Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lucy: A story about limits

The serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God." 
- Genesis 3:4-5a (NASB) 


Last weekend I went to see the movie Lucy, starring Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman. The trailers had intrigued me for several months, and so I was really looking forward to it.

Let's just say, it was weird. The plot involved a young woman (Lucy) who was subjected to a powerful hormone drug in massive quantities, with the result that her brain chemistry was radically changed. Whereas the normal human being only uses about 10% of our brain capacity, her usage began to increase exponentially. She became more powerful, began controlling the environment around her, was able to learn Chinese in about an hour, and began to spiral out of control.

Parallel to Lucy's story, we see Professor Norman (Freeman's character) delivering a lecture about the brain's power. When asked what would happen if a person reached 100%, he replied, "I have no idea."

Of course, that's where Lucy was heading, and she was going to be get there in less than 24 hours. So she found Norman and got his help to upload her brain's knowledge to some monstrous supercomputer. When her brain hit 100% capacity, three things happened: 1) She disappeared. 2) The data from her brain was contained in a large flash drive [yeah...I know], and 3) a cell phone received a text message from her saying, "I am everywhere."

I'm not positive, but I believe that the implication was that she had essentially become the equivalent of God.

So we come back to the Scripture quote at the top of this page. The movie was clearly trying to draw a line of history starting with the dawn of man (a primate that evolutionary scientists have nicknamed "Lucy") and ending with exponential growth that finally brought man to the level of God. In other words, the very thing with which the serpent tempted the first man and woman.

According to the Genesis account and the rest of the Bible, the very essence of sin is the desire to be our own god. We don't want anyone, including our Creator, running our lives. And so the temptation of the fruit was, You will be like God. It has been the aspiration of humans from the beginning. And this movie painted a (weird) picture expressing the concept that if we ever could reach our full potential....bang! There it is. We're God.

People were created in God's image, but not to raise ourselves up to claim his throne. We were created to reflect his image on the earth and send praise back up to him as a part of his creation. When we decide to try to be more than that, we go down the same dangerous path as Lucy. Thanks be to God for the gift of his Son, and the grace that he brought to us through his death and resurrection. In him, we can be restored to our original purpose, reflecting his glory instead of our own.

Forever. And that's a lot better than uploading myself to a computer.

Monday, July 28, 2014

A request and a reminder

Today I am asking a favor. Would you please pray from Dr. Kent Brantly and his family? You may have heard of his situation on the nightly news, twitter, or the news wires. While working as a medical missionary in Liberia, he has tested positive for the Ebola virus. And while it is prominently in the news, those who love him have appealed for our prayers on this blog post.

Please read it, and please pray for him and his family.

As I pray earnestly for his healing, I cannot help but be reminded of what it means to follow Jesus. Most of us want safe, happy lives. We want to be insulated from any risk or danger. We would prefer a god who offers a life of ease, health, wealth, and pleasure.

But the Scripture is very clear that this is not the life God has called us to. It uses phrases like "take up your cross (which was an instrument of death),", "whoever loses his life will find it," and "go into all the world." It talks of suffering as the path to discipleship, and tells us that we are blessed when we encounter hardship.

No, God is not calling us to safety. The expression, "The safest place to be is in the center of God's will" is only true if we consider safety in the context of our eternal destiny. As a C.S. Lewis character said of Aslan in The Chronicles of Narnia, "Safe? Who said anything about safe? 'Course he isn't safe. But he's good."

Or, in the words of my niece's favorite expression, "Ships are safe in the harbor. But that's not what ships are for."

God calls us to radical obedience, no matter where it takes us. It could be risking your job to stand for moral integrity. It could be risking your financial stability by giving generously to those in need. It could be volunteering to share God's love in a part of town you're not comfortable with. Or it could be serving him in another part of the world where the risks are completely different.

My heart is aching for what the Brantly family is going through. I am thankful for a family that, knowing the risks, followed Jesus in loving the people of west Africa. And I pray for his healing and for his family's comfort.

Would you join me in that?

Saturday, July 19, 2014


What a great day!

I love surprises - both when I am surprised and when I can surprise someone. That's why I loved my niece Macy's plan to throw a surprise party for her mother (my sister) today. And the best thing worked!

So much fun when we saw Kristy walk in the door to see her family and friends.

And then we ate. Awesome burgers, awesome trimmings, homemade ice cream, and one of the best cakes ever.

Swimming, boating, talking...just hanging out.

I really think days like today are a tiny glimpse, a shimmer, of the joy God has prepared for his children in the new heavens and new earth. Eternity basking in the glory of the Lamb, and living life in community with all the saints from through out history. It's going to be glorious!

But while we wait for that, we can enjoy days like today. Awesome!

Happy birthday, sis!

Thursday, July 17, 2014

History and Tradition: Alabama-USC

On Wednesday it became official. Alabama and Southern California will meet on the gridiron to begin the 2016 football season. This is huge. They are two of the most storied traditions in college football, and they have not played in almost 30 years. And when they have

One of my favorite football-related childhood memories was listening to the 1971 Bama-USC game on the radio. Alabama was coming off a 6-5-1 season and the Trojans were ranked #1 in the nation. Nobody gave the Tide a chance in Los Angeles that night, but Coach Paul Bryant unveiled the wishbone attack, and pulled one of the greatest upsets ever:

The Tide went on to play for the national championship that season, and it all began on a shocking night in California.

Another of my favorite Bama memories came in my late teens, when the Tide once again traveled to LA to play Southern Cal. This one was televised nationally with the legend Keith Jackson calling the game.  Once again, Alabama was coming off a disappointing year (8-3) and USC was ranked at the top of the polls. With another improbably road victory, the Tide launched itself into the national picture and laid the foundation to win two national titles in the next three years.

Here is the entire 4th quarter, with the drama of USC nearly coming back from a 21-6 deficit to win. I paced the floor the entire time. Watch the whole thing if you can, but if not, go to the 37:00 mark and see the Trojans' TD drawing the game to 21-20, and the dramatic two-point conversion attempt. What a game!

Two great programs. A total of 26 national championships between them. One of the best venues in the country, Cowboys Stadium. By 2015, Steve Sarkisian should have USC back in the national championship picture.

I can't wait. Roll Tide!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Well, we've been home for a little over a week, and the memories of the children of Ethiopia are still fresh. Trips like this are bittersweet. For just a few days, you're immersed in the glow of obeying Jesus' call to go. Loving children, working side-by-side with friends old and new, sharing God's love, and supporting those who are "on the ground" year round.

But what happens when you come home? Well, there are several responses. I think it changes the way we view our own culture. It highlights the need to look out for the poor and oppressed at home, not just on the other side of the world. It can lead you to consider going for longer periods, or at least going back repeatedly to make a difference.

So many responses.

One of those responses is to share what God is doing with your friends, in hopes that some of them may be led to get involved.

That's what this post is about.

During our time in Ethiopia, we worked with four different ministries and then a local feeding program for the homeless of Addis Ababa. Three of those need support for what they are doing, and I am not ashamed to ask you, my friends, to consider that. These are not orphanages, but programs that are aggressively working at orphan prevention. It's a wonderful thing to reach out to orphans, and I think it's at least as wonderful to work to keep it from happening in the first place.

Embracing Hope (EH) is all about finding single parent families in the community surrounding the city trash dump, and helping the parent (usually the mother) find a way to work while EH takes care of the children and provides nourishment and education. They could tell you story after story of families who have been changed. They need sponsorships to fund and grow the ministry. To learn more, visit their website here.

Out of the Ashes (OA) is making a difference in one of the most poverty stricken areas of Africa. So many children in this community have spent their childhood trying to find food for their families in the trash dump. OA has done interviews and found families that would benefit the most from sponsorships to get the children out of that environment, into school (often way from the city), and prepared to break the cycle. Currently, they have about 45 children in need of sponsorships for the 2014-15 school year. Learn more at their website here.

And No Ordinary Love (NOL) is another orphan prevention ministry. At any given time, there are about 20 children living at the facility temporarily. These children have been taken from their families and exploited, and NOL is about rescuing them and returning them to their families. Their budget is definitely in need of more support. They have a very extensive website, and I encourage you to explore it. The home page is here.

One week. A drop in the bucket. But it can be more than that if it leads to action. I am committed to going back and staying involved. And I also want to help other believers know how they can help. Here it is. May God bless you in serving him, whether through one of these opportunities or others he has called you too.

I just had to share.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Africa slideshow 2014

Here is a slideshow of pictures from our time in Ethiopia this week. I stand in awe of God for all he is doing there, and I am thankful he has allowed me to be a small part of it.


Friday, July 4, 2014

Ethiopia 2014 - thank you

Four ministries in five days. Games. Music. Crafts. Sports. Hugs. Laughter. Tears. Sharing God's word. It has been an amazing week.

Tomorrow is a getaway day, so our work here is done for the most part. And so I want to take the opportunity to thank some awesome people for heeding God's call to Go.Be.Love this week. I have loved every minute of serving side-by-side with them.

Thank you, Clark, for your sharing your heart for reaching the nations with the gospel and choosing to focus that passion on these children in Ethiopia. You are an encouragement to me and someone who keeps me I the right path because you know me so well. And it was a joy to watch you use your language skills to bring the gospel into conversations.

Thank you, Trisha, for coming back with us a second time, and taking a leadership role on a critical aspect of the trip - activities for the kids. I don't know how we could have done that without you. And you did it all with a heart of love. And thank you for bringing...

Danny; I appreciated your servant heart and ability to take charge when something was needed. Whether it was blowing up soccer balls, playing with the kids who love sports, hauling food to feed kids, or changing a tire, you were right there. And you were a servant not only to our group but the children.

Chasya, I am so thankful that God led you to our team. You had no previous connection so I know the Lord's hand was in every aspect of that decision. I don't know what it was, but children just flocked to you. It was hard to even get a good picture there were so many around. God blessed the kids of Ethiopia through you - count on it.

And all of you: You really loved each other well. Jesus prayed for the world to see the truth by watching his people love each other, and that prayer was answered in this team. You just can't fake that. Because we grew together this week, God was glorified 24/7.

I will miss you all. But more than that, I am excited that The Lord brought us together for a special purpose. Well done, friends.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day 4 - Happy

How are these days going by so fast? We come to the close of another day here in Addis Ababa and I can't believe that we'll be gone in less that 48 hours. The rest of the team is off to bed (surprise - I'm a night owl, ha!) and I'm sitting here reflecting on the wonderful things God is accomplishing.

I guess the big thing today is that it was the second of two full days with a ministry that is new to Visiting Orphans. Mercy Ministries Happy Children's Home is a place that provides an opportunity for children in its neighborhood with the greatest need - often single parent families where there is significant risk of them being orphaned. They give the children a year of preparation for school, and then after that they come back each year when school is out for a summer program. It was the summer program kids that we were spending time with.

I can't describe how it was to be with these 50 or so children. So I'm not going try, I'm just going to let the pictures (along with the ones in yesterday's blog post) speak for themselves:

Tomorrow we will spend the morning with No Ordinary Love, and then wrap up the week back at Korah to help feed the kids there a sheep/goat meal. Today we picked up the sheep and tok them to the site, and that was an interesting hour!

This amazing group of five individuals is really proving to be what Jesus had in mind for his church when he prayed in John 17:23. More on that later. For now, just suffice it to say that going out tonight with these brothers and sisters for some tractional Ethiopian food and culture was so much fun. Come to think of it, working with them has been so much fun.

On to the final full day...

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Days 2 and 3 - being love

As our time in Ethiopia moves along way too rapidly (I can't believe it's already Thursday morning), we have been so blessed to see God working. The time Tuesday with kids from Embracing Hope and Out of the Ashes gave us opportunities to show love to children for a second time. Also, we had two more home visits, which are some of my favorite times here.

Then yesterday (Wednesday) we got to visit with the children of Mercy Ministries Happy Children's Home. This is the first time Visiting Orphans has sent a team there and so we didn't know quite what to expect. What we found was what we find everywhere - children whom God loves. We played, laughed, sang, and shared the gospel through Bible stories. I can't wait to go back there today.

There's no way to communicate how God is using this time in words. We just wanted to give you a glimpse...and ask for your prayers as we move through the rest of the week.

Thursday...let's do this.