Monday, September 27, 2010

Three Days To Live!!!

I know the blog title sounds rather melodramatic, but it's true. My project (not me) has only three days to live unless you help provide "life-support!" It’s the 27th of September and it appears that social media has not worked for me quite the way I’d hoped. At the beginning of the month I posted a blog asking people to help vote to give our idea $250k through the Pepsi Refresh Project. I posted a link to the info on Facebook (and got reported as spam for my troubles). I tweeted frequently about it, and… as of this morning I’m 248th on the list of potential winners of $250k. On the bright side, that’s 248th out of over 1000 applicants. On the not-so-bright-side, who cares?! You see, in order to win I have to be one of the top two vote getters. That means – and I’m no math whizz - I still have 246 places to climb!

It would seem impossible right now, with only three days of voting left, that I would even remotely entertain the notion that I might still end up in the top two, but that’s the beauty of faith. Actually, faith aside, it’s still possible statistically. While I don’t know exactly how many votes it would take to win, I’m fairly certain that if 1000 people voted for me by text and online every day for the next three days (that would total 6000 votes for those of you who sweat the details), that would more than likely do it. Is that likely to happen? Well I don’t know, have you voted yet? If you live in the USA, or know people that do, you can help by voting or inviting them to vote. It’s a worthy cause (go here and refresh your memory) and it will impact more than just the kids whose lives are being changed in the immediate, so I’d urge you to consider voting today through September 30th.

Listen, I know your life is busy and I know you have myriad things to get done today, so you probably can’t be bothered with all the time it takes to sign onto the Pepsi Refresh page and register to vote, but think about it a moment will you? I’m not asking you to commit your hard-earned dollars, I’m not asking you to sleep on a mat in a rural African mud hut in the wide open Okavango basin, I’m not even asking you to jump on board and commit your time and resources to being a part of making this project happen. I’m simply asking that you consider voting for the next three days so that we can get the funding to make it happen. What might end up being a minor inconvenience for you, would serve to dramatically alter many lives for good. Is it worth your time and effort? I sure think so. Please vote. Oh, before I forget… on behalf of the kids and their families who may never meet you this side of heaven, thanks a bunch in advance for your vote.

BTW, the amount of time it’s taken you to read through this post is more time than it will take you to register and vote right here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Making Sense of Nonsense!!! (Part 2)

Following yesterday’s blog, the premise of my post is the fact that, contrary to what we might have been taught to believe, pain and suffering, and trials and tribulation, all form part of the fabric that God uses in shaping and molding our life stories. Before you begin to argue the basis of my theology let me point out a couple of verses in 2 Corinthians 4: 17-18 which read, “These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye” (The Message). The CEV translation declares; “These little troubles are getting us ready for an eternal glory that will make all our troubles seem like nothing. Things that are seen don’t last forever”

An acute understanding of these verses is essential in order to find a place in life’s seemingly arbitrary puzzle for such pain as, the deformity of a child, the magnitude of an earthquake’s devastation, or even a senseless event such as the 9-11 plane “bomb” disasters. The only way to make sense of such “nonsense” is to see these types of events through the lens of an eternal perspective. When we understand that God is writing a story much larger than just our own, when we can embrace the fact that the intersection of life’s difficulties and God’s larger purpose can often hold confusion and misunderstanding for us in the immediate, only then can we understand that what doesn’t seem to make sense in this season of life will make perfect sense in the next. For that matter, what appears to make no sense in this life will make perfect sense in the next. Proof: you in the womb.

Every moment of your time in utero prepared and equipped you for your life here on earth. Your bones solidified, your eyes developed, your umbilical cord transported nutrients into your continually developing frame… why? So that you could remain in the womb? Absolutely, resoundingly, no! Womb time equipped you for earth time. Some of your prenatal features went unused before birth. Your nose, eyes, tongue, toenails, and hair all served no function in the womb. Aren’t you glad you have them now? We often think that certain chapters in this life seem so unnecessary, such as suffering, loneliness, disease, holocausts, martyrdom, and even the 9-11 disaster. If we assume that the world exists just for pre-grave happiness, then these atrocities disqualify it from doing so.

But what if this earth is eternity’s womb? Is it potentially possible that these challenges and difficulties serve to prepare and equip us fro the world to come? Better yet, what if your current trials and suffering are merely preparation for your next season of life? Imagine what it would be like if you had to go through this life without those features that you developed but didn’t need while you were in the womb, but that are essential to the life you’re living now. Maybe, just maybe, you’re in the womb of your life’s story, being prepared for what the future holds in store for you. Live the adventure! Enjoy your story!!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Making Sense of Nonsense!!!

I make so bold as to declare that pain, trials and tribulations, and disappointment and hurt, are all necessary parts of living a good story! For that matter, they are essential parts of God shaping our lives for His purpose. You see, living through these circumstances forces change in us, especially because humans, by nature are not given to readily accepting and embracing change (especially when it moves us out of our comfort zone) without a “prompting.”

Every branch of the special forces of the US military “forces” change by inducing more pain than any normal person thinks they can endure. At the end of their torturous training, ordinary men become precision weapons, and well oiled machines because of the changes they have had to undergo in order to successfully become whatever special force it is they aspire to become. Those who resist or cannot endure the change, are destined to fail, or doomed to repeat the cycle of training until they embrace and fully accept the change necessary for success.

I find it exceedingly difficult to wrap my mind around the fact that, if you want to become a coast guard rescue swimmer, you must first learn to embrace death by drowning. What? If you think about it carefully though, it really makes sense. In order for you to rescue someone from drowning, while yourself contending with twenty foot high waves in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight, you must first know what it feels like to drown so that you can anticipate and prepare for their reactions. Failing this, you may well find yourself drowning too. So in training, they simulate worst case scenarios so that you can experience drowning before you ever really have to experience drowning. Make sense?

God’s broader purpose for us is to be used by Him to change our world so that it embraces Him. In a sense, this cannot happen until we embrace the changes that He’s orchestrating in us. Often, as God’s changes reshape and alter our perspectives and our world view, He also alters our assignments. Gideon went from being a farmer to being a general. Mary went from peasant girl to mother of Messiah. Paul went from local Rabbi to world evangelist. Joseph went from rejected and scorned kid brother to Prince of Egypt. David went from goat herder to king of Israel, and Peter from fisherman to first church leader. In each one of these cases, the process of change was painful, and was not without its unique trials and tribulations, but the “fruit” of each one of their changes is still being felt in our world today.

I'll finish my thoughts on this idea tomorrow. In the meantime, feel free to share yours.

Friday, September 10, 2010

To burn or not to burn! Is that really the question?

If, ultimately, the goal of Christianity is to introduce people to Christ by living out the message of the gospel authentically (and indeed it is), then how is that goal accomplished by burning Qurans? In fact, judging from the vociferous reactions from around the globe, if anything, such an act would not only serve to derail the message of the gospel, but it would put many Americans (and Christ-followers) in harms way. For instance, this Saturday (proposed “burning day”), my son’s football team, the USF Bulls will be playing against Florida up in Gainesville. As a result of the antics of the “Quran burning congregation” additional security is required for the stadium and the town. The lives of these kids are unnecessarily endangered, as well as those of the over 90,000 people who will be in attendance simply to watch a college football game. Additionally, General Petreaus has made it abundantly clear that burning Qurans would simply provide unnecessary fodder for the Taliban to engage even more dramatically in harming US troops stationed in Afghanistan. The effects of this singular act would be more far reaching than anyone can imagine.

Amazingly, the pastor of “Quran burning church” has stated that he is simply trying to be obedient to God’s will. I give him the benefit of the doubt! I believe that he is being sincere (yep, go ahead and call me gullible). But I also believe that he is sincerely wrong. I don’t know what his church background is or how he’s been raised, but I do know that the Scriptures make it succinctly clear that neither Islam nor Moslems, nor any other religion for that matter, are the enemy. Jesus died for all people and He made it abundantly clear that the enemy against whom “all people” battle is Satan. The way to win this war is to snatch people who are unwittingly ensnared in the enemies clutches, out of the “enemies” camp and into God’s camp. The only proven way to “snatch” people out of the clutches of the enemy is to try and understand why they are the way they are, and why they think the way they do, all the while loving them unconditionally. That’s the way Jesus did it (remember the woman caught in the act of adultery?), and that’s the way He’s called us to do it.

So, while we’re ranting and raving against this beleaguered pastor, let’s spare a thought and a prayer for him and his family too, recognizing that whatever has made him view God and the Scriptures through the lens that he does, also needs a touch of God’s love, mercy, and grace. Before you begin to attack me for riding the fence on this let me unequivocally state that I’m not a pacifist; I’m simply a Christ-follower learning to live out the love of God that is so desperately needed in our love-starved world. After all, love does cover a multitude of sins, right? And that includes yours and mine too. What are your thoughts about this?

Friday, September 3, 2010

Thank you just seems so inadequate!!!

I can't begin to thank you all for your very kind thoughts and wishes for my birthday. It means the world to me that so many of you would take time out of your busy day to spare a thought for me today. I'll be so bold as to further presume upon your generosity and thoughtfulness, and ask you for a gift: Would you consider signing into Pepsi Refresheverything and voting for our project which is in the running to win a quarter of a million dollars to help underprivileged kids earn an athletic scholarship to college? Alternatively you can simply click on the link at the top left hand corner of my home page and it'll take you directly to the voting site where you'll log in and vote. It would truly be the greatest gift I've ever received as the only way to win the grant is by the number of people who vote for me. I'm currently 267th in the standings which means we have a really long way to go and only the top two vote getters will win the grant. If you need further info just read this previous post in which I explain the details here. I really appreciate you taking the time to do this, and thank you seems so inadequate to say, but... thank you anyway!!! :)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Your Country Needs You!!! (Yes I'm Talking to You)

Okay maybe that’s a slight exaggeration. Well, I’m confident that your country does need you but I just used that title to get your attention since it’s really me that needs you. You see, I’ve always believed in the efficacy of social networking media, especially since its use and impact are becoming increasingly ubiquitous. Tweeting, blogging, Facebooking (who knew such words would become part of our lexicon just ten years ago?) have all opened doors to myriad opportunities to connect with a world that might otherwise not even know you exist. Social networking media has, in some instances, been responsible for connecting business partners who live half-a-world away from each other and didn’t even know each other existed until they “friended” on Facebook or “followed” one another on Twitter. More than at any point in time since I’ve been a user of social networking media though, I need to flex the full might of its benefits.

I’ve always had a burning desire to contribute to impacting the lives of myriad people who can in turn impact the lives of others (why else would I have pursued the torturous vocation of pastoring?) I’ve always wanted to see a community transformed for the better because of something I contributed to that community, and now there’s a very real opportunity of which you can be a really meaningful part, as well as follow its success at no cost to you beyond the click of a keyboard button. The What? Pepsi came up with this incredible idea to give away $1.3 million every month in support of community development projects for the entire 2010. The Why? Because Pepsi figured that a great way to help fulfill dreams while transforming communities for the better, was to financially support viable projects that people were passionate about. The How? They invited submissions of various projects in various categories which they screened and then made available for the public to vote on. The projects in each category with the highest number of votes would be awarded the cash : A cool $1.3 mil every month!

The minutiae! There are award categories for $250,000, $50,000, $25,000, and $5,000. Each month the top two vote getters in the $250,000 category each win that amount, while the top ten vote getters in each of the other categories each win those respective amounts. Go here if you’re really interested in the technical details. Your project can benefit education, neighborhoods, the planet, food & shelter, arts & culture, and health. Our project, called Primal Purpose, uniquely benefits, education, neighborhoods, and food & shelter, and we are running in the $250,000 category. Go here to read up on our project details. Now here’s where you come in. The plan is simple: The only way to win is to get the highest number of votes! This is clearly not rocket science: If every one of my social networking friends, and every one of their social networking friends went here and voted for me once a day for the entire month of September, I’m all but guaranteed to be one of the two finalists in the $250,000 category. It really is that simple! Success is not determined by Pepsi (the hurdle of just being able to submit my project among thousands and possibly millions of others was hard enough as I’ve been trying since February), but by you, the voter.

So, will you help me, and consequently help a community and their kids, who otherwise would not be able to afford it, potentially get a great education through earning athletic scholarships to college? The possibilities are endless, as one of these kids might just turn out to be the next Bill Gates, or Steve Jobs, or even the next Jerry Rice, or Emmitt Smith simply because they were afforded an opportunity. If you’re willing to do this with me, then all you have to do is simply go here and vote once every day for the entire month of September. Also, If you would, encourage your social networking friends to jump on board too! Imagine how much of a difference we can make if we can get tens or even hundreds of thousands voting each day. Since voting is only open to people living in one of the 50 States and D.C., those of you who live outside the country can still contribute by encouraging your friends resident in the U.S.A. to vote daily. I’ll be posting regular updates here so that you can keep track of our progress as well as developments happening with Primal Purpose. This is an incredibly exciting opportunity and I’m so grateful that you’re considering partnering with us in this. I love social networking media!