End of the Year Check-Up

I don’t do resolutions anymore. OK – I suppose I think about things I am going to work on next year that I didn’t focus on this last year, but it doesn’t feel quite like a resolution.

I’ve changed from resolutions to an annual check-up. I go and see a doctor once a year to talk about how my body is doing. So a couple of years ago I decided to do the same thing with God. Since I am bit of a checklist kind of guy, I searched the scriptures for various lists that I could use as a self-assessment. Then I created a document to help me honestly assess where I am at.

I check red if it needs immediate attention, yellow if I need to work on it more, and green if things seem to be okay. Here’s what I came up with. Let me know what you think. Also, if you can think of some other lists from the Bible that might help me with my annual checkup, please pass them along.

(please note – the lists are doubled because they were used as a handout in a church bulletin.)

https://docs.google.com/file/d/1rjBLys-6tjFYZOkE_tXe912TMWnc4foyfGNhJdaBFJpHj5hwDs_T3Vqm28Is/edit?usp=sharing

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If you read your email but not the Bible…

So if you are like me, you read your email every day. Most days, you check your email multiple times. However, if you are like me, you sometimes, kind of, maybe forget to crack open your Bible and read. I know, I know. Aren’t good little missionaries supposed to read their Bible every day? Yes. But I am not really that good of a missionary (or very little for that matter).

However, after realizing the ridiculousness of consistently reading my email and not the Bible I decided this was a problem that I could solve. And solve it I have. Allow me to introduce you to Bible Gateway’s reading plans. I’ve taken my addiction to checking my email and turned it into an addiction to reading my Bible every morning. Some might call that lame, I call it genius. (Feel free to look down your nose if you happen to be one of those people who spend hours reading the Bible and meditating every day. I haven’t quite acquired that habit just yet, so I need to pat myself on the back when I take a baby step in the right direction.)

http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/

I recommend the “New Testament in a Year” plan. I’ve been using it for several months and I never miss a single day of spending time in the Word. Normally the reading is about a chapter. And when you happen to get to Jude (like today) you get to say that you read a whole book of the Bible while you were checking your email. Seriously. I just read a whole book of Bible while I was checking my email this morning. Pretty sweet, huh?

http://www.biblegateway.com/reading-plans/new-testament-in-a-year/feed/bg-reading.xml?version=NIV

Just click the little button on the right of the page that says RSS and have the good people at Bible Gateway send some Scripture to your inbox every day. It’s that easy. Now you just need to train yourself to ignore everything else in your inbox until you have spent a little bit of time reading the Bible.

So what about you? Do you have a favorite Bible study strategy?

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How to Measure Success

My world was rocked this last week. Amy and I have been adding a new component to our language study. We have been recording conversations between two of our Xangana-speaking friends, and then playing the conversation back to translate it.

It is challenging. But in the middle of one of our recent conversations I heard something that sent me reeling. I asked our two language helpers to talk about their churches. They each attend different churches and I wanted to work a little bit on church vocabulary.

So as I was listening to them talk about church I couldn’t understand what I heard:

Ho yini kareke ka wena (How is your church?)

Kareke ka mina ki kongela kwatsi (My church prays well)

Wait a minute. Did you catch that?!? He was asked: How is your church. Did you see how he responded?

He didn’t say how many people they baptized this year. He didn’t mention how fabulous the preacher is or how many people showed up to Sunday School. He didn’t even just say “fine”.

He said their church prays well. That’s how he measures the status of their church.

I’m not sure whether or not that is the only way or the best way to measure success in a church, but I know I’ve never heard a single pastor ever explain how their church was doing based on the fact that their church prays well. I know I never used that expression in my tenure at TNL.

So I’ve been thinking about how we measure success in the church. And I’ve been thinking about how we measure success in other areas of life. Are we measuring the wrong things? Are we just measuring the things that are easiest to measure?

So I’ve created a to-do list for myself before the new year. I am going to think of 5 things that are important to me that I do not currently measure (or measure well), and I am going to find a creative new way to measure them. Any ideas?

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You know you are too busy when…

So we had a bit of parenting flop a couple of days ago. Amy has been especially busy at the kids’ school with PTA responsibilities and I have been busy at the gym trying to help get it ready to open.

To give you a picture of just how busy we are, take last weekend as an example. On Saturday I ran a marathon in South Africa while Amy organized the food fair at the kids school. The next day there were 200 people at our house for a wedding and I spent time with a team of South Africans who were in town on a short-term trip to work on the gym. Marathon – Food Fair – Short-Term Team – Wedding. We are really busy.

Well on Thursday night this week Jake and Alyson had a play at school. It was a circus. Literally. Alyson was a snake dancer who did a great job hula hooping to a well-choreographed dance routine. Jake was a magician who successfully pulled a spider and a scarf out of a hat. (I still don’t know how he did it because he explained to me that magicians aren’t supposed to reveal their secrets.)

So after the show Amy headed back out to the refreshment table to sell snacks and I piled the kids into the car to go home. At home, I successfully got them into pajamas and into bed. Then the next morning when I logged in to the computer I saw a picture Amy posted on Facebook that Alyson had lost her tooth. I thought it was crazy that she lost her tooth just before she left for school and I missed it.

But she didn’t. She lost it at school the day before and we didn’t notice. Amy and I each had multiple conversations with our daughter who lost one of her TOP, FRONT teeth and we didn’t notice.

How can you miss something like that? I mean, it’s a front tooth. And yet, we didn’t see it until the next morning.

I wonder what else I have been missing recently. I imagine there is quite of bit of stuff on the list of things I have missed in the last couple of weeks.

So I spent some time confessing my sin of busyness to God. It’s ridiculous to allow myself to get too busy. I felt like a failure as a parent.

After my confession (which God graciously accepted as always), God reminded me that Mary and Joseph once left Jesus by himself in Jerusalem while they headed home to Nazareth. He was left by himself for a couple of days! And yet God still chose them as the parents of the Messiah.

I think that was God’s way of reminding me that as parents, we get a lot of slack. Apparently even kids with parents who are sometimes busy, frazzled, and forgetful can still turn out okay.

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5 Times a Day

There is a mosque not far away from where we live. In fact, the name of the road that begins across the street from our house translates to “Mosque Road”. Up until a couple of weeks ago, I had basically forgotten that there was a mosque in the neighborhood. Then they installed a new speaker system. Now we get to hear the call to prayer 5 times a day.

I love it. Of course, I don’t understand a word that is said/sung. And the call to prayer represents a call to system of religion that I believe to be misguided and dark and deceptive. However, I have personally enjoyed the reminders to spend time in prayer.

When Muslims pray, they say the words “God is Great!” and then they recite portions of the Qur’an. They first stand. Then they kneel. Then they prostrate themselves.

Although I don’t change position from where I am at the moment, I have been praying when the speakers call me to. I am following our Lord’s instructions when he taught his disciples to pray. He said,

“This, then, is how you should pray:

‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.’” (Matthew 6:9-13 NIV)

Although I have no plans to join in any other Muslim practices at the moment, I am grateful for the reminders to pray. I’m also thinking that perhaps churches should once again install bell towers…

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I love it when my wife says…

There are a number of things I love to hear my wife say. However, a new one has been added to the list. A couple of weeks ago when I got home Amy told me:

“I didn’t have enough carrots for dinner so I had to harvest some more”

Isn’t that cool? I love growing our own food. Granted, we only grow a small percentage of what we eat, but it is deeply satisfying to grow something and then eat it. I love that my kids help cultivate the ground, plant the seeds, water the garden, and then harvest the fruit of their labor. They actually see that food doesn’t just come from the grocery store.

Vegetable gardening has always been a back-burner issue for me. I tried it several times in arid Colorado without much success. But here in Maputo, we have so much land to work with, I thought I would give it a try again. I’ve been delighted with the results.

Here’s a list of what we have grown in the last year:

Corn, Swiss Chard, Celery, Eggplant, Tomatoes, Cauliflower, Onions, Carrots, Peppers, Broccoli, Green Beans, Brussels Sprouts, Chives, Basil, Lemongrass

We also have several fruit trees and plants in the works:

Lemon, Avocado, Coconut, Orange, Tangerine, Banana, Papaya, Mango, Pineapple

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Why I May Not Vote (part 3) – How Can I Vote for This Government While Working for That One?

[I have been doing some political and theological soul searching over the last couple of years. I want to share some of my thoughts with you. I find that forcing myself to write out my thoughts adds clarity, and posting them online adds accountability and feedback.]

On my first trip to the American Embassy here in Maputo, I got to visit with several of the bright young men and women who work in various posts in the State Department. I was impressed. The political and economic officers here in the diplomatic corps are top notch and serving our country well.

In the course of my conversation with them on the subject of human trafficking in Mozambique, one of them agreed quite strongly with something that I said. Then she added, “You should work for the State Department.”

I quickly responded, that would be a little awkward for me since I work for a foreign government. The room fell silent. It was awkward. Finally, the most senior official in the room asked, which government do you work for? I responded, “Those of us who follow Jesus call it the Kingdom of God.”

The room quickly lightened and he responded, “I think it is possible to work for that government and this one at the same time.”

Think for just a moment. Is it?

Jesus once said: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” (Matthew 6:24 NIV 2011)

The original context of this passage is about money, but it could just as easily be said about political power. If that is true, then we have told generations of citizens the wrong thing: You cannot serve both God and country.

Living here in Mozambique, I have formulated an opinion about some things that might make this country a better place. However, I am not a citizen of this country. I have no vote. I have no say. I can’t run for government. I could spend my time trying to influence the electorate if I wanted to, but I feel like that would be a waste. I work for another government called the Kingdom of God.

This is why I will likely not vote again in America. I work for the Kingdom of God. The more time I spend internalizing this reality, the less inclined I am to head to the voting booth (or fill out the paperwork for a mail-in ballot). How can I vote in an election for a country in which I am a resident alien? That is the terminology that Paul uses to describe followers of Jesus. “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Philippians 3:20 NIV 2011). It doesn’t make sense to invest in one government when I work for another one.

And so that is why I will likely not vote in the upcoming election. My government is run by someone with scars in their hands and feet who is not up for reelection.

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