Everyone Deserves A Parade!

Brad Montegue is the director of a program called GO! Camp, a week-long service experience for junior high and high school students where Brad challenges them to practice extraordinary acts of love. (Also, he is the guy behind the creation of Kid President) One project they did recently so inspired us, we couldn’t help but share it with you.

According to Brad, Dana has worked at the post office in their little town for over 20 years. She knows everyone’s name and she brightens everyone’s day. For the past several months, Brad has had to make frequent visits to the post office to ship out Kid President shirts that people ordered online (he’s Kid President’s brother-in-law). Dana would regularly comment that she wished Brad would bring her a shirt one day.

So, he finally decided to bring her one, but instead of just a shirt, he brought her a whole GO! Camp parade.

Her expression is priceless. See for yourself.

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Brad told us that afterward Dana remarked, “Whoever heard of such a thing?” and just couldn’t stop laughing.

Neither could he. Neither can we.

How about you?

Is It Possible to Disagree And Still Be Friends?

When Ally and I took over Prodigal Magazine just over a year ago, it was important for us to build a safe community for people sharing their story. We both had come to understand the power held in someone’s story because it had changed and shaped each of us as individuals before we met.  

That said, I have been grieving for the last three months as this platform continues to grow. I can’t count the amount of times that I felt overwhelmed by the responses in tweets, comments and the like. I have often wondered if the amount of effort that we were putting into Prodigal Magazine was paying the return on our investment of time and emotional energy.

I have wanted to throw in the towel more than anyone could know.  [Read more...]

Stop Waiting To Write Your Book

Just about a year ago I was talking to my friend Matt about his dream to write a book. He explained to me that he had been thinking about it for a long time, but didn’t have the time to do it right now.

He was a teacher, after all, and had a life, church and family outside of even that.

How could he possibly keep up with his blog, his life and also write a book?

It was all just a little un-realistic for him at the time.

He told me that in a couple years, maybe, when things slowed down he would be able to write the book. Ironically, the very week I had just read a blog post from Ben Arment called The Best Time to Write Your Book was Last Year.

The Next Best Time is Now.

Armed with the confidence in this post, I decided to encourage Matt to write his book right now — to not wait for a better time because a better time would never come.

Without my even knowing, Matt took my advice and began to write. A few weeks later he sent me the first draft of his project, and I was blown away with what I saw.

It was the beginning of Matt’s dream. His book was coming to life.

Over the next few weeks Matt, with some coaching from Ally and me, began to flesh out his book project. 15,000 words became 20,000 words, and 20,000 words become 30,000 words.

It was exhilarating because I could see my friend’s dream coming to life, but I could also see the role we were playing in it. The book was his, but we were calling it out of him, giving him the structure and encouragement he needed to make his book a reality.

After a year of hard work, and the partnership of some really good friends at Moody Publishers, Matt’s book is set to be published April 1, 2013.

Matt’s book wouldn’t exist if he kept waiting, and neither will yours.

I know that you have been thinking about writing a book for a long time, and I know it’s scary. You, like Matt, keep telling yourself that there will be a better time, later. You know when the kids grow up, or when things aren’t quite so busy at your job.

Or maybe you are waiting until you get picked from a publisher. You are doing your best to look good for them, or to prove that you have what it takes to write a book.

The problem with all of this, is that they can turn into excuses and your book will never happen. It will be a dream that, at the end of your life, will still just be a dream. Not a reality.

Writing a book is hard. I know that.

That is why we have created Prodigal Press.

We know that you don’t know where to start, or where to finish, but we can help. We’ll walk you through every step of the process, providing all the resources you need along the way. In one year, you’ll have a book — your book — in your hand.

Check out what Prodigal Press can offer you and your book. Next April you could be holding your book.

This is the year you become an author. Stop waiting and make it happen.

Have you always wanted to write a book? What are you waiting for?

When I Can’t Find Jesus At Church

This whole going to church thing isn’t what it is cracked up to be.

I grew up in Sunday School and fell in love with the Jesus who was taught there, but it didn’t take long for me to realize that my Sunday School world was different from the rest of my life. I didn’t feel the “joy of Jesus” when I was sitting on the margins of my elementary school, wearing a Christian t-shirt and K-Mart jeans.

My Sunday School teacher had an answer for those terrible feelings.

“We aren’t supposed to be of this world.” She said.

That made sense in my young mind. If we weren’t supposed to be of this world, I must be doing something right. I was not apart of any world, outside of that Sunday School room.

We constructed our own little world in that Sunday School room. We all sang the same songs, wore the same clothes, and watched the same McGee and Me movies.

Our parents protested things like Halloween, cable television and Disney movies, because they supported sinful things like witchcraft, sex and homosexuality.

I didn’t watch the television shows my schoolmates watched —didn’t say the things they said, because I was better than that (damnit). I was called to a higher standard. I was Christ’s chosen, and if I wanted to make it to heaven some day, I better sanctify myself  from the ways of the world.

It was us versus them, or at best us and then them. And somewhere along the way I was made to believe it was true — that real joy was found in Jesus and his Sunday School club.

My segmented world began in that Sunday School room, but it didn’t end there.

I went to Christian school, went to Christian skate night, and Christian book stores. Our church hosted a “Harvest Party”, so we didn’t have to partake in Halloween. And our Christian version of Halloween was pretty cool because we got to dress up in costumes and eat candy all without the Christian guilt of living in a sinful world.

And that guilt was the fuel of this whole Sunday School club. And boy did it work. I think I “got saved” 15 times before it was all said and done.

Then in high school I went to public school again, and everything changed. I wasn’t on the outside looking in anymore. I was confronted with the realities of the “world”. I learned that sex was fun, even outside of marriage. That drinking wasn’t just for alcoholics and dead-beats, but when you had a couple beers some things became a lot more fun.

The pillars of my constructed church reality were beginning to shake. What I was experiencing flew directly in the face of the “sin isn’t fun” and “being a Christian is” mindset that had been drilled into me as a kid.

The older I grew, the more angry I became about this constructed reality.

I felt like I was tricked into believing that Jesus lived in a Sunday School room, but he doesn’t. He lives in my small one bedroom apartment and in the cold pour at Pat’s Tap and in taco shops and in the midst of conversations at work.

He lives in the homeless shelter I used to visit after college, because it was a free meal and the church job I had didn’t pay me enough to buy groceries. It was a chance to have good conversation with men who were nothing like the people I met in church, and knew a lot more about the Jesus that I knew.

And if I’m being honest, I find it hard to find God in a building where we sing all the same songs, and recite a list of what we believe (just incase we forget it later), and where Jesus looks like my Sunday School teacher.

I want to experience the God of wonder beyond all constructed realities.

I want to meet the God of majesty.

Have you met God? Where have you found him?

[photo: pellesten, Creative Commons]

I Was an Illegal Immigrant

This is a guest post from my friend Jesus Vital. I’m sharing my space on Prodigal this month because he has a remarkable story and I didn’t want you to miss a chance to hear it.

I was an illegal immigrant for most of my childhood. I grew up with all the new privileges that America had to offer — a safe home, healthcare, and schooling. We weren’t rich, but we felt rich, just to be able to live in dignity and support our family.

At first glance most people would never guess I am a first generation immigrant. I don’t look like one, I don’t sound like one, and some might say I don’t act like one.

But looks and assumptions can be deceiving.

I am a first generation immigrant from Mexico.

I was born to two natural born Mexican citizens. Shortly after my birth they decided Mexico was no place to raise a family and, despite the obvious obstacles in front of them, set out for the “otro lado” (the other side).

Their transition to America was not an easy one. My father moved first, and began working at a meatpacking plant in rural Kansas. My mother followed after him and was able to attain a Visa to work at the plant with him. For two people who lived under the poverty line in Mexico, minimum wage felt like a killing.

Unfortunately, the crossing was too dangerous for a newborn infant, so my mother left me with family in Mexico. It broke her heart, but she knew it was what she needed to do. She swore she would come back as soon as she could establish a life that was safe and stable enough to support me.

A little more than a year later, she came back to get me.

The first time my mother saw me I was sitting on a small kid’s chair in a storefront beneath my grandparent’s home and she ran and held me like any mother would. Unfortunately, I didn’t respond to her right away so, rather return to the US right away, my family decided it would be best to wait until my mom and I could bond.

Years before my uncle had returned to Mexico for his son and hadn’t taken the time to wait, and his son died in route to America.

They did not want the same thing for me.

When the day came to make the journey, my mom was nervous but her cousin promised everything would be okay. He gave her the rundown. She would board a commuter bus in a Mexican border town and go through the American checkpoint. There she would present me to border patrol as her nephew (my cousin had legal status) with documents saying that she had permission to have her nephew in Mexico.

If all went well she will stay on that bus until she got past the next checkpoint somewhere in Texas. Her cousin would follow the bus, just in case anything went wrong. After the last checkpoint she would get off in San Antonio where we would all be reunited and he would drive us to our new home in Kansas.

The plan went accordingly thus beginning my life here in America.

My parents understood that if we were going to continue to live in America they needed to solidify their residency in the country. This process can be long and strenuous with no guarantees. A recent article in Time Magazine titled “We are Americans: Just not Legally” gives great information on the process of securing at least permanent residency (green card).

In this particular article I realized that I myself had a 26% chance of securing residency.

It helped that my dad’s father was citizen. From there my dad secured residency then citizenship which then helped out my mother and me. The process to become a resident took about 12 years and it took 17 years to become a citizen.

This is the reason some families choose to stay under the radar.

I still remember my first opportunity to vote in a primary election, in 2007. It was then that my status as an American Citizen became real to me. It was such an overwhelming feeling. This served as the beginning of my American Dream for my own family that I will have someday.

People have asked me what I think about issues of immigration, and I tell them that I understand both sides.

And, at the end, ignorance is really the enemy here.

I say this to Mexicans who participated in the marches of the last decade. Even I took part in these marches but what I realized as I was marching was that I was not educated. So I stopped marching and started reading. I learned there are a lot of reasons why New Immigration Reform needs to take place.

I believe that America needs to do a better job securing the borders, but I also believe we have a responsibility to find solutions for honest, hard-working families seeking a better life. We may be decades from that ideal reality, but we can be working toward it just the same.

It’s the right thing to do.

My challenge to you is to pray. Pray for the safety of people, father and mothers, sons and daughters, facing dangers in the harsh deserts of the southwest. Pray because our God has a plan for them too.

Second, get educated. Read, watch documentaries (Great ones on Netflix), and talk to someone who you know that is (or might be) illegal. Ask them why. You might be inspired by their journey to America. Not every immigrant is dealing drugs or apart of some gang organization. Most of them are people, just like you, who are desperate for opportunity.

Not an opportunity to become rich, but a chance to properly provide and feed their family.

The journey that my family has had to travel to get to this point has been long, but very much worth it. I have a great honor being able to serve and contribute to this great country that has provided so much hope and opportunity to my family.

Do you know others with stories like mine? How has my story surprised you?

[Photo: Vox Efx, Creative Commons]