Mourning with Seattle Pacific University. Remembering Paul Lee – SPU freshman. Rest in peace.

Another day. Another shooting.

Everyday lives impacted and scarred forever.
An innocent life lost.

The last day or so has been a blur. We live in a world where one can point to numerous recent examples of senseless shootings. Just typing that is infuriating. It happens in neighborhoods, street corners, houses, navy yards, sororities, and schools of all levels. Remember Sandy Hook?  Heck, two men were shot and killed just this past weekend in Central Seattle. But when you watch it or read it on the news (likely on your smartphone or tablet), you can’t possibly fathom it happening in “your school.” Well, yesterday, on a nearly perfect 72 degree Seattle day, that shooting took place at Seattle Pacific University.

And while SPU is not technically my school, it’s the closest thing to a school being your school without one graduating from that school.

SPU is located about a mile from Quest Church where I pastor. Numerous professors and administrators worship at Quest. Numerous. Several dozen undergrad and graduate students (and alumni) also worship there.  My wife, Minhee, recently completed graduate school at SPU. Several of my church staff went to school there. Q Cafe’s manager went to school there. One of our baristas is a freshman there. Couple of One Day’s Wages’ interns go to school there. My kids do summer basketball camps there.

It’s surreal. It’s painful.

While two were wounded but on the road to recovery, one was tragically killed. It is painful no matter what. And even more so when a nameless, faceless victim becomes named and identified. Couple hours ago, this faceless and nameless victim was identified. It was inevitable. It becomes even more painful and surreal when it is someone you’ve met. Continue reading “Mourning with Seattle Pacific University. Remembering Paul Lee – SPU freshman. Rest in peace.”

Churches Standing Together for Oso Mudslide Relief.

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UPDATE (4/24): Grateful for the spirit of collaboration between churches. Grateful for the spirit of generosity. As of today, 29 30 churches have covenanted together to pray and raise funds. Thus far, we’ve raised $129,000 for Oso Relief and Rebuilding efforts (of which 100% will go directly to efforts). Hoping for at least one more church to join us to come alongside the 30 churches in the Oso/Darrington/Arlington area.

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It’s been such a heavy week processing all the news from the tragedy of the mudslides in Snohomish County in Washington or otherwise known by locals as the Oso Mudslide.

On Saturday, March 22, 2014 at 10:37 am, “a major mudslide occurred 4 miles (6.4 km) east of Oso, Washington, United States, when a portion of an unstable hillside known as the “Hazel Landslide” collapsed, sending mud and debris across the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River and onto the adjacent river valley, covering an area of approximately 1 square mile (2.6 km). As of March 28, 2014, the Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s office confirmed 17 of the dead have been identified,and that a further 10 bodies have not been formally identified, and 90 people remain missing or unaccounted for as a result of the landslide. [link]

To be honest, I had no idea this took place until later on Saturday evening. And by then, I was too focused on  getting my heart and mind ready for my Sunday sermon…and had no idea of the depth of tragedy and human suffering.

17 37 confirmed dead.
10 6 not formally identified
90 30 missing
And we know these numbers will increase.
Hundreds of families directly impacted.
Thousands grieving and mourning.

We cry. We mourn. And we cry more…

Sometimes, you just cry because that’s all that you can do. But we keep praying for all those that have passed and their loved ones. We pray for those missing. We pray for all the relief efforts and the relief workers.

Oh Lord, in your mercy, we pray…

As we pray, we act. We come alongside…

A vision has sprouted among some leaders within several Seattle area churches. Continue reading “Churches Standing Together for Oso Mudslide Relief.”

Invest in women and girls around the world as an affirmation of dignity that has already been given to them by God.

This is one of the reasons why my wife, kids, and I started One Day’s Wages. It’s because we believe in local heroes like Diana Keesiga who was  born in Western Uganda and at a very young age decided she wanted to be an engineer. She defies the dangerous stereotypes that we have about Africans being absolutely lost and helpless without Western saviors or only looking for handouts. Diana has a love and understanding of her Ugandan people and culture that we will never fully grasp – which is why its best for us to come alongside people like Diana but we should never take their place.

In doing the work of justice, one of the most fundamental questions we must ask is this:

“Who are we trying to elevate? The people we serve or ourselves?

I dare you to watch this short video (above) about Diana and the water partnership between One Day’s Wages and The Adventure Project – that is currently being featured on Upworthy. There are many but here are four reasons why I love this partnership:

1 in 3 water wells are broken in Africa

While there are few things in development as spectacular as seeing water gush out of the ground after a well is drilled, what happens in year 2, 5, and 10 is far more important and difficult. Continue reading “Invest in women and girls around the world as an affirmation of dignity that has already been given to them by God.”

Why we should support #EndItMovement and why we must ask these critical questions about human trafficking.

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There are approximately 27,000,000 – 40,000,000 million slaves in various forms all around the world. Human beings. People. Women, men, and children. We can’t mince words: It’s wrong and evil. For this reason, I’m sharing my support for ‪#‎EndItMovement‬. It sickens me to even have such a day or movement for this purpose but such is the reality of our world.

But for those that don’t know about #EndItMovement, here’s a summation:

…Join us and other Freedom Fighters from around the world as we SHINE A LIGHT ON SLAVERY. Draw a RED X on your hand. Tell your world that slavery still exists and YOU WON’T STAND FOR IT. Just use your influence any way you can to help us carry the message of FREEDOM so even more people know. Let’s make this SHINE A LIGHT ON SLAVERY DAY even brighter than ever.

I support it and thus, I’ve taken the time to place an X on my hand…and to join with others in proclaiming that I don’t want this to be just merely a gesture, a red mark, a one time action…

I deeply appreciate Louie and Shelly Giglio – the founders of the Passion Movement and the instigators of the #EndItMovement. While it would be inaccurate to say that I know them personally, I’ve met Louis on couple brief occasions including at a meeting at the White House on the matter of human trafficking. He was also generous to write an endorsement for my book, Overrated: Are We More in Love With the Idea of Changing the World Than Actually Changing the World?

Since organizations, leaders, and influentials have done such a good job in bringing the issues of human trafficking to the view of the larger mainstream, it’s especially important to highlight not just that “Human trafficking is wrong” but the critical discussion of “How we engage this justice work…” Continue reading “Why we should support #EndItMovement and why we must ask these critical questions about human trafficking.”

Singlehood is a gift, too. Your future doesn’t begin once you find a “significant other”. It’s happening now.

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It’s that season that some call Valentine’s Day and as such, it may be an occasion of celebration or an occasion of some anxiety. Or maybe neither. Maybe it’s just another day.

Or maybe it’s somewhere in between…and so, I thought I’d shared some unsolicited advice about singlehood, marriage, and the in-between.

I ain’t no expert on anything but over the years of being single, being married, and being a pastor to both single folk and married folk, here’s some advice for those who are single – whether dating, engaged, interested in marriage, or not interested in any relationship.

Our ultimate identity.

Our ultimate identity is not as single people or married people.  No dating status defines us. No person can complete us. No human relationship defines us. Saying or believing anything else is dangerous, unhealthy, unrealistic, and borderline idolatrous.

That _____ relationship is not the answer to your life.
Marriage is not the cure-all to the longings of your heart.

How do I know? Because I’m married…and it’s not the answer. I’m not dissing my wife. I love her…dearly. And my wife is a marriage therapist in Seattle and she’ll tell you emphatically that I am not the answer to her deepest longings. Darn. To say that a relationship, a boyfriend, a girlfriend, a husband, or a wife, is going to be the answer to our lives and our deepest longings is simply just not fair to that person. And unrealistic and unhealthy for you.

God’s grand purpose for our lives … umm … is not for us to get hitched and married. Nor is it to be single and sexy. God’s purpose for our lives is that we be conformed to the likeness of His Son, Jesus Christ. God’s purpose is that our ultimate identity and mission are formed as daughters and sons of God…

Continue reading “Singlehood is a gift, too. Your future doesn’t begin once you find a “significant other”. It’s happening now.”

“I have disabilities…I am broken but not because of my disability.”

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We live in a world where people are named, categorized, and labeled based on what they can and/or cannot do. Most often, those with perceived “disabilities” are primarily seen as less valuable, important, or worthy. In contrast to this, we know we are ALL created and made in the image of our God; this image includes our gender, ethnicity, and abilities.

Today’s guest post is from Pam Christensen, Associate Director of Children and Family Ministries at Quest.  This is important. Really important. And it is also really vulnerable as she shares of her “disabilities.” I need you to read it because it touches a topic that is rarely spoken of not just in our churches but in our larger culture. It’s the topic of disability and how we view or not view those who are disabled.

Read on and let me know what you think. Let me know of your experiences. Let us know how the Church can grow and learn in this area.

I am broken…

I have disabilities. I have two chronic illnesses and a learning disability (yes, adults can and do have learning disabilities and yes, they still affect us, even when we are not in school, but that is another blog posting for another day). Between them, my diagnoses affect how I sleep, how and what I eat, my relationships, my finances, my breathing, my work, even my driving.

I am broken…but maybe not the way you think.

Throughout human history, the myth of an “ideal” version of humanity has been repeated until it is believed. Over the years, this has come in different forms: the myth of being male as “ideal”, the myth of being white as “ideal”, the myth of one culture being more “ideal” than another. In all of these myths, there is a basic theme: if you are not a part of the “ideal”, you are “less than”.

Then there is the myth of ability: a whole, sound mind and body, as defined by science and culture, is the “ideal”. Anything else is “less than”. That’s made clear even in the language we use: disability, literally “not able”. A victim. A problem. Broken. Continue reading ““I have disabilities…I am broken but not because of my disability.””