Monday, May 2, 2016

THE DECLARATION...

Here's an awesome statement from the mission group ITEAMS...I love their philosophy and commitment to integrative community transformation...
Things are not alright. Therefore, we choose to stand against the status quo. We choose to see the invisible, give a voice to the voiceless, create beauty from ashes, rediscover dignity, restore hope.
Circumstances can't erase the fact that every person is of equal value in the eyes of Jesus. We choose to see every person through the eyes of Jesus. We won't separate mission and compassion, because Jesus doesn't. We will pursue transformation in an integrated way that honors the community where we live and work, collaborating with others whenever possible.
We choose to work alongside the oppressed and not over them. We identify with the outcasts. We choose to live in a way that reflects Jesus. We believe no one should be invisible and everyone should have access to food, freedom, and forgiveness.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A NIGHT ON THE FLOOR OF THE PALACE…A World Malaria Day Reflection

A couple Friday nights ago I found myself walking onto the floor of the Palace of Auburn Hills, the cavernous arena where the NBA team Detroit Pistons plays their home basketball games. Growing up in the Detroit area, the Pistons were my favorite team as they won consecutive NBA titles and played before raucous capacity crowds. My buddies and I went to lots of games, always sitting seemingly as far away from the court as possible while cheering on the BAD BOYS at the Pontiac Silverdome in legendary battles against the Lakers and Celtics.

I never stepped on the floor of the arena as a young fan, but have never tired of going to games there over the last 3 decades since my high school years. However, I have found myself in much different stadium settings over the last 10 years as I have become aware of things that are happening in our world that I never knew could possibly be happening during my high school and college years focused on cheering on my favorite sports teams. There is one particular soccer pitch in a small rural village in Zambia where I have actually been to more often than the Palace in the last several years of my life. Things have obviously changed in my life as I have learned about the devastating impact of diseases like HIV/AIDS and Malaria.

In 2012, I was with several soccer players from Cornerstone University when we heard the story of a mom whose 15 month old son Alex died in her arms walking to a medical clinic because he had been bitten by a mosquito one night while sleeping in their one bedroom hut during the rainy season in Zambia. That story of deep personal loss and grief from an eminently preventable situation and disease left us with a need to respond that simply would not go away when we returned to our homes and normal lives free of global pandemics.

Malaria was not just some sort of tropical disease any more you took pills to avoid if you traveled to a more dangerous and exotic part of the world. It was something that impacted daily the lives of many of our friends and ended the lives of way too many kids before they even reached the age of 5 and had a chance to pursue the future God had for these beautiful and talented boys and girls. Malaria had become personal and we longed to know how we could keep other kids from living the tragedy Alex’s family had experienced. 

We quickly discovered that an insecticide treated bed net could do something brilliant and significant when people were able to sleep under them at night. It was the tool needed to wipe out fear, to wipe out economic hardships caused by illness, to keep children from dying before age 5 and losing out on a life and future they were created to pursue.  And this powerful bed net only cost what sports fans would normally pay to watch a college game…

So an idea was hatched in the minds and hearts of a group of college athletes. What if we invited our fellow students, parents, and soccer fans to pay an admission price or purchase a t-shirt when they came to watch us play, and those funds would provide a bed net for a family like Alex’s in sub-Saharan Africa? It was simple and something they could do in response to what they had seen and now felt responsible to respond to after their trip to Zambia.

NIGHT of NETS was born 5 years ago on the Cornerstone University campus and it’s grown beyond our wildest dreams. Several other CU teams have hosted games or matches and many other teams on high school and college campuses in west MI and across the country have joined our campaign to help prevent the devastating impact of malaria in tens of thousands of families’ lives in sub-Saharan Africa. Over 20,000 families have received a bed net through funds raised at athletic contests and we’ve seen families live differently on our regular trips to Zambia because they have access to the nets that keep one of the world’s biggest health threats out of their homes.
 
 

And we’ve been so encouraged by the new friends and partners we’ve discovered who share the same dream that we have of wiping out malaria in our lifetime. One of the great discoveries of my life has been that you find unity, friendship, and joy in coming together to serve others, to use your blessings to bless others, to pursue visions that are beyond the needs of oneself and that can empower people to create and dream and live a new and wonderful and full life.

I’ve loved discovering that God loves to connect our own personal loves and interests to doing good and sharing the Gospel in word and deed so that the things He has made us to love are used to do extraordinary things that leave us truly fulfilled and lives truly changed. There’s nothing more beautiful than the great passions of our lives running head on with the greatest needs in our world.

Sports continues to become more and more prominent and influential in our American culture. Night of Nets taps into that national passion and cultural interest by leveraging the power of sport to raise awareness and funds to provide bed nets that are so desperately needed in our world still today. A deep love for the beautiful game of soccer connected us quickly to the Zambian people and culture, and it has always made sense to see our athletic endeavors as more than just a game. Night of Nets connects two worlds through something loved by people all over the globe.

I’ve loved playing and watching basketball for much of my life. The Detroit Pistons have been my favorite team for over 30 years, often to the chagrin of my pals from Boston and Chicago. Walking onto the floor of their arena was honestly one of those moments you never expected to happen, but was one that you pumped your fist in secret about despite being much older than when you cheered for names like Isiah and Kelly and Bill and Vinnie.

Growing up, I would have thought that the path to the Palace floor would have been through extraordinary play, brilliant business acumen, or possessing incredible personal wealth. Yet my path first went to a dusty village road in Zambia before heading to a place filled with bright lights, well dressed people, and men much, much taller than me.

I mean who would have ever really believed that the reason I ended up on the floor of the Palace, smiling for 60 seconds on the Jumbotron, and being on a postgame panel with NBA veterans Steve Blake and Anthony Tolliver behind the Pistons bench was that I cared about kids in Africa and tried to do everything I could to prevent the spread of a non-Western world disease I knew nothing about a little more than a decade ago? 
 
 

As I stood on the floor before the game began this thought once again came to me: Only God can dream this stuff up! The Kingdom of God is truly an upside down entity where we find ourselves being lifted up when we care for those who have no voice and no value in the world’s eyes. It’s a place where people who have lived in communities where the neighborhood sprays each spring to keep mosquitos from bugging folks on their patios find themselves praying and for an end to malaria because they have friends deeply impacted by the bite of the same insect on the other side of the world. It is a life where WORLD MALARIA DAY is prominently on one’s calendar right next to a slew of traditional holidays.

Being honored and getting to enjoy a pregame spread with important people before strolling across the floor of my hometown team was definitely a highlight moment in my life; and yet it truly can’t compare to the moment where I’ll had a mother in a Zambian village a bed net she’s been praying for 6 weeks from now. It’s those moments that I treasure most in my heart.

It is World Malaria Day and I’d love to see everyone who reads this blog purchase a bed net for a refugee family at risk in Africa today. This simple small act will do more than you can imagine; and giving to others strangely ends up giving the giver what they truly need. It’s the upside-down, counter-cultural, life-giving Kingdom of Jesus way…

May we end malaria in our lifetimes together and change history…and just remember, you never know where you’ll end up walking one night because you did something to meet the needs of another…
 
 

For more info about the NIGHT OF NETS initiative visit our website: www.cunightofnets.com
To purchase a bed net for a refugee family in Africa visit the Nothing but Nets website at: www.nothingbutnets.net
To participate in the NIGHT of NETS 5K on the CU campus on APRIL 30 visit:
 

 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

A Prayer for Saint Patrick's Day

This prayer, known as The Breastplate of Saint Patrick, captures his vision of the ever-present provision of God. May it inspire you to release your fears today.
Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.
SKYE JETHANI--With God Daily
 
 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

NIGHT OF NETS: A United Nations Summit Reflection

I found myself in a very unfamiliar place. We were on a 12th floor balcony looking over some of the most famous sites in the world lit up on a Sunday evening in Washington DC. The United Nations building space was filled with mounds of expensive food and drinks, and we had recently been in the same small room with one of the most famous global athletes in history and President Obama’s National Security Advisor.

As I moved from conversation to conversation in this fascinating, intimidating, and surreal social environment, I stood by myself for a moment and thought of a small village in Zambia where the darkness of that night did not feature famous lighted monuments, gourmet food, or well-dressed famous and powerful people. However, the time I spent in Kakolo Village and the friends I made in this forgotten African community was without a doubt the reason I found myself on a Washington DC balcony at one of the elite addresses in the modern world. These 2 seemingly completely different places and peoples were, in fact, surprisingly and divinely connected in my story, a story that is still being written with new chapters and characters…

While in DC I told several people the story of how Bono’s words at Wheaton College in 2002 shifted my life and career trajectory in a disturbing and beautiful way. The last 15 years have been featured a massive learning curve about global poverty, economics, health care, and cultures for me as a classically suburban evangelical Christian. I’m about to take my 8th trip to sub-Saharan Africa with my family and a bundle of overexcited college students. My mind and my heart are bent to know about, to care about, and to respond to global issues like HIV/AIDS, extreme poverty, sex trade, hunger, and a parasitic disease called MALARIA.

It was a surprise to be invited by the United Nations Foundation NOTHING BUT NETS campaign to share my story, our small Christian university’s story with some of the people most concerned about malaria at their annual Champions Summit. And yet it was incredibly natural to talk about the people we know, the places we’ve been, and the plans we’ve pursued in trying to deliver life-saving bed nets to people in Zambia whose lives are holistically impacted by the bite of a mosquito. The profound opportunity we have been given by our God to help eradicate malaria in NDOLA, ZAMBIA and even the entire beautiful continent of Africa has become the invitation I just cannot say NO to despite all the other invitations and responsibilities that daily come my way.

Our little trip to DC with friends and CU students I love was another high point in our journey pursuing justice and restoration in our world. Cornerstone University was a seriously unlikely guest at an event filled with people who had vastly different life experiences, beliefs, and lifestyles. But the power of a grander vision, the hope of a compelling mission, and the calling I believe comes from within each human being bearing the image and heart of a God who has created everyone to flourish and be fully alive as His beloved people makes connection and relationships with people from very different places.

After learning from global experts and advocating before members of Congress on Capitol Hill, our final night of our DC excursion was spent at a Starbucks near our Georgetown neighborhood hotel. It was another dream session for our Night of Nets initiative and here’s what I came away with as we invite the Holy Spirit to continue to grow our vision for being instruments of hope and healing through the transformational power of a bed net given in Jesus’ name:

1. Until God tells us otherwise, we continue to feel called to focus our energy and resources toward helping to end the suffering malaria still causes in our world today

2. There’s still more room to invite more stakeholders on our CU campus to join the Night of Nets campaign in new and deeper ways going forward. It may very well bring unprecedented unity and passion and purpose to our community.

3. We long to see more campuses join us in providing life-saving bed nets through campus events. Our audacious target is to have 100 schools join the Night of Nets community by 2018.

4. We will continue to provide bed nets to an amazing network of churches through our Jubilee Centre to help reduce the devastating impact of malaria in Zambian communities. These nets are a vehicle for physical healing & deeper connection with the Body of Christ distributing them.

5. We will also continue to partner with the work being done by World Vision and Nothing But Nets as they distribute millions of bed nets to refugees & those at most risk in sub-Saharan Africa.

6. We will pay special attention to the resources our own government is putting toward global health concerns like malaria and plan to advocate for increased funding for the highly effective President’s Malaria Initiative program in the coming years as we continue to see malaria being eradicated from more and more communities and nations in our world. The multiplying economic and community impact of this disease being wiped out is gigantic.

7. Our hearts continue to break for those still affected every day by this disease (pregnant women & children at greatest risk). We will spend even more time praying for healing & protection & comfort as we call out to God to end this health crisis & gain victory in the fight against malaria.

Night of Nets is a simple idea that leverages the incredible power and influence of sport in our culture and world to do something good and transformational in the lives of others. I love the fact that the games we love to play and attend can be catalytic in harnessing the resources and voices of a generation that cares deeply about making the world and the daily lives of its people more like God intended them to be. We are joining athletes like Stephen Curry and teams like the Detroit Pistons in sharing how you can make a huge impact with very little—

The journey from Pennsylvania Avenue to Kakolo Village seems unimaginable in many ways. But our creative God has made the path straight and beautiful for so many folks from Grand Rapids and Zambia alike. We will both sleep under them in Zambia once again this June, the love of Jesus makes even stronger our strings, our nets that connect us as we pray and dream and create and serve and work for the end of malaria in our lifetime. I do believe…the best is yet to come…CHIP


 
 

Monday, January 18, 2016

A Word from DR. KING to the CHURCH...

Read this quote posted by Skye Jethani on this very important day...

“The church must be reminded that it is not the master or servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state. It must be the guide and the critic of the state, and never its tool. If the church does not recapture its prophetic zeal, it will become an irrelevant social club without moral or spiritual authority. If the church does not participate actively in the struggle for peace and for economic and racial justice, it will forfeit the loyalty of millions and cause men everywhere to say that it has atrophied its will. But if the church will free itself from the shackles of a deadening status quo and, recovering its great historic mission, will speak and act fearlessly and insistently in terms of justice and peace, it will enkindle the imagination of mankind and fire the souls of men, imbuing them with a glowing and ardent love for truth, justice, and peace. Men far and near will know the church as a great fellowship of love.”

DR MARTIN LUTHER KING JR, 1967

https://skyejethani.com/with-god-daily-devotional/

Friday, January 1, 2016

11 Resolutions Everyone Should Consider Making Next Year--JESSE CAREY, Relevant Magazine

I love this list and the way the author describes them:
 
New Year's resolutions you'll actually want to keep.
 
Excited to pursue a life and family and career and Kingdom ventures with greater purpose and skill and vision that centers on the things that I care most about and know matter most deeply...

 

Read this list and let's pursue them together...

 

To Spend More Time in Conversations that Matter

Too often, days at a time can go by with the conversations we have with our friends, family members and co-workers going no deeper than surface-level chit-chat. Though there’s nothing wrong with joking around, theorizing about the latest episode of Serial or strategizing about fantasy football, if we’re not intentional about regularly engaging in deeper conversations—that challenge us intellectually, spiritually and socially—too often, those types of talks can become increasingly rare. Complaining about something can offer momentary relief from frustrations, but working on solutions to the problems in our world can actually fix the things that are broken.

To Complain Less and Do More

We’re all guilty of it from time to time: We see something broken—in culture, the Church, the government, in our own personal relationships—and our first instinct is to vent about it instead of thinking of ways we can help change it. Complaining about something can offer momentary relief from frustrations, but working on solutions to the problems in our world can actually fix the things that are broken.

To Spend Less Time Worrying

Any time spent worrying is time wasted. It’s also counterproductive. As author and activist Corrie ten Boom said in The Hiding Place, “Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength."

To Pray More

It’s easy to pray less when we have lots of things to do, but really, life should work in the opposite way. As Martin Luther once said, “I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.” No matter how busy we become, committing to spend more time praying—even if it’s during our commute, when we’re working out or throughout our day—is a key to growing spiritually.

To Listen to More New Music Every Week

With the rise of platforms like SoundCloud, NoiseTrade, Spotify and Pandora, keeping up with new music releases has never been more involved. But it’s also never been easier to find new artists and get introduced to songs you’ve never heard. Next year, consider making even more margin to check out innovative music and the artists who are shaping culture.

To Cut Others Some Slack

In the social media era, where everyone’s opinion gets a platform, it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of getting angry at our friends over things they say that we don’t agree with. Unfortunately, many times, that same mindset of taking offense at dumb stuff people say or do creeps into real-world relationships, the Church and workplaces. The thing is, most of the time, outrage is overrated. In 2016, commit to be offended less and reserving your anger for issues that really matter.

To Cut Yourself Some Slack

We’ve all been driven to try to accomplish things but ended up falling short. We’ve all made mistakes. We’ve all failed. The good news is, God doesn’t expect perfection from us, and we shouldn’t expect it from ourselves. Next year, when you mess up, drop the ball or let people you care about down, do what you can to make it right, but be quick to move on and show yourself the same grace you extend to others. Though being able to take a stand for what you believe is an admirable trait, so is listening to the other side and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.

To Read More Good Books

In a letter to a friend, C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Clearly, one must read every good book at least once every 10 years.” Considering that there are thousands of “good” books to choose from, Lewis’ advice doesn’t seem all that practical, but that doesn’t make it any less powerful. No matter how much time you currently spend reading, there is even more potentially life-changing wisdom in the pages penned by some of humanity's great minds. All you have to do is take the time to read it.

To Challenge Our Own Presuppositions More Often

Just take a look at recent news headlines, ongoing current events and debates in the Church, and it’s clear to see that we live in polarizing times. Though being able to take a stand for what you believe is an admirable trait, so is listening to the other side and putting yourself in someone else’s shoes. Even if we don’t end up changing our position on an issue, questioning our own long-held presuppositions doesn’t just serve to challenge our beliefs—it can actually strengthen them.

To Spend Less Time on Your Phone

When you reflect back on 2016 this time next year, you probably won’t remember your new Candy Crush high score or that listicle of things you didn’t know about the cast of Boy Meets World. Even if you’re not a full-fledged app addict, in the era of the iPhone, we can all use a little less time looking at screens, and more time enjoying the people and places around us.

To Share More Meals with People You Care About

We’re all busy. And, the reality is, a lot of times it’s just more convenient to go to the drive-thru, eat lunch at your desk or use dinnertime to catch up on some Netflix. There’s nothing wrong with doing this every once in a while, but when eating on the run becomes a lifestyle, you end up depriving yourself—and others in your life—of moments that could be used to build deeper relationships.
 

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Through the Eyes of Haitian Moms...

This is a short section from Jen Hatmaker's latest book FOR THE LOVE...it grabbed me and presents a beautiful and compelling way for us to look at what we present as the way Jesus followers should live and what we should be doing...read it and be challenged...and then read the rest of the book!

It has taken me forty years to assess the difference between the gospel and the American evangelical version of the gospel. Those were one of the same for ages-no takes backs, no prisoners, no holds barred. I filtered the kingdom through my upper middle class, white, advantaged, denominational lens, and by golly, I found a way to make most of it fit! (It was a complicated task, but I managed. Please be impressed.)

But then God changed my life, and everything got weird. I discovered the rest of the world! And other cultures! And different Christian traditions! And people who were way, way different from me! And poverty! Then the system in which God operated according to my rules started disintegrating. I started hearing my gospel narrative through the ears of the Other, and a giant whole bunch of it didn’t even make sense. Some values and perspectives and promises I attributed to God’s own heart only worked in my context, and I’m no theologian, but surely that is problematic.

There is a biblical benchmark I use now. We will refer to this criterion for every hard question, big idea, topic, assessment of our own obedience, every “should” or “should not” and “will” or “will not” we ascribe to God, every theological sound bite. Here it is: If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.

If a sermon promises health and wealth to the faithful, it isn’t true, because that theology makes God an absolute monster who only blesses rich westerners and despises Christians in Africa, India, China, South America, Russia, rural Appalachia, inner city America, and everywhere else a sincere believer remains poor. If it isn’t true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, it isn’t true.

If doctrine elevates a woman’s married-with-children status as her highest calling, it isn’t true, because that omits single believers (whose status Paul considered preferable), widows, the childless by choice or fate or loss, the divorced, and the celibate gay. If these folks are second –class citizens in the kingdom because they aren’t married with children, the God just excluded millions of people from gospel work, and I guess they should just eat rocks and dies. If it isn’t also true for a poor single Christian mom in Haiti, then it isn’t true.

Theology is either true everywhere or it isn’t true anywhere. This helps untangle us from the American God Narrative and sets God free to be God instead of the My-God-in-a-Pocket I carried for so long. It lends restraint when declaring what God does or does not think, because sometimes my portrayal of God’s ways sounds suspiciously like the American dream and I had better check myself. Because of the Haitian single mom. Maybe I should speak less for God.


http://www.amazon.com/For-Love-Fighting-Impossible-Standards/dp/0718031822