only when they are frequently exposed to advertising," said study lead author Suzanna Opree. "Advertising seems to teach children that possessions are a way to increase happiness."
It's a significant finding because research with adults suggests that materialistic children may become less happy later in life, said Opree, a research associate at the University of Amsterdam School of Communication Research. The study, published online August 20 and in the September print issue of Pediatrics, involved 466 children in October 2006 and October 2007. 
The researchers advise parents to help kids focus on other sources of happiness, such as love, friendship and play. Intervening early might prevent a cycle of unhappiness and materialism in adulthood, study author Opree said." 
"And he [Jesus] said to them, “Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” ~ Luke 12:15 (ESV)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Beatitudes, Gandhi & MLK

Photo Credit: Dean Ayres
Pointing to the lives of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., author Philip Yancey offers a challenging perspective on what living out the instructions of Jesus from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) might look like:
"The movie Gandhi contains a fine scene in which Gandhi tries to explain his philosophy to the Presbyterian missionary Charlie Andrews. Walking together in a South African city, the two suddenly find their way blocked by young thugs. The Reverend Andrews takes one look at the menacing gangsters and decides to run for it. Gandhi stops him. "Doesn't the New Testament say if an enemy strikes you on the right cheek you should offer him the left?" Andrews mumbles that he thought the phrase was used metaphorically. "I'm not so sure," Gandhi replies. "I suspect he meant you must show courage—be willing to take a blow, several blows, to show you will not strike back nor will you be turned aside. And when you do that it calls on something in human nature, something that makes his hatred decrease and his respect increase. I think Christ grasped that and I have seen it work." 
Years later an American minister, Martin Luther King Jr., studied Gandhi's tactics and decided to put them into practice in the United States. Many blacks abandoned King over the issue of nonviolence and drifted toward "black power" rhetoric. After you've been hit on the head with a policeman's nightstick for the dozenth time and received yet another jolt from a jailer's cattle prod, you begin to question the effectiveness of nonviolence. But King himself never wavered. 
As riots broke out in places like Los Angeles, Chicago, and Harlem, King traveled from city to city trying to cool tempers, forcefully reminding demonstrators that moral change is not accomplished through immoral means. He had learned that principle from the Sermon on the Mount and from Gandhi, and almost all his speeches reiterated the message. "Christianity," he said, "has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear. To be a Christian one must take up his cross, with all its difficulties and agonizing and tension-packed content, and carry it until that very cross leaves its mark upon us and redeems us to that more excellent way which comes only through suffering." 
Martin Luther King Jr. had some weaknesses, but one thing he got right. Against all odds, against all instincts of self-preservation, he stayed true to the principle of peacemaking. He did not strike back. Where others called for revenge, he called for love. The civil rights marchers put their bodies on the line before sheriffs with nightsticks and fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. That, in fact, was what brought them the victory they had been seeking so long. Historians point to one event as the single moment in which the movement attained a critical mass of public support for its cause. It occurred on a bridge outside Selma, Alabama, when Sheriff Jim Clark turned his policemen loose on unarmed black demonstrators. The American public, horrified by the scene of violent injustice, at last gave assent to passage of a civil rights bill. 
I grew up in Atlanta, across town from Martin Luther King Jr., and I confess with some shame that while he was leading marches in places like Selma and Montgomery and Memphis, I was on the side of the white sheriffs with the nightsticks and German shepherds. I was quick to pounce on his moral flaws and slow to recognize my own blind sin. But because he stayed faithful, by offering his body as a tar-get but never as a weapon, he broke through my moral calluses. 
The real goal, King used to say, was not to defeat the white man, but "to awaken a sense of shame within the oppressor and challenge his false sense of superiority. . . . The end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community." And that is what Martin Luther King Jr. finally set into motion, even in racists like me."
(Excerpt taken from Yancey's 1995 book, The Jesus I Never Knew.)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Greatest Moments In The History Of Sports

Here's a compilation of some of the greatest moments in the history of sports. For those that know me, it's probably no surprise that my favorite moment happens at the 3:07 mark. Enjoy!


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

What is True For This Year's College Freshmen - 2012

Photo Credit: CollegeDegrees360
Each year around this time, Beloit College releases what they call the Mindset List -- a list of important facts and events which influence the worldview and perspective that this year's college freshmen class brings with them.

This year's list, which is made up for the graduating class of 2016, represents those students who were born in 1994. You can read the complete list here but I've included some entries below that I found particularly interesting:
- They have always lived in cyberspace, addicted to a new generation of “electronic narcotics.” 
- The Biblical sources of terms such as “Forbidden Fruit,” “The writing on the wall,” “Good Samaritan,” and “The Promised Land” are unknown to most of them. 
- Michael Jackson’s family, not the Kennedys, constitutes “American Royalty.” 
- If they miss The Daily Show, they can always get their news on YouTube. 
- Robert De Niro is thought of as Greg Focker's long-suffering father-in-law, not as Vito Corleone or Jimmy Conway. 
- Bill Clinton is a senior statesman of whose presidency they have little knowledge. 
- For most of their lives, maintaining relations between the U.S. and the rest of the world has been a woman’s job in the State Department. 
- They can’t picture people actually carrying luggage through airports rather than rolling it. 
- Having grown up with MP3s and iPods, they never listen to music on the car radio and really have no use for radio at all. 
- Exposed bra straps have always been a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction to be corrected quietly by well-meaning friends. 
- The Real World has always stopped being polite and started getting real on MTV. 
- White House security has never felt it necessary to wear rubber gloves when gay groups have visited. 
- They have lived in an era of instant stardom and self-proclaimed celebrities, famous for being famous. 
- Outdated icons with images of floppy discs for “save,” a telephone for “phone,” and a snail mail envelope for “mail” have oddly decorated their tablets and smart phone screens. 
- Star Wars has always been just a film, not a defense strategy. 
- They have had to incessantly remind their parents not to refer to their CDs and DVDs as “tapes.” 
- Slavery has always been unconstitutional in Mississippi, and Southern Baptists have always been apologizing for supporting it in the first place. 
- Before they purchase an assigned textbook, they will investigate whether it is available for rent or purchase as an e-book. 
- NBC has never shown A Wonderful Life more than twice during the holidays. 
- They know many established film stars by their voices on computer-animated blockbusters.
- They watch television everywhere but on a television.
- Despite being preferred urban gathering places, two-thirds of the independent bookstores in the United States have closed for good during their lifetimes. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Most Important Role Of A Leader

Photo Credit: Konabish ~ Greg Bishop
Leadership expert Patrick Lencioni says that the most important role that a leader possesses is to create a healthy environment for her team.

He says this:
"A healthy organization is one that has all but eliminated politics and confusion from its environment. As a result, productivity and morale soar, and good people almost never leave. For those leaders who are a bit skeptical, rest assured that none of this is touchy-feely or soft. It is as tangible and practical as anything else a business does, and even more important. 
Why? Because the smartest organization in the world, the one that has mastered strategy and finance and marketing and technology, will eventually fail if it is unhealthy. Trust me, I've seen it happen again and again. But a healthy organization will always find a way to succeed, because without politics and confusion, it will inevitably become smarter and tap into every bit of intelligence and talent that it has. 
So if all this is true - and I am absolutely convinced that it is - then why haven't more organizations embraced and reaped the benefits of organizational health? For one, it's hard. It requires real work and discipline, over a period of time, and it must be maintained. On top of that, it's not sophisticated or sexy and it's difficult to measure. 
But the biggest reason that organizational health remains untapped is that it requires courage. Leaders must be willing to confront themselves, their peers, and the dysfunction within their organization with an uncommon level of honesty and persistence. They must be prepared to walk straight into uncomfortable situations and address issues that prevent them from realizing the potential that eludes them."
Lencioni says that the four things a leader can do to help an organization get healthy are:
1) Build a cohesive leadership team
2) Create clarity
3) Over-communicate clarity
4) Reinforce clarity
To read the rest of the article please click here.

(h/t to my friend John Waidley for the link.)

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

The Beauty Of Being A Cross-Cultural Missionary

Here are some insightful thoughts from Adam Gabriel Cavalier on "The Secret Life of the Cross-Cultural Missionary":
"Many people believe the age of the life-long, cross-cultural missionary is dead. I wholeheartedly disagree. With the rise of modern technology and short-term trips, this trend has caused some to think the long-term, sold-out, cross-cultural missionary is obsolete and passé. Certainly, it has changed the dynamics of the process (missionaries being able to return home once a year, regularly contact family, etc.), but it is absolutely not dead and gone. 
In the contemporary evangelical church, we are encouraged to go (cross-culturally) when we read books like Radical or Let the Nations Be Glad. Hopefully, many pastors and church leaders will encourage you to go. But many people want you to stay. We are called to go where we are not welcome and not to expect or demand a pat on the back (Col. 3:23-24). 
Cross-cultural missionaries that live in closed countries are not seen by the church. Without improperly glorifying the lifestyle or being self-serving, the cross-cultural missionaries are the “Navy Seals” of the church. They are small in numbers and do some of the most difficult and important work imaginable in the church. And it is all done without much individual publicity. 
I guess one of the glaring differences, though, is that we aren’t super-Christians. There is nothing fundamentally extraordinary about us. We are just normal people. Many don’t have seminary degrees or extensive theological training. You hear a lot about us but never hear from us. This is due, in part, to security issues. 
There are no “celebrity” cross-cultural missionaries. You may know a missionary or two from your home church that serves in a closed country. But I bet you a nickel that you can’t name me the author of a book who currently serves full-time in a closed country. Or an active blogger. Or a person whose podcast you listen to. When something big happens, there are books and fanfare, but that is always years after the fact. 
The overwhelming majority of gospel-centered labor is hard work and grinding. This, however, doesn’t make it any less sweet. When comfort is minimized, joy in the Lord is maximized. You could go so far as to say that cross-cultural missionaries are simply pleasure seekers (somewhere I hear John Piper saying, “Amen!”)."
To read the rest of the post please click here.

Monday, August 06, 2012

How First-Time Visitors Experience The U.S.

Photo Credit: Zellaby
From The Atlantic:
"Years before Senisha Millavanovich came to America, he watched National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation with his wife. When the 1989 comedy showed Chevy Chase's satirically prototypical American family stringing up an over-the-top Christmas lights display, Millavanovich laughed, but not just because of Chase's slapstick antics. 
The entire idea of blanketing the front of your house in Christmas lights, he told a reporter with public radio's This American Life, had to be a joke. "When you look at the spoof movies or the comedies, they blow out of proportion things, just to make it funny. When I saw it I thought, this cannot be true. This is just too much lights," he said for a 2010 episode of the radio show. 
Imagine Millavanovich's surprise when he moved to Fargo, North Dakota, and on one December night drove down a suburban street. "Some people had not only the lights, but they also had the lights," he told the radio reporter of his jaw-dropping first Christmas in America. "And we said to each other, they really do decorate their houses as Chevy Chase did." 
This American Life, talking to refugees who'd moved to the U.S., mostly from conflict zones, found that the foreigners were shocked by a number of things that Americans might consider routine: public displays of affection, high obesity rates, families shipping their elderly parents off to nursing homes, dog-owners kissing their pets, and widespread gun ownership. "Just take a quick look and don't turn your face," a horrified Iraqi father told his children when their car pulled alongside a gun-toting motorcyclist. The kids, frightened by what they'd believed was a tool of only police and criminals, asked, "Why does he have a gun? What is he planning to do?" 
The U.S. can be such a jarringly strange place for many foreign visitors that travel guidebooks detail everything from the dangers of talking politics to tips on respecting Americans' famously guarded personal space. But what do those visitors find when they actually get here? This American Life spoke to a relatively narrow slice of foreign arrivals, but a thread on public question site Quora, jumping off from the radio segment, asks web users from around the globe to chime in with what surprised them about America."
To read the rest of the article please click here.

(h/t to my friend Trae for the link.)

Friday, August 03, 2012

The Story Behind "More To This Life" by Steven Curtis Chapman

In this video my favorite singer, Steven Curtis Chapman, tells the story of what inspired him to write his song "More To This Life." This is one of my favorite SCC songs and this is a great acoustic version. Enjoy!


Thursday, August 02, 2012

Cru - Together We Are Making A Difference

To all of our ministry partners with Cru -- Thank you for the impact that you are having in the lives of people all over the world.

Monday, July 30, 2012

What Are The 10 Happiest Jobs?

Photo Credit: hubertk
From Forbes.com:
"Todd May writing in the New York Times argues that “A meaningful life must, in some sense then, feel worthwhile.  The person living the life must be engaged by it.  A life of commitment to causes that are generally defined as worthy — like feeding and clothing the poor or ministering to the ill — but that do not move the person participating in them will lack meaningfulness in this sense. However, for a life to be meaningful, it must also be worthwhile. Engagement in a life of tiddlywinks does not rise to the level of a meaningful life, no matter how gripped one might be by the game.” 
This is what underlies the difference between the happiest jobs and the most hated jobs. One set of jobs feels worthwhile, while in the other jobs, people can’t see the point. The problems in the most hated jobs can’t be solved by job redesign or clearer career paths. Instead the organizations must undertake fundamental change to manage themselves in a radically different way with a focus on delighting the customer through continuous innovation and all the consequent changes that are needed to accomplish that. The result of doing this in firms like Amazon, Apple and Salesforce.com is happy customers, soaring profits and workers who can see meaning in their work."
So what did the General Social Survey by the National Organization for Research at the University of Chicago find as the ten most meaningful jobs? Here they are:

1. Clergy:  The least worldly are reported to be the happiest of all. 
2. Firefighters: Eighty percent of firefighters are “very satisfied” with their jobs, which involve helping people. 
3. Physical therapists: Social interaction and helping people apparently make this job one of the happiest. 
4. Authors: For most authors, the pay is ridiculously low or non-existent, but the autonomy of writing down the contents of your own mind apparently leads to happiness. 
5.  Special education teachers: If you don’t care about money, a job as special education teacher might be a happy profession. The annual salary averages just under $50,000. 
6. Teachers: Teachers in general report being happy with their jobs, despite the current issues with education funding and classroom conditions. The profession continues to attract young idealists, although fifty percent of new teachers are gone within five years. 
7. Artists: Sculptors and painters report high job satisfaction, despite the great difficulty in making a living from it. 
8. Psychologists: Psychologists may or may not be able to solve other people’s problems, but it seems that they have managed to solve their own. 
9. Financial services sales agents: Sixty-five percent of financial services sales agents are reported to be happy with their jobs. That could be because some of them are clearing more than $90,000 dollars a year on average for a 40-hour work week in a comfortable office environment. 
10. Operating engineers: Playing with giant toys like bulldozers, front-end loaders, backhoes, scrapers, motor graders, shovels, derricks, large pumps, and air compressors can be fun.  With more jobs for operating engineers than qualified applicants, operating engineers report being happy.
The results of this survey may be surprising but it does demonstrate that fulfillment in one's vocation is not simply found in one's salary. Investing in the lives of people and making a lasting difference in the world, even through a job with relatively low pay, brings greater satisfaction than merely bringing home a paycheck from a job you dread.

(h/t to Ed Stetzer for the link.)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

How African Americans & Hispanics View Abortion

Photo Credit: Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
From CNN.com:
"A large majority of black and Hispanic Americans identify as both “pro-life” and “pro-choice” when it comes to abortion, according to a survey released Thursday. The poll finds that both minority groups are more likely than Americans in general to embrace or to reject both labels.
Large majorities of African-Americans identify both as “pro-life” (71%) and “pro-choice” (75%), according to a Public Religion Research Institute survey released Thursday. Hispanic Americans harbor similarly complex views on abortion, with 77% identifying as “pro-life” and 72% calling themselves as “pro-choice.”
The survey found that 52% of black Americans and 47% of Hispanic Americans acknowledge that they embrace or reject both labels, proportions that are higher than those for Americans overall. Thirty seven percent of all Americans embrace both labels or neither label.
The numbers show that most people see the pro-life and pro-choice identifiers through their own unique prisms, says Robert P. Jones, CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute.
“Most people live outside the culture war and policy wonk bubble,” Jones says. “I think for those folks who make our living following these things, these words are brands, they are movement brands, but in the general public, these words function in a much broader way.”
To read the rest of this article please click here.