Friday, December 28, 2007

Winter Classic 2008

So I know many of you Illinois people will be watching the Rose Bowl at about 4pm Central Standard Time. I promise to watch it along with you, and even be excited for the team from U of I. On one condition: Start your parties at noon.

Because at 12 noon (CST) on January 1st, a moment in history occurs. The first US outdoor NHL game will be played!!!! You ALL can watch as the Buffalo Sabres take on the Pittsburgh Penguins, on NBC.

In case you need more encouragement, here are a few reasons to watch:

1. See NHL greats like Sidney Crosby and Ryan Miller pushed to their physical limits. The temperature will most likely be in the 30's, with snow showers and gusty winds possible. The sun might even play a role, as shadows will mess with goalies minds, and we may even see players using visor shades.

2. See the game played from new vantage points. Utilizing the cameras that are already set up for the Buffalo Bills games, will provide new abilities to stay with the action, and see it like never before!

3. If you stayed up really late to watch the ball drop, you'll probably just be getting out of bed around 10-11am. What better way to start the day than watching Hockey?

4. The Red Wings don't play that really...what else have you got to do?

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

PARENTS...BE PARENTS!!! (rated PG, because I say the word "sex")

Parents...please talk to your children about sex!!! Do NOT leave it up to others to do this very important element of parenting. No matter how "unqualified" you may think you are....the fact that you have children to talk about it to shows that you at least have a rudimentary understanding of the process! Public education, culture, television, church....these can all help or hurt the process...but none of these should ever be substituted or relied on for being your child's primary source of understanding.

Some keys for approaching:

1. A blanket approach may not work. Each child has a different level of understanding, and different questions/issues they may have. A "group" or "family" discussion can be helpful, but make sure you also have personal time with each child.

2. Don't avoid "dirty" words. Even if you get red in the face, blunt honesty with your child lets them know this is a topic you're willing to love them enough to approach. This doesn't mean certain "slang" terms...but the everyday ones that we try and make up nicer words for.

3. Do it more than once! Your children are new people every day! Don't assume that a 12 year old agreeing with you will end up being a 15 year old with no questions.

4. YOU know your children better than any 10 step system, or 3 category process of "how to speak to your children about important issues". Be honest, show them your heart, and share with them God's design for a loving relationship.

5. PRAY AS OFTEN AS YOU LOVE YOUR CHILD. They face a world of temptations on a regular basis...we believe in prayer, right? Let's do it then.

This is not an exhaustive, or an experts list. Just a 26 year old parent of 2 baby girls....who loves teenagers, and their families, and realizes that far too many people will be watching to see what Nickelodeon can teach their children for them about sex.

For the record, I do not think they should be stealing this role from the millions of parents who probably won't even realize it's been stolen.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Some Symbolism...

We were taking communion last night, and I had gum in my mouth. I didn't feel bad about it though, because I love gum, and almost always have some in my mouth. It's just the matter of getting through communion without anyone else knowing you're not only chewing the elements, but some minty fresh gum as well.

I've gotten better and better at this. Allow the bread and the wine (grape juice) to just slide right past, as I tuck the gum into the corner of my mouth. It almost doesn't affect my gum chewing at all. At least, as far as anyone else can see.

Truth really does affect my gum chewing. No matter how much I try to not let the square of bread, or cup of wine (again...grape juice) affect my mouth, they do. The residue of the eating/drinking experience. The tiny grains of bread, or leftover taste of grape.

The gum never quite tastes the same as it did before. Almost sometimes to the point where I'd like to spit it out. But did I mention how much I love gum?

So I just keep chewing. My bland, communion filled gum.
Maybe someday I'll spit it out. Or just find a brand new piece.

Or maybe...I should get rid of the gum altogether. Allowing myself to focus 100% on the taste and texture of the Eucharist. Could that be better than gum?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The reason for the season....?

I remember growing up, as screwed up as my family became eventually, there was one thing I value about our collective Christmas celebration. All the aunts and uncles, and cousins, and brothers and sisters, and grandparents would gather around the basement at my grandparents house. Grandpa would light the "Christmas candle", and someone would read the story from scripture before any presents could be opened.

The candle had been purchased in Israel, from what I can remember. In a tribute to that tradition...we have a carved wooden candle-holder from Israel in our living room. I look forward to incorporating it into Addison's future memories of the Holidays.

As a kid? Hated it. It was stupid, and boring, and the presents were all right there in front of us.

As a parent/adult? Love it. A method that helps us to remember what life is about, and show a little self-restraint/discipline. Not just this day, this paper-ripping food-shoveling fest. But this season, and this life. The waiting on....arrival with....crucifixion....and resurrection...and promise of a return to completion....Christ. To view that as a gift, and not something we could ever earn.

As you enjoy this video X-mas card from the Wings'....think of a tradition your family had...not the psychotic ones, but the ones that looking back see the value in. Okay, feel free to list a crazy one too...

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Festivus Miracle...

So I've posted this on youtube and Facebook....but had hesitated to post it here, because I've already posted twice this week. But in any it is...

While doing the dishes....I spotted this miraculous sign that God has blessed our household.

Or....well...a bird has really good aim and artistic ability?

Or...hmm...just random I suppose. :) But entertaining. hehe

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Intended Comments on method-ism (more discipline)...

So I got off on a musical tangent with my last post. Sorry.

I wanted to give kudos to the topic of discipline and method-ism. In reading "The Year of Living Biblically" by A.J. Jacobs, it's been both humorous, and thought-provoking. Some of the Jewish orthodox "laws" that are still followed my mainly devout believers, seem to have no purpose other than to make you follow a rule. Many of them, after study and/or prayer, you can find a purpose...but some of them are in a class of their own. It seems that discipline was, in and of itself, something God wanted His people to work on.

Which brought up a good point in my own life. There aren't many areas where I "discipline" myself. Growing up, as a teenager, this was a different story completely (which both in high school and college years, this structure in my life was a very good thing). But today, things have changed.

I don't like the taste of alcohol. I don't like the taste or smell of most tobacco products, and the smells I do enjoy are still nixed because of the fact that it's a HUGE health concern. Sexually, I'm a faithful married man....and I like the way that works. I'm a youth pastor, so I naturally spend a lot of my time studying scripture, and talking with others about God.

So there you have many of the "large" issues, or at least...the issues that were always taught to me were major: Don't drink, don't smoke, and don't have sex before you're married. These have all been conquered. Leaving me a vacuum of discipline, and no personal habit by which to incorporate new disciplines.

Are there still areas I struggle in? Yeah. I don't eat healthy. I'm lazy at home. Our over-sexed culture still gets my attention. I speed. I get angry at strangers who slow my life down. These are all areas my self-discipline is/will be working on.

But what about a discipline just for the sake of getting better at having self-control? Something that just reminds me to control myself on a regular basis. Something I could do regularly that would cause me to sacrifice? Not because if I mess up, it means I'm going to He*%...but just because doing it helps me become a more disciplined person.

Maybe something like: Give up one meal a week. Voluntarily sit on the floor if there's a chance anyone will have to. Always sing quieter than the person next to you in church. Drive the speed limit. Or maybe something that doesn't really even have "moral" value, like: Never drink Pepsi products on the weekend. Never use capital letters on thursdays. Never wear a hat before 6pm. etc...

Any suggestions/things you've changed yourself for a reason like this?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Legalism and Method-ism...

In a recent newsletter from the Free Methodist Historical Society, writer Howard A. Snyder gave his thoughts on the most recent General Conference from this past summer. After going over a few of what he saw as major things that happened (the switch from 4 bishops to 3), and then giving his obvious opinion on the music: "We have now fully adopted a liturgy based on the rock concert."

He later gives his hopes for worship at the 2011 General Conference, which he calls "a blend of styles". But in describing the service, he says "combining old favorites with new songs, classic Wesley Hymns, and other great music from the long history of the church. Free Methodism means freedom of the Spirit in worship, and enabling "everyone to hear the gospel in their own sound."

He's clearly advocating on behalf of those of us who would like more hip-hop infused into our daily worship. He's a little offended that there were no turn-tables used, and hopefully we'll get back on track by 2011. (or maybe his idea of "blended worship" simply means he wanted more songs that he liked)

We worship as a community. The aspect of worship we're speaking of is singing. Honestly, and with our souls vulnerable to His Spirit, and to each other. This is possible whether I'm singing "Be Thou My Vision" to an organ, or "The Happy Song" through amps and distortion...although in either case it will not be our effort but Gods' that makes this possible.

As someone in youth ministry, I see teens (and more adults than you might think) evaluating services and churches based on style of music. Giving up any commitment to discovering relationships and family and God...until they are musically appeased.

As much as I love music...and will (Lord willing) continue to contribute musically in any way that doesn't make people cringe...I think there's something to say for the time when churches (including the Free Methodist Church) didn't allow music in their services. Maybe it wasn't because they thought music was evil...but maybe some of them realized the issues/divisions/etc. that would occur once that can was opened, distracting us from other key practices in the life of the Church.

But then again, ever since it was and beautiful aspects of worshiping have continued to develop. As art/music/expression has grown and matured...I like to imagine God is excited about our discovering Him through new streams.

I think I've rambled all over the place. I guess what I'm sayin' is nothing new or groundbreaking. Like I've said in the past, sometimes a dead horse deserves a new beating. So there it is. God seeks worshipers who worship in Spirit and in Truth.

The more important parts of his hopes for 2011 are encouraging. He hopes we will celebrate many more ministries to the poor. That we would extend our witness materially by showing we care for God's good earth (recycling, etc). That we would have a renewed emphasis on the work of the Holy Spirit. That we would have a greater understanding of our history, and how it can impact our future/current efforts towards the Kingdom.

He also speaks briefly on a hope that we will rediscover a trend towards discipline: "After a half-century long reaction against is no longer our problem. It has been replaced by consumerism and me-first individualism."

Although it's ironic that he'd say that after his comments on his preference for worship styles, and although I don't agree that legalism is no longer a problem...I do believe he has a good point. There are benefits to recognizing the "methods" once used by our founding souls, and although many of them could be viewed as "legalism"...they can also be positive ways of connecting with a disciplined walk.

Anyways....that's a lot for now....I'm sure I'll post again sometime soon. Have a great 3rd week of Advent!!

Monday, December 03, 2007

Vegas in a nutshell....

Whew...we're back. We celebrated 5 years filled with incredible things...with 5 days of incredible things. (even the unplanned 5th day that was just nice cause we were together...that's married life) Here's a QUICK synopsis of our trip!!!

Day one - Fly out early in the morning, land in Vegas around 9:30am. Visited The Venetian, walked the streets of Venice, had dinner at MGM Grand at Wolfgang Puck's, dessert at some funky Italian cafe, and saw David Copperfield!

Day two - Slept in/got up early to read. Went to the streets of Paris for brunch, an INCREDIBLE buffet from 5 different provinces of France...then over the New York for some fun. Next we went to the Excalibur for a dinner show "Tournament of Kings"....and walked through Planet Hollywood/Miracle Mile Shops and saw the Bellagio light show on the way back to our hotel, Treasure Island.

Day three - Slept in/got up early to read. GIANT breakfast buffet at our hotel. A little more relaxed today, cause our feet were dying after yesterday. Went to "Fashion Show" - mall with tons of stores, and a regular fashion show every hour that comes up out of the floor. A little rainy today. Went back to the Venetian for a Gondola ride, some gelato and some street shows. Then over to the Wynn to see Spamalot...HILLARIOUS! Sarah even smiled once or twice.

Day four - Slept in a bit...checked out, and headed over to the Bellagio for an incredible breakfast, and some neat Christmas decor. Then walked over to the Miracle Mile Shops until returning to our hotel for the airport shuttle. Feet hurting, missing our daughter, and tired....our flight was cancelled because of weather. We spent the night at a Hampton Inn near the airport. (pretty nice place!)

Day five - Weren't sure if we could even get home today. Lived at the airport a few hours, reading/shopping/relaxing (as much as you can at an airport with hundreds of slot machines dinging) until finally able to fly home!!! Slept in our own beds after holding Addie while she slept for a bit.

Here's one last's called "Sin City" I figured I should sin at least once. Exhibit A: me coveting someone else's million dollars.

UPDATE: God has forgiven me.

A few tips we learned:
- Never accept advertisements on the street. :)
- If you're eating at any of the major hotels (Paris, Venetian, Bellagio, MGM, etc), just go the buffet!! Same prices, and incredible food, and as much as you want!!
- Sometimes it rains in the desert.
- Buy the all-day pass on the Deuce to get around.
- Even if you think things are close, be prepared to walk 10 miles to get there.
- SMILE MORE - the city was filled with men and women who had not smiled much in their lives. They had permanent frowns. Start working on your happy old person face today!