My Take on #Kony2012 Post 4 – Why Are People So Against This?

This weekend, I was away speaking at at a retreat in the Poconos and on my long drive back, I was reflecting over a few things. I had the thought that if I was in Uganda trying to rebuild my life and my community and I had become aware that many in America had been talking about me, my country, my region, my future and the problems I face for the last two weeks, I’d be even angrier if the consensus was, “That video was misguided so I guess I’m not going to help …”

Now I know there may be sound concerns to not help, however, the unfair criticism, the constructive critiques, the missteps of the “Kony 2012″ campaign don’t seem like legitimate reasons. Though I was still very much enjoying the afterglow of the weekend, I found myself in that angry/frustration/passion/wrestlingwithGod moment. I was a bit stuck on this because I think it’s an important conversation. My bigger concern is that we would go through all of this and not take advantage of the opportunity to help those in need.

As you likely know and as I mentioned in the previous post, Jason Russell, one of the founders and the narrator of “Kony 2012″ suffered an emotional breakdown over the weekend. Initially it was reported that he was intoxicated but that has been clarified. You can watch this video that was made in follow up and read part of Invisible Children’s Statement below:

To the Invisible Children Family from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo:

“Thank you to everyone concerned with Jason and his health. Jason has dedicated his adult life to this cause, leading up to KONY 2012. We thought a few thousand people would see the film, but in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it. While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason—and, because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard.

Let us say up front- that Jason has never had a substance abuse or drinking problem, and this episode wasn’t caused by either of those things. But yes, he did some irrational things brought on by extreme exhaustion. On our end- the focus remains only on his health, and protecting our family. We’ll take care of Jason, you take care of the work.

The message of the film remains the same: stop at nothing.”

-Jason’s wife on behalf of the Russell Family”

Don Miller had a brief and appropriate response. And I appreciated this post entitled “Jason Russell is My Friend.”by Jaime Tworkowski. I hope I am that type of friend and it reminds me that we need to have more conversations between enabling and loyalty. Though a terrible situation, we are indeed reminded of our humanity and the toll this issue takes on so many.

One of the most powerful and convicting scenes for me was in the movie Hotel Rwanda when Paul Rusesabagina (played by Don Cheadle) tells Jack (Joaquin Phoenix) that the was glad that he shot this footage so the world could see and intervene against such atrocities. Jack says, “I think if people see this footage they’ll say, “oh my God that’s horrible,” and then go on eating their dinners.”

More than 100 Million views. Almost a third of our country, about the number that voted in the 2008 Presidential election. I am concerned that a moment is being squandered here. Everyone agrees that Kony and the LRA are evil, everyone agrees that Uganda and Central Africa are in need of support for rebuilding and everyone agrees that this has been an atrocity. What we do between eating our dinners, watching our movies, preaching our sermons and living our lives will be telling.

On the drive, I keep asking myself what am I missing here? Why are people so against this?

Some answers I keep hearing are like, “Well, because IC implied that Kony was still in Uganda.” i can’t argue with anyone’s first impressions and it could be that I’m very familiar with their films and keep up with their blog and read their emails and try to keep up with a host of other anti-trafficking blogs, but “Kony 2012″ seemed clear to me that not only was he no longer in Uganda, but that Jason was telling the story to his son in the past tense. Still, between that and other aspects of the film, perhaps there is concern that it came across that way and I’ll consider these types of comments a contributing factor.

The other critique I hear is regarding their spending, I read one article complaining about how much IC spent on their filmmaking and stated that had it gone to malaria instead, Central Africa would have been malaria-free. I find that hard to believe. But her case would have been devastating had Invisible Children’s mission was to rid Central of Africa of malaria. I don’t find that to be a fair criticism. Fighting malaria is a very noble, essential cause and threatens thousands a year and there are great organizations that are dedicated to solving it. If the writer hasn’t already, I think it would be wise to examine the spending of the organizations committed to fighting malaria under the same scrutiny. Further, it seems her criticism would be better served to compare what we the public spend on alcohol, soft drinks, fast food, cable television, etc. and the costs to eliminate a killer like malaria. But I don’t find this to be a helpful critique in this context.

Another critique is the call for military intervention. I find this to be a very legitimate concern and a lengthy discourse because we need to unpack what type of intervention is sought after, what to do about the rest of the LRA and so forth. While I am never of the “kill ’em all” mindset, I am not for the doing nothing mindset either. I’ll get flack for this, but with all the peace treaties that Kony has been invited to, “participated in” and avoided in order to continue his violence and pain, the answer will not be found in a true pacifist approach – unless it’s the pacifist approach like Dietrich Bonhoeffer. If I may, I encourage pacifists to truly find other ways/organizations to support those in the region. (I included a list of other organizations at the bottom of my previous post.)

There are countless articles and posts critiquing – some very helpful to the conversation, some not. I believe some of the “not helpful” types are creating intelligent sounding excuses rooted in feeling jaded from the complexities surrounding Africa. I believe others to be rooted in apathy. That said, I do believe many in the “helpful critique” category to be rooted in wisdom, proper stewardship and solid experience. May God be our judge.

Here’s where I am landing.

For me, Invisible Children was and still is a great starting point for many. I personally went from being interested about human trafficking to finding ways to get involved against this atrocity. Also, at the time, I was a youth pastor, and our students connecting with these films was a great encouragement to me. I now support several organizations and am committed to bringing awareness to this important issue.

Awareness is the first step, and now that we are aware, we have the opportunity to do something. There are only so many causes, organizations and missionaries one can support so know that I am not implying that now that you are aware you need to do something. Not at all, I am among those that are saying, if you can, please support.

 Second, if you are getting involved, let’s commit to being involved responsibly. I highly   recommend reading books like, When Helping Hurts and these two from David Livermore:  Cultural Intelligence: Improving Your CQ to Engage Our Multicultural World and Serving With Eyes Wide Open. There are countless sites and blogs dedicated to eradicating trafficking like IJM, Polaris Project, Not For Sale. Check out the blog of friends I know, Jesse and Andrea serving in Uganda.  I trust and appreciate their take.  Further, papers like the NY Times, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe are always featuring articles on this important issue.    There are many takes on the issue, but not a scarcity of info, let’s read, think and discuss.  And let’s act at the same time.

And to keep it simple, the third step is prayerful action.  I’m way over my intended word count but in short, pray, give, create awareness, let’s keep our hearts broken and be diligent.

For those who have decided to not get involved in this issue for one reason or another,  know that your convictions are respected, but please, serve in a area where you see a need, can create awareness for, offer different types of support.  May we all serve God’s world in various and effective ways.

I believe the one thing we can all agree on is that we cannot witness terrible atrocities and go back to eating our dinner, drinking our frappucinos and watching our reality tv shows.

Thanks for reading friends.

Reflections on Brokenness Post 2 – “I’ve Forgotten 87% of the Statistics I’ve Heard and I Believe Very Little of the Remaining 13%”

Statistics. Has there have been a more manipulative and misunderstood tool than statistics? I am likely upsetting 79% of you math types and approximately 21% of your literature types are smiling. Likely 39% of you will not make it to the end of the post (and you should because it’s a decent point) (1% have decided to continue reading. Blessed are you).

Likely, you have heard that statistic that says, “67% of all statistics are made up.” I think I laugh at that 99% of the time.

[Read more…]

Neo-Reformers, Emergents & Missionals Agree … on the Bad Theology of the Bethke Video

“What if I told you” … that it’s crazy who you might end up agreeing with?

Remember this video that went viral called “Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus” by Jefferson Bethke? Of course you do, you haven’t got a chance to repress it yet. But in case you have closed your Facebook account as a New Year’s resolution, here it is:

Confession: When I first clicked on it, I was a bit excited, cool background, cool typography, cool dude, then after 30 seconds I thought “Uh oh, this is not cool. It’s not even accurate.”

Thought of blogging about it, but by the time I collected my thoughts, I had already seen this excellent one “Lame Poetry, False Dichotomies, and Bad Theology” by Jonathan Fitzgerald on the Patrol Mag site and there were a few others floating around Twitter.

Tony Jones had a few scattered comments about it on his FB and this post.

Kevin DeYoung had a lot to say here.

Then about a week later I saw on Twitter that Bethke responded to Kevin’s critique and his comments were included in a follow-up post by Kevin.

Before I read the post I thought – wow, when Tony Jones and Kevin DeYoung agree, you know your theology really sucks. I pictured neo-reformers putting down their Calvin’s Institutes, complimentarians putting down their Real Marriage books and the husbands giving permission to allow their wives “extra time” to look online (sorry I couldn’t resist), progressives stopped tweeting about the GOP Debates (they’re really the only ones watching) and they all nodded in sad agreement – “The message of this video is terrible.”

No word yet on how Rob Bell and John Piper felt about the whole thing. I picture Rob in Hollywood creating characters for his new tv show. I bet you one is called “Joe Pipper” and he’s from Minnesota and he’s a cross between Robert Duvall’s character, “Sonny” in The Apostle and Simon Cowell. I’m also starting the rumor that John Piper has contacted Flannel to produce a series of DVD’s called, “Righteous O’rgh” (which is the Greek for “anger”, like in Mark 3:5. Could have gone a different tray with this joke, patting myself on the back for such restraint ;)

As you know, the respective sides have not agreed on much over the years. Guinness, iPhones and the continued desire to breath oxygen are some common denominators but I am aware there are tea-totaling Droid users in the respective parties.

But I digress.

The issue that everyone pointed out was that we all hate hypocrisy. “Religion” isn’t the problem. Heartless, cold, empty religion is what causes the damage. Bethke sorta admits to that in this CBS News video (although he plays the “semantics card” a little awkwardly IMO). You should click this to hear the priest use spoken word in response. (“Yo Jeff, let me give you a holler from the collar. I don’t think it’s religion you should be dissin’. I think it’s the nuance that you’re missing” – Not quite the battle from 8-Mile but what can you do).

So here’s where I find myself in light of this little episode.  I was grateful for what Kevin DeYoung said. I was grateful that Tony Jones posted about it. I know some will see this as a common enemy thing and while bad theology is a good common enemy, this little scene demonstrated revealed that we could look at the same sky and say it was blue.  Or look at a piece of art and say, “Hmmm, not sure the artist got it here.”  I want to be careful and taper off the “There’s hope after all for the unity of the Church!” conversation but from my vantage point, this was good for me to see.

I am also grateful overall for Bethke’s response. For a 22 year old, I’m excited for him. I hope this ushers in a season of study and thoughtful engagement with a number of aspects conceding the nature of worship, faith, religion, theology and the church. I hope he leverages his influence to build the church. And I hope his next video is grounded theologically and brings a better conversation to the social media culture.

What if I told you we all do could this?

Do My Se7en Jeans go with my TOMS Shoes? The Inconsistencies and Virtues of the Missional Life – Post 4

Years ago, I tried to avoid buying anything from the mall or from major retailers. I found it to be impossible so I tried to limit my purchases. That became impossible too. Then a couple of my friends got jobs there. One was a student in grad school whose probably been working since he was 14 … months old (he’s prone to exaggeration but you get the point). The other finished with a Business degree but couldn’t find anything and was working at Express longer than he preferred. Eventually they moved on and landed some place but I remember my aversion to retail changed a little bit because I didn’t want to see either of them have to struggle to find jobs again.

Fast forward to 2010: I was sitting with my seminary cohort on the shaded roof of a Mennonite mission that focused on community-building and fair-trade … in Cambodia (among the coolest experiences I’ve got to enjoy). We talked about a number of things and one of the statements struck me, “When Westerners don’t buy enough from places like the Gap, there is more unemployment here … Further organizations like ours cannot support the number of these unemployed workers nor do we produce enough fair-trade products (or have enough customers) to offer such an alternative.” I’ve always known fair-trade to be complimentary in many cases but this was a little disheartening in some ways for me.

“So we need to shop at the Gap?”

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I enjoy the deconstruction (and the reconstruction) of things. Most of the time it leads to a better and more intentional way of life. Today, I want to wonder out loud about how some of our lifestyles in the suburbs. The problem that I have found in reading posts by others on similar subjects and by writing my own is that they tend to come across as self-righteous. This one will likely be no different – but I hope despite my best efforts in avoiding that, we’ll have some worthy things to consider.

In full disclosure, I am writing this post wearing TOMS (botas!), and no, they were not free (in exchange for posting this). I’m also wearing a sweater I bought a few years ago from the clearance section of the Banana Republic. It may have been practically free. And while I don’t actually own Se7en jeans, I was thinking of running out right now to get a pair for the integrity of this post. I do however have a closetful of stuff and I do remember being “convicted” by Ed Norton’s character in Fight Club after his condo was blown up and all of his possessions being destroyed. That stuff owned him. This stuff owns me …?

And so I find myself wondering …
Can one blog about poverty on a Macbook while sitting in the suburbs?
Can one wear an Invisible Children bracelet with a Swiss Army watch?
Can one wear $100 jeans with TOMS Shoes?

What should we wear? What should we drive? Where should we live? What should we consume? What shouldn’t we …? Yesterday’s post was concerned with “mercy/mission wear” which raised the question, “Are we bragging about our good works when we wear these things?” and “Would Jesus wear these types of shirts?”

But this conversation goes beyond what what we wear and what we say/tweet/post about. It’s also about how we spend our money, share our resources, it asks how generously and sacrificially are we really living? And how/what we’re not.

I’m a fan of people like Shane Claiborne, Julie Clawson, The Samsons, The Sines, among others. Some of my friends and I have been influenced by their lifestyle choices. Prior to moving to MA, we’d talk about such things quite regularly. I like to think that we sharpened each other, brought balance to one another, encouraged, and challenged one another. But still, I felt no guilt when I shopped at the GAP – because I wanted to “support” my other friends. So there’s some gray here and some interesting scenarios.

For instance, I’m not sure I can handle seeing Shane Claiborne getting out of his BMW but I wouldn’t think twice seeing NT Wright get out of one (warning, comments making fun of NTW will be deleted and you will get a series of “Simply Texts/Voicemails” chastising you). Yet I have heard/seen both show great compassion for those in need.
I’m not sure it makes sense for Julie Clawson to write a book called, Almost Everyday Justice or Justice Sometimes … You Know, When It’s Convenient.
I also know that many have too much. I know that the chasing of the “American Dream” and though no one admits to being guilty of it, “Keeping up with Jones'” not only increases debt, but it takes up resources (not just money, but time and energy as well) that could be given away to those in need. It’s filled with other shortcomings as well which I hope to be discuss elsewhere.

What I know …
Too much legalism and jealousy exist in this conversation (myself included). It not only hinders creating community but negates the freedom in Christ that the New Testament teaches. We should work on this.
We need to be more generous and sacrificial.
There are some great examples of missional living. People like the Samsons and the Sines (and the aforementioned Claibornes and Clawsons) talk about this way of life as a calling.
Each of us as families and individuals need to find their own calling.
May God convict us of our vanities and may He give us grace as we love Him and serve others.

If you’d like to learn more about this conversation, let me recommend the following books and sites:
Julie Clawson – Everyday Justice: The Global Impact of Our Daily Choices is filled with practical insights as well as a great starter for this topic. She also blogs at One Hand Clapping. Probably my favorite on the list. I may not land where Julie lands but I certainly find myself thinking about her thoughts quite a bit.
Will Samson – Enough – Contentment in an Age of Excess I think most can relate.
Shane Claiborne’s – The Irresistible Revolution: Living as an Ordinary Radical. Among the more interesting personalities you will meet in the journey of life. He doesn’t blog but if you google him, there’s a lot out there.
Tom Sine’s New Conspirators: Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time is a pretty solid and deep read.

As always, your thoughts are welcomed.

Would Jesus Really Wear a T-Shirt That Promoted a Cause And That “Bragged” About His Participation? Maybe … – The Inconsistencies and Virtues of the Missional Life – Post 3

Is wearing a T-Shirt from a non-profit really helping? And if so, who is it helping? The ones in need, the organization, the wearer of the shirt, all the above, none of the above, A and B but not C? This leads to another important question, “Are we just bragging about how wonderful we are when we wear our To Write Love On Her Arms and Invisible Children T-shirts?”

I know these types of posts drive some people crazy but I also know others who wonder similar things. And now just having relocated and figuring out a new life rhythm, we are in a season of deconstruction (and reconstruction). I share the conviction that putting thought in how we live leads to a better life. And though there is wisdom in not over-analyzing everything, I do lean towards Socrates’ idea of the unexamined life is not worth living.

So I am wondering is “mercy-wear” or “missional-wear” the same as the Pharisee standing in the street self-righteously proclaiming how wonderful he is?
Doesn’t Jesus say, when you pray, go into your “closet” and don’t put on a show?
Doesn’t He say the same about giving?
But Jesus had a very public ministry that not only included teaching, praying in public but also included some very public miracles … on the Sabbath no less (for those that unfamiliar with Jewish culture, the Sabbath was a day of rest and doing work on it was a big No-No.) Why didn’t Jesus simply wait another day and why did He do all these things so publicly?

Would Jesus have walked around in a To Write Love On Her Arms shirt? Maybe.
How about a harder one – Would Jesus have walked around in a shirt that said, “I Give Sight to the Blind”. I know it sounds audacious and I am aware of passages like Matthew 9 (where he heals two blind man and instructs them to tell no one) but there are so many public miracles, I cannot hastily say “No, He just wouldn’t do that.”  While it’s hard to imagine it, I’m not sure what the difference really is, especially in today’s context.

It’s easier for me to think He would have worn shirts from Living Water International or Hello Somebody or the American Leper Cancer Society, or even the Iranian Cancer Society and just because I can’t imagine it, He probably would have worn a bright shirt that said “Abercrombie & Fitch” blazed in huge letters right across the front of it. I know it seems so “not like Him” but that’s what makes Him, Him. Now I’ll agree that A&F comparison isn’t quite accurate but it is odd for me to picture and thus helpful.

I realize there is a connection between this and the new classic – “Would Jesus have used social media and what would He proclaiming?” Which in so many ways, is another type of t-shirt we wear.

Which brings up, if a little sharing is good, then why not a lot of sharing? Why not during next week’s offering invite everyone to shout the amount of their checks they are dropping into the offering plate? “50 Bucks for the Kingdom of Jesus!” “FIVE dollars … and I am unemployed people – that’s like the widow’s mite!” Then someone slowly gets up, and dramatically announces that this week the Lord has been good to them – $HUGE.” The church bursts into applause and the band strikes up the doxology. While I would like to see this in a satire movie like Saved!, this would be a nightmare. So why am I ok with wearing hoodies that more or less say, “I gave money to this cause” and implying that Jesus might be too?

I’ve been mostly encouraged by the generosity of others. I find community in it. Or to put in another way, I used to get so excited when I saw someone wearing a Yankees hat, now I get excited when I see someone that is passionate about social justice on their Twitter profile. I’ve seen this in my own life too – Just about every time I wear an Invisible Children shirt, someone high fives me or asks about it and I have a conversation that I may not have otherwise had.

Where I am landing is that I want to promote the causes that are close to me. You should consider doing the same. If we keep our self-righteous egos and prideful messiah-complexes in check, we can help bring good things to the world and many of them being in the hope and way of Jesus.

If You Missed It, January is Anti-Trafficking Month – 3 Links and Articles For You

Anti-Trafficking Day was this past Wednesday (1.12). To be honest, as interested as I am in anti-trafficking and the 20 email lists that I subscribe to, I did not realize til half-way through the day. Maybe you didn’t either but it turns out it’s Anti-Trafficking month so here are some links from the emails and tweets I’ve been catching up on.

IJM Cambodia: Former Chief of Police Convicted of Trafficking Crimes in Historic Ruling – I know we have corruption here in the US too but these headlines always drive me. Also, I had the honor of visiting IJM in Cambodia with my seminary cohort a couple years ago, I am so grateful for this crew of people – they really are amazing.

Invisible Children is working on a new film focused on apprehending the leader of the LRA – Joseph Kony. You can read more and watch the trailer here.

Sex Trafficking in the U.S. – The Polaris Project has a very informative website – you would do well to spend some time there.

Indeed, there are countless other sites and that’s a good thing. It means many care so check some of them out, begin learning, find ways to support, keep sharing and commit this issue to prayer.

Harry Potter and the Student Mission Trip – The Inconsistencies and Virtues of the Missional Life – Post 2-

The primary audience of this series of posts are directed … to me and maybe this one is for youth workers too.

There was a moment during one of our mission trips when a couple of our high school students were debating whether or not they should see the new Harry Potter movie that was coming out when we returned.

When asked for my thoughts I said, “Well I personally have no problem with Harry Potter. Are people really concerned with the magic & sorcery? I grew up on Lucky Charms and Narnia books, I’m now in the ministry …”

They replied, “No, not like that. It’s just odd to be serving at this AIDS Camp and then planning what we’re going to do next week.”

It’s here when they had my attention. I’ve always been sensitive to whether or not short term mission trips were a good thing. I end up concluding that they are when given the appropriate framework. In this case, I was concerned that this mission experience was simply going to be “consumed” similar to how the new Harry Potter movie was going to be “consumed”. On the other hand, I was grateful that they were aware of this tension and so like any good youth pastor, I fueled it.

“Good point, maybe you shouldn’t then.”

To which one replied, “Yeah that’s ok, I don’t really feel up for it anyway.”

It was odd for at least three reasons. One, it was a sudden reactionary response that killed the conversation without resolve. Two was because we were sweating in the intense heat of the Bahamian sun and the prospect of air-conditioning, a comfortable chair and a refreshing cold Coke would be quite alluring (Who is the idiot that chooses these mission trips in July?? Oh ;). The third was it wasn’t my point at all. I simply didn’t believe that God was going to be any more glorified had they gone or not.

I’ve always been in the habit of saying something like “Don’t go on these mission trips, be moved by the experience and return home despising your suburban upbringing. Don’t disdain your family, destroy your material possessions and judge the life-style of others. If you are a suburbanite, you are one, until you move to the countryside or into to the city. Instead, share what you have gained from the experience and invite others to dissever it for themselves. The short term mission trip has many blessings, among them is that it encourages those who are being served to feel the care of countless complete strangers. Another set of blessings is extended to the one doing the serving.”

This is part of the framework that we try to create. This is deepened by the idea that we are to serve in the way of Jesus, which is concerned much more with the attitude and the relationship than with the metrics of the work (though how much work we do is part of stewardship). It’s this attitude that I hope we return with more than the desire to keep building cabins and sidewalks here in the ‘burbs.

I know all of us in ministry want to see tangible differences but having our students sell all their possessions, drop out of high school and become some type of suburban monastics may not be wise, sustainable or even Christ-like. The opposite of that would of course be, having students return home with no distinct differences aside from being tagged in a handful of pictures, a souvenir or two, maybe an encouraging note given by a youth leader and the thought, “I did my part, now where’s the remote?” The latter would certainly be Exhibit A of the poverty tourism argument.

Regular readers know that I like the gray areas and here is no exception. Similar to my first post in this series on “compassion fatigue”, we have to accept who we are and who we are changing into. Not everyone should return from a mission trip, sell all their possessions and return and serve. It’s profoundly beautiful when we see people receive this calling and similarly, we need to receive our own callings. More on that later in the series.

I cannot count the number of times when a student has returned home from serving in New Orleans or at the AIDS Camp and a friend says to them, “I cannot believe you were cleaning out one of those houses destroyed in Katrina – you don’t even clean your room.”

Or in the words of another female student, “My friend said to me, ‘I believe you, but I just can’t picture you helping like that with your church. It hurt at first but I totally got to explain it to her.'” It’s in these accusatory conversations that I believe God finds joy and the server discovers that they have been changed as they were trying to bring change.

That’s a very powerful moment and among the other moments and prayers, I hope God uses all types of lessons to help us with all sorts of virtues contextual to our lives. Maybe in this case, we end up consuming less, giving more, caring more, serving more, judging less and grow in the life that Jesus modeled for us.

The Inconsistencies and Virtues of the Missional Life – Compassion Fatigue – Post 1

The primary audience of this series of posts are directed … to me.

The term “compassion fatigue” originated in the 1950s and specifically pertained to nurses whose sensitivity gradually decreased as they were serving those in desperate need of medical care. This included the elderly, the abused, and the handicapped.

At the surface this seems reprehensible. That is until we examine our own “compassion fatigue”. I’ll be the first to admit that I think a great deal of this because I find it to be very relevant to my life, my ministry and my hopes that extend beyond my vocation.

From the accountant to the dentist, we all want to make the world better. We want to serve our families, our neighbors, those we labor with and those we’ve seen to be in need. We’re grateful for this is noble desire until we feel bombarded with the countless other worthy needs. Where does one begin? Further, our everyday lives take a lot out of us. Between our numerous responsibilities from family to vocational to other service-oriented duties, we start to seriously wonder how can one make a difference in the world and in the next.

Eventually the guilt catches up with us, the sensitivities of our hearts gradually decrease and whether we indulge ourselves to numb our souls further or choose to rationalize our way out of helping, we may find ourselves doing nothing or barely anything – we experience compassion fatigue.

One day, we are confronted by this and one of two things happen. We harden our hearts further to limit the guilt or allow our hearts to be broken and try again.

I’ve been up and down the missional slope of life. I think it’s fair to say that I have inspired a fair number of friends and annoyed many more. I think it’s also fair to say that many have done the same for me. Though I don’t really come to conclusions on these types of reflections, I am observing that no one is missional enough. It’s a thought that is both disappointing and comforting.

You can become quite the self-righteous legalist when you try to save the world. Even despite our best intentions, we may even unwittingly add to the compassion fatigue.

At the same time, to do nothing or to do little like compartmentalize the action to something “controllable” seems to squander the grace and opportunity God gives.  I would say that the goodness found in being generous, compassionate, sacrificial is beyond conscience-pleasing. In short, they are the virtues found in imitating God.

So how does one combat this cycle of compassion fatigue?  (Though I don’t really think it’s a 5-step program, I’m outlining for the sake of simplicity).   They are nuanced and paradoxical, like life is.

1. Celebrate your blessings and leverage your potential to share them. Meaning – don’t feel guilty that you live in the ‘burbs and enjoy a particular lifestyle – accept it and share generously.
2. Learn how Jesus lived in the rhythms of life. He fasted and celebrated. He served others and practiced self-care. Jesus partied with his friends and Jesus demonstrated profound acts of sacrifice before ultimately, His crucifixion.
3. Realize no one can address every need, no one can donate to every cause, no one volunteer their time for every request. Even Jesus did not physically heal all of Israel doing his earthy ministry.
4. Therefore choose the causes that have touched your heart the most. For me and my family, this has been the issues of human trafficking, clean water and the AIDS crisis. There are others that my heart is open for but we try to focus towards these causes and trust that others are focusing on the other worthy ones.
5. Keep your heart anchored in prayer. It keeps all these not only in check, but keeps your heart broken, compassionate and attentive towards God.

In the coming weeks, I’m going to explore the inconsistencies and the virtues that I’ve found in the missional life:   materialism, envy, indulgence, simplicity, generousity and sacrifice complicated by our everyday contexts and our own baggage and gifts – should be fun. Well, it probably won’t be fun but I hope it’s worthwhile so please subscribe via email/RSS to keep up. I would value your input and conversation – many thanks!

Do You Have 2 Minutes to Watch an Eye-Opening Video of Gendercide in China? #AllGirlsAllowed

Back in the fall, one of our LIFE Communities (our version of small, mid-size group ministry) organized a presentation from the organization All Girls Allowed. As one who just had a baby girl born a month prior, it was a very eye-opening and heart-breaking experience.

Of course, I’ve always known about China’s dreaded one-child policy and the last several years, I’ve caught snippets from random books and NPR spots on how Chinese men cannot find women to marry. The way I wrote that sentence implies it’s just a few, right? It’s a few like, millions of men. By 2020, it’s feared the gender imbalance will be in the neighborhood of 10 million men.

How did this happen? Between 1949-1976, China’s population soared to 540 million because of the improvements of infant mortality rates and the increasing of the life-expectancy age. Sentences like that mean more grandparents were surviving to see their healthy grandchildren and great-grandchildren being born.

As a result of, China feared an unsustainable population and instituted the One-Child Policy in 1980 to about a third of the population. It’s designated to affect those in urban areas, however, other sources argue that it affects rural areas as well and enforces against a significantly higher percentage. Everyone agrees that there are exceptions made – They would be for the ruling class and the upper class. It should also be noted that in recent years, some families have been permitted to have a second child if there first born was a girl. This carries with its own set of peculiarities but still, thought it was worth the mention.

Consequently, the One Child Policy has resulted in forced abortions, a severe discrimination against female births, trafficking, forced female sterilizations, a massive number of orphaned children (especially girls) and a number of other human rights violations. Further there are incentives for local state and government officials to insure the success of the One Child Policy which creates even more abuses that we would call scandalous.

Again, this is something that I and I suspect many of you have known in the peripheral but listening to this presentation was heart-breaking. In this week’s posts, I tried to make the point that we should all resolve to seek a better world with God’s help. Indeed, we cannot support all the worthy causes and organizations so may our prayerful consciences be our guide but this is among the ones that have caught my attention and I wanted to bring it to your attention.

The mission of All Girls Allowed is to “reveal gendercide and female infanticide in China. Providing hope to China’s mothers and girls through baby shower gifts and child sponsorship.” Founded by former Tiananmen Square student leader, Chai Ling began All Girls Allowed in 2010. Check out to learn more.  You can also check out Chai’s book A Heart For Freedom:  The Remarkable Journey of a Young Dissident, Her Daring Escape, and Her Quest to Free China’s Daughters.  Available at Amazon and at your local Barnes and Noble.

Check out this 2 minute video called “37 Seconds” (you’ll understand why after you watch it).
Thanks for reading and please let me know one way or another if you get involved.

37 Seconds from All Girls Allowed on Vimeo.


Reflecting On Our Christmas Eve Services

We had a number of Christmas Eve services happening throughout our campuses this last weekend and I’ve been thinking about the message. It was entitled, “Unto You” and before it, there was a well-acted short drama piece of three characters who were shepherds. This is my first year here so I hope I can say this without sounding prideful, but because I am yet discovering the church too, I must say that these elements were so well done. There are numerous collaborative creative planning meetings that go into this and the intentionality of it really makes a difference.

Certainly this is not to imply anything negative of any other church I’ve observed but it’s been important to me on a couple of levels. One, I’ve never been on the inside of a church this large before and it’s been great for me to see how seriously such things are taken. It’s been my impression that some times, larger churches get by without much intentionality but rely on talent and spectacle.  It’s been [Read more…]