Thursday, June 26, 2008

Gandhi - An Autobiography - Review

A very long time ago, my friend Betsie loaned me this book. It sat and sat on my shelf until I finally got around to reading it. By the time I finished, she had returned to the USA, and I thought I had borrowed it from Jackie. Oops. I'll have to mail it to her when I get back to Korea.
Well, I finally finished it about a month ago. But I have to say, though, I was pretty disappointed.
I was expecting to read the story of his struggles of nonviolence and his personal commitment to equality with the poor. However, there was only a little bit of narrative in this direction. There was chapter after chapter, though, about his dietary expiriments to bring him closer to God. These, of course, did not connect with me in the least. However, they were very important for him because he was trying to root out all desire (including urges for good food and sex).
On the upside, I have increased knowledge of and respect for Gandhi as a person who relentlessly pursued truth and goodness. As he discussed his Hindu faith, sometimes the words sounded uncannily like the words Christians use to describe our faith. At the least I am interested in reading more from or about Gandhi. My dad gave me a biography of Gandhi written by E. Stanley Jones, longtime Christian missionary to India. Maybe I'll pick that up when I get back.
Over all, I'll give it 3J's. It was long and sometimes irrelevant to my interests, but it is also the direct words of one of the greatest men of the past 100 years.

Day 9: Eurocup and Chili

For the past several days, I've been waking up between 6 and 7:30 no matter what time I go to sleep. This was definitely not my plan for vacation! Maybe I'm getting old. My sister gets up around 5 every single morning. Not that she's old or anything! ;)
Luke and I enjoyed another beautiful morning run. This time Leah (Sarah's youngest sister) joined us for half of it. We saw a tiny baby rabbit and a deer on the trail.
After a lunch of ham and cabbage (Abby's favorite), several us watched the Spain v. Italy game in the Eurocup series. (I know we're behind, but Jess has DVR, so we had it recorded.) This is my third game to watch in this series, and every single game has gone to extra time. They've all been very dramatic, with the underdogs usually winning. I don't get to watch much soccer in Korea for three reasons. 1) I don't usually bother to figure out the schedule of games on the Korean TV channels. 2) I usually don't have the time to watch a long soccer game. 3) The game times rarely match my schedule - often in the wee hours of the morning. But all of these problems are solved here during vacation and thanks to DVR, so I'm really enjoying this.
After the game, I fixed chili for supper. I managed to put away the chili powder before we had to call any fire departments, and Sarah's family was all able to enjoy it freely. I never once heard the words "too spicy," so that's a big accomplishment for me.
As night set in, a storm moved through. When I was upstairs working on the computer, I was surprised to hear pea-sized hail pinking against the window. I went downstairs to watch the storm on the poarch, but as soon as I opened the door a sheet of rain blew through the screen door and doused my shirt. I decided to let the storm viewing wait for another day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Day 8: One Prayer and West Side Story

Tuesday was a fast day of sorts. Our church is participating in an international event called ONE PRAYER, and on Tuesdays churches around the world are invited to pray that God will make us one and that God will answer our deepest prayers for the Church. (

I skipped breakfast, read from Finding Our Way Again by Brian McClaren, and prayed. But then, I was drafted to cook lunch. So I ate lunch and skipped supper. Before and during supper, I spent time reading and praying for myself and for our church.

After supper, we gathered together to watch The West Side Story, AFI's GREATEST MOVIE #51. I have to say it's not all it was cracked up to be. All of the singing and dancing was a bit cheezy to me. But I'm not much of a musical kind of guy, anyway. The plot line was extremely pressed. The heroine has a deeper attachment to her love of 2 days than she does to her own brother. The ending was also poignant yet lacking. I guess I'll have to give it a mere 3J's, mostly for the classic songs that it sported beautifully. Otherwise, it would only pull in 2 J's. I was fighting hard to stay awake toward the end of the movie.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Day 7: Jogging and Date Night

Monday morning, I went for a jog with Sarah's brother, Luke. We ran around a small lake near their house and onto the levie and then back through town. We were running pretty slow, but I'm guessing we ran about 4 miles. That gave us a nice time to chat about this and that. We're planning to do it again on Wednesday.

Thanks to the internet, Sarah and I were able to plan out a nice date night in Cedar Rapids, the closest big town. We found three great things all within 2 blocks of each other.
First on the schedule: salad bar at Ruby Tuesdays. When people ask me what foods I miss from America, lately I've been saying Mexican food and salad bars. Korea has an attempt at salad bars (usually at pizza restaurants), but they are usually just lettuce, tomatoes, dressing, and lots of other dishes (potato salad, sweet potato salad, jellos, canned fruits, pasta salads, etc.). One of my friends from South Africa (Jenny) said that a salad shouldn't have more than 5 ingredients. I definitely disagree. I piled on the diversity at Ruby Tuesdays. After 20 different ingredients, I lost count! It was a fiesta of flavors!
Next stop, the best icecream on earth at Cold Stone Creamery. South Korea has a few of these now, but they are both in Seoul and very difficult to reach for us (probably a good thing). Sarah couldn't finish her icecream after the big salad, but nothing was stopping me!
Last stop, the movie theater, where we watched Prince Caspian, the second in the Chronicles of Narnia series. The movie theater was very cold, so Sarah was in shock with her shorts and shortsleeves. But I thoroughly enjoyed the movie. I'd probably give it 4J's. The alegory continues, as Aslan (God) was strangely distant. The Narnians were stuck dealing with doubt as the Telamarines dominated their homeland and turned them into exiles. Even when the child kings and queens were called back to Narnia, they faced the difficulty of following and waiting for Aslan when he was not easily seen. Sound familiar? Prince Caspian wrestles beautifully with the difficulty of faith in an ambiguous world. I highly recommend it.

While we were in the big city (well, small city), we stopped in at Wal-mart to buy some cheaper groceries for our family. Man, I love Wal-mart.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Day 6: Lutherans and Wild Game

We went to the Lutheran Church on Sunday with our friends Jon and Jess. It was Missouri Synod, so it is pretty conservative.

They have a "closed" communion. You have to pass an interview with the pastor before you can receive communion there. That felt pretty wierd to just sit there when it was time for communion. (I decided not to try to pass the test before church.)

Also, the service followed through a set service that took up about 20 pages in a hymn book. There were lots of responsive readings or responsive singings. For example, the pastor said, "The Lord be with you." And the people sang a response in a kind of chant, "And also with your Spirit."

It was interesting, but it felt a little like walking into a different world. I guess that's how most people feel when they go to a different style of church for the first time, and even more so when they go to church for the first time.

In the afternoon, I read through 96 comments on a post about Nazarenes and alcohol. If you have a few hours, you can read them here.

For lunch we enjoyed a classic American Sunday lunch: pot roast, potatoes, carrots, and a jello salad. Once again, we enjoyed American beef, and so far nobody's crazy.

Later that night, Jon introduced us to some pretty cool snacks. He had some extremely tender jerkey made from wild snow goose and some summer sausage made from deer. Both of these were the result of his uncle's hunting. I really enjoyed both of them - not going to get those in Korea!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Nuts! - Review

My Dad gave me the book Nuts! Southwest Airlines Crazy Recipee for Business and Personal Success, and he highly recommended that I read it for tips about leadership. The book sat on my shelf for quite a while, but this spring, I finally read it. I'm glad I did.
Nuts! is written by avid fans of Southwest Airlines. The husband and wife authors studied Southwest for their PhD disertation.
Southwest Airlines is a domestic airline in the USA, and it is the only airline to be profitable every year over the last several decades. Southwest achieved this amazing success through creativity and personal empowerment. They revolutionized the industry by aiming for profit through high volume instead of high prices.
Here are some of the basic leadership tips I learned from Southwest Airlines.

  • Be yourself. Let your own personality shine through. Don't be afraid to be quirky.
  • Encourage others to be themselves. Empower them to make decisions that have meaning.
  • Be gracious about mistakes.
  • Celebrate victories and milestones. Go all out with your celebrations. Humans have a deeply ingrained need for celebration. It is like a vital nutrient for our souls. Without healthy celebration, part of us withers.
  • Have lots of fun at work and away from work. Fan the flames of humor.
  • Customers come second. Take care of your people. Sometimes the people you serve are just wrong.
  • Love, love, love. Crazy, huh. A secular business taught me that love is one of the key ingredients for a successful organization. Love is the glue that holds us together. Love is the oil that lubricates our gears. Love is indespensible and transforming.
  • Be simple. Don't overcomplicate your systems or your expectations.

I highly recommend this book. The content is probably 5J's material, but it sank to 4J's in m book because it is somewhat repetetive, rehearsing the same good content again and again under different headings.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Day 5: Reading and Playing

Today, as soon as I woke up, I reached down and got Pelican Brief, my latest John Grisham book. I didn't get out of bed until I finished the book. It had a few classic Grisham style turns, but the end was also predictable Grisham style. The heroes escaped the immanent tragedy and fall in love.

Sarah went shopping with the girls at a nearby outlet mall, and they all took advantage of a big sale of some unmentionables for 47 cents.

Later, Emma, Sarah, Leah (Sarah's sister), and I went swimming in the city pool. It was fun, but Emma didn't want to share any of the balls.

We finished off the day playing cards with our friends Jess and Jon, who are graciously letting us bunk at their house. With 6 kids in the family, Sarah's house gets pretty cramped when we come home. By staying with Jess and Jon (about a mile away), we get two nice walks in every day and Luke (Sarah's brother) gets to sleep in his own bed instead of on the couch.

All in all, a very good day, and a classic vacation day - just doing whatever the wind blew our way. That feels good.

(I even got in most of the Croatia vs. Turkey soccer game. I couldn't finish because they went into overtime, and it was time for cards to start.)

Friday, June 20, 2008

Day 4: Sleep and Beef

We finally got a full night of sleep last night. I took 2 benedril before bed. (We're staying at a friend's house in Sarah's hometown because she has an extra bedroom, and she has a cat. I'm allergic to cats.) The benedril pushed me through the night. I got up just before 8, and Sarah slept the full 12 hours until after 9. Finally!
We've also been eating our fair share of American Beef. This is probably a scary proposition to our friends in Korea. They are deathly afraid of Mad Cow Disease, which is big news in Korea, but basically ignored here.
On Day 2 we had hotdogs, Day 3 hamburger in our spaghetti sauce, and Day 4 brats and hamburgers at a cook out at Sarah's grandma's house.
So far nobody's crazy!

The World Is Flat - Review

At any given period, I am usually reading through several different books. For personal enjoyment, I try to rotate through fun fiction, classics, and theology/ministry books that I really want to read. For professional enrichment, I usually try to read at least a chapter a week from a book that will be helpful to my ministry - usually related to leadership, theology, or spiritual formation. Sarah and I almost always have a book we are reading out loud together - usually fun fiction. Usually, our pastoral staff is reading a book together, slowly a chapter every few weeks. Sometimes, our small group is also reading a book together, again a chapter a week.
When I finish a book, I usually try to write a blog entry about it. But two things have happened recently to make this more difficult. 1) I've had lots of extra reading time because of travel and computer problems. 2) I've finished up books in several categories at the same time.
Over the past month or two, I've finished 5 books in various categories. All have been good. A few have been excellent. Over the next week, I hope to write about them one at a time. Here's the first one.

The World Is Flat - Thomas Friedman - JJJJJ
This is one of the best books I've read in the past few years. It is about globalization, and how our world is shrinking or flattening. The internet and the systems of interaction and collaboration enabled by the internet have radically and fundamentally changed our world. National borders have far less meaning. The economic market is becoming far less fluid. The internet enables the free transmition of work units, education, news, and entertainment around a borderless world.
Of course, there are upsides and downsides to all of this, but the huge upside is increased collaboration. Think of a basketball team that doesn't play well together as a team. Maybe they have tallented players, but everyone is an individual and plays an isolated game - very little passing or teamwork. Now imagine if that team learns teamwork. Every player works in a groove with the team. They pass to each other, set picks, support each other, and communicate constantly. The performance of the team and of each individual will go up dramatically. (For a case in point, see the Pheonix Suns. Personal statistics for each player improved dramatically when they joined the Suns' team-based approach.)
Basically, the internet and its surrounding systems are teaching our world to play together as a team. Global production of knowledge, technology, and services is increasing dramatically in both quantity and quality. The net result is that the entire world benefits -at least in the short term. We still have not addressed the environmental consequences of making the whole world rich. For the first time in history, we have the systems and the resources to completely eliminate systemic poverty. Beautifully, most of this elimination will happen simply through global participation in the global economy. (The systems most entrenched in poverty and unhealth will still demand much direct intervention.)
In business, education, technology, and religion, we are seeing and will see even more global leaders coming from every corner of the globe. As education and economic participation become freely available, more and more people will become active participants in the global village.
As a pastor and one who thinks about the Church, I have lots of questions here. How is this impacting the Church? How is the Church impacting this? What can we do to ride this wave instead of getting our boat rolled under by this unstoppable wave?
My intuition is that globalization is a very positive development. I expect that it will lead us in some very postitive directions - particularly toward empowering the formerly marginalized and toward diversifying global leadership and the leadership of institutions (like denominations). This is an exciting era - or more correctly - we are experiencing the excitement of a shift in eras.
By the way, while reading this book, I began to understand more clearly my ONE PRAYER for the Church: "Make Us Connected." Actually, for a while, I considered, "Make Us Flat."

Day 3: Jetlag Strikes Back

Jetlag struck with a vengance on Day 3.
I forgot to take a sleeping pill the night before. (I usually take some melatonin for the first 3-4 nights to help fight the jetlag.) We went to bed a little before midnight, but I woke up bright and early in the morning at 4am.
I went out to the livingroom to read Pelican Brief, a John Grisham book I got from the library. At 5:30, I decided to try sleeping again. I went back to bed, but I only succeeded in waking up Sarah. Oops! She was NOT happy!
Despite a cup of coffee, I ended up crashing again around 10am. Sarah woke me up from a hard sleep around 12:30. I really did not want to get up, but I knew that sleeping more than 2 hours would not be a good idea for jet lag.
Emma fell asleep on Leah's back walking back from another trip to the library. After an hour and a half, Sarah woke her up, too. Emma is a big bear when she gets woken up from a nap. Nothing could stir her happily to the land of the living - not even a popcycle. Finally, Sarah put in a cartoon, and Emma sat up to watch that. In the process of keeping Emma awake, Sarah fell asleep on the couch.
During Emma's nap, we watched the movie Bobbie. Its all-star cast tells a series of stories around the story of Robert F. Kennedy's assasignation. It was well done, but a little disjointed. It ended beautifully with the audio of one of RFK's real life speaches about the foolish cycle of violence.
Sarah and I were in bed by 9 and sawing logs by 9:30. Day 4 is starting with our first good night of sleep in almost a week.

Little sidenote: This is post #150 for me.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Day 2: Resting and Emailing

So this is Day 2 of our vacation. Today we spent most of the day just relaxing around the house. Sarah went for a walk on a trail near the house.
Some of the aunts took Emma to the library to pick out some books. Then she and her aunts read them again and again.
I spent most of the morning catching up on emails.
After lunch, Luke and I went over a few blocks to help the local pastor who is repairing the roof of one of the Nazarene church members here. He had some big sheets of plywood he needed on the roof, so Luke and I helped him get them up there. He has really taken on a big job! He's basically replacing the entire roof.
In the afternoon, Emma took a ride on her grandpa's newly repaired motorcycle. She loved that.
After all of that, and after getting up at 5:30 am this morning, she was exhausted and begged us to let her take a nap. We finally got her up from the nap with the promise of popcycles.
Sarah and I walked to the library. On the way, I was swarmed by bugs (mosquitoes and flies). Sarah said I looked like the stinky kid from Charlie Brown. It was aweful. For some reason, they only attacked me, and they especially liked my hair. I finally just jogged the last two blocks home and left Sarah to carry my John Grisham book (Pelican Brief).
In a division of labor, we decided to take on different jobs. I volunteered to cook once every day. Tonight it was blueberry pancakes and fruit salad and eggs. The pancakes were OK, but the eggs were like rubber. Win some lose some.
Sarah's rushing me out the door. Gotta go.

Day 1 - 26 Hours of Travel

On Monday night, no one in our family slept well. We were all anxious and nervous.
I came home from a late night last minute meeting with YoungMin to find Emma "trying" to sleep on the sofa. She quickly pulled the blanket up over her head and pretended to be sleeping. About 1am, she said, "I'm ready to go to America NOW!"
Sarah and I finally fell asleep around 2, and we woke up at 5:30. We were out the door by 6:30am.
1st leg: 15 minutes in a taxi to the Cheonan bus station.
1st "layover": We killed about 30 minutes in Dunkin Donuts enjoying coffee, milk, donuts, and the oatmeal raisin cookies Sarah and Emma gave me for Fathers Day.
2nd leg: 3 hours on a bus to the airport in Incheon. This trip took an extra hour because of bad traffic. That was a little stressful because, by the time we got to the airport, we only had just over an hour before our plane left. Emma got a little sick on this flight and filled up a few coffee cups with the remnants of the Dunkin Donuts layover.
3rd leg: 3 hour flight to Japan. About 2 hours into this flight, Emma said, "Daddy, you said this was a short plane (flight)." Just wait till the next one honey!
2nd layover: 4 hours in the Narita airport. Gratefully, there was a great little play area in a quiet room away from the bustle of the crowds. We spent about two hours there, and Emma enjoyed playing with kids from all over the world.
4th leg: 14(?) hour flight to Chicago. This one seemed to take forever! Emma fell asleep at take off. Sarah watched some of "The Office." I watched, "Fool's Gold" - don't waste your time unless you're stuck on a movie and you're only other choices are cartoons or Japanese films. Emma did not puke this time, but about half way through she began to feel pretty pekid. Mostly, though, she was a real trouper. She didn't cry at all. She stayed in her seat and wasn't noisy. Sarah slept some after a while, and finally 10 hours into the flight, I was able to sleep a little out of sheer exhaustion. I had been reading a very good book, Breakout Churches, which kept my mind racing, so I'm sure that's part of the reason I couldn't sleep.
3rd layover: 4 hours in Chicago. We found another play area - this time a mock airport. Emma loved it, but she spent most of her time in the mock icecream parlor. Near the play area, there was a medical clinic. I tried to get my Yellow Fever vaccine for Tanzania, but they said you have to go to a clinic that is registered with the Center for Disease Control for that one. Nice try.
5th leg: 1 hour flight to Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Getting on this plane was a bit of a shocker. It was so small it only had room for 3 seats in each row, 1 on one side of the aisle and 2 on the other. That was a big change from the huge international plane with 11 seats per row. This flight was so fast, they barely had time to pass out drinks and pick them up before we landed.
4th "layover": We landed about 20 minutes early. Our bags didn't come through on the luggage carosel, so we thought they might be lost. It turned out that they had been delivered on an earlier flight. I wondered why we couldn't have been bumped up to that flight also! Sarah's dad arrived to pick us up after about 20 minutes. Emma gave him a beautiful running hug. We immediately headed to Walmart to buy a carseat for Emma. Less than an hour outside of an airport in the USA, and we had already finished our first trip to Walmart (complete with the purchase of a wide assortment of US snacks and goodies). I guess we really are Americans. By the way, I kept raving to Sarah about how cheap the produce and other foods were. We paid just over a dollar for a thingy of sourcream, but we would have gladly paid $5 for the same thing in Korea.
6th leg: a 45 minute car ride to Marengo, Iowa. My eyes finally gave out, and I nodded off most of the way. (Sorry, Dad.) Surprisingly, the flooding is not very bad in Sarah's hometown. (For those of you who don't know, Iowa has been experiencing record levels of flooding over the past week.) Evidently, most of this flooding is because of river levels. However, the levies in Marengo are very high, so that is not a problem. Marengo floods when there are heavy rains because the town is so low, that it can't drain the water fast enough.
We arrived at almost 9pm - very tired but very happy to be here. We were in bed by 11, and we slept until almost 6 - not bad for the first night. We probably could have slept longer if it weren't for our 3 foot high alarm clock.
(I took some pictures, but we forgot to bring our camera cable. I'll try to add some in when I can find a cable that's the right size.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

One More Day

So we just have one more day until we leave for our summer vacation. That feels good.
(Actually, we leave on Tuesday, but I'm writing this on Sunday night.)
Tomorrow will be spent tying up loose ends getting ready to go. I'll try to enter all of my grades into the school internet system before I leave.
This has been a stressful week for me. I've been waiting and waiting for my criminal background check to return from the U.S. State Department Office of Authentications. (Now the Korean Immigration office requires that all people on teaching visas must have criminal background checks notarized and apostilized. Apostilization is not something related to the 12 apostles. It is like an official statement that this is an authentic un-forged document. It's a real hassle.)
So I was waiting and waiting, and starting to get stressed because our plan leaves on June 17. My visa expires on June 20. If my visa was not renewed before I left, then I might have to go through a lot of trouble to get it renewed again.
So on Tuesday I got the envelope back from the State Department. I thought, "OK! Just in time. That was close, but no problem."
Then, I opened it. They rejected the document. Apparently, the FBI doesn't place their official seal on these background checks, so I also had to have it notarized before it could be apostilized. AAGGGGHHH!
Luckily, lots of other people were having similar issues, so the US Embassy worked out something with the Korean Immigration Office. I had to make an emergency trip into Seoul on Thursday to get the US Consular to give me an official affidavit stating that this criminal background check is legit. It was almost ridiculous. I wrote my own affidavit saying basically that I really did submit the background check and that it serves as evidence that I don't have a criminal background. The guy looked it over, signed it, and put the paper in a press so that it had a nice bumpy eagle seal on it.
I guess that was official enough because on Friday the Immigration Office renewed my visa. Yeah!
Today, the stress continued when I thought I lost my wallet and phone. It turned out that they had somehow fallen out of my bag in my office, so no problem, but I was pretty freaked out about the possibility of losing my wallet right before going to the USA.
The past several weeks have been marathon weeks, with lots of meetings trying to get everything caught up and ready for me to be gone for a month.
Needless to say, I'm ready for vacation.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Make Us Connected

Our church is participating in a movement called ONE PRAYER. 1,400 churches from 25 countries will be praying, fasting, giving, searching, and listening together as we hear pastors voice what would be their one prayer if they could only pray one thing for the Church around the world. Check it out at

Here is my ONE PRAYER.

KNU International English Church
June 15, 2008

ONE PRAYER SERIES: “Make Us Connected”

John 15:1-14; Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16; Deuteronomy 16:11-16

Last fall Ron had the great idea that the KNU international professors should form a basketball team to compete in the student sports festival. It sounded like a great idea at the beginning, and to be honest, we thought we really might win. Unfortunately, we got crushed. Alas, we just aren’t 20 anymore.

Well, before the big game, Gordon, Ron, and I decided to get together to practice. We were playing some 21.[1] On one play, there was a loose ball, and Ron and Gordon both went for it. Gordon and Ron collided shoulder to shoulder. Ron and I didn’t think it was that bad until we saw Gordon sitting on the ground holding his shoulder, rocking back and forth, and praying, “Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus, Oh Jesus.”

I said, “What did you do to him, Ron?”

Ron was like, “I didn’t do anything, man. We just ran into each other.”

Gordon was praying: “God, make it go back in. Oh Jesus, just let it go back in. Oh Jesus, please just make it go back in place.” Somehow that little bump had dislocated Gordon’s shoulder.

We helped Gordon stand up and supported him as we walked to a van to take him to the hospital. I have never seen someone scream with pain like that. Gordon made all kinds of faces that looked like they were straight out of a cartoon or a Jim Kerry movie. After three hospitals, several shots for pain, lots of pushing and pulling, and a whole lot of screaming, the doctors were finally able to get Gordon’s shoulder connected with the rest of his body.

As I began thinking about this ONE PRAYER series, it didn’t take me long to decide that my one prayer would be: “Lord, make us connected.” We – the church – are “the body of Christ,” but we are a disconnected body. We have disconnected Christians and disconnected churches strewn all over our world. We are a bunch of bones out of joint. We are stomachs and ears and toes scattered all over the hills. All of us – and all of the world – are suffering because we are disconnected.

So, I pray, “Lord, make us connected.” In Ephesians and Colossians, Paul. talks about the body of Christ being held together “ligament and sinews.” Somehow, we’ve lost the ligaments and sinews that hold us together. Somehow, we need God to re-form these basic connections in us.

But what would that look like? What kind of connections do we need?

First of all, we need to be connected to God. Jesus talked about this in our Gospel Lesson for today. Yoni, would you please read John 15:1-14 ?

Jesus is the vine, and we are the branches. A fundamental part of plant life is that branches have to stay connected. The branch only has life because the life of the vine is flowing through it. If the branch gets disconnected, it dies.

A few years ago, my computer stopped working. It wouldn’t even turn on. Nothing. No response. I pushed the button a thousand times. I checked the cords; everything was plugged in. I checked the power strip; it was working. Finally, I called the computer company for technical assistance. The techie guy who answered the phone said, “Take out all of the plugs and plug them back in again.”

I said, “I already checked the plugs. It must be something else.”

He said, “Do it again. Take every plug out and plug it back in again.”

I was sure he was crazy. I huffed around, bending behind my desk unplugging and replugging everything. “OK, I’ve plugged everything in again. This isn’t going to work.” I pushed the button. It worked.

I hate it when that happens! The computer guy explained that sometimes the plugs just get out of place – a bump here or there, and the circuit gets disconnected.

Sometimes, it’s easy for us to get disconnected from God. We’re still doing the same things. Maybe we’re still going to church, still reading the Bible (a little), still praying (or trying to pray), but we’re disconnected. The life of God is fading out of us. The Holy Sacredness of life is gone.

It might be time for you to check the plugs. Go back to the basics. Remember God’s basic commitment to you: “I will love you always and forever, no matter what. My grace is enough for you.” Renew your basic commitment to God: “I will follow wherever you lead me. I will live out the love you have put in my heart.” Figure out what helps you connect with God. We’re all different, and we all connect with God in different ways. Do what helps you connect.

Lord, make us connected to You!

But we also need to be connected to each other. No one lives alone. No human is an island. We are all in this together, especially in “the body of Christ.”

Yoni is going to come read our epistle lesson: Ephesians 4:1-6, 11-16.

I love this passage. Paul says, “live a life worthy of your calling,” and then he calls us to live deeply connected lives. Our calling as the people of God is to be deeply connected with each other. “There is one body and one Spirit … There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God and Father, who is over all and in all and living through all” (Eph. 4:4-6). If we want God, we need each other.

A body is only as healthy as the connection of its parts. We are only as healthy as our connection with the body of Christ. Some of have been hurt by the Church, and we are frustrated with the body of Christ, so this connecting-with-the-body is hard. We’re too afraid of getting hurt or overcommitted to risk a deep connection. Let me suggest three basic ligaments of connection that might help.

1. Active love. In Romans 12, Paul says: “Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them … Love each other with genuine affection … When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality” (12:9-11). We spend so much time pretending to love each other. We come, we smile, we go. That is not a real connection. That is not a ligament that supports anything. The connections of the body of Christ that mature us and grow us are the ones where we are actually loving each other in real actions and real words and real time. If we will just open up our hearts and our homes to each other, we will be amazed.

2. Find your job. Paul said, Christ “makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Eph. 4:16). Figure out what your “own special work” is, and do it.

This will do lots of cool things. Your acts of service will help other people in our church, and it will help you. You will become more connected to the body. You’ll get to know the people you’re serving with and the people you help. You’ll get the satisfaction of making the world a better place. And, you’re likely to feel less critical and judgmental of the church because you’ll be part of the team.

3. The third ligament that will hold us together is honest communication. Paul says, “We will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ” (Eph. 4:15). We aren’t usually honest with each other. We hardly ever open our hearts to a friend and say, “Oh, man, I really need help here. I’m really struggling with this.” We hardly ever go to someone and say, “Hey, I’m really concerned about you. I think you might be going in the wrong way.” But this is the way of Christ. This kind of honest and humble communication is a basic ligament that holds us together.

If you have frustrations about this church or the Church, you’re not alone. When someone comes to me and complains about this or that, now I’m trying to say, “I often have the same frustrations you do. Would you please work with us to make the church better?” Near the end of his book, Irresistible Revolution, Shane Clairborne says: “If you have the gift of frustration and the deep sense that the world is a mess, thank God for that; not everyone has that gift of vision. It also means that you have a responsibility to lead us in new ways. Recognizing that something is wrong is the first step toward changing the world.”[2] Honest communication is key to the health of the church. If you’re frustrated, the Christian way is usually deeper in not farther out.

I’m really pumped about the work our Planning Team is doing. We listened to you at the Dream Session, and you asked for more small groups, honest accountability groups, and groups to help you actually live out the gospel. This kind of honest communication will help form the ligaments and sinews that hold us together.

Lord, make us connected to You as You make us connected to each other!

Finally, we need to be connected to outsiders. Jesus relentlessly pursued outsiders: the poor, the out-and-out sinners, the outcasts, the traitors. He left no one out. He even included the people who excluded him. If we follow Jesus, we do the same. If we don’t, then maybe we aren’t really following Jesus.

Jews have three basic festivals they celebrate every year. The first is the Passover Festival, and it’s only for insiders, people committed to the Jewish way. But the other two festivals are different. Yoni is going to read about these two: Deuteronomy 16:9-15.

What did you notice there? What were some of the words or themes you heard repeated? …….

The first theme I noticed was joyful celebration. These are supposed to be huge parties. God commands the people to celebrate with great joy! OK, if you insist.

The second theme that stands out to me is inclusiveness. Did you notice the guest list? “Celebrate with your sons and daughters, your male and female servants, the Levites from your towns, and the foreigners, orphans, and widows living among you” (Deut. 16:11). Well, that pretty much includes everyone. No one was left out. This party of God’s people was supposed to include the people usually on the outside. Jesus teaches us to live like this all the time, not just at special parties twice a year. But, two really great “outsiders” parties every year would be a really good start.

Shane Clairborne is dead right when he says, “the great tragedy in the church is not that rich Christians do not care about the poor but that rich Christians do not know the poor. … I truly believe that when the poor meet the rich, riches will have no meaning. And when the rich meet the poor, we will see poverty come to an end.”[3]

If we will just get connected with more people outside the church and outside our economic set, that connection will transform the Church and the world. We will all be transformed together. One of the coolest ideas from the Dream Session was having a sister church in a poor country. The idea is that we focus our giving and international efforts on this one church over a long period of time. We write to them; we visit them; we exchange pictures; we celebrate together; we work together; we worship together. Then, poverty has a face and a place. We know that these people need us, and we discover that we need them, too. The connection heals us both.

Hebrews 13 tells us something amazing: “So also Jesus suffered and died outside the city gates to make his people holy by his own blood. So let us go to him outside the camp…” (Heb. 13:12-13). If we want to be connected to God, we’ll find him on the outside, suffering with the outsiders, making a new kind of people who live with the outsiders.

It all goes together. Lord, make us connected to You, connected to each other, and connected to outsiders.

An old prophet named Ezekiel saw some crazy stuff and talked about it for God. One time he saw a huge valley filled with bones. There were parts of bodies disconnected and dislocated all over the place, and they had been disconnected for so long that the bones had dried up and turned white. God told Ezekiel that this valley of bones represented the people of God. They had become disconnected from God, disconnected from each other, disconnected from God’s purposes in the world. Now they were just a heap of scattered individual bones – dying from disconnection.

But then the Spirit of God started to move across that valley of bones, and those bones started to get up. They started clanking together and joining together and making skeletons. Muscles and ligaments and sinews started forming over the skeletons. Then, the bodies started growing skin. Finally, the Spirit of God breathed life into their bodies, and Ezekiel says, “They all came to life and stood up on their feet – a great army” (Ez. 37:10).

My ONE PRAYER for the Church is that God will move his Spirit across our world of dry bones. I pray that God will connect our dislocated shoulders and legs and ribs and put flesh and tendons and skin on us to hold us together as the body of Christ. And I pray that God will breathe the life of his Spirit in us, that God will connect us into a great army of love that changes our world.

Lord, make us connected!

[1] “21” is a basketball game for 3 people – one on one on one.

[2] Shane Clairborne, Irresistible Revolution, (Grand Rapids, MI, USA: Zondervan, 2006), 354.

[3] Ibid, 113-114.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Emma's Mug Shot

Our church is putting together a photo directory. We're keeping track of the names and photos by having each person take two photos - one for the directory and one as a mug shot with their name.
Here is Emma's mug shot - along with a nice sampling of her handwriting. She's growing up so fast!

I've gotten two comments now about a new site called: It works almost exactly like However, each right answer gives .25 cents to World Vision, probably the biggest, broadest, most respected Christian Aid Agency in the world.
It's a brand new site, so the numbers aren't all that impressive yet. Also the game doesn't have as much flexibility as The word bank seems to be smaller, so it won't be as good for beginning English learners.
One cool thing about this site is that you can see running total of dollars donated go up as you play. That gives you the opportunity to see how your answers are making a direct impact.
I really believe in World Vision, so I might be playing this site some as well. Also, I'll include it in my recommended websites for my students. Props go out to whoever it was out there who decided to work out this site. This was a great idea (and a great way to mobilizes "roaches" for the Kingdom of God.)

Friday, June 6, 2008

Drop the F-Word

Check out this very interesting article in The Seoul Times: "Drop the F Word." They're talking about Koreans' ubiquitous use of the word "foreigner." (Far more ubiquitous than Koreans' strangely common use of this unusual word!)
I have really struggled with this, and I'm glad to see that some people are talking about it publicly.

How to Be a Roach

(We put this list in our bulletin this week to help people think about ways to respond to the sermon "Cockroach Theology". )

God can use small people (like us)
in many, many ways.
Here are a few ideas.
·         Sponsor a child.  Talk to Amanda (
·         Love your neighbor (literally, the person who lives next to you).
·         Support our Tanzania Mission Trip.
·         Spend time with your kids.
·         Advocate for national workweeks under 50 hours a week.
·         Participate with Compassionate Hearts Ministries (serving orphans,
homeless, migrant workers, and battered women).
Talk to Chris (
·         Spend time with students, children, and singles in our church.
·         Help out here.  Find a ministry in our church.
·         Pick up one piece of trash every time you go outside.
·         Give a regular portion of your income here.  
·         Give food for free:
·         Create loans for small businesses in developing countries.
·         Ask your government to relieve global poverty
o        Korea: 
o        USA:
o        Links for other countries:
(click GCAP sites)

"Cockroach Theology" - Matthew 13:31-33

KNU International English Church
Josh Broward
June 8, 2008

Read Matthew 13:31-33.

Most of us probably miss the strangeness of these two little stories. Mustard and yeast seem pretty basic to us. Add some flour and some (American) beef, and you’ve got a good sandwich. But once again, Jesus surprises us here.

Mustard seeds were not just something to put on your hotdog or to use for a gourmet dip. For Jews mustard seeds were dangerous. Sure, they were little bitty seeds, but they were dangerous.

Jewish rabbis even had a basic rule: Never plant a mustard seed in your garden. If you want mustard, plant it in some out of the way place where you don’t care about what happens. The mustard seed looks small and innocent, but it keeps growing and growing and growing, and it will completely take over a little garden.

There’s another thing about mustard seeds that’s worth noting. Mustard is strong. It is potent! There’s a lot of power inside those little seeds. If you don’t believe me, just go home and eat a whole spoonful of mustard. It’ll make your nose burn!

Jesus says the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed planted in a garden. It grows and grows and just takes over the place.

In a way, we are like those little mustard seeds. We are small people. None of us are very important or very big in the world, but the Kingdom of God lives in us, and we have power.

The point of these two little stories is simple: We are small, but we are powerful. The Kingdom of God starts small, but it is has powerful potential to take over the world.

But I want you to get involved in this. It’s not enough just for me to say it. You need to say it, so when I say, “What’s the point?” You say: “We’re small, but we’re powerful!”

Ready? Let’s practice.

“What’s the point?”

People: “We’re small, but we’re powerful!”

Then, we have to ask ourselves a question. If we’re so small and powerful, what would happen if God planted us? What would happen if we let God invest us in the world? So here’s the question: “What could God do with us?”

What’s the question?

People: “What could God do with us?”

The Kingdom of Heaven is like a little plant called carpetweed. When I was a teenager, it was my job to mow the grass at our house. We had some great big trees in our back yard, and in Texas, there is a special kind of weed that loves shady areas. It’s called carpetweed.

I hated carpetweed. It looked kind of innocent and small at the beginning. It was just start out small as just a patch in one corner of the yard. It was only about 6 inches (20 centimeters) high.

It had these little round seeds with little fuzzy hair on them. They would stick to anything that touched them: socks, shoes, shoelaces, leg hair. When I finished mowing the yard, they were all over me.

Mowing down carpetweed didn’t even help. It just spread the seeds all around the yard.

To make matters worse, I discovered that I am allergic to carpetweed. One time, I decided to defeat the carpetweed, and I spent an hour or two pulling up every last piece in our yard. By the end of the day, my arms, my neck, my legs, my hands were all covered in an itchy red rash.

That’s when I started calling it “devil-weed.” I hated it. I hated it with a passion. When I saw the first picture of carpetweed when I was doing my research this week, I actually felt bitterness in my heart. I hated it, but there was nothing I could do to stop it. It just kept growing and growing and growing.

The Kingdom of God is like carpetweed that takes over an entire lawn.

What’s the point?

People: “We’re small, but we’re powerful!”

That’s right. We are powerful, so we have to ask a question.

What’s the question?

People: “What could God do with us?”

The Kingdom of God is like a crazy monk named Telemachus. Telemachus was living a peaceful life in the desert, when he heard God call him to Rome. That was the first sign that he was crazy!

He obeyed God and went to Rome. The second sign that he was crazy!

You remember, Russell Crow in Gladiator? Well, the gladiators were still fighting in Rome, when Telemachus got there, so he went to the stadium. What’s a super-spiritual monk doing in a Roman Coliseum where tens of thousands gather to watch people kill each other? This is the third sign that he was crazy!

Well, old Telemachus couldn’t take it. He got up out of his seat, and he climbed into that arena, right into the middle where the gladiators were fighting. He stood between the two gladiators and begged them to stop. They pushed him aside again and again. But he was stubborn. He kept coming back. “Stop in the name of Christ! How can you just kill each other? Stop! Stop!”

OK, so this was the final sign that he was officially crazy.

The people were furious that he was stopping their show (and maybe that the gladiators didn’t just slice him open). The thousands of people had gathered there in the stadium to see people kill each other, and somebody was going to die! They picked up stones and stoned Telemachus right then and there in the middle of the Roman Coliseum.[1]

That was New Years Day, 404 A.D, and that was the last day the gladiators ever fought in Rome.[2] When the Roman Emperor heard the story of the crazy monk who tried to stop the gladiators, he banned all gladiatorial fights throughout the Roman Empire.

The Kingdom of God is like a crazy little monk who stops the gladiator games in the world’s largest empire.

What’s the point?

People: “We’re small, but we’re powerful!”

If we are as powerful as Telemachus, then we need to ask a question.

What’s the question?

People: “What could God do with us?”

“The Kingdom of God is like yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough” (Matthew 13:33).

Yeast is almost always bad in the Bible. Yeast became a symbol for some small bad thing that corrupted the whole batch of dough. Jesus told the disciples to be on guard against “the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy” (Luke 12:1). Paul compared yeast to sin (1 Corinthians 5:6-8) and to false teaching (Galatians 5:9), and both times he warned them: “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.”

So this story about yeast is kind of scandalous. Jesus says the way the Kingdom of God works is very similar to the way sin works. Just a little bit of Kingdom goodness can work through the whole batch of dough. And just like sin, the Kingdom changes everything it touches.

And there’s one other surprise to this story. The woman mixes the yeast into “3 measures of flour.” These aren’t 3 little cups. This is enough flour to feed a small army. 3 measures of flour is nearly 40 liters of flour! It would make 50 kilograms (110 pounds) of bread! A little yeast really does go a long way!

What’s the point?

People: “We’re small, but we’re powerful!”

If we are as powerful as yeast, then we need to ask a question.

What’s the question?

People: “What could God do with us?”

The Kingdom of God is like cancer. It starts out small. It’s almost impossible to notice at first because it is so small.

Cancer can start with just one cell that becomes different, abnormal, counter-cultural. Usually, when this happens, our bodies push out that different cell and eliminate the rebel. But cancer cells are different in two ways.

First, they resist elimination. They resist the body’s normal immune system. They’re different and dangerous, but the body just can’t get rid of them.

Second, they multiply, and they spread. That’s the biggest problem with cancerous cells. There’s just more and more of them. The cancer reproduces faster than the body can deal with it.

Cancer can even jump from one part of your body to another. This is called “metastasizing.” Cancer that starts out in your stomach can jump to your liver. Cancer can start in your lungs and go to your bones.

The Kingdom of God is like cancer that starts out with one little cell that dared to be different and multiplies and grows and spreads until it takes over the whole body.

What’s the point?

People: “We’re small, but we’re powerful!”

If we are as powerful as cancer, then we need to ask a question.

What’s the question?

People: “What could God do with us?”

The Kingdom of God is like a colony of roaches.[3] I grew up in Texas, and everything’s bigger in Texas – including our roaches. We have these huge tree roaches, and they’ll come into your house at night. When you try to stomp on them, they’ll start flying around the room.

But in Texas, we have a saying, “Big roaches aren’t bad. Little roaches are.” The big roaches live outside and look really gross, but everybody gets them inside sometimes, no matter how clean your house is. It’s the little roaches that really mean you have a problem. If you don’t keep your house clean, or if your neighbors don’t keep their apartment clean (like not doing your dishes often enough, or leaving crumbs on the floor), you can get an infestation of the little roaches. Then, you’re in trouble.

One roach can live up to 18 months, and a single female can lay 300-400 eggs. They’re hard to find because they live in the walls, under the floors, in the backs of cabinets and under the furniture. Once they take root in a home, they can just keep reproducing. They multiply and multiply and multiply.

Roaches may be small and easy to stomp, but if you get enough roaches in one place, they can drive the owner out of the home.

The Kingdom of God is like a colony of roaches. It starts out small, and one by one, it’s easy to squash. But just give it time, and it will take over the house.

What’s the point?

People: “We’re small, but we’re powerful!”

If we are as powerful as roaches, then we need to ask a question.

What’s the question?

People: “What could God do with us?”

You are small. But you have so much power. The Kingdom of God lives in you. What could God do with you? What could God do with us? What if we let God plant us in our world like a mustard seed or a bit of yeast or a bit of Kingdom Cancer or a little roach? What would happen? What would happen?

[1] Monk Preston, “The Monk Who Ended the Coliseum Games,”, downloaded 6.5.08.

[2] “Saint Telemachus,”, downloaded 6.5.08

[3] I am indebted to Shane Clairborne’s The Irresistible Revolution for the idea of Telemachus and the Kingdom of God being like a roach colony.