Photo Friday: Walking in the Clouds

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This is a picture I took about 8 years ago in Costa Rica while on a mission trip.  I shot this picture while walking on a mountain above the central valley above San Jose on a magical and verdant ridge that connected two mountain tops.

Have you ever walked in the clouds?

Most folks will not get the chance to do it.  Not because they can’t- but because they won’t. They will not step out of their comfort zone to see the world.  They will continue to tell themselves the lie that they can’t do it.  We get so caught up in our little corner of life and miss that we live in a great big world.

Are you ready to step out?

Kathy and I have seen some crazy stuff while seeing the world.  We travel and explore every chance we get.  We made a point to show the world to our kids as they grew up and I am convinced that it helped to open their eyes to the world.  The great big world.  No matter where you are or what your financial situation is you can see the world.

You need to take the time and resources and make it happen.  Now.  Not later.

It’s time for you to walk in the clouds!

So what do you think?  Have you ever walked in the clouds?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me your story!

 

 

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Serving Others…Without the Exchange

One of the keys to being a servant leader is serving others by putting their needs ahead of yours.  A great example of this is being a parent.  When you raise a family, you learn that the needs of your children naturally come before yours.  Children do not have the ability to take care of themselves.  They do not have the experience to make good decisions.  They are yours- so you love and nurture them and make sure they have the things needed to stay healthy and to grow and prosper.

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This is an easy one.  What about another tougher example.  What if the person that needs help is not your child?  What if they are not your relative?  What if they are an adult?  What if this person lives in another country?  What if they don’t speak your language?

Shouldn’t matter.  You were made to serve others.  Unconditionally.  Without strings.  Everyone.  Period.

This is tough stuff for someone who is used to the exchange.  I give something and then get something back.  This exchange can be very subtle.  Often when we lead others- we still get something back, right?  Is this really giving?  Serving your children benefits you by benefiting your children and your family.  Serving your workmates helps you while helping them.  You get something back for your hard work.

Can we give without getting back?  Giving in it’s purest form should be one sided- right?  Give and don’t get back.  If you skip the exchange, what is the great equalizer?

Kathy and I are leading a missions team to Costa Rica  May 21-June 1 to minister to the poor and support the local church. We will be staying Alajuelita which is in the central valley of Costa Rica near the capital city of San Jose.  This is a poor area of Costa Rica and we will be ministering in the poorest barrios (neighborhoods)- tin shacks with dirt floors.  These areas are full of families and children are everywhere.  We will be helping to feed the children and will spend time with the moms and the elderly.  We will also be ministering at a woman’s rehab center.  Drug abuse and prostitution (legal in Costa Rica), is a big problem in Costa Rica.  Many women are often forced to sell themselves just to feed their families.

Missions is very important to me.  I know that we are blessed beyond measure in this country and I have a burning desire to give back and serve the poor and needy.  The greatest gift that we can provide those in need is the reassurance that there is a God in heaven that loves them unconditionally.  Love makes all the difference.  This is often all we can hold onto when we are in the toughest situation.  This truth has helped me during tough times in my life.  And I have seen with my own eyes what this truth can bring to a Costs Rican who feels hopeless.  This is the power of the Gospel.  This is what we will share on our trip to Costs Rica.

Will you please partner with me on my trip?  We are trying to raise all of the funds through donations so that your money, prayers and love will actually travel with us and make a tangible impact in Costa Rica.  Without leaving your house, you can be part of the work that we are doing in Central America!  Any amount would be greatly appreciated.  This donation is also tax deductible- the church will send you a receipt for tax purposes.  You can send a check to me or you can donate on line by credit card (secure connection through Pay Pal). Below is a link to the online donation to our church- River City Church:

http://www.rccjax.com/give

Please click on “one time donation” and fill out the information.  This only takes a few minutes.  Do it now or you will forget! (I only say this because this is what I do!).  If you donate on- line please contact me  (Click on “Contact” tab on this website) and tell me that you donated.  I have to alert the church about your donation or your donation will NOT be appropriated to our mission trip.

I am so excited to be going to Costa Rica to spread God’s love to the poor and needy. Please give to help us fund this trip so you can be with us as we work to make a difference in the lives of those we reach.  Giving them our time and our love.  Taking your love to others far away.  Giving unconditionally.

God bless you and your family!

So what do you think?  Do you give without the exchange?  Is love the great equalizer?  Click on “leave a comment” and tell me what you think! 

 

Rich or Poor?

I just returned from a mission trip to Costa Rica.  This was my fifth trip to Costa Rica.  The country is full of breathtaking natural beauty.  Most folks visit Costa Rica to enjoy this beauty.  Many head to the Pacific coast to a resort, maybe surf, or enjoy the excellent offshore fishing.

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On our trip, we went to the very poor barrios surrounding San Jose in the central valley.  These areas are filled with tin covered shacks packed together on the hillside.  VERY, VERY, tough living conditions.  Most of these neighborhoods are squatter communities.  Very little in sanitation and services that we have come to expect here in the States.  It is a bit of a sensory overload visiting these barrios- lots or colors, sounds, smells and movement.  Children and dogs everywhere.  Sounds of life.  Colors cobbled together in scraps of tin and salvaged doors and building materials.

The thing that has always amazed me about Costa Rica is that the Costa Rican’s are generally very happy people.  Yes, there is strife and hardship in the poor barrios, yet even there, you will see smiles, laughter and life.  If we subjected the average American to the conditions in Costa Rica they would be miserable.

Complaining, heads down, depression.

So who is really poor?  We seem to equate the word “poor” to money.  We think that money will solve our problems.  Money can make us happy.  Right?

Well, I got news for you.  I have seen the Costa Rican’s lifestyle first hand and I believe they may actually be the rich ones.  In the US, we are slaves to our lifestyle.  We struggle to gather and save.  We strive to buy the best things.  We work ourselves to death- really– in order to sustain our wealthy lifestyle.

Results: pain, suffering, disease- AND- complaining, heads down, depression.

So how are the Costa Rican’s rich?  What makes them rich without the money. Here are a few observations:

They value their families!  We talk about having close family relationships but the Costa Rican’s do it on steroids.  Most live in the same areas their whole life.  In the US, we are transient.  We move away from our families, often, again to make more money.  Costa Rican’s care for each other when times are tough.  In the US, we often let the government take care of our families.  In Costa Rica it is common to have extended families living in the same household.  They understand what it means to be a family and to take care of our own.

They live slower!  In Costa Rica things get done when they get done.  If it takes longer they are OK with it.  This has been frustrating for me in the past working on construction project in Costa.  They don’t fret over the time.  We struggle so hard to pack it all in.  In Costa Rica, there is alway mañana (tomorrow).

They have strong community!  In even the poorest areas, the Costa Rican’s know their neighbors and understand the power of living in community together.  They take the time to stop and greet their neighbors.  They watch out for their neighbors children.  They help each other when they are sick.  In the US, most folks don’t even know their neighbors!

They let you in!  We are so guarded.  We are cautious to let anyone into our lives.  Costa Rican’s invite you into their house.  They want you to sit down and they will often bring you a drink or some food.  They are not worried about whether their house is messy or if they have something really impressive to share.  They share what they have.  They welcome in strangers.  They want you to sit down and relax.

They walk!  The streets are filled with life with sidewalks filled with people walking.  Walking leads to interaction with others.  In the ten years or so that I have been visiting Costa Rica, car ownership has grown significantly, yet walking remains a way of life.  Walking up and down mountainous steep paths and walking to shopping and visiting friends is the natural order of things.  I am sure that this exercise contributes to the longevity that Costa Rican’s enjoy.  Living a life that extends well into their 90s is not uncommon.

So my question again- are we really rich?  Seems like the things that we gather and our lifestyle may be more of a hindrance than a benefit.

Can we slow down?  

Can we dump the stuff that we end up serving?  

Can we take the time to develop community?

I’m not sure that we can go back-completely.  The genie is out of the bottle.  I can even see Costa Rica changing as we bring them added wealth and raise the expectations.  I pray that they can hold on to riches that they have!

So who is really living the rich life?  Seems like we have a lot to learn from our friends in Costa Rica!

So what do you think?  Are we as rich as we think we are?  Have you noticed the difference when you visit other cultures?  Click on “Leave a Comment” and tell me what you think!

 

Get Rich!

Ah- the American Dream!  Big house, fancy cars, fat retirement account, 2 kids, a dog and a white picket fence.  Is this really a dream or is it a curse?  For your typical overachiever (like me) the pursuit of wealth can be all consuming.  It can swallow you and ALL of your energy.  Is this what life is all about?  Is this really the DREAM?

Africa 2009- Sunset on the Zambezi River

If you ask any successful person about their life goals you will likely get a response that refers in some way to money.  While I understand that money brings a level of security and clarity to the future, I am convinced that we place far too great an emphasis on the need to have money and possessions to feel successful.

I remember telling the lady who took my high school senior pictures that my only goal in life was to be happy.  Have I really lived up to that statement? 

In my mission travels and service work, I have had the pleasure to meet the most remarkable people.  In many cases these folks have very little money or possessions, yet they live as though they are wealthy with an amazing attitude and a genuine zest for life.  I have other friends who have abundant resources and wealth and they are simply miserable.  This is an amazing paradox- Those with less are often happier than those with more.  As I have examined this phenomenon, I have begun to redefine my view of what it means to be rich.

How can the poorest folks in the world be so happy?  How can they have any feeling of security and peace not knowing where they will get their next meal?

Living the rich life is really about depth.  The truly rich people that I have met take the time and make the effort to cultivate deep relationships and love for their families, friends and communities.  This is so contrary to our modern lifestyle today.  We try so hard to be everywhere and everything at once.   We typically have nothing but “drive-by” relationships.  Even our relationships with our families can be weak and superficial.  And the worst part is that we model the behavior to our children and coworkers.   

We must take the time to value others. 

We must take the time to give back to our community. 

We must take time to see the beauty that is all around us.

We must take to time to pour into others.

What we all have to give is truly priceless- and it cannot be duplicated.  We must fight the urge to remain on the surface.  We must go deep.  

Yes- it is dangerous. 

Yes- it is complicated.

Yes- it can be painful.

However, the rewards far outweight the risks.  So here is your “get rich” plan:

Put Things In Perspective:  Carve out things in your life that are consuming you only for the purpose of making money.  Yes- We all need to eat.   Yet, what kind of life are you living if you are killing yourself to make a living?  You will not starve.  You will be fine.

Slow Down:  You do not need to be the fastest at everything.  You are missing the world- it is passing you by!  Slow down and really SEE what is going on around you.  If you have conditioned your boss, friends, or spouse to expect lightspeed this may be a tough transition- but this is your life!  Take control of your time and your life.  We all experience stressful times but your life should not be a constant race.

Go Deep:  Take your relationships deeper by asking questions and sharing your own personal struggles.  To “go deep” you must be transparent and vulnerable.   The root of superficiality is really self-centeredness.  You must be willing to get closer to friends, family and coworkers in order to enjoy the richness that results from the deep bond of great relationships.

Get Involved:  Get off of the sidelines and get involved!  Give back to your community and those in need.  My wife and I have been in dirt floor huts and been offered food from the poorest folks you can imagine.  They get it! They want to serve us!  Find a service project or get involved in your church.  Find a young person and pour into them.  Share your knowledge and your life experiences.  Take time to train up the next generation.  They want your help.  They NEED your help.   

The rich life is a choice.  You can choose to chase money, fame, or possessions or you can choose to go deeper.  You can break free of the bonds of superficiality and enter a world of true love focused on others instead of yourself.  Are you ready?  Would you like to be rich?

Are you ready to enter the life of the rich?  Will you get serious about making the tough choices to add depth to your life?  Click on comments and let me know what you think!   

“Shut Down Your Missions Department!”

“Shut down your missions department”

At a recent conference, a pastor made the above declaration.  A radical statement for sure.  Why would you close this most common department in a church?  Would you then quit funding your missionaries and stop sending mission teams overseas?  Why would you do this?

The point that he was trying to make was that missions is not a function of the church- it is the function of the church.  For far too long churches have looked at missions as merely a part of what a healthy church does.  I submit however, with this pastor, that missions needs to be included in every part of a church.  Missions must be in the DNA of the church- the actual fabric that makes up a particular church.

Instead of supporting a few missionaries and mission efforts, the church must instill the missions attitude in every component of the church.  Everyone at the church must be a missionary and discipleship efforts must focus on the development of the missional heart.  What is the missional heart?

The missional heart understands the true depth of the gift of Jesus and the amazing love that the Father has for us.  This love burns in our hearts and compels us to share this gift with others.  The overflow of the Holy Spirit spills out with our ability to minister to others as our heart aches for their condition and the world’s superficial solutions to the challenges of life and our ultimate purpose here on Earth.  The missional church equips all believers to be Christ’s messengers and carry the Good News to everyone- not just the third world or the poor.  Missions must define all functions of the church.  Churches must shift the focus of personal discipleship to missional discipleship- equipping the believer to take every advantage to share their faith with others instead of keeping it bottled up inside of them.  This is an outward focus instead of an inward focus.  Missions is not a “calling” for a select few radical believers.  Missions is the manifestation of everything that it is to be a follower of Christ.

“The mission of the church is missions” Oswald J. Smith