Andres Iniesta’s World Cup Tribute

Andres Iniesta got one of the record 13 yellow cards in the World Cup Final Sunday . . . but this one was worth it. Why did he get a yellow card? For taking off his shirt after the extra time goal that put his Spain team ahead 1-0 over Netherlands. Why did he take his shirt off?

That’s the best tribute stories of the World Cup. Like most soccer players celebrating a goal, Iniesta ran to the corner after he scored, but he took off his blue Spain jersey as he ran, revealing a white t-shirt with these words hand-written on the front:

“Dani Jarque: siempre con nosotros” (Dani Jarque: you are always with us)

The words were a tribute to his fallen teammate Dani Jarque, who collapsed and died at age 26 one month after being named captain of Espanyol. Iniesta and Jarque were teammates on under-17, 19, 20, 21 teams.

“I wanted to carry Dani with me,” Iniesta said. “I had the opportunity to score that goal which was so important to my team. It’s something absolutely incredible. I simply made a small contribution to my team.”

A beautiful tribute for the beautiful game and World Cup 2010.

Is God listening?

In my twenty years in ministry I’ve heard myself and many I walk alongside asking the question, “Is God really listening?” Great question. Let’s dig in. In the next few weeks on my blog, I’ll reflect on a few of the pressing questions we ask as human beings.

Is God Listening?

Hagar was Father Abraham’s second wife, and his first wife Sarah didn’t care much for her and nagged Abraham till he send Hagar away.

Sent into exile, the trembling Egyptian servant girl huddled in the desert between Kadesh and Bered where an angel of the Lord appeared to her. The angel said she should name her son Ishmael, which means “God hears.” The angel added, “for the Lord has heard of your misery.”

In her passion and misery, she gave the Lord a new name: Beer Lahai Roi, which means, “You are the Living God who sees me.” For she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.”

The stories in Scripture intend to sweep us into their drama and get us to ask the same questions. Does God really follow lonely people into the desert? Does God enter the cancer ward, 11th Street in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a brothel where forced sex workers cry out to God like Hagar?

Does God listen to us? Most of us don’t really know. Why?

The biggest reason we don’t know if God is listening is because we don’t speak to him, don’t know how or find the whole enterprise intimidating and lack the patience to learn how to speak to God.

A few years ago a book came out called, How to talk so your teenager will listen and listen so your teenager will talk. What if we put that in terms of talking to God. What would it be like if God spoke so his creation would listen and listened so his creation would talk?

Through Hagar we learn God does listen and see us. The prophets are exemplars of what it looks like to be crazy enough to believe that God is really listening and interacting with us.

The psalmists believe God is listening but they also apparently believe it’s OK to question the fact simultaneously. It’s almost like the whole exercise of writing poetry/songs implies that belief that God is listening but the words themselves make us wonder otherwise.

David cries out in Psalm 39:12, “Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were.” Psalm 5, David reminds God to listen. So is it OK to remind God to listen? According to the psalmists, it sure enough is. Have you reminded God to listen lately? We often talk about God, as I’m doing in this post, chunking back and forth ideas about whether he listens, whether he doesn’t. What if we got about the business of reminding God to listen?

Did Jesus remind God to listen? Jesus believes that God listens, and in the Gospel accounts we find Jesus taking time to climb mountains and find solitary places in gardens to speak his heart to God.

Jesus also knew the psalms and would have prayed them like Jews of his time did in worship assemblies. He even talked back to God on the cross, quoting Psalm 22. “My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?”

One way to find out if God is listening is to pray psalms and call on him to listen. God’s word to us in the psalms is also humanity’s words to God, many times asking God to give an ear to our cries. Pray the psalms. Take Psalm 5 or Psalm 39 and call upon God to listen, to give ear to your cries. Lift up God’s name and his qualities of lovingkindness and goodness.

The words of the psalms give us a voice when we often lose our voices. The psalms are a collection in the middle of our Bibles that teach us to talk to God and reminds God to listen. If it bothers you that you’d have to remind God of something, then quit complaining that he’s not listening or wondering if he does. Speak that doubt and that reminder to God who can be entrusted with your heart’s deepest, darkest doubts.

Some of these reflections come from working through the book, Talking Back to God by Lynn Anderson. I’m preaching through the book this summer at Garnett, and we’d love to have you come and join us 10 am Sundays.

Plan B

I read Anne Lamott’s Plan B and wasn’t too high on reading this guy’s plan B, but it didn’t turn out too bad. Here’s a review in Publishers Weekly.

Plan B: What Do You Do When God Doesn’t Show Up the Way You Thought He Would?
Pete Wilson. Thomas Nelson, $14.99 paper (224p) ISBN 978-0-8499-4650-9

This new young voice in evangelical Christian circles, a pastor and church planter in Nashville, finds a distinctive way to weave Bible stories with his own and other life stories. People develop “Plan B,” Wilson argues, when life does not deliver what someone wants. It also entails a firm belief that God is there both in the failure of Plan A and in the redemption that comes in Plan B. Wilson draws on other Christian writers and thinkers as well as the Bible; the foundation for Plan B comes from such Bible texts as John 16:33, in which Jesus says, “ ‘In this life you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.’ ” Wilson cautions that taking only one part of this teaching–either the trouble part or the overcoming part–leads to bad theology. Good theology comes from holding these two together in tension, balancing disappointment and suffering with faith in a loving God. While the teaching is sound, the way he delivers it needs tweaking; Wilson’s writing lacks the kind of humility that draws the reader in. (May)

High Places: a novel set in 1920s Africa

High Places: a novel
How to order the book

Read Chapter 1

About High Places
If Tenwa could make it across the Nile River he might be saved, but he could never return to his home village.

The missionary told him burning his tribe’s religious shrine would please God. But now the tribal leaders–even his own father–want Tenwa dead. Following the missionaries brought this trouble–what good was saving his soul if it cost him his life?

As the Germans and British battle for the continent, British missionaries William and Jessica Bell struggle to survive in 1920s East Africa. Could the ones they came to redeem be their salvation?

Two cultures collide and embrace in this love story and coming of age struggle for life’s high places.

How to order the book

I liked this book on parenting

Starred Review in Publishers Weekly
Spiritual Parenting: An Awakening for Today’s Families
Michelle Anthony. David C. Cook, $14.99 paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-4347-6447-8
Parenting books can be preachy—readers often feel like the children of the erstwhile parent turned author. This one is different. The Ph.D. mother-author’s conversational style is more narrative than didactic as she describes her “Aha!” moments, when she moved from attempting to control her children’s behavior to putting them into environments where they can know God and be changed by him. This is not a how-to parenting manual but a guide for developing as a spiritually minded parent who asks, “Who did God create my child to be?” The author’s mix of competence and vulnerability will be attractive to many readers: “It frustrated me that some punk kid down the street had more credibility than I did.” Her writing is vivid, terse, and revealing—a story of a boy who grew up without a father to become a great father himself is the heart of a chapter on love and respect. The book speaks to the journey that all parents must learn to accept: to hear God’s voice and change along with their children. (June)

Good Soil

“Don’t scoff at the idea of a pastor who is also a farmer writing about Jesus’ parable of the sower. Robinson is the real deal–a farmer who lived off the land for two decades, raising children with his wife and without electricity. . . . The book resonates with the injunction to live simply so others can simply live and has a profound simplicity of message and tone. . . . In a gently admonitory tone the author offers a radical call to all believers to join in the harvest of a healthy crop of followers in the fields of the Lord.”–Publishers Weekly

Outsider Interviews

From Publishers Weekly: Inspired by and supported with a foreword by David Kinnaman, author of the bestselling unChristian, this tandem book/DVD puts faces on Kinnaman’s findings on Christianity’s image problem. In four cities, the authors interviewed Christians but also agnostics, atheists, Muslims, gays, and other groups Christians are believed to reject. At the heart of the problem, they’ve discovered, is a Christian “swagger” that repels would-be Christians. They advocate the persuasive power of listening and truly liking people, choosing to use the word “like” rather than the overused “love.” In their words: “Jesus is the God who likes people.” Each chapter includes tie-ins to the DVD interviews and a reader’s guide for discussion. The book’s narrative, which recreates the road trip the authors took to do their interviews, seems self-indulgent and boring. But the combined impact of the book and DVD is stunning: the authors have heard and noted important ways Christians can improve their outreach by being more like Jesus, who meets people where they are. (July)

Water4Uganda Video

Can water wells be dug by hand? Yes, that have for centuries. Can a 6 inch diameter bore hole be drilled by hand and hit water? Until now, most people would say no, you need a drilling rig.

Enter Water4, Dick Greenley, Chris Cotner, and Steve Stewart. Two years ago, my friend Chris King introduced me to these guys and a new project called Water4, a not-for-profit based out of Pumps of Oklahoma in OKC, OK. I’ve been around water projects and lived in Uganda for seven years, but I’d never seen anything like these tools: hand augers, balers, rock breakers, and an innovative and powerful yet affordable pump.

As one Ugandan said, “This changes everything.” Will it happen fast? It could but that’s up to people joining hands, working hard, and giving countries around the world their own chance to dig their own wells.

Water4 provides tools, designs that are public domain, expertise, and people like you and me travel and take tools and help train local people and leave projects in their hands to develop as each country and churches and communities see fit.

Watch this video and write me if you want to know more.