Jerry Sandusky and the Bayash Gypsies: Thoughts on my upcoming trip to Europe

Question: What do Jerry Sandusky and the Bayash Gypsies of Eastern Europe have in common? Answer: They are both unequivocally despised.

This is the thought that came to me as I watched lawyers and media interacting after the jury returned a guilty verdict on Sandusky. (Before I’m accused of being soft on crime, let me say that I am outraged on behalf of the young men Jerry Sandusky abused, saddened by the destruction of their lives, and satisfied that justice has been served.) Nevertheless, I cannot escape a sense of grief for this man and for the shame and ruination he has brought to his own family.

This is why the media response to Sandusky’s conviction was so intriguing. I was immediately struck by the lack of humility and grief exhibited during this strategic moment. Like vultures, gleefully extolling the fall of another human being, they seemed to be gloating over Sandusky’s conviction. It could easily have been a macabre pep rally, only instead of cheering for the home team, there was vindictive delight over another’s fall.

As I watched, I wondered what these critics would be doing should their secrets be exposed for all to see. Though their indiscretions may not be illegal (unlike Sandusky’s which were clearly illegal), many of them would cringe if their misdeeds were publicly displayed. And frankly, I think there is little room for gloating if we understand the darkness of our own hearts.

Which brings me to the Bayash gypsies. Traditionally a despised people, gypsies are often viewed as the lowest strata of a society. But the Bayash, sometimes known as “the gypsies’ gypsy,” are a notch below the generic gypsy. Endemic to the typical Bayash village is alcoholism, incest, crime, poverty, and virtually every other societal ill.

Yes, the Bayash are despised. But by whom? By those fortunate enough to not have been born into alcoholism, incest, crime and poverty. And there is a line that connects Jerry Sandusky with the Bayash…and us. It’s a line of brokenness, judgment, grace, humility, mercy, and forgiveness. This line intersects the cross of Christ. Whether it’s a convicted pedophile or a despised ethnic group or Dave Shive, we are all desperate for the kindness displayed in Christ, in need of forgiveness, and hungry for mercy. And if we understand that, we can temper our scorn of others or pride in the face of their trouble with a sense of gratitude over what God has spared us from.

This month I will spend some time among two European groups: residents of the country of Germany, and the Bayash of Croatia. Joining me will be my son, Mike, and oldest grandson, Josh. In Germany, we will be surrounded by post-Christian affluence and nihilism as we explore with my sister and her husband how to plant the church in this dark place. And in Croatia we will be partners with Bob and Nancy Hitching who have pioneered the Roma Bible Union, a most authentic ministry among the most reviled. We will seek to serve them in any way we can.

Pray for us as we go. We are no better than wealthy Germans or hated Bayash, even as we are no better than Jerry Sandusky. Were it not for mercy obtained at the Cross and for the power of God’s grace, we would all be atheists or nihilists or pedophiles or alcoholics or victims of incest or perpetrators of abuse. Pray as we are surrounded by affluence and paganism on the one hand, and filth, odors, germs, mud, and wasted humans on the other hand, that we may be conduits of the love of Christ because God has been so gracious to wretches like us. – Dave Shive

Your Word is Like a Tummy Rub

Your Word is Like a Tummy Rub

You may think I’m making this up. You could be confused and think I’m writing for “The Onion” and that this is a cleverly-disguised spoof to trick my readers (if I have any). But no, this is for real.

Zondervan Publishing has just announced the release this summer of “Playful Puppies Bible.” The hype goes like this:

If you love puppies, you will love this Bible. Inside you will find 12 color pages of adorable puppy photos with inspirational thoughts that will encourage you day after day. The Playful Puppies Bible is just the right size to take along wherever you go. Features include: * Presentation page for gift giving * Ribbon marker * Words of Christ in red * 12 pages of adorable puppy photos, Scripture references, and inspirational thoughts *

When I first came across this, I thought someone was playing a joke on me. But then it became all-too apparent that this is for real. And so, being the practical guy that I am, I began to dream of ways to make this tool more effective for users.

My fertile mind quickly realized that the usefulness of the “Playful Puppies Bible” could be enhanced if there were various response sections after each reading – here are some examples –

BOWL OF FOOD (feed on God’s Word)

PAWS to reflect (meditations)

SCRATCHING AT THE FRONT DOOR (journal thoughts)

BARKING AND YIPPING (prayer)

FIERCE GROWLING (spiritual warfare)

WAGGING YOUR TAIL (having fellowship with other believers)

TUMMY SCRATCHINGS (allowing others to minister to you)

POOPING ON PAPER (giving back to others what you learned)

ON THE LEASH (daily walk of obedience)

And I wondered how the Bible would be different if the saints of old could have read a version like this. Jeremiah could have written, “Your Word is like a tummy rub,” instead of “Your Word is like a hammer that breaks the rocks in pieces.”

The Psalmist could have written, “It is good that I was scratched behind the ears, that I might learn Your Word,” instead of “It is good that I was afflicted, that I might learn Your statutes.”

Or “Your Word is like a bowl of Ken’l Rations and an dirty sock to gnaw on,” instead of “Your Word is like a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.”

Jesus could have said, “If you retrieve that stick and bring it back to me, then are you my disciples indeed,” instead of “If you remain in my Word, then you are my disciples indeed.”

All of this is a bit mystifying, I think. If there is a Kingdom-advancing advantage to having a Bible with adorable puppy photos, it eludes me. In fact, it seems like one more of those things that American Christianity does that sabotages the hard-edged Great Commission, wartime lifestyle mentality so essential for the advance of the Gospel.

Somehow “The devil roams around like a junkyard dog wanting to be the alpha male. But you resist him by licking him all over and rolling on your back to bare your throat in submission…” doesn’t pack the wallop that Peter’s advice does: “Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith…”

I wonder if people who spend time in the “Playful Puppies Bible” will gain the fortitude to follow Jesus in the hard times, will be willing to forsake all to follow him, and will acquire the resolve to lay down their lives for the sake of the Gospel.

— Dave Shive, June 2012

Why start a new website?

Dave and I had been talking with our friend Jon Barnes, our very able technology consultant and cultural guru, about movements.  Yes, it seems that movements are happening around us all the time and we don’t even realize it.  Whether you are talking about the Arab spring or Kony 2012, these things are popping up everywhere.  How do they start?  Do they just suddenly appear?  Are there spiritual forces that cause them?  Is there a frustration tipping point where people have had enough of cultural inertia, or perhaps political, religious, and economic inertia, and a movement is inevitable?

We see things.  There are things happening in the world and specifically the missions world that both concern and delight us.  My guess is you are seeing some of the same things.  We are want to have a place where we can talk about these things… have discussions with one another on the virtual back patio or next to the virtual roaring fire in the fireplace or with an ale at the virtual British pub.  This discussion may happen on twitter or facebook or by replying to blogs here or even the occasional ooVoo meeting.  What will this discussion look like?  Sharing what we’ve seen and heard, ideas, prayers, even occasional arguments (hopefully very occasional).

We are calling the new website unmissions.net.  By adding the un prefix, we aren’t trying to undo missions.  We are just trying to get folks to think about it differently… how we mobiliize people, deploy people, engage unreached people, pray.  We want to think differently about missions and are convinced that there are a few people in our age group and a lot of people in their twenties and thirties that want to think differently about missions too.

We still have the gracextensions website and you will be able to go there for the links and other resources, but unmissions.net is going to be the place for the discussions and other interactions.  If the Lord is in it, who knows what it might become???