Monday, June 25, 2007

yadda yadda yadda.... I don't think my "blog" will enjoy the readership that my "myspace" did, or my "facebook" currently does. But I think I'm becoming okay with that. The one or two people who may actually read this for now probably pay more cumulative attention than either previous locations anyways. :)

It feels good to be alive. Last week was one of THE busiest weeks ever. With my phenomenal wife helping lead VBS, and my parents visiting all week long, and taking 40 teenagers bowling on wednesday....again, it feels good to be alive.

God blessed us enough to be able to escape for a night in Bloomington, where some friends of ours who rock the house were able to watch Addie for us. We spent the night eating Filet Mignon and drinking virgin strawberry daquiri's...and waking up to the smell of Bath and Bodyworks Shampoo and a full breakfast buffet at the Chateau. (the castle of Bloomington)

I was able to spend a couple hours total enjoying a new book I'd purchased by Steven James called "Sailing between the Stars". Took me a while to get into it, but I'm definitely enjoying his word-pictures of faith. It's not as ballsy as Donald Miller (sorry if that offended)....but along similar lines...and soothing for the soul. He uses stories from being a parent a lot, and things I've never been able to connect to are beginning to really hit my being in cool ways. I'm thinking maybe I would enjoy writing more....but wonder what kind of book I would write.

At one point, a couple years ago...I thought about writing a book based on the life of dirt. Not just any dirt...but the first dirt ever to become man. Breathing dirt. The life of the only dirt to ever be personally shaped and "breathed" into by God. It still sounds like a really good idea...and could help make some good connections about finding our identity in God alone.....etc. Maybe for teens...or young adults. Or a childrens' book, perhaps. I'll keep chewing on it. For stealing my idea. At least...for money. :)

Monday, June 18, 2007

Fathers' Day/Fortune...

What a weekend. I can't even tell you the incredible things that are going on...but here's a peak:

So, a while back we heard the "Wheel-Mobile" was coming to town. They were doing auditions for "Wheel of Fortune" right here in Decatur, IL!! People drove from all over the state, we stood in line for an hour or so...filled out an application, and waited. They called names from the crowd at random to play the game on stage with a few others, and the rest of us cheered obnoxiously to be noticed. I was never called up. I figured my chance was gone.
A few weeks later, I received an e-mail telling me I was chosen for a final audition in Springfield; which I can only guess was based on my paper application. (I tried to sound as interesting as possible.) So a little over a week ago I attended an audition with about 60 others where we played a "mini-round" (I won a hat by solving a puzzle), took a 5-minute written test solving as many puzzles as possible, and had our pictures taken. They narrowed the crowd to 12, and we played one more round. Then they told us we were free to leave, and if we were chosen, we would receive a letter in the mail within 2 weeks.
2 Days ago, I got my letter!!!! I'M GOING ON WHEEL OF FORTUNE!!! (applause) So of course, now I've got to brush up on my hangman skillz, and raise money for a trip to Los Angeles (nothing is paid for, unfortunately). The letter told me that I'll get a phone call in the next 18 months telling me when they need me. I may have as little as 14 days notice before I'm needed out there. But we definitely think it's worth rearranging our schedule for this opportunity to pay off a credit card or two. :) So yeah...mad SHOUT OUT to my boy CHAD, who's also a youth pastor from Decatur...who was chosen as well! Maybe we'll even get to travel together!

A few more random thoughts. Yesterday was Fathers' Day. My incredible wife bought me the Detroit Redwings' DVD I've been wanting, and my daughter made a small fatherly collage for me. :) I'm learning so much daily about life/love/parenthood/ministry/etc...from all of this. Thanks God.
Realizing lately how "amusing" our culture is. "Muse" meaning "to think"...and the prefix "a-" giving it a negative connotation. Seriously, so much of what surrounds us is devoted to helping us NOT think. We laugh, we smile, we waste precious minutes of the time/lives we've been given. Granted - life should be enjoyed. Life is meant to be an incredible and "full" experience. But how many of our smiles on a daily basis come because of something that would make God smile?
Sorry for the random depth. But we walked around the "Steamboat Festival" in Peoria on Friday night, and I observed SOOOO many smiles. Some were great, and easy to take joy in....others I was a little offended by....and others were obviously fake. So many people smiling for so many reasons. Are we simply being "a-mused"? May we all be aware of the things we're smiling about...and aim for the Joy of the Kingdom. :) (at the same time, realizing how excited I am about going on a show where I could make a chunk of money from spinning a wheel and shouting some letters....and TONS of people will watch and be a-mused)...:) Praying that God smiles on my life...

Friday, June 15, 2007

John Wesley Mason...1920-2007

Today we honor a man who deserves to have a whole 'lot more said about him than I ever could. I've only known John Mason since starting here at Moundford a little over a year ago, but I have admired him all along the way.

John had the "happy old man face" I've always talked about wanting. The face that smiles without effort, because it's what he spent so much time doing for 87 years. And it wasn't a smile based on lunacy. It was the legitimate joy that so many of us pretend to have so often, flowed through his being like blood...probably even better.

John has a love for people. ALL people. Didn't mean he likes everything everyone did...and if he disagrees or didn't understand something, he would tell you (and those around you.). But John loves people, and has a HUGE heart for children/youth especially...commenting so much in the past year his love and God's love for these special ones in which the future of God's Kingdom rests.

John is a family man. You could tell his sons, their wives, their children, and their children's children....share a priority that God had given them to Love each other towards God. I'm only now beginning to understand how much it means to me to have brothers who I can share life with as an adult, and lift each other up in prayers/encouragement.

John infected and continues to infect others with his energy, and his passion for loving people towards God. If something needs to be done, NOW is the best time to do it. If there's someone who can be shown God's love, NOW is the best time to show it.

May we all leave such a mark on the lives around us...thank you God for John.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

...a day off.

Today's my day just back up. :)

A few quick updates:

- Chelios and Hasek both signed up for one more year with the Redwings!!!!

- Over 40 people came over last night for nachos with the youth group, and no one was injured, and no major stains!!!!

- Decatur Celebration has announced it's line up, which includes members of the Sugarhill Gang, and WAR!!! (and Point of Grace, sarcastic surprise and excitement)

- My wife made me coffee this morning, and it's not even Fathers' Day yet....she's pretty much the coolest wife ever.

- Addison is becoming even more animated than she was before....I love this.

- This sunday's sermon should be interesting. It involves all 4 of our pastors sitting up front, answering questions about God as it relates to Fatherhood. Lord help me to not lose my job. :)

- I finished and submitted my week of devotionals for CREDO magazine finally, to be published in August of 2008....subscribe now!

- That should be enough to keep you busy, or at least satisfy your appetite for learning more of what's going on. Still waiting on my letter from Wheel of could come any day this week.....or never. Jesus? Wanna help? :)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Sin Is Not...

Imagine – Close your eyes. Imagine your looking at the world around you through sin-goggles. You can’t see people, all you see are the sins that are right here in this room. What do you see?

What does sin look like? How do you “get rid” of sin?
Where does sin go when we get rid of it?

To help us look at this question…we go to two stories most of us probably grew up hearing.
Both stories were used to keep me away from girls for a while when I was young…
The story of a man named Samson. – Judges 13-16

Samson was born to Manoah and his wife. An Angel of the Lord appeared to Manoah’s wife, and basically told her Samson would be a Nazarite

Nazarites: (Jesus was from Nazareth (a Nazarene), but we do not think He’d taken a Nazarite vow)
• Abstain from wine, wine vinegar, grapes, raisins, and according to some - alcohol and vinegar from alcohol
• Refrain from cutting the hair on one's head – Samson’s hair was longer than in the cartoon. 
o Hair seen as a sexual organ, and feminine. Would’ve been mocked by Gentiles.
• Avoid corpses and graves, even those of family members, and any structure which contains such
• Several other rules/observances, and 3 sacrifices made at the end.
• You could declare a nazarite vow for anything over 30 days, and as long as a lifetime. – Even with lifetime, different levels.
• Samson and Samuel – both declared before born, strength and prophecy.
Nazarite – means literally – one separated or one consecrated
Samson and Delilah – Bound with bowstrings, new ropes, weave the hair, finally…covenant broken.
- BUT SAMSON’S HAIR WAS NOT MAGIC!! There was a relationship and a covenant with God as a Nazarite before birth even.
2nd Story we’re looking at this morning, even more crucial to our understanding of sin…
ADAM and EVE – I’ve talked about this before, but please bear with me… - Genesis – God creates, lives among Adam and Eve in perfect relationship.
We’ve heard the story before, Eve was fooled by the snake (a symbol of immortal evil – shedding of the skin, etc) into taking a piece of the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil – This was not a magic fruit! They had been instructed to not eat from that tree, as a part of their relationship with God.
2 Trees – This one, and the Tree of Life. We don’t understand completely what either tree is/was. But we know that before things happened…they ate from any tree, including the tree of life, and lived together and with God. After disobeying God, and having a broken relationship, they were cast out of the garden, so that they could not eat from the tree of Life anymore (Genesis 3:22-23)
A relationship between us and God had been broken, and God did not want that to become something that lived forever (hell).
You see, Samson didn’t have a thick coat of sin over his eyes, so he couldn’t see anymore.
Adam and Eve didn’t ingest sin, and have “it” become a part of their physical being. They didn’t “look” different.
SIN – A few different forms used in the New Testament. But the form most commonly used by Jesus was from the root verb “hamartano”, meaning “to be without a share in” or “to miss or wander from the path of God, by a single person or by many”.
So many times, when we talk about sin, we talk as if it’s this “thing” that exists. We “collect” so much of it…it gets “heavier and heavier”…we “let go of our sins at the alter”. We worry about how free we are from having any sin on us, as if it’s something that others or even God sees when they look at us.
But “SIN” does not exist separate from a human being. You will never come home, or go to work, and find a big pile of “sin” laying around. You can’t shove it in a closet. You can’t sell it on E-bay. Because of that, we MUST focus on the our relationship with God, and stop being so afraid of this “thing” that sin is or isn’t.
“I live in a small, rural community. There are lots of cattle ranches around here, and, every once in a while, a cow wanders off and gets lost . . . Ask a rancher how a cow gets lost, and chances are he will reply, 'Well, the cow starts nibbling on a tuft of green grass, and when it finishes, it looks ahead to the next tuft of green grass and starts nibbling on that one, and then it nibbles on a tuft of grass right next to a hole in the fence. It then sees another tuft of green grass on the other side of the fence, so it nibbles on that one and then goes on to the next tuft. The next thing you know, the cow has nibbled itself into being lost."
Americans are in the process of nibbling their way to being lost. . . We keep moving from one tuft of activity to another, never noticing how far we have gone from home or how far away from the truth we have managed to end up.” - Mike Yaconelli, "The Wittenburg Door."
And so, our reading of the words of Jesus become a little more clear, as we see sin not as this “object” – like a piece of clothing we can put on or take off…but a broken relationship, a separation from God’s plan.
John 5:14 – the man at the pool “you have been made well! Do not (separate yourself from God) anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you!
Matthew 5:29 – “if your right eye causes you to (have a broken relationship with God), tear it out and throw it away.”ETC…
Romans 3:23 – “for all have (broken their original relationship with God), and fall short of the glory of God”
And the same could be said for many aspects of our lives…

Love does not exist. Love Happens. – “agapao” – to love dearly or be well pleased
- Corinthians – “If I speak in tongues of men and angels….”
- it does no good for me to collect all the love I have for you, and put it in a measuring cup, and say “I have this much love for you”.
Holiness does not exist. Holiness Happens. – “hagiazo” – to consecrate to God, to purify
- It’s impossible for me to hold my life up to a holiness ruler, and measure just how tall my “Holiness Height” is. It is something from God, alive and moving through my life in relation to others.

And there lies the challenge to us, the Church.
- If we’re doing NOTHING with our lives…we’re not even good sinners.
- God the Father (Giver), God the Son (Gift), God the HS (the Giving)
- We must act. We must live. We must allow God to transform us and move through our lives. We must DO based on Love. We must MOVE based on the Spirit of God. He calls us to nothing less…

Friday, June 08, 2007

Sin Is Not.

Sin does not exist. For more, see you at church this Sunday....8:30 or 10:30. I'll post thoughts/notes be in suspense. :)

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

...who won?

So last night I missed (or just didn't watch) a debate on CNN that Sojourners sponsored between the 3 democratic candidates.

You can read through the transcript here if you'd like.

Or you can just watch some of the highlights here.

Any opinions? I definitely have some...but don't wanna spoil the fun.

Monday, June 04, 2007

...and yes, we survived.

I have a billion small stories I could tell about our trip to VA/NYC. I was planning on blogging a ton about it, but I'm not sure I need to really. I will share a few really quick:
1. The prostitute - That's right, a workin' girl came to our hotel room door one night in VA. I look through the peep hole, saw a woman, and figured maybe she needed help. Opened the door and asked if I could help her. She looked at me as if she knew me, and said "yeah". Awkward silence, and she said "you called me, right?". Sorry, wrong room...close the door and crack up. And for the record, that would've been my response even if my wife and daughter weren't in the room. :)
2. Jacques Torres - We visited the best chocolate shop in the WORLD. Seriously, you have to order some, and try it yourself.
3. Mary Poppins - Thanks to incredible friends/family, we were able to have a night off as parents to go see a Broadway show!!! It was supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!!
4. Two days at the beach on Long Island. Standing in huge waves, allowing the ocean to pelt my legs with large pebbles, and almost dying getting ripped out in the undertow....these were beautiful times.
5. Other things we saw/experienced: Serendipity, Central Park, Statue of Liberty, Hot Dogs, Toys R' Us, The old Lambs' Club, subway rides, cab ride, Trump Tower, Blake Lewis, Today Show, Dane Cook, TRL, Tiffany's, Empire State Building, Virgin Records, ABC/NBC Studios, Broadway, Wall Street, NY Stock Exchange, Grand Central Station, Papaya Dog, the Naked Cowboy, The Apple Store, FAO Schwartz, Times Square, Ground Zero, Random Seafood place on Long Island...etc.... :)

One final thought/realization before I let you go. We've been trying to get Addison to sleep through the night lately. Usually this means allowing her to cry for at least an hour at some point. Last night was unusually more than an hour. I always imagine her in her crib....mad at us for not coming to get her....stewing in anger. I'm always pleasantly surprised that no matter how long she's spent crying, her response to mommy or daddy is a huge smile, laughter, and wanting to cuddle up close. Lord help this to continue...:)