Wednesday, December 19, 2012
...come out of your cave walking on your hands...and see the world hanging upside down...
Wednesday, May 16, 2012
Tuesday, May 8, 2012
He is a people magnet. People from all kinds of nationalities and backgrounds seemed to find him and he genuinely seemed fascinated with all of them. We definitely don't see eye to eye on everything. In fact, one of my most vivid memories with him was the time he brought an outspoken activist with him to our weekly dinner where I was interrogated on my view on creation. We had a group of US students participate in an 'art march' with some of his fellow artists, strategically placing pieces of art in various public places. One of my favorite times was simply sitting under the stars on an unknown and seemingly invisible set of stairs one night, sipping good, local wine and talking about the ideal American town of Springfield. Through it all, Francesco, probably without meaning to, stretched my definition of what art is and how it is tied in to who we are.
Shortly before we left Italy we had the great privilege of meeting Francesco's wife, Kat, also an artist and a beautiful person. As I've sat on this idea of the sunken church, this image was forming in my mind and I became obsessed with finding something to represent it. I searched and searched online. I took pictures of churches. I made a video on the pier in Ancona. I finally contacted Kat and asked if she would be willing and able to help me. And boy, did she.
I simply laid out the story for her and a simple description of what I had in mind. The image above is the result. Those of you who know Ancona might recognize the image's inspiration. I encourage you to visit her site at: www.katerinabonvora.com. She's got a great eye and is multi-talented. Thanks Francesco for stretching my boundaries and thanks Kat for helping bring my vision to life...
Friday, April 13, 2012
I asked my little brother, Tim, to share some thoughts on his perspective of the Church in the US...
After 6 years of my job, I'm tired. I am not saying that I hate my job. I don't. I look forward to work every day, but I'm tired.
What I "do" is teach middle school kids about God at a private Christian school. And I know that any teacher, even a good one, can get tired when the spring semester comes around. But this exhaustion that I feel is different. It's not from spring fever or having too much to do. It has been building. I am mentally and emotionally tired.
I've wondered why. I thought perhaps it was because I am an introvert in love with a job that surrounds me with people. Or maybe it is the specific age group I teach. But today, I found myself wondering if I feel run down because of something bigger than my job. I think I'm tired because of our culture. More specifically, I think I'm tired of our church culture. Please understand that I don't mean to bash the American church. I love Jesus and his bride and I know how blessed I am to be a part of her. But lately, I have felt my little corner of "church" has become bored. What I mean is that the many of the Christians I know are numb to the epic romance we are invited into. I see this most clearly in my students. If I could be truly honest, my guess is that most of my students do not really care about the stuff I teach. Some of them try to care. They know they should. Many of them may not even realize they are simply going through the motions or pretending. But the boredom is obvious. This is where I start to get tired. Naturally I don't want my students to be bored so I will try to entertain. I come up with polished expositions and elaborate presentations. I develop in-class projects and activities to get the students active and out of their seats. I have learned to adapt to the bored looks on my students faces and constantly find ways to keep them entertained. But the bell rings, they leave the class, and nothing changes. I am not accusing my students as much as making an observation. And while this is an observation of only 6 years, I have seen enough patterns and consistencies in my students to know the boredom is there. That instead of an adventurous relationship with Christ, they have a hollow religion.
I know that not every church is like this, but I do think many are aware of the problem. Because there are a lot of people that are bored with the church, Christians and non-Christians alike. And truth be told, many churches are very entertaining with their polished expositions, elaborate presentations, projects, and activities. But when church is done, people leave the building and nothing changes. Let me say again that I do not mean to judge or condemn the body of Christ, simply to express my sincere confusion. Although what is becoming more clear is that entertainment is not the goal. In fact, entertainment is exhausting for an educator.
So I go home at the end of my day, still loving my job, but trying to think of how to teach kids about God and wondering what happens to bored Christians when they grow up.
Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Thursday, February 23, 2012
So I've been away from the American church for a while and during that period my relationship with her has been a little dysfunctional.
We were sent by her and supported by her and what I’m beginning to realize is that distance has caused some separation. The American church has grown and evolved as have I, just on different tracks and at different speeds.
So I’ve been back now for over a year and I have to be honest, the toughest part of the transition was not fitting into a new, secular job. It was not a new school or a new diet or a new home or a new car or a new culture. It was and continues to be seeing how I fit into the American church.
Most Sundays are agonizing. And it doesn’t have to do with the local ‘church’ that we’re ‘attending’. We’ve felt this way at all of the ‘churches’ we’ve ‘attended’ since we’ve been back. And it isn’t that we’re bitter or jaded – we are really involved and love the church and pray for her a lot. It also isn’t because we have all the answers, because we don’t. All I can fall back on is a vague, and sometimes not so vague, sense that something simply isn’t right, that something simply doesn’t fit.
So, for a year I’ve wondered how to express what I’m feeling and experiencing and thinking. I honestly didn’t expect this. In all of my dreams of what I wanted to do and pursue in this idea of the sunken church, disillusionment with the American church didn’t really play into it. I hadn’t really experienced it before or if I had, it was masked in that dysfunctional, long-distance relationship.
I want to belong; I really do. But I don’t want to be a member. I want people in my life to be able to tell that I belong by my words and my actions. I don’t want a ceremony or a trite prayer. I want to be swept up in something bigger than myself. I want to come alongside brothers and sisters, beside friends who share a similar view of the Kingdom and the need around us. I want to belong to a community of people that are brave enough to throw out old forms and dream of new ones.
In spite of all of this angst, I couldn’t tell you when I have felt more full, more alive, more myself…more in tune with God's will for my life...
Monday, January 30, 2012
Brian Rotert has become my best friend. He’s one of the only people who calls me just to chat, just to see how I’m doing and he does it regularly enough that it has really minimized the pain I feel in not being in Ancona anymore.
One of the last times he called me I was telling him about my week, about work and I stopped, realizing how it must sound – so different, so American, so business-owner-in-training, so thoroughly…un-missionary. After a moment’s pause he asked me, ‘Who are you?’
Who am I? I am a cultural chameleon. I am. I learned through some difficult years in junior high and high school to adapt between urban Chilean and rural Nebraskan cultures. During those foundational adolescent years I was heavily involved in role-playing games which emphasize the player’s ability to create and assume the roles of fictional characters and to respond to various situations that are thrown their way. My brother and I played these games for hours, I’m convinced, because there was something intrinsic in those games that hit a cord deep within our missionary kid souls – a cord inscribed with this: the necessity to adapt.
I am a cultural chameleon. I am. I recall the early weeks and months of our time in Italy and the thrill of exploring, learning and the wide openness to adapting. Teammates made comments that it seemed like I wasn’t struggling with culture shock at all and it really was minimized. I adapted, taking on aspects of the Italian culture and learned to thrive there.
Now, almost 12 years later this chameleon is putting on an oversized, Texas-colored skin. This son-of-Americans, born and raised in urban Chile, transplanted to rural Nebraska and then Missouri who then spent a third of his life in coastal, central Italy is facing a deluge of The New: new schedules, new meal times, new paces, new rhythms; new foods, new budgets, new currencies, new rituals; new dialects, new political views, new climate; new home, new car, new furniture, new church, new job, new driver’s license, new barber, new small group, new keys, new school, new routes, new friends, new, new, new.
So I go back to the question: who am I? The more I thought about a chameleon, the more I realized that the essence of the chameleon stays the same. It is a reptile that simply adapts to the environment around it and even though the outside changes, its identity doesn’t change.
I think that is one reason that transition for the mission worker is often so difficult. We set off thinking, even after studying anthropology and culture that we are defined by our behaviors and actions, our habits and rhythms but really, we are not. All those are simply external manifestations of our true identity, of a deeper set of values that is rarely changed and even then only with much difficulty and often in the fires of the hardest pains or the thrills of the greatest joys.
Who am I? I am a cultural chameleon. I adapt to survive and eventually thrive no matter where I am and though some of my behaviors and external characteristics may change, I am Jason.