11cm long brown slug in my back yard


My brother Jason lives in Pueblo Colorado. It's a far cry from Rennes, France. Rennes is cool and rainy, green everywhere you look. Pueblo is hot and dry, a desert. We two brothers live very different lives.

Looking out our sliding window I saw something exceptional. It was crawling, stretching, oozing its way across our yard. We have slugs, dark brown, you know, the color of something else you really watch your step for. And this one was big, huge, gigantic. Silas and I rushed out with a camera and measuring tape. Check out the crazy long 11cm slug, almost four and a half inches! That's the excitement that happens around our house.

Only a few days later I see an email from my brother. It tells a different story. Attached was a picture of something he found in his yard - a rattlesnake. Wearing only his Birkenstocks and some shorts when he spotted it he grabbed a sand shovel, ignoring his wife's pleas to at least put on some boots. The snake would be a serious danger to his cats or dogs and he didn't want it to slip away from view. I imagine Jason looking like a gladiator, slowly approaching his prey.  "You really only get one shot at it," he told me. I'm really frightened of snakes and wouldn't want to mess up that one shot! Catching it off guard, its frightening presence in his yard was terminated.

His story makes the slug in my yard seem a little less exciting.

Doesn't it?

Rattlesnake my brother killed in his yard

A good friend from college, who roomed with me for a time, is now sharing Jesus' light in East Asia. We had a rare chance to meet in Red Lodge a few years back, catching up while our kids poked around on the playground. At one point he laughed and shared a funny thought which crosses his mind when he thinks of me. Apparently there is a Chinese proverb that says - you can put silk on a goat, but it's still a goat! Whenever he imagined me speaking French, this saying came to mind.

French is such a beautiful language. Its flow, tone, musicality... And that's a stark contrast to his vision of me. I get his point, Montana practicality and down-to-earthness was infused in me. I'm no frills, plain old Dan. I think of the person he knew seventeen years ago, cruising in a blue half-ton Chevy with country music seeping from the windows, that guy never imagined he would one day live overseas. Yeah, a goat, sure. Put something silk on a goat, teach him to speak French, for example, and he's still a goat.

Well, I have to thank my friend for that beautiful picture that I can't get out of my head. I know my French is far from silky smooth. For those of you who would like to see it for yourself, I was filmed presenting questions2vie.com, the French everystudent.com website. You can see and hear for yourself what a goat wearing silk looks like!

Projecting the Jesus Film in Burkina Faso


Context is important. I've been thinking a lot about context lately. During our missions trip to Burkina Faso we were able to approach students easily. They listened patiently, and were eager to learn. We systematically used the golden 4 spiritual laws booklet, and our team clearly shared they gospel with 88 people. Twenty six of them prayed to accept Christ...!

Context. Approaching a student in France is much different than in Burkina Faso. Imagine if 1 in 3 would receive Christ here. Just today I did a questionnaire with two brothers studying literature. They both said they were too rational to believe in God. One went so far as to say the idea of a higher power is revolting to him. Is God different in France? Why do we see more evidence of Him working in certain places?

We showed the Jesus film in a village outside of Ouagadougou. Villagers of all ages crowded around both sides of the screen, sitting in the red dust and peering up as Jesus spoke their native tongue of Mòaré. About fifty of them came forward and prayed aloud with the pastor at the end of the film. Receptivity, openness... context.

Canteloup is a show on one of France's main network were they report news and make fun of everyone and everything. France's president had a trip to Israel, so they decided it would be fun to show clips from the Jesus Film with a funny voiceover. For someone who has seen firsthand the power of this film to reach people for Christ it was shocking to hear jokes coming from Jesus' mouth and Peter swearing. Such a different context!

I think about Mark chapter six, when Jesus visited his home town and "could do no mighty work there... And he marveled because of their unbelief." Did Jesus suddenly lose his power? How could God come up short in his hometown? Context.

God never changes and is all powerful. He can do anything in accord with his character. It seems God is also gentle. If people are unbelieving, closed, hard, he's not going to force. God prefers fertile ground, faith filled belief, openness. This was the general context in Nazareth. But what about individuals?

In Matthew 14 we read about Jesus and Peter walking on water. One moment Peter is really walking on water! You've got to stop and marvel at that. Then he took his eyes off Jesus, became afraid and started to sink. Did God's power to hold Peter up suddenly waiver? No, it was Peter's doubt. It is mind-boggling the role we play in the work of God.

So the question I'm asking myself is this - how is the context of my life? How open am I to let God work in and around me?

What about you? How would you evaluate the context of your life?

Darth Vader attacktix figure wearing a Redwings baseball cap

I took a leap and agreed to coach the boys baseball team this year. I'm encouraged because if kids keep coming we'll even be close to having a full team! Yes, it is sad that in a city the size of Rennes, 206,000 people, we can barely rally enough baseball players for a full team.

Coaching in France is a huge challenge. Very few kids have played before or seen a game, so we really start with the basics. At our second practice (which took place in a gym because it was raining) I used a table to spread a big piece of paper with a baseball field drawn on it. My goal was to teach the kids the fundamentals of base-running, like when you have to run, if there's a force out or you have to tag... They were gathered around three sides of the table and I began to talk base running. The first batter was Luke, an attacktix figure I borrowed from my boys. He was even holding a light saber, which is a little like a bat, right?! Luke gets on first base. So when the next batter hits the ball does he have to run? There is a definite logic to it and the kids start to understand. Of course there were lots of reactions when Vader stepped up to the plate! If the lesson slowed down, even for an instant, the figures were picked up and played with. These are 9-12 year olds, after all.

This was followed by a scrimmage, which is the most fun of all. Kids were running everywhere and nobody knew what to do with the ball. But we had fun! And ultimately that's what baseball is all about.

What's up for practice this week? Well, we'll probably take the time to explain the roles of each position on the field. We'll need someone with a canon at shortstop. Maybe greedo will be on first base...

Charlie Chaplin photo with quote "Charlie Caplin once entered a Charlie Chaplin lookalike contest at a San Francisco theater. He lost." Clipped from Mental Floss

I saw this on a blog I read occasionally called Mental Floss. I can certainly imagine Charlie Chaplin doing this, and it would definitely put the qualification of the judges in question. Snopes claims the story to be true, adding he didn’t even make the finals. What intrigues me about this is the huge gap there can exist between who we really are and people’s image of you.

What is known or not about you can be broken down pretty simply (math or engineering types, you can go ahead and draw a diagram with “you” on the x axis and “others” on the y).

Known by you and others – this is fairly common knowledge which we typically try to control.

Known by you and not others – a necessary category, but just how big is this closet?

Known by others and not you – these are your blind spots. A good friend can help you here.

Not known by you or others – yes, the logical last category known only to God.

When you think about who you are, your identity, there are probably things you like and others you dislike. Anyone who’s seen me or my picture knows my gray hair are showing up in force. It’s who I am, like it or not. I’m from Montana, but live in France, and even though I get pretty funny looks when I wear an old seed cap, it’s who I am and I don’t mind if others know it. This is all in the first category, which we generally try to control.

There are plenty of things about ourselves we don’t really want others to know. I have to wear a tooth guard at night so I don’t grind my teeth down further. Whoops, now that slid into the first category. I’ll stop there. But who are we really kidding. Guys, how would you feel if all your friends knew as much about you as google does? Does something we’re think we’re hiding not affect who we are? Are there things in this category that need to change? Would sharing your struggles with someone you trust help you?

We all have blind spots too, things others see but the forest is so thick we have trouble recognizing them. Once I was told that when I speak in French I often end my sentences with “eh?” I had no idea. Then I started catching myself doing it and found it pretty annoying. I’m really thankful my friends thought to tell me! Being open and correctable is key here, especially if the issue is serious.

Over a decade ago I was working on my first missionary team. May and I noted something in our team leaders that we felt wasn’t quite right. As delicately as possible I brought it to the team leader’s attention. He listened and heard what was said, didn’t get defensive, recognized our point, and even thanked us for bringing it to their attention. He earned a ton of respect that day, and as time has gone on I think that respect continues to be well earned. I still appreciate his willingness to listen and understand. Today he’s technically my boss, and I hope will always be my friend.

Four years ago during a conference a colleague of mine called me aside to talk with me. He wanted to express how something I had done had hurt him in a profound way. I listened, did my best to understand, recognized his points, shared my view of the situation, and ultimately asked his forgiveness. (sorry, but forgiveness is another blog). It helped me grow, and it was important for our relationship.

If someone offers you love motivated correction, remember this – it takes great courage. That person is showing that they value your relationship enough to risk the uncomfortable. That person, if their motivations are pure, is a hero. Before you get defensive, before you counter, as your guts react to the discomfort, bring this to mind:

Better is open rebuke than hidden love.

Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.

Rebuke the discerning, and they will gain knowledge.

Lastly, our diagram has this category - unknown to us or others. It’s a logical necessary, but what’s the use? Well, we’re talking about who we are and who we want to be. Might there be things there you would want to change? Considering that nothing within any of these categories is unknown to God, it’s not completely inaccessible.

In psalm 139 David prays, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!

Known as a man after God’s heart, he clearly is asking God to dig into this last category and help him be a better person. This is where God really comes in. Only with the help of the Holy Spirit in our lives can we see lasting positive change. As God works on us, pushing issues to the foreground (known territory), trust that He knows what’s best, exhale by confessing back to Him, then inhale by asking to be filled with His Spirit. Our true identity is found in Him, not the judges of a look-alike contest!

An ancient silver roman coin


Walking through the door as we arrived home from church I thought – I must have left my bag in the car. Yes, I (Dan) do have a bag, a purse, whatever you want to call it. I call it practical. But as I looked this morning I didn’t see it (our garage is really dark). Assuming I left it at church I called our pastor, biked over for a key, then down to church – nothing. A knot began to form in my stomach as I considered all that is there: wallet, passport, carte de séjour, my favorite knife. I would hate to lose that knife! But how long would it take to replace my passport? How would I go about replacing my German driver’s license? The knot tightened. I tried to keep calm, praying and wondering how this story would end. Maybe it was misplaced somewhere at home – nope. I checked online to see if there was any activity on our cards. I had taken our car into the shop, and needed to pick it up before lunch. It was my last hope - that it might be there somehow. Peering through the window I unlocked the door, and there it was on the floor of the back seat. Huge relief!! It brings the parable of the lost coin to life. The desperate search, the concern, the rejoicing – over what? Over one person who turns to God! God cares about each one of us the same way I was concerned over finding my bag. Each person we see, pass by or interact with – God is pursuing that person the same way I pursued what I had lost (even more).

The big question is, how can each of us enter into that pursuit?