Friday, May 27, 2005

Directed Steps

As I was walking to the market this afternoon I noticed an old man ahead of me. Walking with uncertainty with his cane, I realized that he was blind. The street is under repairs and this old man was walking toward a hole that would surely cause him to fall and cause serious injury. The old man detected something was wrong as he no longer was walking on pavement but dirt and rocks. A car appeared suddenly at the intersection and, seeing the old man’s impending misfortune, began to honk his horn. All this did was confuse the old man, and he quickened his shuffling feet toward the hole. Inches from calamity, I reached out and took the old man’s arm and guided him to safety. He had no idea who grabbed him as I never spoke. He wasn’t aware of his predicament I rescued him from, but it didn’t matter -- he was safe and I went on my way.

I’m not one to spiritualize everything and I don’t look for a lesson from God in everything that happens throughout the day. But this incident gave me something to think about as I continued my trip to town.

As I walk through this existence called life, I am the blind man trying to reach a destination not well defined. My steps are always uncertain, but if I’m on a familiar road I manage. Too often, I find myself walking on uneven terrain and, though I sense danger, I can’t really comprehend the seriousness of my situation. I hear the noise around me, friends, family, my culture – but I can’t discern the meaning of the racket. Are they warnings, advice or just voices of irritation for me to walk the way they want me to walk? Maybe the clamor is frustration for me just to get out of the way.

In the midst of my confusion a hand grabs me by the arm and gently guides my feet across the road. I never hear a voice, I never see the face, but I know He was there. Because I am blind, I have no idea what ditch I was about to fall into but grateful that I can feel the solid ground beneath me. I continue my shuffle toward an uncertain destination, grateful that I have a present God who directs my steps.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

When The Rules Change

I’ve received several messages of encouragement this past week from friends all over the world. Since I made the decision to resign from the organization I’ve worked with for fifteen years to launch out on my own, the typical comment has been, “Sorry to see you go, but not surprised.”

One colleague wrote saying that he, too, felt frustrated and wondered about his future? He said that within his organization things have changed and felt like he was being squeezed. His story was not unlike mine, so I reminded him what Bob Buford wrote in his most recent book, FINISHING WELL,

“You can choose the game, but not the rules…Every game has its own rules and you don’t get to make them up. You choose your game and adapt to its rules.”

Like my friend, I chose the game in 1989, knowing what the rules were. I followed the rules and played the game well, doing what God has gifted me to do. In 2002 the rules changed. I don’t fault the organization for changing the rules, though it affected my life and of course felt their decision was a breach of promise. The changing of rules is not really the issue (United Airlines recently reneged on a promise of pensions. There is nothing in life that is guaranteed). What IS important was my response to what happens when the rules change. Buford continues,

“…if you find that the rules chafe, restrict, and don’t allow expression of your potential, you either CHANGE GAMES or CREATE YOUR OWN. The game you choose is your context. Once you know your core, you need to find the context that brings forth the best from your unique gifts and abilities.”

My friend’s dilemma is that he is in a financial corner. He suffers through the bureaucracy of his organization because he knows he will lose support if he refuses to play by the rules of the game. He feels trapped, at this time, as he can’t jeopardize his family’s welfare. My advice to him is to continue to follow the rules while seeking God for a different context. That’s not disloyalty, that’s taking control of your own life and asking God to direct your steps in the process (Pr. 16:9). I do not see this brother as an entrepreneur, so he won’t be creating his own game, but he will probably find another game that is more suited for his gifts.

But some people do indeed create a new game. Jim Collins, author of GOOD TO GREAT confesses, “I’m constitutionally unemployable. I’ve always had an entrepreneurial streak…I had to create my own organization…I eventually realized I had to find a context that would fit me like a glove. At a gut level, I think, there’s a need for a self-created context when you’re not wasting energy battling the fact that you’re in somebody’s else’s context.”

Maybe that’s what my friends mean when they write, “Sorry to see you go, but not surprised.”

Friday, May 13, 2005


Yesterday my landlord observed a memorial service for his son who passed away seven years ago. The Hindu priest came to the house and the surviving family members, which included the widow and their daughter, a sister and her husband, came together to pray that the soul of this son would have peace, “wherever he might be,” as Mr. Jighan explained to me.

In the extended family system, the eldest son and family live with the parents. Mr. Jinghan expected his only son would outlive him and take care of he and his wife in their old age. Now eighty-five years old, in poor health, I watch my friend slowly moving toward eternity without Christ. Mr. Jinghan has been an agonistic most of his life, and it’s only because of his impending demise that he even talks about God. I’ve spent hours talking with him about Christ, but, as far as I can see, he is no closer to understanding the Good News as when we moved into the flat above him two years ago. Sometimes I feel the only thing I have accomplished is to make him a better Hindu as he has a greater consciousness of God. Our liveliest debate was over Billy Graham’s book, “Peace With God,” which someone gave his son before he died. Mr. Jinghan’s reaction to the book was that, “This Mr. Graham, whoever he is, basically says that his God is superior to my God.” He does not see the uniqueness of Christ. He feels no compelling reason to leave the gods of his culture to embrace a faith that is every bit as odd to him as his 330 million gods are to me.

I sometimes listen to myself talk to my friend and it sounds pretty weird – Jesus, the God-man, born of a virgin, dying on a cross for the sins of humanity, who rose from the dead. I get it, but then, I was schooled in that thought. Sure, it’s written in God’s Word, but the Muslims have their holy book, the Hindu’s have their divine scriptures, the Mormons posses the inspired works of Joseph Smith. We reject those writings as we don’t accept their veracity, and besides, the stories seem absurd, the same thing that Mr. Jinghan thinks when I talk to him about life of Christ.

In the end, I know that salvation comes, not through power of persuasion, but only through the power of the God’s Spirit. It all comes down to the issue of faith. I do not believe that God has predetermined Mr. Jinghan to eternal judgment but believe that He, in His loving-kindness, has allowed me to tell him about my Savior. His love for my friend is greater than mine. I have done all I know to do. I pray for Mr. Jinghan, but I feel helpless.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Prison Practices

I was driving down a dusty road in the bush of Kenya several years back with a visiting pastor from the states. Suddenly he yelled, “Stop the car! Back up!"

Instincts made me slam down the brake and when I got the truck stopped I asked what was up?

“There’s some naked tribesman taking a bath in a mud hole back there. I want to take a picture.”

Disgusted, I put the truck in first and stepped on the gas.

“Hey, Lewis, what’s wrong? Why aren’t you backing up?”

“How would you like for someone to barge into your bathroom and take a picture of you taking a shower,” I asked?

“American tourists,” I thought to myself. “They seem to only want to take pictures of the destitute, crippled or naked.”

I thought about that incident before I submitted this blog. India is a fascinating country and if you’ve been reading the news at all you know it’s one of the hottest economies in the world. However, all cultures have a dark side. I don’t want to take only unflattering pictures of this sub-continent, but here are a couple of items that caught my eye in the newspapers this past week.


“Police sources report the 200th suicide for 2005. The unofficial figure is closer to 400. Welcome to Delhi, India’s crime capital – and on it’s way to becoming its suicide capital too.”

The article goes on to say that most of the suicides are those in the 15 – 29 age group, mostly from the middle class.


“It’s an open secret that many nursing homes in the Capital illegally provide prospective parents with sex-determination tests. This has contributed to the skewed female-male sex ratio in the Capital – put at 878 females per 1,000 males by the 2001 census.”

The reason for foeticide is because of the dowry system, where the family of the bride pays the family of the groom at marriage. It’s a heavy burden on a family that has daughters but no sons. Every day in India there are reports of dowry disputes, beatings and even killings of wives whose family has not paid dowry.

All cultures are, as my friend Sherwood Lingenfelter of Fuller Seminary says, are a prison of disobedience. In a country of 330 million gods, the one that is prayed to more often is the god of prosperity. The middle class becomes despondent because they fear their future; they eliminate those in society that could cause financial setbacks.

Pray for India. It can’t, nor can America, save itself. The Gospel is the only real hope.