Ethiopia bound

I have the opportunity to return to Ethiopia next month with Bethany Christian Services.  I’m going to explore ways Watermark can partner with an Ethiopian church to begin a foster care program for orphans.  I’ll also be looking into other ways we can serve widows and orphans in this remarkable, but poverty stricken area.

My wife, Vicki, and I sponsor a child through an amazing ministry named, “Yezelalem Minch.”  Their name means, “Everlasting Spring.”  This tremendous ministry has a wide range of social services and the best part is that they are Ethiopian started and led.

Above is a picture of me with Meron, the girl we sponsor.  I look forward to connecting with her again when I travel.  I’ve seen first hand the impact sponsorship makes for a girl like Meron.  For only $30 a month she receives food, medical and educational support.  If you are interested in helping a child through sponsorship you can do this through Bethany’s website.


What am I?

It is easier for me to say what I am not.  Years ago I encountered a particular style of leadership and being the church that didn’t jive with me.  It was easy to point out what I disagreed with, what I felt was wrong, and what I would not do.  It was a breeze to communicate what I am I not.  You can even get a small following to agree.

The difficult task is to move from the “here is what I am against” to the “here is what I am for!”  Anyone can be a movie critic and say what was good or lousy about a movie and movie critics have their place in the industry.  However, to make a movie and create something takes a whole lot more courage and hard work.

I heard Wayne Schmidt say,

“Nothing drains passion like cynicism.”

I have been pretty good at saying who I am not.  I’ve been fairly comfortable communicating what I am against.  The role of cynic has come easy for me.

But, I want to create.  I want to contagiously bring energy, change, life, and passion. I desire to do the hard work of discovering and communicating what I am and what I am for.  I have become a cynic about the comfort and power of cynicism.

So, what am I against?

How do you stay focused on creating rather than just merely critiquing?

Servant is… as servant does.

Being an apprentice of Jesus means taking on the role of a servant.  So, how can we get started in being on God’s mission through serving in our context?  What can we practically do today to show God’s love with no strings attached?

Sandi, a woman from our faith family, would bring joy as she served the under-resourced in the Laundry Hub (place for folks to do their laundry for free) by bringing milkshakes for everyone.  She had a milkshake ministry and when she arrived people smiled.  Maybe someday Jesus will say to Sandi, (like Matthew 25 says,)

“Sandi, people in the Laundry Hub were having a rough day, but you took the time to buy them a milkshake and make them smile.  Whatever you did for them, you really did for me.  Well done.  PS – I like Strawberry best.”

Here are some small things we can do with great love to help bring change to the world:

  • Buy a stranger’s cup of coffee.
  • Help someone with their yard work or home project.
  • Send an encouraging note to someone who may often go unnoticed.
  • Invite a neighbor over for a meal or coffee.
  • Invite someone sitting alone at a lunch table to sit with you.
  • Take a day and look for opportunities to ask, “How can I help?”
  • Choose to pray for someone regularly.
  • Call your faith community, school, or community organization as ask where you can serve.
  • Really listen to someone and understand without having to blurt out your thoughts.
  • Forgive someone.
  • Clean up an area that isn’t your responsibility.
  • Give something away.
  • When you hear of a practical need – seek to meet it.

What practical ideas do you have to practically be a blessing?

I feel…

My wife, Vicki, and I have been married for 16 years and in that time we have had our share of “passionate discussions.”

When we have a “passionate discussion” (fight) I tend to become a Vulcan (logical without emotion) and she just wants to be heard and understood.  This pattern hurt us more than helped us.

Along the way we discovered “I statements.”  Let me give you an example of an “I statement.”  One of our ongoing issues is my wife’s misguided belief that I don’t help around the house very much (she is correct).  In the past she might say, “You never help around the house.” How would I respond to this?  I might say, “Honey, I took the garbage out, did a load of laundry once, picked up three days ago and…” (Insert a list of activities and facts here.)  I found myself defensive and not agreeing and she routinely did not feel understood or heard as we had “passionate discussions.”

Michael Smalley encourages couples to not argue about facts.  He challenges couples to get off the facts and get to feelings.  You can argue about facts, but not feelings.

This is where “I statements” come in.  They provide a template to communicate feelings and get to the core issues.  For example, what if Vicki and had said to me, “Steve, I feel alone and unappreciated when you don’t help around the house.” When she uses an “I statement” (I feel _______ when you _________) I can’t argue with that!  I can’t say, “You do not feel that way!” When Vicki  honestly exposes her feelings,  I feel drawn to make things right.

I have learned to follow up an “I statement” with a restatement back to her so she knows I heard and understood: “You’re feeling alone and unappreciated when I’m not helping around the house.  I am sorry.”

Here are some questions to ask to get started using “I statements” to bring understanding and resolution to relational conflict:

1) Why am I upset about this?  Why does this bother me?

2) What am I feeling?  What is causing those feelings?

One of the best benefits of  discovering how you feel is that you begin to understand what the real issue is before lashing out.

Got the feelings?  Then form the “I statement.” Remember, you are owning and sharing your feelings.  It is important to start with the “I” instead of the defensive-producing “YOU.”

“I feel __________ when you ___________.”

Happy fighting!

Jesus loves me this I hope.

The core truth is that we are God’s beloved.

However, it can be so easy to listen to the voices that demand we prove that we are valuable.  We may believe that we need to do something spectacular to show that we deserve and will receive love.

Here is a great quote to remind us that we are God’s beloved.  It is written from the perspective of God writing to you.

“I have called you by name, from the very beginning.  You are mine and I am yours.  You are my beloved, on you my favor rests.  I have molded you in the depths of the earth and knitted you together in your mother’s womb.  I have carved you in the palms of my hands and hidden you in the shadow of my embrace.  I look at you with infinite tenderness and care for you with a care more intimate than that of a mother for her child.  I have counted every hair on your head and guided you at every step.  Wherever you go, I go with you, and wherever you rest, I keep watch.  I will give you food that will satisfy all your hunger and drink that will quench all your thirst.  I will not hide my face from you.  You know me as your own as I know you as my own.  You belong to me.  I am your father, your mother, your brother, your sister, your lover, and your spouse… yes, even your child… wherever you are I will be.  Nothing will ever separate us.  We are one.”                                                                 – Henri Nouwen from “Life of the Beloved”

What if we read this each day?  How might that change our interactions and attitudes?