Archive for June, 2014

Jun 28 2014

Is It Possible To Live INSIDE Music?

Published by under Life

Why is it we all love surround sound stereo speakers?

Yesterday, as I listened to music in my headphones, I lamented that I couldn’t turn up the volume any louder. I wanted more.

We put on headphones not just for privacy or for good manners but because we want our head to be engulfed in sound.

Sometimes I put my ears directly up to a speaker and sing at the top of my lungs because I want to get as close to the music as I can.

It’s also true that all of us like being face-to-face with the stage at a concert.

We want to be close to music.

Yesterday, for the first time in my life, I had this thought…

“I wish I could become a PART of the music – like actually LIVE in it.”

Then God’s word rattled in my soul…

Still, You are holy;
You make Your home on the praises of Israel.
_Psalm 22:3

This verse says God makes his home “ON” the praises of Israel. His actual location – his home – is RIGHT WITH the music. So as the people are singing, it says God is on (some translations say IN) the songs Israel is singing.

The next time you sing songs to God, imagine him as being right in the praises you sing. Because that’s the reality.

And start wondering about this… maybe someday we’ll not only dance TO music… maybe we’ll dance IN it.

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Jun 27 2014

The Beast: A Short Tale

Published by under Honduras,Poverty

It’s called The Beast. And it’s not the rollercoaster ride at King’s Island outside Cincinnati.

Also called “The Train of Death,” The Beast is a catch-all phrase used to describe the 10-15 train network throughout Mexico that ferries immigrants from their countries in Central America and Mexico to the borders of the US.

I just returned home from Honduras and made a genuine new friendship with a guy there named José. José and I made two round-trips from Tegucigalpa to San Marcos and spent about 14 hours in the car together during that time.


We also worked next to each other all week.


On one of our 3.5 hour drives, José and I talked about soccer and what it means to Hondurans. José explained:

There are many poor people in Honduras. So many poor people who are struggling. The great thing about fútbol (soccer) is that for 90 minutes everyone has hope. Eight million people have hope. We have hope of winning something.

An extremely common misconception when people visit the poor in other countries is that the people there are all happy. “They’re so poor but they have so much joy,” is the oft-repeated refrain. It’s not true for many.

There is such a thing as manners. To be unkind and ungracious to visitors would be rude. Although I’ve been flicked off numerous times in my travels, it’s an infinitesimally small percentage who are so ill-behaved.

In addition, we need to imagine ourselves in their shoes. Imagine you lived in poverty and you heard some wealthy people were coming on a fact-finding trip to see what conditions were like. You’d have hope they might help out your community. THAT would make you happy. You would be abundantly kind to them in order to win favor.

I’m not so cynical as to believe that NO ONE in poverty is happy or joyful. Or that their motives are selfishly driven. But we Americans need to stop being silly in thinking all poor people are happy. They’re not.

One of the great disadvantages of going to countries where you don’t speak the language is that you can’t have full conversations with the locals, asking questions that really probe the realities of their lives.

The other disadvantage of short-term trips abroad is that they’re, by definition, short-term. We don’t spend enough time to really get to know the people there so we don’t earn enough trust with them.

A final hinderance is that we rarely get to spend extended time with the SAME people. Even if we have conversations, they’re often with multiple people throughout the week – which prevents us from going deep with one person.

If we can overcome one or more of those barriers with locals, what we discover at some point is tears. It’s probably true of all human beings – spend enough time with any of us and we’ll cry when we talk about our lives. But I’m telling you the tears come quickly with many of the poor when you get beneath the surface.

An article in the New York Times reported just this morning that the US Border Patrol has apprehended 39,000 adult illegal immigrants since October. This is in addition to 52,000 CHILDREN traveling WITHOUT adults that have been apprehended in the same time period. 9,000 people were apprehend this May alone – a new monthly record. That’s roughly 100,000 people. We have no estimate as to how many have been successful in crossing the border.

Pain, high unemployment rates, and lack of hope is what fuels most immigration to the US. Many of the materially poor are not happy where they are. It’s why they risk life and limb to leave their families and homes.

When I was in Honduras this past December, my friend Samy told me about his friend who had gotten on The Beast. About halfway to the US, his friend fell off the train while he was sleeping (a common occurrence on The Beast) onto the tracks and had both his legs severed. He survived but now lives back in Honduras in a wheelchair, begging on the street because he’s unable to work doing the manual labor he once performed.

(If you’re interested in learning more about The Beast, I’d recommend the films Sin Nombre, Which Way Home, and De Nadie as starters to the topic. If you’re a reader, I’d recommend Sonia Nazario’s novel “Enrique’s Journey”).

Throughout their journey on The Beast, people deal with the constant threat of violence from gangs who board the trains at various points for purposes of robbery, rape, kidnapping, and even outright murder. In 2010, there were a reported 11,000 kidnappings of people from The Beast. At a ransom of almost $2,500/person, kidnapping is big business for Mexico’s drug cartels.

There are biblical things we don’t understand a lick. Our wealthy lives insulate us from some biblical understanding. Someone traveling on The Beast understands this Psalm in a way I probably never will…

Hide me from the plots of this evil mob,
from this gang of wrongdoers…
They shoot from ambush at the innocent,
attacking suddenly and fearlessly.
They encourage each other to do evil
and plan how to set their traps in secret.
_Psalm 64:2-5

As I stood 4,700 feet above sea level in Honduras’ Sierra de la Botija mountain range, I talked with a teenager named Juan who is quitting his job next month and trying to make it to the US on The Beast.

When I heard this, I immediately and reflexively blurted out, “Buena suerte, hermano!” which means “Good luck, brother!”

Can you now imagine the difficulties that await him on his journey?

His path forward is one fraught with danger and I hope God helps him survive and thrive.

I have no action steps. In the last 12 months, I’ve been on eight trips to six countries on three continents. I’ve seen the opulence of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and the dilapidated shacks of Kibera in Nairobi, Kenya. Every single trip I’m taking is disrupting my life a little bit at a time.

And that’s why I wrote this post. I want it to be something that moves the soil of our hearts just a little bit. We need to see the lives and experiences of the poor and understand they’re made in God’s image just the same as us. He loves them just like he loves us. And from our perch of power, God is expecting us to do something. Each of us can do something to help the poor in the US and abroad. We need to discover what it is and how to do it. We already know the WHY. May it fuel us every day to dig a little deeper.

We love because he first loved us.
_1 John 4:19

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Jun 25 2014

When Your Plans Don’t Pan Out

Published by under Life

We dream and we plan. We strategize and we market.

And we scratch our heads when it doesn’t work thinking we have the wrong dream, the wrong plan, the wrong strategy, or the wrong graphic design.

Maybe we have the wrong approach.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.”
_Psalm 20:7

Do we pray about what we’re working on? Do we actually pray to God and ask him for help? We may see results if we do.

“You do not have because you do not ask God.”
_James 4:2

Let’s get to praying!

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Jun 16 2014

The Way the World Turns

Published by under War

I live in a great part of Nashville. When I go to the Walmart by my house, it looks like the United Nations: Hispanics, Africans from numerous countries, Indians, Chinese, Arabic people. Many times I’m the only white person in there. It’s really cool.

Tonight I talked to a dude named Muhammad. His family is Kurdish (from the northern part of Iraq). He’s a normal dude here in the US, trying to make ends meet, and create a great life for his family. Muhammad and I talked about what’s happening in his home country.

If you don’t know, Iraq is quite possibly teetering on the edge of an all-out civil war that would play out between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. I’m talking about the possibility of real genocide. A faction of Sunnis (called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria or ISIS) has taken over a couple key cities in Iraq in the last couple weeks. The Iraq military has largely disbanded and fled those cities. Just today, it’s being reported (though not confirmed) that ISIS has executed/murdered 1,700 Shia soldiers.

This isn’t the uplifting news you were looking for on a Monday, I know.

But it’s too heartbreaking to not write about it. Just like my friend Muhammad, there are millions of real people in Iraq who are living and breathing creations of God whose lives could be affected by this.

Throughout the Iraq War (lasting from 2003-2012), the most conservative estimates are that 100,000 Iraqis died. Some estimates go as high as 500,000. We had about 3,000 people die in 9/11. That means, AT A MINIMUM, Iraq endured 33 9/11s in those nine years. What a tragedy.

My spirit is sad right now.

The Iraqi people have endured so much for the last 30 years (dating back to the Iran-Iraq War that happened between 1980 and 1988 where somewhere between 100,000 and 300,000 Iraqi soldiers died and 100,000 civilians died).

Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.”

I don’t really know how to make peace in this situation but God does.

I feel the current pulling me down
Can’t keep the world from turning around
But I keep on turning to You
You’re the hope of a new sunrise
Breaking over our desperate lives.
_Sanctus Real

I want you to pray with me. Right now. In Psalm 122, there’s a prayer for the city of Jerusalem and I want to pray this prayer for the country of Iraq.

Oh, God, please let your light shine in Iraq and keep the people there from destroying each other. Make them love! We pray this for the entire country of Iraq…

May there be peace within your walls
and security within your citadels…
Peace be within you.”
_Psalm 122:7-8

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