Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Getting It Right

Some of today’s college graduates are approaching life from a different perspective. When I finished college in 1984, my friends and I were looking for first jobs or going on to graduate school. While lots of people still think like that, some graduates are challenging the prevailing assumptions.

You have to have a job. You have to do what pays well. You need to have insurance and benefits.

After all, you can’t just pick up and go to Africa, for crying out loud. Well, it’s not quite that simple, but the Littletons (for whom we had the special concert of prayer last Sunday) did spend six months as newlyweds on another continent. Their experience has changed the trajectory of their entire lives. They are working to adopt two African children, which will obviously change their lives. (See their blog at www.thelittletonfamily.blogspot.com.) here

But with or without adopting, they will have a completely different outlook on life. They can look more objectively at their priorities and the needs of the world. They are willing to find ways to serve, rather than ways to make money. Life is about serving and giving, and they have been living it. They are seeking first the kingdom of heaven, just like Jesus said.

My generation believed in seeking God’s kingdom first, but we assumed that the traditional routes of earning a living were essential along the way. Maybe earning a living really can take second place to serving God. Even if we don’t sell everything, give it to the poor and go live in a third world country, maybe we can make some serious adjustments to our lives and thoughts. For a start, we could change the way we spend our leisure time and disposable income.

We need to challenge our assumptions and get serious about seeking God’s kingdom first. It’s actually more fun that way.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Of Prayer and Sleep

Last night we had a concert of prayer. Some friends of Crossroads are working to adopt two children from Uganda, and they are running into a lot of red tape. This couple was married at the Long House, where our church meets, about two years ago. A few months after their wedding, they went to Uganda as missionaries for six months. They served at the Amani Orphanage, helping the children who have lost their parents to AIDS.

While there, they fell in love with a 5-year-old little girl and her 3-year-old brother. They decided that God wanted them to adopt these children. After they returned to the U.S., they applied for the adoption, through the Ugandan government.

Last May they went to Uganda to finalize the process and bring the children home. But there was a judge who had to approve the adoption. He has issued delay after delay, setting dates for a decision, and then making no decision. The adopting parents came home without their children. The judge finally stopped setting dates, saying that he would contact them when he had decided something.

That’s why we gathered to pray last night. We asked God to move this judge’s heart, so that he would allow the children to come “home” to Winston-Salem, NC. It was a great time of music, praying, scripture, praying, testimony, and praying. God showed up. Even if nothing changes in Uganda, God blessed us by allowing us to focus on him as we sought his intervention.

During one prayer time, our group of pray-ers asked God to disturb the judge’s sleep with dreams about this judicial ruling. We asked God to work in his heart as he slept. We asked that his REM cycle bring him a heightened sense of urgency about releasing these children.

Today, the judge called in sick. Maybe he didn’t sleep well. Seems likely. Maybe tomorrow he will issue his ruling in favor of these children and their parents.

We are still praying and waiting.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

My Personal Gift Registry

I was looking this morning at the various water-for-Africa Web sites. There are lots of foundations and organizations moving ahead with this work. I happened to notice on the Web site for Universal Giving that they have a gift registry.

You know what a gift registry is. At a store you sign up for the wedding gifts or baby gifts you would like to have. Then your friends and family can get you a gift on the list, and know that they’re giving you something you want.

Universal Giving has set up a gift registry for charitable giving on your behalf. Rather than pawing through the sweater selection at Target, your friends can go to your gift registry and give to something close to your heart. Just think how easy Christmas shopping would be if you could just log on and give to your friends’ charities.

I also noticed that this organization takes no cut of your gift for its own administration. Your whole gift is given to the selected charity. When you set up your registry, you can indicate which kinds of charities interest you. Then they will email about new giving opportunities you may care about.

You could give gifts for Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, birthdays, Halloween. If you are really brave, you could give a donation for Valentine’s Day.

I’m going to set up my registry now.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


In the past several days we have finally had some rain. But the drought has gotten me thinking.

We have become so independent from weather conditions, we have lost our sense of dependence on God. What do we do if we completely run out of water?

One municipality announced that they had only a 60-day supply of water. If it doesn’t rain in two months, then they have no water. Until our recent rains, it looked like that could happen. One town is running tanker trucks all day, hauling water from a neighboring community and dumping it in their reservoir. And the water level is still going down.

Duke Power has created a series of pipes to pump water from the Dan River into Belews Lake. They need the water for their steam generating station.

When the reservoirs are empty, then we resort to extraordinary means. We haul water from another town. We pipe water from a river. We can even use wells until they run dry.

We are not used to hardship due to weather. We go a couple of months without rain, and we start to get…scared. We take water for granted. But countless times in history, regions have gone through famines – years without rain or snow.

How do we change the weather? How do we fix that? Suddenly we realize that this is something we can’t fix. Only God can control the weather. We have to ask him for rain. God has many ways of making us remember that we have to count on him. We depend on him for everything we need for life. A serious drought brings it home. We have to call upon him.

A drought also helps us see how important water is for life. Makes you want to help provide clean water around the world, doesn’t it. Let’s help drill some wells in Africa.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't Call Me Reverend

Someone called my house yesterday asking for Reverend Bailey. I will answer to that title, but it usually makes me nauseous. I tried to figure out why I dislike the term so much.

Maybe it’s because of Mack. He was a short, rotund middle-aged man in South Georgia. When I had finished my graduate education, Lisa and I went from Ft. Worth, Texas to Coolidge, Georgia to interview with a small church and meet its members. At this point, I had not been ordained, so I had never been called “Reverend.” But that meant nothing to old Mack. He seemed not to care that I had a name. He was full of fun and jokes; he especially loved preacher jokes. Whenever he addressed me, he would call me “Rev-runt.”

While I liked old Mack, I’ve never much cared for that salutation, even when properly pronounced.

But I think my disdain for the term runs deeper. Why would someone want to be revered above others? It seems like an ego trip. It seems like a way of looking down on others.

Another thing that bothers me is the weakness and ineffectiveness of most churches in our culture. When someone calls me Reverend, I feel like I’m lumped in with chaplains of lukewarm Christian social clubs. I feel all the baggage of the failure of churches to display the kingdom of God.

If God himself is working through churches, then – with a few exceptions – God looks mighty weak. I don’t like being associated with a charity that needs more help than it gives.

I know these are my hang-ups. My perceptions are distorted. God is doing amazing, powerful things through his people around the world. He is redeeming people, communities, and cultures. He is pouring out his resurrection power. It just seems to me that such acts of God don’t cluster around people who enjoy being called Reverend.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


In chemistry, a catalyst is an agent that speeds up a chemical reaction. Without the catalyst, the reaction would take place, but it would take much longer. So the Catalyst Conference in Atlanta last week is designed to speed up the development of Christian leaders.

Five of us from Crossroads went to be catalyzed.. It was an unforgettable experience. We were challenged by speakers who did not pretend to be perfect. They acknowledged their weaknesses and God’s power to work in spite of them. They challenged us to expect God to use us in a mighty way.

We also heard about out-of-the-box initiatives, begun by ordinary people. One young entrepreneur told about his shoe company, Toms Shoes. They sell canvas shoes for $38 per pair. For every pair they sell, the give away a pair to a needy child. They have given shoes to kids in Argentina and will be giving 40,000 pairs to children in Africa this fall. They also plan to give shoes to kids in the U.S. in 2008. Here is a company that is making a difference, and providing an avenue for sharing the gospel.

Another world-changer gave up her high powered job in NYC so that she could help convicts come clean. She began a ministry in Texas prisons, where she trains former murderers and drug dealers to run legitimate companies. She works with the inmates who have become followers of Jesus and gives them hope of productive lives beyond prison. She uses her connections with CEOs around the country to get the new business leaders in the right markets.

Here’s what I like about these approaches: They become chain-reactions. When I wear a pair of Toms Shoes, I can tell the story – that some needy child is now protected from foot disease because of the shoes on my feet. When we give Christmas presents, we plan to give Toms Shoes. These folks will learn the story and will tell others. As the word spreads, more and more children are shod.

The convict rehab idea also produces a chain-reaction. The businesses started by these ex-cons tend to have a world changing philosophy. They are not just trying to make a living or make a profit. They are trying to change lives. Their own lives have been changed, so they know it can happen.

When we engage the world in the name of Christ and show God’s love, the Holy Spirit empowers the effort. The world is not used to this kind of giving and serving. People ask why. They are ready to hear the good news because they have seen it in action.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Power Wash

Sunday was a perfect day to share God’s love in a practical way. At the Stokesdale Sunoco, we had about 25 people serving at our “Dollar Car Wash.” We had a steady line of cars for most of the afternoon as we scrubbed and rinsed.

It was a great lesson about serving and giving.

Some people were quite particular about how their cars were washed. One man kept giving us pointers for cleaning, and then produced his own towels for drying. He was, like everyone else, most surprised after the job, when he learned the terms of our Dollar Car Wash.

We accepted no money, but gave every customer a dollar, saying, “Thank you for letting us wash your car. This is our way of showing you God’s love in a practical way.” Some people insisted on giving us money. We told them to find someone who needs the money and give it to them instead. For a church to be so giving was something that no one expected. A couple of people came to tears at the thought that God loved them so.

Sharing God’s love is an incredible experience. So many in our world have never known, or have forgotten his love. Certainly, for many it is hard to believe. Tough times, hurtful relationships, health problems, financial hardships – they all seem like evidence that God doesn’t love us. But he really does. When people see that God loves them, they can receive his gift of forgiveness and life. For some people, it is a long process. That’s why we need to share his love.

And it’s FUN!