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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Standing Out - YMInsights Series

12/02/2007 – Journal Entry - Kenya
• 9am – 2pm – Attended Church
o I was picked up by Willis and we went to Ruiru Baptist Church

o Sylvester introduced me to tons of people and I felt overwhelmingly welcomed from the moment I stepped into the church. I was struck by the fact that I was the only white face as far as the eye could see but not one person looked at me and showed any signs of surprise or judgment or anything negative…I got the same welcome from everyone…that was so cool!

Have you ever stood out? You know you were visiting a foreign place, whether it is a country, city, new school, new church, new job or whatever. What feelings did you have? What thoughts were going through your mind? Were you scared or excited?

I know when I was in Kenya in December 2007; I was all of the above and more. This was new territory for me, and man did I stand out. I mean everywhere I went I felt the eyes of people who had just as many questions for me as I had for them. Eyes that were at times piercing, and at other times wondering…who is this guy, what’s he all about, where’s he from?

It’s interesting how we make observations and assumptions about people before we even know them, and many times our observations turn into judgment statements before those judgments have been tested.

I know I often find myself doing that with people from time to time, and that’s why on this particular trip to Kenya, I was so moved by the overwhelming welcome and encouragement from a group of people who knew nothing about me, except that I was a Giant Mazoongu (white dude in Swahili).


In fact I had the kids laughing at one point when I told them in Mexico the kids called me gigantor in Spanish because I’m so much bigger than them. It wasn’t long and I heard shouts of “Gigantor Mazoongu, Gigantor Mazoongu”, and we all laughed and laughed.

I’ve been working on processing my thoughts, feelings and experiences from that trip, and I just remember feeling like everywhere I went I stood out, people were locked in on my every move, and focusing on every little thing I said and did. It was pretty incredible in some ways, and pretty intimidating in others, but the bottom line for me was that people were curious to find out more.

You know, I wondered if that is how people view me back home. Watching to see what I say and what I do, not because I’m some great person but because I’m a Christ follower, and I stand out from the crowd...or do I?

In Kenya I stood out for sure because of my ethnicity and skin color, but it made me pause and ask myself if my lifestyle matches up with what I claim to be true or if I just blend in with the crowd.

Standing out is a tough thing, because wherever the spotlight is shining it gets hot, and when we step up and stand out for our faith, it’s as if a bulls-eye is painted right on our chest. Everyone is watching and waiting for you to do one of several things. Maybe they're waiting for you to trip up and show yourself a hypocrite or maybe they’re waiting for you to do something amazing for God and give Him all the glory.

Whatever their motives are, whenever we stand out the paparazzi are out in force, with cameras ready to snap away.
I’ve never been a big fan of standing out in sports, or music or anything in pop-culture because I've seen so many one-hit wonders in my day, but I’m learning more and more that that’s exactly what Jesus wants us to do...Not be a one hit wonder, but be a faithful, steady testimony of God's love and grace to others. When we live that way, we're bound to stand out!

He doesn’t want a bunch of chameleons that blend in with every fad and trend that the world offers.
No He wants us to step up, and stand out for Him. It’s a tough deal, but is exactly what He called His disciples to do, and is what He is calling us to do as well. The only problem is that many times we stand out in the wrong ways and for the wrong reasons.
It’s not about earning some magical brownie points with God if we’re “martyred” for our faith, it’s more about learning to be so much like Christ that the counter-cultural nature of His plan in our lives shows us for who we really are in Him…aliens and strangers in a peculiar place. A place that is not our home, but a place that we’ve been called to live life to it’s fullest in all of God’s power and strength.

When I was in Kenya, I definitely stood out, and it is my prayer that In the US, and everywhere I go, I would stand out because God’s way really is the best way, and His way isn’t about comfort, convenience or even camouflage. No it’s about showing the world the difference that the difference maker has made in our lives, and amplifying that truth wherever we go, and to whoever we meet.

Jesus is calling us to stand out, because he stood out, and is drawing all people to Himself, it’s amazing to me that He wants us involved in that process.

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