Tuesday, April 29, 2008

What Eats Wasps?

was the title of (or something similar) to a book I began perusing at the local Borders.

In the book, it mentioned that there are two types of ear wax: "wet" and "dry". The vast majority being "wet" but that the ethnic group of the Mongolians have "dry" earwax.

Also, that ear wax has been used as lip balm in some cultures. That is so great.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Diner and Other Restaurant Experiences

I go to some pretty "hole-in-the-wall" places to eat. Especially for breakfast. They each have great food, great service, and okay decor/location.

The ladies are always so nice. I get a lot of "What can i get you darlin', dear, hon', honey?" There are only a couple times that when this weirds me out:

1) When someone who looks like they might not even be out of high school directly imitates her mom or the older ladies in the shop and still uses this phrase (with a slight drawl added..that makes it seem faintly southern). "What can I get you hon?"

2) When there are variations of the 'darlin', hon, or honey'....such as "sweetie-pie" which I was called a couple weeks ago. "Hi Sweetie-pie". Something that maybe should be retired from the lexicon.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Why Do We Serve Outside the US?

Many friends and family have asked me why does Word Made Flesh (WMF) not serve in the US? Sometimes the question is asked innocently; sometimes there seems to be a hint of accusation in the question. But I'm glad for it either way.

The question itself has many locus points: theology, philosophy, efficacy, efficiency, etc. that I hope to cover below.

In the beginning of WMF, we were blessed by Chris Heuertz's probing, sincere questions to influential missional and theological leaders and he received great advice, including from Ps. Samuel Kamaleson. When asked about the dangers inherent to organizations, Ps. Samuel Kamaleson replied that broadening the scope of your mission and its mission statement would be a real danger for WMF.

Over the years there have been many "dangers" for expanding our original mission: expanding into rural areas, expanding with ministries in the States, expanding in social welfare areas, etc.

Our vision statement starts as follows: Word Made Flesh is called and committed to serving Jesus among the poorest of the poor. This calling is realized as a prophetic ministry for, and a holistic, incarnational ministry among, the world's poor. We focus our energy to make Jesus known among the poor while reconciling the Church with the poor.

Inherent in our other WMF missional statements was a focus on what is now called the majority world (previously called third-world and expanded to two-thirds world). The change in language was important because a person can assume that the rest of the world lives in the same manner that he/she personally lives...with all the privileges that entails. Third-world sounds removed, two-thirds world is more accurate but hard to explain. Majority world sets the context that the rest of the world does not live like people in the US or Western Europe, etc. in terms of scarcity, provisions, or consumption.

Please see Adam Thada's blog and his 06 February 2008 post entitled "Global Food per week):


Conservatives have adopted a beautiful term entitled 'subsidiarity', which according to Wikipedia means: "matters ought to be handled by the smallest (or, the lowest) competent authority". What this often means is that if someone is struggling physically, spiritually, financially, etc. the first ones intervening should be that person's family and/or friends, then a local church or other non-profit, and the concentric circles can get larger to involve county aid, state aid, federal aid, UN aid, etc.

And I love the concept of subsidiarity except that it doesn't take into accounts the pockets of poverty that exist around the world; mainly financial pockets of poverty where few funds seems to enter. Think about the favelas or slum communities you've seen on t.v. or experienced. How does family aid make a difference in these situations? How was this situation created in the first place that so isolates people?

There are more opportunities in places like the US and Western Europe for escaping poverty; there is access to credit, access to health-care, housing, foodstuffs, etc. These are luxuries for many overseas.


Why do WMF staff travel overseas to serve Jesus? Why isn't this being done by WMF in Omaha since it has an administrative office here?

WMF staff who work in the office do cultivate relationships with those who are vulnerable here, but this remains outside the scope of WMF as an organization.

WMF staff travel the world because Scripture is missional; the Good News is for the whole world. Our neighbor is redefined in Scripture: Scripture clearly says that our neighbor is everyone. When we try to limit who we are responsible for, we are brought back to a Godly understanding of the connectedness of humanity.

What do we see heaven looking like? We are told that in heaven, every nation, tribe, and tongue will be represented. And we (WMF) want to be part of communities like that on earth.

We know in WMF that when there are just 2 cultures together, there can often develop a competitive relationship. Approaches to life, benefits, outlook, problem-solving, and priorities can all be set against each other. When a 3rd culture is introduced, this somehow defuses some of the competition. What we love and what we want more of is for each community to look a little bit more like heaven....for there to a number of cultures together (even in our office in the States).

For Peruvians to minister in Bolivia, for Indians to minister in Romania, etc. This is what the Kingdom looks like.


There is truth in the assertion that WMF staff traveling overseas is inefficient. Much more efficient would be to mobilize resources and just send those funds overseas. Equipping local Christians financially to carry out the Church's mission there.

And we (maybe I should just say I) are/am shamed by our own when traveling overseas because we see Christians living there who are intercessory pray-ers, overjoyed in worship, Biblically lamenting in their sorrow, and dedicated in service. However, the Church worldwide has often distanced itself from those who are suffering. We hope that in going....we will spark a worldwide renewal in understanding God's clear heart for the most vulnerable of our world.

As WMF staff, we are trying to live incarnationally because this is important for us. This transforms us. We follow Jesus' example in that He came to Earth and live in an earthly body with all its confinements (hunger, skin, age). More than that, He was born in an animal stall, in a persecuted land, did not pursue an earthly kingdom, made friends with the outcast of society, and died the death of a criminal. He did not live like an earthly king but lived in a human body in the harsh conditions that most of humanity faced. To me, this made His ministry more real.

This is the other important component of our service....that we are transformed in this process: we see that we are not the ones giving and others receiving. It is a reciprocal relationship. We receive as much as we give.

WMF is inefficient in this way, but we hope that it is inefficient in the same way that long dinners with family and friends around the table are inefficient.

As the US seems to be struggling financially, with the dollar falling and gas prices going up considerably, the previous advantages our staff have had in making their dollars stretch are evaporating. It will be interesting to see how this affects WMF in the future.

An interesting question for another post:
What if the US loses its place as one of the richest in the world? Or what if other countries (like Romania or India) grow so wealthy that they are seen as competition to the average American? I think that WMF would still want its presence in these countries, but its possible that some people would stop giving because of the perception that this is no longer 'charity' (a term that we are trying desperately to get away from because it defines a one-way relationship). Maybe WMF would establish a local ministry in the States if people were being left behind in a systemic way.


In WMF literature, we have said that nationals (even that language will be changed in the future because it overidentifies someone's identity with that persons' nation-state) "have the greatest opportunity for the intense identification necessary for on-going transformation among the urban poor."

Why, as the question was asked earlier, does WMF not just equip local believers? And WMF does have communities with just local believers but it is hard to measure whether these communities are more "effective" than our communities which involve several cultures.

Is WMF actually doing what it hopes to accomplish? We talk a lot about being (being the people God has us to be) and less about doing. Relationships matter most and programs are designed to meet the whole person's needs (spiritual, job training, education, hunger, counseling).

All we can do is continue to ask those whom we serve if we are meeting their needs and how we can do better with the same amount of resources.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

From Freakonomics; The Calendar

April 15th

"1n 1987 the Internal Revenue Service changed one simple rule: instead of merely listing the name of each dependent child in order to get a deduction, tax filers were now required to provide a Social Security number for each child. On April 15 of that year, seven million American children suddenly vanished from the tax rolls."

Friday, April 11, 2008


Its been a long week. I think fairly productive, but exhausting.

I'm looking forward to attending AIDA tonight at the Orpheum Theater!

Thanks to several siblings for making this happen. What a treat to be able to go.

Monday, April 7, 2008

One Generation's Parents And Their Influences

At WMF, we usually eat lunch around a small table and talk. Sometimes the conversation veers towards growing up and our cultural similarities. Among the topics covered and others I was pondering:

1) How much T.V. allowed?
2) What particular T.V. programs allowed or not allowed?
3) What were some traditional family dinners?
4) How healthy did your families eat?
5) Tupperware, Longaberger baskets, Shaklee?
6) Seating arrangements around the table.
7) Birth order and subsequent eroding strictness of parents. (Still being talked about at every turn by the oldest children and this being such an "overdone" conversation for parents and the youngest children.)
8) Natural childbirth? To talk about and explore.
9) Did everyone read Little House on the Prairie series and C.S. Lewis' Narnia series?
10) Fashion statements....clothes, hair styles, etc.

I found it interesting that a lot of the meals prepared in the 70's and 80's don't seem to be popular now. As if each decade says goodbye to some foods and hello to others. Tuna casserole seemed very popular, oatmeal for dinner, Tang at church, pudding, Hawaiian bread, little pizzas on English muffins, beef stroganoff, German potato salad, Mrs. Smith's apple pie (frozen), etc.

Also, waves of natural eating seemed to hit all of us at the same time: carob as a substitute for chocolate, fruit leather, rice cakes, natural peanut butter, lentils, homemade chicken soup.

Answers to above questions:
1) T.V. only allowed Thursday and Friday evenings and on the weekend. Thursday for Waltons and Little House, Friday for Dukes of Hazzard. Sat. morning cartoons.
2) Refer to Chris' blog for his not-allowed shows. Ours included many of those: No Smurfs, He-Man, A-Team, etc.
3) Refer to paragraph above: especially tuna casserole.
4) We ate pretty healthy. Wheat bread, healthy peanut butter, usually no desserts. Made to eat our vegetables, etc. Thanks to Mom and Dad. I appreciate it now.
5) Tupperware and Shaklee. I still miss those Tupperware orange peelers. Shaklee pills, Basic H, Basic G, and occasionally a chocolate shake mix. Again, they were ahead of their time.
6) Our seating arrangements were pretty fluid as I remember. Dinner was great though. ... All together around the table. Holding hands as we prayed. I also remember dinners getting loud. My unconscious response to too much noise?....whistling. Just what everyone needed...more noise.
7) I'm third oldest, so I have my gripes like lots of older kids. But I've mostly said my peace.
8) I know a little about midwifery, underwater delivery, jumping jacks, etc.
9) I read Narnia; my sisters read Little House.
10) Yikes. Thankfully my mom and sister Sharon said no to the mullet perm for me in junior high. I did the high tops, ankle jean wrap, spiked hair like everyone else. No zipper jackets, painters hats, or other extremes for me though.

Friday, April 4, 2008

An Evening with Krista Tippett

Last night I attended a "Community Conversation with Krista Tippett". Krista Tippett is the host and producer of the program: "Speaking of Faith", a weekly series on NPR devoted to faith and talking about religion in our lives (both publicly and privately).

I was able to hear several interviews on iTunes before attending last night's gathering. Part of an interview with Shane Claiborne. An interview with Jaroslav Pelikan about the need for Creeds. I have enjoyed this program immensely, as I haven't found anything else like it on television or radio.

Last night's community conversation's format included a 30-40 minute speech by Krista Tippett followed by a question and answer period.

As a Christian, I have more familiarity with some of her references to Christian theologians, thinkers, topics, and pastors. She referenced Jean Vanier, Greg Boyd, Miroslav Volf, the New Monastics, reuniting mind and body, rituals, the children of many faith traditions becoming more orthodox than their parents, sustainability, skepticism of institutions, and the re-emerging of mystics and meditation in many faith traditions.

Maybe its being part of a post-modern generation in the US, but the reference to so many topics that are being talked about and referenced gave me hope for thoughtful discussions about religion on a national scale. Not sound bites of a co-opted Christianity, (most recently by the Religious Right), but an engaging and thought-provoking discussion of religion.

I loved the talk and the question and answer period. The talk was sponsored by a local church, the Interfaith Alliance, and the local NPR station.