Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Portrait

I continue with drawing classes. It is an enjoyable and relaxing experience. I've done several different pictures (you can see on other if you click below where is says drawing projects) and now I've almost finished my first portrait, Esperanza.

We might allow the art school to share our space in the building one or two days a week. I hope it works out.

More on a Different Perspective

Frost and Hirsch continue provoking thoughts in my mind.

"Len [Sweet] told us about how he will often get Christians… to stand in a large circle around the room. He said that they always stand shoulder-to-shoulder facing inward. When he points this out, they immediately adopt the opposite stance and face outward. But, Leonard Sweet reminds them a totally outward-facing church isn't being everything a church should be. He then asks them to stand facing each other with one shoulder facing the center of the circle and the other facing out. It might seem like a small shift, but by standing in this less natural position they gain a powerful reminder of the missionary stance. It's both inward and outward looking."

Although I had read and marked this paragraph 18 months ago, I didn't remember it. I rediscovered it yesterday and it goes exactly with what I had done on Jan. 25, 2008 with the chairs facing out at morning prayer and devotion. I mentioned the need to look outward and not maintain our focus on ourselves. I also made the comment that a just outward focus was not correct either. There are times for inward focus and times for outward focus. I like Sweet's dynamic of shoulder-in and shoulder-out, facing each other to explain living and meeting needs of body (inward) and of the world (outward).

I'm also pondering another quote, but this time from Hirsch's book The Forgotten Ways.

"It is little wonder that our precommitments to the Christendom mode of church [typical Western-world church] and thinking restrict us to past successes and give us no real solutions for the future. We always seem to default to its preconceived answers. Genuine learning and development is at best a risky process, but without journey and risk there can be no progress."

We need to get outside of our religious box in at least two ways: In our methods and thoughts [new wineskins vs. old wineskins] and in regards to those we are to impact [new wine vs. old wine - ourselves vs. those that are not yet Christians]. To grow, learn and make progress we must begin to think different. We must raise the ceiling, take off the lid, shake off the chains if we're really going to make a difference.

Jesus' major difficulty was with the established religous leaders. Even among the disciples of John and his own disciples he wasn't understood in his teachings, practice of fasting, eating with sinners and undesirables, and allowing his feet to be cleaned and anointed with a very expensive and precious oil .

Jesus said, "Go into the world. Go everywhere and announce the Message of God's good news to one and all. Train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life… Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you."

Open the eyes of my heart, Lord. Transform my way of thinking. Make me a new wineskin.

Frost and Hirsch , The Shaping of Things to Come, p. 44.
Hirsch, The Forgotten Ways, p. 51.
Mark 16:16 and Matthew 28:19-20, The Message.

Friday, January 25, 2008

A Different Perspective

Today we marked day 25 in our New Year's Morning Prayer. The plan started out as 21 days of prayer in preparation for the "New Wine" based on a 21 day prayer guide by Chuck Pierce. On January 1st we started with 4 people. I was pleased, especially since the majority of the people in Matagalpa stayed up til after midnight on December 31. As the week progressed we finished with 8 people coming. The next week we had an average of 12 and the next week 21 people came on Monday and Tuesday and then it rose again to 24. Group desire was to continue and finish out the month. Monday 28 people came, Tuesday 28 again, Wednesday 29, Thursday there were 34 and today there were 29. God is doing something.

Each day is similar in that we read, meditate, share and pray... each day has it's own distinction and today's was a good one.

Today we placed the 30+ chairs facing out of the circle instead of towards the center. It was fun and interesting watching the people come in 1, 2, 3 at a time and start looking at the chairs. The first 5-10 people didn't even want to sit down.

"You're playing with our mind, Pastor," they said.

Bev and I sat down and began reading the verses for the day and soon all were somewhat doing the same, still uncomfortable and a bit nervous, but they followed our example. There was a bit more chatter than normal, there were one or two that just stood there and looked as they entered. One man sat down and got up looked around, sat down again for a moment and then got up again. Finally, he sat down, but couldn't read... he was uncomfortable.

After we broke into small groups to discuss the reading, we talked about sitting looking out of the circle instead of towards the center. The shared their feelings and we talked about the uncomfortableness. Some couldn't do their reading and meditation, others liked it better, all were affected some how.

"Why?" I asked. Because God wants us to have a new perspective. He wants us to look at things differently. He doesn't want us to get comfortable with the same ol' same ol'. Yesterday I mentioned Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch's book The Shaping of Things to Come and the need for change so we can continue growing and learning, and that was exactly the purpose of this morning's exercise in setting facing looking out of the circle.

Some key ideas I left the people with about sitting facing outward were:

  • we need to be made uncomfortable sometimes
  • we need a different perspective
  • we shouldn't focus on ourselves all the time
  • our help in not in ourselves
  • it's a better position for defense [if that is necessary]
  • we must go out to the nations
After chatting about the experience, we faced out again, prayed for a change in our perspective and the needs of the nations. Returning to face the center [it's not always bad, you know], we prayed for one another and then left for the day with a new commitment to give the nations what God has given us.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

A Few Good Quotes From Our Past

James Madison - "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."
Thomas Paine - "That government is best which governs least."
Woodrow Wilson - "The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people."
Ronald Reagan - "We are never defeated unless we give up on God."

Give Me what You've Got

Toward evening the disciples approached him [Jesus]. "We're out in the country and it's getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper."

Jesus said, "There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper."

"All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish," they said.

Jesus said, "Bring them here."

Like the woman with the cruse of oil and the widow with just enough oil and flour to make one more meal, all God asks of us is what we have, nothing more, but he does want all we have.

In the same way, Peter took the step of faith and walked on water. Here all Peter had was faith in Jesus and a step of obedience.

He believed.
He obeyed.
He walked on water.

That is all God asks of us!

"Give me what you've got," He says!

Matthew 14:15-18; 2 Kings 4:1-8; 1 Kings 17:12-14; Matthew 14:28-29

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

An Interesting Thought

"Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition." - Timothy Leary
Very interesting for at least two reasons:
1. A woman has her own special value in just being a woman, created different than a man. She has her own special characteristics, such as a more caring heart, a perception or intuition that man doesn't typically have, etc.  Why seek to be equal with men? Be who you are! special and unique.
2. Galatians 3:27, 28 "For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." God already made us equal in His sight. What do we have to accomplish?
This is not to avoid the just application of the law for just and equal treatment, but that is a totally different topic. In fact, from a Christian male perspective I believe that women should receive special and preferred treatment. Peter mentions that they are the more fragile gender and should receive preferential treatment and care from their husbands.
I'm thankful for my awesome wife, the woman of my life. She deserves much more credit and recognition for great accomplishments in the Kingdom of God than I do. She far exceeds me in every area of life.
I love you Beverly!

Friday, January 11, 2008

A thought after silence...

Well, I've been super busy... but I have had lots of thoughts and have spent significant time reflecting.

The past weeks my major focus has been the family... Christmas, birthdays, putting together airplanes with the boys, drawing with Cheree, spending time and chatting with Bev, eating cashew nuts and chex with my mom...

We started a 21 day prayer cycle "preparing for the new wine" the new things God wants to do in our lives and the life of the church. We meet every morning at 6 AM, spend time alone in prayer and reading, read a chapter or two together, share what we have gleaned from the text read and finally we close in prayer. We started with 5 people the first day, today we had 14... It's been good.

I finished up a drawing from Johnny, the art teacher... was a bit time consuming for the details. As you can see it was an exercise in perspective. I've started a new one of Esperanza, my first portrait.

Bev and I are leading worship together on Sunday while Raul Castro is preaching. We're getting the church ready to assume more and more responsibility as we prepare to start a new project in Jinotega.

God is good... more later!