Sep 14 2011
Going Where God Lives

Shaun Groves Third World Symphony iTunes-banner-125x1

I hope you've heard Shaun Groves

I don't mean that you've heard his music, though it's outstanding, and has landed him on the cover of the old CCM Magazine and blah blah blah. Or even his incredible new, indie stuff, from "Third World Symphony."  When I say I hope you've heard him, I mean, I hope you've HEARD Shaun Groves.  Really heard him. 

What he has to say, particularly with regard to God's heart for the poor, the marginalized, the weak, and the vulnerable, is wonderful news: for them, and for us.  As Shaun is fond of saying, we are not merely saved "from", we are saved "for", and that's to do the work of the Kingdom.  We GET to do this.  It's way more exciting than a teaching.  It's a mission.

So I hope you've heard Shaun, loud and clear, even if you didn't know he was a big-shot Christian pop star-feller.  Or is.  I don't know, or care.  I'm not sure he does, either. 

He asked some blogger-types to host a "blog-tour" with the release of "Third World Symphony", and to write about a bit of our own engagement with the "third world", and how we saw Jesus at work.  I've written much about this theme, over time, and as I say, what I've seen in developing nations hasn't just changed my mind on things, or how we spend our money, or my mindset on this or that.  It's done much more. 

It's helped me fall in love with God.

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Where God Lives

WRITTEN FROM NAIROBI, KENYA, 2008

(First, before today's blog entry, let me note that I'm typing to the strains of a tuxedo-clad young Kenyan on the piano in our hotel.  I'm sitting in the lobby, and he's regally playing -- of course -- "You picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille", by Kenny Rogers.  Many things don't translate cross-culturally, but -- make no mistake -- Kenny translates.  Kenny crosses all boundaries)
 
Susan leaned over, from her seat in the van.
 
"Notice where the children are playing -- look out the left window," she said.  Susan knows this area well, she's worked for Compassion for years.
 
They were playing next to a pile of trash that's well over their heads, and seems to stretch for miles.  The stench hit us immediately.
 
"They put all these schools next to the dump.  All of Nairobi dumps its trash here," she said.  Children of Dandora -- another sprawling, Where-the-Streets-Have-No-Name-type slum -- scavenge through the refuse, looking for food, or something to sell.  Anything.
 
We stopped, and
walked in a Dandora Baptist Church, where children at a Compassion project were singing.  Their voices bounced off the walls, singing praises to God.  Then we met about dozen people in the church who are suffering from AIDS.  The whole community is suffering -- every family, one way or the other -- from AIDS. 
 
A young man -- they called him "Timothy" -- stood up to introduce himself to us.
 
We could look out the windows to the right and left as he spoke, and see children in the filth.  We could see dozens of vultures flying directly overhead, over the trash, over the dirt, over the disease-riddled, dark cardboard homes.  Welcome to Dandora.
 
"Welcome to Dandora, where God lives."
 
Where God lives?
 
Circling vultures.  Men, women and children crying out with disease, children searching through stinking trash for anything...where God lives.
 
Timothy has lived his whole life here.  Someone sponsored him through Compassion International, when he was four.  He's now in his twenties.  He's now has a degree in Computer Science.  He now teaches kids in the program about computers.
 
He knows where God lives.  He knows God does not run away from suffering.  He moves closer.  Dandora is suffering, and God gets His mail here.
 
He also teaches the children -- who are where he once was --about the love of God.
 
"I understand the love of God.  I understand how a God, whom I have not seen, can love me.  This is because someone, whom I have not seen, loved me enough to sponsor me.  I understand the love of God."
 
Where God lives.

Jul 31 2011
A 401k Plan You Can Tickle

(I wrote this while in Africa last year. I just got back from Rwanda, and am still thinking about the little kids.  And the God who loves them, and... my money.)

So we're visiting village after village today, and playing with a whole lot of very sweet little kids.  Sweet little kids, I should say, with not a thing to play with.  Literally no thing.  

Nothing.

So we play tickle monster (standard operating procedure for a dad, of course) and we twirl and I laugh and they giggle.  And we take pictures with our digital cameras, and show them what, for likely the first time, is a first look at themselves in a photo.  Their eyes brighten, and they smile, look away -- then look again, and smile.  Thank God they don't think what I thought when I first saw them:  These children are not eating well.  Many have hair missing...in clumps.  But they see themselves, and they smile, and so do we.


It says on our money, "In God We Trust", and many Christians pass emails around, protesting rumors of the removal of that phrase.  Understandable?  Okay.  But so is wondering, of course, if we who protest really, truly trust God with our money...or whether it's easier to have our coins say it.  

I say we don't, really, trust God with our money.  If we did, we'd invest in His ultimate retirement plan:  "He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord, and the Lord WILL repay him."  -- it says that in Proverbs.  I may not be exactly quoting -- don't have my Bible right here -- but I'm darn close.

Our entire banking system -- our entire economy! -- is based on just that:  trust.  Shoot, the root word for "credit" is the same as "credibility".  It means "trust".  You have money, so who do you trust with it?  Maybe you trust a banker you've never met, a broker you'll never see, or a corporation that, God promises, will vanish, eventually, like a vapor.  

People are now struggling to find a trustworthy place, with a solid return, for their money.  May I propose, for those who say they subscribe to "In God We Trust", that they actually trust God with their money?  Maybe that's you.  It's certainly me.

God says:  Give to the poor, and you're lending to me.  And I WILL repay you.  That's a guaranteed return.  God says He WILL repay you.  

Give to the poor.  Give to the poor.  Give to the poor.  God WILL repay you.  GOD will repay you.  He promises it.  

Take it to the bank.

Or don't -- take it to these children, or others like them.  God will repay you.  When?  How?  I don't know.  But He promises it.  Still worried about your retirement years?   Listen to one of these children giggle, smell their milky breath, hold their dirty little hands...and wonder, with me, if they'll even see high school.

God says He WILL repay you.

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