Monday, February 28, 2005

Six-year-olds

"When you're six, most of your BINGO balls are still floating around in the draw tank."--Stephen King

Jacob provides all the entertainment and poignancy our family needs at any given time. And he's already drawn a lot of balls from the BINGO tank. He wants to know how far the Moon is from the Earth and how far to Mars and where God lives.

The other day in the car he said, "Dad, I wish I had a brother."

"I'll be your brother, buddy," I said.

"OK," he said, sounding a little disappointed but still satisfied.

Yesterday he asked what football games are on. During football season we would usually hit the backyard after the Titans game for a little gridiron of our own. Jacob always feels sorry for me when I lose.

Inside, Jacob likes to run around with his shirt off and is affectionate and kind-hearted. But I honestly don't let him beat me in Monopoly, Yatzee, Battleship, Uno. He just wins. He's like my brother, Toby, who would always get filthy rich in Monopoly and pay me to roll and move his man for him. Fifty bucks a roll. I should have asked a hundred. I'm not letting my son offer me money to roll and move his guy.

Jacob's also a good dancer, and he loves to make like Tom Cruise (no, he hasn't seen the movie or even know who he is) and dance in his underwear.

Jacob is, like my other two children, Ashley, 11, and Anna, 8, expressions of God's grace in my life. And, as Vince Antonucci says, "People who receive grace should throw parties. They should walk around with silly smiles. They should dance the Cha-Cha in their underwear!"

Jill just got back from buying party supplies. Jacob turns six March 12. I feel like dancing.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Love lifted me

James Rowe's (words) and Howard E. Smith's 1912 song, "Love lifted me" came to mind this morning and I sang it . . . I had fallen asleep last night reading Sebastian Junger's The Perfect Storm. The genre, journalist live-in story told like a novel, is one of my favorites.

Here are Rowe's words to reflect on this morning:

Love Lifted Me
Words by James Rowe | Music by Howard E. Smith

I was sinking deep in sin, far from the peaceful shore,
Very deeply stained within, sinking to rise no more,
But the Master of the sea, heard my despairing cry,
From the waters lifted me, now safe am I.

Refrain

Love lifted me! Love lifted me!
When nothing else could help
Love lifted me!

All my heart to Him I give, ever to Him I’ll cling
In His blessed presence live, ever His praises sing,
Love so mighty and so true, merits my soul’s best songs,
Faithful, loving service too, to Him belongs.

Refrain

Souls in danger look above, Jesus completely saves,
He will lift you by His love, out of the angry waves.
He’s the Master of the sea, billows His will obey,
He your Savior wants to be, be saved today.

Refrain

Source: Cyberhymnal, a very good song resource.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Hotel Rwanda

Four years ago I went with a group of other missionaries and our interns to Rwanda. Much has changed there since the genocide, the subject of the recent movie, HOTEL RWANDA, starring Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo. The genocide was perhaps the worst we will see in our lifetime, unless we continue to sit idly when genocide happens in places like the Darfur region of Sudan. Prevent Hotel Darfur.

Song from HOTEL RWANDA Soundtrack: Million Voices

My cousin and former teammate in Jinja, Uganda, Clint Davis, is traveling to Uganda this week and will from there drive again to Rwanda with a group of missionaries and Ugandans interested in ongoing missions to Rwanda. Please pray for their journey and write notes to him on this blog.

Required reading on Rwanda is Philip Gourevitch's We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families: stories from Rwanda. In 2000, I filed the following story for Christianity Today. Because of other pressing stories and factors out of my control, the piece was not published. I offer it now as a way to help us become more aware of the atrocities in Rwanda and have provided links above to help us contact others and government officials who can act now.

Will Justice Roll in Rwanda?

by Greg Taylor
August 18, 2000

KIGALI, RWANDA--Six years after the Rwanda genocide, they are still counting the dead.

In front of the Ntarama Catholic Church, 40 kilometers southeast of Kigali, local leaders take a census of genocide deaths from 1990 to 1994.

Outside the church in which 5,000 Rwandese genocide victims were killed, Byusa Eustache, a local official, sits with villagers to count the total number of genocide victims in his village. Villagers sit with large ledger cards where they are writing names of neighbors they saw slaughtered by Interahamwe (‘those who work together,’ the Hutu militia’s solidarity in killing) and the Hutu government Forces Armées Rwandaises (FAR) soldiers. The counting is a part of the national ‘10-day’ census that began in July and likely will continue until the end of the year.

Eustache asks an old woman about her family and neighbors who died between 1990 and 1994. He asks her why she thinks they were killed. Was it because of their ethnic group? Their ideology? For being a sympathizer of the rebels? For resembling a Tutsi or marrying a Tutsi? For being a friend of a Tutsi or for hiding a Tutsi?

No amount of questioning, however, will make sense of why 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred in Rwanda in 1994. But an international panel, commissioned by the Organization of African Unity (OAU), has recently published a 318-page report which attempts to make sense of who was to blame for the genocide. In the most sweeping investigation of the Rwanda genocide, the panel blames not only the Hutu Interahamwe and FAR soldiers for killing but also blames the United Nations Security Council, the United States, France, and the Catholic Church for not intervening during the 90-day massacre in 1994. The genocide within Rwanda ended when the Tutsi-led Rwandan People's Front army seized control of the country in May 1994.

The OAU panel has urged the UN to back its call for reparations owed by the international community. Rwanda is not holding its breath while waiting for the money. "Rwanda hasn’t actually been pushing for reparations," says one official in the president’s office. Apologies have come slowly from various groups. President Clinton and UN head Kafi Annan have been very apologetic. But some Rwandese think apologies may be the extent of what genocide victims’ families will receive. "Where would the money come from?" says Justin Rudasingwa, 45, a repatriated Rwandan who grew up in Uganda.

The Catholic Church, in an official celebration of one hundred years in Rwanda in July was apologetic for bishops who went astray and who aided the Interahamwe militias in the genocide. The Catholic and Episcopal churches both were criticized by the international panel for failing to use "their unique moral position among the overwhelmingly Christian population to denounce ethnic hatred and human rights abuses," according to the report. Most Rwandese are Catholic.

With many church cemeteries doubling as war memorials, the memory of the genocide and the church’s role in it will not soon fade. And family members of genocide victims, meanwhile, are determined that the genocide stays in view of those who try to diminish its impact on Rwanda. Within a few meters of the census takers at Ntarama, in the church grounds, Dantsira Nyirabazugu, 47, and Rutanganda Pasifigi, 46, welcome visitors to gaze through broken places in the church brick walls and see the mass of bones and skulls left since the day of the massacre six years ago which killed 5,000 in Ntarama.

In Rwanda's history of ethnic violence since 1959, many had found refuge inside church walls. That ended in 1994. Hutu militia and FAR troops threw in grenades to kill the hundreds of huddled women and children inside the church. Skulls, clothing with bones still inside them, pots, suitcases, and books are strewn across the pews. Inside the church smells like a bat-infested cave. There is a skull on the table next to a cross in the front of the church. In another shelter hundreds of skulls are lined up in rows, and many skulls have fractures or slashes across them from machete blows. Many are children's skulls.

"At first, people were stealing the bones, so the government asked us to keep the church (the way it was after the massacre)," Nyirabazugu said. During the church attack in 1994, the two keepers of the memorial had run for refuge outside the church to a nearby swamp.

"One lady gave birth in the swamp, and we named the child Moses," Nyirabazugu said. "I still have nightmares. Some are in a psychiatric hospital because they were traumatized," Dantsira said. Dantsira's husband and two children were killed in the church. Rutanganda lost 18 family members. The two memorial keepers say they want the world to remember the genocide, and they intend to keep the church the way it is indefinitely.

Rev. Celestin Hategekimana, 37, remembers spending two weeks in an Episcopal church bell tower during two weeks of the most intense killing in Shyogwe village. Rev. Hategekimana's friends, who were not threatened by Interahamwe, smuggled the pastor into the church tower and brought him food and water.

Witnesses say the former Episcopal diocese bishop, Samuel Musabyimana, told Interahamwe that they could kill anyone they wanted as long as they shed no blood on diocese land. That agreement was broken. While Hategekimana hid in the bell tower and was spared, his mother, two brothers, and three sisters were killed. His mother was thrown in a pit latrine with seven others. A memorial now marks the site.

Episcopal Rev. Hategekimana's ministry after the genocide, on the other hand, has moved away from looking at growth and numbers. In the past, says the Hategekimana, numbers were more important to church pastors. "We have changed our evangelism to try to follow up persons and their families," he says.

But Rwandese still face a crisis of spiritual leadership as Catholic, Episcopal, and Seventh Day Adventist church pastors have not only been blamed for cowardly acts but also for aiding Interahamwe and FAR soldiers by herding members and villagers into churches to be ambushed. In a country almost void of theological training centers, pastors are under-trained and lack respect from their parishioners. Non-mainline churches, however, are succeeding to draw huge crowds with music, messages of reconciliation and healing. The Pentecostal Church is growing rapidly in Rwanda.

One Pentecostal church faced persecution by Interahamwe and FAR soldiers but were not killed. Pastor Mathias Bimenyimana reported that more than 700 Protestants and Catholics fled to the Gakinjiro Pentecostal Church when the Interahamwe were raiding and killing Tutsi in their homes. Christians were threatened with guns to their heads. A local councilman threatened Bimenyimana for hiding RPF soldiers. His anger suddenly subsided, however, and he told Bimenyimana, "You church people are like the Red Cross. You can come to the help even of the enemy.” None were killed in the Gakinjiro Pentecostal Church from the day after President Habaryamana’s plane was shot down until the RPF captured Kigali. "We stayed together and the Lord protected us," Bimenyimana says.

The new Archbishop of the Episcopal Church in Rwanda, Most Rev. Emmanuel Kolini, says the genocide has turned his preaching upside down and he talks more directly about sin. "Sin is in every part of our lives. It's in our bones. We have touched it, smelled it, seen it. The genocide was because of sin. There was a spiritual genocide first, then the physical genocide came," Most Rev. Kolini said.

Churches are preaching hope and healing. Many Rwandese, meanwhile, are ambivalent about the prospects for justice. Prisons are jammed with 130,000 persons waiting for trials. Churches and human rights organizations are pressuring Rwanda to process the minors in prisons first. But lawyers are few and courts are clogged with cases. State prosecutors have a backlog of 2,000 cases against accused planners of the genocide. Many of Rwanda's white-collar work force were killed in 1994, leaving only a few dozen lawyers countrywide.

While the Arusha Tribunal is seeking justice by reining in suspects from outside Rwanda, the interim government in Rwanda is setting up grass-roots tribunals within the country. Many hope these locally led tribunals, called gacaca, will bring justice. This participatory judicial system relies on trusted village leaders to arbitrate disputes and hear genocide-related cases. The government hopes these gacaca courts will speed up justice and reduce friction between neighbors and communities, where survivors of the genocide and those accused of participating in the genocide live together.

For the jobless and homeless in Rwanda, justice is a luxury that has been forgotten in their struggle for survival. "My father was killed. Then his killer fled to Congo," says a 24-year-old Rwandan woman. Asked if she wants justice for the killers in the genocide, she simply says she wants a job. "People who lost relatives and (their killers) are in jail want justice. But the immediate situation is survival," says Dr. David Himbara, Principal Secretary to President Paul Kagame.

Jobs are not the only hurdle for Rwandese. With many returnees from political and ethnic exile, Rwanda is a tossed salad of groups. Young boys with one or both legs blown off by a land mine walk the streets of Kigali on crutches among young and well-dressed urbanite transplants from Uganda—Rwandese whose parents left after ethnic violence started in 1959 in Rwanda. Three million refugees have returned to Rwanda since 1994, according to a government report. Genocide victims and planners live side by side.

Rwanda's population has swollen since 1994 when the Hutu-led government's ban on exiled Rwandese was lifted. Hundreds of thousands of Rwandese born outside Rwanda are streaming back to Rwanda. But land is scarce. When Hutu abandoned their land in the headlong flight toward Congo in 1994, returning Tutsi refugees from the Diaspora found abandoned land and houses and squatted on that land. But the government’s official policy is to return that land to its original owners.

"This is a double slap in the face for victims," says Himbara. Many genocide victims are being left homeless, but Habitat for Humanity, UNHCR, and dozens more aid groups are building resettlement homes, called imidugudu, for returning refugees and those being kicked off of land they had claimed after the Hutu flight. Youth and women associations are also building resettlements. But there are not enough land and houses to go around. The population is growing 3.5 percent annually. Rwanda is one of the most densely populated countries in the world.

"Before 1994 the official government policy was that anyone who left was not welcomed back. That was changed in May 1994 and all the refugees returned quickly, except for those in camps (Hutu refugees and Interahamwe militias). They were held up until 1996 when they returned, and that’s why the northern Rwanda is destabilized," says Himbara. "The biggest challenge is to get all these (groups) to interact."

Some believe, however, that the task of getting Rwandese to reconcile is impossible. Memorials are scattered throughout the country in churches, along roadsides. Some Rwandese say they don’t like to visit the memorials because they bring back the bitterness and hatred in their hearts toward the killers. A Baptist missionary in Kigali believes another genocide is imminent. Many of the Hutu killers who fled surrounded by a cover of women and children refugees, continue to get support by the Congolese government.

A banner outside the Catholic Church in Nyamata says, "We’re still remembering.” Twenty thousand men, women, and children were slaughtered in the Nyamata church in 1994. Blood still stains the walls. The statue of Jesus was hacked with machetes, according to Rwema Epimaque, 50, because the likeness of Jesus resembled a Tutsi.

"People came here seeking refuge. They thought since it was the house of God they wouldn’t be killed," Epimaque said. Behind the church is are two underground catacombs where thousands of bones and skulls have been arranged on shelves. Most visitors cannot bear to enter.

In the basement of the Nyamata church is a memorial display with a wooden casket inside. The body in the casket, villagers say, is that of a 25-year-old woman who died after being raped by Hutu militia and FAR soldiers. Her husband was restrained and made to watch while they brutalized her. They killed her by forcing a sharp stick through her vagina. Then they threw her body in a pit with hundreds of other bodies. Villagers believe that her body did not decay. Witnesses say her body was found three years after the attack, her baby still in her arms. The body was on display until recently it was placed in a casket that was sealed.

Before the genocide of 1994, the Arusha Peace Accords were making progress. Ex-President Juvenal Habyarimana was returning from another round of talks in Arusha, Tanzania when his plane was shot down, sparking the slaughter of thousands of Rwandese a day for three months, beginning in April 1994.

What had started before the genocide has now been taken up again. A resolution was passed at the peace talks in 1993 to form a Unity and Reconciliation Commission (URC), but this was not formed until 1999. The purpose of the commission is to promote unity among the people of Rwanda. "People who lost their families are still bitter. We believe there must be a moment of healing and that moment will come," says Oswald Rutimburana, Research and Communications Director of the URC. "We are hopeful. Though many criticize what we are doing, they don’t have any other answers. The see reconciliation as the only option."

The URC views what happened in Rwanda as intentional, rather than accidental. The Hutu-led majority government planned the genocide. But the genocide was not achieved by politics alone, but also insidious hatred and sin says Rutimburana. "That’s why we have partnerships with churches.” Rutimburana is a Christian who came to Rwanda after the genocide with a large aid organization. After spending several years in rural Rwanda counseling with victims of the genocide, Rutimburana went to work for the newly formed URC.

"Everyone in Rwanda is traumatized," says Rutimburana. And he says trauma healing must come before reconciliation can happen. "Ninety-nine percent of Rwandese are Christians, they say, but 99 percent committed genocide. What kind of Christianity is that? To me, they were religious but not Christians."

A July report by the URC says the first task of the government after the genocide is to handle emergencies and encourage the healing process. Yet UNICEF says more than 300,000 children alone are traumatized by killing or seeing their parents or family members killed. UNICEF reports that less than one percent of those children have been adequately counseled. The Rwandan government and UNICEF reunited or placed 465,000 children who were separated from their families or orphaned during the genocide. Thirty-five thousand children remain in orphanages throughout Rwanda.

Counseling children and adults is one of Rwanda’s greatest needs right now, according to Dr. Wendy Bovard of Oasis Counseling Center in Kenya. Dr. Bovard and her team have done trauma counseling with victims of the Nairobi bombing in 1998. They are also developing curriculum and plan to build a counseling center for counselors to work with Rwandese with post-traumatic stress disorders.

Episcopal Archbishop Kolini says Christian missionaries are needed in Rwanda. "We especially need teaching ministries. The door is open," says Most Rev. Kolini. "People are thirsty for the gospel. They are looking for an answer. After 40 years of independence (from Belgium), politics has not brought an answer, so they are looking somewhere else--especially young people. They are looking for the inner heart healing," the Archbishop said.

The door is open for missionaries and counselors to step in beside aid workers in Rwanda. Kigali is safer than Nairobi and Kampala, says George Staples, U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda. A new police force is being trained, and the government is becoming more stable under leadership of Paul Kagame, former commander of the RPF.

President Kagame says Rwandese ought to associate themselves along political, national, and rational issues rather than looking at themselves as belonging to an ethnic group. Churches, meanwhile, are pushing to be seen as one body. Christians are encouraging missionaries not to come and work with one particular ethnic group but to minister among each of them, to avoid adding more ethnic lines of demarcation to an already embattled church environment. Churches have begun singing a song that says, "Have we not one father? Have we not one faith? Have we not one calling to become one holy race? Oh let us be the generation of reconciliation and peace.”

From Butare to Kigali, Rwandese are asking "How long will justice take?" Some say a generation must pass; others say it will take two or three generations before reconciliation and justice will come; and still others say a thousand years or never. One thing is sure in this quagmire of refugees, foreign aid organizations, victims and perpetrators of genocide: justice may not be swift nor sure, but if justice ever does roll like a river through Rwanda, there will be millions who need a drink from that stream.

Friday, February 18, 2005

Abraham and the smoking fire pot

Abraham. He fascinates me. I'm not alone. He fascinates a billion Muslims, and another billion Jews and Christians. Why is it that three major religions claim Abraham as a (or perhaps the) father of their faith?

One way to look at is that God made good on his promise to Abraham. He has become father of so many they can't be counted. When God speaks directly to a person, we tend to deify that person, but Abraham was terrified, like you and I would be, when God spoke to him.

God: "Look up at the heavens and count the stars"--then God appears to needle or nearly joke with the then named Abram--"if indeed you are even capable to count them." The point seems to be that his offspring will be beyond counting.

The covenant that God makes with Abraham is vital to begin understanding why he is so important to Jews and Christians. I don't understand enough about Islam to know what connections they make to him.

Paul repeats in Romans 4 what comes next, also an aside in the Genesis 15 account: "Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness." God talks about the land next: "I am the God who brought you out of Ur to give you land." So here is the summary: God promises a nomadic childless elderly couple land and more children than they could ever imagine.

Still, Abram is unsure: "How will I know?"

Now Abram does the only action in the story besides talk: he obeys God and brings a cow, goat, and ram. He cuts each in half (he also brought birds but didn't cut them in half). He does something else in the story, he chases off buzzards then walks through the halves of the animals. Why does he walk through the halves? That's an ancient way to make and keep a vow: sometimes the participant would say something like, "may I be diced the same way if I break this covenant."

That's the end of Abram's action. God is the one acting in this story. He puts Abram into a trance and a depression or darkness descended on him. God said these offspring he'd promised would be enslaved yet God would rescue them. He assured Abram he would live to a respectable age then be buried in peace. His descendants would return to this land after an exile in Egypt.

A smoking blazing pot then passed between the pieces of carcass, symbolizing perhaps a blessing of the great land (essentially the area of Solomon's eventual kingdom), that Abraham's nomad (essentially the original meaning of Hebrew, wanderer) would possess.

And on that day, God made this covenant with Abraham. The faith has wandered far and wide, an ever expanding universe of God's desire and renown and glory. Who really knows the mysteries of God's ways?

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

Friday Night Lights


I recently read H. G. Bissinger's Pulitzer Prize winning book, Friday Night Lights, a great read. My father-in-law and I both had copies and on a recent visit here, we both read and talked about the book that Sports Illustrated calls the best football book of all time. But football is not the real topic of the book as much as human nature, culture, a picture of Americana that helps us understand the landscape through the lens of a football-crazed city. The book burned some in the city, particularly the coach, Gary Gaines, who along with many others perhaps thought the one-year live in reporting that Bissinger did would produce a "Hoosiers" book. It didn't, but the long-term effect of the book perhaps might be a more healthy perspective on sports across the country.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Valentine's Language

My wife's love language is "acts of service." She likes it when I do the dishes, help clean the house, etc. I've revealed this little intimate thought before in Wineskins . . .

So I asked Jill yesterday, what do you want for V Day? Chocolates? Big heart shaped. No. Okay, how about some pretty roses? No. She always asks how much they cost. She's our family CFO, why would she not ask?

Since her language is "acts of service" (see Gary Chapman's Five Love Languages), I'm going to do something where I don't have to "say" anything and not sweat cleaning the house this time either: a gift certificate for several full house cleanings from "Domestic Angels," a house cleaning service in Nashville. I know, I know, some wives get this on a regular basis, but that's just not our approach, since we work on it together with our three kids as one of our chores. So this will be something special . . . and hey, it combines "gift giving" with "acts of service."

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Exodus Salvation

No single story figures so prominently in the salvation saga of God's people, Israel, than the great deliverance and exodus from Egypt.

The sons of Jacob sold Joseph into slavery in Egypt, and though he would rise to second in command of the nation, perhaps this was a foreshadowing of things to come.

Joseph moved his entire family to Goshen from Canaan, and they enjoyed many years of life there. They produced and multiplied in number, a blessing for this once nomadic family. But this multiplication would bring their doom and four hundred years of oppression by Egyptians fearful of their power in numbers and the possibility they might ally with Egyptian enemies.

Gruesome as it sounds, a new King of Egypt who did not know Joseph, sent word to the Hebrew midwives to "Kill the baby boys." The text, however, says they feared God, and the implication is their allegiance to God over Pharaoah Rameses II. They did not kill baby boys or girls. But the threat of Egyptians throwing Hebrew babies in the Nile remained. It was into this environment that Moses was born then "drawn out" (the meaning of his name) by the king's daughter. She must have known she was breaking her own father's decree. She recognized that this was "one of the Hebrew" babies. She felt sorry for the crying baby and agreed to let a Hebrew girl--the baby's sister--take her to a Hebrew woman--the baby's mother--to be his nursemaid.

We're not sure how old he was when he left his own mother's side, but we know he was conflicted about his own identity--enough to defend his Hebrew brothers and kill an Egyptian guard who was abusing a slave. Moses was the son of a Levite father and mother weaned in a Hebrew home and educated as Egyptian royalty.

The humble story is the first episode in Exodus, a saga of God's deliverance of a people for himself. The story of Moses being called "lifted from the Nile" foreshadows the part both the water and the one from the water would play in God's exit strategy for his people who had been enslaved four hundred years.

Dozens of texts reference the exodus not merely as a historic fact but a great sign of God's power, mercy, and redemption. It is one of Scripture's most popular and powerful story metaphors of God's salvation. Here are some texts that speak of the strong hand and outstretched arm of the Lord in the exodus:
Exodus 15 - Moses and Miriam, Song of the Sea
Nehemiah 9
Psalm 105/106
Deuteronomy 4:34, 5:15, 7:14, 11:2, 26:8
2 Kings 17:36
Joshua 2:10, 24:6
Judges 11:16

What others have you found . . . some in the New Testament?

Friday, February 04, 2005

The power of a syllabus

A faint memory came back to me this morning. I was searching for comments on Samuel Well's book, Improvisation: The Drama of Christian Ethics (Brazos, 2004), and came across a syllabus for an ethics class taught by Dennis L. Durst, M.Div., Ph.D at Kentucky Christian University. This is a fine syllabus, and I remember receiving these in seminary (Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis) and how it would set me on a course of discovery.

I'm reliving this morning those moments of quiet reflection and those bursts of amazement that I couldn't wait to share with my fellow students on that lonely two-hour road between Searcy and Memphis. I'd always try to get those books on the syllabus from a used book store and sometimes could but most times couldn't. Each book led me to another and a well-chosen paper topic--which I found out the hard way is best chosen with the teacher's blessing and direction in a planned office appointment early on . . . I used to consider this goofy apple polishing but after a C and a D on a paper thought perhaps I'd better learn the difference between shining apples and humbling myself before a person who was the best person in the world right then to direct my studies.

So, with that little memory, I want to share this link with you. May it create in you the same effect that syllabi (that's a geeky correct grad school way of saying syllabuses) had on me in grad school . . . like a ticket to a passage way into a whole new world, one book and idea deserving and craving and leading to another . . . and ultimately and intentionally closer to God and shaped by His word and into His image.

Dr. Durst's syllabus

Thursday, February 03, 2005

WINESKINS Blog

At long last! (I learned that expression from the Brits I know.)

I've been wanting to do a blog on Wineskins site for as long as I've known what blogs are, and now thanks to Keith Brenton, who worked through the template and resolved several key problems with incorporating a blog into a current site like Wineskins, it's done and you can read and post there. THANKS Keith!

I'll be inviting about a dozen co-administrators in the next few weeks, so if you are interested, please call me at 888.216.9944 or email me at gtaylor@zoegroup.org. Or leave a comment here. I will definitely invite some of our editors and contributors but also would like to see some good bloggers out there contribute to the dialogue on Wineskins. Bring it on!

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

Painting the town blue

We had a painter come and re-finish our kitchen cabinets last week with a varnish called "boat coat" that is used for sea-worthy vessels. There is a creek behind our house, but we don't expect it to rise that high and hope our kitchen is never sea-worthy.

The painter, Ron, told me this story:

He went to a multi-million dollar house to paint. A woman, crying, met him at the door. As they walked down the hall, she kept crying.

"What's the matter?" Ron said.

"Nothing," the woman said.

"Stop, now, something's obviously wrong; would you like to talk about it?"

"I don't even know you," the woman said.

"Well maybe talking to someone would help; can we sit down?"

They sat down in the living room and she told him the reason she was crying was because she was lonely, had no friends. He asked did she know any of her neighbors? Does she have a church she attends?

"Churches just want my money," she said.

"Why don't you find some place that doesn't want your money," Ron said. She looked surprised, as if she doubted such a place exists.

"Let me ask you something about your silverware," Ron said.

She stared at him in disbelief. "What does my silverware have to do with anything?"

"You need to start wearing it out."

"That's eighty thousand dollars worth of silverware!"

"Well you need to start using it. You live in a gated community . . . I've been in many of these houses and there's many people who feel alone. Get together with them. Maybe even start a Bible study and tea time."

Months later Ron saw the woman at his Baptist church. He's not only a painter but also sings in the choir. He saw her in the crowd and couldn't wait to rush down afterwards and talk to her. She was happier than ever, had started a small gathering of women in her community and was searching for that church that didn't care about her money.

Ron then said to me, "I'm in a lot of homes and you never know what a word or taking a brief moment with someone can do, and I learn from seeing families interact, too."

As Ron left I asked him not to cash my check till Thursday. We'd have the money in the right account by then. We're not too worried a church will want us for our money!