What Poverty Looks Like: Some Examples


We’re at Selva Negra this weekend. Selva Negra is a coffee farm/tourist resort above Matagalpa. We’re in the mountains. Selva Negra has some of the best hiking trails I’ve found in Nicaragua. It has a beautiful chapel. The kids love being up here and for about two days and two glorious nights, we don’t sweat every moment. It’s cool. Sometimes, to our bodies that have adapted to tropical heat, it’s nearly cold.

This morning, I got up early, prayed, then hiked (and prayed some more while hiking). When I got back, Kim, our friend Kelly, and I did a brief yoga routine. Then I prayed earnestly for a hot shower. Selva Negra has solar heated showers, meaning the sun heats up the water with a solar panel and a big water tank. The “Welcome, Guest!” pamphlet suggests that 2PM is the best time for a shower, i.e. the time most likely to provide hot water. But I was cooled down after my hike and yoga and a bit chilled and the thought of a cold shower made me cringe, while a hot shower—which I rarely ever desire in Managua—sounded delightful. Like putting on warmer clothes when you’re cool or drinking a hot beverage to warm up, taking a hot shower after cooling down from exercise is a pleasure we left in the Pacific Northwest when we moved to the tropics. Except today, except here.

And…YES! Hot water! Instant happiness delivered from a shower head. Then I had to exhort myself not to stay in very long in case Kim also wanted a shower, because hogging all the hot water is one of those gain-the-whole-world-but-lose-your-soul acts in marriage. That might be a little strong, but you know what I mean.

Invariably, I feel refreshed and encouraged when we visit here. I also remember how this experience is an extravagance that most of our neighbors in our barrio never have. I suspect that we should always carry, somewhere in our minds, the reality of what we can do that others cannot. If we’re going to live lives of justice and seek to love our neighbors, I think we have to make that commitment. I mean all of us. Where we live now, this comparison is rarely out of our immediate line of vision. This weekend is a break, in that sense, too, a change to be refreshed and recharge our batteries.

I prefer to resist the label “the poor” when speaking of people who live in poverty, because it reduces human beings to their living conditions. It’s an easy shorthand, but we see a wide variety of people in our little sphere, and though most of them suffer the same economic level—more poor than you or I will ever be—they have differing personalities, struggles, responses to their life situations, faith, etc. When we’re talking about world population statistics, I understand why we have such general labels for the people trying to survive on less than two dollars a day. When we have them as neighbors, calling them “the poor” feels disrespectful and diminishing.



Our neighbor, who is also one of the women who runs our preschool with Kim, has four children. Six of them live in a one-room home with a dirt floor. She has twin daughters, one of whom was severely ill recently. We asked for prayer for the little girl and Kim bought a little medicine for her. Doctors and decent medical care and even adequate knowledge of basic health do’s and don’t’s are all privileges that come with wealth. We’ve seen that repeatedly in our barrio. But this one caught me off guard: with the other children, just a small expression of kindness for this family. The kids, who are very sweet, were grateful to receive the food. One of the little girls took a bit, looked up and exclaimed, “It’s cold!” And they were all amazed.

They don’t have a refrigerator. Their tiny house has beds, of a sort, and they wash their laundry by hand outside and cook over a fire outside, and never had they tasted fruit from a refrigerator before.

If you’re willing, I want you to take a moment to contemplate that. I imagine that I’m stretched by hoping for a hot shower when “everyone” takes hot showers for granted.  Think about your life. Think about what you’ve had all your life. Now think about a life in which you never had a refrigerator. It is for most of us, to lean on Princess Bride semantics, inconceivable.

Our neighbor across the street, with whom we are very close and to who I often refer here, asked after about the third time she’d been in our kitchen, “What is that?” pointing to the microwave. Same reflections, but even more so. What life could you have lived in which you’ve never seen a microwave oven?


Celebrating a birthday with Juan Ramon’s family.

Consider our dear friend, Juan Ramon. In the past two weeks, he’s gone back to work as a security guard for an electrical supplies company. His schedule is 7AM-5PM for a week, then 6PM to 5AM for a week. Juan Ramon and his wife are raising three kids, including a very young daughter. But he’s also struggled to find decent work, taken jobs that turned out to be little more than employers taking advantage of desperate people (buy your own uniform, provide your own tools, then we’ll give you a few hours of work here and there, as we feel like it), and scraped together anything he could find, month after month to feed his family. Juan Ramon is also a regular lay-preacher and -teacher at his church. He also takes classes all day on Saturday working toward his high school diploma, which due to severe circumstances he could not finish when he was a teenager.

I know, some of you have schedules that bad or worse. But he will bring home $200 a month for that schedule. In a country with >50% unemployment, there aren’t better options. He has certainly looked and searched and knocked and prayed, every day.

Those are a few examples. They aren’t the worst. Women are beaten by drunkard husbands every day. Those same husbands drink away most of the tiny income on which their family is trying to survive. Our friend Bella tries to help these women grasp their own value and the cyclic nature of their abuse. But many ask, “How would I survive if he wasn’t here?”

I know this is hard to read. This is the world we live in—you and I, not just here in this barrio, because as Paul Farmer* said, “Not two or three worlds, but one.”

I don’t have any rules or even guidelines for how you should spend your money.  Please don’t hear me posturing as an expert here.  But I know we who have much are responsible for what we have. I believe we can view this with grace, not as a red hot poker of guilt but as a measuring stick, a level we carry with us to evaluate how we live in this one world. What are the steps we can take in the right direction? If your part is not to work directly to alleviate the suffering of people living in poverty, then is your part to share your resources with ministries and organizations that do? God loves us and delights in us. He desires that we make the world more loving, more generous, more full of kindness and grace. “Your Kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” means all that and more, so if you buy into that prayer, it follows you are on board with this thesis. Jesus also makes clear that the purpose behind his commands is that we will experience joy, the deep, life-changing joy of being fully alive and loving others as we love ourselves.

It’s a scary thing to suggest that God shows his love for us by lavishing material wealth on us. That view implies that God loves people living in poverty less. “No, he just blesses them differently,” people say. But maybe those people should come have that conversation with our neighbors and explain how that works theologically. I have no idea why I was born into a middle class family in the most affluent country in the world. But I know this: it wasn’t because I was better or deserved more or was more loved by God. I also know this: if I keep my resources all to myself, that means I believe God cares about me more than about my neighbors in poverty. It doesn’t matter what I say I believe; that action reveals my belief. Jesus commands us to care for those who are materially poor (and there are certainly many other forms of poverty) and makes that about as clear as anyone could possibly make anything. How exactly we go about that in our individual lives is less clear, though we get some suggestions (feed the hungry, clothe the naked, care for the sick, visit prisoners, welcome the stranger/alien/immigrant, don’t ignore starving folks lying at our gate and share are all explicit).

So I will risk repeating myself here: what is your part? To work toward breaking the cycle of poverty for people directly, or to share part of your abundance to make it possible for others who are doing so?

Speaking of risks, here’s one: ask God the answer to that question.




*“The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world.” ― Paul Farmer

Wrapping Up Forty-Seven


I have two hours left of being forty-seven.  I committed to writing this blog for a year and that year also ends tomorrow.  I haven’t decided whether I will continue to post regularly, post intermittently, or focus all my writing time on my fiction.  I’ve been reasonably satisfied with how this has gone.  I think one of my gifts is writing, but you’re not a writer unless you write.  This has been a good step toward being a writer.                        A writer writes.

Originally I thought I would write a post each day; that turned out to be a little ambitious, but it looks like I’ve published one hundred twelve, which isn’t bad.  Fifty-four of them have some connection to grace (at least according to the search bar).  I’m glad that some people have felt encouraged, challenged, or have experienced a little more grace here.  If reading these posts has helped anyone with their marriage, aided them in coping with depression, helped even one person to face their addiction or just wrestle a little more honestly with God, I’m gratified and count it more than worth my effort.  May it be so.  

So what will my final post of the year be about?  


Yep, sports again.  Specifically, continuing to be an athlete as I grow older.  

If that doesn’t interest you, may I recommend looking through the older posts in case you missed that one on The Lord of the Rings or would prefer to start reading my novel or want to know what living in Nicaragua is like for us.  Plus, there’s a bunch of posts on Grace.    

If you’re still in, say you’re also in your forties and want to keep playing sports or realize you’re going to be in your forties someday or would just like to be a little healthier, here we go.  


The throw was deep and I immediately went after the disc.  It was going long and I was last person back on defense. I knew I had the best angle on the disc.  I knew he was coming up behind me.  If it went slightly long, it would be out of bounds.  If it came down at all, I would knock it away.  I gave one glance back to make certain of my read then raced as hard as I could for where it was coming down.  Just as it came in reach, he got past me and I lunged, diving forward and up as far as I could…and plowing into the ground empty handed as he caught the score.  

“You okay?” the twenty-three year old, recent college ultimate player asked as I lay chest-down, tasting grass.  

“Yup,” I said, taking the hand to get back to my feet, looking at the stretch of mud from my ribs down past my knee.  

He scored on me.  Not my man, I switched to help, and he made a great catch, all true; nonetheless, he scored on me.  

And I know this for certain:  there was a time when I would have gotten to that disc first.  

I’m not a great athlete but I really like playing sports.  I’m not an ironman, I’ve never competed at a high or national level, and except for that time I won a disc golf tournament (and briefly set the amateur course record) I’ve never earned any money from sports.  However, facing forty-eight I can still play ultimate and basketball against people of my level who are a lot younger than I am and hold my own.  Sometimes I do better than hold my own.  The key is finding a small enough pool to look like a big fish.  

Just kidding.  The key is not dominating against five-year-olds.  

Here’s what I’ve learned about staying active into my late forties. The first section is general suggestions on getting (or staying) active and the second is a few ways I’ve adapted to having an aging active body…while refusing to give in.  



Find the Thing

Figure out what activity you enjoy.  I think if you only marginally tolerate exercise, it’s a struggle to make yourself work at it hard enough to stay in shape.  I’m fortunate that I love the sports I play.  I don’t have to convince myself to play them, to make the time, to go all out.  But I’m not a runner, for example.  If I had to stay in shape by jogging I would get very unhappy in about two days. I can run 3-5 miles, but if I run hard enough to push myself, mostly my thoughts go like this:  

“Wow, this hurts.  

Huh this still hurts.  

Would you look at that?  it hurts.”  

Someone very dear to me recently took up kick-boxing.  I would never have pictured it, but she likes it enough to be more active.  Another wonderful friend recently started Orange Theory Fitness and says it has changed her life.  Find the thing.  If you haven’t found the thing and think you hate activity, I’m suggesting you have yet to try the right one.  One more amazing woman has a passion for roller derby.  Roller freaking derby!  And she’s gotten into fantastic shape and it has made her life better and more full of joy and community (and slamming into people).  My happy place is throwing or chasing a piece of plastic.  What’s yours?

Some of you know the sports you like but just “don’t do that anymore.”  I want to go on record as saying it’s not more adult to stop playing sports.  Yes, there are times when adult life requires us to prioritize some things over others, but there is nothing responsible or mature about not taking care of your body.  Granted, if you played American football in high school and you’re in your sixties now, you might need to find a satisfactory alternative.  

Some folks are very happy going to the gym four times a week, lifting some weights, running on the treadmill, and I say more power to you!  For me, being able to continue playing competitive sports motivates me to stay in shape.  I simply need a goal to keep me focused, to keep me working out.  Keeping up with 16- to 25-year-olds (and certain 30- and 40-somethings) on a field or a court does that.  

Also, and more importantly, I have a 9-year-old son.  I committed, when I became an “older father,” to stay active for him and for my daughters.  Doing the math, I will be 58 when he’s 19 and I’m determined still to be able to run and play sports with him then.  My personal goal is to be able to play him one-on-one in basketball when he’s 18 and not embarrass myself.  If he doesn’t like basketball, the general idea still applies to whatever he does like.  

My point is, what motivates you?  I work out and keep in shape because I love ultimate and I work out and keep in shape and play ultimate because I love my children and my wife and want to stay active and healthy for them.*

Gimme a “Y!”

Now I’m going to tell you a crucial non-secret to my still being able to sprint up and down a field for two hours in the Managua heat: I do yoga.

Sometime in my late 30’s, when I was spending more time injured than playing, it dawned on me that staying in good cardiovascular shape wasn’t going to be enough.  Even having good muscle tone wouldn’t cut it.  I had a nagging, recurring injury in both calves, just above the achilles, and nothing I did seemed to prevent it–until a sports therapy guy explained that my problem wasn’t in my achilles or calves but in my hips.  They were very inflexible (there’s a political joke here somewhere, but I’m going to let it pass).  I had done some basic stretching that I’d learned in school sports–some of which was wrong–but I got serious about yoga when I realized it was that or stop playing.  

I know some folks are spooked by the spirituality associated with yoga.  I don’t do any of that.  I pray to Jesus, the same one I always pray to, while I’m doing yoga.  In fact, doing yoga and praying is the one thing that, if I will take the 20-30 minutes, will always lift my mood.  Even just sitting and praying doesn’t always do that for me.  This makes sense to me, because we are souls and bodies united, inextricably intertwined.  If I can make myself do it,** I can alleviate depression, cope better with anger, relieve stress, all through those thirty minutes of yoga.  So yeah, I’m a big advocate. 

But focusing on our topic, when I was in high school I could not touch my toes.  When I was thirty, I could not touch my toes.  Nowadays, after a few minutes of yoga I can palm the ground.  I am absolutely convinced that I can still play sports because I took up yoga.  Don’t be put off by perceived weirdness or spirituality you disagree with–there are many varieties of yoga and some of them have no hint of spirituality that might make you uncomfortable.  And don’t write me off as a heretic–Jesus and yoga go together in my life.  

This quote sums up what I’ve learned:

Aging is a deterioration of connective tissue. The stiffness, shrinkage, and drying up of aging occur directly in that great web of fiber that ties us together. What exercise does is resist this stiffening. Most of those complex physiological processes that we call training come, at bottom, to maintaining the lively resilience of our connective tissue. Age is what makes it tight, movement is what keeps it loose. If you can’t stay young, stay loose.

John Jerome, The Elements of Effort

I’m often childish and immature, yet this birthday still seems to be happening, so staying young isn’t working.  Thus, I’m staying loose.

Eating To Be Active

Eating well is crucial to staying active.  I’m not going to give you my exact eating habits, because I don’t think that’s the point.  I’m figuring out what’s working for me.  I think improvement in all areas of our lives usually comes through small steps in the right direction.  Sometimes small steps have big results.  

I live in a land with wonderful, abundant, inexpensive fruit.  It’s not the fruit of the Pacific Northwest that we miss so much, but tropical fruit also rocks.  Almost every day, one of my meals is a smoothie. I usually add almonds for protein, and will throw in pretty much any fruit we have on hand, fresh or frozen, meaning usually some combo of: pineapple, watermelon, banana, mango, pitaya (dragon fruit) cantaloupe (just “melon” here), lemon, papaya, calala (passion fruit), plus chia seeds, mint (big winner!), spinach, cucumber, and dates.  Kim is much braver and will throw in veggies galore.  Her smoothies are always good, I just don’t always watch when she’s making them.  

Switching to having a smoothie meal every day has made staying in the shape I’m after much easier.  Far from losing on nutrition, I’m doing better than I used to at getting all my servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  I’m a big proponent of making the fruits and veggies the massive base of the pyramid.  

I know a lot of people who used to eat terribly and have changed their habits.  I would include myself in that crowd.  When you eat so poorly, you don’t think you feel bad because it’s what you’re used to.  In other words, you don’t know what feeling good feels like!  A constant diet of fast food, for example, tastes good, gives the sugar and salt and (bad) fats high, and even though there’s the crash afterward, that’s just normal, right?  

Changing eating habits requires enough time for your body to start recognizing how “good” actually feels.  it may involve some withdrawal.  Large amounts of processed sugar give a lovely hit!  Losing that regular high feels worse…until it starts feeling a lot better.  I’m talking from personal experience now.  I still eat much more white sugar than is good for me, but I’ve also learned that if I try to be absolute, I end up in the abstain/binge cycle, and I really hate that.  I’m learning moderation, which is coming late in my life (see above about “childish”), but I’m all the more grateful for it’s arrival.  Also, I like chocolate as much or more than anyone else I’ve met, male or female.  So, knowing that I will eat chocolate, I budget for that.  I avoid desserts or snacks that I like less, knowing that I’m going to want chocolate anyway.  

Here’s my testimony:  eating poorly now makes me feel awful.  A greasy burger and fries might smell and taste delicious, but my body quickly reports that was a bad idea!  When I was visiting the States, I went with my best friends from high school to a restaurant specializing in big burgers and other massive sandwiches…and I had a salad.  With chicken.  And they mocked me, as I knew they would.  And getting “the business” from them didn’t feel nearly as bad as digesting one of those sandwiches would have felt. 

My suggestion is start small.  Make one change at a time.  Do real research on nutrition.  Watch a couple documentaries.  Fed Up is excellent and gives you the indelicate truth about processed sugar.  Then pick out something you could take out if you’re eating unhealthily and something you could add that you’d enjoy.  I love the smoothies I make.  As with exercise, I think if eating healthy feels like a chore or being robbed of something enjoyable in life, we’re much less likely to do it.  So if you want to eat healthier, start with something you already like.  

It’s also both…and.  We’ve developed our current tastes and we can develop new ones intentionally, pro-actively.  I used to gag on broccoli, but I knew it was healthy and I just set myself to learn to tolerate it.  I now enjoy it, not even slathered with cheese but just straight up.  I didn’t used to be a salad eater, but now I’d choose a hearty salad over a greasy sandwich nine out of ten times.  Maybe eight.  Most of the time.  

Okay, that’s my encouragement on healthy habits.  Change is hard.  Always.  But in the long run, positive changes are much easier than dealing with the consequences of bad habits.  



Accepting (a Few) Limitations

Here are a couple of adjustments I’ve made with age:  I now walk more than I jog.  If I’m trying to get cardio exercise, I will not run on pavement.  I mean almost never.  I have to be extremely desperate to do that now.   It’s just too hard on my legs and does more harm than good.  Walking fast–I know, this sounds like I’m a geezer–does as much good for what I’m after and costs me much less, as in, I never get injured walking but I used to get injured somewhat regularly when I jogged.  And I didn’t even like jogging, I just did it to be able to run for my sports.  Turns out if I run in my sports, do yoga, and walk hard, I get the same bennies.  And I’m happier.  I find it easier to pray when I’m walking fast than jogging, because of the aforementioned mental dialogue.  

I don’t lift weights as much as I used to because it’s too hard on my joints.  I still lift some, I still do some push-ups and crunches and pull-ups and whatnot, but I’ve cut way down.  I had to give up some vanity on this one for the good of my body.  I could look more buff, but again, the frequency of pain and injury was too high.  Yes, someone will quickly point out that I was doing it wrong if I kept getting injured.  Probably true.  If you have a personal trainer or belong to a gym with good instructors, awesome.  I don’t and cutting back was a good trade-off for me.  Again, my goal is to play the sports I love.  I’d like the edge of being a bit stronger, but not at the cost of being on the disabled list for weeks or a month at a time, which had started to happen (especially from shoulder pain).  

Keeping Up Is Not Keeping Up

Here is a grim truth:  I have to work much harder to maintain what I can now do.  I’m not as fast or as agile as I was, I don’t jump as high or bounce back as quickly.  I gain weight faster and lose it slower.  And for this current level of ability, I have to work about ten times harder than I once did, when I could get in shape in a week and all I had to do was show up to play.  Now I have to eat right and do yoga and exercise with little impact on the days in between and do some more yoga and limit my bad foods and wrap my ankles and plan carefully for my pre-game meals and drink a lot of water and a homemade electrolyte/protein drink and did I mention the yoga? 

But the alternative is to quit.  I’m not quitting.  I hope at fifty-eight I’m writing about how this can be done into ones sixties.  I’ve seen guys do it (looking at you, Andy).  I’m aiming for that.  Having role models helps.  

I was talking with a couple of guys near my age recently.  We’ve all played sports a long time.  Those discussions spurred this post.  We all know we were better athletes when we were younger.  We might be wiser and craftier and possibly even more skilled now (I can throw a disc much more accurately now than I could in my twenties) but we still can’t do what we used to.  

The dynamic tension is this:  I must learn to be content with what I can do now while still striving for my best and resisting the further degradation of my abilities with every fiber of my being.  Bottom line, that’s the fire that keeps me running.  I can still do this.  I still want to do this.  I want to do this as well as I can for as long as I can.  I will not go gentle into that good night.  

Yet the flip side is I am so much more grateful for every day I can play, for every chance to run hard and experience joy (for me, a way of worship God) in exercise and exertion, for the ability to push myself and test my limits and press a little beyond what I thought I could do.  I’m so grateful to be able to play sports with my kids!  I love coaching and helping young folks develop their character and all the strengths and healthy habits that sports can imbue.  

So gratitude makes contentment possible, even as I’m striving for more.  Even as I’m pushing myself harder.  

I’ll end with this:  I struggle with depression and playing sports, exercising all out at least a few times a week, is a crucial element of keeping myself stable emotionally.  Those natural highs of my beloved endorphins that God designed into our systems serve as my leveling mechanism.  My wife, who loves and understands me, graciously allows and encourages me to do what I need to do to be healthy (btw, she also does yoga every morning).  I have the funny “advantage” of not only enjoying my sports but also relying on them for my emotional and mental health.

As I think about it, though, I don’t believe I’m different than everyone else in this regard,I may simply experience it to a greater degree: everyone’s emotional and mental health, long-term, depends on staying active.  God made us this way.  

And I’m grateful. 

I’m also going to get to that disc next time.




*Through no fault of his own, and in spite of having been a great athlete, my dad was not able to be very active when I was growing up, especially as I reached my teen years.  

**Everyone who deals with depression is familiar with the line between when I can do good things for myself and when I feel incapable of making those choices (or of caring).  


My Enemy, My Friend


I’ve had a few moments in my life that could have been scenes from movies: my engagement (NOT telling that now), that time in South Africa, and then there  was this one.  

I was a freshman in high school, fourteen years old. Insecure, cocky, full of myself, desperate to be liked.  All those conflicting emotions and attitudes and mostly just trying to get through each day of high school without being utterly humiliated.  

And then there came the day when I was utterly humiliated.  

Kyle was a senior when I was a freshman.  He was about 6’3″, if memory serves.  I was about 5’2″ when I was fourteen, so he may have seemed taller to me than he really was.  Kyle was intimidating and a bit crazy.  He sometimes wore a spiked dog collar to school.  It was the ’80’s.  

Let me add two details here:  both of my parents were teachers in the small high school (about 250 kids then) and my dad was in his final year of teaching, sick with asthma and emphysema most of the time, and a very controversial figure in the school.  So keeping my head down was not an easy task even if I hadn’t been an arrogant little jerk.  I was already marked.  

Second, our school had “freshman initiation.”  This ranged from having freshmen race pushing pennies up the sidewalk with their nose to getting hung on the flag poke by your belt (or belt loop) to significantly less pleasant experiences.  The teachers more or less looked the other way.  The day two guys tried to hang me on the flag pole, Mr. Stahl, the biology teacher/football coach–no one messed with him–strolled over just in time and said, “Put him down.”  I thanked him profusely and offered  to shake his hand, but he didn’t take mine.  Doing his job, but not on my side necessarily.  Freshman were freshman and seniors were seniors.  

One day of minding my own business and trying to keep my smart mouth to myself, I wandered too close to where the rowdy seniors were shouting about their class pride and making smaller people sing “WE LOVE YOU, SENIORS.”  Stupid mistake.  Several kids had to sing it together.  But then Kyle grabs me and sticks me on his shoulders and orders me to sing all by myself.  

So now virtually everyone in high school is looking at me.  I’m stuck, about as literally as you could be–not many escape routes from up there.  So I sing.  

The experience of having all the older kids in high school laughing at you–really, really not with you, but at you–is rough on an early teenager.  I’m going to say bordering on traumatic. Now, keeping perspective here, it was just an embarrassing song I had to sing while sitting on a tall guy’s shoulders.  I didn’t get my head stuck in a toilet.  No one drug me around to the back of the school to beat me up.  However, that and walking through the hallway afterward makes up one of my most painful memories of high school.  Like I said, it was a movie scene.  Everyone was either still laughing at me or pitying me.  When I slunk into science next period, one of the girls in my class said, “That was so mean of them!  You shouldn’t have done that!”  

And that’s when I cried.  In class.  Fourteen year old boy.  Because there was nothing in the world I would have liked in that moment more than not to have done that, but held on the shoulders of a guy who outweighed me by eighty pounds and three years of school rank, it didn’t feel like there was a lot of choice.  Again, tiny little example in our contemporary world of what it is to be powerless, but I can still remember the humiliation burning in my chest.  That took a while to get over.  


So that was my relationship with Kyle.  We had other interactions, probably even a few random conversations, but mostly I remember ducking out of the way when he would come down the hall so that I didn’t get shoved against the lockers.  


Here’s the thing:  Kyle died last night, suddenly.  I just found out this morning through mutual friends.  But the Kyle I just described is not the Kyle I primarily remember.  In fact, I hadn’t thought about that “event” in many years, until I heard the news.  

Kyle changed.  Kyle was a very wild young man in high school who made some self-destructive choices and developed some bad habits.  Then I got reacquainted with Kyle.  I would never have said that Kyle and I were friends in high school, but Kyle befriended me as an adult.  He became a Christian the year after he graduated from high school.  Like my friend Dan, who contributed a great blog post on recovery, Kyle found a completely different life.  He was transformed.  He contacted me to affirm and encourage me for the work we’re doing here in Nicaragua and to tell me he would be praying for me.  He let me know he’d gotten free from the things that were killing him and found peace in God.  

Even as I choose the words to describe that, I know how it can sound.  Just a couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon this great quote:  “Until you know you’re broken, the Gospel will seem cliché.”  

Kyle got it.  It was no cliché to him. He loved his family.  He invested his life in foster children, especially through Royal Family Kids Camp. God makes a big deal of caring for the orphans and the widows.  We call our orphans “foster children,” but Kyle got it.  He mentored hurting kids.  One of his friends described him like this:  Kyle loved God, loved kids, and had a passion to help whoever needed it. Kyle was an honest Christian who didn’t judge anyone but loved everyone.

I think when you’ve been broken, it becomes easier not to judge others.  I wish we could all fit this description. I want God to make me more like Kyle was.  

So I’m writing this to remember Kyle and to honor him.  I know for an absolute certainty he would have wanted people to hear how God changed his life.  Lives can change.  They do, all the time.  

This was Kyle’s cover photo on FB when he died:  kylesbanner

Kyle changed roads.  God can do that.  He does it all the time.  

I’m grateful I got to know Kyle, my friend, before he died.  



Of this picture, Kyle wrote, “I was definitely a young punk back then, glad I survived those days.”  

Many people are, too, including all those kids you helped.  

Go with God, Kyle.  


See for Yourself


I’m writing this at the end of a great weekend.  God is doing cool stuff in people’s lives and I get to see it up close.  Mostly I mentor/disciple young folks. I love what I do.  It’s my passion.  I would still do it if I couldn’t get paid to do it and at various times in my life that’s been the case.  I end up doing this no matter what my “official” job is.  I’d say it’s who I am even more than merely what I do.  I’d also say I’m a fortunate, blessed individual to get to do what I love.  chamba hery

At this point, I wish I could share the crazy great stuff I’ve seen and heard in just the past 72 hours. But that’s not an option, since the most critical ingredient of my work is trust.  As in, people open up and tell me secrets and those stay secret.  In the long term I can change names and details and tell great stories, but in the immediate I can’t.  And that’s fair.  But I still want to tell you how ridiculously amazing God is, working in people’s lives.  

Actually, I’d like to do one better than that for you:  I’d like for you to get to see for yourself.  I’ve already written about discipling (and rereading it just now, it’s pretty decent, if I say so myself) and I’m not aiming to repeat myself.  If you care about this stuff but you’re not sure what “discipling” someone means, maybe read that one first.   If you’re already discipling others, awesome!  If not, or if you need a little encouragement, here’s a list of reasons why you might invest your life in someone else’s life to mentor or disciple. 


1) You basically don’t have anything better to do with your time.  

Now who the heck am I to say that?  Your time is full and you are doing important stuff.  

I know.  That’s my point.  Already you’re doing really important stuff and this is that big of a deal.  It’s not more important than raising your children* or loving your spouse; it’s arguably more important than anything else.  

If that feels like too big a claim, it actually might be too small.  Jesus spent his entire time in ministry teaching, training, loving, modeling and sending out his disciples–that would be “discipling”–and chose not to marry or have children.**  Go ahead, work out the theological implications of why he couldn’t do either of those, but that’s still all speculation and this is simple fact: Jesus made discipling his highest priority.  So that’s pretty persuasive to me.  


2)Jesus said to.  

I know, this is starting to sound kind of Jesus-centric.  I’ll take that accusation.  

“And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.’”

Those were Jesus’ closing words as recorded by Matthew in his Gospel.  They’ve been quoted often, maybe so often that we stop listening.  That’s a danger.  

Discipling is one-on-one, relational, and a profound investment of your life in someone else’s.  To make disciples of nations we’re still going one by one.  Starting with us.


3)You change the world when you love someone this way.  

I’ll start with the obvious supporting argument that Jesus thought so.  Jesus changed the world through having a dozen lives he invested in so deeply that they would spread his teaching to others who would teach others and so on, literally to the ends of the earth.  I’m not minimizing that Jesus atoned for sins or rose from the dead, I’m saying this was his means of conveying those miracles to the world.  You know those stories because he discipled a small group of people.  This was his way of transforming lives, face to face, day by day.   

I, personally, think the world sucks in a lot of ways and desperately needs changing.  If you don’t think so, um…you might be watching too much Netflix.  Not trying to bring you down, but just tell you the truth.  I would love to change the world in big ways.  I would love to get everyone access to clean water.  That’s beyond my scope.  I pray for that.  But within my ability is investing in a bunch of young people’s lives.  Folks in the 17-25 range (or maybe -35) are making life choices, the formative ones that set their direction.  Being the person they can trust, who walks by them through these years and lets them learn from your mistakes instead of their own, who helps them back up when they crash and burn–that’s the pebble in the lake that causes the ripple effect.  

Love a young adult through recognizing that he is in the wrong relationship and this is not the person to marry,** see him happily married to a true partner and equal, watch them start a family together, become nurturing parents, and get to see him pursue his own true calling–the one where his passion meets the world’s needs–because he’s married to this woman.  That describes one of my favorite discipling relationships, and our mentoring started from before he was following Jesus with his life.  You will see the world change.  

You will know grace more deeply in your life when you become the person who shows the most grace in someone else’s life.

4)YOU change when you love someone this way. 

I saved the best one for last, in a sense.  So why did Jesus command us to make disciples of all nations?  Because he wanted his message of God’s transformative love and grace to get around?  Yup.  Because he knew this was the way to get that message around?  Yup again.

AND because he knew that the most impactful way for us to experience God’s love is through discipling someone else.  You will know God most deeply when you love someone else.  Discipleship is a concentrated form of love.  (Okay, repeated myself there; I think that’s worth repeating.)  Jesus commanded this, like faithJesus commanded everything else, because it’s good for us.  

Discipling someone won’t solve all your problems, but you will know God, you will see God at work and experience his reality in your life when you choose to give your life–your time, your money, your heart–to someone else for the purpose of their spiritual growth.  

You’ll also get your heart broken.  You might feel betrayed.  I don’t have a risk-free suggestion here.  Jesus didn’t manage that with discipleship, either.   

You will know grace more deeply in your life when you become the person who shows the most grace in someone else’s life.  You will learn to live by God’s truth more fully when you help someone else face and survive the consequences of not living by God’s truth (we are punished by our sins, not for our sins) and when you see them experience the joy of being set free by the truth.  

And you’ll fail a bunch and let people down.  You won’t be perfect.  You won’t be wise enough.  You’ll b13709859_1041954905885551_1201805828629245974_ne wise and they won’t listen and you’ll have to watch.  Through those very failures and shortcomings, you will deepen both in your dependence on God and in your love for the person in whom you’ve invested.  

I’m sure at this point there are a bunch of objections, most of which begin with “But Mike…”  ‘

“But Mike, I’m not a relational person,”

“But Mike, I don’t really like people,”

“But Mike, I enjoy Netflix A LOT.”  

I’ll bet there were days when Jesus didn’t like people though he always faithfully loved them (if you don’t know the difference, I’m guessing you’re not currently a parent). Before you call that heresy, check this quote:

“You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.” (Mark 9:19, if you want the story–it’s a great one.)

I believe one of the most amazing things about our relationship with God is that he not only loves us but likes us.  But we’re not always likable.  Sorry, I’ll speak for myself–I’m not always likable. I’m a lot more lovable than I used to be because God’s love makes me lovable, and I’ve experienced God’s love through trying to express it to young folks who aren’t always likable themselves (though the vast majority of the time they’re pretty great).   

“But Mike, you didn’t answer my objection.”

Oh, sorry, I thought I did.  God likes you and loves you.  That’s the argument for going and doing likewise.  

The form in which you disciple someone, the way you spend time with them, depends on your personality and your strengths and how you find to connect with the person.  God made you the way you are in part to be able to have an impact on others.  Don’t try to do this as someone else or using a model that doesn’t fit you.  Rather, how can you disciple from your strengths? 

I hope this is inspiration, not guilt.  I recommend this to you as one of the best things in my life.  Having said all this, relationship with God is individual, and it’s between you and God what is faithful for your life

May you experience God’s love through loving others.  May you know God’s strength in your weakness.  May you see God work through you and in you as you give of your life to someone else. 

May you be God’s grace in someone’s life.

Amen and amen.  



*Raising children is also a form of discipling.  

**Yuck, don’t mention that badly written book about how they covered it all up–I really prefer my heresy to come in respectable prose at the very least

***Cuz she’s psycho, mostly.


Beautiful Things


This is going to be a shorter one.  

Beautiful things that happened today:  

I woke up.

A student I’ve just started mentoring trusted me by opening up and sharing freely, even though I haven’t earned that trust yet. 

Our soccer team played really hard and showed themselves what they are capable of doing.  

A taxi driver was kind to me.  He scared me when he picked me up:  Once I get in and we start driving, I always begin the conversation with “¿Cómo está usted?” and his first response was to shake his head, put his hand to his throat, and then give the international sign for drinking.  But he did not act drunk (I’ve had that experience at least twice) and we had a friendly conversation.  He overcharged me, but I was in a hurry (see above) and decided not to care today.   

My wife let me sleep an extra half an hour this morning by not waking me and making breakfast when it was my turn.  

My son showed me proudly how well he did on his math worksheet. 

My children laughed at my joke.  


Now I’m tired and I’m hoarse and up too late again (after falling asleep while getting my son to bed) and a man was killed by police in Tulsa on Friday and my dear college friend’s mom died last week and my friend’s wife died yesterday and I just read an article about internet addiction.  http://nymag.com/selectall/2016/09/andrew-sullivan-technology-almost-killed-me.html  *

I’m really grateful to use the internet because it allows me to stay connected with my friends and family who live in other countries.  Last week I reconnected with a friend from my hometown who is struggling and wanted to talk because he’d seen what I write.  Several days ago, another beloved college friend started supporting us and said, “Consider this my appreciation of your writing gifts as well.”  Some people listen to my sermons who wouldn’t get to otherwise.  I always hope to encourage people and this is another means to do so.  One of my lifelong friends–the kind who stick long after living in proximity, and we’re still close many chapters later–just encouraged me that my preaching helps him.  He’s been encouraging me for almost twenty years now.  


In case you missed the cohesion, here comes my point:  Life is short, and when it’s over and people are gone you can’t believe they’re just gone, but they really are.  You won’t see them again on this side.  

Time is precious and I don’t always spend mine well.  I know the internet is both a gift and a danger to me personally.  I’m thinking carefully about how to use it well, to offer my gifts, love others, and stay connected without getting consumed or missing my life.  Too many times lately my son has said, “Dad?  Dad?” because I’m looking at the screen while he’s talking to me.   

One of the biggest dangers, to me, is getting consumed with the horror and ugliness and tragedy.  I want to be informed.  I want to speak up.  I want to seek justice and, honestly, see my blind side where I’m not doing so.  Reading and learning and understanding are important.  

But I have to find the balance between knowing what’s going on and compulsively checking.  I’m learning to keep out of political arguments that will bear no fruit and leave us even more polarized.  My resolution to pray first instead of responding to political posts has gone well.  I’m still making mistakes.  I’m still figuring out the good of using this forum for discussion and the limits it has.  I’m still trying to discipline myself not to read the comments!  

I appreciate that you read what I write.  I put a lot of time into it and I want never to waste your time.  I want to be a voice for hope and grace.  I do not want to add to the noise.**  

I want to live my life in the real world, loving my wife and my children, mentoring the young adults who trust me, preaching and coaching and making really good jokes.  I want to use the internet to love a few more people, to improve the reach of my love and mentoring, to listen to some music and get a few laughs.  

Life is too short and precious and beautiful a gift to lose it to any addiction, including this one.  


What beautiful things happened to you today?




*”Am I exaggerating? A small but detailed 2015 study of young adults found that participants were using their phones five hours a day, at 85 separate time. Most of these interactions were for less than 30 seconds, but they add up. Just as revealing: The users weren’t fully aware of how addicted they were. They thought they picked up their phones half as much as they actually did. But whether they were aware of it or not, a new technology had seized control of around one-third of these young adults’ waking hours.”

**Thank you, Switchfoot.

With Just Water in a Cup


You know those comedies where the person thinks, “I’m not getting enough attention!” and then decides to play hard to get?  As in, “You’re not noticing me, but maybe if I were less available, you’d stop taking me for granted and get interested.”  I’m sure that has nothing to do with why I haven’t written a blog post for a long time.  Nothing whatsoever.

But I am back:  back to coaching and mentoring, back to another school year, back to Nicaragua after a couple of crazy weeks in the US (including a lost passport, but it’s definitely too soon to tell that story), back with my family after what felt like a long time away.  I don’t know how military and business folks do it.

Today I’m reminded that the things we say and do matter.  All of them.  Even though I haven’t written anything in this blog for too long, yesterday a young adult quoted to me something I wrote in a post and told me it changed significantly how he was thinking about his life.

Love, in its simplest form, is our choices.

It’s very easy to get immersed in our own challenges and struggles.  Some of them are legit.  Some of them are drama.  It’s hard to tell the difference from the inside.

It’s easy to get discouraged.  It’s easy to look around and see how bad the big things are going and conclude that the little things don’t matter.

Every little thing we do for others matters.  No act of kindness is ever wasted.  Even if the person receiving the kindness ignores it or retaliates.  Every smallest kindness matters because each one is a revolutionary act against a world of hopelessness and selfishness.  To quote my hero, “For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward.”

In a more contemporary language translation:

“Why, anyone by just giving you a cup of water in my name is on our side. Count on it that God will notice.”

Why is the cup of water given “in Christ’s name?”  Consider this:  one of the ten commandments is “Do not to take God’s name in vain.”  That doesn’t mean don’t cuss.  It means don’t make promises and try to back up your credibility by invoking God.  “I swear by God I will pay you back if you loan me money.”  And then the person runs off with the money and makes it look like God is part of the swindle.  It means lying and using God to back your lie.  God is NOT PART OF THE SWINDLE and does not look kindly on people who make the world think that’s what he’s about.

The cup of water, on the other hand, is what God is about in the world.  People who are thirsty matter to God.  All of them.  The ones who can’t get their own water and need a hand or even could get their own water but you beat them to it (notice Jesus doesn’t distinguish), those are the folks we can love.  With just water in a cup, we can show that this is what God is about in the world, and God notices.  Count on it.

With just water in a cup, we can show that this is what God is about in the world, and God notices.  

I’m really weary of Jesus’ followers conveying that we are about division and argument and feeling superior because we believe right-er stuff than everyone else.  Jesus never, ever said that.  He doesn’t command us to outdo others by the purity and rightness of our beliefs.  He commands us to share and give thirsty people water.  He commands us to love people in his name.

Little acts matter.  They might matter the most.  Helping people to see that a God exists who loves them is about it.  I can’t think of anything more important.  Urging people to join the revolution by speaking kind words, by spreading laughter, by smiling at strangers, by refusing to get pulled into debates that won’t change anything and praying for blessing, instead, these are the radical acts that can change lives–others’, and our own.

In case you’re new here, I’m not speaking as Pollyanna or Cheer Bear (I need some more current happy characters!  Suggestions?), I’m speaking as one who deals with depression and lives in a developing country next to a slum.  I get that the world sucks, at least to most outward appearances.

But changing the world won’t happen through resigning ourselves to that view.  Doing nothing, or just looking out for myself and my own, will only reinforce the status quo.  And I’m not buying this status quo.  Maybe that’s stubbornness.  Maybe it’s faith.  Maybe it’s one of my own lifelines to resist depression.  Maybe it’s my gift to offer to the world.  One of my ultimate player teammates once told me that I’m the adrenal gland of the team.

That leads me to one further step before I hit “publish.”  We can all do the small acts right in front of us, every day.  Love is our choices.  We also each have specific gifts and strengths and talents and abilities.  My young adult friend probably pays attention to what I write because we are friends and I’ve shown him kindness and respect (and kicked his butt a few times–I’m also his coach).  Those opened the door so that, when I used my gift of writing,* he could receive it.

Our little acts count in themselves, and they also matter because sometimes they give us opportunities to impact people with our unique abilities. Most of my gifts are relational, so I’m usually thinking in terms of building trust so that folks can receive what I have to offer.

You may have a completely different set of talents.  We need them all.  How are you changing the world with those talents?  How are you changing someone’s world with those talents?   The Revolution Jesus creates is made of small things done in love and everyone pitching in with what they’ve got to help create the ripple effect that does bring change.  What have you got?  How are you pitching in?

A radical thought is that God gave you those abilities so that you can help change the world.  An even more radical thought is that your true satisfaction in life, your joy, comes when you use them to help others.

Cups of water and your gifts.  Kind words and the stuff you love to do and do well.

¡Viva la Revolución!




*Yeah, it’s a furious inner conflict to type that; you probably get that if you’re a writer or artist of any kind.



Coming Back


Sermon I did this past Sunday (8-14-16) at International Christian Fellowship.  Some thoughts on how to get back on the path when you’ve gotten off, for one reason or another.

Deciding what to preach is always more of an art than a science, trying to listen to God (however that works) and get my own ego out of the way (with much help from God).  This was one in which I really felt like I had to say this stuff.


…And Back Again


We’re back in Nicaragua for our sixth year.  It’s strange we’ve been living here so long. It’s strange that Nicaragua feels so much like home.  It’s strange that I get back and the men on the street who drink all day welcome me back and tell me how I’ve been away too long.

It’s strange that none of this feels strange to me anymore.

Readjustments:  the left handle of the sink gives the same results as the right, drink water from the sinks sparingly (if at all), throw toilet paper in the trash, not the toilet.  We don’t have air conditioning, and after nearly two months away, my body adjusted to cooler temperatures.  I grouched at my son today, largely because I was hot and sticky and uncomfortable.  Time to regain my tolerance for heat and humidity.

The cliché says, “Home is where the heart is,” but I’m seeing that differently now.

We’ve lived in a foreign country (i.e. not the country of our birth) for five years, which is a short time compared with some of the folks I know who work here.  When I imagine the lives of refugees who flee their countries to save their lives and their children, what we’ve done here doesn’t seem so big.  But almost always after I’ve described to a church congregation our work here, someone will come up to me and say, “I could never do that.”

My initial, silent response is, “Yeah, you could.”  I imagine there are folks for whom this would feel impossible–for example, folks who are so committed to their comforts that “sacrifices” like living without air conditioning sound like torture. But I also firmly believe that people can adjust pretty quickly, and God makes us capable of doing things we thought we couldn’t.  He actually kind of specializes at that. I don’t debate with them, of course.  I just try  to convey that it isn’t really extraordinary of heroic, it’s merely different.  It’s strange to them because it’s not their normal.  It was strange to me, too.  But now, not so much.

For this weekend, right now as I’m writing this, I was invited to play in the very old people’s division of Nationals, as in, the ultimate (frisbee*) national tournament.  If you’re new to this blog, I passionately (sometimes irrationally) love ultimate.  I’ve never played in Nationals.  This was a life goal, which at 47 I thought had passed me.  Then I was invited…and couldn’t go.

I’m not writing this for you to feel sorry for  Okay, check that. Yeah, I’ll take the sympathy.  It hurts.

I couldn’t play because in the aftermath of my accident, I was found at fault (I pulled out and didn’t see him coming in time, and have no memory of it to say otherwise) and he was “suggesting” that we might need to pay $10,000 or more to fix his vehicle.  By the time we got this negotiated down to something that would not derail us financially (thank God),  it was too late.  There were other reasons: serious logistical challenges, putting my family out, missing the first day of school, et al.  It was going to strain our finances severely even if we didn’t have the other guy’s huge  SUV repair bill (in addition to our own huge minivan repair bill and the repair Mike bill).

This is a cost of our living in Nicaragua.  It matters to me a lot more than living without air conditioning or hot water, or changing where I put the toilet paper.

And yet, though I’m bummed, truly, I’m also glad to be home.  Much more than I thought, I was happy to see my friends today and not fixated on what I didn’t get to do.  You could (tentatively) call that maturity, and I suppose that might be true to some degree.  Then again, you might know me and know better.  I think that I’ve come to feel this place is really home and, after two months of living in other people’s homes, I was ready to be back.

If you’ve never done what we do, it’s probably a little difficult to imagine this transition-back-and-forth part.  You might liken it to going on vacation, but it really isn’t like that, for me.  Some missionaries have very different cycles.  Some are here for two years or three years and then back in the States for six months or a year.  I wouldn’t like that, for our children.  Some missionaries rarely go back at all.  I’m not signing up for that, either, again especially for our kiddos and their relationships with our extended family.  One of the highest costs we pay (yes ,even higher than foregoing an ultimate tournament) is having them be with their grandparents and cousins once a year, or maybe twice if they come to visit us.

It isn’t a vacation because, instead of going somewhere to relax and take in the sights, it’s my one time to reconnect with some of the most important people in our lives, communicate with the people and churches that support us about how we are and how our work here is going, and make certain that our support is in place for the coming year.  For some people, that’s the hardest part about this life.  Being a bit of a hyper-extrovert, I enjoy that time, but it’s also exhausting and I usually come out of it feeling like I’ve failed to see enough people and to connect as deeply as I’d like.  It’s a lot to keep relationships going when seeing people face-to-face once a year.  There simply is never enough time.  And that’s the nature of our lives, straddling two worlds.

FullSizeRender (1)

Evidence that I share “my” man cave with the local Cubs fan (who also happens to be the homeowner).

The people in our lives are extraordinarily generous.  It’s no small thing letting our traveling circus come crash for two weeks or a month.  Exhausting and expensive and noisy and hungry–and then there’s Kim and the kids in addition.  😉  Kim’s dad and step-mom created an “apartment” over their garage expressly so our girls would have somewhere with privacy when we come stay.  My elder sister and my brother-in-law built me a “mancave” in their basement for my visits.  Granted, he uses it the rest of the year, but truly, they did it for my sake.  In some ways, being there with them and enjoying that space is the closest I get to a true time to relax.

I always gain weight when I’m in the States, no matter how hard I try to exercise.  Every visit is special, we’re always feasting, and we get to eat lots of food we miss the rest of the year.  Not all of it is fattening–I must have approached turning a tint of blue this year, I ate so many blueberries in Wenatchee after my in-laws discovered a u-pick organic blueberry patch for $3/lb.  We eat apples and all the stone fruit we can, because that’s our chance for the year.  But I’m also off my usual routine, both for what I eat and how I exercise.  Seven weeks is a long time to do that.  Again, though, our family we stay with truly extends themselves to stock food we like.  We experience God’s love through hummus and granola, cherries and ice cream.

Life goes on while we’re gone.  People transition, kids grow up, that whole pursuit of the American Dream takes place.  I have lots of conversations with God and myself about whether I’m missing the boat.  Is this faith or foolishness?  What is the difference, exactly?

Then I’m preaching at a baptist church I’m and afterwar a guy I’ve never met before tells me how excited he is for the work we’re doing here and the preschool Kim’s starting in our barrio and how he feels like God is leading him, nudging him, to help out.  And he writes a check for $4,000.

And I remember a few things.  This is God’s work he’s called us to.  Maybe we are foolish, but I don’t think that’s the bottom line.  The bottom line is that God loves the kids who live in this slum and wants to change the trajectory of their lives.  When the average age of a girl entering prostitution in Nicaragua is nine, the years before nine are how crucial?  And kids who grow up in homes without a single book, without anyone literate in the house, consider how they start school in kindergarten, recognizing no numbers or letters, never having been read to (contrasted with our kids, who owned dozens of books before they could hold, much less read, them).

That’s not all we do here.  We do a lot, when I add it all up.  I preach and I’m an elder and sometimes counselor and I coach and teach and, primarily, I spend a lot of time mentoring young adults.  Kim is a teaching coach, helped start the little school in our barrio, and now will begin a preschool, partnering with our neighbor who has preschool aged kids and herself completed only first grade.  And, most importantly, we’re parenting our traveling circus.

I hope you get that I’m no more bragging about this than I am whining about the challenges we face (except the ultimate tourney; definitely whining about that).  I’m talking about home.  We’re where we belong, doing the work we’re supposed to be doing.  I teach my high school seniors that the quick and dirty definition of your calling is the point at which your passion intersects with the world’s needs.  We’re far from doing this perfectly, and it’s taken me a number of years to embrace this as home (read: stop hating it).

But it makes sense to me.  It’s strange how normal it’s become, strange how it’s not strange anymore. I could have died in my accident (pretty sure the outcome would have been grim, had I not been wearing my seatbelt), but that didn’t make me want not to come back.  Neither did the dirt “road” in front of our house, even though it’s looking particularly daunting in it’s current state (you may have done off-roading that looks tamer than this).  We recently had an emergency in our church community here, and I was the first person they sought out.  I wasn’t here to help.  I didn’t feel guilty for being at my sister’s, spending focused time with one of our daughters, but I felt sad, not being home to care for my friend.

Could you do this?  I suspect you could.  Not exactly the way we do it–possibly much better, using the different gifts and abilities you have.  After five years, I’ve concluded the real test here–possibly the only hurdle that counts–is “will you give your heart to the place you’re at?”

Home is where you invest your heart.  To say, “Home is where the heart is” sounds passive: wherever your heart happens to be, that’s home.  But the question I’ve come to ask, or maybe God has asked me, is “Will you give your heart where you are?”

Then again, that’s a question we can all ask.



*”Frisbee” is a name brand of a plastic disc that serious ultimate players don’t use for ultimate, but the game is known as “ultimate frisbee” to people who don’t play.  Just one of those cases in which the name brand has become associated with the general object, like “Kleenex” or “Xerox” or “Coke.”  We use Discraft Ultrastars and some use Innova Pulsars.