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Life is Good.

Chris —  October 3, 2011

Life is Good.

It’s true that life is tough. And when you realize that it’s tough, it gets a little better. It’s hard not to get lost in the darkness. Suffering is immediate rich and important in a way that our small daily joys pale against.

Which is why it is essential to remember that life is good.

As I was leaving the Emmanuel Orphanage in Delhi, Lakshmi, a six year old girl with piercing blue eyes clung to me and cried “Uncle, Uncle!” She, and all those around hre had been abandoned and persecuted their entire young lives, but they still knew how to love deeply, in a way I struggle to remember. Life is good.

I know a guy who begrudgingly gave the keys of his car to a single mom he barely knew for two weeks. They are good friends now.  Life is good.

A friend of mine has often thought that he could ever get a “good girl.” He felt like the only ones interested had different values and would treat him poorly. Then he met a girl, and has been attached to her at the hip ever since. Seeing them together is life seeing something that was always meant to be. Life is good.

Another friend of mine went to a foreign country to work with an NGO. His work was interupted when his teammates were captured, and he had to spend to next few months there negotiating their release.  As heartwrenching as that was, he also sees it as the most important thing he has ever done. He took a furlough to recover, and is returning calmer, closer to God, and more excited about discipleship than ever. Life is good.

I get depressed sometimes. This summer was one of those. In the midst of that, I got a small, unexpected gift that helped shake me out of my myopic viewpoint. Life is good.

The scriptures teach when God created the world he called it good. When he created man, he called man really good. Then, sin wrecked all of that. Twisted and misshapen, like a fun house or a computer photobooth. But when we look behind the brokenness, we get to see that there is a heart wrenching beauty to it all.

The scriptures teach that this is not the way it was meant to be. Life is meant to be good. God has restored, is restoring and eventually will restore in full.

In time, the heartwrench will be over, and all we will see is that Life is Good.

Life is Tough.

Chris —  August 12, 2011

One time I moved across the country for something that didn’t pan out.  Another time I threw myself into developing a community that never knew how to welcome me.  Those were dark days.

A friend’s husband just passed and left her with a baby.  Another friend is suffering multiple miscarriages.  Another friend was denied an interview for a job they deserve.

Some friends of mine back in Denver spend every day with homeless teenagers. Everyday with heroine addicts and drug dealers and occassionally, murderers.  Two families I know are waiting for years to adopt while the kids they love are stranded thousands of miles away.

The kids I met at Emmanuel orphanage in Delhi are sleeping three to a bed in 110º.  If things go well, they might get some chicken this week.

One guy I know is losing the battle to control both his mind and body.   Another just got dumped…again.  Another buried both parents the year he graduated high school.

Life is really tough.

To be honest with you, mine feels pretty rough right now. But not as tough as many I know.

Although I am often depressed and even despair, it hasn’t shaken a few basic hopes.  They are:

1.  This world is not all.  Even when science explains how everything works, it will never answer “why?”  The very fact that there is an unanswerable why question is all the proof I need to know that this world is not all.

2.  We humans refuse to except a reality with no justice.  Hindus count on Karma. Atheist fight against oppresive religion. Christians are holding out for a new heaven and new earth, and if necessary, a hell.

3.  If there is more to this world, and there is justice, then there is a point to my story.  To our stories.  This is all going somewhere.

But none of this changes the fact that, in the meantime, life if tough.

So today, be kind to those you see.  Chances are, they’re going through a lot.

And if you hope in Christ remember that

” In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

It’s been a real blessing to have a few days here in the States to get aclimatized and process what we’ve experienced.  Tomorrow afternoon I’ll head out of here for the wild blue yonder.  It means the world to me that so many of you have read these posts, commented and prayed for me.  I hope you’ll continue to do so.

I’m still not to the point that I can communicate exactly what happened, what I experienced and what God has taught me.  (However, if you want to buy me lunch, I’ll probably tell you more than you want to hear.)  Here’s a few takeaways.

1.  God is God of the whole world. The Bible teaches that when God created the world, and he think’s it’s good.  He created man in his own image.  He sent Jesus for the sake of the world.  In the States we often focus on our individual spirituality.  How many times have you heard “read John 3:16 and replace the world with your name.”  It’s a nice thought, but it’s not the words that John used.  But when you hear Indian Orphans, who haven’t had water for days, sing praises to Jesus, it gives you pause.  When you meet an old Bobby from Scotland Yard who has dedicated his life to providing Bibles to the underground Chinese Church, it makes you think that there’s something bigger going on here.  When have an eight inch rusty knife drawn on you by a desperate teenager, in a country whose economy has been manipulated by the U.S. government for 100 years, you have to realize that our country, our way of doing religion, our way of life is not the best or only way to follow Jesus.

2.  Take time to thank God for everything.  I almost don’t want to mention this because it’s so cliche.  But I can’t get past the cook at our orphanage in India, who you could hear say under her breath “Thank you Jesus” everytime she stood up and everytime she sat down.  Why?  Because she was thankful for the ability to stand up and sit down.  Am I?

3.  You don’t need much.  I’ve lived our of a suitcase for two months.  That suitcase contained more than the combined possessions of many people I met.  Now, I’ve never been one to collect a lot of material possessions.  I’ll be thinking two or three times before I make any future purchases.

4.  There is such a thing as “thinking too much.” This is probably the most important thing I learned in France.  The place is full of history that predates the Romans and restaurants that contain the greatest art of all time.  For the most part, France is Godless and therefore hopeless.  It’s really hard for me to say this, because there isn’t much other than Jesus I love more than history, art and culture.  The greatest accomplishments of Western Culture are scattered throughout France….but so what?

5. Some systems are better than others.  We do have a lot to be thankful for here in the U.S.  Running water, a functioning electrical grid, a comparitively uncorrupt government.  Compared to many countries, our systems work better than others.  But before you get too proud, keep in mind there  are a lot of things we do poorly.  When I asked an American missionary in Nicaragua what she missed about central America when she came home, she said “having time for people.”  Our functioning electrical grid allows us to watch TV all night long, and surf the internet more than needed.  It’s relegated our communications to the 140 twitter characters or the emoticons we can fit in a txt mssge.  In other cultures, you wake up with the sun, work hard all day, gather for meals, and go to sleep when it gets dark. In many ways the systems we are so proud of also creating the problems we suffer from.  We have a lot to teach other countries, but they also have a lot to teach us.

6.  Seek and Ye Shall Find.  I don’t have any magical formula for spiritual growth.  But I know that Jesus called us to follow him.  It’s not that I am any holier for having gone on this pilgrimage.  But I have found an undeniable link between becoming transformed to be like Christ and movement.  If you want to be more like Jesus you’re going to have to get up, move around, stretch your muscles, and try something new.  We fool ourselves when we think that we are seeking Christ when our lives are static.  You want to find God, get up, get off your couch and seek him.  Go find an orphan to feed-or better off, adopt one.  Go find a lost person and tell them about Jesus.  Go meet your next door neighbor, and find out what they need.  You’ll find Jesus is at work when you look into the hungry faces of the poor and existential miseries of the rich.  You’ll learn that he loves them, and if you start to love them, you’ll start looking more like Jesus.   Just get up and start seeking.

To Gehenna and Back

Chris —  July 31, 2009

In many ways, our final stop here in Managua, Nicaragua has been the hardest.  We faced some difficulties on our first day here, which I’ll tell you about when we have lunch on Saturday.  This is our only stop that is not a former British colony, so language has also been more of a barrier here than anywhere else.  It doesn’t help that we’re tired and the poor girls have had to put up with me for two months.  To top it all off, we’ve also been to Hell and back.

In Matthew 23, and throughout the New Testament, Jesus uses the term Gehenna to describe the destination of those who oppose him.  Gehenna was a valley outside Jerusalem.  It had once been home to pagan rituals of child sacrifice, but by Jesus’s day was a constantly smoldering pile of garbage.  We translate this to our english word Hell.

On the banks of Lake Managua is a giant smoldering plateau of trash called La Chureca.  On the outskirts of the dump is a barrio that is home to somewhere between 1,500 hundred individuals to 3,000 families.  Let me state this plainly: Thousands of human beings living in a garbage dump.

They go to Chureca because, strange as it may seem, it’s a place you can find work.  When garbage trucks come by families run up the hill to dive after recyclables.  Life is dirty and dangerous.  Stories are told of mothers renting out their children to get a place in line, and children being ran over by the trucks.  One of the hottest items is glue, which, when sniffed provides not only a momentary high, but more importantly, an appetite suppressant.

I find it quite interesting that Jesus and the New Testament writers chose a literal valley to describe the eternal destination of the damned.  Hell isn’t just a place where bad people go when they die.  It’s a way of life created and sustained by the sinful choices of man and an unjust system he has set up.

To learn how you can help people get out of Hell, check out

In 1909 the U.S. began to involve themselves in the affairs of the Nicaraguan government. It started with diagreements over a canal that would have great dividends for the US. Since then the U.S. has propped up dictators, meddled in trade and backed guerillas in this country of about 6 million.

I don’t understand enough to make a statement as to whether or not our government’s actions have turned the jewel of Central America into the second poorest nation in the hemisphere. Plenty of blame can be assigned to Daniel Ortega and the other corrupt leaders who have siphoned foreign aid into their own pockets for decades.

Mission work in Nicaragua does not neccessarily mean “sharing the gospel” — at least not in the traditional evangelical “love-Jesus-so-you-can-go-to-heaven-when-you-die” sense.  The church is actually growing like wildfire throughout Latin America.  In a place where the average salary is 50 dollars a month and there seems to be no incentive to go to school after fourth grade, the church’s role is to prove that there is life before death.

The missionaries provide a YMCA analog that gives 100+ kids a safe place to spend their afternoons.  I’ve seen the alternatives and they are quite dangerous.  This is one way the church can aid in the development of Nicaragua. 

Maybe we American Christians owe it to them.