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Archive for the ‘stewardship’ Category

Jeromy, MonachusBellator, and I all got together yesterday with our families for the first of three meetings we are having around Advent Conspiracy.  We’re looking at how we can redeem the way we participate in Christmas.  Americans alone spend 540 billion on Christmas and the worlds clean water problem could be solved for 10 billion.  Something’s wrong there and we’re just not happy about it.

And during our meeting my wife pulled out a catalog from Samaritans Purse, an organization that is really being creative in ways of supporting third world problems.  Families can purchase real tangible needs for families in poverty.

$100 – One Emergency Shelter

$750 – One Well

$7,500 – One House

$20,000 – One School

$25,000 – One Medical Hospital

$75,000 – One Church Building

To steal a line from Jeromy, “What is wrong with this picture?”

Why would a church cost three times as much as a hospital?  Why would it cost almost four times as much as a school and ten times as much as a house.  We’re talking walls and a roof here.  Why not build an outdoor amphitheater with a tent, or as Jeromy said build ten houses and teach people the priesthood of all believers. I couldn’t help wonder if we’re teaching third world countries the same expectations that we have about our concept of church.

And I couldn’t help wonder which one of these items Jesus would have chosen.  I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

But I just don’t get it.

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When was the last time you did this with your tithe?

Deuteronomy 14:22-23 – 22 Be sure to set aside a tenth of all that your fields produce each year. 23 Eat the tithe of your grain, new wine and oil, and the firstborn of your herds and flocks in the presence of the LORD your God at the place he will choose as a dwelling for his Name, so that you may learn to revere the LORD your God always.

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I recently had a very provocative conversation with some friends about what we want. And the conversation inevitably turned to the reality that to really get what we want, we must first give. Friendship is a perfect example. If we want friends, the best way to have a lot of them is to be a great friend. If we want love from other people, first give love.

And then I began thinking about money and Jesus’ command to give to the poor.

Matthew 19:21 – “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

I used to think this was really harsh. But then I began to wonder if there was something deeper in the request to give our stuff away. Because our money isn’t just our dollars. It’s our investments, our house, our cars, our even our social capital. What if God wants us to give so that we can be channels for him to give stuff to…to give away. And if we hold on to the stuff, he can’t give us any more because our hands are full.

You see the interesting thing is that Jesus never really complains about not having stuff or money. He just seems to go about his business and it fair to assume that money was present. If he gave absolutely everything to the poor he’d never have anything. So he had to have something.

What if perfection is not just the giving away of stuff but the trust that informs the giving of the stuff. And when we trust God with everything, he realizes that nothing stands in the way of relationship. If we’re willing to give at any time, he can give at any time when we really need it because we won’t hoard it.

And once we have become stewards, aren’t we then no longer “possessing” anything?

Your thoughts.

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The story of stuff is a short 20 minutes infomercial on the consumer model that is trashing our planet. (ht) It’s very provocative and I would highly recommend watching it. It really made me think of how I can begin participating in a sustainable way of living. The thing with the pillow really scared me (you have to watch it).

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So I’m sitting with my wife in bed and I’m reading Ode Magazine. Fascinating stuff. And I turn the page and begin reading, Meat Is Methane. It really gave me a shove. Turns out the meat I’m eating is a huge part of the global warming crisis. The article states,

“But CO2 is not the main byproduct of livestock farming, though it is responsible for 9 percent of it. Nitrous oxide and methane respectively contribute 300 and 23 times more to the greenhouse effect than CO2—and livestock is responsible for 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions and 37 percent of methane emissions.”

One third of the world’s agricultural land is used for grains for meat products. It’s not just cows. It’s also chicken, lamb, and pork. And all of this production is having a big effect.

“The FAO concluded that the livestock industry accounts for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Consumers are told to conserve by switching to energy-efficient light bulbs, to take public transportation more often, to turn off the TV when they’re not watching. Why aren’t environmental organizations telling them to eat less meat?”

But then something my wife said a while ago captured my attention. She said, “We’re not really meant to eat meat. Our bodies have a harder time processing meat than fruits or grains.” In fact, it turns out that people who eat a lot of meat have higher cancer rates. The American Cancer Society studied 34,000 vegetarians against meat eaters and found,

“One study compared cancer rates of vegetarians and meat-eaters in 34,000 Americans. The results showed that those who avoided meat, fish, and poultry had dramatically lower rates of prostate, ovarian, and colon cancer compared to meat-eaters.”

And then I remembered what God said in Genesis 1:29,

“Then God said, “I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food.”

God’s original design was for us to eat fruits and vegetables and grains. Now I realize that he also gave us meat, but that was after the fall.

And it’s important to say that in light of all of this evidence, I am NOT speaking as a vegetarian trying to convince you of anything. I LOVE meat. I could eat In And Out Burger about five times a week and a tri-tip steak on the off days. The idea of surf and turb and chicken is a dream to me.  Even the idea of not eating meat seems ridiculously hard to me. But the reality is that I’m now 40 years old and my body is not working the way it used to. And I’ve been pondering this idea of giving up meat for 30 days, just to see what it would do to my body.

So this January, I’m going to give it a shot.  I’m going to give up meat for 30 days. This will include red and white meat and fish. It will be a fast of epic proportions because I know this is going to be incredibly hard for me. I’m not doing it to change the world, even though I may be contributing a little. I’m doing it because my heart it speaking loudly to me this year for some reason. I feel like God is telling me to take a risk and discover something. I don’t even know what it is, but I want to find out. And as a friend said, if it was good for Daniel, it probably is good for me.

Have any of you ever tried to do this?

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As human beings we live in social systems. Over history the predominant forms include feudalism, socialism, communism, pacifism, capitalism, The list of isms is actually extremely long and categorized alphabetically in wikipedia. As a follower of Jesus I’ve always been intrigued by two: communism and capitalism.

No, I’m not a communist in the Marxist sense but the idea of a shared social system where people are constantly engaged in community and a shared living is eerily reminiscent of the early Acts church.

Acts 4:32-35 – 32All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of his possessions was his own, but they shared everything they had. 33With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and much grace was upon them all. 34There were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need.

There’s even a category within communism called Christian communism that expresses the idea that I am talking about. The problem within communism is that is has stifled creativity and usually ends up having a ruling party that exploits the system anyway. Cuba under Fidel Castro is an example of this.

But the reality of my life is that I’m bent towards capitalism. I grew up in Silicon Valley with is widely considered a breeding ground for capitalism. When I was young my stepfather, who owned his own construction business, would ask my sister and I questions about how to innovate things and make stuff better. I literally grew up thinking about entrepreneurial activities and by the time I graduated from college I had started my own business. I grew it into a very successful marketing firm. I had clients that included IBM, Sony, and even HP. I saw the rise and fall of the Internet boom and bust in my own backyard. I got to experience first hand a young Internet start-up go from 2.3 millions to bust in six months.

Capitalism has one defining quality that makes it stick. It rewards those who work hard and are diligent with resources, which even Jesus talked about in the parable of the talents. (Matthew 25:14-30) There’s something good about capitalism that is still being defined.

In capitalism, money essentially (but not always) gravitates towards ideas that work and with the constant stream of engineering students exiting the best schools in the 70’s and the rise of the semiconductor, capitalism took off over the last thirty years. With the advent of the consultant and the business book, it learned how to constantly innovate.

Now I realize that capitalism also has it’s flaws. To a certain extent, it needs consumerism to flourish. It needs customers. But this is not necessarily always the case and a great argument could be made for the good outweighing the bad. In fact in the recent Catalyst podcast, Tim Sanders describes brilliantly how the emerging generations will put a serious clamp on business that aren’t socially responsible.

Recently I read an intriguing quote from M. Scott Peck from The Road Less Traveled. He said,

“Pure communism, for instance, expresses a philosophy…that the purpose and function of the individual is to serve the relationship, the group, the collective, the society. Only the destiny of the state is considered; the destiny of the individual is believed to be of no consequence. Pure capitalism, on the other hand, espouses the destiny of the individual even when it is at the expense the destiny of the individual even when it is at the expense of the relationship, the group, the collective, the society.”

He continues a page later,

“It should be obvious to any discerning mind that neither of these pure solutions to the problem of separateness within relationships will be successful. The individual’s health depends upon the health of the society; the health of a society depends upon the health of its individual.”

Peck’s words made me ask if in this postmodern world we are anywhere near creating a system that is balanced between communism and the capitalism, between love and growth. Something like, “capunism”.

What do you think?

 

 

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Today is Black Friday. It’s kind of an ironically appropriate name to the god of consumerism. Black Friday is a reference to today, which is the day after Thanksgiving and one of the biggest shopping days of the year. The term was coined by the press after the stress it causes people and was named after the Black Tuesday stock market crass of 1929. Niiice.

My wife and are deeply wrestling with Christmas this year. To be honest we don’t really want to participate. It has almost completely lost any semblance of meaning for us and we’re looking for alternatives. A friend of mine talked about taking a van load of gifts to a Mexican orphanage this year and my heart leaped. The trip would have meant missing any Christmas with extended family but I really didn’t care. And when my sister told me that we weren’t doing Christmas with the them this year, I had nothing standing in my way. Unfortunately the trip didn’t materialize so I was bummed.

Rick McKinley’s Imago Dei Community church created Advent Conspiracy, as an alternative to the typical consumer oriented Christmas of buying a million gift. I really like the idea and we’re looking into it as an alternative. AC is about giving, not presents. It’s about capturing the spirit of what Christmas is really about by making Christmas gifts and then giving the rest of the “Xmas budget” to a clean water project.

“Advent Conspiracy is an international movement restoring the scandal of Christmas by worshipping Jesus through compassion, not consumption”

There it is, that word: consumption. Christmas is a big deal in this country. Shoppers are expected to purchase 454 billion dollars in November and December. Consumption is critical to keeping our economy humming. But is all of that consumption producing what we expected? It consumption making us bloated at the expense of something else? It is completely fair to say that I don’t need a single thing I would ever get from UNDER the Christmas tree.

I wrestle with letting go of the Christmas “traditions” because I know some of my favorite memories are of my childhood Christmas experiences. I don’t want to take the value of the holiday away from my three kids. But even those memories, with closer inspection, I realize are more about family that the gifts. The only gifts I can really truly remember as special were a G.I Joe and a bike.

The memories that really stick out to me have nothing to do with the presents. The best ones were hanging out with family. I remember the long drives on Christmas Eve morning to Los Angeles to my grandparents house. I remember hanging out with all my cousins and playing endless hours with people. The presents were fun but it was the people that I remember the most. Even later in life, I remember the 27 person dinner table conversations filled with laughter. One thing my family knew how to do was laugh.

And two things really sticks out to me. The first was that my mom always invited someone to Christmas Eve, which was the big night in my family. And she was so good about making them feel so special and part of our family. When I was young this felt awkward, but as I grew older I began to see that she got what Christmas was really about, the deep need for connection. The second was that the “gift” really didn’t do much for me. Yes it was cool to get the latest shirt all my friends had or the Star Wars collectible set with 367 pieces, but to a great extent the newness wore off very quickly and that thing that I got ceased to become the center of my attention withing days. I see this same process happen in my children.

The more I look at Christmas, and Black Friday, the more I wonder if Christmas has taken on a new meaning. In the endless drive to fill the tree with presents, has it become a way to compensate for our lack of connection as human beings? Do we give the endless stream of gifts as a way of saying sorry for the lack of connection throughout the year? Has it become the only way we know how to connect, through the process of giving gifts. Has it become a forced ritual that leaves us wanting? And in the end, do all of the gifts leave us as sick as when we started?

If you have a really good alternative idea for Christmas, I’d really like to hear it. My family and my soul would really be interested.

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