Even a Xenophobe’s got to eat.

In Overland Park, KS, there are two stores next to each other along a strip mall.

One is a Korean restaurant, and next to it is a Middle Eastern Market and Cafe.

How about that?  Korea and the Middle East.  Sounds like something off of the nightly news.  Tense situations happening to foreigners in foreign lands.

And yet, here these two places sit, side by side near my own neighborhood, ready to serve.

* * *

Are you familiar with xenophobia?  It’s a human condition, but an irrational one, where people are afraid of people who seem foreign or different from ourselves.

It may be that all of us have some level of xenophobia within us.  Perhaps it’s some evolved protection trait, I don’t know.

Nowadays it may manifest in that brief uncomfortable moment when the person at the checkout stand has a different color skin.  Or maybe the startled reflex you stifle when you realize the two men sitting in your row at church are actually a gay couple.

It may be the instant stereotype you wish wouldn’t come to your mind when you see someone wearing a turban at your airport gate.

This fear of people different from us has caused centuries of war, slavery, hatred, and racism. That’s what fear does, after all.  It devours your common sense and your compassion.

Well I’d like to propose one cure for when Xenophobia starts to eat your lunch:

Eat back.

* * *

Korean_cuisine-Bibimbap-01

This dish is called Bibimbap (pronounced pibimpap).  It’s a stone bowl filled with rice and then topped with fresh vegetables, meat, and an egg.  It all gets mixed up with a spicy sauce.  The version I love is called dolsot Bibimbap.  The stone bowl is heated, and the rice and veggies get sizzling hot. It’s amazing. I ask for extra sauce because I like some heat.

When I sit in this restaurant (Chosun Korean BBQ, if you’re hungry) I do not fear what is foreign to me, I celebrate what is new to me.

* * *

dolma

The Middle Eastern market next door has row after row of unfamiliar items.  Pastry cookies stuffed with dates.  Bottles of blueberry juice.  Fresh pomegranates. Giant freshly braked flatbreads.

I bought a can of dolmas, which are grape leaves stuffed with rice and various seasoning.  I was serving communion the next night, so I bought some fresh pita bread and a bottle of grape juice.  We also purchased some creamy hummus from the cafe.

When I shop in this market (Shahrazad Cafe and Market, if you’re hungry) I do not fear what is foreign to me, I celebrate what is new to me.

* * *

People are always saying the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.

Could it be true?  Perhaps so, in my case.

But I have found that the more I am hungry for righteousness in this world, the less I am willing to let xenophobia rule the way I live.

Instead, I find myself more willing to try something new…

And try to love someone new.

Have a great week,

Mitch

What the EF?

tornI do believe that title is as close as I’ll ever come to swearing in one of my devotions.

Sometimes, in the face of a disaster, that’s all people feel like they can do.

Look up at the sky, and curse.

Of course, EF isn’t an abbreviated curse word — it stands for “Enhanced Fujita Scale”, the measure of a Tornado’s power.

The one that hit Moore was at the top of the scale, an EF5, with sustained winds of more than 200 MPH.

That’s an incredible amount of destructive power, doing unthinkable damage.

Maybe “EF” does make a fitting curse word after all.

The irony of it all is that this happened the day after Pentecost.

The day after we celebrated the Spirit’s entry and the rush of a mighty wind. The day after we spoke of God’s power, unleashed on the world.

There are some idiots out there (there always are) who claim such a tragedy is the work of a vengeful God, but if Pentecost teaches us anything, it’s that God’s power came to be a BLESSING, not a curse.

The Holy Spirit is what fuels the church. It’s what puts love into action.

It’s what prompts us to look up at the sky, and pray.

I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve always wanted to see a tornado in person. I’ve lived in Kansas for 28 years and never have. I think there’s something compelling about seeing nature’s power at work.

Now I’m not so eager. If I ever do see one, I won’t “ooh” and “ahh”. I may in fact direct some curses towards it.

Thankfully, tornadoes are fairly rare. But friends, I could not count the number of times I’ve seen the Holy Spirit at work in unexpected and mysterious ways. In us.

Reminding us that there are things we can do in the face of a disaster. Donating. Volunteering. Caring. Praying.

That’s why my church will be taking an offering for UMCOR this Sunday. The United Methodist Committee on Relief is an awesome organization that is already on the ground helping hurting people. If you would like to contribute now, you can visit here: http://www.umcor.org/

God counters every powerful curse with a more powerful blessing.

An EF5 leaves a permanent mark on a people and a city, but the mighty wind of the Holy Spirit never stops blowing.

This is a power that will forever change the world.

Really. I swear.

Have a good week,

Mitch

moore

Oh the places you’ll DOH!

photo-7

Doctor Seuss is who I’m not
but for a moment, here’s a thought
for those who long to disappear
and journey any place but here.

Inside and out we feel the heat
and long to stretch our stretchy feet.
It’s time to go, so we believe,
check out, explore, vacate, and leave.

If you can fly and wear a cape
it’s Super easy to escape.
But ticket prices soar so high
and gasoline? Not cheap to buy.

And time off work? And summer school?
You may be lost! Don’t lose your cool!
If summer looms and sticks you stuck
Just fan your faith and find your luck.

The place, in truth, that feels small
is not a place, in truth, at all.
It’s not your school, or work, or home
that fills you with the urge to roam.

It’s your poor glass that’s less than half.
If it were half, you still could laugh.
It’s even less than three-fourths gone.
Three quarters gone? You’d still go on.

Your glass is empty! Not a drop!
You’ve nothing left! You have to stop!
It’s running dry, your spirit-cup,
it’s time to fill that glass back up!

That’s why folks go to South Dakota,
South Palm Beach, or Minneola.
Vacation time, time spent at large
is time for sleepy souls to charge!

But even if you’re stuck in town
there’s parks to play in, brats to brown,
there’s 15 minutes without a sound
a dozen ways of calming down.

And God will help your soul to fill
Just ask for help! I swear, God will!
On sandy beach or your backyard
God’s love’s the trick — It isn’t hard.

Find little things like ice cream cones
Find great big things like trees and stones
No matter if you go or stay
You’ll find yourself along the way

Perhaps you will get out of town,
perhaps you’ll have to hunker down.
No matter haps you’ll come out great
Let go! Let God rejuvenate.

(Are you an artist?  Take a look!
Why don’t you illustrate my book?
We’ll split the profits, you and me
and next year fly to Waikiki!)

Have a great week,

Mitch

Shaking In Our Shoes

600px-Expression_of_the_Emotions_Figure_20

What are you afraid of?

I could make a list of my own fears, but I’m afraid of how long it might be. 🙂

Somedays I’m literally shaking in my shoes, but much of the time I think I’m being affected by fear and don’t even realize it.

I did some research and came across these great stats from http://www.statisticbrain.com/fear-phobia-statistics/

1. Did you know that 60% of the things we fear will never actually take place?

“What if Bird Flu becomes a pandemic and kills us all?” or  “What if I accidentally cuss in the middle of my sermon?”

From the serious to the silly, we spend too much energy obsessing on “what if’s” that never transpire.

2. 30% of the things we fear are things that already happened and can’t be changed.

“I can’t get the moment of the car accident out of my head” or “I remember that day I slept through my final exam!”

It just goes to show how tangible and sticky fear can be.  For some strange reason, we can’t always let go of it, even when we ought to feel free to move on.

3. 88% of the health-related things we fear will never come to pass.

“I hope I don’t have a stroke” or “When I get older, will I lose all my teeth?”

Instead of living a healthy life now, some of us worry too much about what might happen, then.

4. 90% of the things we fear are considered to be insignificant issues.

“What if I forget so-and-so’s name?”  or “What if I’m 5 minutes late to class?”

These are the kinds of fears that we won’t even remember tomorrow, let alone a year from now.  And still, we give them so much attention.

So what is to be done?

I can think of three things that can effectively KILL fear: LOVE, FAITH, and ADVENTURE.

Love is palpable and powerful.  Instead of dwelling on fear, dwell on the names of your children or your partner.  Show love to a stranger.  The more you practice love, the less room there is in your heart for fear.

Faith is strong and directional.  Instead of shrinking in terror, step out in faith!  Go where Jesus would go!  Do what Jesus would do! The more you practice faith, the less room there is in your soul for fear.

Adventure is risky and hopeful.  Embark on a holy quest! Explore!  Undertake something meaningful and hazardous, and find your true focus again, as a disciple of Jesus Christ.  The more you practice Adventure, the more the rewards to your whole being, and fear becomes an afterthought.

The next time you notice fear rearing its ugly head with something insignificant,

stop shaking in your shoes…

and give fear the boot.

Have a good week,

Mitch

adventure