Sunday, May 18, 2014

Scripture with Mad Libs

Have you ever done a Mad Lib? They're those awesomely ridiculous sentences where you add a verb, noun, adjective, etc. and make the regular sentence funny.

Pick a 1) verb ending in "ing" _______________
2) A place ________________
3) An adjective ________________
5) A noun ______________
6) a verb ending in "ing" __________________
7) A noun _______________
8) A verb _________________

This is a ___________ news report. This just in from ______________.   14 ______________  ____________have been spotted ______________ near  a/an__________.  Police are on their way to ________________.

This is a singing news report.  This just in from my house.  14 gold pencils have been spotted licking near a television.  Police are on their way to the site to camp.

See - a silly sentence made from replacing a normal sentence with random words.  

But this time, let's play it with scripture.

Here is the back story.  In Exodus chapter 35 Moses gives instructions for the people what they should bring to the Lord as an offering to build the Tabernacle.    Every fine thing was used in the construction: gold, bronze, linens, leathers, acacia wood, olive oil, spices, and gemstones.  And the people gave generously.  All of these articles became a wave offering to the Lord for his goodness.

Once all the supplies had been gathered, Moses gave the Israelites further instruction that God had given him:

“Then Moses said to the Israelites, “See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills – to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic crafts.  And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamak, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others.  He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as engravers, designers,  embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers – all of them skilled workers and designers. So Bezalel, Oholiab and every skilled person to whom the LORD has given skill and ability to know how to carry out all the work of constructing the sanctuary are to do the work just as the LORD has commanded.” Exodus 35:30-35; 36:1

Bezalel must have been a great man of God.  God gifted him and blessed him with his Spirit, something that was very rarely given before Christ's sacrifice.  Specific people were given God's spirit at very specific moments to do a very specific task.  It might have been to lead the people of Israel, to help them worship the Lord, to prophesy for the people, sometime where God wanted to gift his power on one of his people. God gifted Bezalel with the responsibility of overseeing the construction of the tabernacle and the skills to do that.  In addition to his skills, he gave Bezalel and Oholiab to ability to teach others these skills.  They accepted this great responsibility to serve the Lord through construction and taught others to join them in this act of worship.

In thinking about the power of this scripture, I created a Mad Lib.

Now: the Mad Libs:
1) Your name
2) the roles God has given you (mother, father, mentor, teacher, engineer, boss, employee, craftsman, etc).
3) A fellow believer you work closely with in these roles.

“'See, the LORD has chosen ____(1)______, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills – to _____(2)_______.  And he has given both him and ___(3)________,  the ability to teach others.  He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work. So ___(1)____&__(3)________ and every skilled person to whom the LORD has given skill and ability […] are to do the work just as the LORD has commanded.”

Bezalel  received the Holy Spirit and accepted his responsibility to serve God through the gifts and the wisdom that God had given him.    Do we approach our gifts the same way?  We who are followers of Christ have all been given gifts and abilities through the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 12, Eph 4:11, etc).  But do we approach using these gifts with as much reverence and responsibility that Bezalel had?  If we saw our homes, our jobs, and our families in light of this responsibility, would it change how we approached things?

Often I fall into the trap to believe that my success is based on my own ability.  But who gives me that ability? Who blesses my steps and my pathway to use these gifts? It is my responsibility to use these gifts for the Lord, otherwise I have dishonored the Holy Spirit.

So Lord, how do I do that?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

The Dog Park

Last Saturday morning, we took Jackson to the dog park. Dog parks are a fascinating biological study of animal behavior. It takes very little time for a group of dogs to be introduced and to establish boundaries and rules. Lots of butt sniffing occurs but once everyone is introduced, play can in sue. Even if one dog plays too rough and the other dog will quickly bear his teeth or give a short nip to express his displeasure. Again, that establishes boundaries, and play can continue.

It looks very much like a kindergarten playground. There are the kids who are nice leaders, nice followers, mean leaders, mean followers, intentional outsiders, and unintentional outsiders. If the kids in the roles balance, harmony reigns. If too many of one type of kid come to play, volcanoes can erupt.

Our dog is a mean leader. He insists that everyone play. Whether they want to or not, he will bully them into running with him or chasing them or wrestling with him. He’s like to kid who wants to play baseball and only has 5 kids who really want to play. But he goes around trying to force enough kids onto the field to be able to play a game. “Hey Jimmy, get over here. You’re going to play 3rd base. And Jill, you’re going to go to outfield, and Jack, you’re going to be on my team and bat after me, Hank and Lisa.” Lots of kids just give up and follow. They might rather have sat on the grass and picked dandilions, but they’re peacemakers, so sure, right field sounds great.

 Other kids will stand up to him. “No. I’m not playing baseball with you. Forget it.” He may push back, but bullies are ultimately afraid of other bullies, so a few threats and he’ll back off. Again, peace has reigned on the playground.

 But then the 5th grade playground king walks onto the field. He is the mean leader of all mean leaders. If things don’t go as he wants, there will be hell to pay. However, Mean Leader #1 won’t back off easily. “Hey Mike – you can play pitcher. I’ve got the ball, let’s get going.” Then Mike takes the ball, walks off the field with it and starts throwing it with his sidekick (because every playground king has a sidekick) as they walk start to walk away toward the swings. “Hey! Give me that back! You have to pitch! Hey! Hey!” Mean leader #1 won’t give up. He has missed all the signals that Mike is angry and serious. He should have just let him walk away, but he’s too stubborn to do that. Mike, the Playground King, is pushed over the edge, and Mean Leader #1 ends up flat on his back with a black eye as Playground King walks off with the ball. 

Jackson, our mean leader of a dog, had organized the pack of dogs to play with him. Things were going well, lots of tennis ball chasing, a few wrestling matches, all was harmony. Then the German Shepherd entered. She was huge, regal, and wanted her own way. Jackson pushed her to join. He pushed, and pushed, and pushed. We tried to call him away from him because we could see this wouldn’t go well, but he wouldn’t listen. At first, she ignored and did what she wanted. Then, she got tired of him, and the fight got ugly. She pinned him to the ground and bit him square in the face. If the shephard’s owner and Greg had not intervened she would have killed him.

Greg pulled him from the fight, got bit along the way, and dragged him away from the other dog. That was the end of the dog park. He was angry and hurt. A big gash above his eye and enough blood dripping from his eye that we thought a trip to the emergency vet might be required.

We got him in the car and drove home. The drive home Greg and I were both angry. Angry at him for not listening to us when we told him to back off, angry at ourselves for not being able to train him, angry that we need him to get exercise but can’t trust him to run and play nicely. We talked in the car. “How do we teach this dog not to pick fights? He can’t be the town bully, but how do we tell him that? 5 or 6 rounds at the dog park and it doesn’t seem like he’s learned at all. If he doesn’t get his way he fights until he does, and if he fights too hard he ends up bloody and angry. He’s like a 10 year old kid who keeps getting kicked out of school for fighting.”

 “I wish he were a kid, then at least we could talk to him. We can’t talk to our dog, so how do we get him to learn?”

 We dragged him into the house in silence. He seemed to recognize our anger and walked meekly beside us. Greg sat him down with gauze, rubbing alcohol and antibacterial ointment and began to patch him up. He didn’t fight us when we poked and prodded and cleaned him up; it felt like he was trying to apologize.

 I couldn’t help but think that this situation felt like a parallel to my relationship with God. A hundred times God has tried to teach me, mold me, and guide me with “great patience with even the worst sinners” (1 Tim 1:16), and yet I still won’t learn. He sends me into the world to allow me to use his guidance and direction, then I screw up again. He brings me back home, patches me up, loves me, and tries again. I can’t imagine how much I grieve the Lord when he has to constantly retrain me. I feel grief when I have to retrain my dog and he doesn’t have a soul! God wants to give me even greater space to run and play and share his word, but I can’t learn enough not to fight. How much easier wouldn’t it be if God could just sit down with me on the couch and talk to me! But that’s not how God works. He could sit us down and talk to us, but he chooses not to. He wants us to come to him, read his truth through His Word, and be trained during our lives by hearing constant redirection by the Holy Spirit.

 First Lord, thank you. You didn’t give up on me even when you rescued me from my own sinful self. You teach me and train me and love me through my own mess. This week, help me hear your Holy Spirit’s redirection. I don’t want to pick the wrong fights or try to get my own way when I am really supposed to just slow down and love those around me. I’m sorry I’m more stubborn than my dog, but that does make me so thankful for your grace. Thank you.

 And finally Lord… if it’s not too much to ask… could you teach Jackson to sleep a little later than 530?

Sunday, August 15, 2010


Well, I'm now back. 15 weeks in South Africa, 19 hours of flight time, and I'm back in Virginia. I'm home... sort of.
Right now Greg and I are still Nomads, living in friends' houses, and trying to figure out how to resettle into life here in Virginia Beach.

Two weeks back and I've gotten the same question about a hundred times, "How was South Africa?" What is the answer to that? Do you want the 2 minute answer, the 20 minute answer, or the 3 day answer?

My difficulty to answer this question probably comes from the same reason I haven't written in my blog. How do I put into words such an experience? How could I do justice to expressing what God is doing in South Africa, and what he is doing in my life? How do I try to explain what it's like to be a foreigner in a society of dozens of overlapping cultures. Each group of people has its own economic standing, social expectations, internal and external conflicts, and frequently separate languages. Right now, South Africa is in the midst of a precarious status quo; many separate groups living in the same space, and unsure how to react to each other.

God's desire is to reach each culture, and each people group, around the globe. Too often we, as followers of Christ, decide who to reach out to based on who we are. We live with filters of what we think people need and of what we think it means to love people, but too often we miss the mark.

I think one of the challenging parts of being in South Africa, was that God opened my eyes enough to know that the Western church very often gets things wrong. Unfortunately, God left out the piece about what the answer is supposed to be. As frustrating as that can be, I recognize this to be intentional. If God withholds knowledge, He challenges me to follow Him instead of my own wisdom.

So how do I reconcile all of this? How do I take the experiences this summer and use them to produce fruit in Virginia Beach? How do I not get frustrated about Hummers with 30 inch rims when there are children who need food? But who am I to decide that owning my Honda is better than owning a Hummer?

Why does this place feel so foreign, that once felt like home?

Friday, July 2, 2010

Ok, so I'm a failure as a blogger

I'm now just shy of posting a month apart. I tried to commit to writing at least once a week, and I clearly did not reach that goal. Still, please have some grace for me, I have not been sitting around. The last three weeks have been incredibly busy.

Tomorrow (Saturday the 3rd) will mark the return of our Week 3 Trailer Ministry teams. This was our biggest week so far, with trailers in 10 different communities. In each of the previous two weeks we had trailers in 5 communities, and the logistics involved in that has been tremendous. It's been interesting that this week has been actually a little easier because we've gotten into a rhythm. We've had teams arriving, being trained, out on ministry, coming back, debriefing, and going home, all overlapping, so the timing and details have certainly been a challenge.

This week has been quite different for me because it started with me lying in bed with an Angry African Flu. Clearly, this is not it's actual name but I haven't had a flu like that in years. I was pretty well stuck in bed for going on 5 days which brought on horrible cabin fever. Still, with time and antibiotics, I'm doing much better and for the last two days I actually got to go out with one of our teams. We were with New Life Praise Church in Stinkwater (pronounce this town stink-V-ater... Afrikaans makes a W sound like a V). Working in this area was definitely a lesson in small town politics and corruption, but that's a story for another time.

Thank you for all of your prayers and support, I'll try to be better about posting in the coming weeks. As I have time, I'll try to put up a quick story or two from this last month. I hope you're all diligently watching the World Cup, and feel free to email me anytime =)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

5 More things I've Learned about South Africa

1) A monkey in a church will inevitably get poo on the one piece of exposed sound equipment.

A monkey we have named Herman has moved into our grounds in the last few days, and Tuesday he managed to sneak his way into the church. This was hilarious and a little frightening, because we didn't know if he would get violent if he got cornered. Still, he did a spectacular job flinging poo everywhere. I haven't been able to snap a picture of him yet, but I'll get one soon. MONKEY IN THE CHURCH! Africa is awesome.

2) Greg lied to me and made me believe there is a bird who is afraid of heights.

The hadeda ibis is a ridiculously loud bird. They're named that because they say "HA-DE-DA, HA-DE-DA!" really loud while flying. Greg convinced me that they're afraid of heights and don't like to fly. Part of me feels stupid for having believed him, but I like the idea that they're afraid of heights because they yell the whole time they're flying. I reject the reality and substitute my own.

3) It is important for the safety of those around you to stay on Twitter during a staff meeting.

Monday morning we were sitting in staff meeting and Bruce (our associate pastor) falls over laughing. He said, "Marcel just posted to Twitter: "If anyone is reading this at Eastside, I'm stuck in the bathroom. Can you please come let me out?"'
Marcel, one of the Ignite interns, was in fact, stuck in the bathroom stall because the handle on the inside had broken off. However, this story gets more ridiculous because Marcel was the 3rd person to get stuck in that bathroom. A 10-year-old boy got stuck on Friday and an American guy named Nate got stuck an hour after arriving in South Africa. Marcel wandered around telling people not to get stuck and we posted a sign, only to get himself stuck and tell everyone in the land of Twitter about it.

4) In the grocery store, you can buy a frozen bag of chicken heads and chicken feet. They are called Walkie Talkies. (I'm not joking about this... the name is ridiculous... and the chickens still have beaks and eyeballs.)

5)Nothing in ministry is final until it has already happened.

I am now at the point of assuming that all things will change constantly, and anything that can go wrong will go wrong. Still, the World Cup starts tomorrow whether we're ready or not - so hopefully God's got the rest of the details in His hands =)

Keep praying for the orientations and send-out of our first teams this weekend!

I Consider Myself Repremanded

Annie - Your white girl american fans are awaiting a blog update .

Alright, as the 6 of you reading this demand... here's Africa post #3! I've already broken my commitment to post once a week, but I'll try to be more consistent from here.

So what am I actually doing here?

Well, this is what my days look like.

First, this is the view I wake up to. (Admittedly, the polution adds to the beauty of the sunrise, but it is still a spectacular panorama of Pretoria.) Our apartment (aka "flat") is in an area of town called Queenswood which is a decent drive from Eastside, but it's spacious and comfortable, so no complaints. Right now I'm living here with Kelsey and Christina, two other American interns who arrived about 10 days ago.

The three of us commute in one of two vehicles. #1 is the Bloubessie. She is a spunky, electric blue (her name means "Blueberry" in Afrikaans) Daewoo Matiz packed with a 0.9 Liter (yes... less than 1 liter) engine. There is NOTHING power in the car, no power steering, no power locks, no speakers, no radio, not even a working overhead light. Greg calls her a motorcycle with a roof. But, I do not complain. She has been excellent transport. The other vehicle I drive is the polar opposite of the Bloubessie, a Volkswagen Kombi named Tannie Aster ("Tannie Aster" means "Auntie Iron" in Afrikaans). In a land of small cars, this is a mega-soccer-mom van. It's nice for transporting people and stuff, and people always let me merge on the highway, but it's obnoxiously big.

40 minutes after leaving our lovely flat, we arrive at Eastside. The grounds at Eastside are beautiful. When they bought the land (4 years ago, I think?), everyone said it was a horrible place for a church that nothing would ever grow on the land. But alas, we have amazing grounds guys and the flowers are still blooming in what is quickly becoming winter. (I don't know the name of this flower, I just think it's really neat looking. I'll ask one of the guys and see if I can find out the name.)

Mornings always start with quiet time and prayer meeting, and 2 days a week we have workout club. After that, the day is filled with meetings, emails, phone calls, and general preparation for connecting our teams with the churches we're working with around the Gautang area (Gautang is the province we're in).

It seems unbelievable that I've been here almost a month, and more unbelievable that the World Cup is only 8 days away. At times this task seems insurmountable, but each day God has given us a new reason to trust his faithfulness. This morning for example, Joint Aid Management (JAM) Food Ministries committed to donate as much food as we need to feed every kid we meet on ministry. That's between 3500 & 4000 kilograms (7700-8800) pounds of food free of charge. With portions around 100 grams per child, we can provide 40,000 meals over these 4 weeks. Pretty incredible.

Thanks for all your prayers, please keep praying as the teams begin to go into ministry in the coming weeks. If you want to follow more about the ministry, we're now launching a website where you can follow more of what's happening when I'm not consistent updating my blog =)

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Dumela a Tshwane!

10 days in South Africa and I have had quite an education so far. Here are 5 fun things I've learned since I've been here:

1) I've learned that Pretoria is no longer called Pretoria. The new name of this city is Tshwane, which makes much more sense given that it is in a region that speaks mostly the tribal language of Tshwana. I've tried to learn as much Tswana as I can, but there are lots of sounds that are not in English. Last weekend we had a training in the region of Hammanskraal with the pastors of the churches we'll be working with in the area. We spent all of Saturday training their church volunteers to run programs within their churches, and many of the volunteers had fun trying to teach me Tswana. I have "thank you" down, and I'm definitely ok with "hello" (dumela) but a few of the other important words like "good morning", "good evening" and "good bye" I'm still practicing. My pronunciation of those is very white girl American. But the churches have been really excited about building children's programs and soccer programs, and it's exciting that we get to be a part of helping resource their ideas.

2) I've also learned a few important Afrikaans phrases, most specifically, "Gaan kotz in die bos." This means "Go puke in the bush." It can be used in it's literal form, but mostly is used to dismiss anyone who is being ridiculous.

3) Many South Africans (particularly taxi drivers) consider driving laws optional, particularly stop signs and robots (aka stoplights). Also, merging is a vehicular demonstration of Survival of the Fittest; Darwin would be proud.

4) God can, and does, provide for His people in miraculous ways. We had about 120 people to feed lunch to on Saturday, and there is no way that the gas to cook the rice or the rice itself should have lasted. But as we scooped out rice, it continued to extend, and we ended up with two small bowls left over. It was awesome to watch. Those same meals will be what we're bringing with our trailers during the World Cup. We want to feed every child that comes to a Holiday Club, and we are doing it with this rice meal that is supplemented with vitamins. We can feed 6 kids for just 36 US cents; it's quite a product. We're still about $3500 short, but God has already shown up, and we believe he will continue to do so.

5) Cricket is a very odd game. Two guys run back and forth between three sticks on each side and have to hit a ball that is bowled by a guy who pitches kind of like fast-pitch softball. Saturday afternoon I put these big leg protectors on and giant squishy gloves and learned to bat in some batting cages. It's quite an odd hitting motion, particularly with all the gear on. But honestly, more odd than that is the fact that in the original form of the game, it lasts 5 days, 8 hours each day. What kind of spectator sport lasts 40 straight hours? And, within those 8 hours there are two tea breaks and a lunch break. I'm not convinced it should be permissible to have a tea break during a sporting event. However, Greg is playing on a team that plays a short version of the game called 20/20 Cricket. It only took about 2 1/2 hours to play. This was much more tolerable than 8 hours with tea breaks.

You can see a few of my pictures from the first week are up (just click on the slideshow and they'll come up full screen). I'll post more later in the week (uploading just uses a lot of bandwidth).

Thanks for all your prayers - keep praying for more food, blankets, and volunteers.