Wednesday, February 25, 2009

I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For

(I have to appeal to the U2 fan(s) in my audience - 'they' are the only ones who have commented on this blog recently.)

It's really a little thing.  A tiny, minute detail that doesn't matter to anyone else in Croatia.

But it's become an obsession for me.  

We got back from the States a week after the innauguration.  As soon as we drove out of the airport parking lot I saw a billboard advertising a new men's magazine ingeniuously titled 'The Men'.  It had Barack Obama on the cover.  

And it was amusing to me.  'Hmmm, a new Croatian magazine is featuring my new president', I thought, 'I wonder what they have to say?'

So, a few days later I asked if they had it at a local kiosk where I bought the newspaper.  'No', said the woman at the newspaper stand while wearing a confused look.

Then I made the trip from Osijek to Orahovica.  I saw the billboard 5 more separate times, but still no magazine in the kiosk.  Then we drove up to the northern part of Croatia for a church conference.  10 more billboards - still no magazines.  And I don't even get an apologetic look at the stand.  They don't know what in heaven's name I'm talking about.  (Yes, I do know how to ask in Croatian, and they give my wife and friend the same look when they ask in fluent Croatian.)

Does McDonald's advertise it's new Triple Decker, Heart-attack-in-a-box Big Mac and not have it at the drive-through?  Does Michael Jordan pose in his new Hanes on television for naught? How do you advertise and not have the product available - EVER?

Am I just a spoiled American?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Closing the Eyes of Humility

"Christian humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less."

So says C.S. Lewis.

And Timothy Keller capitalizes on the quote in his recent piece in Christianity Today - "The Advent of Humility". "Humility is a byproduct of belief in the gospel of Christ," he says.

Ever since I first read this article two months ago it's been in the back of my head. There's probably a good reason for that. My latest battle has been trying to fully understand the truth of Christ's humility while also realizing the necessity of self-confidence and vision in ministry. Are the two exclusive or can they be combined?

I believe spiritual growth throughout my life has occurred most when I've sensed the drastic dichotomy between my sin and God's grace . And that's where humility enters the scene. It's not when we try to evoke or stir it up in ourselves as Keller notes: "To even ask the question, 'Am I humble?' is to not be so". Our humility springs naturally from our realization of who Christ is.

Shouldn't our worship be directed upwards?

Our service is aimed towards the people in our congregation or the members of our community - certainly out of obedience, but horizontal nontheless. Do our eyes too often look to them for aproval, or praise, maybe even admiration?

It's the times when I close my eyes, go to the cross and try to grasp how deep the the Savior's love is for us that my need for outside approval diminishes.

And rather than limiting my sight, focusing upward only increases the scope of my vision outward.

Monday, February 9, 2009

A Gospel Only Skin Deep

I’ll let the following words speak for themselves:

“I believe that God can give us wisdom to get the best skin care products…It’s like you went and got plastic surgery without the pain, without going under the knife….Where’d you get that product ? On the Paula White Show! Now you can be a witness…God gives us tools to be witnesses for his name…God created you perfectly, so you need to take care of your skin. See, Esther was prepared…”

I actually heard those words on The Word Network while my wife was going through the channels on her parent’s TV. We sat and watched in shock.

This particular infomercial included the following tag line at the bottom of the screen:

The Total Solution for younger looking skin. Non-surgical face-lift kit and Paula’s 10 Commandments of Health and Wellness Book for your ministry gift of $59.95. or more!

If you’re looking for a place to drop 60 bucks please let me know. I can come up with a zillion better places for that money to go.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Enoh's Turn

You may think I'm too young to have an opinion – and you’re probably right – but I tend to talk with my hands a lot so daddy thought blogging might come naturally. 

Believe it or not, I’ve spent half of my entire life in the United States.  We’ve been back in Croatia for a couple weeks now though and I have some thoughts of my own regarding culture shock: 

It doesn’t exist. 

Let me give you a few reasons why:

1.       Language.  Americans and Croatians, family and friends alike all talk to me with high pitched voices.  They also say everything twice.  And no matter what they say and how many times they say it, I love to give a smile in exchange. 

2.       Sleep.  Whether in Croatia or America, I don’t tend to sleep much at night.  Perhaps it’s the constant traveling, or the new faces I always see, or the jet lag, or the dogs barking outside.  Who knows?  My naps are great, but my nights aren’t.  One thing I have noticed though is that it’s usually mommy who comforts me.  Daddy and Copland just keep snoring away. 

3.      Food.  It’s great in both places.  We started with peas and carrots in the States and continued with apples, pears, sweet potato and broccoli here in Croatia.  I love it all.  That being said, nothing beats mommy’s milk in the morning!

4.       Generosity.  Naked I came into the world and naked I’ll leave, but in between I’ll have lots of clothes to wear and toys to play with.  Mommy, Daddy and I have been blessed with wonderful friends and family who love and care for us so generously!

5.      Camera.  They keep putting it in my face no matter where we are.  For some reason, I like to open my eyes as wide as possible before it flashes.  I’ll close with some of the results.  

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Enough Politics Already!

I was making - and still plan to make - a conscious effort to leave politics on the back burner of the Culture Shock weblog. The topic sticks out like a sore thumb among the cultural and familial subjects that otherwise make up the majority of the content - especially to those of my readers who do not agree with my opinions. And although those readers are especially welcome to comment (publicly or privately), I do realize there are other topics they'd rather read about on this page. I plan to accommodate.

That being said, I feel I must include one more tidbit of information regarding our new President and his new Faith Based Office. Today he named 4 priorities for his new Presidential Advisory Council:

1. Global Poverty
2. The impact of economic recovery plans on low-income Americans
3. The faith based initiative
4. Abortion reduction


That's right. For all the bumbling mistakes Obama made in dealing with the topic during the campaign, he's planning on making it a priority during his presidency. Even the words "abortion reduction" show he has a realistic outlook. Abortion will not end in the next 4 years, or 8, or ever. His desire is to lower the number of babies killed - rather than merely throw legislation at it and make it illegal.

Will he succeed? Who knows? But I would encourage Christians who disagree with his approach to at least pray for our President in the same way they prayed for George W. Bush. As many have noted, Obama is not the Messiah - he needs our prayer.

Just a point of interest: A friend pointed me to this link that keeps track of how Obama is doing in fulfilling his promises. Is it biased? Find out for yourself.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The New Faith-Based Office

I read this post the other day and wondered if I was being a little obnoxiously arrogant in thinking that my president will have a better faith-based office than yours did.  Turns out I probably was. 

On the other hand though, I've realized it's not Obama's faith that I admire - I'm not too terribly sure I know what he believes.   For all we know his faith is as shallow as Jeremiah Wright's theology.  President Obama could have read Jim Wallis' God's Politics and realized that he was one of the parts of the Left who didn't 'get it'.  Whether or not he has 'it', he has done his best to portray a strong faith in spite of his more liberal policies.

What impressed me was the fact that Obama took a very good idea from former-President Bush and is pushing to expand it.  'It never fulfilled its promise' Obama commented.

Now we'll have to see if President Obama can fulfill his.  

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Deceptive Appearances

It was during my first drive back through the villages in Croatia that I noticed a grayer country than I remembered. Often you will be in and out of a village in 2 minutes flat, having noticed very little difference between each house you pass on the only road the village has ever seen. The bland houses, the muddy driveways, the smoke from burning trash or leaves and the seldom smiling faces are striking in their absence of color.

And all it takes is sitting in a prayer meeting to realize that this appearance isn't only skin deep. There are medical conditions, little money in the bank and fear when both are combined. Many women are abused, taken advantage of, or left. And plenty of men drink their family's money away. I've grieved more in my week back then I did in my 3 months in America.

But for every story I've heard here, for every abused wife, every hospital visit, every child's death - is it really that different?

Many of the newer buildings in Croatian cities are colorful. You'll drive past an old neighborhood when suddenly a bright orange house with fluorescent green shutters stings the eyes. Even in good taste, the colorful buildings can be blinding next to the houses that have surrendered to the status-quo. It's obvious that there are a select few citizens who want to brighten the place up.

Kind of like America. We have lights. We have entertainment. We have big colorful cars and houses and clothes. Our citizens usually wear a smile and a 'hi, how are ya'. We are as colorful as the melting pot we're known for. Nothing wrong with that.

But it doesn't mean that as a whole we're any less burdened, sick, abused or broken. It just appears that way.