Friday, January 30, 2009

My Zach

Background: We're on DAY ELEVEN with no hot water in our rental house here in Houston. It's a long story that I don't have the energy or patience to recount right now, but it is looking positive. They're bringing a hot water heater this morning to install. Finally. And I'm leaving for Chicago for the Covenant Midwinter Conference in about an hour, too... So it's good timing. At least I'm not leaving my wife and four kids with no hot water in addition to no father.

Here's a note/picture I found this morning. About broke my heart. I love this kid.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Has It Really Come To This?

Here it is, Oscar season. The nominees have been announced. I like to consider myself a serious movie fan, so why is it that I have not even seen one of the Best Picture nominees this year? In fact, the last seven movies I have seen in theaters were (I kid you not): Paul Blart, Mall Cop; Beverly Hills Chihuahua; Hotel for Dogs; Bedtime Stories; Bedtime Stories (a second time); The Tale of Despereaux and Yes Man.

Oh my.

Well, according to Jeffrey Overstreet, the Oscars are a joke this year anyway. Thank God LOST is back on!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Save Jodie Gee

I'm grateful that God is using my song "New Every Morning" in this important video... Please read the information below, watch the video and spread the word!

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In November of 2008, Jodie Gee went in for a routine physical and mentioned to her doctor that she noticed some bruises on her body over the weekend. A few days later, she was diagnosed with Severe Aplastic Anemia, a bone marrow disorder, which means that her marrow no longer produces any red and white cells or platelets necessary to fight infection, clot her blood, or carry oxygen through her body. This came as a complete surprise because she was in great physical health prior to that.

Jodie is a wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend – She is caring, creative and has a giving spirit. Her family has touched the lives of so many, and we hope that that generosity will cause others to also want to be generous this season.

Jodie is now in urgent need of a life saving bone marrow transplant. She needs 2-3 blood or platelet transfusions per week in order to maintain an adequate level of health, but common viral infections are life threatening for her. To limit her exposure to germs, she now has to limit her contact with friends and can no longer care for her children as a normal mother would. Even holding or kissing her kids could be dangerous. The members of our family weren’t a match for her, so we are beginning a worldwide search for her donor match, particularly among Asians. There is a million to one chance of finding a match, so we are targeting to sign on 1,000,000 new donors. Time is of the essence.

Getting tested to be part of the donor registry is FREE of charge for minorities. We are looking for Asian donors that are in good general health and between the ages of 18 and 60. You can either get tested at a donor drive near you or go to www.aadp.org to have them mail you a free kit

Please join Jodie’s friends and family in our search for a donor match, and join the many others that are seeing the importance of becoming a donor. By joining the registry, you could help save a life.

We are also looking for new locations for donor drives. If you are interested in hosting a donor drive in your Asian community group or church, please contact us through this Facebook page.

Please help spread the word, and most importantly, please get tested. Jodie, Alex and their children thank you for your gift of life. God bless.



::UPDATE:: 2/18/09 - According to the Save Jodie Gee blog, a donor has been found! Thank God!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Africa Needs God... Says Atheist Matthew Parris



Look at this: An atheist who acknowledges that Africa needs God. But, as other Christian bloggers have pointed out, why stop with Africa? If Africa needs God to counteract the "crushing passivity of the peoples' mindset," then surely the rest of the world does as well. Here's the article in its entirety. It's that good. Thanks to Dr. John Stackhouse for bringing this to my attention. You should read his blog too.

Before Christmas I returned, after 45 years, to the country that as a boy I knew as Nyasaland. Today it's Malawi, and The Times Christmas Appeal includes a small British charity working there. Pump Aid helps rural communities to install a simple pump, letting people keep their village wells sealed and clean. I went to see this work.

It inspired me, renewing my flagging faith in development charities. But travelling in Malawi refreshed another belief, too: one I've been trying to banish all my life, but an observation I've been unable to avoid since my African childhood. It confounds my ideological beliefs, stubbornly refuses to fit my world view, and has embarrassed my growing belief that there is no God.

Now a confirmed atheist, I've become convinced of the enormous contribution that Christian evangelism makes in Africa: sharply distinct from the work of secular NGOs, government projects and international aid efforts. These alone will not do. Education and training alone will not do. In Africa Christianity changes people's hearts. It brings a spiritual transformation. The rebirth is real. The change is good.

I used to avoid this truth by applauding - as you can - the practical work of mission churches in Africa. It's a pity, I would say, that salvation is part of the package, but Christians black and white, working in Africa, do heal the sick, do teach people to read and write; and only the severest kind of secularist could see a mission hospital or school and say the world would be better without it. I would allow that if faith was needed to motivate missionaries to help, then, fine: but what counted was the help, not the faith.

But this doesn't fit the facts. Faith does more than support the missionary; it is also transferred to his flock. This is the effect that matters so immensely, and which I cannot help observing.

First, then, the observation. We had friends who were missionaries, and as a child I stayed often with them; I also stayed, alone with my little brother, in a traditional rural African village. In the city we had working for us Africans who had converted and were strong believers. The Christians were always different. Far from having cowed or confined its converts, their faith appeared to have liberated and relaxed them. There was a liveliness, a curiosity, an engagement with the world - a directness in their dealings with others - that seemed to be missing in traditional African life. They stood tall.

At 24, travelling by land across the continent reinforced this impression. From Algiers to Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon and the Central African Republic, then right through the Congo to Rwanda, Tanzania and Kenya, four student friends and I drove our old Land Rover to Nairobi.

We slept under the stars, so it was important as we reached the more populated and lawless parts of the sub-Sahara that every day we find somewhere safe by nightfall. Often near a mission.

Whenever we entered a territory worked by missionaries, we had to acknowledge that something changed in the faces of the people we passed and spoke to: something in their eyes, the way they approached you direct, man-to-man, without looking down or away. They had not become more deferential towards strangers - in some ways less so - but more open.

This time in Malawi it was the same. I met no missionaries. You do not encounter missionaries in the lobbies of expensive hotels discussing development strategy documents, as you do with the big NGOs. But instead I noticed that a handful of the most impressive African members of the Pump Aid team (largely from Zimbabwe) were, privately, strong Christians. “Privately” because the charity is entirely secular and I never heard any of its team so much as mention religion while working in the villages. But I picked up the Christian references in our conversations. One, I saw, was studying a devotional textbook in the car. One, on Sunday, went off to church at dawn for a two-hour service.

It would suit me to believe that their honesty, diligence and optimism in their work was unconnected with personal faith. Their work was secular, but surely affected by what they were. What they were was, in turn, influenced by a conception of man's place in the Universe that Christianity had taught.

There's long been a fashion among Western academic sociologists for placing tribal value systems within a ring fence, beyond critiques founded in our own culture: “theirs” and therefore best for “them”; authentic and of intrinsically equal worth to ours.

I don't follow this. I observe that tribal belief is no more peaceable than ours; and that it suppresses individuality. People think collectively; first in terms of the community, extended family and tribe. This rural-traditional mindset feeds into the “big man” and gangster politics of the African city: the exaggerated respect for a swaggering leader, and the (literal) inability to understand the whole idea of loyal opposition.

Anxiety - fear of evil spirits, of ancestors, of nature and the wild, of a tribal hierarchy, of quite everyday things - strikes deep into the whole structure of rural African thought. Every man has his place and, call it fear or respect, a great weight grinds down the individual spirit, stunting curiosity. People won't take the initiative, won't take things into their own hands or on their own shoulders.

How can I, as someone with a foot in both camps, explain? When the philosophical tourist moves from one world view to another he finds - at the very moment of passing into the new - that he loses the language to describe the landscape to the old. But let me try an example: the answer given by Sir Edmund Hillary to the question: Why climb the mountain? “Because it's there,” he said.

To the rural African mind, this is an explanation of why one would not climb the mountain. It's... well, there. Just there. Why interfere? Nothing to be done about it, or with it. Hillary's further explanation - that nobody else had climbed it - would stand as a second reason for passivity.

Christianity, post-Reformation and post-Luther, with its teaching of a direct, personal, two-way link between the individual and God, unmediated by the collective, and unsubordinate to any other human being, smashes straight through the philosphical/spiritual framework I've just described. It offers something to hold on to to those anxious to cast off a crushing tribal groupthink. That is why and how it liberates.

Those who want Africa to walk tall amid 21st-century global competition must not kid themselves that providing the material means or even the knowhow that accompanies what we call development will make the change. A whole belief system must first be supplanted.

And I'm afraid it has to be supplanted by another. Removing Christian evangelism from the African equation may leave the continent at the mercy of a malign fusion of Nike, the witch doctor, the mobile phone and the machete.

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Birthday Joy

Jake turned 11 yesterday. We got him a cell phone, and I asked a bunch of people to text and VM him so that it would be "full of birthday love" when he opened it up. It was awesome...

They say it's more blessed to give than to receive, but sometimes it's pretty awesome to receive.

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