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Monday, December 20, 2010

CayHistory - Disappointed about Pirates

I've heard this said a bunch of times, but it was Karl Barth who first said Christians must "hold the Bible in one hand and a Newspaper in the other." Barth was speaking to the importance of Christians knowing the culture around them well enough to relate eternal truth to it. This is true anywhere and it is especially true for those of us who live in Cayman.


Called to Engage Culture

We are called to engage culture -- and in order to engage culture we must know & understand the history of the particular culture in which we live (there are some great discussions defining 'culture' elsewhere--but I'll leave that aside for now). This call to engage the culture around us is critical because (a) We love God & His Word in doing so; (b) we love our neighbor in doing so.

We love God because we honor & emulate the example set forth in His Word of relating the good news of the gospel to different people in different contexts. The Apostle Paul says as much in 1 Corinthians 9.

For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews, I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside of the law I became as one outside of the law (myself not being outside of the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel (I Corinthians 9: 19-23).

I'm not the biggest fan of country music. But once being a Pastor of students in a Southern U.S. town, I at least had to grow familiar with country music beyond Garth Brooks & "Achey Breaky Heart." So I'd make a habit of checking country music pop charts, read an occasional article, and even put in a Brad Paisley & Rascal Flatts CDs. This is not a Country Music love story with a happy ending -- I still cringe when I hear the twang of a guitar-banjo-harmonica combination. But, for that time & place, to the Country Music Fan I needed to humble myself ("made myself a servant" Paul says) and become a country music to win a hearing and, ultimately, to win Fans to Christ.
We also love others by engaging with culture. A piece of advice people in my line of work are often given: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." People know how much you care when you get to know them, where they live, their history.

Engaging with Cayman's History

Since arriving in January, I've attempted to ask questions of various pastors, leaders, 'old-timers' of Cayman in order to get to know its cultural history. Indeed, people have proved to be the greatest resource in this endeavor. However, you have to do both the social interaction and the hard work reading objective history to get a full picture.

Accordingly, I recently picked up the book Founded Upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and their People by Michael Craton. It's an exhaustive (500 pp.) but lively work. What I'd like to do over the next few months is regularly post re: a little tidbit of history...CayHistory -- whether merely interesting or immediately impactful for current life in Cayman.

This post especially goes out to those of us who are not originally from Cayman but currently live here. If you only plan on living here for 2-3 years, I recognize it's hard to get motivated to get to know & engage culture. But I'd encourage you to not make this season that God has prepared for you merely a blip on the radar or a fun fling -- rather, that God may use this time in your life to leave behind a spiritual lineage on this glorious island.

You can start by getting to know a bit of the history of Cayman, its culture, its people.
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So without further ado......

Disappointed About Pirates

Everywhere you turn in Cayman, you can spot a Buccaneer statue, paraphernalia, or a person dressed up in the garb -- like this morning when I awoke to my son Mason dressed as a pirate, with the tip of plastic sword near an inch from my eye.

He received his pirate costume for Pirate's Week, which takes place each November. Pirate's Week is easily the most popular & attractive organized event we have here in Cayman. One of my favorite moments from the week was when a man, dressed as Blackbeard and emceeing a children's costume contest, stopped his playful 'avasting' to say, "You know kids, Pirates get a lot of flack for bad things they've done...but we don't talk about all the good things they did..." This made my Dad and I chuckle as this man went on to laud the positive effects of pirates on society (even my oldest son laughed).

But with all the fun & hype surrounding Pirates on this Caribbean Island, pirates had very little presence here during the golden age of pirating (1670-1730).

WHY? As Craton explains, there was simply not enough to plunder. You could only plunder other visiting ships, which were sporadic in frequency. "Unlike the Bahamas," writes Craton, "[Cayman] had no town where pirates could purchase provisions and supplies or spend their ill-gotten gains on riotous living."

Also, compared with the seven hundred islands of the Bahamas, the three Cayman Islands were too little and too close to Jamaica to offer easy hiding places, either for pirate ships or for ex-pirates seeking a life on shore.


Basically, pirates would make brief stop-offs to grab a bite of turtle to eat and for some wood with which to patch up their ships.

In other words, to Pirates, the Cayman Islands were the 7-Eleven of the Carribean. And that's a little disappointing.

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Friday, December 3, 2010

Jesus' birth: Discomforting Sign of things to come

You might remember John Donne from English Lit. Class. Passionate dude. Many forget that this 17th century man, having trusted his life to Christ, spent his later years as a London Pastor at St. Paul's Cathedral. I ran across something he wrote about the birth of Christ in The Book of Uncommon Prayers:

The whole of Christ's life was a continual passion; others die martyrs, but Christ was born a martyr. He found a Golgotha, where he was crucified, even in Bethlehem, where he was born; for to his tenderness then the straws were almost as sharp as the thorns after, and the manger as uneasy at first as the cross at last. His birth and death were but one continual act, and his Christmas Day and his Good Friday are but the evening and the morning of one and the same day. From the creche to the cross is an inseparable line.

I recall Christ being misunderstood in his adult ministry, insulted and mocked by his enemies, betrayed by his friends during Holy week, persecuted by religious leaders, beaten by strangers, and finally murdered by the powers-that-be in a most public & humiliating fashion. In other words, from ages 27-30, I am continually struck by the fact that Christ was never at home (except during these little moments like a retreat to be with his father or a few minutes of fellowship with Moses & Elijah on the Mount of Transfiguration -- how sweet those moments must have been for Jesus).

But as Donne correctly points out, the incarnation -- God taking on flesh & blood through this miraculous birth -- itself must've been so darn discomforting and alienating for Jesus. If it wasn't for his taking on God's just wrath for our sin at the cross, I'd say Jesus' birth would be as discomforting as the cross. The physical aspect of it must've been -- God all of eternity, then not only becoming a man, but a tiny, 7 lbs., 4 oz baby (unless you think he was an extra huge baby because he was God). This is why C.S. Lewis said of the incarnation, "If you wish to get the hang of it, imagine what it would be like to inhabit the body of a slug, or a lobster, or a crab."

That discomfort, that alienation must've then continued through his childhood. I think about Jesus' childhood a lot as well as the teenage years. Imagine, and I am speaking with regard to the human side of Jesus, seeing your friends, schoolmates, temple parishoners grow up to dream of marrying a woman, pursuing a career, having kids, seeing their grandkids. He could never relate as he knew his road would lead to an early death -- the road to Calvary.

Christmas can be a lonely time, even for people who will with family but especially those who will be without. I think we tend to seek comfort during the Holiday season more than any other time. Although we seek it a lot.

Somewhat recently, myself and the elders of our church were discussing ways to reach people for Jesus through Servant Evangelism. We spoke of giving away bottles of water with "no strings attached" but simply communicating to people that God loves them. But we immediately voiced the desire that we shouldn't do this by just going up to "strangers," as that would be unnatural, but we should have a picnic or barbeque at a local park with the whole church and then walk up to people who are also at the park and offer them a beverage or plate of food. In and of itself, not a bad idea -- but if I'm honest with myself, the motive was comfort. Let's maneuver or even wait for circumstances that allow the least possible discomfort and feeling of alienation from the world.

Yet this was Jesus' whole life -- and for our sake. So, through the Apostle Peter, his Word commands:

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which war against your soul. Keep your conduct among the Gentiles (unbelievers) honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation (I Peter 2:11-12).

Just as Christ was a sojourner, so are we. Just as he was never at home here (an exile), neither are we. When looking for peace and comfort during the Holiday Season, recall that you and I are not destined to find it in carols, Christmas Cookies, traditions with family -- these are all hints of the home and praise God for them because they just may possibly remind us of our true home -- in Christ. Christ whose discomfort in Bethlehem culminated on a hill outside the walls of Jerusalem, where he was alienated not only from the world but from God the Father. The Father alienated Christ while His Son took on the sins of the world.

If you trust in Jesus and find yourself in a place of discomfort and alienation this holiday season, don't worry -- that's where Jesus is. You will find him there. You see, he lived his whole life there beginning at birth -- so that through seeking him by faith, you will find comfort and a home for Christmas.


Surprising my Bride on her 30th Birthday

I still remember when I met Katie Metcalf in the Summer of 1995 as we washed dishes together (she washed, I dried...typical man taking the easy job). God used her in helping me to trust my life to Jesus. He continues to use her to help me trust in Jesus.

I'm so grateful for you, Katie.

This pic is in the parking lot of UCCI today. I put on the good threads and surprised her at her class with a bouquet of Gerber daises (her fav flowers). Twas a bit of a bummer as she has to be in class from 830-430 today. So I arranged a little sumpin' sumpin' with her professor.