Tuesday, May 16, 2006

and then...

I find pleasure in stupid movies. It's no secret. I'm dimented. Zoolander is just good fun. Dude where's my car is another classic. It's arguably one of the five dumbest movies of all time but I gotta tell ya, it's funny. Stupid, but funny.

So there I was in McD's today to get Isabella some Chicken McNuggets when I had a Dude moment. I walk up to the counter, ask for and point the 6 piece chicken mcnuggets. The server's response was priceless:

And then?

I couldn't resist the urge, it just happened too fast. I answered with authority, "No and then!"

That's all for now.

Monday, May 15, 2006


I get to experience all sorts of new leadership challenges everyday. Most of the time it's pretty darn cool. Sometimes, not so much. And sometimes, I come out of the whole experience wondering what just happened. The latter is the boat I found myself in late last week.
In a meeting that I was leading (I know,it's scary enough that I have SOME responsibilities, let alone leading stuff) we were discussing volunteers for various ministries and the challenges of getting and keeping willing bodies. One way we are trying to keep our volunteers energized by trying to identify some ways to keep them from over-committing.
The conversation moved into giving breaks to those that were obviously weary. Of course, when that starts happening, then there are gaps and the question comes up of how to fill them. You get the idea; it's a circle.
Well, as were were muddling through all this trying to come up with a viable strategy, a statement was made that shocked me. It was suggested that we will just have to tell some leaders that they cannot take a break right now because we don't have enough help.
It was quickly supported by another leader, surprising me further.
Here's the issue for me. I believe that we serve an amazing God that loves and embraces us so completely that our whole concept of love for each other is just a natural outpouring of our understanding of God's love for us. The rub then is this: if we say we truly love God and have a basic concept of His love for us, why do we find a million other things to do that take precedence over volunteering in ways that show our love for Him? He designated the church to be His way to spread love, peace and life to a world in need of these things right? So why don't we get more excited about investing in the lives of other through service?
I think the attitude of deservance is a big part of this. I think we, the church, have created environments that lead us to think we deserve what we're giving ourselves, that it's all about what's fair to us and what we have time and energy for. And if we can't get to the God stuff, it's okay, He would want us to be happy.
Maybe, instead of spending so much time coming up with new, trendy, more effective ways to recruit volunteers, we, the church, should spend some time questioning if we are living out the life of Christ? I think if we can answer that question, the rest sort of falls into place by way of, and this is big so don't miss it, Joyful Obedience. Not obligatory obedience, joyful odebedience.
I have a lot to learn in this area. I'm hoping that by writing it down, I will be more attentive to my attitudes toward serving.

PS--here's another log for the fire: Can different cultures interpret obligation differently to a point where they can find joy in obligation?
More on that another day.


So I learned something today...
Jackie Chan is a doorman for our building.

Saturday, May 13, 2006


From a youth ministry standpoint, it's been one great week. I like how marko talks about his small group so I'll try to follow suit. Below are abbreviated accounts of three conversations with students this week.

1. Wednesday night discipleship group (note: our first meeting)
me--so I'd like to do this every week.
guys--okay, that'd be cool
me--and i think it'd be good if we took some time to talk about some spiritual stuff
me--but it'll mean we'll have to be honest with each other. it could be hard
guys--that's okay.
guys--let's go look at cds

2. Friday night youth group: (R)evolve
girl--So is it possible for someone who's never been "preached to" to go to heaven?
guy1--Yeah, you have to think about it in terms of general revelation and stuff.
guy2--it's about choices.
girl--so even though the aztecs believed God hated them, they could've chosen to follow God based on what had been revealed?
me--(thinking to myself)--wow, not sure i need to be here, they're doing pretty well on their own. and how many high schoolers have i ever met that throw around general revelation?
guy3--when are we gonna eat?

3. Friday night on msn
guy--can i ask you a question?
guy--what do i need to do to get baptized?
me--explaining a little to him
guy--sweet. could i do that as soon as exams are over?
This from a guy that says very little in Sunday school and has been tough to get to know. But wow, he's thinking!

I have such a cool job.


Wednesday, May 10, 2006


I've been doing a lot of thinking about ministry here in Hong Kong. I guess I should since that's where I believe God has led me to serve. My friend Dan and I were discussing the youth we work with at dinner last night. Being good, enculturated men, we were sitting at a TGI Fridays. Anyway, I digress.
We have separately come to the same conclusion about our youth. I must preface my next few statements with a warning. I hate labels and avoid them whenever possible. I have found myself cringing whenever I hear someone label themselves as emergent or post-modern, modern, or anything. I kinda feel like these are more patterns of thought than ways to classify identity. I love the ambiguity and mystery that comes from living life. I love the fact that we are all created wondrefully and uniquely. I love that I don't have it all figured out and I HATE labels that act as if we do.
I'll get off my soap box now and back to my point. Though I hate to do it, I feel that good scholarship and effective anthropology means identifying and yes, labeling the groups in descriptive ways. With that, Dan and I developed a label that I think fits the students we work with. This label wouldn't work for all youth ministries in Hong Kong, but the more time I spend with our students, the more I believe this is where they are. Are you ready for this amazingly profound label?
One way to classify our students and their journeys is as mid-modernists. They sure aren't modern, but they have a very linear way of thinking that's a staple of modernity. They aren't post-modern but they still love to learn experientially when given the opportunity. There is much more to it than these two blanket statements but for now, they suffice.
A mid-modern student in Hong Kong is a student living in the dichotomy of a culture that's as old as any in the world (Chinese) in a city that's one of the most modern on the planet, balancing a synthesis of cultural influences from all over with their unique ethnicity. Their education is based on a very modern system, yet they want to think outside the accepted pattern more and more. They are mid-modern.
It's a label, I know, but it helps me understand a little better how I might be able to effectively communicate love, truth, hope, and peace.
It's a start.



I've heard there are over 26,000 taxis in Hong Kong. Most of them are made by Toyota that use a cleaner fuel than regular gas. They are reasonable, always clean, and everywhere. You've seen one, you've seen them all: except for one...
Coming home from the train station tonight, I was lazy and took a cab. Not just any cab, but a cab with a pink interior. In the words of my student Brett, it was tite!
I wish I had a camera to get the pic, but you'll just have to imagine a red Toyota taxi with a pink vinyl interior. With a ride that sweet, I had to give the driver a good tip. Not to would be an injustice to humanity.

Monday, May 08, 2006


Hong Kong continues to surprise me. We've been here almost a year and I continue to realize how little I know and understand of this eclectic culture. Today we went to TST to do some shopping, an area we've been many times before. Only this time was different. I think it's partly because I was thinking about the whole Cultural Intelligence discussion and partly beacause I stumbled into two new areas I hadn't seen before. I hadn't seen them because I'd never gone underground to that part of the city. It's nice to live somewhere that can surprise you daily. It made me think of the people here and how little I have done to look below the surface of their lives.
I just started reading Dave Livermore's new book, Serving with Eyes Wide Open and it's been good for me to re-evaluate some of my attitudes and perceptions of ministry here.
One of the things he discusses is the American perception of the typical Christian vs. the typical Christian in the world. Dave comments that the Western church is no longer the center and trendsetter of Christianity in the world."
I've come face to face with some harsh realities of my ministry style here recently. While I feel that our relationships with our kids are deepening, there seems to be an ongoing spiritual disconnect. The truth is, I have tried very much to lead a youth ministry based on models and ideas of Christianity and ministry that worked well in the states. But Christianity is different here. Perceptions of God aren't the same. The word "relationship" means different things. Plurality is more about synthesizing God into a secular view of life than it is about synthesizing various gods into one worldview.
I have tried hard to serve well here. But I've done it within the framework of western Christianity. It's hard not to when Hong Kong in many ways is so intensely western. I'm stepping back, yet again, trying to slow things down and look more closely at what it means to breathe love, life, peace and truth into lives here. As God opens my eyes, I look forward to seeing some new layers in our new home culture, and in my own life as well.
It's exciting to see the potential. I believe we are just getting started and God is opening our eyes to a whole new way of thinking about ministry, cultural awareness and success. I wonder what it will be like to look back ten years from now as I comment how ignorant I was?


Saturday, May 06, 2006


Today was a good day. Tasty breakfast this morning courtesy of the Flying Pan, productive time at the offce and an informative evening as I prepare for a busy Sunday. I'm still thinking a lot about our role as models of reconciliation to those without hope. It gets pretty interesting. Have a great day!

Friday, May 05, 2006


I've noticed something about people lately. It started with a book I read about community and the church. As I try to keep my eyes open walking through life, I'm noticing how we all seem to draw relational lines in the sand.
When relationships get to certain points, we seem to keep ourselves from going deeper. Myers asserts that that can be okay and that it's important to realize that not all relationships will grow to the same level.
Here's why I'm thinking so much about this: I think sometimes we draw lines in relationships because we aren't willing to let them get any deeper. Sometimes, I think we just decide they are too much work, or it would be too humbling to let that relationship continue.
I have done this more times than I would like to admit.
In observing church life in and outside of the states it seems like we are great at these lines, especially where there is hurt or the perception of wrongdoing. Looking at the scriptural model of Christ's bride always brings me back to a very different habit, a habit of reconciliation.
I've been reading through Romans very slowly and keep coming being convicted of the tremendous love and effort Christ demonstrated so that we might be reconciled to God. And then I have to come back and consider my earthly relationships and how lazy and stubborn I have been. I realize that I haven't been willing to pursue peace and there are many relationships that I haven't given life to because of my line in the sand.
I think it's also important to dream for a moment. I think if we, the church, were to embrace a lifestyle of reconciliation we would see a changed world. People taking risks to salvage relationships paints a poignant picture to a world in need of hope. May I be open to giving life and peace to the relationships I've been given.


Thursday, May 04, 2006


On a much lighter note:
Today, I experienced the great horror of the modern world. I left my mobile phone at home. I went to work naked. What if someone needed to talk to me and didn't know my office number? Could I survive without unfettered access to sms and the world of smartone....?
Yep, I survived.
And you know what? It was a peaceful day. By lunch time, I almost felt liberated, like I was fasting. I might try it again, but it will take a few days before I recover fully from the trauma of being seen in public without a phone attached to my person.


Last night our friend Chris came over. With all that’s going on around in both of our lives our conversation couldn’t help but turn to the Church. The question of the night was, “Can people that love the Lord somehow allow sinful thoughts/attitudes to penetrate their hearts to the point where they don’t even realize it’s sinful?”
Malcolm Gladwell asserts “we don’t deliberately choose our attitudes.” (Blink, pg 85) He’s talking about unconscious judgments we make in life. I think there can be a spiritual unconscious to our lives too. Just like there can be hidden attitudes in our lives that we don’t always realize are there I think we can let sin have such a foothold that we can no longer identify it. It seems to me that even the most well-intentioned, God seeking people can get caught up in their own concept of God’s will so much so that they become darkened to God’s truth.
This revelation scares me. It makes me fear for the Church (universal). It makes me fear for myself. Could I become one of those Christians that is able to see everyone else’s struggles yet blind to my own selfish pride? Melissa commented today that we all must make sure we are held accountable for our actions. We need those relationships where truth is spoken. I don’t think anyone would argue with that.
So why then is the church notorious for tip-toeing around sensitive issues of sin? Why does it seem that we can argue over church politics so much that we lose the church? I’ve heard so many church conflict stories that point to agendas, control and pride that I wonder aloud, “do all these people think they are right?” Do both sides in all these church arguments believe they are in the center of God’s will? Often, the answer is yes.
HOW is that possible? Are we deaf to the voice of God? Or, as I used to joke with my parents, have we turned our miracle ears ® off? Does there come in time in our lives where we have accepted sin for so long that even blatant rebellion against Christ can seem like the right thing? I say blatant rebellion because Christ called the Church His bride and breaking that up, or forcing a divorce sounds like rebellion to me.
The caveat is that maybe we don’t know it’s sin at the time. Maybe we really do think we are doing the right thing. We may even say that our motives were good but it just got out of hand. In the end, “it needed to happen”. Does that help the lives that have been hurt in the process? Who can tell who’s right or wrong when we all think we’re doing the right thing?
I’ve been around enough conflict in churches to realize that there are usually good and bad points on both sides of the big issue and that’s it’s rarely just one side that’s at fault. As this truth plays out in church after church, why can’t the two sides humble ourselves enough to actually work through the conflict? Why are politics more important than relationships? I have heard numerous accounts of congregants that used to be friends but now hate each other. That’s horrible, strong and telling language. It tells me that unconsciously we’ve let darkness in.
I’m troubled by these thoughts. It saddens me that the Church has a pattern of our unconscious attitudes winning the war and that I've probably been part of the problem instead of a solution. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have enough optimism to consider the incredibly meaningful word reconciliation. Today, I’m just too disheartened.


Monday, May 01, 2006

New Blog

Yeah, so my experiment with a blog tied into our new website did not achieve all I'd hoped. So, I'm back to blogger, complete with comments. New blog, same me.


“When we are we are called to follow Christ we are summoned to an exclusive attachment to His person.”
Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship, p 63

There’s more to this statement than I know what to do with. So for now, I’m going to consider how unattached I can be at times.