Saturday, May 26, 2007

Scraps from the kitchen table

Just returned from an awesome trip to Tokyo, one of the great cities of the world. Here are some random musings. This can be dangerous when you're on jet lag, and you're me.

We were delayed 4 hours leaving LA. We all got a nice letter from United saying they were sorry and fill out this form and we'll give you a travel voucher. No word on how much the voucher will be worth. I'm sending mine in just to find out. I'm guessing $50.

The problem was something about crews and flight attendants being sick and not enough to fly the plane. The crew that flew had to fly in from Boise and Denver. The pilot gets on the intercom and says, we have no First and Second Pilots, we're both captains. But we are pretty sure we can do this. I can overhear the other guy saying, "hey, I've never seen one of these lever thingies before. I wonder what it does." It was hard to relax for awhile.

The part of Tokyo I was in was not as crowded as I thought it might be, and it was incredibly clean and organized. There were no trash cans around. I brought home several pockets full of candy bar wrappers and coffee lids as gifts for my family. They were not impressed.

Our friend Yoshitaka was late for our meeting the last morning by 30 minutes. Someone had caught their backpack in the closing doors of the overpacked subway car and, well, a big owie followed for that person. This led us into a discussion how there are 500,000 suicides in the world a year, and 30,000 are in Japan. That's a high rate of really bad days/person. The mass transit authority is trying to figure out how to keep people from using the mass transit system as a personal killing field by jumping in front of trains.

The Land of the Rising Sun may be named that because it comes up so early. Dawn started at 4 am (jet lag, remember, that's how I know this, in case you were wondering if I normally get up at 4 am.) and by 5 the sun was up. Shane and I went to a large and beautiful park a few blocks away each morning where dozens of people were walking and jogging. Wearing white gloves seemed to be important to some of the Japanese, but not that many. People were playing fetch with their Japanese version of Freckles the Wonder Dog. It was all very pleasant and enjoyable. I actually thought Freckles would like this park.

The first early morning there we were up in the lobby of our place trying to get the hot water pot to work for my travel coffee, which I always take with me. I've found I can live a "normal" life even with jet lag if I start with my own coffee. We never figured out the water pot (so many buttons with Japanese subtitles that we got confused) but we found a 24 hour mini mart with hot coffee - in cans. Yes, the cans were behind a glass case, not refrigerated, but heated. So we got our Japanese version of the Starbucks Double Shot all heated up for us and took it on the road. It was great, and odd that the coffee was hot but the can didn't burn our hands. I wondered if I spilled it down my lap if I could sue the Mini Mart for billions of yen? After I finished, I just put the can in my pocket, and carried it back with me to the US as a gift for Matt.

So, speaking of trash, which somehow I've oddly veared into this morning, the trash cans there are actually organized in a recycling system. Even where I stayed, we put our trash into separate wastebaskets for paper or plastic. I think I fooled them a few times, practical joker that I am. Will there come a day in the US when we use lines like this on our grandchildren: Well, when I was your age, we used to just chuck all our trash into an oversized green plastic container in the garage. We liked it that way! And they'll roll their eyes cause they've heard that story a billion times before, and still can't believe there was a day when "mumps and grumps" didn't recycle. Ahh, those were the days.

Enough, it is time to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend. Here's to all those who served our country in the defense of freedom. And to my dad, who was an awesome dude. He took 4 sons out golfing at the same time every summer. This act of insanity puts him in the Hall of Fame of Fathers.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Here I am with Yoshitaka Satoh, the Japan National Campus Director. We’re looking at my Sony laptop and he’s explaining why it beats a Dell any day. Actually we are talking about our strategy to plant spiritual movements on campuses all over Tokyo. There are over 900,000 students just in Tokyo, with a .02% evangelical population.

This is the way cool STINT team that I just had dinner with. They’ve been here the whole year, and for some it is their second year. They were so honest, sharing about how hard it is to not see Japanese students put their trust in Christ. But they have grown so much in their walk with Christ this year, and they truly bonded as a team. Way to go STINTers. We are proud of you.

Out on the Tokyo street, it appears “Gone and with the Wind” and “Shane” are making a comeback on the DVD Top 10 list.

Item last: Notice I do not have on one of my 2 blue travel shirts. My new lucky travel shirt was given to me by Matt and Megan for the Big 50!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Signs of a different culture

Although vending machines are not new to us, ones that talk to you are. Of course, the effect is lost without the audio.

We have no idea exactly what this was about, but it only cost about $3.

Eating raw fish on the run, an important skill to acquire.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Shane and I are hanging with the stint team leaders in Tokyo this morning. They stay in a part of the city called Mitaka. We ate breakfast with the woman who is helps run the place we are staying at, kind of a bed and breakfast for missionaries owned by TEAM. She is from Romania, moved to the US in 97, and is on her own short term mission here in Japan running this place. She told us about life under communism and what freedom is really like when you've never had it before.

Monday, May 21, 2007

With Shane, delayed at LAX

This picture with Shane was taken before we found out we would have a 4 hour delay. Otherwise we wouldn't be smiling. This puts us in at 8 pm to Tokyo. This means we have a longer day than the normally impossibly long day you usually have.
Taking a picture with 2 guys is hard. You don't know if you should stand apart, or together. Too "together" feels weird. Totally apart and direct toward the camera lke you don't know each other is also a non starter. We split the difference, with me turning and leaning on the counter ever so nonchalantly with Shane wondering how I convinced him to do this. Now we just will start to look for a good place to eat.

As we head to Tokyo, I want to share a few thoughts from last week I had about CM2007. I wrote this to several of those in leadership of this event. It seemed to strike a chord. It was what God was doing in my heart in reference to all the load of details we are swarmed with right now, as is typical for something this big, I think. Here you go:

In 10 years, no one will be talking about how the handbooks looked, or if there were enough banners hanging, or if the plenary program was smooth, or if we sang all the right songs. These will be faded footnotes if they are even remembered. I know this, because 30 years ago my life was radically changed at a mission’s conference and I can’t remember any of this. What will be the things which last for eternity?

-20,000 students will experience the presence of God in a global community, a momentary glimmer of the eternal banquet celebration. We could stop right there and call it “success”.
-Thousands of students will have surrendered their lives to Christ, and dedicated themselves to reaching the unevangelized students of the world.
-Another slice of God’s missionary force that will impact the next 30-40 years of global history will have taken up the baton for their part of the race.
-Students who will be in our place 10-20-30 years from now will be given visions and dreams for the glory of God and His church.
-The gospel will be carried around the globe in ever increasing circles of impact. -Fireseeds of spiritual awakening will be ignited and scattered everywhere.

In just 45 days this will happen, barring a national or global emergency of some sort, which we should pray against. I believe the eternal repercussions of this conference may alone account for a good portion of internal stress each of us feel. We need to pray that Satan would not thwart this conference on either the global scale or a personal one.

While the stakes are high, it is not us who will accomplish these things. Our buses may be disorganized, the program will not be perfect, we will all have a list of 100 things we wish we could have done differently. Others who have not seen the complexity of this event may well give us their “helpful thoughts” on what could have been done differently. I can say pretty confidently that in 50 days, none of that will matter. The eternal will far outweigh the temporal. Let us keep our eyes on the eternal, and not the temporal.

Time to look for food.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Off To Tokyo

I head for the land of the Rising Sun and a bajillion university students who need to hear the gospel. I fly over with Shane Sebastion, the fantastic WSN Director from the Pacific Southwest Region. We will meet with Yoshitaka Satoh, the National Campus Director of Japan CCC, as well as some of the US staff and stinters there. We'll be talking about how to plant spiritual movements all over Tokyo, like we are seeing happen in Mexico City. I'll try to keep you posted on our exciting yet incredibly brief adventure.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Wrestling with God

Yes, 30 years ago I had just finished my second year at Southwest Missouri State University, now just MSU. I attended a conference called "World Thrust". It traveled around the US, challenging students and church folk - who all sang from hymnals then...see my post from last week - to see the needs of the world and "go anywhere, do anything, say anything, and give anything, the Lord wanted". Or something close to that.

It was the final night of the conference, and as the challenge was given to stand if THAT is what you wanted to do, I sat. My group of SMSU friends all stood, I think. But I sat there, wrestling with God. It seemed pretty all inclusive. Funny thing about "Lordship", it IS all inclusive. And somehow, I got that at that moment, and realized this was no ordinary moment in my life. I wondered if my life would end up being boring, or if God would make me marry an ugly woman, just to see if I could handle it (how odd is that?). I wondered if he would send me to be a missionary to some foreign land never to be seen by friends again. A gazillion issues that would keep me from doing this flooded my head. All the normal fear of a God just looking for a chance to totally ruin the lives of those who would bend the knee. So, there is your stated theology, and there is what you really believe. I was wrestling with all that.

I went back home and kept wrestling with God until 2 in the morning. He finally won, I literally bowed, and said "okay, I'm yours". Life has been anything but boring, I fell in love with a beautiful woman, and I have gone to some pretty remote places on the planet, but I've got more friends than I can keep up with. I met Kim for the first time at this conference in a sweet irony of God's plan. Kind of a punctuation mark on the script of my life where He says, "how's that for knowing what I'm doing if you will just listen and follow!"
Fast forward 30 years. In less than 50 days, 20,000 students from around the world will show up in Korea to consider His Call on their lives. His love for all people, nations, languages. And another call to surrender will be given, the CM2007 Pledge. And who gets to help write that Pledge? And help plan this conference?
Yes, the humor of God, the plan of God, the love of God is wrapped up in all this, that I would get to be part of what He is doing. He must be rolling His eyes. God will use a goofball if he lets Him.

Jim Elliot said something like this: The will of God for our lives is always bigger than we imagine. It's true. Believe it. Ready. Wrestle.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

I'm 50 today!

Yes, it's that day. I just went from being almost 50, to 50. It's amazing how that happens. You wake up one morning and your 50. Unless you're say, 57, and that will never happen to you, so don't worry. You can't wake up younger, darn it.

I was with several of my CCC teammates last night at Jellyroll's on the DIsney Boardwalk. It's a place you sing along, with two guys at the pianos up front. My "friends" mentioned it was my 50th - which technically it wasn't, today is - and so before you knew it I was up front of everyone, talking and doing some sort of dance like thing to an Elvis hit. The loyal and ever true wife managed to capture some of video. It may show up here soon.

Kim and I are staying at our national team retreat with Sam and Chery Osterloh, friends for 30 years since our college days. Sam just showed up with birthday breakfast of bagels, donuts, and fresh oj. And a Sponge Bob Square Pants Birthday Balloon. WooHoo. We are having fun in Orlando.

I don't mind being 50, in case you are wondering. This morning I was reminded of the faithfulness of God in my life. A great family to be raised in, parents who loved me and gave me all they could, 3 older brothers who let me do sports with them as much as I had any right to expect and a lot more, a great wife who has fully embraced a life of - well, let's just say there is a lot of flexibility required to live with my adventurous side. And 2 kids that are so cool and fun that its hard to imagine how I could be anymore blessed. So, in all, I'm one very grateful-to-God 50 year old this morning. Amen.

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Okay, this really happened last week at church, and it just cracks me up. It was seriously explained that we were mostly done with using the video screens at the front for woship music, and it was back to using the hymn books. This would of course be much better for all of us.

Reasons: 1. It was good to follow the notes in the books, even if we didn't read music. 2. Holding hymn books provided a tactile experience- thus enhancing my worship - more than just seeing the words on the screens in front of us. 3. Holding a hymn book with someone you don't know can help build relationships. Ah, the joy of meeting someone next to you who can't find a note if their life depended on it.

This seemed like quite the apologetic for hymn books. Today I thought about developing a "scratch and sniff" hymn book increasing the worship expeirence through smell as well as touch. We could buy fewer of them, thus forcing three to four people to sing, touch, and smell their way through worship together, and saving the budget hundreds, maybe thousands. Count me in.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Dateline Peru: Now THAT'S a cup of coffee

As you travel the Global Road, an occassional oasis of a Starbucks or Seattle's Best, or Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf appear on the horizon to bring comfort and relief. But it's always important to sample the local brew to really taste the culture. So, if you head to Peru, you might want to be aware of this version of a Frappucino.

LIMA, Peru — Carmen Gonzalez plucks one of the 50 frogs from the aquarium at her bus stop restaurant, bangs it against tiles to kill it and then makes two incisions along its belly and peels off the skin as if husking corn. She's preparing frog juice, a beverage revered by some Andean cultures for having the power to cure asthma, bronchitis, sluggishness and a low sex drive. A drink of so-called "Peruvian Viagra" sells for about 90 cents.

Gonzalez adds three ladles of hot, white bean broth, two generous spoonfuls of honey, raw aloe vera plant and several tablespoons of maca — an Andean root also believed to boost stamina and sex drive — into a household blender.

Then she drops the frog in.

Once strained, the result is a starchy, milkshake-like liquid that stings the throat.
At least 50 customers a day ask for steaming beer mugs of frog juice at Gonzalez's countertop-only restaurant in eastern Lima, and many treat the concoction as their morning — and afternoon — cup of coffee.

What I like about the drink is that it's a multivitamin that deals with so many different health issues. I think I'd prefer this with crushed ice. Hmm good.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Trusting God for Peace in the Middle East

Here is a great story from Kate Osterloh, in Lebanon with YWAM. This is Kate's second mission trip in a year. She's a college student out to change the world for the glory of God. Be encouraged, and dream of the possibilities.

Whew! I am back from Lebanon and two of the most profound weeks of my life! I started out my journey up in the region of Mount Lebanon, where I joined a local YWAM team hosting a kid's camp for local children.
About 40 children were there, the majority of them Druze Muslims, but the team was able to freely evangelize and pray with many of the kids. It was amazing to see these children lifting their hands up to worship Jesus, hungry for the life He brings! So many seeds were planted, and I am in faith that these kids will share Jesus with their families and communities as well.

After the camp, we moved into the main focus of our trip, which was a combination of scouting out opportunities to send larger teams later on in the year, planning for a seminar we hope to host in 2008, and spreading the message of reconciliation and dialogue to as many local leaders as we could. We traveled all over the country, from Tyre and Sidon in the south, up to Byblos and Junni in the north, and Baalbeck on the coast with Syria. God amazingly provided divine appointments, leading us directly to many people in positions of authority. It was just a blast to see. During these meetings, we would listen to their view of the situation in Lebanon between different faith and political groups, and then discuss with them ways in which they could spread a message of peace and unity between different factions. We gave them an outline of our work in other countries, and ask how we could participate in the peace process in Lebanon in the future.

We also got to visit the Imam Sadr foundation, which is an orphanage in the south, where many children orphaned by the recent conflict were taken in. We visited refugee camps and churches, and attended a large conference on Faith in Politics, organized by the Arab Working group, which was attended by many governmental leaders. We also attended a seminar for Conflict Resolution, which was hosted for 20 Iraqis who were brought in. Meeting with them was just incredible, it was so humbling to meet with them.

Overall, we got a truly profound sense of God's redemptive plan for the nation through these meetings. People are very willing to talk with one another and all long for peace in their land. There have been huge inroads in reconciliation between the various factions. We found our presence in the country so welcome, as many people told us our visit had caused them to rethink their views of the West. We heard a lot of comments on how meaningful it was to them that people in the West actually care what happens to them and their country, and they found fresh hope that we had traveled so far to be with them. Talk about a humbling experience! I can't even explain to you how funny I felt sometimes, a 20 year old from America, getting to meet and share the message of Jesus with these really important, influential people. It's just hilarious the way God chooses to use the weak and lowly people to advance His kingdom.