Moving On Out

e3 Partners is moving! Well, about 3 miles east of our current location. Everyone is packing up and throwing stuff out. The bin in the back has been filled to overflowing these past few days. Go through this stuff is like walking down memory lane: all the stuff that was started but never completed, reports that were critical at the time but clearly inadequate, etc. Sometimes I wish I just had a rewind button.

Everyone A Missionary?

I used to be of the mind that everyone is a missionary, wherever you are. Having served in missions for awhile, I’ve realized the absurdity of that claim. The problem I see with this mentality is not so much with the idea that we’re all witnesses (Acts 1:8) as much as it has to do with clarity in communication among believers.

To say that everyone’s a missionary waters down the term in the context of taking a simple task (the gospel) through an inherently complicated endeavor (to all nations). I’ve come to realize we need to delineate different tasks simply to best understand the task ourselves. If we say that everyone is a missionary, it becomes much more difficult to clearly share the needs that a missionary faces without qualifying the activity (i.e. short-term missionary, field missionary, etc.)

That said, I don’t exactly have a suggested glossary of terms to offer, particularly with respect to long-term missions. At e3 Partners, we’ve thought much more about church planting in the context of short term missions.

“Mission trip” has become the generic equivalent in the short-term realm that “missionary” has, well, other places. It would be so much easier for everyone involved if we distinguished between a service trip (construction or orphanage help) and a prayer walk or an evangelistic outreach. This isn’t to say that prayer and construction can’t be evangelistic but the simple fact is those trips aren’t geared to that end. I suppose doing this might be problematic to certain participants, who for whatever reason might feel less important if they were part of a “service trip” and not a “mission trip,” but, in my opinion, people with that mindset are approaching service from the wrong angle from the get-go.

Where does that leave you? What do you think?

Splitting Time

Most of my web development time is split between the I Am Second website and the new e3 Partners website. Luckily, we have Josh Widener working on the bulk of the styling for the e3 Partners site and Victoria Childress is coordinating our content insertion. Victoria recently had her testimony posted on the I Am Second website, so go check it out.

We’ve got some exciting things coming up on both fronts and I’m just happy to be a part of it. It’s been rewarding in many ways.

Exciting Times

If you write code for a living, these are exciting times. Like most coders, the iPhone represents a great, new venue for creativity. The learning obstacle has been Cocoa; yet another language to learn even though it adheres to familiar concepts. What if you could use your HTML, javascript and CSS knowledge to build an iPhone app? That’s what the guys over at Appcelerator are thinking. I’ve downloaded their beta and am looking forward to creating an app purely using web technologies. What I need now is time. And a good idea … what kind of iphone app would you like to see?

Google’s announcement of Chrome OS could be a game changer. We won’t have to write traditional apps like we do with Windows or OSX but it does put the onus back on web 2.0 technologies and writing web-based applications. If it takes off and the major development houses support it, I can see Chrome taking some market share away from Microsoft. That’s why I suspect Microsoft is already trying to figure out how to make Windows 7 even smaller and faster and friendlier. Unlike Vista, Windows 7 will run on a Netbook so Microsoft is already thinking in that direction. Apple, on the other hand, already has a smaller, friendlier, web-savvy OS; the iPhone. Stick that OS in a 9″-12″ tablet form factor and the Chrome OS announcement becomes a smaller ripple.

Writing code is changing again but the need for code writers remains the same. Being a techie has proven to be recession-proof as the tech industry is one of the least hit venues for the current economic crisis. I remember back in the day, writing assembly code for big mainframe computers … couldn’t imagine then the environment we live in now … just like I can’t imagine what things will look like in the next 30 years.

You Are More Than You Know

It’s a familiar feeling; nervousness mixed with fear and a little self-doubt. It’s after hours and you’re walking to your car but you could swear you hear footsteps that are not yours. You grip your purse a little tighter and step a little quicker to your car.

You’re in the hotel elevator, alone, heading up to your room. The elevator dings to a stop and in steps a big guy. He glances at you but you avoid eye contact. He presses the button to his floor. You make a mental note of the floor number while the hairs on the back of your neck stiffen and you shift your weight from foot to foot. The elevator starts heading upwards again.

These are the type of stories I hear from the women in my self-defense workshop. For them, training in martial arts is as much about developing self-confidence and self-esteem as self-defense. These women don’t want to be black belts; they just want feel more prepared and less vulnerable in certain situations. One of these women is my wife.

My wife is petite and never had much interest in martial arts though she’s always had the need to feel protected. She never demonstrated any desire to train the way I train despite my encouragement. Achieving a black belt is not easy and she has never viewed herself as a physical type of person. She is often content to avoid confrontation than provoke it. However, she’s in this workshop on the promise that she won’t have to beat anyone up; she hates to be a cause of pain.

The first lesson in the workshop is designed to set the stage. I ask for a volunteer and tell her to stand with her back to me. I tell her that I’m going to attack her and that she should fend me off as best she can. Within seconds, she is face down on the mat, arms locked and helpless. I let her up and ask for the next volunteer. After the second woman goes down, the realization begins to dawn on each face that each one will go through this and they have no chance of fighting back. The reactions range from fear to tears, as each believes she is completely helpless.

Of course, the problem is not that they are helpless but that they believe they are. I encourage them by revealing that they are more than they realize and they will see it over the next few weekends. Most black belts will tell you that the belt itself is a stylized piece of cloth that signifies a rank. Being a black belt is about attitude, a way of viewing oneself that comes from a deep understanding of the principles behind self-defense. It’s much more than techniques and kicks and punches. It’s about a type of confidence that comes from knowing what you can do as well as what you cannot do.

Many women have a persistent inner voice that reinforces the belief they are both inadequate and afraid at least some of time. In terms of physical danger, women feel less prepared and unsure of what they can do. Most women don’t realize their own strength when it comes physical confrontation, as they are typically unused to this type of activity. Once they have a better idea of their strengths and their limits, self-confidence begins to grow.

Over the next few weekends, the ladies in the workshop learn how to be aware of their surroundings, how to reasonably fight back for the purpose of escaping and to be aware of what they can and should do. For example, in most movies when someone is being choked, the victim’s hands almost always grip the attacker’s hands to relieve the pressure. For women, there are far better targets that can relieve the pressure, enough to escape. These are the targets on which they should focus. It means that these ladies need to look at the situation a little differently.

One milestone of the workshop is the flipping class. Most women understand the principles of leverage but have never actually used them to flip someone; most believe that a 120-lb woman cannot flip a 280-lb man. It is an eye opening class for each woman and, in one case, for an unsuspecting husband who wanted to know what his wife learned in class that day.

The last class is like the first class; it’s designed to set the stage. I ask for a volunteer and tell her to stand with her back to me. I tell her that I’m going to attack her and that should fend me off as best she can. I managed to get her down but not without a few kicks to my shins. I always hate that part. I can’t lock her up and she rolls out of my reach. She stands and runs. Well done. I remind the ladies of the first day and their fear. I ask for another volunteer. Confident hands go up; they are eager to see what they can do.

Months later, I saw my wife looking out the back door at the kids playing in the backyard. I snuck up behind her (in typical black belt fashion) and grabbed her shoulder. She gasped, spun around with elbows up and nicely introduced her elbow to my chin. On the outside, I was hurting but on the inside I was more than a little proud. My wife is still her very sweet self but not as fearful as she once was. However, she still hates being the cause of pain – even if he deserves it for sneaking up on her.

Mother’s Day and Star Trek

When trying to decide what to do on Mother’s Day, I simply asked my beloved of 27 years, “What do you want to do?” She offered up Brooklyn’s Pizzeria at Firewheel and I countered with Brooklyn’s and a movie which I knew would be playing at the AMC in Firewheel. She, of course, knew exactly which movie it was and, soon, it became a family affair.

And that’s how you segue from Mother’s Day to a Star Trek movie review.

Of course, watching Star Trek on Mother’s Day became problematic; the opening sequence involves a young mother giving birth on a shuttle while her husband (and new father) sacrifices his life in a desperate attempt to cripple the enemy starship so that all the escape shuttles can … well … escape. And than there’s Spock’s mother …

I thoroughly enjoyed Star Trek. It is one of the odd-numbered movies but if anyone could break the mold, it would be JJ Abrams and the great performances by the cast. It’s fun to watch, the action sequences are spectacular and it moves along at a good pace.

The first time we see James Tiberius Kirk, he’s taking a vintage convertible Corvette out for a joy ride (nice to know that fossil fuels are still available alongside dilithium crystals). We know it’s a convertible because young Kirk tries to ‘pop the top’ going full speed with predictable results. The car is not completely restored as the erstwhile owner of the car calls Kirk through the advanced, on-board Nokia communications system, warning him not to put a scratch on that car. Of course, Kirk responds by driving the classic car over a cliff, having jumped out at the last possible second.

The nice thing about this sequence is that it brings the audience to a common ground. Star Trek will attract trekkies but this sequence involves an earth that everyone will recognize and a teenage angst with which we’re familiar. It is a different perspective than the gleaming cities of the Federation from other movies and the TV series. JJ Abrams brings the grittier feel that we’ve seen from other sci-fi efforts like Battlestar Galactica and Serenity.

Kirk manages to survive to young adulthood (Chris Pine makes his entrance) in an oddly cornfield-less Iowa and is challenged by Christopher Pike (Bruce Greenwood) to join Starfleet, daring Kirk to be a better captain than his dad. For canon-minded trekkers, the appearance of the Romulan ship at the opening is somewhat explainable but Kirk’s encounter with Pike and subsequently joining Starfleet clearly marks the beginning of the departure from canon. I spent part of the time thinking ‘it didn’t happen that way’ but slowly got engulfed by the movie. The girls sitting behind us got engrossed far earlier obviously having not spent a significant part of their lives watching anything related to Star Trek. They no doubt ignored the presence of the earthbound Enterprise-under-construction in Iowa (another canon-tweak) instead of in Starfleet shipyards.

In any event, I was waiting for the Kobayashi Maru to see how Kirk deals with the notable scenario. Again, the canon-tweak came into mind with the involvement of Spock as the developer of the test. I overlooked it, however, because the sheer smugness and confidence that Pine demonstrates as Kirk during the test was very entertaining. Kirk eating the apple is a nice reference to Star Trek II: Wrath of Khan and the scene is one of my favorites. In fact, each character manages to say their signature lines at the times when it seems most appropriate. The trekkies will get it and the normal folks won’t groan; it’s really the best of both worlds.

There is far less of Horatio Hornblower in this version of Kirk than Shatner’s. Chris Pine shows us a brash, arrogant Kirk with a wry smile and a cunning mind. Pine does an admirable job as Kirk but Karl Urban as Leonard McCoy was tremendous. Urban simply disappears into the role and it’s as if you’re actually looking at a young McCoy. Zachary Quinto looks the part but offers a less mature version of Spock; another canon-tweak as Nimoy’s Spock would have already served eleven years on the Enterprise under Captain Pike by this time.

Zoe Saldana’s portrayal of Uhura sometimes hits the mark but doesn’t have the same impact in these contemporary times. Nichol’s version of Uhura (fourth in command of the Enterprise) was played out against the backdrop of the feminism and racism in the 1960’s. This latest version of Uhura occurs in the shadow of our first black President and a female Secretary of State (who happens to be fourth in the line of succession to the President). Where Nichol’s Uhura was revolutionary, Saldana makes the most with what she’s given. Especially, the relationship with Spock (another canon-tweak).

All the canon-tweaks aside, Spock finally offers up the explanation about why the canon-tweaks exist; Nero’s presence altered the timeline and events as they might have transpired (Star Trek canon) takes an alternate course. This explanation effectively negates the canon and presents a fresh perspective of an established complement of characters. By the way, Eric Bana’s depiction of Nero is pretty good. Vengeful Romulan in command of an advanced and sinister looking starship looking to destroy the homeworld’s of those who have caused him so much pain.

While Star Trek is a great action movie, it has some flaws, particularly in the plot. A series of unexplainable, coincidental situations occur that most of us will overlook because we want all the characters together on the Enterprise. We really don’t care how they got there; we just care that they do.

A significant absence was the underlying social commentary that was so prevalent in the Star Trek mythos. Not every episode or movie made a social statement but we instantly recognize those that deal with the issues of feminism, sexual preference, militarism, pacifism, materialism or race relations. Lacking this, Star Trek is a new action adventure with familiar characters cast from a different perspective.

The triumvirate of Kirk, Spock and McCoy establishes a good basis for the film. I’m anxious to see this cast in another Star Trek movieand, since it will be an even-numbered one, it should be fantastic.

One Month To Live

(a fictional account)

I’ve decided to keep it secret. My doctor knows, of course, but decision is mine on whether or not to communicate it. I do this not out of ego but because of my nature. I have no doubt that friends and family would converge on me with sincere concern and my wife would be my deep well of encouragement and love. However, I am unused to this type of focus in this type of venue even though it would be a genuine outpouring of love tinged by sadness. No; I’ve determined to tell no one. My wife, God bless her, will be the first to suspect and will probably figure it out. If directly asked, I would tell her but she knows me so well that I’m sure she’ll notice the aberrations in my routines.

I’ve played this game so many times – what would I do if I only have 30 days to live? Faced with that very real prospect, though, I never imagined I would be waking up singing “This is the day that the Lord has made” in my mind. It is doubtful that anyone could sing this little chorus with a dour face. For me, I was reminded of Who is exactly in control here. I realize that I don’t have 30 days to live … He’s given me 30 days to live.

Our pastor encouraged us to live passionately. His examples were extreme and I couldn’t see myself in those shoes … until now. Passion is the heat in the fire. People rarely gather around a campfire to get cold. It is the heat from the campfire that binds the campers, lights up the faces, evokes the telling of stories and, in the end, repels the chill in the air. In the coldness often associated with life, it is passion that binds, lights, evokes and repels the night.

It is day 30 and today will be a day of passion.

Significant Times

» Significant Times
The past three months have had some significant times:

4/30/06 – Preached at Clearwater Community Church. You can listen to the sermon here

5/13/06 – Invited to speak at a homeschool graduation. I was touched the hearts of the parents of these graduating seniors.

5/2006 – I made red belt on my quest for a second black belt. Three more belts to go and I’ll be there! My Karate School.

6/13/06 – Kristyn turned 17! We celebrated a family party for her where she got the DVD Start the Revolution Without Me (IMDB link). It’s an older but very funny movie with Gene Wilder and Donald Sutherland.

6/13/06 – Our 24th anniversary. We went out to Houstons for dinner and used up those gift cards. It was very nice.

6/18/06 – Father’s Day. Gail and the kids got me Star Trek:Enterprise Season 3 on DVD, The Elder Scrolls IV:Oblivion and a great looking sword.

» More Happenings
We’re trying to gear up for a family reunion this July in Las Vegas. My kids have never really met my family on my mom’s side. My mom had 8 sisters and 1 brother so there are tons of first, second and third cousins out there. It should be great; I haven’t seen some of my first cousins in years.

Just implemented a new prayer sign-up on our e3 Partners site. Check out e3 Prayer to sign up for a country specific prayer team or our ministry prayer team. It’s easy and doesn’t cost anything.

After I did my four part series on the DaVinci Code in our Adult Bible Fellowship, Linda Thacker started teaching the class as part of her internship. She’s doing a four-part series on the Armor of God (Eph 6:10-20). One of the things I like about the way she presents this topic is that she focuses on Truth, Righteousness, Peace, Salvation, Faith and the Word more than the specific pieces of armor.

Pastor Phil is continuing through Acts though he did a topical sermon on Father’s Day. I like his approach on Acts and its helped me greatly as I study it. Speaking of preaching …

I’m preaching at Clearwater again on July 2. It’s the Fourth of July weekend so it will be more focused on patriotism. I’m looking forward to reading the Declaration of Independence during the sermon.

Soli Deo gloria.

Mission Trip Update

3•22•2006 – I arrived home in Dallas at about 8:00pm. The trip went very well and I am so glad to be home. I want to thank everyone for their prayers, without which the work could be done.

3•20•2006 – This afternoon, we met with a youth pastor named Sergei whose church is minstering to the Gypsy’s in Ukraine. The Gypsy’s are Ukraine’s Samaria in every sense; there is enmity between the two cultures and many churches here see no need to evangelize to the Gypsies. As I listened to how this small church has approached the work, I was highly interested in how they had to flex and adjust to this culture. It was very interesting.
We also met with Vladimir Cheynik who is the president of the Baptist Union in the Volyn region. He told us many of the same things that Misha mentioned including the need for more churches. There are 700 towns and cities in the Volyn region that have no Protestant church at all. The harvest field here remains large.
I preached a second time at the 2nd baptist church in Rivne. It’s actually the first baptist church but the history of the church is a story for another time. Ken and Steve gave their testimonies and Ajay did another wonderful job during the worship. It’s been great having a concert pianist/opera singer along. Ajay has a tremendous gift for this.

Tomorrow is a full day of road travel as we go from Lutsk to Kiev. Wednesday is a fully day of flying as we go from Kiev to home. I’m very ready to be home. See you in a few days.

3•19•2006 – It’s been a busy few days but the bulk of our tasks are behind us. We had two more leadership conferences, training about 50 more people. At one of the meetings, we met with pastor Sasha (Alex) and four of his disciples. We were trying to work out some of the areas that the team in July will be visiting to plant new churches. His church started 2 years ago and he has this tremendous testimony.
This Sudnay morning, we worshipped at a baptist church in Rivne region. Ken and Steve gave their testimonies, Ajay joined in their worship then I preached. In all, there were about 300 in attendance. I think I’m going to head straight for Jenny Craig when I get back to the U.S. The food here is phenomenal and, the more you sit, the more they keep bringing!
Last night, we met with Misha, the head of the baptist union in the Rivne region and some of his assistants. It would be similar to meeting with the head of the BGCT or SWBTS. He outlined what strategies they had in place for the Rivne region (a region is like a state in the U.S.) He has some concerns about where Ukraine is heading, especially for young ministers. I’m still trying to collate all the information he gave us.

We’re at an internet cafe right now. I have no idea when will be the next time I’ll be able to post.

3•16•2006 – We arrived in Lutsk, Ukraine last night after midnight. It was an eight hour drive in a van from Irpen to Lutsk. The road provided many opportunities to be woken. The hotel is much nicer than the one in Irpen and I slept in this morning, skipping breakfast. We had lunch at a very nice resturaunt near a castle. The castle has an interesting history, as does the resturaunt. At one time, the resturaunt was a Catholic church. During the days of the USSR, the church was used as a museum for atheism. Many students were taken to the church to see how empty Christianity was; as empty as the museum-church.
During WWII, the castle was used to imprison many Ukrainians by the Germans. When the Germans withdrew, all the prisoners were killed and the castle literally flowed blood out of it’s gates.

We met with Roman Brychuk, a young pastor here in Lutsk that will be acting as our translator. He has a very technical background and is current on many technologies.

Ajay will have his worship conference tonight and Steve, Ken and I will hold the Leadership Conference tomorrow. It has been a restful day.

3•15•2006 – The conference went very well. We got a chance to talk to many of the pastors one on one as they talked about what they have learned, what they’ll take back with them and how excited they were. I got to meet Eugene’s wife Natalie today.
I met a young man named Yura who is concerned because he sees the importance of disciple making but has no one in his church to disciple him. One of our translators, Ilya, had the same questions. We encouraged to pray, keep looking in and outside of his church for godly men. We also encouraged to be a discipler with what he does know.
Met another young pastor named Sergei. They just started a new church plant in an area of 350,000 that has no evangelical churches. They run about 35 people and had already put into practice much of what we spoke about at the conference. He already has a desire to see his church multiply into more churches in his region.
This has been eye opening for me to see these pastors so engaged. We have two more conferences scheduled but we have an eight hour bus ride ahead of us today. We won’t get to Lutsk until late tonight. I have no idea what the internet access will be like there, if any.

3•14•2006 – We began our first full day of training at the seminary. Ken, Steve, and I will be leading the sessions today. The men seem ethusiastic about each session so I’m encouraged.
Our translator’s name is Eugene. He is a medical doctor in Kiev and also teaches English to medical staff. He came to Christ much later in his life but has a passion to serve God. Pray that God will guide him as he considers the possibility of establishing a family practice in Kiev. He desires that it be a ministry to the community.

I met a young man named Sasha. He has been praying and fasting with other young men in his church about starting a new church plant. He believes that God is leading him to help in that effort but the older pastor in his church will not bless the work unless the traditions are maintained (covering of heads, etc.). It is difficult, he says, to begin a new work that does not reach a younger generation. Even moreso when the pastor is unwilling to move his church in that direction.
I met another young man whose name I cannot spell who has no one to disciple him. We offered some suggestions including prayer to help him find both a Paul and a Timothy in his life.

I met an man about my age named Alexander. He said the Disciple Making and Developing Leaders sessions helped him tremendously. I asked him if he will have new disciples when I come back in July. He lives far away from here but he said, God willing, he will. He is committed to pray, seek and find those who he can disciple and who can disciple him.

The jet lag is beginning to affect the team as we adjust to the 8 hour time difference. We can feel our energy waning. Pray that God will continue to strengthen us.

3•13•2006 Arrived in Kiev last night, had dinner (rice!) and got to the hotel. I slept like a baby on the plane; woke up every hour and whined. Luckily, I slept like a lightly snoring rock at the hotel. We actually had an easier than normal trip to Kiev, the veterans say.
The plan for today is a tour of the seminary and a half-day of training. Tommorrow is a fully day of training and another half day on Wednesday before we go to Volyn.

The training team is well rested and ready to go. Pray that, through us, God will equip the pastors and lay leaders who attending the training.

3•9•2006—Headed for the Ukraine on 3/11-3/22 for a Leadership Development Conference (LDC). I’ll be leading the Evangelism and Leadership Developments sections and be traveling with Steve Sims, Ajay Torres and Ken Clouser. This will be my first time into Eastern Europe and I’m looking forward to it.