Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Career, Family = God's Gifts

So much to do, yet what do I do?  I write a blog.

Career and Family = Gifts from God.

At a marriage conference we went to a month ago, one of the things that they began the sessions off with is that one's spouse is God's gift to you.  Sometimes that can be hard to see...but then that is when we begin focusing on the tough parts of relationship.  Leah indeed is God's gift to me.  Read on and you'll see.  And thankfully I'm God's gift to her.

The idea of God's gift has then translated into other aspects of my life.  I have MANY interests.  What I am mostly interested in is learning about new things.  I like the theory, but I like it applicable.  Nonetheless I have trouble narrowing the field of interest.  I am interested in personal study of:  theology, ministry, cross-cultural studies, anthropology, sociology, social work, behavioral psychology/organizational leadership, mobilization and marketing, spirituality, biblical studies, family studies, human geography, library and information science...the list will never stop.  If you think think that all those things hurt your eyes, think about Leah's ears every day when she hears..."Oh, I am interested in that.  Maybe I should get a master's or even PhD in that."  She probably hears that 2-3 times a day.  Yet she is still around.  She's God's gift to me.

Sometimes my scattered interests lead me into existential problems.  Who am I?  What is my purpose?  How do I specialize myself with soooo many interests.  As a result I try to also be a student of myself.  I've had to take the Clifton StrengthsFinder test a few times for various seminaries and organizations that I've worked for.  Currently I am an Input, Ideation, Intellect, Learner, and Belief.  This means lots of time inputting information (study) and output (teaching/disseminating info).  In reading the descriptions of these things, the should do's are "take time to study" and "find outlets to give your information".

So as a missionary who will be an internship director as well as giving courses and training, what do I get to do?  Study and keep current on pertinent information (which seems like everything), and then advise and facilitate learners letting them input information and disseminate it to me.  Awesome.  God's gift to me.

Then, to go along with this career that I'm on, I have a wife who has wanted to be a missionary since she was like a fetus.  God only contained her for 9 months until she broke in on the world and has been a missionary to people around her ever since.  And our daughter, who is a pretty flexible traveler and handles new situations pretty well.  My family is a missionary family.  God's gift to me.

What is cool about all this, is that I get to be God's gift to my wife, my career, my family too.  I think having these realizations mean I must be more consciously thankful for the gifts I receive and more consciously aware of whether I am truly being a gift myself or just a selfish receiver.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

We just recently listened to an Adventures In Odyssey episode about the underground railroad.  It was a great historical episode of runaway slaves finding their way up to Canada.  Some died, some made it.  It was a good teaching.

Today celebrates St. Patrick who was at one point a runaway slave.  He felt called by God to go back - a free man, yet slave to God - and minister in the lands where he was a slave.  That is pretty crazy.  I don't think that is a call God makes to everybody who was once enslaved, and who could blame Him.  Very few people want to put themselves back in that position.  Yet situations and opportunities have arrisen throughout history where slaves and captives have also been the ones to forgive and evangelize their owners or captors.  I can think of numerous stories from WWII where former POW's have returned to evangelize their jailors.

Forgiveness and reconciliation are an amazing thing.  We're studying about this in our married's Bible Study.  What has come forth in the study that God is principally interested in repairing breaches, both between Himself and humanity and between humans.  What struck me yesterday was how differences between people can still produce good partnerships and cooworkers (particularly in Kingdom work) as long as there is mutual respect and forgiveness.  Alas, there have been so many rifts between Kingdom workers that forgiveness is abated and bitterness is a slow-dying poison.

Today on St. Patrick's Day, I remember a missionary who was sent back to the place that he was a slave.  That is hard reconciliation, yet a powerful witness.  I also remember those stuck in modern day slavery and pray for global abolitionist movements (see Not For Sale by Batstone or Disposable People by Bale).  I also pray that God would heal these slaves, reconcile them to Him and raise up a mass of voices who were once oppressed, now freed, that proclaim reconciliation and forgiveness.

When you see green today, think of the Irish.  But also think of green as the color of liberty and liberty freed for submission to reconcile.  When you see green today, think of missionaries called to be freed people yet slaves of God participating in global reconciliation of the world.  And remember, as you where green today, you yourselves are a missionary of reconciliation to your family, friends, co-workers, the poor and the oppressed around you.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Groundhog Day Movie and Missions Preparation

People routinely say that the definition of insanity is to do the same thing repeatedly and expect a different outcome.  Bill Murray personifies this well in the movie Groundhog Day.  Here Bill's character wakes up and finds that his day has repeated itself.  The next morning the same...and the same...and the same.  The first half of the movie watches him attempt to avoid this monotony and break the cycle.  The first half of the movie Bill Murray is insane and getting crazier.  He's impatient, rash, manipulative and destructive.  Bill Murray needed to grow in his character and all he was thinking about was how to escape his situation.  After awhile he gave in, caught on, or whatever, and developed a number of skills as well as his character.  Finally fate decided he'd achieved the character necessary to proceed with life.  He gets the girl and the next morning he wakes up and everything is changed.

Sometimes we feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.  We wake up with the anticipation that the day will get us closer to Spain.  I think I could quite easily have gone insane, waking up with eagerness and anxiety, yet lacking patience.  But thankfully we have community around us that has continued to remind me that this time is for development.  We can develop skills and most importantly, character in our time of waiting.  No longer do I do the same thing every day, expecting a different result.  Rather I wake up with expectation and hope, but mostly with the fact that as I move closer to God in a variety of ways, that my character is growing.  Little by little God reveals more about what is being set up in Spain, and especially what is growing in the foundation of our characters and spirituality.

One thing Bill Murray had was the ability to have time stopped.  Day after day, the same day, he developed skills and knowledge and character.  Once that day broke, he had his skills to carry with him and a developed character that to others looked like an overnight change.  We do not have the luxury of stopping time (quick reference to Evie bringing her two fingers together in the TV show Out of this World).  This means that we have our cultural pressures to avoid this holding pattern and patience period.

One thing we have that Bill Murray didn't have was a supportive international community of family and friends.  Not only do we get to have our character's stretched, we are productive in life.  We might feel the weight of inactivity (yet we are constantly busy) not being rewarded in titles or a salary, but thankfully our family does not see this as an issue and nor do our friends.  It is very encouraging to maintain patience and continue in the calling we feel God has called us to.

That is another thing we have that Bill didn't, knowledge of our purpose.  Ultimately our purpose is to draw closer to God.  He will send us to Spain, we believe.  The reality is, that sometimes God will divert His calling, or at least His revelation of His calling, drastically.  Yet He expects radical obedience and ultimately He expects us to be ever-growing in our characters and spiritual life.

I was listening to "Hosanna" by Hillsong United this morning, sung in Spanish.  What else can I do but praise God and thank Him for the life.  My character again grows closer to Him and I'll continue doing the same thing - giving praise and thanksgiving - but not expect anything different.  The constant approach to life will hopefully provide a constant result - growth of character.

For today, I am thankful of the opportunity to get to have a rooted community here in Chico.  I am thankful that I've had the opportunity to develop skills while pouring into Latin America Mission and I'm most of all thankful that God has continued to impress upon me the importance of loving my wife and my daughter.  They are my first and foremost ministry and I am actively involved in this career daily.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Stubborn Cows & Stuff

I (Kevin) grew up in the suburbs.  Cows were something we smelled driving on I-5 to my grandparents' house, but I can't really even remember hearing a live cow moo in my childhood.  I'm sure I did.  That to say, I don't do big animals.  So in this transition between mission fields we move to the Book Family Farm where they have BIG horses and cows.

Last night we got two more milk cows.  They are a bit stubborn.  Naturally, if you kidnap me, stuff me in a trailer and drive me away from my home for a couple hundred miles, I think I'll be a little stubborn too.  I wouldn't know if I was going to become ground beef or what.  Last night when the cows arrived they had to be milked and while very leery, they were somewhat compliant.  This morning however one was not.  She was stubborn and I had to push on her very poopy behind to try to get her to move into the milking barn.  Not what I expected as a suburban kid.

So am I just suffering for the Lord, waiting to get to the mission field.  I think putting my hand in cow poop is suffering, I hate mess as it is, but this was a lot.  Frankly, though, I did not suffer because I didn't have time to think about it.  What I am doing is being active in the midst of patience.

And in this time of activity, I am able to reflect.  How often am I as stubborn as that cow when God is trying to lead me?  Leah's dad has to milk the cow out so that she doesn't develop an infection.  It is just as much to her benefit as it is for hours.  I'm sure that God is not trying to literally milk me (I would have to have some very strange anatomy for a boy) but I think he is spiritually milking me in these times.

What living at the farm has done, living in Chico has done, is given a space to come to God with greater and greater trust each day that he will empty me of me so that I would not get a spiritual infection.  And he feeds me, just as we do the cows, so that he would fill me.

As I placed my hand on poop, I didn't have time to think this through, but I did when I began to wipe off my hands.  I was once a stubborn heifer, untrusting and yet bloated.  Thankfully the Book Family Farm has helped me to learn how to trust more and empty myself so that I would not get a spiritual infection.