Monday, March 22, 2010

G.O. Honduras 2010

Here is a video which offers a glimpse into our week in Honduras. But a little explanation is in order before you watch it.
Saturday, February 27th: Arrived early afternoon after departing from Denver airport at 1:00am. We're picked up by Thomas Kettelkamp (our guide from World Hope) and people from the Ulloa church. We experience traffic in Tegucigalpa ('chaos' doesn't describe it). Got settled in with our host family (Pastor Lopez). Later than evening, we join a wedding celebration. I ate guinea pig. Not bad.
Sunday, February 28th: I experienced what it's like to be awaken by a chorus of 100,000+ roosters. Today is site-seeing day. Thom shows us downtown Tegucigalpa. I see me first coffee plantation (I'm boycotting Starbucks coffee - feel free to ask me why). We go for a hike in the La Tigra national cloud forest. Enjoyed top-shelf Honduran cuisine. Then, we went to a professional soccer game. It was wild. It was awesome.
Monday, March 1st: Time to get to work. We go with a crew from the Ulloa church to the site of their future outreach center (on the other side of Tegu). Around Tegu, the city has marked out properties, which you can claim by squatting on. However, you have 1 year to build something permanent on the site, or your forfeit the land. They've been on the land for 10 months, but have had no $ to build anything. They built a stone retaining wall (using rock on the site), but the city said, "Not going to cut it." So we've helped finance the construction of a concrete retaining wall, which the city will accept. And we get to be there for the start of construction. No skidsteers here. Pick axes and shovels modus operendi. At the end of the day, Thom takes us to the national cathedral. I got to preach for the Ulloa church.
Tuesday, March 2nd: Another work day. The Ulloa crew brings tarps so we can enjoy some shade. It was in the 90's. More pickin' and shovelin'. Rock and sand get delivered to the site. We have to move with 5-gal buckets to get it off the road. By the way, for lunch each day, we enjoyed the best Chinese fried rice I've ever had. To finish the day off, we hauled 105lb bags of cement up the hill for storage. We felt that. Still, it's a joy to work alongside our Honduran brothers.
Wednesday, March 3rd: Half-day of worK. Then Jersen & Jessica Lopez take us Sheridan boys downtown to do some souvenir shopping. We get Honduran World Cup team shirts for our family members. I got to preach again at church. The pastor's son, Jersen, who's studying for an exam for the English program at the University of Tegu, was my translator. We'd worked on the project together and we became very close. The entire Lopez family has been so gracious. The other team members enjoyed table soccer and thumb wrestling with the others.
Thursday, March 4th: Thom has to leave for the U.S. We enjoy one last workday at the site. We the excavation was finished and we started building the foundation with rocks and mortar. Experienced mixing mortar by hand on the ground for the first time.
Friday, March 5th: Tearful goodbye with the Lopez family. They drive us out to Casa Hagar, on orphanage in the country just outside Tegu. We spend the day playing with 23 kids. It's so awesome to see them so healthy and happy, especially after hearing some of their stories. Almost all of the care is provided by one woman, Alicia, who's incredible. We watched the Spanish version of Pixar's Up with the kids that night. I still cried. Got real homesick after getting 23 hugs goodnight.
Saturday, March 6th: Returned to the States, forever changed.

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So what did I come away with?
  • I learned that speaking in a Spanish accent doesn't count. Merely adding an 'o' or 'osito' on the end of an English word doesn't make a Spanish word.
  • An incredible team experience. Ryan, Jerel & Mark were incredible. They fully engaged and I don't feel like we had a low point.
  • New friends and family.
  • I learned to push through fears and embrace our time there. The language barrier was hard. I feared doing something foolish and getting in a pickle. I feared getting sick. I had to push through the fact that we were staying in an impoverished area. There was little privacy and that's okay. We got bit up by things that crawl. But it was still such a rich experience.
  • The blessing of knowing we were an answer to prayer re: developing the property.
  • The joy of getting to know the people in Ulloa - people who work hard, people of deep faith, and people who live richly in the midst of poverty.
Thank you Thom for leading us. We were challenged by your perspective and touched by your generosity and compassion. Thank you Lord, for calling us to Honduras.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Blessed are the Poor? Really?

We're in the middle of a sermon series called 'Happy Days'. It's based on the Beatitudes, and wrestles with how to find joy in unexpected places. Now the TV Show, Happy Days, portrayed life the 1950's and 1960's. Those were 'happy days' because the American Dream (usually involving a well-built, 3 bedroom house with a 2-stall garage, manicured lawn, white picket fence, mom as a homemaker, healthy happy children and dad working his well-paying, 40-hr per week job) was seemingly accessible to everyone. How could you not be happy?

Yet the Beatitudes turn that whole notion on it's head. We don't pursue the situations described there (poor, mourning, persecuted, etc.). Yet Scripture shows us that joy is found in unexpected places, perhaps even in the very opposite circumstances of the American Dream. When Jesus said, 'Blessed are the...' the term 'blessed' means - "Lucky you. You're in an enviable, advantageous position. Heaven favors and smiles on you." I look at all those situations and think, "Really?"


The first Beatitude is, "Blessed are the poor, for yours is the kingdom of God." (Luke 6:20). This one strikes me. Currently, I am experiencing some anxiety. I'm wondering if my house is worth the loan we have on it. Our country, in the current recession, is seized with fear of being poor. The government is pulling out all stops to keep us from becoming poor. So how does this Beatitude speak to me? I believe it calls me to 1) Not being seized with the fear of becoming poor - as if life is over and not worth living if I don't have the standard of living I expect, and 2) To practice generosity, especially in the midst of such a fear.
I leave tomorrow for Honduras, to minister in the poorest area of the country alongside a body of believers described as, "Incredibly spiritually rich and incredibly resource poor." This is going to stretch me. I guess I'll see if these reflections from Yancy's The Jesus I Never Knew hold water:

Why would God single out the poor for special attention over any other group?
  1. The poor know they are in urgent need of redemption.
  2. The poor know not only their dependence on God and on powerful people but also their interdependence with one another.
  3. The poor rest their security not on things but on people.
  4. The poor have no exaggerated sense of their own importance, and no exaggerated need of privacy.
  5. The poor expect little from competition and much from cooperation.
  6. The poor can distinguish between necessities and luxuries.
  7. The poor can wait, because they have acquired a kind of dogged patience born of acknowledged dependence.
  8. The fears of the poor are more realistic and less exaggerated, because they already know that one can survive great suffering and want.
  9. When the poor have the Gospel preached to them, it sounds like good news and not like a threat or a scolding.
  10. The poor can respond to the call of the Gospel with a certain abandonment and uncomplicated totality because they have so little to lose and are ready for anything.
  11. Poor people find themselves in a posture that befits the grace of God.
I think I'm about to find out. I'm also wondering how this will impact me from here on out. Here we go!


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Naked.

In Exodus 33, we see Moses take some alone time with God. We get a glimpse of the incredible intimacy Moses enjoyed with the Lord. In a moment of overwhelming gratitude, Moses cried out, "Now show me your glory."

God's response? Moses could see His glory, but not from the front - for no one could see the face of God and live. No one was worthy enough for that. So God hid Moses in the cleft of the rocks. After God passed by, then Moses saw God's glory from the back. Now according to my theology professor, Martin Luther felt that 'back' wasn't the proper translation. He maintained the proper translation was instead 'backside'. (Luther dealt with this in a sermon titled The Ass of God.) When I first heard this, I leaned over to one of my classmates and whispered, "You gotta be kidding me. Luther's telling us that God mooned Moses."

My warped imagination, remembering how Moses came back from his encounter with God white as a sheet, conjured up this imaginary exchange between Moses and Joshua as Moses returned. (I've got Pa Grape's voice from the VeggieTales in my mind).
  • Joshua: Moses! Moses! You're white. What happened?
  • Moses: Oh Joshua... I asked to see His face... Don't ever ask to see His face, Joshua.
Where am I going with this? Today, in my Life of Christ class, we covered the crucifixion of Jesus. Amidst all the tragedy, one indignity Jesus suffered really stuck out to me. Jesus hung naked on the cross. The Roman soldiers performing the execution had stripped Jesus of his clothes and divided them up amongst themselves. Jesus hung on the cross... naked. In the movie, The Passion of the Christ, they showed every grisly detail of Jesus' torture, but they didn't show that. They couldn't show that.

The God, who back in Exodus 33 had to hide His face because He was so holy, was hung naked on a cross for all mockers and mourners to see. This probably didn't hurt His body like being flogged and crucified. It probably didn't hurt Jesus' spirit like being separated from His Father. But really... the indignity of it all. What incredible restraint to not wipe everyone on the scene out. What incredible love to forbear such dishonor. I don't even know what to say.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Ready for the Routine

Whew. Dare I say it? "I'm ready to jump back into the routine!" It's been a wonderful Christmas break. We've had some great time with family. I'm well rested. I've eaten way too much. Time to get back into the groove.

Perhaps I wouldn't be so hungry to get back into the routine had I taken more time to read and enjoy some intimacy with God. But I'm also realizing that I am a creature of habit. I thrive on the routine. Sounds boring, but I hope the reason for it is connected with these thoughts by G.K. Chesterton.

"A child kicks its legs rhythmically through excess, not absence, of life. Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, "Do it again"; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough... It is possible that God says every morning, "Do it again," to the sun; and every evening, "Do it again," to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike: it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we."

Monday, December 21, 2009


I've probably preached 20 sermons over the past 4 years. Though I love preaching, I'm already learning that some mean more to me than others. Shoot, I'm sure there's a couple I don't remember at all. But one I preached a year ago keeps coming back. It's left a mark on me. It was called 'Dirty'. It was a sermon based on reflections from the life of Christ, looking at the times he got 'dirty' in the New Testament. It stemmed from Jesus' encounter with the Pharisees in Mark 7:1-8, where the religious leaders questioned Jesus for not washing His hands (ceremonially) before He ate. Jesus rebuked them for having clean hands, but dirty hearts. As it turns out, it's not so bad to get a little dirty after all. In fact, in order to keep clean on the inside, we need to be willing to get dirty on the outside. Jesus wasn't afraid to get dirty.
  • He got dirty in Mark 1:40-41. In Jesus' time, the Jews believed that it made one unclean (spiritually dirty) to touch someone with leprosy. But Jesus healed a man with leprosy when He touched the man. Jesus could have healed a difference, but He didn't. He touched the man. As Walter Pink puts it, "The contagion of holiness overcame the contagion of uncleanliness." We get dirty in a good way by reaching out to heal others.
  • Jesus got dirty in John 8:1-11. Jesus rescued a woman caught in adultery from a group of men with a warped sense of justice, when He bent down, and wrote in the dust with his finger. Then he rose up and said, "If anyone is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone." No one did. There's a lot to this episode, but we get dirty in a good way by protecting others from injustice.
  • Jesus even got dirty in John 13:1-8. It was His last night on earth. He was gathered with His disciples to celebrate the Passover meal before He would be betrayed, tortured, and crucified. Now it was customary for a host to provide water for guests to wash their feet upon entering the house. Sometimes, slaves would wash guests' feet (though Jewish slaves were exempt because the job was considered so low). Sometimes, in an extreme act of love and devotion, a disciple would wash the feet of his rabbi. But it was unheard of for a rabbi to wash his disciples' feet. Yet on this night, Jesus washed His disciples' feet. He got dirty. We get dirty, in a good way, when we serve others.
This has challenged me time and time again. Unless I'm willing to get a little dirty, I'm not really clean where it counts. Too often, I'm like Alexandra Rover in the movie Nim's Island.

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Too often, I hide behind selfishness and fear of the 'unsanitary'. But I know I need to reach out and touch the world. It's time to get dirty.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

I Don't Want To Lose Heart

I recently ready John Eldridge's Waking the Dead. Very good. I needed to hear much of what he wrote. In it, he tells a portion of the Tin Man's story from The Wizard of Oz that fails to make it into the movie. Originally, the Tin Man was a real man, who was really in love. But the Wicked Witch carried out an evil plot against the Tin Man. She cast a spell that would eventually harden his heart. Every time the Tin Man was injured, his injured body part would be replaced by tin. Stronger. More durable. Safer from harm. But after a series of blows, his humanity was reduced to efficiency. I think as of late, I too have seized upon efficiency, busyness, and productivity over real life.

Perhaps it's the result of a difficult move (difficult in the sense that it was hard to leave where we moved from - where we've moved to is great). Whatever the reason, I find myself driven more by duty than love lately. I find myself yearning to have my heart back. I don't want to lose heart.

It brings to mind a scene from Braveheart. The young prince, Robert the Bruce, has just returned from the battlefield, where he had betrayed the Scottish hero William Wallace, to report to his father (now near death due to his leprosy).

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"Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life." - Proverbs 4:23

How do I do that? What helps? Starting my morning out in God's Word. Worshiping him in private on my guitar. Lately, I've been going back and listening to some of the music I listened to when I first gave my life to Christ. For awhile, I've been sensing I need to start doing a monthly DAWG (Day Alone With God) day. Whatever it is, I better do it. I don't want to lose heart.

How about you? What helps you guard your heart?

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Masterpiece Theater

I love classical literature and reading through such books as Treasure Island, Swiss Family Robbinson, A Little Princess, and A Jungle Book with my children has been a great joy. What strikes me about the writing of that time is the prodigious number of Scriptural references woven in the the fabric of the writing of that time. Even non-Christian authors from that period refer to events in the Bible we'd consider obscure by today's standards. The Bible was the literary common ground of the people in that day and age. Preachers today cannot refer to Moses, Abraham, Jacob, or even Paul without having to explain who they were. All of this led to the following clip we filmed with the help of Celebrate Church (www.celebratesf.com).
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Cheesy I know, but I hope it might inspire some to dig into the true Masterpiece. Thank you, Cory Vinz for all your work on this project. It was a joy working with you.