Maybe I am being too uber-analytical, but I wonder if I need to put some words up there. I think someone taught me once that every piece of writing needs a good title.
Monday, November 27
Thursday, November 23
The sun is setting on another American Thanksgiving. The infamous "Black Friday" is approaching. (For all of our dear non-American friends, tomorrow is the day in the States when hoards of shopper-bugs descend on shopping malls and stores to get the most tasty Christmas sales. Some even camp out on the streets in the bitter cold to be the first in the door at 6am. Insane consumerism, at our best.) Tonight, my mind is in Italy. I'm remembering Tino from Milan. And I can't stop reading Psalm one oh seven. The one with this four-pronged refrain:
Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! (NKJV)
This summer I did a three-week mission in Italy with a team from 24-7 Prayer. We prayed through the cities, met with different churches, and helped set up some 24-7 prayer rooms. We met Tino on our first stop in Milan. He worked at the church and lived a beautifully simple life.
What I remember about Tino is that he called me "Gina." (A rough Italian equivalent of "Jenelle"?). And I remember that he rode his bike 20 km both to and from work everyday, because he didn't have a car. I remember how his mobile phone would ring non-stop during dinner, and how he'd refuse to answer it. In Tino's Italy, meals are sacred.
Most of all I remember how Tino always bowed his head to humbly say a "thank you" prayer both before and after our meal. I wish I caught every word of his Italian, but for the most part I got it. He was pausing to tell God thanks for being God. (And at the end of his meal, no less! Who does that?)
When I read Psalm 107, I hear Tino waving his work-worn hands at me, urging me as a Psalmist: "Oh, that you would give thanks to the Lord for his goodness, and his wonderful works towards you..."
Wednesday, November 22
(This is Part 2 of the following post: Career Day at the Middle School)
It's official. I may be 27, but, I'm not a big old adult.
This week I received a thick envelope from Piccowaxen Middle School. Inside I found 28 full-paged letters from students saying, "thank you" for coming to their school to share about my "career." They were all from kids aged 10-13. Here are some of my favorite excerpts:
-I am extremely happy that you came...I am glad that you acted like our friend and not like a big old adult. Your friend, Bradley
-You inspired me to keep my hope towards being a youth director someday...I appreciate how you came in and the first thing you said was that your best friend's name was Jesus. Sincerely, Micaela
-I used to want to be a youth pastor, but I thought I would get bored with it. But when I found out you could travel to different countries and spread the Word, I thought that was really cool. Sincerely, Michelle
-I thought it was amazing when you taught us to speak Portuguese. Sincerely, Katelyn
-I've been trying since the 5th grade to tell my best friend about God, but she doesn't seem to get it. Hopefully she will know and love God...Hopefully soon. Sincerely, Taylor
-Thank you for coming in and sharing about your best friend, Jesus. Sincerely, Chris
-In my opinion, you had the best job...I've always wanted to have a job like you. Sincerely, Samantha
-I never knew or even heard of a Youth Pastor until last Friday. Now I know that there are people like you that watch over kids like us. Sincerely, John
-We really enjoyed you. Sincerely, Brittany
-After your presentation, I am definitely considering becoming a youth pastor as my future job...You are a true inspiration to me. A new friend, Timber
-It seemed pretty cool that by the time you are 13 in Portugal you know at least 2 languages...that shocked me! -Sincerely, Cheryl
-Your job could be hard because you have to build friendships with teens that might not be too nice. Thank you, Brett
-Your presentation was my favorite because while listening to you I learned how to be a great person...And as you know, I loved your hair. Sincerely, Monica
These thank you notes were the best birthday present ever. Jesus loves me, this I know.
Monday, November 20
And I wish I could speak Dutch to understand what this site says: (translated) "Passion Mail". (Somebody help!) But it's so beautiful and simple that you really must glance through it. Their business has something to do with making creative snail mail. That makes me happy. When I grow up I want to work for them. (Thanks again for the sweet bloggy stuff, Marc...)
Friday, November 17
Thursday, November 16
I spent most of my birthday week in Santa Barbara, California. Saturday night, after eating one of the most lavish meals of my life at a dear friend's wedding, I met a homeless man named Wyatt. He told me his story. A fire in his apartment sent him to the streets. I was dressed to the nines for a black-tie wedding, and he was in rags. I felt sick inside over the polarity of our worlds. I did what little I could to get him some groceries, and prayed with him. He'd wanted to give me the $2.50 he had in his pockets in exchange for the food. And he said he'd pray for me, too.
I wept a lot that night. And I asked God to help me live a life that really values the poor like Jesus does. Not just one that throws money at them to make me feel better.
The following is an excerpt from Joel News International. I was pretty amazed by Rick Warren's thoughts. I read his best-seller and wondered what all the hype was about. And I judged him. I made gross assumptions about him and his exceedingly massive church. Now I'm learning from him and asking Jesus for forgiveness for my plank-eye.
How to Steward Influence and Affluence?
If you would be entrusted national influence in your nation, as well as millions of dollars, how would you steward it? How would you prevent getting corrupted by power or money? Rick Warren's book 'The Purpose-Driven Life' sold 17 million copies in the first one-and-a-half year, and brought him a lot of influence and income. "I don't think God gives you either money or fame for your own ego," says Warren. "So my wife and I made four decisions:
1. We would not change our lifestyle one bit, no matter how much money would come in. So I didn't buy a bigger house or a yacht, and still drive a four-year old Ford.
2. I stopped taking a salary from the church, based on 1 Cor. 9. where Paul says he wants to serve the gospel for free. I also added up all the church had paid me in the previous years and gave it back, because I didn't want anybody to think that I would be in this for money.
3. We set up three different foundations, that we use to train pastors in third-world countries, help those infected with AIDS, and support the global PEACE plan.
4. We became reverse tithers. When Kay and I got married 30 years ago, we began giving 10 percent of our income to charity. And each year we would raise it a percentage, because every time you give, you break the grip of materialism in your life. And so the second year of our marriage we started giving 11 percent to charity, then 12 percent, then 13 percent. Every time I give it makes my heart bigger and it makes me more like Jesus. And so, today, 30 years later, my wife and I are reverse tithers. We give away 90 percent and we live on 10."
I missed 2,000 verses in the Bible that talk about the poor
"The hard part was, what are we going to do with the fame?" says Warren. "God spoke to me from Psalm 72, where Solomon prays for more influence, so that he may support the widows and orphans, care for the oppressed, defend the defenseless, speak up for the prisoner, and help the immigrant. He basically talks about all the marginalized of society. And that was a turning point in my life two-and-a-half years ago, where God basically said: 'The purpose of influence is to speak up for those who have no influence.' I had to repent because I live in a very affluent Southern California neighborhood, and couldn't think of the last time I had cared about the homeless. When reading Scripture afresh, it was like the blinders came off. Now, I've got three advanced degrees and four years in Greek and Hebrew. How did I miss 2,000 verses in the Bible where it talks about the poor? How did I miss that?"
Source: Rick Warren at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. A full 31 page transcript of Rick Warren's extensive interview at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is available here: http://pewforum.org/events/index.php?EventID=80
Thanks to Marc and joelnews.org
Wednesday, November 1
I have a tendency to play the air-drums while running. My friend, Ben, from Triplet taught me a few beats when I was in Portugal. Jesse Borden made me two beautiful African djembes that I'm still learning to play. So my church put an old practice drum kit in my office! (It's missing some things, though, like...cymbals). I pretty much want to be this little kid.
video found on MySpace.com