Monday, August 03, 2015

Processing Mode

This is from August 4, 2011, right after my first trip to Vietnam. Where has the time gone?

I'm thirty hours back in Houston and the fatigue is starting to set in. I slept about four hours last night and took a nap this afternoon. It's easy to see how the lure and desire for sleep could result in a dependency on drugs that make it possible. Today was my first day of in-service and I know it will be an exciting year. In the morning, we have to be at school at 4:45 AM to go to Abilene for the TCSA convention- long bus ride! Let me share a few things wrapping up my twenty-six day mission to Vietnam:
-One of the hardest things about the trip was that I missed the final episode ever of Friday Night Lights. I have not had the time to watch it on the computer. No more Riggins brothers, Buddy Garrity, Lyla, Landry, Smash, Tyra, Coach Taylor, etc. They will be missed.

-For a country with a communist government, Vietnam felt amazingly relaxed to me.
-The citizens are not allowed to own guns.
-People smoke inside buildings, something almost extinct in the US.
-While they are becoming wealthier, they are dealing with high inflation. I saw some incredibly luxurious stores and some gut wrenching poverty.
-If pho is not the National Food of Vietnam, it should be!
-I would never wear sandals while on a motor bike- seems like a good way to lose some toes.
-I've never been any place before where the whole country was surrounded by water.
-The Vietnamese are amazingly gracious hosts and hostesses. They take great joy in food and its presentation.
-Like China, if you hesitate, you are lost. People don't let you into a line. I was in the first seat of the bus and almost the last one to get off. In a mall, I offered to let a little old lady go ahead of me on an escalator but she just stood there. Her daughter told me in English that her mom was confused because that does not happen here.... and she thanked me, which I appreciated.
-Since Tom was sick, we watched quite a bit of television. Sabrina was a terrific movie with no sex/violence/profanity. Tom made me promise to watch Oh Brother, Where Art Thou? I liked the Discovery Channel!
-I learned alot about mission work firsthand. Everything costs money and it has to come from somewhere. Tom thinks this church can become self sufficient but it is not there yet.
-Ten dollars a month for public school and many families cannot afford it. He has sponsors for over one hundred kids with the funds coming from Christians in the US and Singapore.
-We take freedom of religion so much for granted. As they are completing their new church building and clinic, I heard Tom explain why they needed curtains over the windows and doors- so people cannot look in and tell the church building is a church building. They have grown to the point where they need to move around to avoid suspicion. American churches would/should envy their growth.

I'll be on the same subject for several days so bear with me! Thanks for all of your prayers!

God bless,
Luke 18:1

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Sunday, August 02, 2015

Sometimes, Nice Is Not Good Enough

Well, I'm back from my twenty-four day mission to Vietnam. I just bought groceries from my neighborhood WAL-MART and the young lady ringing up my bill told me she hadn't seen me in a few days- I WAS MISSED!!! My sleep cycle is way off and I actually woke up from a nap this afternoon not knowing where I was but that wears off in a day or two. It was a terrific trip and I will share some stuff over the next couple of weeks. I am still trying to process everything which is not easy for me as time gets tangled up for me over there and the days blend like a kaleidoscope- it keeps shifting on me!

One of my primary tasks on this mission was to help with English conversational skills. I am not an English teacher but a teacher who teaches in English, as many of you are. I have discovered the past two summers that English is a fascinating language and often makes no sense, particularly to non-speakers. This July, I focused on pronunciation which is often very poor in Vietnam. They have no one to practice with so they are learning from teachers with very pronounced accents which makes me popular! Very few of the kids can make the th sound which is the start of many, many common words; the there their that they them. Often the th sounds like a d and sometimes the h is left out as think being pronounced tink. The young lady in the picture above accepting a book from me is named Xoan, maybe my favorite of the kids I worked with in the classes in the English school. When Xoan tried to pronounce a th word, she would contort her face into all sorts of shapes and it was endearingly cute! Believe me, the problem is reciprocal as there are sounds in the Vietnamese tongue which I cannot get right- I mentioned last year that I don't say one of my student's names because it comes out of my mouth sounding like a profanity. 

Another point of emphasis for me was using phrases which while not technically incorrect could be worded better. For example, several young ladies commonly answered questions with the phrases of course and sure. I pointed out yes is the more appropriate choice. You know, what Jesus said, in flawless English, I'm sure, 
'let your yes be yes and your no be no.' 
In the same vein, I noticed a number of folks who I interact with in Can Tho use the word nice with the word good interchangeably. It most often comes up with food, that something to eat is nice or very nice. I've never spoken up because I know what is meant but to me, good and nice are not synonyms. They might live in the same community but they are not next door neighbors.

I've learned that translating is tricky. One summer in China, I worked with Lavender, my translator, who was trying to pass the TOEFL, an English proficiency exam. In going over one of the scenarios in her curriculum, it described a shy girl at a party by using the word spineless. In no universe can shy be defined by a word we would all consider insulting. Neither can nice be plugged in for good and I think we do that, even in the way some view scriptures. My belief is that some look at Jesus as a nice guy who did some miracles and that is it. In other words, he was pleasant. No, He was good. Jesus didn't die for me and you because He was nice- He suffered for us because He was good. I love talking to my favorite translator, the wonderful Yanping Cheng, about translating. Her English is almost flawless but every so often, and it is a rare occurrence, you can tell it's her second language. Much of our usage of words and the context comes from a lifetime living in a culture and learning words from a book, while the first step, can never replace experience. In Luke 18:19, Jesus posed this question to the rich young ruler who addressed Him as Good Teacher:
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good--except God alone."
Don't get me wrong; nice is a word which is perfectly allowable but it lacks one thing- power. God is all powerful.... and good. And Jesus is God. That's good enough for me.

Applicable quote of the day:
"You taught me to be nice, so nice that now I am so full of niceness, I have no sense of right and wrong, no outrage, no passion.''
Garrison Keillor

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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Saturday, August 01, 2015

Scars! (Joe Goodspeed)

I am back in Houston! My last guest blog is once again by my good friend, Joe Goodspeed. Thanks for prayers while I was in Vietnam!
I have a scar in my temple from a first grade experience,carelessly walking in the path of a swing on the playgrounds (but I still remember how kind and sweet the teachers were in patching me up.) There's another scar in my right palm near my thumb. My brother was chasing me as we played behind a hamburger "joint," and in falling, I put out my hands for support, only a broken bottle was in my way. 
My older brother has a small scar on his forehead, from a car wreck he was in at 6 months. Paul closes the book of Galatians talking about the marks on his body, presumably from shipwrecks, floggings, stonings, and other things suffered for the Cause of Christ.
But the worst scars are those from wounded hearts and cheap shots slashed into us by careless and unfair and perhaps well-intending friends.
C.S. Lewis insists that with the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we can go on, even after unfair wounds, and live a life free from bitterness and , regret. Lord, as we realize the brevity of life, let us forget the things behind and press joyfully on toward the things that are ahead..

God bless,
Lue 18:1
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Friday, July 31, 2015


My devotional tonight is by my friend, Joe Goodspeed. Joe is a longtme minister of the Gospel who now writes extensively on Facebook. He is also the father of our WCS librarian, Dinae King, and the father in law of Randy King, my insurance agent and my brother Dave's college roommate! Pray for me as I am on my way back to the US!

I was just a 1st year graduate student, and he was a PhD, and high ranking professor of the English department. This of course meant he outranked me hands down.
But he had made a statement really out of his field when he said, "The apostle Paul often copied the ideas of Plato. 
I knew that by a direct argument I would have a hard time scoring much, but I remembered that it is amazing at times what can by done with a question. So I said, "Dr Reeves, did you have any particular quotations from Paul which are Platonic?"
Everything was very still. After a significant time, Dr. Reeves said, "Well, no, not at the time, but there are several times that Paul used Plato's ideas."
And then I used a tool of debate which is often overlooked, yet which can be very effective. It's called silence. Though Dr. Reeves may have felt that he had made his point, I believe it was evident to the class that the professor had made a charge against the Bible, and especially against the apostle Paul, but he was unable to sustain. He really was a brilliant man, but he was out of his field and he was wrong. "Be ready always to give answer to those who ask you a reason for the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear" (1 Peter 3;15).

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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Thursday, July 30, 2015

BODY LANGUAGE (Joe Goodspeed)

My devotional tonight is by my friend, Joe Goodspeed. Joe is a longtme minister of the Gospel who now writes extensively on Facebook. He is also the father of our WCS librarian, Dinae King, and the father in law of Randy King, my insurance agent and my brother Dave's college roommate!

It has been much discussed in the last few years, the subject of body language. Julius Fast, Ray Birdwhistle, S.I Hawakaya and others have helped us to realize that a great percent of what we communicate is through body motion, kinesics.
Take a simple illustration if you will. Three people can be standing, talking. A fourth seeks to join the group, and by a simple re-positioning of the shoulders, the three can say either "come and join in" or "your presence is not desired."
Two vehicles meet at an intersection at about the same time. A driver can say, "I don't yield to anyone," or, "I'm in no hurry; go right on ahead", just by the positioning of the car and perhaps a gentle wave of the hand.
A smile of approval can do wonders, whereas a frown can fire an insult.
The Bible lauds brotherly-kindness and love. Often this can be shown by body language. Please also remember the implications of the quotation, "Please don't look at me in that tone of voice!"

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


My devotional tonight is by my friend, Joe Goodspeed. Joe is a longtme minister of the Gospel who now writes extensively on Facebook. He is also the father of our WCS librarian, Dinae King, and the father in law of Randy King, my insurance agent and my brother Dave's college roommate!

My late esteemed fellow teacher, Tom Allen, could tell this story far better than I, but in 1834 John Stuart Mill was under contract to write a history of the French Revolution. But Mill was strapped for time, so he commissioned his friend Thomas Carlyle, who was most capable for the task, to do the writing.
When the first volume in the series was completed, Mill borrowed it to read it at home, but Mill's maid, who could not read, mistook it for scrap paper and burned most of the manuscript.
Put yourself in Carlyle's place, and think of the laborious work all gone up in smoke. But thanks to a good memory and very uncommon patience, Carlyle set himself to the task, and in time produced all promised volumes.
It's hard to imagine a greater example of patience. The work was a tremendous success and is still in print after all these years. Remember the Bible teaching of adding to one's faith virtue, knowledge, temperance, patience, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love. Simon Peter goes on to say that those qualities should be in us and abound (2 Peter 1). (Thanks to yoke-fellow John Gipson for guiding me to this great story.

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Compassion vs. Commitment (Warren Baldwin)

Tonight we are blessed with more good thoughts by my friend, Warren Baldwin! Please keep me in your prayers as I finish my mission in Can Tho, Vietnam.

When people tell church consultant Kennon Callahan, “What we need (in the church) is people with more commitment,” he has a standard response ready. “Good friend, you have just taught me that you are a longtime Christian.” (Kennon Callahan, Twelve Keys to an Effective Church, 27).

Dr. Callahan’s response is not a put down, but an observation. He says the early motivations that lead people to investigate a church are compassion, community and hope. Compassion is sharing, caring, giving, loving and serving. Community is good fun, good times, belonging and a sense of family. Hope is confidence and assurance in the grace of God (21). People are looking for the kindness of compassion, the sense of belonging in community, and the assurance of hope, and they are hoping to find that in a church.

Nearly everyone who walks into a church building is hoping that the people there will greet them with these three incredibly important attitudes: compassion, community and hope.

But, what are they often greeted with? Challenge, reasonability and commitment. Challenge is accomplishment, achievement and attainment. Reasonability is analysis, logic and good sense. Commitment is duty, vow, obligation and loyalty (21). These three attitudes are generally what church leaders are looking for in members. They want them to live up the challenge of Christian living, to understand with their heads the reasonableness of the Christian story, and to be loyal and committed to the church. These are attitudes are every bit as important as the three attitudes seekers bring to church with them, but it is not what they are looking for. They are looking for compassion, community and hope.

That is why Kennon Callahan responds to the statement, “What we need (in the church) is people with more commitment,” with “Good friend, you have just taught me that you are a longtime Christian.” What he means is, “You have been in the church for a long, long time. You came seeking compassion, community and hope, and you found it. So, you stayed here a long time. You lived up to the challenge of Christian living, you studied the scriptures for a long time and accept the reasonability of faith and knowledge, and you grew committed to the Lord and the church. But, you have been a church member for so long you have forgotten what it is to be someone who lacks all this, and is looking for it. In time people can accept the challenge, reasonability and commitment. Right now what they need from you, church leader, is compassion, community, and hope. Love and accept them, no matter where they are in life. Can you do that? If you can, they will put down roots because this place will feel like home, and they will feel they belong.” (Twelve Keys to an Effective Church Study Guide, 25)]

Well-intentioned church leaders know the importance of living up to the challenges of the Christian life, studying to understand the scriptures, and commitment to life and work in the church. They have worked at this for years. But, in the process, they may have forgotten what it is to be a beginner. A seeker. Someone who senses something is missing in their life so they go to church hoping to find it there. What drives them to that first visit, what Callahan calls motivational resources, are a yearning for compassion, community and hope. What they are greeted with is the set of motivational resources leaders rely upon: challenge, reasonability, and commitment. The result is a motivational gap, with the seeker often leaving, despairing of ever finding what he needs in church.

If you ever find yourself saying of your congregation, “What we need is more commitment,” catch yourself and rephrase your statement to, “What we need is more compassion.” Show enough compassion, grace, love, community, forgiveness, hope, and encouragement over time, and you won’t have to beg or cajole people into being committed. Commitment will grow gradually and naturally as people experience the church as home, they put down roots, and they assume their place in the family. 

-Warren Baldwin

God bless, Steve Luke 18:1 E-mail me at