Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Place for Heroes

I've talked about this before, many months ago, but Greg Mortenson is one of my heroes. I'm not sure of all the reasons that I feel drawn to his message. I think it is a combination of factors.

Most of all, is that he has a heart for the same people which I do. We've also traveled in of the very same towns in Pakistan, once a week apart. He was a mountain climber . . . I'm an armchair mountain climber. He worked in medicine as do I.

But there is something else about his message, which draws me. I think it his desire to bring justice to those who have the least measure of it . . . little girls in the strict, pro-Taliban culture. When I look at the photo, I see his big, sincere grin when he is surrounded by the little kids. I feel the same way. My heart becomes like clay, or lime Jello in the hands of the kids in want.

I look to him as a hero because I traveled in the same area of Pakistan as he did, I saw the same needs . . . yet I was impotent to do anything . . . while he, alone, changed their world.

Getting to know him, through his books (Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools) I feel I know his spirit and it is humble.

Well, I got to meet my hero in person Thursday night. Yeah, I met him . . . along with 2500 other people. He told the same stories, which I discovered through his books. But he still inspired me.

This brings me to the issue of heroes. I know that Dick Keyes (leader of LAbri in the Harvard area) did several talks on heroes and even wrote a book about it (which I've never read). But Greg is in that zone that it would be really hard to call him a Christian, yet he is certainly doing God's work. By his own admission, he has drifted from being a missionary kid in Tanzania to being a man who still believes in God, but whom believes that all religious roads leads to the parking lot. Will Greg Mortenson be in heaven, or in the new earth? Somehow I wouldn't be surprised if he is.

This thought brings me to the next one. Today, one of the passages the pastor read was in Mark

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”

39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

I know I'm sounding liberal here. I mean the old Mike wouldn't hesitate to say, that if Greg Mortenson doesn't confess that Jesus is the only way to Heaven, then he will surely burn in hell for all of eternity. Now, I certainly still believe that Jesus is the one and only man-hybrid with the Godhead, wholly man, holy God. That he is the only one who came and brought us reconciliation. Yet, like the problem of evil . . . is the problem of good. I somehow believe that Greg will be saved through Christ.

Now, the old Mike would be red-faced at this point. He would have said, we are not saved by good works, we are saved by faith. So even if Mother Teresa didn't ascribe to the full apostle's creed, then she too will be kindling for the everlasting flames.

But still somehow these heroes are working from a place in their hearts that makes me know that God is there. I mean, Greg wouldn't be who he is if it had not been for the Christian influence of his missionary parents.

I can't get my head around it. But maybe in another dimension this all makes sense.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Age of Instant Media. . . Is Changing the World

Cairo has a special place in my heart having lived there for a couple of years. Even the entire Arab world is always on my radar. I know I posted recently of the changing world under the innovations such as Facebook and Twitter.

To be clear, I'm not saying these things are always a blessing nor are they of the devil, but, like most inventions of humans, they can be used for great good and horrible destruction.

In summary, the Arab world as a whole, lives under the thumb of dictators. It fits easily into their fatalistic view of the world. They also don't share the true Christian belief that all people have tremendous, intrinsic value simply because they are created in God's image. So the tension comes when this basic principal of nature (God's created nature) is violated. Where the common people are seen and treated as "common." Some of the dictators are more benevolent than others. All are corrupt. Some are brutal. But, the main point, is that until now the vast majority of citizens have had no voice. But now, Facebook and Twitter (and blogs) have given them this voice.

I was reading on BBC yesterday that the huge protests in downtown Cairo (I recognize the buildings and can see the university where I studied Arabic) were organized through Facebook. That is really remarkable. I don't know if people realize the power of the net. It really is the net and not Facebook per se, that has the power. If Facebook didn't come onto the scene something like it eventually would have. I predict that all the governments in the Arab world, plus Iran, will either have to drastically become more responsive to the people or they will tumble like in Tunisia.

But of course in each of these countries are a population from 10 to 25 percent who want Sharia (Islamic) law. If those take the power, then great harm could come. They are opportunists and will exploit any revolution.

So how does this relate to Christianity? Everything does one way or the other. In the age of rapid communication the Church has to adapt.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


It was inevitable. I do live on an island. I knew it would come when I least expected it . . . and it did. It was about 6:30 in the morning. I was naked in the shower and there was my ex-pastor also naked. It was the first time I've laid eyes on him in six months, not since that terrible night of confrontation. It wasn't a strange Freudian dream, it was Thrive.

I had seen him on the Elipical. I made a point to wave at him, he nodded. It was so obvious he saw me. I think we were the only two in the aerobic side of the room at that early hour.

When I was done with my run on the treadmill, I noticed he was gone. I went to hit the showers so I could get to work.

I got in the locker room and stripped off. I entered the shower. When I was done I came out. There he stood and I know that I caught his eye but he didn't look at me. I spoke up, "Joe!" He looked at me, looked surprised he did, "oh, I didn't know you were here (couldn't have missed me)." I decided right then that the best path out of all this, was to pretend . . . pretend that nothing had ever happened between us.

If you know me, I hate pretending, but the other course of actually talking about things, would lead to despair . . . if not conflict. I feel he has sinned against me and my family . . . he feels I've sinned against him and his church. We smile. We pretend that all is well. Maybe that's as good as it gets. Maybe there is some metaphor I'm missing, you know, the first time we see each other after the big confrontation . . . and we are both in our birthday suits. Gotta laugh.

I haven't been around for a while as I'm still in the thick of creating a new business. I have another blog where I'm chronicling that experience. I hope to be back here soon and to iMonk.

I will say, speaking of the above, that it has been six months now since I've left my old church and joined my new. I was just thinking this morning how smart that was. I still enjoy going to my new church. It fits like a shoe cobbled just for me.

I entered our sanctuary this morning a little late. The liturgy on the overhead, which we read together, started by saying, "You've entered a safe place . . ." Then it went on for a few paragraphs. I've always said that church should be the safest place in society. Often it is the reverse.

There is still some tension between Denise and me over this move. I've disappointed her again. She has great friends in the old church and I think she sees me as a trouble maker. But it feels so good to go to church again. I hope that we find peace in this awkward setting again.

I know on this blog the stats still tells me that the most visited page is the one about my struggle with anxiety. For that reason, I will link (here) to my discussion about my anxiety which I posted on my professional blog.


Friday, January 14, 2011

The Assassin and the Fear of Nothingness

I heard an interview Friday, on NPR (where else?) with a group of forensic psychiatrists. The topic was what motivates an assassin to do their terrible chore? They were unanimous in their conclusions, and it made sense to me, even though it wasn't what I expected.

Virtually all the crazies, who go out and try to kill a politician or anyone famous (such as John Lennon) do so as a finale, after a long chain of personal failures. They, in response to those failures, are left with a terrible fear of nothingness. That is, as a person, they are totally worthless, or insignificant-o-phobia. This of course includes Loughner, the Tuscan shooter. It was interesting that they (the psychiatrists) were confident that, while Loughner exhibited paranoia, and other assassins exhibited extreme political ideas . . . neither of those factors caused them to finally pull the trigger.

I have believed for sometime now that the essence of all human behavior can be defined by is this struggle for significance. I can relate this problem to the Fall of Adam and how, since sin entered this world, that we all have suffered in this pandemic of feeling a lack of significance. Thus, we are capable of doing almost anything to find that significance.

Of course, that's what the gospel is all about . . . the solution to that problem. First God created us with an intrinsic and insatiable significance because we were created in His image. That includes even the worst of humanity. But then, morally, by the perfection of Christ, we are totally clean and re-valued with infinite worth and significance.

But this is where my opinions diverge from the mainstream (at least the Evangelical mainstream) and that is, I believe that all of us continue to struggle with this deep psychological longing, despite becoming a Christian. Additionally, that subconscious longing for significance becomes the remote controller of our drone-wills. I don't mean this fatalistically. We do have choice. We can become less and less controlled by that carnal servo. But the best Christians in the modern world (I hold Billy Graham on such a pedestal) still make their choices based on this hope of becoming more significant.

I know that I've talked about this before, but when I've traveled with humanitarian relief groups in the developing world, I know that 80% of my, and the other volunteer's motives, are not altruistic. We desire to be more significant. We want attention, praise (from the poor we are helping and from our peers back home). But in 20% of the motives are from a good place, empathy, compassion, obedience . . . that ain't [sic] bad.

My point is, I think it is healthy if we have more realistic views on why we do things and why others do them to us. When someone wants us to do such and such, to please God, usually you can trace it to them wanting personal significance and your actions when help them find it better . . . or so they think.

I also know that when I make mundane choices (or life-changing ones) that I should be honest with myself that a chunk of that motive is to find significance, which is an unreachable destination. This is the vanity, which Solomon spoke of in melancholic terms.

But the great, wise king also concluded that fulfillment is reached as we enjoy the simple things of life and simply for the sake of that enjoyment. And to respect God and to follow his directives for a more pleasurable life in this world . . . as we learn to rest in that passive, but total significance. Chasing after any other is indeed pursuing after a mist in the middle of mayhem.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

False Meanings in the Decision-Making Process

The title of this painting is Women's Work Telling Fortunes by Harry Roseland, (1865-1950)

I am once again drawn to this issue of decision-making, especially when it comes to the Christian.

The main reason is that I'm in the middle of an exhausting process of creating a brand-new medical practice. Words can not describe how much work this has been over the past few months. But, as things are coming together I'm finding myself in the position of having to make several risky (financial) decisions.

After being at a high point last week, due to some complications (it would take too much space to describe here) I have been really down the last two days.

I started to think about how I would have approached this as an evangelical. I would be constantly reading supernatural meanings in to every juncture and chain of events. Even my down feeling would be seen as a sign from God, to bail. I remember backing out of many things because of "a negative spirit." But now I see it as the normal human nature . . .without any significant meaning to infer.

The second point that brought this up was the terrible shooting in Tuscan. There is so much talk out there about that situation. I keep hearing though, how people are trying to make some kind of meaning or sense out of it. You know, the Tea Party is responsible, or there wasn't enough police, or the liberals are too soft on crime, or guns are too plentiful or guns are too controlled. Then I sense the fringe Christian people moving in to make sense, like that flaky Baptist pastor who wants to protest the funerals, believing that all bad things are God's judgement on American for condoning homosexuality. So bad events draws "meaning - claimers" like a piece of warm, stinky meat draws flies.

The third thing was, of all places, on Oprah last night. They had this couple who's three small children were killed in a car accident. The couple mentioned the dumb comments that some people said to them such as, "God did this for a reason."

But then, like reading tea leaves, Oprah made a big point about them having a miracle and they agreed. It certainly sounded like a miracle. A year later, the wife gave birth to three babies, and just like the children, whom they lost, it was one boy and two girls.

It sounds like a scrip of a miracle. But if you listen to them closely, you see normal (healthy) human actions behind it all. They were lost without their children. One of them were sterile by choice. They choose to have in-vitro fertilization. In that process they choose to implant three embryos, one make and two females. My point is that there is nothing wrong with that. But there is this underlying meaning-economy where nothing has value unless it is directly from the spiritual world, from God or occasionally from Satan.

But the problem with that superstitious kind of thinking, besides making poor business decision, is the inevitable disappointment. What happen's when it is your child killed? Can you still, honestly, say that "God did it for a reason" and still love that God who you think did that to your baby?

My whole point with this blog is looking at the world differently. It is reappraising (with much higher value) the cause and effect of this physical universe. The laws of physics, human nature (including laws of psychological dynamics) DO matter. In C. S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, he describes the grass in Heaven as diamonds to his feet. Maybe that is true, that Heaven is a greater reality. But this reality . . . well, is real too. Grass feels here, like grass. What I mean, it isn't a vapor. You can slip on grass and sprang you ankle. A semi can skid on the asphalt and crash into the back of a car, killing the little helpless children in the back.

I feel blue at times, when I face disappointment or when I'm tired. This doesn't have to be the Holy Spirit doing a major event in my life, telling me to do X or Y. Nor is it, like my Nav friends use to tell me, that I'm being oppressed by a demon. Like the real grass on the real ground, I am a real human being with real emotions and there isn't anything deeper going on here than that.

Trucks crash and kill children because of many factors of physics and biology. There is no personal meaning in that (where the events were caused by the deliberate will of a "person," usually a supernatural person). Most the time, these events have no meaning. They have reasons which can be expressed in mathematical terms if you wish, but no intended purpose.

Even the terrible shooting in Tuscan has reasons . . . even without a meaning. God didn't allow it or do it to punish us, or teach us. The reasons are complex and have to do with the internal (mental) climate of the individual doing the shooting.

I've always said that mental illness is usually not an issue of reason or logic, but of perception. If you could have been in the shooters mind, the paranoid perception of the world could possibly end up in the the logical conclusion that it is best to eliminate everyone. I'm speaking in logical terms. I don't know the man's mental health history nor am I attempting to make a diagnoses. Certainly he was mentally ill. No one can advocate violence unless they are.

But cause and effect resulting in mental illness doesn't erase blame.

The center of the blame lies at the feet of Satan himself. I say this without posing to do the same error of making meaning by tying earthly events to the spiritual. But Satan is the father of lies. We are drowning in lies. The worse lying is where we lie to ourselves, and we all do it.

I tell myself that so and so hates me or I can't do such and such, or that so and so intended to harm me, or that God doesn't really-really love me. I don't know all the lies this shooter was telling himself, but they must have been off the radar.

Then, we have cause in effect in our behavior. I don't know if the shooter's problems were connected to a brain defect, drug abuse or being abused as a child or who knows what. But I'm not justifying his heinous crime. He still made choices. He choose to continuing lying to himself, like I often choose to lie to myself.

I've taken the tangential road once more. This posting was really about decision making and the search for meaning in the mundane . . . and in the horrible.

Friday, January 7, 2011

The Age of Facebook and the Church

If you have been around this blog before, you will know that I’m a great advocate for honesty . . . deep, emotional honesty, warts and all. My premise is simple. The Bible says that lying is sin. Plus, if God is really there after all, then He is a God of truth. If He wasn’t a God of truth, then what’s the point with Him? Since lying is the opposite of truth then the more dishonest we are, the more removed from God we are.

But this type of great candidness is despised by many parts of society, and in a paradox, the Evangelical subculture seems to abhor it the most. The reason is, when you deal honestly with life—warts and all—you dispel the Christian myths about righteousness and godliness.

The myth is, you become a Christian and over night you become a much better person than you were the day before. You also, supposedly, loose your motivation to do things which the Bible considers sinful. Then as you grow, those tendencies virtually go all away until you are godly.

I know it sounds like I’m getting off on a tangent, and maybe I am, but I will eventually relate it back to the Facebook phenomenon.

But I believe in reality, we change very slowly. The “overnight” change, in my humble opinion has a lot more to do with socialization than a supernatural change. This is not a theological statement but one based on the observation of human behavior over a long period of time.

Then, over time our character does change subtly, but we imagine it doing so much more than it does. The Christian author Philip Yancey is saying the same exact thing in his book, What’s So Amazing About Grace.

So, where there is a incongruentcy or conflict between what we perceive about reality and what IS reality, we cover it up. To expose it, creates great social frustration and uneasiness. That’s what candidness does.

I will just give a brief example of what I mean. I hate to even bring this up, but it a classical example of what I’m talking about. A few months ago my ex-pastor, who certainly would consider himself a mature Christian and godly man, was in my house screaming at me with a contorted face and a look of pure rage. There were psychological reasons he could feel rage. I had announced a few weeks earlier that I was leaving his church. His personal esteem was wrapped up in that church (not saying he was a bad guy, but saying this is a normal human emotional feelings and response) and I was threatening his self esteem.

But during that “conversation” I made reference to his anger. I bet every sociologist and behavioral psychologist would agree that he was exhibiting extreme anger or rage. However, he voice offense that I would say he was “angry.” This made him livid. In his mind’s eye, he was doing pastoral counseling because I was a very bad man who had turned his back on God.
But then I was candid and said I, personally, was mad as hell. But the fact that I admitted that I was angry was used against me. It was more proof that I was a bad person and deserved such a harsh rebuke.

When I was very involved with Evangelical groups we all lied through our teeth to maintain the myth that we had godly motives for everything we did. In my opinion, this tension, between our good-Christian ideals and the reality of human nature has created a culture of farceness. It is against this farce that 80% of our Evangelical-raised children are rebelling. Don’t believe me? Ask them. Every 20-year-old + ex-church person I’ve talked to says the same. No Ken Ham, it is not because they’ve been exposed to “humanistic evolution.”

So how does Facebook fit in? The commentator says that Internet-based social networks have created a far more candid society. People are sharing on a public stage their most intimate thoughts and the trivial details about their lives—often with photos to back it up. Speaking of which, he also including these strange birds that speak their most intimate thoughts on these things call “blogs” whatever the hell that is.

Imagine that the world’s emotional/intellectual façade is like the sea. The bed of the sea is reality. As that water level starts to go down towards reality, the exposure and contrast with the dishonest Christian subculture becomes more apparent. The Church starts to look more like isolated islands sticking up out of the water, with the Facebook-generation falling off the edge towards that lowering water level. If not falling off the edge, then they have to construct a psychological dichotomy between their personas in the Christian world and in the non-Christian world.

This dichotomy was exemplified by friends of mine a number of years ago. They were typical, hard church-working, evangelicals. In the church context they said all the right things and appeared like the ideal Christian family.

They had another world in which they lived as well. They had a family business, in which the parents and the kids participated in. In that social setting, they were totally different. They were rough, drank a lot of beer, dad smoked cigarettes and they used rough language.

Now, please understand that I’m not criticizing this family as not being good Christians or even being hypocrites. My intentions could not be further from that, and this is where people often misunderstand what I’m trying to say. I’m just pointing how some people, actually most people, deal with this disjoint between the Christian ideals they subscribe to and the reality of the world in which they live.

On an even more interesting sociological note was that when this family was stuck by an unexpected tragedy (the father was killed), it was their non-Christian friends whom they drew closes to. I noticed that when us church-people, visited them in the hospital, a stiff façade would go up. When their non-Christian friends came (and most of the church people were gone) they let their guard down and they were real. No more flaky God-talk (God did this for a reason to teach you to trust Him) but crying and outrage . . . which was far, far more consistent with what they were really feeling.

So the big question, what does the future of the Church hold for a more candid society? How can the Church adapt to social networking?

Like I stated in the previous post, there are good and bad with every human endeavor. I personally applaud any movement towards a greater honestly. However, we all know that Facebook, blogs and other Internet interfaces between people can be a fraud. Who knows, maybe I’m a twelve year old girl in India rather than a fifty-five year old man in the San Juan Islands.

I posted once before about the virtual church (which some mega churches are playing around with). Most of that seems a continuation and even magnification of the farce factor. On line, you can appear to be even more holy than you really are. Online, they can’t see your bloodshot eyes or veins sticking out of your neck as you exhibit your carnal rage but cloak it as loving concern.

But, what is this Facebook society going to do to/for the future Church? I think we must become more honest are the Facebook generation is lost forever.

Maybe more on this though later.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

How Will Facebook Change Our World, Christian and Non

Two things bring this to mind. The first was a story on NPR two days ago in reference to fact that Goldman Sachs decision to invest $500,000 into Facebook. The commentator, who is an expert on economic as well as social change, was asked, “Is Facebook really worth this much of an investment.”

The commentator responded in a way which surprised me. First of all, he described their financial assets including their advertising exposure. It is huge, thus, he believed that they really were worth the investment. But something he said caught my attention much more than that.

The commentator said that most people don’t realize the depth of the radical social change which is happening right now, thanks partially to Facebook. Right now there are more than a half a billion “active” Facebook users. That’s 1/12th the world’s population. At least 10% of the world’s population has joined. But if you break that down to those who access to the Internet, the percentage would be much higher.

So, beyond those high numbers come the changes in behavior of people in social settings. There is a social revolution going on and it is world-wide, or going to be world-wide before it is over. But does this mean to us, especially the Church?

A long, long time ago, the very first time I logged onto the Internet, I was blown away. It was a totally new concept for me, being able to communicate with anyone around the world, in the privacy of their homes, from the privacy of my home. I remember sending my first e-mail, to a Christian friend. I said, “What a potential for the Gospel!”

Of course, like with anything, there is a bright side and a dark side. For every person who has been helped, spiritually, through the Internet, one has discovered something bad. It could be finding an old girlfriend (or even a stranger) and running off with them, leaving their wife and kids. I’ve heard that story over, and over and over. I’m sure a lot of people have looked at porn that would never have gone to a porn shop or other source (if the Internet didn’t exist). And then the worst of them all, child porn. So, looking at the new age of Facebook, I have to ask what good things, and bad things will it bring us.

The above narrative is about half of what I've written, however, I got too busy today to finish the thought so I will post it as part I (this introduction) and Part II (more thoughts).

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

You Will Always Have the Poor Among You But . . .

I personally was deeply moved by the above video. Part if, I think, is having been with people just like those shown. I worked in the "Village of Garbage" in Cairo for a couple of years and then have seen other people, just as poor in other parts of the world.

On this posting, I was simply going to put that video next to one of a "prosperity gospel" preacher for contrast. So, in preparation for that I viewed about a hour of 2-5 minute clips from pastors such as Joel Osteen and several of the TBN preachers. Actually, after a while I felt sick. In related articles I read how one famous TV preacher (who has two huge homes already) bought a 25 million dollar beach front California mansion. When the local TV network asked them why (as the already had a home nearby) the answer was, that their poodle loves to run outside and their other mansion didn't have a large yard. This way the dog can run on the beach.

This is narcissistic thinking, and wrapped up in the Gospel.

On the other hand, I'm not promoting guilt manipulation such as, "Who are you to have a Bigmac while the world is starving." That thinking is equally wrong.

But when I watch that little girl in Kabul my heart breaks. I have 10 blankets I could give her today . . . if only I could. But getting goods into the hands of those who need it, it is complicated.

This is where I think the greatest fulfilled life could come from. Where you spend each day selling something you have and using the money to give the basics to such in need. Now that's the real Gospel.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Words for Reflection - Does God Micro-manage All of Life?

So Eagle raised the question. I too had been hoodwinked in my early Evangelical days that God not only knew me and the hairs on my head, but God controlled those hairs . . . which side my part was on God controlled.

My simple challenge is to read this passage and to take off the Evangelical glasses. Think simply about the promises, if any, are made here. Maybe Eugene Peterson himself has been influenced by American (or Canadian) Evangelicalism and I wish we could read this passage in Greek . . . but I don't know Greek.

Matthew 10 (The Message)

The Twelve Harvest Hands

1-4 The prayer was no sooner prayed than it was answered. Jesus called twelve of his followers and sent them into the ripe fields. He gave them power to kick out the evil spirits and to tenderly care for the bruised and hurt lives. This is the list of the twelve he sent:

Simon (they called him Peter, or "Rock"),
Andrew, his brother,
James, Zebedee's son,
John, his brother,
Matthew, the tax man,
James, son of Alphaeus,
Simon, the Canaanite,
Judas Iscariot (who later turned on him).
5-8Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:

"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.

9-10"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.

11"When you enter a town or village, don't insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.

12-15"When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don't welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they'll be mighty sorry—but it's no concern of yours now.

16"Stay alert. This is hazardous work I'm assigning you. You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don't call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.

17-20"Don't be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don't be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they've done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don't worry about what you'll say or how you'll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.

21-23"When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don't quit. Don't cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you've run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.

24-25"A student doesn't get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn't make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, 'Dungface,' what can the workers expect?

26-27"Don't be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don't hesitate to go public now.

28"Don't be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands.

Forget About Yourself

29-31"What's the price of a pet canary? Some loose change, right? And God cares what happens to it even more than you do. He pays even greater attention to you, down to the last detail—even numbering the hairs on your head! So don't be intimidated by all this bully talk. You're worth more than a million canaries.
32-33"Stand up for me against world opinion and I'll stand up for you before my Father in heaven. If you turn tail and run, do you think I'll cover for you?

34-37"Don't think I've come to make life cozy. I've come to cut—make a sharp knife-cut between son and father, daughter and mother, bride and mother-in-law—cut through these cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. Well-meaning family members can be your worst enemies. If you prefer father or mother over me, you don't deserve me. If you prefer son or daughter over me, you don't deserve me.

38-39"If you don't go all the way with me, through thick and thin, you don't deserve me. If your first concern is to look after yourself, you'll never find yourself. But if you forget about yourself and look to me, you'll find both yourself and me.

40-42"We are intimately linked in this harvest work. Anyone who accepts what you do, accepts me, the One who sent you. Anyone who accepts what I do accepts my Father, who sent me. Accepting a messenger of God is as good as being God's messenger. Accepting someone's help is as good as giving someone help. This is a large work I've called you into, but don't be overwhelmed by it. It's best to start small. Give a cool cup of water to someone who is thirsty, for instance. The smallest act of giving or receiving makes you a true apprentice. You won't lose out on a thing."