Monday, June 30, 2008


Barbados is pretty warm and humid. Few homes have air conditioning. Instead, they are built to allow plenty of air flow, providing a much more comfortable environment. Because windows and doors are so often open, the line between human living space and "nature" is less strictly enforced by the physical barriers Americans are generally accustomed to.

KirbySee the mostly-green critter in the photo here? Jen named him Kirby. He was doing his usual lizard thing recently, walking around and being lizardy. I imagine everything was pretty normal in Kirby's life that day. Then things went south when Tahmina didn't notice him in the washing machine tub as she put their clothes in. This picture here is what Tahmina saw when she opened the lid to remove their clothes. Kirby is especially clean in this shot because he had just been through the full wash/rinse/spin cycle. (What you don't see is Tahmina's response to Kirby. Turns out Tahmina was about as happy about having Kirby in her laundry as Kirby himself was about being in her laundry.)

Some days are like that, yes? You walk about doing your usual thing, eating, sleeping, working, playing, interacting, driving, and all that. Events happen in their usual ways. It is predictable. Then something changes, and you find yourself floundering, tossed about, water up to your eyeballs and feeling like you're about to drown. When that happens, take stock of your situation. If there's something you can change to make things better, then take action. But sometimes, like Kirby, there is no immediate way out. If that's where you're at, hold on tight and wait. It won't last forever.

Sunday, June 29, 2008


In the Nazarene denomination, "Work & Witness" describes special events in which groups of people travel to other places to build up ministries there. Traditionally, these trips have been of significant distance, and have been organized around a construction project of some sort.

Ryan leading a small group during tech seminarThe Barbados trip is a Work & Witness event. Many traditional elements are involved -- a small-ish group, traveling a distance, organized around a project, with the purpose of building up ministries in the project place. The primary difference I see is that we're not building buildings; we're building people! By strengthening the foundation of leadership and core tools, our brief investment of time in Barbados will be multiplied throughout entire congregations.

Like a series of His own Work & Witness trips, God is in the gracious business of human construction and reconstruction. His focus is on the "project" of shaping us more and more into what He has planned for our lives, both individually and in concert with others. And He doesn't do it by just giving instruction from a faraway place. Instead, our personal God traveled to us in the person of Christ. His sacrifice was far beyond plane tickets and time and transfer of knowledge; he gave his very life.


We walked through a cemetery last week. It was established well over a century ago. I don't know the whole history, but is more of a military burial ground, at least currently.

I was struck by the variety we found there. The plots were shaped differently, marked differently, sized differently. It is immediately obvious the people have been buried differently. Perhaps what seemed most different to me is the arrangement of the plots. While there is presumably some rhyme and rhythm to it, the pattern was not immediately clear. It is not all in neatly arranged rows. There are some buried completely underground, some fully above ground, some partially submerged. The smaller sizes of children's plots are especially obvious in those partially above ground.

Death is like that. Grief is like that. Life is like that. Every life, every situation, every death -- all unique. We try to clean things up and make them feel more predictable. But, in the end, there is always a sense of disorder.

And I wondered about the lives represented there. Lives like the one described in this brief statement:

"In memory of W.R.H. Manser, Bugler, R.M.L.I. H.M.S. Volace. Died January 27, 1888, aged 16 years. This stone was erected by his shipmates."

Friday, June 27, 2008


We made it! It took around twelve hours of travel time with two layovers. We packed light, figuring that half of our personal checked luggage would be for seminar materials. In addition to personal bags, we brought around 585 pounds of equipment. Amazingly, all of our stuff made the trip safely and on time. Much thanks to those who have contributed financially. The extra baggage costs alone are pretty incredible! Thanks also to those who have graciously cared for our homes and pets and such during the trip, too. We appreciate the part you have played on this work team!

If you're not sure exactly where Barbados is located, check out Google Maps.

The purpose of this trip is to help leaders facilitate worship in their unique settings through effective use of technology -- sound, video, other visual media, and perhaps web presence. The team is well equipped for that. We like technology and have people who are skilled in various aspects of it. Before the technology parts, though, Tahmina opened with a session on worship. After all, without worship, technology is just distraction. Worship is not about us; it's about God!

Friday, June 13, 2008

In Control

Americans tend to value independence and self-reliance. We like to believe we are in control of the situations in which we find ourselves. We chart our own courses, determine our own destinies. Children are taught that they can become anything they want to be. Good things can happen when progress is not hindered by irrational fear or unhealthy expectations.

But I propose that such teaching is inadequate. While it would be foolish to flee to the other end of the spectrum and ignore the impact each person has through his or her own decisions, I suspect we have focused so much on what we could do that we neglect what we should do. Perhaps admiration of self-direction has drowned out a sense of calling and of purpose. I think we're in danger of missing out on what we're really created for.

Last Sunday's lectionary texts were from Genesis 12:1-9; Psalm 33:1-12; Romans 4:13-25; and Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26. These paint a picture of what it means to trust God rather than relying on one's own thoughts.

"The Lord had said to Abram, 'Leave your country, your people and your father's household and go to the land I will show you.'
'I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you;
I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse;
and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.'" (Genesis 12:1-3)

Imagine that. Abram was told to leave familiar surroundings, culture, family, friends. And why? To go somewhere else. And why? Because that was the instruction he received from God. What would he do there? That was pretty iffy. When Abram chose to obey, it was not the humanly logical, reasonable decision; it was a big step into the unknown. But Abram (Abraham) "did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised" (Romans 4:20-21). Now, thousands of years later, we see how God has worked through human history to bring about the blessing He had declared to Abraham.

I am glad Abram followed in faith.

"The Lord foils the plans of the nations;
he thwarts the purposes of the peoples.
But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever,
the purposes of his heart through all generations." (Psalm 33:10-11)