Monday, August 27, 2012

Christian Culture

“Many will miss the point that Scripture does not give us a mandate to create a Christian culture; it gives us a mandate to be instruments of transformation within our cultures. Every time we have attempted to create a Christian culture, the results have been tragic. When we ‘be’ Christians, we find opportunities to bring the good news to others and watch Him transform their lives. In doing so, our cultures are transformed.” – Jeff Boyer

Shared from Greg

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Idea of the Thing

Regi Campbell points out that there is a difference between 'the thing' and 'the idea of the thing'.

I've noticed this, as well; we always fall in love with ideas much faster than realities.  Why?  Because ideas can be shaved.  Fantasies are the stuff that edited realities are made of.  Realities have consequences, but we can escape committing to ideas a lot more easily.  

This is why, in our favorite daydreams, we naturally tend to leave out the uncomfortable and inconvenient parts of a real thing; it's in order to mentally chew on a savory imagination that is customized to our tastes.  Nom nom nom.

The problem: when we constantly comfort ourselves according to fantasy, we are not training ourselves for reality.  Fantasy and reality are two different worlds.  So we have to pick which world we are going to train ourselves for, because we'll always behave according to what we mentally trained ourselves to do.  (Ever notice that?  Your body and your life will never travel to a place where your mind did not go first.  If you direct the mind... your hands, feet, time and money will follow.)

I personally want to discipline my fantasies to operate according to the rules of reality, so that my dreams are a productive past time.  If I do this well, my dreams can end up being something I can actually act upon when the time is right.

Here's Regi's thoughts, check 'em out:

The thing vs. the idea of the thing | radical mentoring

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Childhood Sarcasm Only Gets Better With Age

Every family has their inside jokes.  The Laib family has about a billion.  One of my favorite things about my siblings, in fact, is that we almost have our own language of mannerisms, quotes, voices, and obscure media references.  A majority of these moments in time are about 30 years old, but we each still speak the lingo fluently; one of us drops a reference and the other 5 laugh or continue the movie scene without batting an eye.

This is what has made YouTube a welcome friend in our family.  My siblings are constantly forwarding videos they've unearthed that we've been picking on for years (or had almost forgotten) so we can relive the memories.  And the new fireplace gathering spot at each family get together these days is around a computer screen.

Recently, an obscure Seseme Street clip got passed around, and my brother Rick, went a little further past the normal razzing.  (In case anyone doubts that Rick may have missed his calling as a comedy sketch writer, read on.)


Unfortunately, all we see is the edited version. I use to have the full transcript...oh it is:
(Scene opens on a 70's hospital exam room absent of yuman compassion. A Harvard trained physician who initially looks and sounds like Maria from Sesame Street stands in the corner combing her moustache. Important television producers are speaking with Mrs. Kendall.)
Mrs. Kendall: You want to do what now?
Producers: We want to make a television short of the repair of your daughter's arm.
Mrs. Kendall: I have a hard time believing anyone would find that interesting.
Producers: Trust us; we made a documentary about a baby getting milk and people loved it!
(Cut to Exam Room)
(Cut to Tech Room where a man with a luxurious mane of hair is operating impressive equipment).
Mrs. Kendall: Tell me what it is they call you again--
Tech: I'm an X ray Tech.
Mrs. Kendall: No, no...the other thing.
Tech: Oh, a male nurse.
Mrs. Kendall: (laughing) A "male nurse"! A woman doctor and a male nurse! What next?!
(Back to the Exam room)
Dr. Witt: Well Mrs. Kendall, it looks as though Megan has broken her wrist; right here--
Mrs. Kendall: Um, I can see that (points to obnoxiously big glasses).
Megan: Can I still be a movie star when I grow up?
Dr. Witt: Oh, I imagine an injury like this won't keep you out of the movies. If anything, those teeth will keep you out of the movies.
(Mrs. Kendall and Megan laugh)
Dr. Witt: It's time to put the cast on, okay? Just hold as still as you can. (begins to apply cast)
(20 minutes later, still applying cast)
Dr. Witt: (telling life story) I said, "Look Mother, it's my life, okay?"
(40 minutes later, still applying cast)
Dr. Witt: ...but that was back before I married David and we lived by a grocery store.
(3 hours later)
Dr. Witt: And most important Megan...don't get the cast wet! No showers, no sprinklers, and no beach.
(Cut to Beach)
(Megan looks to camera and winks)
(Cut to Exam Room)
Dr. Witt: Okay Megan, we're going to take the cast off now.
Mrs. Kendell: Omygosh! I just realized we're all wearing basically the same outfits as before!
(Cut to Beach where Megan is washed ashore. She gets out of water, towels off, and applies to the nearest X ray Tech school.)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Smarter Mission Trips

A good friend of mine, Ryan, recently shared an article with me.  The author expounds on what he views to be a short-term missions trip tragedy at the hands of good-hearted people, happening all over the world.  It is quick read with some interesting insights, check it out.
(Ryan has a huge heart for missions and a great mind for organizational strategy, and in 2012, his wife and he launched into their dream of moving to Romania to serve.)
I'd like to share some reflections of my own to the blog.  (Rather worthless if you refuse to read the link I provided above.  Rebel.)

Motivation.  Chris Marlow writes, "The truth is, many times, going on a mission trip is more about the person who is going than the people they’re going to serve.  But it’s so hard to admit that."  It's taken years of slow growth for me to say this, but I'd like to push his idea forward a bit to say that I don't think it's hard to admit, and it would be really healthy if we faced it that a short-term mission trip if just as much, if not more, about me than about those we're going to visit.  A few reasons why I say this:
  • 1) My experience has often been that it costs $30-$50k to send a team to a place where it is enthusiastic-but-horrible at connecting with locals, speaking the language, aiding their construction, and basically understanding how to evangelize or disciple.  If this were totally about serving them, we would PayPal them the $30-$40k and far more efficiently fund the gospel work that Jesus is already doing, 24/7/365.
  • 2) The bible never condones a 'greater than' attitude. (examples)  But it's easy to fall into such an attitude when we pump ourselves up as saviors (or even servant-saviors).  I've been there... it's just they way we tend to rally the troops.

Strategy.  Chris wants to quash the tendency of teams to bring large amounts of giveaways.  I think it's a great idea to buy the needed giveaway supplies, not in America, but in the area we are visiting.  (Thus, feeding that area's local economy, enabling a better relationship with that local government, and better guaranteeing that we are giving away items that the locals recognize and can use.)  However, I would like to challenge this perspective, as valuable as it may be, with the simple thought that 'grace' is not easily micro-managed.

When I approach a needy Honduran family with a pack of toothbrushes, I could doubt myself every step of the way.
  • Would this be a better win for the Kingdom if I had bought these in Honduras rather than in the USA?
  • Does it make it worse that I received these from the Honduran dentist for free?  That did the local economy no good.
  • Would it be better if their teeth rotted a little more and they felt some pain and really willed themselves to go out there and earn themselves a good toothbrush?
  • Should I show them how to use it?  Will they discard the brushes out of non-use?  Are they going to turn around and sell them and spend the money on booze and bottle-rockets?
Grace is messy and unorthodox, and God's "body at work" on earth is made up of many, many members, who see different things, and see things differently.  There is no perfect way to give.  There is no way to shoot down all the duckies with one shot.  I'm glad Chris has shared what he has, but Jesus won't necessarily move everyone to focus on what Chris focuses about.  I'm not justifying a lack of sense when we serve, but rather, trying to say that God is doing things outside of my senses, and I should be aware of that, and happy about it.

So my only challenge to Chris's thoughts would be that I'd push him to do a little more relating.  ["(so many missions trips) can also be so wrong, so thoughtless, and terribly damaging."]  And why do I suggest this?  I believe his valuable insights could be lost in a feeling of dogmatism and judgement.  The suggestions have balance, but not the attitude.

Thank you to Chris Marlow for your passionate insight, and Ryan Crozier, for inviting stimulating conversation!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Do the Deux

It's entirely unreasonable that I blinked awake at 4:35 am.  But it was nice.

Ironically, it was around that time, if not exactly the moment, two years ago today that I awoke to my wife's soft voice: "Babe, I think my water just broke."  I shot up in bed.  Instant adrenaline.  We had a fun ride to the hospital, and spent the next 12 hours preparing.  The truest form of discomfort followed-- my friend Greg texted me, "you'll gain a new hero today"-- and then it happened.  We were parents.

I look back and see that as the day we stopped talking about what might be in the cocoon and began beholding a butterfly, one who has brought so much color and wonder into our lives, flitting around and inducing joy.  About everyone who knows our son backs up these biased parents: The Coops is about the most adorable, easiest child you will ever meet.

First day 'home'
Just this morning.  (yes, same crib)

As I stared at the ceiling in the wee hours of dawn, I thought about how different things are now.  He picks up words at rapid pace and is starting to join ideas together to squeeze out complete statements.  He runs around and makes us laugh.  He tells himself stories in bed and makes himself laugh.  The fellas giggle when he gives them knucks; the ladies melt when he blows them kisses.  I love to watch him go wild when he encounters balls, trucks, and yes, brooms.  I love to stand with him in his fearful places (such as grass, discipline moments, other, more aggressive children, and showers) and try to give him courage.

This childhood thing is a slow moving train that stops for no one.  Year three begins today.  I can't wait to see what it brings.

Happy birthday, Cooper Marc.  Daddy is just an incredible mess when he thinks about how nuts he is over you.  I am loving every minute.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Vacation 2012

We just came back from a sweet family road trip.  Covered over 2000 miles and got to unite with many friends, old and new.  I loved it.

My wife broke it all down in her blog here in awesome style.  She planned the whole thing, too, so she gets the props.

Different vacations are great for different things.  This was not a 'thrills and chills' experience, not was it a great one for enjoying aimless days or long pauses of solitude.  Because we had some goals, we stayed on the move and were able to spend connection time with several friends and families, as well as buzz through 10 different states.  So it was great for friendships.

It was also great for testing endurance and creativity-- being in the car that long with a two year old was a challenge, and often a fun one.  For that reason, I'm not sure if we have many more of these kinds of vacations in our future, especially if there are more kids one day, and if they're not all as tame as Cooper.  Maybe.

A reality that has slowly set in to my tiny brain is that everyone needs some kind of vacation.  My friend Dave, who spends a week or two each year navigating a portion of the Appalachian Trail, has learned this life lesson in vivid fashion with a walking stick in hand: "work, rest, work, rest."  This is a life necessity.  Rick Warren likes to say, "Depart daily, Withdraw weekly, and Abandon annually."  (It's that last one that would signify the need for 'vacation'.)

I am not incredible at the art of vacation.  For some people, the sheer weight of their work load helps them tap out on a regular basis.  Oddly, I've learned that is has the reverse affect on me; it only inspires me to attack more, like a Doberman.  Not healthy.  (No offense, Dobermans.)  Glad my wife helps me build in such necessary 'other' time.  Vacations are a great source for new inspiration, new experiences, and necessary refueling.

Different vacations are great for different things.  They don't have to be about money, passports, or a new photo album on Facebook.  It just starts with some kind of 'away'.  When is your next vacation?

Good quote

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Yanking The Dog's Ears

"Lend me your ear... (yank yank yank yank yank)"
If you know jLaib at all, you know a few things.
  • Communication comes easy for me, and helps me relate well.
  • I'm not shy to share my experiences and lessons learned.
  • I enjoy giving input if there's any chance that it will help.
Such propensities as these, if they are strengths at all, tend to make a good influencer (or teacher, or mentor).  For me, they have shaped many friendships that I have.

With that being said, I believe I have a problem.

My problem is that if I don't watch it, I think people will start avoiding me if I don't know how to hold back on insight until I am sure it is welcomed.

Like one who grabs a stray dog by the ears is someone who rushes into a quarrel not their own. (Proverbs 28:17)

Ouch.  I have been on the receiving end of this many times.  Even some of my wisest heroes on earth have rubbed me the wrong way by diving in with suggestions or directions that I never asked for.

Just the title of a blog post I read makes me squirm. "Unsolicited advice is always received as criticism."  Double-ouch!

So why can't I notice it if I'm the one doing the yanking?  For one, I think that in certain relationships, I get into a mode, where I feel like the door is always open for me to make suggestions where its been helpful in the past.  Secondly, I can truly say that my heart is not full of arrogance or distant criticism when I do it.  Rather, I am usually full of love and hope for my friend, desiring to join my him in his quandary and help him change his stars.

However: at the end of the day, my justified presumptions or great motives can still enable me to hurt my relationships with the people I love.

I know some dogs who will bite back HARD when their ear is yanked.  They're not afraid to let you know.
I know other dogs who will meekly tolerate you when you yank their ears.  And they'll just stop coming around after that.

Thanks to Dennis for making me aware of Reggie's blog, and to Reggie for his though-provoking post.  Made me think.

At the end of my life, I hope dogs everywhere-- and people alike-- can say of me, "I was always able to trust him with my ears."