Monday, October 25, 2010

thoughts about Exodus 33

Moses meets with God and the whole entrance into the Promised Land is up for grabs. God says He’ll make a nation from scratch out of Moses - scrap Israel and start over. How do you respond to that? A giant “do over” is a golden ticket. I would have been tempted, not just for My Name, but just the practicality of it all. Hey, this has not been working very well, let’s start over. You know the definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over, but expecting different results. It would have been a pretty reasonable move on Moses part to take God up on his offer.
Moses somehow manages to see bigger issues than mission completion or that his legacy at stake. It was about God and His glory. God’s reputation was always the primary end, and how His mission was accomplished was more important than attaining the Promised Land itself.
Moses is totally dialed in. But, to add another layer to it all, God had said He will bring His people in safely to the Land, and will route the enemies of Israel. And that He will send an angel ahead of them to get the work done. On that one alone, I’m probably fine with God’s plan. I’d take a promise of victory with a militant angel running point. But God says He won’t be going with them. I wonder, would I have missed God’s caveat if I had been there. (Victory without God’s presence? Hmm, surely God must know what He is offering. It is His idea, after all. Take the angel and the land, and call it “a deal.”)
But Moses doesn’t shake hands on it. God’s presence is the main thing. “Show me Thy ways…may your presence go with us…Show me Thy glory.” The clear and unmistakable presence of God was what Moses was all about. Nothing else mattered in comparison. Though Moses’ leadership mission was clear, it was more about his connection with God. It had not always been so. Forty years earlier, it was about getting the job done of getting Israel out of Egypt. It made sense, but proved to be a 40 yr cul-de-sac of spinning around the desert with sheep, until the burning bush lit up the landscape and he found himself on holy ground in the presence of God. And after those initial days and weeks where he experienced the power of God’s presence to do what no leader could ever hope to pull off, Moses had now integrated the main thing, the only thing that mattered in spiritual leadership. Try leadership without God’s presence and you are left with strategy, large group maneuvering, and motivation, or maybe just manipulation. For Moses, that was not going to fly.
So now, he meets with God, he is angered by rebellion against God, and he is jealous for God’s glory, whose name is “Jealous.” He waits on God without food or drink in order to write down His commands. He is consumed with meeting God – on the mountain, in the tent - and he spends so much time with Him, that his face shines with His glory. God’s presence and light permeate his life, even physically. His face is lit up by God’s presence. When people see Moses, they see on his face, well the imprint of God, His transforming work brought on by His Spirit.
When other’s look at my face, what do they see? (I mean, except for the freckles and ears that are just a little oversized...) Do they see someone being transformed into His image, someone connected in heart and mind to the Creator and Redeemer? Its a tough question, but one must look in the mirror from time to time and do some honest assessment.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Stint Briefing 2010

This picture may say it all…if you could multiply it by 50. We just finished our commissioning of 350 STINTers, many of whom are arriving at their locations around the world right now. To live in community for Jesus, to love others around them and draw them in, to share words that give life, bring light, give hope.
The images of this last night keep coming back this morning: teams of students with flags posing for pictures, like the winning team of a relay in the Olympics, or the festival on the closing night; or unlike the Olympics, teams spontaneously gathering to hug and pray and commit themselves to each other and the Lord for the year. It is an amazing sight to behold.
I’m exhausted from the intensity of the week, but it feels great - prepping our team leaders the first day, short conversations in the hallway, laughter in elevator rides, a thousand cups of coffee, and in the middle of it all, a whirlwind 36 hour trip to Duluth, Minnesota for my Uncle Bob’s funeral, and a return to Chicago for the last day and night of commissioning.
Kim and I celebrated an outstanding week by going out for ribs at Smokey Bones. This morning I’m just sitting here, trying to get my brain to work with a cup of coffee, numb with a STINT hangover.
Last night I told Kim, “This past week is why I’ve never really wanted to do anything else.”

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Scraps from the kitchen table

As you may know, "Scraps" is a little feature of random thoughts and observations that I just throw out there from time to time, much like I do food from the table to our WSN mascot, Freckles the Wonder Dog.

Speaking of...The Wonder Dog turned 98 on Monday (14 human years). He's in good health, except for the hearing loss, arthritis in the hips, a back that needs chiropractic and acupuncture, and a few unsightly tumors. He gets outside for a walk for about 20 miinutes a day. So yes, he's pretty like any 98 year old.

If I had only editorialist I could read on the state of political and cultural affairs in the US, I would choose Peggy Noonan. I love her writing style and insights. I really liked her column in WSJ yesterday. Disclaimer: Peggy didn't pay me anything to say that, as she has no idea who I am, and I will toss in the obligatory "I don't agree with everything she says", which also reminds me...

I think in common conversations this "of course I don't believe everything that they say" is in itself a commentary that we are all quick to attach labels and categories to people, to put people and those they read or learn from into conservative or liberal or idiot boxes. We are so afraid of that happening to us, and so we qualify our comments. Could we just have an agreement: If I quote someone, or like something someone says or does, I don't necessarily buy everything from them. How did that all get started? (If you re-read this, it sounds better with a slightly angry voice, but not shrill or whiny.) I'm going to start qualifying when I reference somebody with this line - "and you know I believe everything they say" and see what happens.

Kim and I went to see "Inception" last night. We loved it. We like movies you talk about after. Not just figuring it out, but discussing the different layers of stories and their meaning, like: is the main plot about the dream inception, or is it about reconciliation with loved ones and coming to terms with guilt? It was a great discussion, but then suddenly, something shook our house, it felt like we were tilting at 45 degrees, and I woke up. So, I think we'll go see the movie Inception tonight.

Okay, Saturday morning, so its time for the weekly mowing of my small plot of grass before the daily summer thunderstorm moves in.

Almost forgot. While watching the movie last night, there was a couple making out one row in front and just off to the right, which was a bit distracting. But then I remembered the "Seinfeld" episode of Jerry getting caught making out with his girlfriend during Schindler's List. Which made me almost laugh out loud.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Stop the Press!

Students and faculty working together? Really? And liking it? Oh yes! Here is the raw commentary of a professor and a student on the Haiti summer project, from their project blog:
Faculty Phil: I am a professor of almost 30 years who has made well over a dozen foreign-mission trips all over the world. I have had some great trips.
From experience, I know that soon, people will soon begin asking me, “How was that trip to Haiti?”
I’ll say something like this, “Haiti was fantastic, but this was an unusual trip for me.”
If they are really interested, they’ll say something like, “How so?”
And I’ll say, “This trip was different for me, because, for me, being in Haiti wasn’t the key factor. The Haitians were wonderful, kind, welcoming people...(but) the real key factor for me was the 60 students and staff who let me tag along. These college graduates, undergraduates, and one pre-college student, and Campus Crusade leaders, were among the finest bunch of people with whom I have ever associated, and I have been at it for 60 years. They were enthusiastic, considerate, encouraging folks.
They sweated night and day in the dusty, hot, humid environment; they rode a bus for two hours in the heat, they didn’t complain and continually looked for opportunities to minister. They sought out kids to play with, and on one occasion carried kids over two miles to and from Flamingo Lake. They happily met for hours on end, they waited, they sang, they prayed, they played, they ate, and a few would even sleep a couple of hours at night. They seemed to even enjoy talking to the staff!
I was blessed to be among them, to watch them interact, and to learn from them. We could have been in Alabama, or Texas, or anywhere, and the trip would have almost as good for me. Just being around these folks has done a lot to make me want to be a better Christian. So I guess I was just one of the many folks to whom they ministered.”

Austin the Student (not the city): When I think of Campus Crusade for Christ, I think of the college students across the nation and world who are working to expand Christ's kingdom by the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I would never have thought of the professors that also comprise the movement. I was awakened to my ignorance the first full day that we spent in Haiti. Phil, as he prefers to be called, is a tenured Exercise Physiology professor in Alabama.

Phil is not your average Joe, even when it comes to professors. He is a marathon runner, has been to numerous countries in service to the LORD and is fully committed to walking according to God's will or his life. Loving to highlight God's predominance evidenced by creation, he is certainly a mentor on this trip. Again, it is pretty awesome/surprising to receive spiritual guidance from a professor, but Phil is not defined by his profession. He is defined by Christ's work on the cross.

In light of the ministry that Phil has in Alabama and the work that he has done around the world, I would encourage you to pray for your professors or encourage you to become one yourself. As quirky as they often are, they too need Christ, and have the potential to store up treasures in heaven alongside us as brothers and sisters through the ministry that Christ has prepared for them.

Me the blogger:So, there is the raw, off the Iphone and onto the blog comment from Haiti. It's something powerful to consider. Imagine if the Nehemiah's of the collegiate world - Christian students and faculty - joined together in the proclamation of the gospel. There might just be a revolution.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Wanted: a Million Nehemiahs

(Not an actual photograph)
I started reading The Book of Nehemiah on Sunday, and here is what hits me so far: we need a million "Nehemiahs" in the world. Quick review: Nehemiah is in exile with his fellow Jews, but 2 previous attempts have been made to restore Jerusalem and they are mostly not back in Jerusalem. The first was under Zerubbabel 94 years before, and the second was under Ezra about 13 years before Nehemiah's account. While both previous efforts had glimmers of success, the bad news that Nehemiah had received from his brother on the condition of Jerusalem was a kick in the gut that affected him physically, emotionally, and spiritually and quite literally brought him to his knees.

He heard bad news and instead of giving in to the status quo thinking that nothing could be done, he prayed, fasted, and hatched a plan over the next 3 months or so. And with his career on the line, when the King asks him what's going on with all the puffy eyes and sad face (I don't think cupbearers were supposed to be melancholy) Nehemiah lays it out on table. In fact, he responds in such a way that the King is asking him, more than he is asking the King. Genius. And when it's time to speak, he has a "plan" - simple, direct, and to the point. I love the way he doesn't plow the King with details - just purpose and 2 simple facts: "Oh, can you make sure I'm free to go there and I sure could use some wood." Or something like that, probably better to leave the quotes off my paraphrase.

We need a million Nehemiah's who will respond to the crises of our day like this. Men and women who will see physical disasters, spiritual need, emotional distress and status quo thinking that nothing can be done, and will be so provoked by God that they are brought to their knees in surrender, prayer, fasting, and arise with a call from God to action. And it doesn't have to be a giant "thing" to act, like a Katrina or Haiti (though acting there is great too.) It can be the huge needs on your campus, in your community, of a neighbor who is losing their home...whatever.

I think this is what God is doing among the Christian students and faculty of our world, (and many others, of course.) This little blog is re-dedicated to telling that story, of encouraging this kind of behavior among more and more students and faculty around the world. Of course, wrapped in my own personal musings, mixed with outstanding coffee recommendations, and incredible insights about life in general. And humor, cause there is alot of stuff that is still very funny out there.

So, there you have it. Tell me and others your Nehemiah moment. Comment below, or just tell a friend - What has captured your heart that has brought you to your knees and made you say "This must change?" Where were you and how did it happen? Let others know - you may inspire another Nehemiah-to-be that is in need of a little push. And if that hasn't happened, then ask God for that breakthrough, cause it's ultimately from what He does in you, connecting you and your life to what He wants to do in the world. And then put on your seat belt and get ready, cause you are in for the ride of your life.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Passing the Baton

Tonight: Team 1 returning from Haiti reads scripture and prays over Team 2 as they prepare to leave tomorrow.
Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld.

Hope for Haiti Summer Project

The first 3 week project returned fro Haiti yesterday. Doing the debrief today. God worked in and through them in fantastic ways. Their lives have been changed, and we trust God is using this effort to bless Haiti. But certainly, God used Haiti to bless them.

Went out with the leadership team last night for dinner. Watched them eat their first "real" meat, salads, and fruit in 3 weeks. I've never seen people enjoy a meal like they did.

Sent from my BlackBerry wireless handheld.