Arm Chair Quarterback from South Africa

Sometimes you have to stop blogging about ministry, spirituality and whatever… and get to the REALLY important things in life.

FOOTBALL!!!

When your team is losing badly, you tend to make lots of rational excuses. I should know right? I’ve been a Cubs fan forever. But Something Bill Polian said (GM of the Colts) that this season has been so funky because you basically lost half your starters on both sides of the football. Excuses? Maybe, but then he said something else. Something to the affect that this season is allowing the team to prepare the depth of the team. That all the injured stars are coming back next year. So we get our starting line up back, a first round pick in the draft, and one of the most intensely prepared backup roster in the game.

Granted, burning the 2011 season just to prepare a team might seem like such a waste in our “win now or get out” world. But maybe there’s something really necessary about losing every game of the season to prepare your backup players to go on and do something remarkable for a longer period of time. Maybe this has been the gift the Colts have needed for several years?

Oh man, I could get really ministerial on this post now… better stop while it’s fun ;).

One last poke to my New England friends… did you see that our 3rd string QB scored more fantasy football points than Brady? I think he was even cut by our 0-12 team earlier this year. Huh. What do you think about them apples? (and I love you too… it’s all in fun 😉 )

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Values & Expressions

This is such an interesting time of year for us.  Every other year, we’re preparing to make the long flight back over the pond to see our family and friends.  This is our off year, and I must say, I’m okay not boarding that flight with the kids (though we really do miss seeing you all, we’re excited for a summer!).

Part of what makes this particular year interesting is that I am busy evaluating 2011 with NieuCommunities and our partner ministries while at the same time laying out plans for 2012.  It’s a weird in between space.  One of the points that keeps coming up revolves around values & how we express those values.

Many conflicts that have happened in Pretoria over the past year centered around the expression of values, not the values themselves.  We may value communication, but how I communicate may be expressed differently than you liked it, so there arises conflict.  What I’m seeing, and what I hope will stick into 2012, is that the conflict is actually a tool.  It’s a gift from God.  Conflict drives us back to our values.  “Why are we fighting again?”  It’s the core question of reminding us what we’re honestly pursuing together in the first place.

I fear that too many churches have split, too many ministries fallen down because this delicate difference between expression and core value get overlooked.  They are not the same things.  When we fight to the death for our expressions, we lose out on creative opportunities to expand the potential of our core values.

Prayers of Thanksgiving (Update)

This has been a massive year for us, for our community, and for the various ministry partners we have been working with.  People coming to Christ, leaders equipped to sustain in new ministry projects in the city… There is no short supply of amazing stories to share!  As we look to next year, we want to offer this list of thanksgiving prayers to our supporters.

  • Our community is now over 65% African!!!  Many of whom are taking key leadership roles!!!
  • There is a growing sense of closeness growing in this community as we continue to journey together in the ways of Jesus
  • We have had serious interest in the property we own in the Northern suburbs.  We believe God will provide the right scenario very soon!
  • We feel like our ministry partners have become more like trusted friends than simply “working relationships”.  There seems to be a growing love relationship in many areas of ministry throughout the city.

 

Blessings

I knew that in November, we were going to be faced with a huge amount of expenses with Ezra preparing to enter 1st grade and Keziah needing to start school in January as well.  Both kids were going to need enrollment charges paid.  Ezra needs to have uniforms for school and the book fees were going to be coming up as well.  Honestly… had no idea how we were going to get that covered.

Thanks to many of your generous hearts, there were enough one time donations sent in during the month of October to cover these expenses!!!  It was like God looked at us and said, “what were you saying to me about freaking out?” and BOOM!

We really appreciate your generous hearts over the month of October!  We look forward to sharing more stories of God’s kingdom coming in Pretoria… stories that your investments make possible.  Thanks again everyone!

Milestones

Today marks a major milestone for NieuCommunities.  It was two years ago that I took on the role of directing this community with the hopes that we would become a South African led community.  Part of that milestone was that we go from 75% American/25% South African and make it the other way around.  As our community has grown and other North Americans are answering the call to go elsewhere, Natalie and I are the last remaining North Americans in the community.

Granted, in a few months, we’re inviting a North American intern, and our friend from Canada will be re-joining us after his wedding in Rwanda… but this is a pretty massive point of celebration for us.  God still has a quite a few more markers for us to accomplish in this ultimate transition to South African leadership, but this milestone was one of the more difficult ones.  It has been an amazing journey and the ways South Africans in our community accompany us in our transformation and mission are having deep significance in our journeys with the Lord.

Thank you all so much for your continued love, prayer, and support along this way.  This is yours to celebrate with us!

The Silence of Christ

This comes from a reflection I offered our community recently.  It has been a source of deep communion in my own heart and I wanted to share it wider.

“Go pray about that, and you will find your answer.”  The Yoda like response from every Sunday School teacher I ever had.  The favorite catch phrase at the end of countless sermons I have ever heard.  Yet, when up against a wall with no clue which way to turn, many find themselves in this place on their faces begging God for a clue.

And then there’s silence.

What do you do with the silence of Christ?

I was meditating on the passage in John 1.35-39.  Jesus is simply walking back to the place he was staying.  Two of John’s comrades saw Jesus and just started walking behind him.  Jesus invited them to come check out the place he was staying and that was it.  Insignificant story?  Not even close.

They walked away from the pinnacle of a ministry career.  John is baptizing the crowds.  They got to play in THAT playground.  They hit the big time!  But somehow they knew the glamor there was NOTHING of what being with Jesus would bring.  But in that space, Jesus didn’t answer the hard questions about their purpose for existence.  I imagine he took them back and made them a cup of coffee.  They chilled together.  Maybe they even raced back to the house (you know, ‘cus Jesus was such a jokester like that).

I have sensed in the last month that prayer is far too often us going and looking for solutions to our problems only to be greeted by a warm cup of coffee in the place Jesus is sleeping that night.  No answers.  Just that big goofy Jesus grin pouring us a warm treat.  Perhaps the silence of Jesus is the invitation to peace in the storm.  The answer of “what do I do now with my life” is answered by “Chill.  Sit here and let’s linger for a bit.  In time, and in stride you will see.”

This is no excuse to stop working and following leads.  God brings those things our ways and we must pursue those options.  But He’s extending a hand of peace and solitude in the midst of the chaos of our bigger questions.  Linger in that space and feel that pleasure while you go.  After all, when it’s all said and done, every knee will be bowing at his feet in any case.

Question on Missional

For months now, I’ve been wanting to write more about this, but felt like it might come across wrong or be misunderstood.  But there has been a growing fear in me about this word “missional” that runs around Christianity.  My fear stems from what I’ve witnessed in America and South Africa, so by no means is it global.  But in these two contexts… I’m concerned.

There’s a sense of pressure that comes from “being missional” that leads us to action oriented tasks.  The more you do, the more connected to the heart of God you must be.  We wear “burnt out” like a badge of honor forgetting that Jesus never got to that point himself.

I read this from a Dutch Reform pastor today that sums up my question, “Develop disciples and see people on mission with God. Get people on mission and what do you get? Are they actually on mission WITH God?” – Attie Nel

My questions go on… do we actually know the people we’re serving or are we actually abusing them for our own sense of accomplishment?  What’s the function of missional projects?  How do we view transformation of our hearts towards God in this age of “being missional”?  If we keep on the path of saying that taking people to projects or on outreach, we will lose what comes in the solitude spaces.  If we stay in the solitude spaces, we lose the going out.  Are we just swinging the pendulum back and forth, or is there actually a holistic way to form ourselves into the image of God.

These are the questions our communities wrestles with.