Camp Tahkodah

Leaving today for Camp Tahkodah where Jill and I will teach Bible and I’ll do some writing while the kids are in camp. I doubt I’ll be able to post from there and likely won’t try or want to.

Please take a look at the blog links on the right nav.

My cousin, Clint Davis, has been writing a lot about BAM, or Business As Missions. Take a look. I really liked his post on World Cup.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Mom, you amaze me as does Jill’s mom . . . why did you agree to help carry our Harding Swing around front? I love you for your tenacity and willingness to always serve, even when the idea might be boneheaded, as was mine that day.

Happy Birthday! I love you.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Cars, Route 66, and the Admiral Twin Drive In

To see Cars, Jill and I decided to take the kids to the Drive In movie theater.

The Admiral Twin Drive In is spitting distance from Route 66 so it was fitting to take the kids to their first drive in to see Cars and to actually feel we were in the movie cheering on and lamenting the loss of this slice of Americana: Route 66 and towns it split and drive ins.

The kids were surprised by everything. Where do they show the movie? How do we hear it? It’s outside? Jill and I were surprised by the recent addition of narrow cast FM to hear the sound, and we were shocked that you couldn’t just pay for a carload–we spared our children details about how we and previous generations on occasion entered clandestinely to save on the price of drive in movies.

I really enjoyed the second tension in the movie that showed how the interstates changed the face and future of Radiator Springs. Cars had the “I-can’t-believe-I’m-watching-inanimate-objects-as-characters-I-might-care-about” feeling of the Brave Little Toaster but was much better. Of course the animation and action was better but the storyline was much better, too, and there were no attempted Bob Dylan sound-alike songs.

But here we were backed up with minivan hatch up, watching the 1950s countdown to the movie with shameless appeals for everyone to get their popcorn before the movie begins. Another 50s slide came on encouraging us to “Attend the church of your choice this Sunday, and take a friend with you!”

I was really happy we attended the drive in of our choice . . . since the eighteen-wheelers brought those big air handlers to town on the interstate, seems these days people don’t think they have much of a choice but to sit in padded and cool indoor theaters. We all enjoyed the outdoor experience of the drive in, and we think we’ll go again to the Admiral Twin, our favorite. OK, well, it’s the only one in town.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Transformational Travel (Part 5):Jesus’ Table Ministry

What if we could sit at the table with Jesus and learn from how he interacted during his own table ministry. Well, you can. Just look at Luke and you’ll find nearly a dozen examples of Jesus as gracious guest and host of a table meal.

Jesus went to a party thrown by a tax man. Tax collectors were the con-men and turncoats of Jesus’ day who bilked Jews for more money than they really owed the Roman government. People couldn’t understand why Jesus would eat with them, yet Jesus showed that eating with even those who break Jewish dietary customs in order to share the gospel is more important than pleasing his own group or Jewish tribal practices. He said, and I paraphrase, “A good doctor doesn’t spend the bulk of his time with well people but the sick” (Luke 5:27-32).

But don’t imagine Jesus neglected his own people—he ate with the self-righteous Jews also. During the meal, when servants were likely coming in and out of the room bringing food, a prostitute slipped in and began pouring perfume on Jesus feet. The self-righteous host was indignant and lost respect for Jesus, wondering how a prophet would allow an obviously sinful woman caress his feet. Jesus did not refuse hospitality from this woman as well and at that table he forgave her sins. The people watching were amazed and wondered who this man was who could forgive sins.

You’ve heard the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand (Luke 9:10-17). Jesus is showing hospitality and commanding his disciples to feed others as well. So when people are feeding you, they are also fulfilling a mission Jesus called his disciples to do: “give them something to eat.”

In Luke 10:8 Jesus tells the seventy disciples he send out to “eat what is set before you.” The apostle Paul also exhorts Christians to eat food without questions when they are fellowshipping with others.

The table is part of Jesus mission; if Jesus believes eating at the table with people is part of his mission, don’t you think we ought to take the table seriously? You can find stories of Jesus accepting or giving hospitality in Luke 10:38-42; 11:37-54; 14:1-24; Luke 19:1-10; Luke 24:30-35, 45-49). As my friend John Mark Hicks says,

The table is a place where Jesus was both a gracious guest and gracious host. So the table is a place where the church welcomes strangers (aliens). The table has a missionary quality, especially in light of the fact that the disciples receive their call to missions at a table. The table is a place where Jesus receives sinners and confronts the righteous. The table is the place where Jesus extends grace to seekers, but condemns the self-righteous. Jesus is willing to eat with sinners in order to invite them into the kingdom . . . The last (sinners, poor, and humbled) will be first in the kingdom of God, but the first (self-righteous, rich and proud) will be last and excluded from the kingdom of God (Luke 13:26-30).

From “The Missional Table,” (Wineskins Magazine, Sep/Oct 2002).

Here is the kicker: eating together with God’s children in another country is one of the God-given and Jesus-modeled ways to be the body of Christ, to proclaim the incredible good news that the kingdom of God is near.

World Cup: Nil – Nil

France and Switzerland ended their match Tuesday 0-0. A tie.

Ara Parseghian once said that “a tie is like kissing your sister.”

I don’t agree . . . well, except in the case of the women’s U.S. win by shootout in 1999. Even that is recorded as a draw: China 0, U.S. 0 then shootout is 5-4 in favor of U.S. That match made soccer famous in the U.S. and launched an even greater wave of soccer enthusiasm.

In the United States, ties are no longer acceptable. College football used to be satisfied with ties. No more.

The tie is an awesome thing. It says both teams fought it out in the mud and the blood and the sweat and both walked away impressed with the other. They exchange jerseys and greetings at the center of the field.

The tie is something of beauty. Some might say, as long as there is a context to handle it, to deal with it and record it and work with the system of wins, losses, ties and move through the bracket, it has value. I agree but would add that the tie is something more.

The tie will always stay with these world class athletes. For as long as they live, they will know they didn’t conquer that team, didn’t get bested by them. We are every bit as good. We did our best to beat them. They did their best to beat us. Neither relented.

The tie is a beautiful thing.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Transformational Travel (Part 4):The Table

Eating on short-term trips may be the most important thing you do.

Hear this loud and clear. Eating food in homes of people in your short-term target location may be the most important thing you do to show them love and to receive love from them.

Let me say it again in a different way. We can’t emphasize enough how important eating with local people is. Here’s the reason it’s important. It’s important because Jesus did it over and over in his ministry. We do what Jesus did, including eating food we may not like.

You’d be surprised at how many times Jesus ministers at the table. Do you think that Jesus turned his nose up at food that people sat in front of him? Can you picture Jesus doing that? Or do you picture Jesus graciously accepting food from humble servants in homes throughout Judea and Samaria?

Perhaps you will only have one or two opportunities to sit at someone’s table. Realize that local people anticipate this for months. They are usually scraping together money and food to prepare a meal for their first-ever international visitors. Typically, they want to please you. They are excited about their visitors. They will be extremely disappointed if they don’t get to talk with you, share food with you. They would be crushed if they thought you didn’t like their food.

You may not think you are doing something offensive by making a face, whispering to your friend, making eyes across the table, laughing loudly, but these are cues that anyone can pick up in any language! Imagine how you would feel if someone came to your house and you’d saved your Christmas and birthday money and allowances and spent it on food for a feast for a group of foreign exchange students.

What if these visitors came to your house, spoke no English to you, not even “thank you” at the end of the meal, broke out some cheese and crackers from their backpacks, and left all but a few bites on the table (and those bites were left in the napkins). So you might begin to imagine how it would feel to someone who sacrifices from their meager financial means to feed you and you bring your own peanut butter and crackers, barely touch what they offer, or turn up your nose.

What if you could sit with Jesus at the table and learn from him how to act when you sit at the tables in homes of people in your target mission location?

Later in the week, I’ll post more about Jesus’ table ministry related to short-term trips.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

It closes the shops . . .

It closes the shops
Closes the schools
Closes a city
Stops a war
Fuels a nation
Breaks the borders
Builds a hero
Crushes a dream
Answers a prayer
And changes the world.

One game changes everything . . .

2006 FIFA World Cup


From a pullout ad in Sports Illustrated.

I’ve watched most of the World Cup with my family and at one of my favorite local restaurants, Shish-Ka-Bobs, an Iranian place that’s operated across the street from Garnett Church for about ten years. One of the high school seniors who just graduated from Union High School is a waitress there. Soccer enthusiasts from all over the city gather there. Many languages are spoken during the game. Though we’re all at different tables, we’re all talking to each other, collectively sighing and groaning . . .

Particularly at lunch hour today when the U.S. team lost 3-0 to Czech Republic.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Transformational Travel (Part 3)Beyond Borders

I want to tell you about Beyond Borders.

Beyond Borders, the mission organization Tony Campolo has been associated with in Haiti, recently came to a period of reckoning. They had done many building projects, and though they were not all disabling to local people, some of the projects may have indeed done more harm than good.

They prayerfully restructured their program and now call their short-term trips “transformational travel.” That’s where I got the title for these posts. The focus is not on buildings or a project but on constructing relationships with local people. For example, they pair a short-termer woman with a local woman in Haiti to learn from one another about what it means in their respective lands to be a godly woman.

Here’s more from their site:

Through the Transformational Travel program, Beyond Borders provides privileged people from the global north the rare opportunity to meet face to face with their neighbors of the global south.

Participants travel to Haiti, stay in the homes of poor Haitians, and learn more of their struggle to organize and build a better life for themselves. They interact, through translators, learning about their faith, their struggles and joys. They witness community organizations wrestling against great odds to make a better life for their people. They meet Haitians and expatriates who have spent years working for justice alongside the oppressed.

These encounters are almost always transformative for all involved, including the Haitian communities who receive the visitors. Participants from the north become more aware of the people on the other side of many of the choices they make and become more engaged in the effort to build a more just and equitable world. The Haitian hosts are affirmed for their courage and their struggle is validated. The sense that their voice is not only heard, but can make a difference in how their privileged visitors see the world, is a great encouragement.

Participants may engage in a small service project while in Haiti; but they perform their most important service through their effort to listen to and learn from their Haitian hosts. Along with interacting with their hosts, visiting groups are given time to question, reflect, and begin to re-examine old assumptions. Participants continue to serve after they return home in the response they make to their experience and in the life choices they make that promote local and global justice and peace.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Transformational Travel (Part 2):Journey language

Journey language to describe the life of following Christ works well with theology, just as transformation language of theology works well to describe what happens to us when we travel.

God’s people have been on a journey from the time they “walked with God” in the garden to being sent out of the it. God sent Cain away to wander the earth but marked him so he would not be harmed. Noah could match and one up any journey story. Don’t even get me started talking about Abram and journeys.

Moses is synonomous with Exodus, climbing mountains–which, incidently, Jesus was very fond of doing in order to pray. David wrote Psalms while he fled, a journey of sorts that transformed him as generations on his right and left sought his life. Elijah the traveling prophet. Most prophets stayed on the move, going where God told them to go, speaking truth to power and the powerless where they were called.

Jonah. Nuff said.

Jesus called his disciples on a journey. Come, follow me. In Mark 8 he called them to pick up their cross and follow on a journey of transformation. Next Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up “to a high mountain” where is tranfigured before them–they see him in his glory like God, a sign to them to put fire in their bones and feet that would travel to tell about the Christ who had transformed them all.

I first heard journey language used in earnest at Woodmont in Nashville, and I was taken with it and find that it fits life and, well, my journey in Christ. Perhaps I’ve never explained the title of my blog . . . there ya go.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Back from vacation

It’s summer and time for travel and travel writing. Buckle in. I’m back from another trip and if you are willing to check in with me after leaving you hanging so many weeks with no posts, I’m willing to write about travels this summer, summers past, and travel I hope to do in the future. Mostly I want to talk about how travel transforms us.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General

Transformational Travel (Part 1)

Travel transforms us in ways we may not expect when we set off on the journey.

The first time I traveled was with my family growing up. We visited missionaries in Long Island, friends across America, many who had been students with my older brothers and sisters at Harding University. I remember like it was yesterday standing at the bay window of our house waiting for Mom and Dad to come home from a mission trip and seeing the lights of their car coming down the gravel road. Even their trips to Italy and Trinadad, though I didn’t go, were formative to me. I listened to Mom’s vivid descriptions of people, their poverty, the way Mom and Dad would sit and talk and get to know a handful of Tobagoans. I looked at the photos of the Rastafarian they’d met and the tropical places I’d never visited before.

Family vacations were annual events where we crammed seven of us in large 70s model sedans, one of which was a Continental like the one Kennedy rode in with the death doors. Playing with the door handle, I managed to open the door on the fly and my sister, Terri, grabbed me before I was roadkill. In those days you had flats and broken water pump hoses and fan belts and broken a/c and it was part of criss crossing the country. We visited the Grand Canyon, Washington state to see my Mom’s brother–Uncle Bud–and Aunt Karen, their three boys and two cousins who were staying with them. Later they moved to Oklahoma and we became cousin-brothers with Mark, Brooks, and Clint, who moved in next door to our Grandmother Davis.

We visited Disneyland before I was born and Disney World after I was born and one of the most vivid memories of that trip was being sad one night at Disney because my brother Brent had to return from the trip on an airplane for a golf tournament. I’d never ridden an airplane at that point and I was scare for my older brother to ride one of those birds and missed his presence on the last days of our trip.

I suppose that’s how my children felt after we’d covered 3,500 miles in two weeks, and I had to fly back for work before the family made the last leg of the trip. We’d traced a huge circle starting in Tulsa with stops in Rochester, Michigan, Niagra Falls, Utica, New York and New York City, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Knoxville, Tennesee and the Smokies, and Nashville, then back to Tulsa. I missed that Nashville to Tulsa leg, and I know the children must have felt the same way about my leaving as I felt about my brother leaving that trip thirty years ago.

My first time to live in another state other than Oklahoma was after leaving for college when I was 17 and moving to Arkansas, where I met my wife, Jill. Both of us traveled to Harding University in Florence, Italy (HUF). HUF was my first exposure to the larger world, Europe in particular, and this was where I first worshipped in a language not my own. Having taken two semesters of Italian, many of us were able to sing and enjoy praise in that ancient Latin-based language. I remember thinking how incredible it was to realize God spoke so many other languages besides English and English was a very new language. HUF, like early family vacations, was another transformational travel experience.

In 1988 and 1989 we met Mark Berryman and Monte and Beth Cox, who all led us to think seriously about visiting Africa in the summer of ’89. Ten days after Jill and I were married, we went to Kenya for an internship, a six-week short-term mission meant to transform the travelers and expose us to experiences that will change our lives and help us interact with another part of the body of Christ across the world, and finally to open our eyes to the possibilities of living in such a place long-term.

Before I discovered the term “Transformational Travel” from Beyond Borders, the internship we did had that kind of life change and world view explosion as the goal. Internships challenge college students to a mission bigger than themselves, to stretch them with a view toward the possibility of one day making a long-term commitment. One of the most important aspects of the internship is the bonding experience. This is a six-week stint in which short-termers are taken to remote African villages and placed with local Christian families. Since few if any of the villagers speaks English, the interns must learn how to communicate. They play with
children, work in the gardens, ride bikes to local markets, peel potatoes, and eat
foods they’ve never had before (like roasted ants!). The bonding experience is usually the most dreaded six weeks of the internship. But afterward, short-termers nearly always say it was the most meaningful aspect of their experience. Some even go so far as to call it the most profound and life-changing event of their lives.

Like my family vacations and HUF, the internship Jill and I experienced in 1989 was transformational travel.

More on transformation travel tomorrow.

By Greg Taylor Posted in General