Acts 11, people like us?, & other musings…

Now those who were scattered because of the persecution that arose over Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia & Cyprus & Antioch, speaking the Word to no one except Jews. But there were some of them, men of Cyprus & Cyrene, who on coming to Antioch spoke to the Hellenists (Greeks) also, preaching the LORD Jesus. And the hand of the LORD was with them, & a great number who believed turned to the LORD. Acts 11:19-21

The great persecution that followed the martyrdom of Stephen resulted in the scattering of believers – Jews and God-fearers – from Jerusalem to points all over the Roman world. Many even traveled as far as Antioch, a significant and strategic Roman colony about 300 miles to the north of Jerusalem.

And as they went, they preached the gospel, the Good News of repentance, the forgiveness of sins, and salvation available through the Name of Jesus Christ for all who would believe.

What stood out to me as I read this chapter was that those fleeing persecution preached the gospel to most everyone they met. Most everyone that was like them… They only shared the Word with fellow Jews. Ouch.

The problem was they were running through areas populated by predominantly Greek/non-Jewish peoples. It’s normal, human even to gravitate towards what we’re familiar with – towards “people like us” with similar culture, interests, & experiences. Though it may be easier & more comfortable to do so, Jesus’ challenged to His followers in the Great Commission specifically says to do & live otherwise. When He told His followers that they would share the gospel in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, & to the ends of the earth, He was implicitly stating that they would be witnesses to ALL people. Not just the Jews, but everyone.

Fortunately, there were a few good men, Christ-following ‘outsiders’ from Cyprus & Cyrene, that intentionally & faithfully declared the Good News message to everyone. And not only was this message declared, it was received with joy & fruitfulness, & “a great number” believed & “turned to the LORD.”

My prayer is that the Holy Spirit, the One who fills us with power to live for Christ & to tell others of what we’ve seen, heard, & experienced from Him, will remind us of the call to lift our eyes from what we know, from what (& who) we’re comfortable with – & look to the fields that are white with harvest. The LORD is actively looking for men & women that will allow Him to work through them so He can gather people to Himself. Let’s be a part of that.

PS – Interesting to me to hear that Barnabas, the “Son of Encouragement” that was Paul the Apostle’s missionary companion for many years was from Cyprus (an island off the coast of Ephesus.) And Simon, the man who carried the cross for Christ on the way to Golgotha, was from Cyrene (in Northern Africa, most likely modern Libya.)

the Good Shepherd & other musings on the 1st day of Spring(?)

Acts 20 tells of the Apostle Paul’s last interactions with the elders and church leaders from Ephesus. He’d spent 3 years among these precious people, and he knew by the leading of the Holy Spirit that he wouldn’t see them again. To me, this makes Paul’s words here that much more significant – knowing that they are his last ones, and that for sure he wanted to make them count:

Acts 20:28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood.

I hear echoes of Jesus’ words from John 10… “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep…” So many things come to mind with these words… the great responsibility and honor of being a shepherd to God’s people – the value of each person to God – the desperate need for vigilance in the life of the shepherd to guard against the ‘wolves’ that would inevitably come.

Going deeper, Paul’s charge to the Ephesian elders started with “pay careful attention to yourselves…” And I know that caring for others starts with caring for ME. Making sure to nurture my first love. To make sure I am living within a healthy life rhythm. Watching my doctrine carefully. Monitoring my significant relationships, ensuring their vitality and health. I cannot care for the church of God if I’m not watching out for and caring for myself first.

Paul’s last words, his encouragement deals with the precious role that the overseer serves in; his words carry more weight because the people he is challenging the elders to care for are people he knows by face and by name; he knows the intimate details of their lives, and wants God’s very best for them, all the while knowing that every one of them will have to fight their own good fight of faith, a fight that he knows just might hinge on the care, the training, and discipleship that their shepherds have invested in them.

I’m challenged to dig deep to what really matters, and to contend for that with the people I am privileged to lead. To speak the truth in love, and to hope the very best for each one, while at the same time, trusting that Christ, the Good Shepherd, will watch over us, and provide for our every need.

I saw a line today…

The line stretched out into the street, so far from its origin I couldn’t tell where it began. It was growing steadily; I stopped counting at 75 people. Those in the line were all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. They weren’t talking to each other, but had the resigned look of people on an elevator (you know the look. I’m pretending I’m not here. But I have to be. If I look up, vacantly, I don’t have to interact.) The only exceptions to the ‘no talking’ were those that had been engaged by what appeared to me to be reporters. There were 3 or 4 significantly better dressed & made up questioners with clipboards & notepads, hastily recording the results of their short interactions, then picking out another person in the line to talk to.

I was intrigued; why are all these people standing in line in the middle of the day? Rather than go up to someone in the line, or ask a passerby, (which would require actually talking to & interacting with someone I don’t know, a stranger, a behavior I am not oft known to engage in,) I decided to do a little investigation to see if I could figure it out myself. Got out of the car & wandered in the direction of the headwaters of the mass of humanity queued around the block.

I had taken 3 steps when it hit me.

I know that building.

St. Vincents.

Middle of the day.

Lunch.

Everyone was standing in line so they could get something to eat.

My eyes scanned the people in line again, this time looking at faces, individuals, people. They look like my neighbors. Like the people I run into all over this big/little city. Definitely not matching up with the tired stereotype of the grubby-toothless-homeless dude.

Men. Women. Children. Grandparents. Wanna-be gangstas.

Waiting for lunch.

I prayed that St. Vincent’s wouldn’t run out of food today.

Climbed back in my car, realizing that something had happened to me in that brief moment. Still not sure what it was. Feels significant, but I’m too close to the trees to see the forest.

Decided just to head back to the office & not get lunch; to skip it today.
I have a choice to do that, whether or not I eat at midday.

Others don’t.

jetlagging on a Friday & other musings…

Ahh, jetlag. The 12 noon feeling of blah, where my body is telling me that its really 3 a.m. Fought it hard both in Germany, & now at home. Not that I have a great ‘fixall’ short cut or method for dealing with jetlag; I’ve been trying to fly under the radar for the last couple of days to give myself time to rest & recover from my trip.

There’s a lot of temptation to try to hit the proverbial ground running, but it just didn’t seem like a good idea. Part of the reason is that I came back with a bit of the crud – seemed like everyone I interacted for the last 2 weeks was sick with a cough. Mine hasn’t gotten bad, though I can feel the war within my body, & also have the sense that it wouldn’t take much ‘pushing through’ & ignoring my physical limits to open the floodgates for sickness. No thanks.

I’m almost feeling normal in the morning.


I love to read, especially when I’m traveling – this last trip, I was able to make it through Lord of the Rings, Kidnapped & Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, 4 George MacDonald shorts (The Princess & the Goblin, The Princess & Curdie, The Light Princess, & There and Back.) I read Tolkien on every Germany trip, (it just makes sense to me :) but I haven’t read MacDonald for years & years. Glad I revisited him; especially loved the Princess & Curdie. Felt like I spent time with a couple old friends, & came away refreshed with a new appreciation for them.


Traveling by myself provides lots of opportunity for reflection, thought, & introspection. And people watching. I think that you get to see the best & worst of people when they travel; the self-less & the selfish. The impatient & the gracious. The compassionate & the callous.

A picture that stands out in my head is from the Frankfurt to DC leg of my trip home. A young mom had a 12-15 month old little girl with her, & the baby wasn’t happy… the kind of “baby unhappy” that comes from an interrupted schedule, a lack of sleep, & unfamiliar surroundings. Mom tried all the tricks in the book to keep her girl quiet, but the little one had had enough, & was past comforting.

I watched as some in her vicinity went out of their way to make comments to her about getting her kid to shut up (if not directly, then loud enough for her…& me… to hear…) as though she wanted her baby to be in total meltdown. And I got to see a person volunteer to help with the baby so mom could go to the bathroom. Eat her meal. Have a good cry & regain her composure. Hmm. It moves me even as I type this.

Challenges me to think & rethink my own life & viewpoint, how I see people & situations that are unfolding in front of me. Trying to remember that the world around me isn’t a movie set for a movie that I am the STAR of, with the rest of the human population serving as the supporting cast & extras… that there’s more going on than just what I see. Feel. Hear. Experience.

This is especially true in the context of church & functioning within a church family. It’s possible to be ‘saved & redeemed’ self-consumed, self-focused, grumpy, petty individualists with no patience, & to treat those around me with indifference or frustration when they’re not doing what I’d like them to be doing. And when they’re not considering Me & My feelings, which are Real, Important, & Significant, don’t you know?

Umm. My filters are on the fritz.


Eddy picked up the new Samuel Harfst CD for me (us) while i was in Frankfurt. I have listened to it over & over for the last few days. Unlike audiotagebuch, this one is all in German.


TheBean has been more than patient with my slow ‘rest & recovery’ pace of the last few days… so I agreed to go to Costco with her, with the provision that we’d go to Starbucks afterward… NEWSFLASH: Christmas is coming. Just in case you didn’t know.

It was crowded (even at noon on Friday,) & there was so much noise, so much stuff, & so many people that I was wiped out after only 20 minutes. By a great feat of strength & skill, I managed to make it another 10 minutes, then we headed to the car, just in time. Fortunately, the Grande Americano revived my soul, as did looking into (& getting lost in,) the deepest blue eyes Ever. Sigh.

Man Night, home, & other musings…

Sitting in the coolness of my office with a fan blowing on me drinking an iced-coffee. All to try to avoid the heat of the day, the heat that has been turned up to “11.” Thinking over the soon-to-be-happenings of Man Night. Proverbs 27, especially verse 17.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens the countenance of another

Got me thinking about the ‘act’ of sharpening… & how in order for a tool (like an axe, a knife, or a sword – c’mon, it’s Man Night, so I’m thinking of wielding Manly tools) to be sharpened, one has to strike the item to be sharpened, skillfully, in just the right places with an item or implement that is stronger & harder than the item to be sharpened.

So how does ‘iron sharpen iron?’ One way for this to work is for the ‘sharpening iron’ to have been tempered – or put through a process of controlled reheating to harden & strengthen the implement. Interesting….

I wonder how this ‘tempering’ translates to people, to me. What does the heating process do? I don’t think of getting heated to red-hotness being something that is desirable.

But the process makes the forever-changed implement useful. To shape other implements. Hmm.


Regret raises her head occasionally, usually at times where I’m most pensive & introspective. Kinda like when I’m doing the deep cleaning of a room at home… opening up ALL the drawers, going through the corners of the closets, making sure the lights are on in order to see just what is in there… & then I discover a Mess. A big Mess that I distinctly remember thinking that I’d eventually get around to cleaning up. A big Mess that was forgotten, due to the forgetfulness caused by falling into routine busyness. A big Mess that begs to be addressed. But it’s such a big Mess. The only way to deal with the Mess is to put on the special gloves & head into it. A little bit at a time.

Even if it hurts.


Home is ultimately not about a place to live but about the people with whom you are most fully alive. Home is about love, relationship, community, and belonging, and we are all searching for home. Erwin Raphael McManus – Soul Cravings – Entry 8

That resonates with me – I think its because when I think about home, I don’t think about a place. Granted, I live in Sparks, Nevada, & have been a resident of Northern Nevada within 35 miles of my current home, all of my life. But instead of Sparks, I think of people. Faces flash through my minds eye. People that are intimately associated with being ‘home.’ Home is people, & being in a place without those people would be unbearable. No matter how ‘cool,’ elegant, spacious, or desirable that place is.

I see that I have changed. I’m changing.. Will continue to change. At one point in the not so distant past, home was being in my Cave. The place where I could be by myself & get lost in a book, a TV show, or a good movie. Alone. Where I didn’t have to be WITH people. Looking back, I can see times where even in the presence of people I’d try to be apart from them, to be by myself, to isolate & withdraw in the name of my (very real,) introversion. I regret that. The lost opportunities to discover “home” with others. With myself. Where I’d been so focused on my own discomfort that often comes being around people that I missed the joy & wonder of being WITH people.

A hard thought: in not being WITH people, I missed out on things that God wanted to do in & around me THROUGH people.

I don’t want to ‘miss’ God & ‘miss’ others in the name of a misguided self-sufficiency. Fear has stolen enough from me: fear of rejection. Inadequacy. Pain. Being unloved & unlovable. Of making a mess. Saying the wrong thing. Saying nothing. (like the lyrics from REM’s “Losing My Religion” “oh no, I’ve said too much; I haven’t said enough…” ) How many things, friendships, experiences I missed out on because of fear. Knowing that if I couldn’t do it perfect, I wouldn’t try it at all.

Heavy sigh.


So I’m thankful for the process & act of redemption. That as long as its still called today, its never too late for things lost to be regained, restored, healed, & transformed.

Thoughts while traveling in “the Freezing Fog…”

I was up early this morning, & out in the 5 o’clock hour. Not just for fun, but so that I could get to the hospital to wait with a friend for her husband to get out of surgery. It’s normally a 15 minute drive, so I gave myself 30 minutes for travel, parking, & navigation of the maze that the hospital has become due to New Construction. Plenty of time.

Hadn’t planned for “The Freezing Fog,” which is what the guy on the radio said that Reno was experiencing. Visibility wasn’t bad… I drove Vista to I-80 with no trouble; however, when I tried to take the 395-S exit, & came to just about a dead stop. Baaarreeeellyyy moving. Inching along. Sigh.

Changed the radio station, & the Voice said that travelers should try to avoid 395-S & the Mill Street exit. Which is where I was headed. Too late. Bummer.


The unforeseen ‘down-time’ in the car left ample time for thinking – it was way too early to have the radio on… I think its because loud noises in the morning push my buttons & grate on me. So instead, I thought…

What came to mind was a series of interactions that I’d had over the last week; blunted ‘discussions’ really, marked with misunderstandings. Assumptions. Over-reactions. Defensiveness. Low-blood-sugar responses.

In the quiet of the car, & the stillness (my car included,) things I’d said & done bounced around my mind. It struck me that I had spent a lot of time trying to BE understood, & to MAKE myself understood, instead of trying to understand…. Funny how I hadn’t seen or even considered that due to a myopic self-focus that had majored on thinking of me & my needs, instead of considering those of others…

Hmm.

The cars were still just barely inching along. Making negligible progress.

What to do, what to do? Communication is more than just talking increasingly slower & louder until the other person gives in understands. I think I know what might help. Listening intently (as opposed to formulating responses to partially heard expressions. You don’t do that too, do you?) Asking clarifying, not condescending, questions. Listening some more. Talking.


Came across the reason for the traffic jam: an 8-car pileup @ just past the Glendale exit, caused by the culprit, “The Freezing Fog.” Off to the right of the accident, I saw a guy with a camera-phone that had climbed up the overpass, to film the crash. KOLO TV… Good news is no news.

And then, the traffic cleared. To the hospital.

I want to listen better. More fully. Be fully present in the conversation, & not merely be crafting rebuttal’s & counter-arguments. Starting now.