Sunday, January 10, 2016

In the bleak mid-winter

Winter can be a hard season. Though so far (mercifully) this winter has been fairly mild for Michigan, it snowed today and I used a snowblower for the first time...ever. So I am feeling very winter-y and mindful of how things can feel cold and barren and lifeless in the winter, both in natural seasons as well as seasons of life.

The other day as I was driving along I-96 and looking at the trees - we have a lot of them in Michigan - I was thinking how bare they are and how I still think they're pretty and about the amazing changes they go through every year. When the snow melts and the temperatures warm, they will spring to life with buds and blooms of celebration. But right now, they are silent and still. They are dormant...sleeping.

I was reading about trees, and it is actually possible to keep them from entering into dormancy by keeping them in a warm place and by controlling the light source, "however, this is bad for the tree." That's what the article said. When trees aren't allowed to go through their seasons it dramatically shortens their lifespan. The season of dormancy - of quiet, non-activity - is a needed and natural part of the life cycle.

It can be hard to navigate a winter season, whether professionally, spiritually, emotionally or otherwise. If you're like me, you like it busy and productive with lots of obvious fruit. But the truth is, we need both seasons. So embrace the interim of your winter and let its work be done - whether restoration, preparation or something else entirely - embrace it, for spring will surely come.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity...He has made everything beautiful in its time." Ecclesiastes 3:1 & 11

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Waiting on the world to change

“We keep waiting. Waiting on the world to change” – John Mayer
Everybody, I believe, somewhere deep inside wants to be a world changer. We all have that dream of a utopian existence where everyone gets along, and children are well cared for and nobody goes hungry and the hope of every beauty pageant contestant is finally realized: world peace. The truth is, though, that this vapor of a dream is as far out of our reach as Neverland. Jesus spoke often of the conflicts and calamities that keep us looking for a better place, and it wasn’t good news. He said, “You will always have poor people, brother will turn against brother, loss will continue, and good will always be opposed by evil.” I’m paraphrasing, obviously, but it’s all there in the red letters. So while we might like to think that if we just wait things will get better, the truth is that things don’t just get better. Someone makes it better. This is ultimately why we need Jesus, but it is also why Jesus needs us. He came and did the heavy, eternal lifting, but as his followers, it is our job to represent him here on the earth. If things are to change – if hungry children are to be fed, and the oppressed find justice, and peace and love are to be spread among humanity – I contend that the followers of Christ ought to be (at least among) the ones doing it.

One Saturday as I was getting ready to head down to the southwest Detroit neighborhood where the Good News Gang buses in kids and ministers to them every week, I had a realization. Changing the world is hard. I know that sounds like an overstatement of the obvious, but I don’t think it is. It’s not hard because it’s big. I think it’s hard because it feels small. Sometimes you do it with little or no help and it’s generally inconvenient and rarely recognized at the time. But if you want to change the world, this is how I think it gets done. You get up, you go out, you get your hands dirty, you alter your schedule and you get busy. That’s what I’m going to do anyway. So on Saturdays, if you are looking for me, you’ll find me in southwest Detroit, hanging out with a few other world changers and a couple hundred inner city kids. One week at a time, one child at a time, we’re doing our best to change the neighborhoods, change this city and change the world. 

For more info visit www.goodnewsgang.org. You can also click the link to the right to support me as a World Indigenous Missions missionary to Detroit. Thanks for joining the journey!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

When God calls you home.


I realize that title sounds like a lead in to an obituary, but I don’t mean it metaphorically. After 24 years of living in other places, God is literally calling me home…to where I grew up, in southeastern Michigan. Being called home may not be a familiar concept to some, but I remember when moms used to call kids home for supper. That was a different time. As kids, we would be playing outside (remember “outside?”) until the streetlights came on. We used to go around the neighborhood and call for our friends in a sing-song fashion outside their houses. “Jim-my, Jim-my!” I may be sounding like an episode of Andy Griffith, but I swear to God we did this! I think we were old souls.

Fast-forward, and I haven’t kept in touch with any of those kids from Hilldale, my little street in the Detroit suburbs. I’m sure, like me, they’ve scattered to the corners of the earth and created life stories as varied as the colors of the rainbow. It’s not hard to imagine because that seems to have been the theme for the Detroit area: leaving. I remember when I was a teenager, our neighbor Shelley, a retired autoworker, had a refrigerator in his garage covered with bumper stickers. One of the stickers read, “Will the last person leaving Detroit please turn the lights off?” That was from the first exodus, back in the 60’s and 70’s. In the last ten years or so, there has been another wave of desertion and desolation—this one of almost apocalyptic proportions. Jobs have been lost, homes abandoned, buildings burned. A simple Google search will bring up pictures of Detroit that could easily pass for a post-war country. But the war there is still raging and that’s what draws me.

The metro Detroit area has not only lost economic stability, it has lost a lot of faith. In the wake of the myriad difficulties that have befallen these precious, hardy people of the north, there has been an influx of messages leading people away from the gospel of Christ. Hundreds of churches have closed their doors due to lack of funding, lack of people, or both, while mosques, Buddhist temples, and other alternate places of worship have been on the rise. While some churches have experienced growth and are seeing good results, far more have been struggling. Many of these churches are led by good people who love God and love their city, but these people are battle-scarred and weary. The harvest is ripe, but the laborers are few. 

Then comes the call.

I left the Detroit area right after high school and, after returning only briefly, thought I would forever live in other, more appealing, warmer places. And for the most part, I have. As I have endeavored to follow the call of God it has led me to some beautiful places: Florida, Tennessee, Texas—just to name a few. Having settled for the last five years on the Texas coast with the beach practically at my front door, a move back to the north was the furthest thing from my mind. But when God is calling you might as well respond because happiness and fulfillment will not be found anywhere else. The need is great and I’m just one person who senses a call from God to go and serve and help and make Christ known, but that is what I must do. I don’t know exactly what my part in rebuilding and rebirthing will look like, but I will give it all I have. Right now, I only know it’s time to go home.

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do." 
- Edward Everett Hale (often attributed to Helen Keller)