Tuesday, October 26, 2010

From this week...

I had this moment yesterday that felt familiar.  In fact, I have had several moments like it this past week.  I had finished most of my tasks for the day and I was driving to get a cup of coffee to finish up my last emails for the day.  When I got to the coffee shop I was hit with a fairly new emotion.  It shouldn't be so new, but in practical everyday life I think it is.  I sat at the coffee shop and opened up my emails.  There were several emails from people who look radically different than they did a few years ago.  There are people devoting their lives to others within the US and abroad.  There was a father loving his family.  There were a few friends that always make me laugh when I need it.  I started thinking of my wife and how much I missed her when she was gone last week (the reason for no posts!)  I started praying for my kids because I wanted to, not because I committed to it.  I wasn't praying God would change them.  I was just thanking Him.  I think I'm new to gratefulness.
It isn't that my parents didn't teach me.  They did.  I just learned the polite version.  A friend at work was talking about how entitled we are as US Americans.  I see that in me.  God brings good in my life, I stamp my name on it and assume it is some reward for something.  I know I miss most of what He brings.
I didn't see this coming, but I'm so glad that God is putting gratefulness within me. I have so much to be thankful for.  Last night I talked to a great friend on the phone during Carter's basketball.  After talking I was left feeling incredibly cared for by my Father.  Not everything is resolved, but I'm safe and my family is safe.  We are surrounded from a far with people who love us and we are blessed beyond what we could even dream.  We get to do what we love and never lack adventure.
I know that if you read this you probably know my family.  Many of you are praying for us often, excited to hear about new adventures, and caring for us in different ways.  I just want to take a moment and sincerely thank you.  I don't know what God has today, but this week I have been struck by how our Father is a good Father.  Enjoy today.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Three jobs I would love until I had them.

In high school I had the most amazing job in the world. I worked at Toys R Us.  It was awesome.  I was a seasonal employee, so I was done working just weeks before it would begin feeling like work.  My time at Toys R Us was spent in the security area with remote control cars and video games.  Not a bad gig.  
They just put a Toys R Us near my house and it made me think of that awesome job.  I started thinking about other jobs that would be awesome until you actually did them.  Here are my three “"Dream Jobs that I don't ever want to do because that would take the Dream part away.”"
  • Radio Host-Yesterday Ezra pointed out that on the radio station we listen to they talk about whatever they want.  They talk about Pringles, then surfing, then God all in the matter of five minutes.  Also, they are only on air about four hours a day and then apparently eat Pringles and surf.  I don't want to surf or eat Pringles, but Cheetos and golf would be awesome.  In real life a radio host works more, but in my dream world this is the best job.
  • Coffee Shop Owner- I still want to do this one some day.  Think about it, what is better than coffee in the morning?  Nothing.  I imagine the joy there would be in owning a coffee shop where you are providing joy and sanity to people as they start their day.  For some, you are the only moment that they take for themselves in their busy schedule.  For others, the coffee shop is like Cheers (the place where you can hang out, drink your chosen vice, but not feel bad about it.)  It would be an awesome job, except for the fact that you have to wake up before the coffee is made.  Some even bake their own treats which is great, but I would have to do this during my favorite cycle of sleep.  Maybe I'll let this stay a dream job for a while longer.
  • Baseball Announcer-We watch a lot of baseball in my house.  Nikki always says that the announcers copy me.  I make the comments first.  It is really an easy job once you get the pronunciations down.  It's not like football or basketball where the action is fast.  Each pitch has like an hour between them, and I'm sure that is there so people can tell long winded stories about their grandfather's favorite player.  I'd be great at this.  Except for the travel, the obligation to be impartial (not possible for me) and the fact that I don't like my voice enough to listen to me 162 times a year.  Can you imagine how often I would tell the same story?  I already do this more than the average retiree.  This will stay a dream job too.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Strep in Adulthood

I was sick plenty when I was a kid.  I feel pretty cool at the doctor when they shine that light in my ears because they can see my battle scars from all the ear infections.  It's like if you look at me I don't look that tough at all, but if you see my ears I'm like William Wallace.  There has never been a doctor who told me how tough my throat looks, but I'm sure if I got a moment away from their professional oaths that is what they are dying to tell me.
Anyways, last week I had a good friend tell me that he was sensing Nikki and I were needing to slow down.  I took this as good counsel as I talked with him on the phone, walked the walking track, was trying to learn how to change the headlight in my van (the awesomely red one) and raise more funds for Eyes That See.  I even told Nikki we needed to slow down.  Then, the next day I woke up earlier, worked later, and took his words as theory.  Wednesday night was my reward.
Have you ever had one of those nights where you are sure someone has put a hot pad within you and a bucket of ice.  I felt like I swallowed Maine and my throat couldn't fit air next to all the lobsters.  I was miserable.  Thursday morning I woke earlier for a new Bible study.  I went to the study, went to my coffee shop and was planning on an ordinary Thursday until the coffee shop started to spin.  I've never seen a room bounce like that.  With all the intelligence I could muster I went home. I emerged from my blanket yesterday.  It was four days under a blanket and stealing the main living room.  Ana laid beside me like a puppy would as the other kids tried to avoid me.  I think they were certain that my groaning was me communicating chores I wanted to dish out.  Nikki spent the weekend caring for me, Ana, and Carter who were all feeling it pretty less than awesome.  I didn't know strep was so bad.  It's a nasty deal.
All that to say I wish I would listen.  I used to be good at rhythm.  I would know to slow down, to rest, to breathe.  I used to teach people to do this.  Now I need to learn again.  Now that we have moved there is a whole new set of circumstances to navigate.
I feel like a little kid in need of a really good dad.  I wish I didn't have to go through this last weekend to come back to where I'm invited to live.  Hopefully I stay here longer this time.

ps-wash your hands and drink lots of fluids.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

October's Dream

Two years ago I received the chance of a lifetime.  I was invited to go to Wolayta, Ethiopia and speak at a church conference.  I've spoken at churches before, but nothing was as humbling as this conference.  There were thousands upon thousands of people sitting on the ground after walking for at least a day to come celebrate the Lord together.  It was so powerful to hear them worshiping.  I don't know the language (they were singing in Wolaytan and I only know English) but you could feel the power in that place.

After speaking at the conference I was given the opportunity to go and meet all of the pastors from this denomination.  some of them had been imprisoned during the Communist rule in Ethiopia.  Others walked for four hours between the two churches they serve.  All of them are lacking salary and resources but are overwhelmed with faith.  I will never forget hearing their stories and praying with them.  

When I was in Ethiopia this month I got the chance to see Pastor Zekarias again.  He is the pastor in charge of the whole denomination.  He has given his entire life to proclaiming the Good News to all who will hear.  When I met with him he asked about what we were working on in Ethiopia, and I told him all about Eyes That See.  He was excited to hear about it, but sadness came over his face.  He began to explain what he was seeing in Ethiopia.  

Zekarias told me that there were so many development projects that were operating in Ethiopia.  In his opinion they are needed, but there is something lacking.  His eyes filled with tears as he talked about the pastors that I had met.  He told me they have the heart, but no training, no resources, and too often no salary. They spend their days encouraging others with a hope that doesn't die, yet they are running on fumes.  He asked me to be praying with him for his dream to be fulfilled.  His dream is quite simple:  He dreams of seeing  the church be resourced with funding and education like other areas within Ethiopia.  Zekarias dreams of his pastors receiving education and resources to truly help the people that they love so dearly.  As he spoke with such conviction and emotion I couldn't help but dream of the same thing.  

I told my friend that I would continue to pray for him.  Along with prayers, I told him I would tell his dream to those who will hear it.  Maybe God wants to encourage this church through you.  If you want more information, please email me at matt@eyesthatsee.org and I will put you in contact with Pastor Zekarias.  I cannot wait to see this dream come true.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

October's Quote

I recently finished a book called Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea.  It was a very interesting book where I was introduced to a lot of historical figures I knew little about.  In the book there was one quote that stood out to me.  The quote was by Ralph DiGia, a famous nonviolent protester within the US.  He said these words after protesting the war. 

"I never expected to stop the war, but you have to stand up for what you believe in or nothing ever changes."

I don't know anyone who disagrees with this.  I think we all learned very young from our parents or teachers that we are to be bold and stand up for what we believe in.  Whether that be our faith, a cause, or an individual, we seem to know on a deep level that we are to stand up for what we believe in no matter the result.  

Still, I stopped after reading this quote.  It led me to ask questions of myself and of the people around me.  How often is this just theory in my life?  How often does my life reflect my belief?  I think part of the reason that our culture is skeptical of each other is because we "believe" one thing in theory and model something else with actions.  Mr. DiGia devoted his life to nonviolent protest of wars and rights violations.  Anyone who met him or heard of him knew that this was true.  He gave everything for this cause.  

What would it look like to devote our lives to what we are passionate about?  What would need to change?  Where would we need courage?

I hope that this quote impacts me and isn't forgotten as simple words that I have read and enjoyed.  I hope the impact goes beyond my life.  I truly hope that this world is filled with passionate people living with focus.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Thoughts from the weekend.

All weekend Nikki and I were talking about this.  I posted it on the "Eyes That See" blog (matthew1316.blogspot.com) but thought I would put it here too.  Sorry if you read it twice.

"The Least of These"

When you think of it, this is a difficult concept.  Any definition of who this describes becomes slippery.  It’s a label no one wants to wear, yet Jesus clearly speaks about this reality. 

We just moved to Jefferson CountyKentucky.  You may have read about our school busing in the USA Today lately.  It is a case study in the “least of these.”  People from West Louisville are being bused to go to school with everyone else. People are upset, and stereotypes abound. 

We live in a nice area, next to nice people.  We often hear about “lower income families” and people with state assistance or health care.  Because of our daughter’s health situation, we have to stay at a salary right now to receive that state health care.  We are the unwanted neighbors that everyone is talking about, they just don’t know it. 

Some wonderful people are doing work in Ethiopia right now.  They are in one of the parts of Addis that is so difficult to walk into, yet even harder to walk away from.  I haven’t been to this place yet, but I’ve seen others.  Places where people are living in pieces of tin leaning on one another.  People drinking from the same river they use for a toilet.  These people would welcome death as an end to their pain.  When you are there it is so clear that they are “the least of these.”

I just returned from Addis to a city that is learning to love the poor in Africa.  The radio is raising sponsorship for children in Ethiopia.  Organizations are rising up to help everywhere.  People are changing the way that they live, but I cannot help wonder, are we missing “the least of these?”

For me, I want to devote my life to help those who are in need in other countries.  I want to work with those in West Louisville to see God’s Kingdom come alive in their midst.  At the same time, I have a hard time with passive Christians.  I pass them by.  Sadly, I’ve been known to judge them in my heart, seeing them as less than anyone else.  Isn’t that statement in my heart the very definition of “the least of these?”  Doesn’t my problem with the passive show the brokenness in my heart and where I need healing? 

For some of us “the least of these” are in Africa, and yet for others I know that is the trendy, easy scapegoat to use.  If “the least of these” are in Africa we don’t have to worry about our neighbor.  We just give our money, our time, our conversation and go on living unchanged.  I don’t think that is the gospel. 

Maybe for you, “the least of these" are the successful.  You would never say it out loud, but you can’t stand them.  Maybe they are the single parents, the delinquents, or the people on the west side.  Maybe it is those, like myself, who have their insurance through the state. 

I don’t know who “the least of these” are, but I’m pretty certain that there is not a definition to be placed on one people group.  “The least of these” is a matter of the heart.  Nikki and I have been talking about this all weekend and we are praying that some of you take time with your Father about this question.  Who are "the least of these" that He is inviting you to love?

Matthew 25:40
And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.'

Sunday, October 10, 2010

October's Person

Last month I wrote about my dad.  Truly, nobody tops him. With that said, I do have someone to tell you about, someone who's legend is greater than even Chuck Norris'.

First of all, let me tell you about hyenas.  They are freaky little buggers.  I don't know if you know this, but they are not awesome animals.  Mr. Wiki, who I believe founded wikipedia, says that the hyena is from the same family as a meerkat.  He clearly has never seen a hyena.  I believe they are in the same family as bats, snakes, and white gloves.  This family is called "makis me very scardiesus."  Apparently at the time of the saber-toothed tigers there was a hyena that weighed 440 pounds and could crush elephant bones.  I think his grandson lives between Addis and Nazaret in Ethiopia.

All that said, the hyena is freaky and big and did I say freaky?  Last year while watching Bizzare Foods my family was awestruck by a guy simply known as "The Hyena Man."  He feeds hyenas on purpose, from a stick that is in his mouth.  I don't know what would make him want to do this, but I got nervous just watching. The man lives in Harar.  All of this came back to me like a nightmare when my friend mentioned doing development work in Harar.  I could eat a camel, ride the rodes for eight hours, do whatever is required.  I'll do anything, but when it comes to feeding hyenas, in the words of Meatloaf "I won't do that."

Check out the hyena man in action!


That is some freaky eye shine!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

October's Nonprofit

I love jazz music.  There are very few things better than a winter day, a warm cup of coffee, a great book and a familiar jazz cd.  In fact, for a few years I would write my messages at Valleybrook while listening to Herbie Hancock or Miles Davis.  I was able to hear great jazz music one time in Chicago, but have always wanted to go to New Orleans and enjoy the musicians.

Recently I heard of one of the coolest organizations to be around since 1998.  The New Orleans Musicians' Clinic is a health clinic that was established to "keep music alive by sustaining New Orleans musicians and tradition bearers in body, mind and spirit."  

I've looked around on their website and I love the work that they have been doing for the past 12 years.  They have major musicians and others contribute to the health of their project. Not only does the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic help when musicians are ill, but they work hard at early detection and other needs.  
Check this organization out at:


They have a cd that you can purchase as a part of their fundraiser to help them raise funds as well.

Listen and feel good about knowing you are helping to keep great music alive!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

October's Book

Several times over the past few years people have asked me how I would define a leader.  I think this is one of the most difficult questions.  In fact, I even studied this in college and have come up more confused after studying opinions.
I do feel solid about one thing in regards to leadership.  I feel most confident behind a leader who is forced into action out of discontent.  Some people want to lead and find a cause.  Other people just can't stand the present moment and are driven to change it all.  
One of the people who stands out in this way to me is Paul Rusesabagina.  Many of you have seen the movie Hotel Rwanda.  If you were at all touched by that movie I want to urge you check out his autobiography.  It is a powerful book that shows a culture much different than ours and a man with just enough courage to change the landscape of his community.  An Ordinary Man is a fantastic book that I hope you check out.  It is a few years old, but I've found myself reading it several times and leaving with lessons each time. 


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October's Random Interest

I just returned from Ethiopia.  I spent eleven days with my friend Phil working on a project where ten kids receive the full benefit of a sponsorship program as well after school tutoring, a meal and a safe place to play soccer while their uniform is being cleaned.  It was a great trip, but exhausting.  I was so ready to come home and at the airport I was given a unique gift.  I was given the gift of a 28 hour delay on my return home.  It was never said that I would receive 28 extra hours spent between the airport and a hotel room without my bags, I was just given the opportunity to endure.

We got to the hotel room about 3:30 in the morning and the cleaning lady was standing in my room by 8 (frightening moment) so you understand how much sleep I was running on.  After burning my foot on the first really hot water I had been around in two weeks I was feeling slightly delusional.  After breakfast I went out by the pool and read.  As I read I imagined being interviewed about the delay and what I was going to give credit to for my amazing ability to endure without threatening anyone with violence.  My ability was not just genetic, it wasn't even learned at the great UWEC.  My ability to remain calm in the presence of an exhausting 28 hour delay was not because of my trained mind or calm spirit.  When it comes down to it, I believe that I could endure because of Yellow Fanta.  Technically it is "Pineapple Fanta"  but you run the risk of having apple brought to you.

In general I think that soda is overrated.  It is a social beverage that I will drink to fit in.  You can tell because I'll drink Coke with you if you like Coke, Pepsi if you like Pepsi, and I'll have water and leave quickly if you enjoy Diet Rite.  The one exception to this is Yellow Fanta.  It has a unique combination of fruity wonder, sparkling joy and a hint of heaven all in a semi clean Ethiopian glass bottle.  I'm amazed more people don't love it.  Anyways, I had drank a bottle of this just before I got to the airport and in it had just enough joy to endure a 28 hour delay, plenty of sickness and a caffeine headache. If you have some money to spend right now, buy stock in Yellow Fanta.  It is a can't miss!