Thursday, August 25, 2011

Life's Fast Moving Opportunity - 1 Thessalonians 5

    First of all, I want to thank you for all of your care and support for our family over the past week and a half.  Many of you came to visit us.  Several offered to help or brought us meals.  John David is a blessing, but you have also been a blessing and an encouragement to us.
    Second, I want to let you show you some pictures of the newest member of our family, and this is not John David.  Let me introduce you to Elliana Renae Palmer, or Ella for short.  Ella was born on Tuesday - three weeks early.  Michael and Elizabeth went to our hospital for a check up and were holding her in their arms three hours later.   John David and Ella were born 4 days and 32 minutes apart.  Sarah and Elizabeth were in the same hospital, on the same floor, just across the hall from each other.
    These are special times - full times - full of love and meaning and opportunity.  We couldn’t have planned it like this if we tried.  This was a beautiful, serendipitous blessing.  
    But these days will not last forever.  These moments are passing.  We can only experience them now.  You know what parents say to each other: Cherish these moments.  Before you know it, he’ll be riding a bike.  Blink twice, and she’ll be entering college.  They grow up so fast. 

    This is not far from our text today.  This week, we are finishing our study on 1 Thessalonians, so we’ll read all of chapter 5.  It’s pretty long, so we’ll take it in sections.  Let’s start with just verse 1.

1 Now concerning how and when all this will happen, dear brothers and sisters, we don’t really need to write you.

    You can’t catch it very well in English, but Paul actually uses two different Greek words for time here: chronos and chairos.  Chronos is for the simple progression of time - tick, tock, tick, tock.  One second after another, one hour, one day.  Chronos is the kind of time when you say, “Their plane arrives Friday September 2 at 1:05 pm.” 
    But Chairos is a different kind of time.  Chairos is focused on the quality of time rather than the quantity of time.  Chairos is closer to the idea of an opportunity or when we look back on a particular period in our life and say, “Those were good times.”  Chairos is like that moment of opportunity when there is an opening in a horse race, and the rider has to go fast before it closes.
    To help explain the nature of Chairos, the ancient Greeks depicted Chairos as a young man moving fast, with wings on both his back and feet. He is tipping the scales in one direction for now, right now only.  One scholar explains, “His hair is long in front and bald behind; he must be grasped, if at all, by the fore-lock.”  If you want to catch Chairos, you have to get ahead of it, or it will get away.  ...

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Korea Tip 114: Crazy May Have a Cause

Be careful what you call crazy.  When you enter a very different culture, some things will seem very strange - even senseless.  Korea is definitely not an exception in this category - at least not for Westerners.  I can't count the number of times I've said or heard someone else say, "That's just crazy."  Not to mention the thousand other variants.
However, one thing that dawned on me this week (once again) is that most of the unusual practices in Korea that seem crazy to me at first actually have a pretty good cause in reality.  Here are a few examples.
  • Brushing teeth after every meal.  I was shocked to meet several of the professors in my office building every day around 1:15 - brushing their teeth in the bathroom.  That seemed a little excessive to me.  That is until, I started eating in the faculty dining room.  The kimchi, onions, and garlic had me reaching for a toothbrush, too.  On occasion, I even stoop to an afternoon flossing to get those little bits of green stuff out of my teeth.
  • Last minute planning.  This is one that really drives most westerners crazy.  The plans change 3 times before the event, and then 5 more times during the event.  You can't figure out what classes you're actually teaching until the week before the classes start, and even that might not be the final say.  But, this one is kind of a vicious cycle.  It's hard to make and keep plans when everyone else is changing their plans because other people are changing their plans, too.  After reformatting the event 7 times, some people decide that the simplest thing to do is to wait until the last day - after it's almost impossible for any more notices of change to come in - and then work super hard to plan the whole event.  For Westerners, this seems terribly inefficient and stressful, but it actually kind of works in Korean culture - and may even work a little better, given the structural limitations.
  • Opening the windows in the winter.  So the heat's on full blast, and icicles are forming outside (or inside), and the windows are open - all of them.  This leaves lots of Westerners scratching their heads or angry.  Or, the first student to walk into the classroom and turns heat up to full blast.  Then, 20 minutes into class, it's crazy hot, and all the students have their coats on, so one of the students opens the window instead of turning down the heat.  Lots of cultural reasons here.  (A) The primary traditional heat sources (stoves or propane heaters) gave off noxious fumes, so fresh air was very important for health.  (B) Airing out a house is important in Confucian philosophy.  (C) With the class room scenario, the students may think the teacher turned on the heat.  Therefore, they don't have the authority to override the teacher's decision there.  However, they are sitting next to the window, so no problem with opening it to get a little more comfortable - especially considering A and B.  (D) Also, many Koreans will keep their coats on inside for lots of reasons.  Schools weren't traditionally heated well, so coats were necessary.  Taking it off just seems like too much trouble - or possibly an insult to the person who sets the classroom environment.  

I could go on and on and on and on.  The point is that there are usually good reasons for most of the things we don't understand.
What are some things you don't understand about Korea?
What are some things you have learned that have helped you understand Korea?

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Village for Widows

Our mission is to be a loving community that changes our world.  We say it every week, and we mean it.  Our church, KNU International English Church (at Korea Nazarene University), is passionately living out our calling to change our world. 

However, we understand that we can’t change the whole world all at once.  A key plank of our vision is “global change through local action.”  We serve our local community in a variety of ways, and we are partnering with Nazarenes in Bangladesh to help build a village for widows and orphans.  What follows is the story of how this partnership developed.

Missions in our DNA
As a multicultural church founded by missionaries, our church has always had missions in our DNA.  ...


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Memories, Hopes, and Conversations - Review

Whatever image enters into a church's corporate imagination, that picture will have shaping power concerning structures, goals, schedules, finances, and practices (38).
Appreciative inquiry is built on theories that move a congregation away from deficit-based models toward the images and forces that are most life giving (39).

Memories, Hopes, and Conversations explains how to apply the process of Appreciative Inquiry to church life.  Embedded in the change process of a Japanese-American church, Mark Lau Branson uses this extended case study to walk us through the process of helping a church imagine a new future by taking an appreciative look at their past.
One of the common problems of organizational life is that we focus our attention on the negative.  As we engage in "problem-solving," we inadvertently focus our attention on the weakest and most draining parts of our systems.  This negative focus pulls us into its own vortex of negativity and often prevents any real solutions or growth from emerging.
On the other hand, Appreciative Inquiry, which has been used with great success by businesses and NGOs, uses intentional questions and interviews to focus our attention on our greatest strengths and assets.  We ask questions about the best parts of our past, our most enriching experiences then and now.  Then, we also ask questions about our desires and hopes for the future.  After we collect all the information from a broad-based interview process, we begin imagining together how we could grow into our strengths and expand them to enrich our church more fully.
Built on the basic philosophy of gratitude, Appreciate Inquiry is both hopeful and realistic.  This approach acknowledges that how we frame our questions and discussions impacts our energy and our outcomes.
 After struggling many times to address our churches blessings and challenges with multiculturalism, we are starting to try an appreciative inquiry approach.  I'm asking our leaders to interview people with basic questions about their positive experiences with multiculturalism.  My hope is that this will point us in the direction of the things we do best and how to do more of them.
This is a good book, a needed book.  However, there was something lacking which I can't quite identify.  The Josh rating: JJJJ.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Last Juror - Review

Grisham veers a little from his traditional courtroom style, but not too far.  A legal drama is still a major factor in the story, but the lead character in this story is a kid fresh out of college (without graduating) who stumbles into the ownership of a small town newspaper.  His paper reports mercilessly on a hideous murder by a member of the county's most notorious criminal family, and he is wrapped up into the drama.
Outside the courtroom, we see a young man struggling to come into his manhood. We also get a fresh look at the racial tensions of the deep south in the 1970s.  However, this is refreshingly rendered through the lens of a hyper successful black family with eight kids and seven PhD's.
The Last Juror walks a fine line between gentle story telling and compelling suspense, and that seems to be exactly what Grisham is aiming for - just enough suspense to keep us interested in the main story: a positive image of small town America - even with its weaknesses and faux paus.  As Willie Traynor, a yankee at heart, adapts to life in rural Mississippi, the readers kind of get the feel that they too could make a home there.
Good, enjoyable reading, but not ground breaking or can't-put-it-down.  The Josh rating: JJJ.

Stronger through Sharing (1 Thessalonians 3)

       Tomorrow is 광복절 (Korea’s Liberation Day).  For more than forty years, the Korean people resisted Japanese colonization.  Sometimes, this resistance was public as in the March 1st, Declaration of Independence in 1919.  More often though, the resistance was through guerilla warfare, covert meetings, secret newspapers delivered at night, and hidden educational gatherings.  
Throughout the resistance movement, one thing remained constant.  The resistance became stronger when people bound together.  Isolation led to weakness, but communal sharing led to strength.  As long as people felt that they were alone in their desire to be free and alone in their faith that freedom is possible, then their courage to resist grew weak.  But when people realized that they are not alone, that others stand together with them, that others also share the faith that freedom is possible, then their courage to resist became stronger.  
Isolation leads to weakness.  Communal sharing leads to strength.  This is the message under the text of 1 Thessalonians 3.  Let’s read it now.
 1 Finally, when we could stand it no longer, we decided to stay alone in Athens, 2 and we sent Timothy to visit you. He is our brother and God’s co-worker in proclaiming the Good News of Christ. We sent him to strengthen you, to encourage you in your faith, 3 and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. ...

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Monday, August 8, 2011

Preaching Naked

Preaching naked
I bare my soul
No hidden motives
Nothing in reserve
My heart on my sleeve
My insides spilling out
Through my open mouth
Preaching naked
I bare my soul
Like me
Love me
Hate me
Don't ignore me
Preaching naked

A Life Inside

A life inside a life
Mysterious, profound, surreal
Microscopic beginnings
Splitting, expanding, complexifying
A life inside a life
Swelling, nudging, protruding
Making its presence known
Listening, stretching, responding
Demanding care and preparation
A life inside a life
Unsettling, disruptive, life-altering
Joy-giving, enriching, heart-expanding
While still
A life inside a life.

Aim Lower, Think Smaller

Check out this simple but profound video.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Questioning Our Leaders - 1 Thessalonians 2

My ministry here is not a failure.  You know that I have not been wasting my time and yours.  You may or may not know that sometimes I have been misunderstood, criticized, and treated unfairly.  Yet God has given me the strength to continue preaching God’s Good News boldly, in spite of those who may object.  
My teaching is not in error.  My motives are pure.  I’m not doing a bait-and-switch to catch people with a feel-good gospel.
I am called by God to be his messenger, his prophet.  God has entrusted me with his message, and you can be sure that I’m trying to please God not people.  God knows my heart.  God knows why I do this.
I’m not the kind of guy who flatters others or soft-pedals the truth or just says what you want to hear.  You certainly know that I haven’t taken it easy on you.  I’ve given you the truth even when the truth is difficult and unpopular.  Clearly, I’m not in this for the money or the glory.
As a pastor called and ordained by God and the Church, I could push my way.  I have that right, but I always try to side with gentleness.  I’ve cared for you like a mother nursing her own children.  And the truth is I haven’t just shared God’s Gospel, but I’ve been sharing my heart and soul with you.
Don’t you remember how I was bivocational - holding down two jobs so as not to be a burden to you?  Don’t you remember how I turned down pay raises to make room for more missional ministry?  You yourselves stand as witnesses - along with God - that I’ve been honest and faithful and above reproach here.
Like a father guiding the growth of his children ...

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