Sunday, December 26, 2010

Thank you for making Christmas merry for many!

Merry Christmas everyone! We at Crosswind greet you and trust that you had a wonderful Christmas, celebrating the arrival of our Lord Jesus some 2000 years ago.

We at Crosswind have many friends who are celebrating Christmas this year in a very different way. For some, it is their first Christmas since they were young that they celebrated Christmas sober. For others, this is there first Christmas out of jail or prison. Others spent Christmas with their families, some families that have been broken and estranged for years... Christmas together.

If you take the whole season and wrap it up, isn't Christmas really about family, about being together? WAIT! Don't hang up! Of course it's about Jesus, hold on... I'll get there.

Every year at Christmas time, if you think about what you do, it's about family. You go to relatives' homes (in the south some of us have five or six Christmases), go to friend's parties, go to work parties, social club parties, church parties... the whole month long getting together just to be together and appreciate each other and share a meal and a hug and Christmas love. The joy of Christmas truly is 'each other'.

And the sadness of Christmas is about family too. The Centre for Suicide Prevention reports that suicides are surprisingly low in the month of December (as opposed to the popular myth, btw). The #1 reason is "the gathering of friends and relatives surround and protect the vulnerable." There are those that are sad however, and at Christmastime especially their sadness is related to family and friends. For some, this Christmas is the first one alone after the death of a spouse or divorce. For some, we are estranged from our children or our relatives, and while we enjoy the friends and family we have, we grieve the absence of others.

And friends, this is why Christmas must be about Jesus. Jesus came to put us together, especially those who are separated from each other by sin and death.

He said, "remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated... having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility... that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God - Eph 2:12-19 While there is some contextual depth to this passage, it's essence simply is this:

Jesus came to heal broken relationships, between God and man, between Jew and Gentile and between each of us who through sin have found ourselves strangers and aliens from God and each other, even our own families. God has in Christ Jesus made us one big family again, healed our divisions and our brokenness.

Last week a friend of ours said to me, "Bobby, I don't know what I would have done without you guys. I was all alone, with nobody. But now, it's like I have a family." Dear friend, yes you do! You are no longer a stranger, estranged from your family by the pain of sin, you have a family who loves you and a Father who sent his Son to adopt you, and to give you family.

My prayer this Christmas is that the church can be a family for those who have none, a home for the homeless, a friend for the friendless. This year God was pleased to allow his people at Crosswind to begin to help the stranded and displaced families in our city. This Christmas 14 people had a place to sleep in peace and friends to share life and love with thanks to many many of you.

Truly he taught us to love one another,
His law is love and his gospel is peace,
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother,
And in His name all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His Holy Name...

From all of us at Crosswind.... Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Dirty Diapers And Outreach

I am convinced that the greatest service of all is the 'mundane yucky.' Let me explain. At first, all outreach and service to your neighbor is fun. We plan big, pray hard, sweat much and sacrificially give. And we do it all with great joy. We take pictures and chat it up, Facebook it, blog about it and brag about it to our friends. And even tho it is hard and we had to sacrifice we don't even feel it. "Sacrifice? Nah, that wasn't sacrifice." It's kinda like when you brought your first baby home from the hospital. Everything was new and even tho you had to shift your life a bunch, it wasn't a burden. Why? Cause of the baby of course. We love our baby and will do whatever it takes. But about that three hundredth dirty diaper.... you know the one. You pick up the little stinky britches and say, "Pew, yep hon she's dirty, it your turn!" THAT diaper is where a different kind of service begins, a service that comes from a different place and right there is where the gospel comes in.

You remember Jesus, when that great last supper was finishing took a towel and washed his disciples feet? He told them "since I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash each other's feet. I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you. I tell you the truth, slaves are not greater than their master." Jesus is King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and yet he has finally and daily continues to change the dirty diapers of our lives, living AWAYS to make intercession for us according to God's will, to lead us and guide us in the path's of righteousness, to provide for us every good thing. And he tells us to follow His example. Not so that we can earn brownie points because we can't and don't but because... simply, the diaper needs changing. And he encourages us not to get tired of doing good. Why? Because in due time... they'll be potty trained.

Until then, roll up your sleeves and do the work of the master...the 'mundane yucky."


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

It's worth the wait...

There's an old saying, "We didn't get here overnight and we ain't gonna fix it overnight." If an outreach ministry is to be successful you have to be patient. You have to be willing to suffer many setbacks and defeats, but it's worth the wait.

Our city doesn't have a homeless shelter, or a children's shelter or a women's abuse shelter. It's not that we don't want one or that we are cold-hearted, it's just that our city is too small to support one. YES, there is homelessness and abuse but not enough to support a full-time home. We at Crosswind see homelessness almost every week. Some weeks more than others. So how do you solve the problem?

1) We've tried putting people up in motels until they get situated. Usually that takes a couple weeks or more. It costs $800/mo. to put people in a motel ($200/wk) so that gets real expensive real quick especially because you are usually dealing with more than one family.

2) We've tried partnering with the other great ministries in town. But we can usually only afford a night or two each and so pretty quick they are back on the street anyway.

3) We've driven people to Tupelo or Jackson or Savannah where there are shelters. But many people don't want to be that far away, especially when they are trying to get set up here.

4) We even have tried to make people comfortable in their cars. We've brought blankets and got food that doesn't have to be heated etc. And we've provided showers and clean clothes. We've had some people live that way for a month or two. But eventually that doesn't work either.

5) The most desperate attempt was when we dropped off a guy at an abandoned house he knew of. It was his favorite because it had less human feces than the rest of them. I must tell you that was a long ride home that night.

And all the while we kept knocking and seeking and asking to see if there was a better way, a plan that would work better. And then some of our apartment owners in town offered us an apartment. And then another. And we began putting homeless people up. We just got offered six, count 'em... SIX apartments to put people up who are transitioning from homelessness to health! This donation has allowed Crosswind to establish our F.A.I.T.H. Program (Family And Individual Transition Housing).

We still need to pay utilities (about $600/mo. in low use months) and furnish them (two almost completed) but little by little with many tests and trials and suffering with those who are in trouble, God has allowed us a way to help. I think all the time we spent on this problem the last three years has really seasoned us to understand the problem and know how better to help people.

There was so much to learn along the way. The most important thing we learned was this, "Do not become weary in doing good." (2 Thess 3:13) Or maybe this from Matt 7:8 "For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."

Thank you Lord and thank you kind ones who have opened your hearts and your hands to the poor. Prov 14:21 says "But he who has mercy on the poor, happy is he." God Bless You! It was worth the wait.


PS If you would like to give money to help pay utilities or to help furnish these homes please click on this link. Thank you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The United Way

I like the name The United Way. It means to me that we can do it together, united, that's the way. I just returned from the United Way Kickoff and realized more than ever that we need each other...we must "Live United". All hands on deck! Everybody's gotta do something, now! I mean it! Whew, glad to get that off my chest. Let me tell ya why practically, then really make the point.

United Way funds local non-profit organizations. Seventeen of them. All good organizations. Ten of the seventeen are youth programs you would be familiar with (Scouts, FFA, 4-H and the like). The rest are adult programs ranging from hospice training to domestic violence shelters. One of our favorite is Corinth Welfare Association. They take United Way money and help pay bills for people who are in financial trouble. While that is a class favorite, virtually every United Way funded program is an asset to us at Crosswind. We send girls who have been abused to S.A.F.E. Some of our kids get to be Scouts. We had a grandma last year be tutored to learn to read. And on and on.

Here's the point. We're all in it together and we need each other.

Last year one of the companies in town who gives to United Way asked if I would come and give an inspirational talk to help their company give. They knew two things. 1. We are not a United Way funded non-profit and 2. It doesn't matter cause we need each other.

Did you watch the national news series on Katrina, Five Years Later? The story was touching at a lot of levels. So many organizations, churches, national non-profits, big named actors (Brad Pitt) have rolled up their sleeves and gotten involved. It was awesome. Over 5000 homes have been built by non-profits in just 5 years. Thats over 1000 homes per year. That's three homes per day. That's awesome! Thank God for all the people who helped.

But here's the catch, Katrina destroyed 200,000 homes! So... 5000 don't look so good now huh?

Friends it's like that here in our county. We've got a lot of great ministries doing a lot of great things but there's a lot more to do, so... we need each other. As long as our dropout rate is too high, as long as kids are going to bed hungry, as long as people are laid off from jobs, as long as families are broken, without God and without hope, we need each other.

All hands on deck... we've got a community to save, the united way.


Friday, October 1, 2010

Lord, teach us how to Give.

There is an unintended joy in missionary life. It is when the helper becomes the helpee, when the gift taker becomes the gift giver, when the cup that once needed filling overflows into another cup.

We began to see this early on but it has become a pattern now so we felt the need to mention it as a principle that we are seeing emerge in outreach. If you can stabilize someone and if you invest in them love and care, many return the kindness to others.

Jesus tells a story of a woman who had lived a sinful life and found mercy at the feet of Jesus as He forgave her. He said in Luke 7:47 "her sins, which are many, have been forgiven, for she loved much; but he who is forgiven little, loves little." Jesus explained to us a principle of outreach that frankly has amazed us.

We have a friend named Tony. He came to us last year, homeless. He was sleeping in his car in the cold of winter. He had dug a pretty deep hole financially and we didn't know how to help. He was full of joy and thankful for any help at all. We tried to make him comfortable as he slept in his car. Blankets, food, hot coffee when we came in each morning. But last winter was cold, very cold. And one day Tony came in with numb feet. As our doctors suspected, damage from the cold. Can you imagine how we felt? We let our friend get frostbite right in our own parking lot! You can bet not many of us slept well those days. But then God provided another friend who got him in an apartment she owned. And he began to heal... and slowly and surely began to dig himself out of the hole he was in.

And then the principle kicked in...

Before you know it, over a period of about three months, Tony had found five other homeless guys. He put them up with a smile on his face, never once fussing about the extra mouths he had to feed (on $650/mo) or the many extra burdens they put on him. Three of them have gone on now. One more due to get on his feet in a couple of weeks. I just celebrated Tony paying his last car payment today, you know, the car we found him in. He was rejoicing because now he could help more people.

Friends, I feel like the other guy in Jesus' story... the Pharisee. Would to God that I could give like Tony. There's a great hidden joy in outreach ministries, each day we get to be around the Tonys, people who give much more in return than we ever give them.

Thank you Tony for teaching us how to give.


Thursday, September 2, 2010

Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart

One of the great joys of serving the city as a missionary is all the people you meet. One such person is Lee Hall. Lee is a missionary taxi driver. He is on a fixed income and spends most of his time running people around. Sick people to the doctor. People who don't have wheels to the store. People who have jobs and no rides back and forth to work. If you need a ride, Lee will take you. He says "yes" with a smile and he means it. It's his joy and his ministry to haul people around. But it wasn't always that way.

You see, Lee takes a little 'gettin' used to'. Let me tell you how much.

By the time we met Lee he had been kicked out of a 'return to work' program and a professional said "he'll never make it". By the time we met him he had been asked to leave a church and never come back because he made people feel uncomfortable. Oh, make that three churches. By the time we met him he had screamed at a bank teller, was accused of stalking people at Walmart, had gotten a DUI and get this... the police had spread the rumor through a bounty hunter that he was a sex offender.

But then we met him.

He came to our office on a referral from one of the above. He was terrified. He thought he was going to slip through the cracks. He didn't believe he was going to make it. As he sat in our office that week we just thought, what can we do? He was pitiful and the pity of Christ moved our hearts toward him. But we had no clue what to do.

So we just put together a team.

We went and met with all the above people (including his therapist). Found out much of what had happened was frustration and misunderstanding. Found out his DUI was really an reaction to a change in prescription that day. Found out from the sheriff that there is a sex offender named Lee Hall in another state who resembles our Lee but IT AIN'T HIM. Found out the reason Lee seemed to be stalking folks and 'making people feel uncomfortable' is that Lee has boundary issues. What that means simply is Lee is like a child when it comes to relationships. He assumes you want to talk to him. He assumes you want to be his friend. He assumes that when someone smiles courteously that means "come over and meet me". He's deeply misunderstood. It's easy to keep your distance from that kinda guy. It's easy to grab your kids and head for the car or have your deacons to ask him to leave. But he's a real guy. He's our Lee. And the real surprise is... God was gonna make him a missionary.

Over the months, through love and encouragement and a team of people from several ministries and agencies, Lee became just 'one of the guys'. Now for some of you he may still seem a little too friendly or a little odd, but I'll tell ya what, if your down and out and you need a ride, or someone to talk to, or someone to care about you in his own special way, just call Lee.

He'll always be there, with a quick 'yes' and a smile.

They say don't judge a book by its cover. Well that phrase may have been written knowing that Lee would be here. But I don't see that phrase as the one that best fits our friend Lee. For me it's the phrase that Samuel used when God told him to go to Jesse's house and anoint a King. After Jesse had brought him all his son's Samuel said, "Are you sure there aren't any more? " And Jesse said," Well, there is one, but surely it can't be him." Samuel taught Jesse a lesson from God that day as King David was anointed. Samuel said, "Jesse, Man looks on the outside, but God looks on the heart".

To our missionary taxi driver with all his quirks and a heart of gold, "we love you Lee."


Friday, August 27, 2010

The Bottom isn't far enough down

One of the idioms associated with addicts is this, "You've gotta find you're bottom" or "You haven't hit the bottom yet". For many of us it was 'in the mud-hole' that we found Jesus. It was 'from the pit' that He rescued us so we identify that as the bottom... the place where we made a turn. So... one of the great by-lines of outreach ministry is "when you get sick and tired of being sick and tired, you'll turn to Jesus". With respect to all of us who have said that and still say it, I'd like to make a proposition: the bottom isn't far enough down.

Here's what I mean. There comes a point in your life when you're fed up. You're just sick of it. Your marriage isn't working and you hate to go home, you can't find a job and you're tired of looking, you've gotten in so much trouble you don't think you'll ever get out of it... you're done. Fed up ta' here with it all. Right there is your pit. Your bottom. And right there is where many people want out. They want to change. They've run as far as they can run and they're done. They're sick and tired of being sick and tired. It's really a great place to be, very freeing, the fight is out of you, you're exhausted and really, really, really ready to go a different direction.

There is a subtle trick of the devil here but it is crucial and we must see it.

My friend Trenia (one of our town's true heroes) hit the bottom. After years of drug abuse and brokenness at every level imaginable, she was done. She was at the bottom. The destruction that drugs had done to her had turned drugs from her best friend to her most hated enemy and she had enough. So she changed. She went to meetings every day. She stopped abusing drugs. She worked the steps. She began to help others get off drugs. She knew what it was and knew how to fight it. For her the bottom was the place she turned around.

But the bottom wasn't far enough down.

One night eight years later, Trenia was standing in the middle of a rain storm headed to a bar, ready to give up eight hard fought years of sobriety. The pain of life was too much. Somehow for her, the bottom had been a false bottom. Although she had stopped the destructive use of drugs and had become a good person, something was missing. She went home that night, and like Paul on the road to Damascus, Jesus came to her and opened her eyes and she heard the gospel of her salvation and was brought from death unto life.

Friends here's the point, if you get sober and miss Jesus, you'll just go to hell sober.
If at the bottom you change your ways without finding "the Way" you'll die in your sin.

The bottom isn't far enough, unless at the bottom you find Jesus or should I say, Jesus finds you.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Block Party: What it is and isn't... Is it a waste of time?

This last month one of our missional LifeGroups hosted "block parties" in a couple of apartment complexes in town. It was loads of fun, especially for the kids. It was simple and inexpensive (we set up a big tarp and made a massive slip-n-slide and had hot dogs, chips and ice cream cones) and the kids loved it. One little 7 year old boy liked it so much that as we were packing up he said with tears in his eyes, "Are you coming back tomorrow night"? What was it that is so fun that makes a little boy cry? And the bigger question, "what's the point?", and "did it really help?"

I was raised in the old school. In the old school what was important was not that you 'give a cup of cold water', but that you 'give it in Jesus name'. And in the old school that meant with every 'random act of kindness' you either had to give a gospel booklet or had to preach the gospel to make your act of kindness legit. It never occurred to me how offensive this was and flat out wrong until we started living a missional life. When you become a missionary in your own city the people there become well, people, not projects or notches on your evangelism belt, etc. Let me explain.

I want you to imagine for a second your regular life. Your daughter asks you if a friend can come over to spend the night. Do you put a gospel tract by her plate or sing and preach to her before she leaves. You are going to the zoo and your kids invite friends to come along. "Well we have to preach during lunch at the zoo". You're going to the movie... you get the point. Well let me ask the obvious question: Why can't we just have fun in the mission field without the presentation? My kids' friends and I have had wonderful conversations about our Lord and our relationship with him. Some have met Christ, others not yet. But I have never conditioned my interaction with them on a 'gospel presentation'.

Am I ashamed of the gospel? Have I put my hope in something else? Do I think a slip-n-slide will save them? Of course not. As the 'oldy but goody' says, My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus blood and righteousness. Isn't there ample time in a protracted relationship to share life and faith. Of course there is. But that is the rub isn't it? The reason we have to stuff a tract in the food basket, preach at every event or have the 'roaming EE trained evangelist' staged as stealth operatives in the crowd is that we have no intention of having a relationship with 'those guys'.

And that's what makes missonal life different. That's why we can have a guilt free fun party and soak the kids down and listen to their squeals of delight and be touched by their tears when we leave. Because we will be back, day by day, week by week sharing the hope that lies within us in so many ways.

I loved that little boys tears and oh by the way, we baptized his daddy last month.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Take your trip, but never leave the farm.

This morning on "Good Morning America" a group from South Dakota was introduced. They were in New York on a 'summer missions trip'. Summer is the time for missions trips! Most summers it is customary for churches to load up and go on a trip. Some go to other countries, those are expensive and exotic and fraught with intestinal dangers. They are also life changing for many who realize for the first time the privilege Americans have been raised in and take for granted. Some go to other cities and help church planters or ministries that help the urban poor. One such favorite is a trip to Arlington Texas to help Mission Arlington.

Mission Arlington is a apt complex ministry which plants small apartment churches in low income complexes between Dallas and Fort Worth Texas. The tag line is "bringing church to the people". At their headquarter they have a full service care facility which has soup kitchen, thrift store, counseling, and many other things, even a free medical clinic. They serve about 250 apartments. And during the summer, Missions teams from all over the country come and help. They do Bible clubs in the apartments, help all over in many ways.

Crosswind has made an effort to model their ministry, to bring the church (God's people) and hope and help to the people who live in the subsidized apartments in our city. I believe with all my heart that Corinth is as vital a missions field as any city in America. We have as much need surely as Arlington Texas. Here's my request, next year when your planning your summer missions trip, take that trip but never leave the farm. Plan your trip here. Serve our city, the people that need you. Have fun with it, camp out stay in a church's gym, whatever it takes. But make Corinth your mission field.

Sandy Williams has done just that. Every year Sandy finds seniors whose homes are in disrepair, or the poor who can afford to fix up, or the handicap who can't care for their properties and he designs a mission trip. It's right here in Corinth. It's a week long. It's hard work. You get to meet new Christian friends. And citizens of Corinth get to see the gospel in action. How cool is that. Sandy, well done! Crosswind has partnered with Sandy and each year we get to take a missions trip. It's right here in our own city, led by one of our cities finest and they serve alongside other Corinthians to bring the gospel to the marginalized in our city.

If you've never done a missions trip in Corinth call Sandy or Crosswind ministry. We'll help ya design one. By the way, I've taken mission trips in Uganda, India, Turkey, Mexico and several cities in America.

I love mission trips to Corinth. You will too.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Why are you just standing there?

"But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say." Acts 4:14

At first glance at this verse, it seems to us that the onlookers could say nothing because a man had been miraculously healed. And I am sure that it was mostly the healing that had them standing speechless. But as I sit hear thinking about how we can become more efficient at winning lost people to Christ, something else stands out to me about this verse. The healed man is standing there with them.

Our impulse is to see immediate results, even when it comes to salvations. But this is often not the example we find in scripture. Jesus poured His life into the disciples, the disciples poured themselves into the early church(es), the apostles mentored younger believers; and, the thing that will ultimately convince the lost people of the world to come to Christ is that we love them enough to "stand" with them for however long that takes. In a world where there are people on every corner saying they hold the answer to lifes problems, the thing that will separate us still continues to be the love of Jesus.

Live free in Christ,

Kevin C. (guest blogger)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Teaching people how to fish

You've heard the old wore out saying 'It's better to teach a person to fish than to give them a fish'. Those who say it many times are doing neither but the point they make is very valid... We don't want to give to someone if it is not really going to help.

Neither does Crosswind. I admit that many times in order to give a 'hand up' you must first reach your 'hand out' but at the end we want for lives to be changed, stabilized, become productive and whole. And we know that 'hand out's' do not do that, in fact they do quite the opposite.

When you give someone a handout you demean them. Nobody wants a handout. My mom was very poor when dad left. Eight kids, three part-time minimum wage jobs, very poor. We would have starved before my mom would have taken a hand out. There was assistance available and you can be sure we needed it, but she wouldn't take it. No way. Maybe it was pride, maybe a healthy self-esteem who knows? But I know one thing, she didn't take handouts! Something inside you dies when you take a handout. But many people when they are desperate enough do it. And what we want to do is to recover that 'something inside that died' when they did.

So how do you do that? Well the short answer is to teach 'em how to fish'. The social service answer is you rehabilitate them and develop them. And the Biblical answer is that you restore them to relationship with God, their neighbors and their communities, that is, restore what sin has broken.

Jesus said he came to preach Good News to the poor, to heal broken hearts, to set captives free, and to declare Jubilee. Jubilee was a restoring back to the original condition. We were created in God's image. Sin ravaged and destroyed every vestige of that glorious image. Christ came to restore it. In us. In those around us. In our communities.

Friends, the image of the fish has long represented Jesus. The Hebrew letters (Icthus) inside it mean Jesus Messiah God's Son Savior. He is the 'fish' that the world needs. According to ancient tradition, when an early Christian met a stranger in the road, the Christian sometimes drew one arc of the simple fish outline in the dirt. If the stranger drew the other arc, both believers knew they were in good company.

Christ is the restorer of broken lives and relationships. So give them the 'fish' and teach them how to 'fish' or as Jesus said it before he left earth..."Go, make disciples of all nations, baptizing them... and teaching them to obey every thing I command you. And I will be with you always, to the end of the age."

Happy fishing,


Friday, June 4, 2010

What a waste of time!

Why would anyone want to waste his or her time associating with the homeless, the drug addicts, the alcoholics, the poor, and the mentally unstable? I mean, there are no quick fixes for these "types" of people. Much time and energy has to be poured into them if we are going to see any kind of positive change. Even our churches do not seem to want to get involved - apart from maybe throwing some money at a problem the Holy Spirit is trying to get us to take action on. Skeptics and critics would say that it is a waste of time, and anyone who has ever reached out to them has been burned at least once in the past. So why would one get involved?

Because Jesus did.

He ignored the skeptics and invested in the lives of those who had no hope. And if Christ truely lives in us, we should do the same. We should teach them that Jesus is still the source of hope for those without any, and we should show them with our actions. 2000 years ago, a teacher sat among prostitutes, murderers, and thieves; and today, we should not be above doing the same. I encourage you to look around you this month and invest in the lives of those that appear to be hopeless.

"God is not unjust; he will not forget your work and the love you have shown him as you have helped his people and continue to help them" - Hebrews 6:10

Live free in Christ,
Kevin C. (guest blogger)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Don't just stand there, do something!

The Corinth flood was very helpful to us as a ministry to address a common problem in ministry... What do we do? It's really a hard question. Here's why: We want to do something. When the flood hit and we saw all the lives affected our hearts went out and especially when we saw that some who had so little, lost even that. But, having said that, it is still hard to know what to do. Here's some common legitimate questions we ask:

Who's doing what? We don't want to duplicate effort. What is something that we can do? We don't want to bite off more than we can chew. What do we have internally to do in order to help? We don't wanna have to wait till the monthly meeting, etc. Will we be able to do it the way we would like to do it? When we do this kinda thing we....

All these are legit and real questions that we have to consider to be able to do something to help. And we asked ourselves all those questions too when the flood happened. So let me tell ya what we did and see if it is helpful to you in the future.

1. Show up: We went to the site of the flood. We met those impacted (the housing authority and residents). We asked them what was happening and asked what we could do to help. It's hard to figure it out from a far, show up. You won't be in the way and it will be an encouragement to those 'in the middle of it' just to see you there and know you care.

2. Find 'command and control': Go around and find out who is doing what? It took us about two hours to connect with the key players and figure out what was going on and what we may do to help.

3. Get ready to say "yes": This is the hardest part. At first the Red Cross needed volunteers to bring meals to the shelter. They asked for help. We said, "yes". Then we found out that there had been a forced evacuation and the residents didn't have any cardboard boxes to put the few belongings they were able to keep in. So the housing authority asked us if we could find boxes. We said "yes". We didn't know 'who' or 'how' when we said it but the answer was "yes". God provided, we got the boxes. Then, they didn't have a place to store the boxes. We said "yes", God provided and we got storage.

4. Stay flexible: At one point the housing authority thought we may be able to mobilize a group of volunteers to help the residents clean out their apartments. We said "yes" and began to do just that. We set a date and time and called several of our church friends to help. THEN... the health dept put some guidelines which kinda cleaned us out so.... adjust. No problem.

4. Listen, stay in the thick of it and keep that "yes" handy: As things began to settle down we and people began to relocate we heard from several people that people were having to sleep on the floor. So we said.... yep, you got it we said "yes". This was our biggest leap. A twin, box spring and frame cost about $125 wholesale and a lot of people had lost their beds. Within two hours of that 'yes' a businessman called me and said he had asked for and received a matching grant for $2500 dollars to assist flood victims. We raised the rest from local businesses and individuals and churches and guess what? We got people beds!

That's how we did it. We got to play a small part. We got to serve. We wanted to anyway, we just didn't know how or what to do. But don't let that stop ya...

go for it.. do something.


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

"Lord, have mercy!"

Mercy is compassion for the miserable. Its object is misery.
-Easton's Dictionary

“...Mercy is especially associated with man in their misery. In other words, while grace looks down upon sin as a whole, ...Mercy looks especially upon the miserable consequences of sin. So mercy really means a sense of pity plus a desire to relieve the suffering… pity plus action. ...The Christian has a feeling of concern about the misery of men and women that leads to an anxiety to relieve it.” - Lloyd-Jones.

If you look at the passages in the scripture where a person asks Jesus for mercy, the circumstances are different. Blind, lame, lepers, paralyzed, demon possessed, beat up and left for dead or just plain trapped in their life of sin. But there are a couple things that all who cried out for mercy had in common. Their condition was miserable and they couldn't do anything to relieve it.

It seems to be a place that we must find ourselves in order to be free. 'Sick and tired of being sick and tired' and completely exhausted of all our tricks and games and coping mechanisms and human efforts to help ourselves. When Jesus met Saul on the road he asked him a question that set him free, I'll paraphrase it: "Saul, why do you keep kickin'? I'm Jesus..."Saul quit kickin that day and the Lord showed him mercy and changed his life and even his name. Will you quit kicking? He's just as ready to show you mercy, even now.

I'm attaching a video link for you. Watch how God showed this precious friend mercy. You'll notice the other mercy in the video also. It is the mercy we give to one another when we see each other in need. Jesus said it best, be merciful, even as your Father in heaven showed you mercy. Click on the following link to the Crosswind "Personal Stories" page and then on Trenia's story.


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Even mono is missional!

You know how it is when you've been at something for a long time, everything, I mean everything relates... even mono.

I got mono on or about Easter and boy howdy, what a bug! Just wiped out all the time and the least little bit of activity is just too much. Bad bug. But as I was laying there one day it hit me... mono is missional too. As a matter of fact mono is a great metaphor for how to live spiritual life.

Before you roll you eyes too far check it out:

As soon as I got mono all my buds in the medical field gave me advice and all my new friends (let's call them the 'mono fellowship', those who've had it before) weighed in too. Here's the gist of the advice: Your only hope for recovery is complete rest. If you fight it, it wins. Rest and you will get well, don't rest and you will stay sick. Here is the Bible verse that came to my mind as I was 'getting it':

There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he who has entered His rest (Jesus) has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest. Heb 4:9-11

The work is done. 'It is finished' really means that it is finished.. Jesus is at rest at the right hand of the Father. And he invites us to "be diligent to enter that rest". So many times as missionaries we strive and strive to make improvements in our own lives and in the lives of others. We suffer if we are not improving at a pace which suits us or if those we are serving aren't. I don't know how many days when a friend suffers a setback, or falls on even harder times that we second guess and say "if only we'd have tried harder or done more". Hear all the striving in that thinking? No, there is a rest, a finished work that we can enter into, a trust and a hope that God is at work in and through us without our striving at all.

Listen how Paul said it: To this end I labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me. Col 1:29 Yep, Paul was working (I labor, struggling...), but it was with HIS energy. Seems to be if God is gonna provide the energy for His work in and through us, then burnout and stress and exhaustion and anxiety may be a work of the flesh (me trying to do God's work instead of letting God do His work in me) instead of a work of the Spirit.

There is a rest for the people of God... be diligent to enter into it.

PS Works for mono too.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Outreach or Family Reunion? Hard to tell

I was reminded again of how easy it is to take on the missionary lifestyle even though it seems to be a dramatic shift at first.

Last week, in honor of Risen Jesus, we and many others churches and organizations around the city made a special outreach emphasis. Some had passion plays or Easter cantatas. We, like others, had Easter Egg hunts, face painted, told the Easter story, had cookouts etc. in particular neighborhoods. We all had a blast, were thrilled with the outcome and look forward to doing it again next year.

But this year for us was different. This year, even tho it had all the markings of the aforementioned outreach, for us it was more of a family reunion than an outreach. I mean, we knew most everybody that was there. Knew their story, their struggles, their victories etc. One friend was getting a job, one had finally broken through after the loss of a child, one who suffers with depression was out on a sunny day, one was getting bills caught up after a long struggle, another driving a new(ish) van so he could finally have stable child care, another wasn't there still struggling with an addiction, and on and on, story after story life after life. All people that we are a part of their everyday lives and they a part of ours.

Then it hit me...this was really easy. All we'd done was made new friends, hung around, invited them into our lives and they invited us into theirs. And after a season, we just discovered that we are "our brother's keeper" and we "bear each others burdens" and so fulfill the law of Christ.

I was taking about Crosswind at Rotary last year and was asked a question, "Bobby, how can we help." My answer (prompted from another great Corinth missionary, Gary Caveness) was simple, "Make a friend this year, a true friend, of a person who makes less than a thousand a month. The rest will come natural." Truth is, it comes supernatural, because it is the love of God that calls us to our brothers in need. For us this year, it was a family gathering. What started as a project to get us out in the neighborhood has become 'just another day in the park.'


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Three people I remember and why it matters to mission

I was reacting to a seminary prof (Dr. Alvin Reid) on Twitter yesterday who said he had just finished visiting with some students. I told him that I was thankful that he did because 22 years ago when I went, two professors had invited me to spend an hour with them and out of my whole seminary experience, I only remember those two guys plus one other.

Here's why... maybe:

1. You only remember the people who loved you, not the people who taught you.
I've been a member of two mega-churches in my day. I know the names of the pastors and you would too, but I don't know them. Never met 'em, never shook either's hand... nothing. They were great expositors and I loved their sermons. But truthfully, I could've watched 'em on T.V. and loved 'em just as much. I don't have any affection for them, any lasting desire to look them up when I'm in town. They didn't even know my name. Same with my profs, 'cept these two. They loved me, knew my name, brought me in their lives and heard my struggles. God says, "Knowledge puffs up, love builds up." Lot's of guys have given me knowledge, only a few have built me up.

2. Sometimes people make such an impact on you that you remember them.
That was the other guy... the third guy I remembered. The reason I remember him was he made me fall in love with the Bible. He taught me the book of John, his name was Dr. Munn. By the time I got done with that book, I didn't just love Jesus more, but I had my own solo scriptura experience. I loved God's word. I read or listened to the gospel of John every day of that semester at his request. And he would teach in such a way that you began to be mesmerized by the word of God. It's beauty, it's simplicity yet profundity, it's coherence. So sometimes you remember people for an impact they had on you.

So what does that have to do with being missional?

People are never gonna remember you for that block party you threw or that bottle of water you passed out or that car you washed. Just not gonna matter 22 years later. What will matter is the time you spend on their couch, listening to their stories, letting them into your world and you into theirs. What they will remember is the way you taught them to love the Bible and the way you spoke into their lives. People are going to remember you because you loved them. And you may think a block party expresses love, but I challenge you, go back a year later and ask them ones you gave the block party to if they love you because you did. Most of them won't even remember your name.

Missional life is not having loving events for strangers, missional life is having a loving relationship with strangers where those strangers are no longer strangers but friends and no longer friends but brothers and sisters in Jesus.

When that happens, 22 years after you're gone... they'll remember.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Why the church doesn't reach the poor

As a 20 year pastor and a two year charity director I have struggled with why the church doesn't reach the poor. I struggled with why my church didn't and why it is hard for us. Here are some unfortunate thoughts that usually pop up when someone considers helping the poor...

1. They deserve what they get.
At the core of all reasons may be this one. They are poor cause they won't work, they are poor cause they do drugs, they are poor cause their lifestyle is destructive. If they'd get their act together, they wouldn't be poor and I'm not motivated to help someone who is doing it to themselves.

While that may be true, consider this: ALL we like sheep have gone astray. Jesus cared for you while you were yet a sinner.

2. They take more out of the plate than they put into it.
Yep, they sure do. Consider this: Acts 4:32-35 ...and they (the early Christians) felt that what they owned was not their own, so they shared everything they had. ...There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.

The early church had some that put in the plate and some that took out. That's what the money was for. We use it on many other things but not too much on people who need help so that there is no needy people among us. 

3. I don't want their kids around my kids.
In our ministry some of the children are dirty, spit at us, hit us, say horrible things to us, hit other kids, hoard the treats, disrupt the service and once even stole the offering.

Listen, I'm not saying this isn't a challenge. But you send your kids to school every day for six hours a day with the same kids and you expect their teachers to maintain a safe environment. Your teachers can too. And seriously, what do you think Jesus meant when he said, SUFFER the little children... 

4. They take too much energy.
Yep, sure do. It's true that you have to go their place cause they don't have a car and pick 'em up or have Bible study close by. It's true that many of them weren't "raised right" and don't even know the simplest things like hygiene or basic care. It's true that many of them don't know how to provide structure, boundaries and discipline for their children, and it's true that there are a lot of issues you've already worked through that they haven't. But if they they had it all figured out they wouldn't need you... they'd be you.

Friend, these are only a few, but they are the ones I hear most frequently. The church is not for us only, who are easy to take care of and can get by on a good Bible class, a good sermon and some good music once a week. The church is for them, the broke, dysfunctional, dirty, not raised right, lazy, messed up folks.

Jesus said it this way when the 'church folks' "complained bitterly to Jesus' disciples saying, "Why do you eat and drink with such scum?" Jesus answered them, "Healthy people don't need a doctor—sick people do. (Luke 5:30-31 NLT)


Thursday, March 4, 2010

You get what you play for

There is an inescapable reality when you begin to live a missionary lifestyle. You are going to be in relationship with new people, people not like you, not like you at all.

The difference between living a missionary lifestyle and doing missionary projects is simply this: If I do an outreach oriented project in your neighborhood, I don't have to be in relationship with you. I plan with you in mind, I come in and serve you in a loving way and then I go back home. Home to my people who have similar jobs and interests and paychecks and lifestyles. The missionary however moves into the neighborhood with a different attitude. Maybe you don't physically move in (some do) but you move in with the purpose of making new friends, becoming a part of new family's lives. You still serve and do projects with the other person in mind, but this time your service has a long term relationship tied to the end of it. And that makes all the difference in the world.

There's a highway patrol investigator who now lives a missionary life who said to me, "You know Bobby, I used to pursue people just to lock 'em up to get 'em off the street, now I pursue them to get them back on their feet. Same people, different purpose."

There's an old saying that says, "Begin with the end in mind."

If the end is to visit and perform a kind act, then that's what you'll do. If the end is to make a new friend, then the same kind act will be planned for much differently...with a much different result.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

Missional Fasting for Lent

Lent is the six weeks prior to the great gospel week where Jesus' death, burial and resurrection are celebrated. For centuries the church has celebrated this time as a time of reflection and renewal, of introspection and self-examination. One of the customs of Lent is to give up (fast) something for the entire 40 days, to help you keep your focus on 'the reason for the season'.

I'm curious, what should missionaries to Corinth give up? and for whom?

In Isaiah God's people were very spiritual, observed the feasts and sacrifices with vigor and even went above and beyond, fasting for God to break through and bring revival. They looked around and didn't like the sin and where their culture had drifted to, and they did the only thing they knew to do, they went to church more and begged God for a revival. But God rejected their religious efforts, their fast, their sacrifices and he asked them for a different kind of fast... a fast for others instead of themselves.

Most fasting is for us. We want to get something from it. We want to get closer, dig deeper, have a revival, whatever. But in Isaiah 58 God told his people that an acceptable fast was not a fast for themselves but a fast for others. In verse three the people are fussing with God. They say, "Why have we afflicted our souls and you haven't taken notice?"

Then God begins to unfold the true fast. It goes like this:

Isa 58:6-7
"Is this not the fast that I have chosen:
To loose the bonds of wickedness,
To undo the heavy burdens,
To let the oppressed go free,
And that you break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
And that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out;
When you see the naked, that you cover him,
And not hide yourself from your own flesh?

God said that a true fast is not you giving up something for you... but you giving up something for them, the poor, the needy, the outcast.

God went on in verse 10 to use their own complaint and turn it on them, he said:

If you extend your soul to the hungry
And satisfy the afflicted soul...

God called his people to satisfy the afflicted soul of someone else, not afflict their own souls for their own satisfaction.

Maybe this Lent, instead of us giving up something for us, we could give up something for them.


Friday, February 12, 2010

Why give gifts?

From time to time, including this weekend, Crosswind gives gifts to over 250 families in our 'adopted' neighborhoods. This time it'll be a box of practical supplies, specifically:

- A four pack of toilet paper
- Three bars of soap
- A bottle of shampoo
- A tube of toothpaste
- Two rolls of paper towels
- A box of clothes washing soap
- A bottle of dish washing soap
- A bottle of house cleaning supplies
- AND a box of chocolates

Why bother with this gift some may ask? Does it really do any good? Wouldn't it be better to do something else? We are very sensitive to how our gifts may impact our friends.
1. We don't want to be condescending with our gifts. The last thing we want to do is embarrass someone who is working hard to make it by bringing a gift that may feel to them like we're looking down our noses on them.
2. We always want our gifts to be truly helpful, to build up the whole person in their situation, not just meet a temporary need that will be back next month.

So why this gift? and why now?
1. After Christmas, family budgets are exhausted. It's a rough time for us all. Also, during the cold there are above normal utility bills. So people who live on fixed incomes are strapped. And the items listed above are the items that are usually cut first. Food stamps will not buy any of the above items so people just do without. Many of our friends have told us how, in the hard months, they use their phone books instead of toilet paper and just wash with warm water, no soap. So the first reason is that we love them and want to help them through a hard time.
2. The second reason may be a bit of a surprise until you read Luke 10. In this story Jesus is teaching his followers how to prepare a city for His arrival. In verse five he says, "whatever house you enter first say, "Peace to this house." Jesus called for his disciples to enter into a custom of the day of hospitable blessing. In many of the cultures of the world even today these customs remain. Whenever you enter a home you bring a blessing of a practical gift to return the blessing of their hospitality. God told his followers to enter homes with blessings of peace. This welcome gift, if received, was the beginning of a relationship. The relationship would deepen (v.7), needs would be met (v.9) and the gospel would be presented (v.11). In this way the hearts would be prepared for the arrival of Jesus who draws people to Himself. So the second reason is to make new friends by giving hospitable gifts which may open hearts for relationship, giving us the opportunity to serve and the blessing to present the gospel.

For about $15 bucks a family we can do something practical (help a friend in tough times) and something spiritual (prepare the way for Jesus). Can't beat that.

Bobby C

Friday, January 22, 2010

It only takes a spark...

Back in the Kum-Buy-Ya times of the Jesus movement, with all the hippies and such, there was a little song that became a big hit. "It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around will warm up to it's glowing..." I've been thinking a lot lately about what it takes to affect change. How is it that some sparks get a fire going and some just hit the ground and fade away? Is there a way to ensure our sparks hit the spot where they cause a fire to grow?

Here are some thoughts (I welcome yours):
  • Sparks are a lot more effective when they hit some dry wood.
In order to be effective there has to be a culture, a deep corporate sense, a city-wide eye-opener heightened by deep gut-level understanding of our real state of the affairs. If people think everything is okay or even if we've decided, "Well, we can live with that" we are not likely to react to a spark, even if it's from heaven. If the local leaders are saying "Peace, peace when there is no peace" ( a Hebrew idiom meaning you say everything is okay when it's really not) then the sparks of good-will, the brainstorms of community improvement, will rarely make a lasting impact. After all, 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it.'
  • Sparks never start a fire without the wind.
In Jr High you learned the fire triangle. You have to have oxygen to sustain combustion. Even so, "unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain..." that is, unless God breaths life into your city or your problem, you're efforts will ultimately fail. You may make a splash, but you won't start a fire. It's not that God doesn't want to heal our land, He surely does, so what is it that allows the wind of the spirit to blow?

There was a time where God himself "couldn't do any miracles". The sparks never made a fire. The Bible clearly says he couldn't, not wouldn't. Two issues. I think both are our issues today
    1) He was too familiar.
    I think He's too familiar to us too. We need His power, to watch Him change lives, our lives, our friends lives. For too long we've been satisfied with 'just being Christians' without ever once experiencing the life changing power of God. Sometimes His story becomes white noise that we've heard over and over and has lost its reality.

    2) They didn't trust him, didn't believe that He could change their world.
    Jesus said He was amazed at their lack of faith. For some reason, they just wouldn't trust Him. "He's just one of our 'homeboys', we can't expect Him to change the world", "we can't trust him to heal and deliver and set free." I'm amazed too. We think if we can just get the Supreme Court fixed, get our party elected, turn the economy around, or fund the troops then we will be okay. So we trust in man and God can't help us.

    It does only take a spark, but we've gotta be the dry wood, open to the realities of our mess and then, then we have to believe, we have to trust that Christ heal our land. If we will, he will.


    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Excited about the New Year but we've got our work cut out for us...

    I love the year end scorecards. The 'how did we do' data. Whether its unemployment or drop out rate, I just love reading stats and figuring out how much of it matters and stuff like that. Last month the scorecards came out and Mississippi's had the most interesting scorecard of all. Check it out...

    Our state is the most religious state in the union. There are four ways to measure it and in all four category we are #1! (See article here)

    Our state is also #1 in poverty, teen parents, obesity and std's.
    Hmmmmm...I was just wondering, shouldn't one affect the other?

    Doesn't that alarm you? How is that the most religious state is also #1 in all these areas that you would think religious folks would be real good at fixin'? Here's some thoughts, and I'd welcome yours as well:

    - There really is a disconnect between church and real life. We 'go to church' more than any state (#2 is Mormon Utah). But what we hear there doesn't change what we do during the week.

    - For many, religion ('the routine of living out your faith', like church attendance and daily prayer, etc) replaces godliness. You can be very religious and very ungodly (that's the point of the polls). Real faith comes from a trusting relationship with Jesus that transforms your life and your community. No transformation, no real faith.

    - The Pharisee's were the most religious of their day (as we are the most religious of our day). I'm curious if there are any similarities. Jesus said they tithed religiously but they neglected the more important matters of social justice and love.

    Is it possible that we have neglected the "more important matters" of our day? Love to hear your thoughts... I'd also love to partner with ya to solve some problems.