India Journal: Eunuchs
July 31, 2008, 7:34 am
Filed under: India


This is our team, with our friend, Deshpande.  He’s a part of the Truthseekers team in Delhi.  He walked the streets and train stations with us, translated for us, insisted on carrying our luggage, took an ailing team member to see a doctor late at night, and many other things for which we’re grateful.

Deshpande’s desire to serve others is constantly evident.  But his love for God and people also expresses itself in a unique, and difficult calling.  He is beginning a ministry in Delhi to reach out to India’s eunuch and prostitute community.  In India, the eunuchs, or hijras as they are referred to, consider themselves a third gender.  Very rarely will someone be born that way . . . all the rest are adopted into the hijra community through an “operation,” which is actually a ritual that I won’t go into here (for the strong-stomached, you can read about the process here – there is also a thorough description of the hijra culture).  For the most part, hijras are male homosexuals, who join this community after being rejected by their families for refusing to marry and have children.

The hijras have a recognized (and feared) role in society.  They show up at weddings and births to pronounce “blessings,” which usually come at a high price.  People usually pay up, partly just to get rid of them, and partly to avoid being cursed by them.  Hijras are often flamboyant and belligerent, and take advantage of society’s discomfort with them.  They are as low as you can get in India.

Deshpande has befriended several of these people, and has worked to express love and grace toward them.  Unfortunately, our planned time to go with Deshpande to visit them had to be cancelled due to illness, so we didn’t meet the hijras personally.  But one day I was able to spend a couple of hours, just listening to Deshpande’s heart and his stories that communicated compassion.  He’s in a difficult place, though, because he needs help.  He can’t do this work alone – not only are there too many people for that, but he needs the encouragement of supportive co-workers.  If you’re the praying type, I’d ask that you pray for Deshpande today.  I’ve encouraged him to continue staying faithful to his work through Truthseekers, and allow God to bring others to work with him in due time.

Crazy skyscraper
July 29, 2008, 7:37 am
Filed under: globalization, technology

An architect has just announced plans to build three skyscrapers – one in Dubai, one in Moscow, and one in New York.  Each floor moves independently, has wind turbines between each floor that generate enough electricity for the building (and then some), and can be built with fewer workers in just over half the time compared to a normal high rise.  This picture is one building, not five.  Follow the link below for more pics.

“Paging Mr. Jetson.  Mr. George Jetson, your apartment has arrived.”

Check it

Tech Geek Robert Scoble on Church Planting (accidentally)
July 26, 2008, 2:32 pm
Filed under: books, conference, culture, denomination, innovation, technology

Even though I’m significantly out of my element, I often stumble through blog posts by Robert Scoble, who is a self-admitted “tech geek.”  He’s always got a strong opinion on what’s going on in the high tech world – some people like him, some don’t.  Though he’s seems to be a much nicer guy, you might think of him as the Chris Matthews of tech.

He posted an interesting entry today on what he calls “The Silicon Valley VC Disease.”  He mentions some current thinking by venture capitalists when it comes to funding startups that make applications for trendy, potentially flavor-of-the-month things like the iPhone and Facebook.

What is the disease? That you must make bucketloads of money (or at least have a shot at doing that) in the first two years of business.

If you have a plan to make just a reasonable amount of money, or if it will take decades to make a big amount of money, don’t come to Silicon Valley.

What interested me in this post was how true his statements are of church planting in North America.  The difference being, if you were to swap “venture capital funding” for “denominational church plant funding,” and “money” for “church attendees.”  For example, let’s rework the above quote (with apologies to Scoble):

What is the disease?  That you must [have boatloads of people in your church] (or at least have a shot at doing that) in the first two years [after the church launches].

If you have a plan to just have a reasonable number of relationships, or if it will take decades to make a big [church], don’t try planting a church.

I remember Hugh Halter saying something pretty close to this recently (I don’t recall if it was at a conference I attended, or if it’s in his excellent book, The Tangible Kingdom).  His point was that it often takes the first couple of years for a church planter to develop enough core friendships of depth in order to even think about going public, but by then the denominational (and often, other partner)  funding has dried up, and the church planter is in a scramble for what to do.  As an added bonus, the church planter is made to feel like a slacker/failure/loser for not having “succeeded” according to a standard he/she didn’t even create.

This is yet another example of Christendom-mentality church mirroring big business in our culture in some pretty unhealthy ways.

Am I off base on this?  Let me know what you think.

The writing bachelor
July 26, 2008, 9:54 am
Filed under: family, school

For the second time in the past three weeks I found myself driving Michelle to the airport this morning for a weekend away.  A couple weeks ago, it was a quick trip to San Diego to see family and her new horse.  This time it’s a quick trip to Milwaukee for a family funeral.  She found out this week that her uncle died, and it’s an uncle that she spent a lot of time with throughout her life, so it’s good for her to be able to go. 

So, here I am, a bachelor once again.  Last time, I was dead tired, having just barely gotten off the plane myself from three weeks away, so in terms of productivity, I was essentially a waste of space.  This time, I’m hoping to be super productive.  I really need to get into a momentum groove with my dissertation writing.  If I can do a few hours worth of research, a couple hours worth of tight outlining, and about five or six hours writing, I should be in a good spot.  Basically, I decided that I need to do some amount of writing every day until I’ve got this thing in the can – it doesn’t have to be more than a page or two per day, and it doesn’t even have to be stellar writing . . . but something that I can at least go back to and work with.

Alternative Calendar in the works for 2009
July 24, 2008, 1:44 pm
Filed under: culture, friends

Last week as I walked around Green Lake with my friend Eliacin, he told me about something that the Mustard Seed Associates are brewing up – an alternative calendar.  From their website: “We would like to highlight ways to celebrate the ordinary events of life – not putting emphasis on the negative but on the positive; giving them a Christian focus.”

They’ve got some examples, but need some more input.  So, get creative and go submit your ideas!  I would personally LOVE it if this alternative calendar had fewer Mondays and more Fridays.  Of course, I suppose that Tuesdays would become the new Mondays, but you can’t hate on a guy for trying.

The Great American Throwaway
July 24, 2008, 8:52 am
Filed under: culture, home improvement, money, technology

This morning, an appliance repair man came to fix our oven, which has been limping along for the past few months.  Since he was on the spot anyway, I had him look at our microwave oven, which went on the fritz while I was away for three weeks.

Oven repair?  No problem.

Microwave oven?  Apparently, this piece of equipment, which was manufactured less than four years ago (according to the serial number info on the back), will cost around $120 to repair.  Why?  Because the part that needs to be replaced costs $85.  I remember purchasing this microwave when we moved to Seattle – we paid $60 or $70 for it.  How is it possible to sell a new microwave for less than the cost of the parts?

Any normal American would say, “Well, I guess I’ll just throw the old one away and buy a new one – it’s cheaper.”  But this pains me.  It’s not even four years old, is still pristine white, and has no business taking up space at a landfill.  Having had recent firsthand experience, I can tell you that in other parts of the world, people actually do repair things like this, because they are valued more highly.

This frustration makes me want to do one of the following:

1. Do a web search for the part, and try opening the microwave up myself to fix it.  Not a great option for someone who is a total hack at mechanical things.

2. Try to find a nonprofit organization that does vocational rehab/training, and donate it to them.  Maybe they can get some training and/or resale value out of it.

3. Put it on Craig’s List.  This is likely to yield a bunch of inquiries from people who search the listings for free stuff, repair it themselves (perhaps with used parts they’ve gutted from other throwaways), then sell it in a garage sale.

4. Rant about it on my blog, suck it up, and just go buy a new one for $60-$70.

I suppose I should be ashamed to admit this . . .
July 23, 2008, 8:29 am
Filed under: media

. . . but I watched this show last night for the first time.  Laughed uncontrollably.  It’s totally not the kind of show I’d normally enjoy – not usually into slapstick humor.  I need to never watch the show again . . . but I just might get suckered in.