Wednesday, December 31, 2008

How to properly celebrate the 1st Day of the Year, even if you thought you had other plans. Especially if those plans were to catch up on sleep. :)




You should watch the Detroit Redwings face off against the Chicago Blackhawks for the 701st time. Only one difference - this game is OUTDOORS.

AT WRIGLEY FIELD.


It's going to be on at NOON CST on NBC, Thursday, Jan. 1st 2009

So stay up with a bunch of teenagers for a Lock-In to celebrate a new year, get a short nap, and put your jerseys on boys and girls.

It's going to be an historic game.

You NEED to watch it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

on the strip...

Just a throwback to some thoughts I'd blogged about recently on Forgiveness. On the importance of it not just being reserved for individuals, but also for entire people's/nations/etc. But that it will mean people will have their "rights" trampled on.

Recently, the Palestinian group Hamas began using a 6 month period of peace to re-arm themselves. They currently occupy land known as the "Gaza Strip". Israel states that it has no desire to re-occupy this land (officially). But with the actions of Hamas, along with a few recent attacks on Israeli cities to the south, Israel responded with the attacks we all saw on the news.
In an article I read recently about the entire conflict, some statements stood out:

"In Gaza and southern Israel, enraged citizens backed their respective governments and called for more, not less, violence."

"It was almost inevitable that the Israelis would use the military option," he says. "The Israeli government, like all governments, has to protect its citizens. To do otherwise would have created a major political crisis."

I hope that the ENTIRE WORLD can see what is going on here...and see that it is NOT a problem reserved for the Middle East. This same mentality lurks behind every prideful and "powerful" Nation. We would rather see thousands of people die than "create a major political crisis".

What was the US response to all this? We defended Israel's right to retaliate, while at the same time saying peace was our main goal.

Really? Does anyone else see something wrong with that?

As long as we are defending anyone's right to "retaliate", peace is NOT our main goal.

Whether it's nation vs. nation.

Or person vs. person.

Or ____ vs. ____

Sunday, December 28, 2008

post

So here we are, after Christmas.

Addie loves Sophie's toys. Sophie loves Addie's toys. They both love whatever the other is playing with. It's entertaining, for the most part.

Sophie couldn't do much of the un-wrapping, but she sure loved playing with the paper. Addie discovered/understood the "Santa" concept (yup, we're lyin' to our kids...eat it.) more than last year, which was fun. I was in charge of her stocking, which was lots of fun - picking out the random candies she'd discover Christmas morning.

I finally was able to give my wife a gift I'd been saving for a while for. I called it a Christmas gift, cause it seemed an apropos time of the year to give it to her. But really, it's a gift that transcends the usual Christmas "budget". To show her my appreciation for all she does, and my realization that she's totally still Sarah Anne, and not simply a mommy. (not that a mommy could ever "simply" be)

I didn't really have to wait long, in the grand scheme of things. It took me most of the past year to save for it. Then I purchased it. Then I hid it. Then I wrapped it. Then I hid it again. Then I waited a month or so. But I wonder if the relief/joy I felt at FINALLY being able to give her this awesome gift is only a microscopic sliver of the joy God feels when we truly accept Him.

I mean like....for real and stuff. Not simply a felt-board experience of knowing I'm "gonna go to Heaven when I die". But actual - serving the Lord who's Kingdom IS and IS TO COME, transformed by Grace, Holy Spirit led kinda life. I wonder how many times I unwrap it, thank God for it....and forget about it. Maybe He even re-wraps it for me. Some new wording, or art work, or book, or song.....and I unwrap it again - just as joyful.

I'm thankful for a God who continues to pursue me. Like Hosea to His bride, God has enough grace to re-wrap all that He is on a regular basis. So that I might feel like this "thing" that has been around my whole life, has just now been given to me. May I become less and less in need of new wrapping..and more and more aware of the gift I've been given already...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy X-Mas

Which hopefully by now, most of us have learned that "X" (the Greek letter "chi") has long been used to represent Christ, and the "-mas" came from the Latin word for "Mass". So it would seem "X-Mas" is a pretty okay term for Christians to use, in fact, it's been used for the Holiday for a LONG stinkin' time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

..is coming.

In final celebrations for the "season" of Advent, I figured I should at least say something about waiting. Tomorrow many of us celebrate (under all the gifts and food and hullabaloo) the arrival of the Christ child. "The Word became flesh, and made His dwelling among us."

How long creation waited for that day. It's creator-God, arriving as one created. Living a life that faithfully responded to God, and saying to those who are curious, "follow me". In Love, Dying and becoming "first born from among the dead", so that by being with us, we are mysteriously waiting and yet wrapped up in the Kingdom to come. We wait for all things (including us) to be made new. We are involved in things becoming new even now. It may happen in our lifetime. We may end up leaving this world (death) and waiting with those who have passed already (in "paradise"), but they/we will still be waiting for God to finish what He has promised to bring to completion. That Kingdom coming that was begun in Christ. In Almighty God becoming a helpless baby, and journeying through life as child/boy/man. In his suffering, his sacrifice, his grace, his shed blood, his death, and ultimately, his resurrection.

That is beautiful. That is the type of beauty any true beauty attempts to point to/connect with/echo. To recognize that all of this incredible panoramic picture of beauty/grace/love all begins in that manger scene, wrapped up in swaddling clothes....to know that such a revelation of the beauty of God's creation is coming.....to ache for it with all creation today, just as we did the evening before Christ was born - THAT is Christmas eve.

Wait painfully. Wait joyfully. Gasp for the moments to come...

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

another bad illustration..

Every once in a while, a teenager will ask a hard question. Harder than most adults, usually, mainly because adults sometimes shut of their ability to appear confused/humbled. The question that comes up often is the "why did God have to come as Jesus...why not just save the world and be done with it?"

I'm not sure. That's usually my response. Followed by a discussion about how greatful we can be about why it DID happen the way it did. How much love it conveys. How much we learn about humility, and grace, and the beauty of life/creation/etc.

I used as a quickly made up children's message the other day, an illustration I kinda like. Sometimes we take Addie to a play place. Whether DQ, or McDonalds, or elsewhere. There's always a chance she may get hurt/stuck/lost while on her journey through the playland. If that was to happen, I could crawl in after her, and drag her out. It would be an illustration of my abilities, both physical and mental, in view of the beast of a playplace. :)

Now imagine, out of love for my daughter, and desire for her to fully experience the playplace, I become a 2 year old WITH her. We journey through the tubes together, she follows me, and by my presence, she gains hope that she's not alone and eventually it all works out. It wouldn't make sense, me becoming a 2 year old to experience it with her. But it sure would help me connect better with her, and give her an understanding of how deep my love for her goes. Especially by letting go of all the strengths/abilities/powers of a parent, and becoming a child with her.

I still don't understand the cosmos, and I wouldn't pretend to. I'm not sure why God has worked redemption of all creation the way He has. But I sure do appreciate it. May we remember this Christmas, the Christ-child who says, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers' of men", and leads us to death on a cross....

Monday, December 22, 2008

..in case you missed it.


So it's been a "blah" season so far. Coming off a Stanley Cup win last year (WHOOO HOOO). Keeping most of the same players around. Losing an assistant coach who went to work for San Jose, but we can do it.

It may be sloppy at times. We may not look like we're trying hard at times. But we are winning games. Most of them, in fact. We're not number one in the league, but are not far behind either.

In fact, we played the number one team in the league (San Jose...coincidence?) last week. So what happened?

Well, you should read it for yourself.....it's pretty sweet.....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

6 Years...


Today my wife and I celebrate 6 incredible years together. Six years of continuing to build on the relationship that started late in the Fall of 1999. God has taken us on an incredible journey, and we find ourselves in a pretty good place. We are not perfect, either of us. Our relationship is one between two humans who need ALL that God offers. But I'm incredibly grateful to have her with me.

So often I wish I could go back to that teenage boy growing up in Eaton Rapids, Michigan. That I could reveal even a sliver of what his life would be like in 2008. He'd be stoked. Seriously stoked. That he would have a wife like Sarah to journey with him. That she would have patience, and love, and grace enough to love him as much on his good days, as she does in the middle of the playoffs or a busy ministry season.

But I suppose my 17 years of waiting to meet this woman prepared me in many ways for a healthy appreciation of all that she is. I'm not the best at remembering, or communicating that well or on a consistent basis. But every so often, I remember, or am reminded.

All that to say, Happy Anniversary to my wife. I love her. From mashed vegetables to cheese curds to cheese toasties (she knows what that all means) to whatever lays ahead. Thanks be to God, for His indescribable gift!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

..on being followed...

As I was driving earlier yesterday, the streets still a bit iced over, I looked in my rear view mirror. I saw an ambulance riding right on my tail. This is usually not a very big deal, but instantly in this case I began to think of how to respond if those lights go flashing. I was driving my 1994 Saturn, which weighs in at an intimidating 100 pounds or so, if you use hyperbole. The roads were slick, and traffic surrounded me on either side.

I now have two daughters, and a 3rd child on the way. At this point, they're following me on the road we're on. It gets slick at times, and I can't promise much stability other than gravity itself. We're surrounded by plenty of others, each with their own destinations in mind. I don't believe they will follow me forever as a parent, the way they currently do. In fact, Addie

I watch plenty of parent/teen relationships throughout my job. I see teenagers throw on their sirens and lights, and I see parents in front of them on the journey respond in different ways. I've seen parents freak out, over correct, and go smashing into the ditch/snowbanks on the side. I've seen parents collide with those journeying around them. I've seen some parents ignore the lights/noises and continue on their journey, only to frustrate the child behind them.

This is not to say "I've figured anything substantial out". Only to be conscious of this relationship between Parent/Child as we continue to move forward. To constantly be aware that our relationship grows/changes/morphs as often as the individuals themselves grow...which is to say every second of every day.

Don't look at me to figure out how to have a healthy relationship with your child/teen by any means. But simply, be reminded that it's something we need to be working on, as is a relationship with any human being. Lord help us. :)

I think this entire blog could be chalked up to blog-up-chuck. Nothing in particular struck me to blog about, and this is what you end up with. Hey, no one forced you to read it. :)

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama's Choice for Inauguration Invocation...

There's a buzz lately about Obama's choice for an inauguration invocation. On both sides of the fence, some making an incredibly large deal about it. I could say something, but I think it speaks more to allow the words of the "Friendly Atheist" to speak here: (from an Atheist's perspective)

"Quick: Who delivered George W. Bush’s Invocations in 2001 and 2005?

.
.
.

Correct answers:

Rev. Franklin Graham (2001)
Rev. Luis Leon (2005)

Remember those historic invocations?! Remember how they divided our country and played to the Christian Right?

No?

Me neither.

Warren’s invocation, like those others, won’t be remembered for very long. It’s a quick prayer. It shouldn’t be there in the first place, but it is. (That we have an invocation in the first place should be the point of argument, not Warren’s selection to deliver it. Atheist Michael Newdow tried to put a stop to the prayer in 2005 but lost his case.)

All that said, perhaps Bush should get some credit for having chosen Rev. Leon a few years back. He was obviously a Christian, but a far more inclusive and equality-minded than his replacement:

The Rev. Luis Leon’s flock describes him as a liberal thinker who preaches inclusiveness in his sermons, furthers social justice in his work and welcomes same-sex couples in his congregation.

Obama could’ve done better if he wanted a Christian representative; he did just this a couple months ago when he chose Christian author (and a person who actually voted for Obama) Don Miller to give the benediction at the Democratic National Convention.

But Warren’s more famous and Obama’s still trying to win the Purpose-Driven crowd over."

Thursday, December 18, 2008

insight...

The other night, I realized something (again) about my wife. She's her mothers' daughter. What I mean by that is she shares a few personality traits with her mom. Her mom loves to rearrange furniture in every public room of their house. Sarah isn't so bad here, but I think some of that may be our small living room with a corner TV cabinet, and a piano against the other wall. It limits her ability to do much.

But another aspect is her interest in other homes. She loves to notice which houses are having "Open Houses", and pays attention to which homes are for sale, and sometimes for how much. She has a list of things she likes/dislikes about any home that she's ever seen.

This was great, when we first moved to Decatur. We lived in a 2-bedroom apartment. We were looking for a house. Where most people would have to begin their hunt, we were light years ahead of. We knew where some good houses were, and what was good about them from the very beginning. It didn't take long, before we settled on the amazing house we live in now.

I'm the opposite here. I didn't/don't think about other houses much at all. If it were up to me, IF we ever moved into a house, we'd probably just find the cheapest one in a safe neighborhood, and squat there the rest of our lives. Thankfully, it's not just up to me.

But in a brief moment the other night, where she was talking to me about a home that might be for sale, and going through the pros/cons of making such a move, I had a tiny revelation. Forgetting this was a part of my wife's personality, I quickly took a small offense to her daydreaming. I felt if she was looking at other houses, she must not be living/enjoying where we are right now.

As I sat awake, I wondered if that must be how God feels sometimes. On a much grandeur scheme of course. But for those moments where so much of Christianity focuses on "gettin' the heck outta here, to some mansion on a street paved with gold". I wonder if God is hurt a bit, knowing He made all of this creation out of His Love for us, and intends to make all things new still - so that we can enjoy it fully.

I was thankful for those thoughts...whether from God or my imagination. It's good to remember my wife actually "enjoys" looking at other houses/dreaming about more space for the kids. It's also good to remember God has given us all of this creation to enjoy/seek Him...and one day we'll know more fully what that even means. :)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I still love Stryper...

When I was growin' up, I remember a cassette tape that I found layin' around. It was "Stryper: Soldiers Under Command". As a teenager, both early and late teens, I was like "heck yah, SOLDIERS!!!" I was all about arming myself for the "Lord's Army" and kickin' some satanic butt with my sword and shield and all that.

Now, I'm still a Stryper fan, but I've learned a bit more about the words and imagery used throughout scripture. About the character of God/Jesus, and how it contrasts our own nature so much.

You've heard the verses before, Ephesians 6:14-20. So often, people take these texts and use them to promote a sort of "battle" mindset where we must be strong and on the offensive, ready to attack any evil thing with our sword. Maybe even, secretly, there are many who would like to think they're "training" the army that will fight in some literal battle in the valley of Megiddo.

While we can't deny the usage of some battle imagery in the next of Ephesians, we can be honest about what we know of Christ, and the message He was brining about the Kingdom. It seems that more often than not, Christ was involved in saying things like, "you've heard this, now I say this......." kinda stuff. Basically taking things they know (or think they know), and revealing how these things are in the Kingdom.

It seems that is what Paul is doing here. He takes something they know (imagery of a Roman soldier preparing for battle), and revealing something about the Kingdom. No longer is it about power, and might, and battles. He says, "yes, you will need armor, but it will be Truth. It will be Righteousness. It will be Peace. It will be Faith. It will be salvation from God." And even these, he simply associates with defensive type preparations (belt, breastplate, shoes, shield, helmet). The only time he even gives a "weapon" if you want to call it that, is when he mentions the Spirit of God (His word, the "sword").

Funny how we would take Paul/Christ telling us "it's not about battle and warfare like you've ever known", and turn it into actually preparing for a war as we know it, simpy armed with different weaponry.

Too many times people take the verse - "our struggle is not with flesh and blood...etc" and say "that's right, it's against the evil spirits found in our enemies flesh and blood." Nope.

The Kingdom is not about training the next generation of "Holy Soldiers" to fight and/or take over this world in the name of Christ. It's about raising the next generation of Christ-followers. Young men and women who will speak Truth. Who will give up themselves in Love for others. Who will do what it takes to bring the message of Peace, and Good news to all creation. Who will depend more upon the Spirit of God to make all things new...

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

STAY AT HOME PARENTS' DAY

Yeah, so my wife is pretty much incredible.

Just in case you haven't noticed. I remember before children entered our life. The mental picture that came up with someone saying, "I'm a stay at home mom". Oh really? Must be nice. You get to stay at home with the kids. Make cookies. Play in the yard. Just relax all day.

I gotta admit, even when we realized we wanted Sarah to be a stay at home mom. That for us, it was important, even if it meant sacrificing a little financially. I was a tad jealous.

My jealousy has faded quite a bit.

Don't get me wrong, I love our kids. Addie and Sophie, and even cousin Ella who visits a few days each week. They're incredible. The wonder in their moments of discovery. The way the older ones get sooooo excited over running in circles in the kitchen, whether Barney is singing in the air or only in their minds. The way Sophie loves the older girls, and crawls as fast as she can to be a part of what they're doing. I am jealous that I miss many of those moments.

But I'm not so jealous of the not so pretty aspects of these growing girls. The whining. The learning of the concept of "sharing". The potty training, which is a lot more about potty going elsewhere than actually in the potty. The messes, with no ability to point blame, and no one to help you clean up but yourself.

Not sure if there is a "Stay at Home Parent Day", but there probably should be. A weekday where any working parent switches spots with all of those parents who usually stay home everyday with the kids. They can go out on the town. Or they can just nap all day. Whatever they wanna do.

I'm gonna claim one, and ya'll can help me spread it.
We've got plenty of time to get the word out.

I officially declare that March 10th, will from here on out be called "STAY AT HOME PARENTS DAY", to be observed in the way I've described above. Tell your friends, and your neighbors, and your friends friends, and their parents too. We've got over 3 months to get the message out.

MARCH 10th = STAY AT HOME PARENT'S DAY - The working parent must stay home with the kids, and the stay at home parent is allowed a free day to do "whatever". If you agree and want to sign the petition, then GO TO THE ONLINE PETITION AND SIGN IT, then have all your friends do it too!!

Monday, December 15, 2008

cards...

I'm pretty against cards. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, they're USUALLY a waste of money/time/resources. Usually my anti-card thoughts are reserved for Birthdays. You spend whatever you budgeted (or nothing) on a gift for someone, and then spend another 1 to 5 dollars on a piece of folded thick paper that says "Happy Birthday" on it, and most of the time simply sign your name somewhere on it. And just being honest, I usually throw cards away. Sometimes even directly after opening them. Unless they're hilarious and contain the word "fart" or "booger" somewhere on them. Then I show my wife or a couple close friends. Then I throw it away.

Usually, I cringe a little. Mainly because, I already know WHO the gift is from. I know they are a lot more fun to listen to than this piece of paper, and I love crackers so much. "Crackers?" you may ask. "Crackers" I say to you. Cheez-Its specifically. They cost as much as a nice card.

Seriously though, Christmas Cards. I know there's tradition, and good thoughts, and love and all that. Once in a while you get a home made card, or a card with a few sentences written in it. Once in a great while even a picture. Those I can get down with a little more. We have a meaningful card dance in my head together whenever it happens.

I'm a youth pastor at a church where a LOT of people like to give Christmas cards. We open card after card after card, some very ornate. Rip the envelope open, "what a pretty picture", open the card, "aw, Merry Christmas" (already written by the company), and the person or couple's name generically written at the bottom.

Hopefully this doesn't offend, as some of my readers may be people who sent those cards. In those cases, I guess I can be thankful at least we have a little card station at our church, so you don't have to waste postage too.

I am thankful for the thoughts behind the cards. But I encourage for Christmas or birthdays or other occasions in 2009, just call me. Or e-mail me. Or buy me some crackers. Or write a short letter. Doesn't need to be pretty. Just needs to be from YOU. :)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

how to properly white your elephant...

..because I've seen it done oh so wrong...I figured I'd share this with the general public.
(from our friends at Wikipedia)

Gifts are wrapped, but are not labeled to reflect a specific sender or recipient. Gifts are typically inexpensive, humorous items or used items from home and sometimes, they are just plain trash; the term white elephant refers to a gift whose cost exceeds its usefulness. While the first use of this term remains an item of contention among historians, a popular theory suggests that Ezra Cornell brought the term into popular lexicon through his numerous and frequent social gatherings, dating back to as early as 1828.

All participants draw a number (from a hat, perhaps) to determine their order.

The participant with #1 unwraps any gift from the pile and then shows it to everyone. Each successive participant, in the order determined from the drawing, can either 1) "steal" an already opened gift (if there's one they really like) or 2) be adventurous and go for a wrapped gift from the pile. If the participant chooses to steal, the person whose gift is stolen now repeats their turn and either 1) steals another person's gift (they cannot immediately steal back the gift that was just stolen from them) or 2) unwraps a new gift.

This cycle of stealing can sometimes continue for a long time, until a new gift is chosen, at which point the turn is passed to the participant with the next number from the drawing. (An alternative to the drawing is to sit in a circle and take turns in a clockwise or counterclockwise direction.)

Since items can be stolen, the item in your possession is not yours until the game is over. However, this is often amended with a rule declaring a gift "dead" or "safe" after it has been stolen a certain number of times (usually two or three). This helps the process go more smoothly (avoiding, for example, the hypothetical scenario of the same gift being stolen by every successive participant) and limits the disadvantage of being among the first to choose gifts.



(I particularly like that they created links to explain "clockwise" and "counterclockwise" :) )

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Richard Cizik

Many are relieved he's out. Many are disappointed. Many are unaware of what happened.

You gotta wonder if he WAS actually forced to resign due to his misrepresenting his constituency, or because of the personal beliefs he wasn't shy to share.

As we continue moving forward together, both as a world, and as a Christian Church within that world; the tension will continue to grow. Between what "rights" many Christians will "concede" to "sinners", and what they will not.

There are important issues that need to be discussed. I'm not sure I understand many of them completely, and/or understand where I stand on some of them.

Isn't it better to communicate grace/Love and the inclusiveness of the gospel? Or is it better to communicate, as some Christian leadership would say by their words/actions, "How God intended things, and enforce it legally"?

All I know is...it's unfortunate THIS was not a longer conversation, and brings up some things those of us in Evangelical denominations should be aware of.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Decking the Halls...

..or at least, the living room... :)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

looks like........?

In recent posts on forgiveness, I talked about the sacrificial nature of it. How it won't make sense to communities other than the Church. How it'll probably even be hard for us to make sense of it. And yet, how important it is to what is happening towards the Kingdom.

So what does it look like?

With stories breaking daily in our world of people who committed this offense or that offense. Both on a personal level, of being taken advantage of by salesmen, or a larger level of governors arrested for selling senate seats. With all of these things taking place, how does forgiveness enter the scene? How do we work to implement Justice and Forgiveness at the same time?

I'll use the current situation with Governor Blagojevich, because it's probably near and dear to many of my 3 readers hearts. Obviously, if all they're saying is true, (and it seems to be), these are crimes that we cannot simply say, "Shame on you", and let business continue as usual. Forgiveness is not simply turning a blind eye to an offense, pretending it never happened.

I think maybe that's why we see the themes of both Forgiveness AND Justice throughout scripture. They are all wrapped up in each other. For true forgiveness to take place, we must be honest about what has happened. For Justice to take place, we must participate in forgiveness, to ensure that Justice, and not vengeance, is our motivator.

Blagojevich should be relieved of his leadership positions. He should, and probably will, spend time in "time out" for adults (jail, or prison). Hopefully he will be involved in counseling, and will find healing and discover perhaps where the source of such greed lays, and find ways to process these things in healthier ways.

That is for the courts, and those we've put in place to check/balance such powers to decide. For most of us, may we pray for the Blagojevich family and their close friends. In an event such as this, many can be hurt and pulled into the circus, and who knows where it will lead in many of their lives.

Ultimately, the goal of a Christ-centered community, is for healing and restoration to take place. And it would seem we offer that chance as a community as often as it's asked of us. Not seeking ways to "get a larger punishment" for someone who offended us, so we can feel like vengeance is ours. Not counting how many times we've forgiven for past offenses.

Like I've said before...this won't be easy. And Blagojevich is among the lighter cases we face in our world today. May God's Spirit fill us...

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

any Josephs?

So here ya' go, I'll throw this post out for some fun. Twice over the past week I've had a similar dream. I can't give you all the details, cause...well...I can't remember them all. But here's a summary:

At some point, as Sarah and I are watching the news together, or some other program that talks about what's happening in the world, we see something that grabs our attention. It's a story about a potato chip, and the image that's on it (NOT the image of Christ, just like wavy or something). How valuable it is. They can tell by looking at it, that there MUST be one more "out there", and by the looks of it, it's probably worth 1 to 2 million dollars.

We just happen to have a bag of chips in front of us. I grab a few out, and boom. There's the million dollar potato chip staring right back at us. We look at the TV, and yup, same exact shape and markings on it. We have a winner. So we call someone. (the potato chip expert I suppose) He tells us it's definitely the chip, and wants us to bring it to him (on the other side of the country), but to be careful. Apparently there are lots of people out there who may have heard we have the chip.

The rest of the dream is filled with me finding ways to protect this preciously fragile fried slice of potato. I put it in a safety deposit box. I lock it in a fireproof safe. But ultimately I still end up holding onto it, cradling it in my hands. Ninja's attack. Explosions all around me. Gunfire rips through the skies. Babies cry. (that may have just been Sophie)

It's like some sort of action movie. I'd say "Transporter", but I've never actually seen any of them all the way through. So anywho. I always wake up before I'm able to deliver the chip to the man willing to pay millions for it. (SOOO frustrating) But still, it's a pretty fun dream.

Figured, it's rare for me to have a recurring dream (minus the tiger who used to tickle me when I was young....but that was scary). So I thought I'd throw this one out to see if there's a Joseph (or anyone with a guess).

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christians - called to rebutt?

In a recent post, I talked about an Ad campaign being run in D.C. by Atheists who wanted to encourage one another they are not alone:
In response, a group of Christians have begun their own ad campaign, raising thousands of dollars during the holiday season to do so:
You can probably guess that while I don't agree with the atheist ad, I'm not particularly offended by it, and don't see a need to raise thousands of dollars to throw an ad back to them...escalating into what could spark a national ad campaign in both directions. Money and effort could and should be used in much better areas.

I usually let things like this go, but since I noticed the woman heading up the Christian campaign had a Facebook publicly displayed on her website, I might as well send her a message. I politely told her I was disappointed at her efforts, and that I wasn't sure she was sending the right message. This was her response to me:

I respect what you have to say, but I think that if you reflect more deeply on it you will recall that Christ spent his time proclaiming the Good News.

Once people hear the message of God then we will have more people assisting the poor. If all I do is help the poor (which I do), I am limited and can't reach everyone. But if I evengelize and get others to help me, the numbers we can reach are limitless.

I love our message because it reminds people that God is a personal God who created them individually and loves them as individuals. Entering into a personal relationship with God helps the individual beyond measure. And the ripple effect of that will only be known in heaven. There are different types of poverty - and spiritual poverty is definitely not something to be ignored.

Thank you for your email. (In case you're interested, I've only heard one other comment similar to yours. There is a great deal of excitement over the opportunity to contribute to an ad that rebutts the athiests.)

God bless,
JoEllen


Even with all the good involved in what she is saying here, that last parenthesis is the part that I'm not a big fan of. And it seems to be what continues to drive her efforts.

Here's hoping it's a short-lived effort that fizzle's out, instead of inflaming more responses on both sides of the issue. May we forgive and love in a way that echoes Christ. Because despite what she says, forgiveness and love are ALWAYS good ways of proclaiming the Good News. Possibly even better than buying a billboard... (crud. Is this blog post a way of me rebutting her? crud crud crud crud.)

4+1 = 5

And that's why we have a mini-van.

Yup, whether you heard it already or not, it's true. We are having a 3rd child. We'll find out the gender in late January, and the due date is currently June 11th. We're pretty excited, along with all the other emotions that come with finding out you're expecting.

For Addison, I was appropriately excited and freaked out of my mind. With Sophie, I was a bit less freaked out of my mind, but I tried to fit the part. Everyone knows husbands/fathers are supposed to pretend they're freaked out, even if they're not that much.

For this one, I don't know how much I'm gonna pretend.

Yeah, it'll be a bit more thin financially. Yeah, we'll probably sleep less. Yeah, it means more poopy diapers, and snot in the winter, and vomit on the carpet at some point. But really, it's not all that bad.

Not when contrasted against all that is gained especially. The joys of parenting, the love, the learning, the life (and cheap entertainment) involved. I'm stinking excited. Three children under the age of 3, I know...it's gonna be nuts. But totally do-able (says the husband who gets to go to work most days of the week). Did I mention my wife is incredible?

So feel free to put in your guesses for gender, weight, date/time, etc. We'll announce more information as it becomes publicly available. Sorry if a blog seems an impersonal way to tell you...I didn't think you'd mind.

ps. We have had a couple ultrasounds - so we know there's definitely only one, and a pretty fast heartbeat, if you believe that means anything. :)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

forgiveness - pt. 2

Recently I posted a few words on forgiveness. As part of the difficult words I put out there, came the truth that if we honestly forgive as Christ taught, we will probably be hurt/humiliated, and even harder - so will those we love. What has caught my attention recently, however, is another "thing" that may be injured by our forgiveness. I'm not sure what to call it. I'd call it the Church, or religion, or Christ himself, but I think it'd be easier to actually show you the stories.

Recently I posted a blog about how Christians are responding to the Atheist community in Kentucky. Apparently we're very good at this type of non-Love, as you can see in this 2nd example. In response to Atheist holiday themed advertising that you can be "good for goodness sake" (instead of having to be good for fear of punishment from God), a Christian community is actually RAISING MONEY to put out their own mass advertising campaign.

So it seems that even if we might become good at allowing ourselves to be hurt by showing forgiveness to others; even if we allow others we love to be hurt by showing Christ-like forgiveness; we are not willing in many ways to take the next step. Like Peter the night Christ was arrested, we grab our daggers and attempt to defend Christ. We strike out, taking off the ear of those "attacking our beliefs".

Christ responds to us, "Put your sword back into its sheath..."

God does not need our "defense" in any public realm. We do not need to fight for "rights" to have ten commandments proudly displayed anywhere prominent. We do not need to push and push to make sure words on official USA documents include major references to God. We do not need to fight to have a specific prayer or even "silent" time in schools. We do not need to start a "Christian" advertising campaign to counter that of any other belief or non-belief. These are all efforts and dollars that could be spent actually feeding the hungry, or clothing the naked.

We need to forgive. We need to love.

May we follow Christ more often than we lead Him.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

how not to show love...

Once again on the Friendly Atheist, he has made his readers aware of how Christians were responding to a situation. Apparently the director of American Atheists, Edwin Kagin, is leading a movement against the state of Kentucky for saying praising God is the first duty of the Homeland Security Office.

I can understand why Atheists, and really any non Judeo-Christian would be upset. Heck, I can even see why Christians would be a bit confused by anyone claiming the Homeland Security Office should have the same goal as a church camp.

Not sure I would have filed suit, or worded the suit the way he did, but he did what he thought was necessary. Unfortunately, the Christian community has responded in very unChrist-like ways. The entire situation really is a testimony to where things have gone in our world, and it doesn't look pretty. Here's how it could have happened (in my close-minded, starry-eyed, spoon-full-of-sugar viewpoint):

Atheist Community: We're offended, and feel that the priority this political organization is putting on a specific faith excludes and reduces the value of those who do not share the same beliefs.

Kentucky: We apologize. We realize that Homeland Security should be about the security of the home land, and for all of those citizens in it. Those of us who are Christians, who really had good intentions by inserting the element of God in it, never wanted to communicate anything but love for our neighbors, of any or no faith.

Atheist Community: Okey doke. Let's go keep our nation safe together.

Kentucky: Sounds good.

(both shake hands, and do the hokey-pokey).

But instead, it continues to escalate into the ridiculous.

Please, if you love Christ, let go of yourself. Love your neighbor. We are not called to build a Christian empire or nation. We are called to love. To forgive. To sacrifice. To put others interests before our own. To serve. We are not called to do this as the United States of America, we are called to do this as the Church.

Friday, December 05, 2008

sillyness...

So here's the thing. Decatur, IL has a popular newspaper. It's called the "Herald & Review". Each year, they do a "Readers' Choice Awards". Local businesses, popular people in town, etc. It's a good way for visitors or people new to the city to know where to get a good burger.

Here's the silly thing: they have a category for "church". Now, as a youth pastor, I can get down with how fun it'd be to have a popularity contest for churches. Oh wait...nope, not really. But I think it could be fun to thwart the flow of things.

According to last years' results, and probably previous years, one of the largest churches in the city has won this category. I know people who attend, and serve at this church, and I'd agree - it's a pretty great family of believers. And with one of the largest church rosters in the city, they'll probably continue winning this category. Apart from some church actually encouraging it's members to get out there and vote like crazy so they can conquer this crucial title. Either way, it'd be fine.

Thankfully, I doubt any churches or attenders hang their hat on their congregations ability to win in this category. I'd hope, at least.

So wouldn't it be fun to mess with statistics a bit? Many of the people in our community have either attended, or been involved with something called "The Great Banquet". It happens at WOODLAND CHAPEL. I say we get as many people as possible to vote for WOODLAND CHAPEL this year, and see if we can at least hit 3rd place.

Sure, for my 2 or 3 readers in Decatur who might do this, it might not do much good. But forward this to people you don't like....it could spread like wildfire. Together, we can upset the fruit basket. :)

So here's the link. Go to Herald & Review's ONLINE BALLOT. Fill out whatever you want for the other choices (I recommend John's Barber Shop on Oakland, Macon Ice Cream, and MC Sports for some choices, if you need help). But be sure to fill out "WOODLAND CHAPEL" when it comes time to nominate your favorite church!!! PASS IT ON!!! :)

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

forgiveness (for Xmas and for life)

When I was in New York on a BURPO mission trip back in the day (early 2002), me and the fellas got to work for an off Broadway musical called "The Rock and the Rabbi". They quickly nailed in one song a point that I think often gets passed over as "good feelings" in traditional sermonettes on it.

In Matthew 18:22, Peter had just asked Jesus how often he should forgive his brother. This goes back to rabbis interpreting the Old Testament. Peter and the disciples knew that Jesus was talking about changing things in big ways. At the time, it was accepted that you would forgive someone up to 3 times. Peter, knowing Jesus was bringing something new about, offered a generous "seven" times in his question (verse 21).

Jesus responds to Peter's generous offer with something even more staggering. Depending on your translation, you may see "seven times seventy", or "seventy-seven" times. In either case, the interpretation is similar. Jesus is giving a symbolic number (3 sevens) for the infinite. For the limitless. If you count how often you forgive someone, you're missing the point.

There are other aspects to this story. The fact that it's the opposite direction of the story found in Genesis 4. Cain had killed his brother. His other brother, Lamech, wants revenge by killing Cain. In Genesis 4:24, we see vengeance and murder (counting offenses) in an infinite direction. In Matthew 18:22, Jesus offers a new direction. He offers a way counter to the fall of humanity, a way of redemption, a way of the Kingdom of God.

How does this look in our world today? Surely we can't be expected to forgive someone every time they offend? Open our doors, homes, and lives to people, even if we don't agree with choices they make? Even if we feel they've hurt us in some way? Does this also apply to us as groups/societies, businesses, and nations as well?

If we forgive infinitely, won't we end up losing? Won't we end up wounded? Won't we be taken advantage of? Even harder, won't the people we love end up getting hurt?

Probably.

At this point, the Youth Pastor-ish side of me wants to come out and say, "But it's worth it, cause it'd be the direction of the Kingdom of God." So there.

But it still scares me. And yet...there it is.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

loving...

In reading lately, it's been pointed out again that the Christian community comes together/lives out as something "otherly" in the world.

The writer was addressing the Civil rights movement of the mid-1900's. In that time, it was obvious that those following Christ should find themselves having compassion for those who are oppressed and living in unjust conditions. What was not so obvious was that the Christian community should be focusing on communicating love and grace to those powerful Caucasians who were afraid of what would happen to society if these "others" were granted rights.

This situation can translate into many different discriminated communities we find in our world today. Both internationally, and right here in the good ole' melting pot. Homosexuals, minorities (still), women (still), immigrants (legal AND illegal), etc. The way they are treated/talked about in many circumstances as sort of "sub-human" can inspire even the newest Christian to recognize that God would want justice done. It's easy for us to love the oppressed.

What is a bit harder for us, me at least, is the other side. To love the Pat Robertsons. The James Dobsons (on occasion, I realize Dobson's organization still accomplishes much good today). Doesn't have to be Christian leaders gone bad either, there are plenty of other leaders and political powers who would be guilty of oppression. Their hundreds (thousands?) of followers. The hard part is how to show love (real love, not showy huggy love) to these while at the same time standing for justice in a way that echoes Christs' same desires.

This element also stands out in how the Christian community emerges as "otherly" in the world. Even in a world where justice is seen as a highest priority, to love the oppressor (truly) would be a rare thing to find outside of the Body of Christ. With that understanding, we also must recognize that we cannot force a world-wide utopia by asking the entire world to follow suit. Our concern is now how it will be perceived by the world, or even by those who we love. It doesn't have to "make sense". And yet, it needs to be happening. Locally, nationally, world-wide.

I guess the hard part, for me at least, is this:

"This kind of love is more costly in its relation to the agents of evil than in its obvious agreements with those who suffer injustly."

I don't like the sound of that....but I'm working on it.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving...(another guest post)

For puffs of any flavor. (if you don't know what these are....you're missing out)

For figuring out a new way to laugh.

For an older sister who repeats half of everything mommy and daddy say to me, to make sure I heard it.

For fresh diapers, even if I have to lay down in a Koala Care Center to get one.

For clean floors.

For warm socks, and even shoes. (even though I totally don't need shoes yet)

For large fridge magnets, and the fact that I can stand up to reach them all on my own.

For a trip to Hawaii that I'll never remember except for pictures that prove I was totally there. :)

For 4 front teeth that are finally all the way through the skin.

For the never ending supply of drool I have to tell everyone near me how much I love them with.

To be continued...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

I know him!!!

If you've seen the movie "Elf", you know the scene. He's helping out over at Gimbal's in the Christmas area, and it's announced that Santa will be visiting tomorrow. Immediately he gets excited and yells, "I KNOW HIM!!!"

Yesterday, Sarah and I took Addie to the mall. Walking around, not thinking too much of it. We notice the Santa display is ahead on the left. Just casually we say, "Hey, Addie...look....who's that?" Without any prompting, she says, "Santa!", immediately runs towards Santa, ducks underneath the ropes separating him from the world, and goes up to say hello.

A world of difference from the little girl who cried at the slightest hint of a red hat with a cotton ball on top. She understands who he is, a bit more about what he represents, and that somehow he's tied into good things. And she has no reserve to act on that knowledge. :) No reason to think she shouldn't have immediate access to that relationship.

Just another random reminder. In a world where we can easily get caught up in the logistics of service planning. Where we can get bogged down by the correct theology of sanctuary carpet, or catching up on the latest speaker/author and what is being done in areas of church growth/health (not the same thing). Where plans for ministry empowered by the Spirit clash with the reality of being a human being serving with and for other human beings.

We have access to the creator. How incredible it will be, when completion comes, and we can shout with the joy of a 2 year old, "I Know Him!!!"...and run up in awe and excitement and just a bit of fear. :)

Even still....we do not wait hopelessly for "some day". Our creator IS Lord even now. And not only do we know Him...He knows us. Cliche' or cheesy or not...that's freakin' awesome.

May we live that excitement, proud and unaware of the velvet ropes...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

giving thanks (guest post)

For a whole bowl full of grapes cut in half.

For a fresh diaper.

For my Dora blanket, even though I don't ever cover up with it on purpose.

For my little sister, for being the baby so I can be the little girl.

For Mussie and for Ella.

For my Barney CD, and the ability to push play all on my own.

For Dora and Boots.

For the moon, even when it goes bye bye.

For the first 2 pages of every book, the only pages that really matter.

For mommy, and for daddy.

For food, family and friends. (our prayer)

To be continued...

Monday, November 24, 2008

giving thanks...

For good weather on Sunday so I could put up Christmas lights. (even though we totally won't turn them on until after Thanksgiving, no worries. That'd be crazy.)

For daughters who did very good on a long van ride.

For no one noticing the puddle of what was NOT apple juice on the bench under my daughter at McDonalds, and for my wife's patience as I continued to talk about how similar it looked. :)

For family. All of them. :)

For triangle crayons, so they don't roll off every single surface we place them on. Although we totally ran out....we know they still exist.

For friends and relationships to be able to miss when we're away.

For Lebda scoring a goal the other night against the Flames...

To be continued....

Sunday, November 23, 2008

practical spirituality for the week ahead...

It's not going to happen accidentally.

It's not going to happen easily.

It won't come from just making sure you went to church, or read something "Jesus-ish" recently.

This week, many in the world go crazy shopping. Many of us join in the craziness at different levels and locations. Many people will not do as much thinking and praying as they do spending money they don't have.

We have been those people.

Reminder for the weeks ahead: You do NOT need to spend money you do not have, to communicate love to someone. You DO have permission to be real and genuine with the people in your life. People who love you will not question how much/how little you spent on them.

Lock up your credit cards. If you don't have it, don't spend it.

Being honest with yourself, and with those you love can communicate a lot. And will help us all to remember the Truth in the meaning of these Holidays.

PS: Wrap with newspaper, write on a box of crackers (or a lottery ticket if you're okay with it) instead of buying a $4 card that we all throw away anyways, write letters instead of cards, give away gifts from around the house, give to a special cause or someone less fortunate, and above all - Love.

pps. If you have a ton of money, and you don't "get" why this blog post is important; you should probably give some away. If you've already given some - give more. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"un" balance

There's a delicate mix in youth ministries usually. You want to reach out especially to teens who are lacking in positive, especially God-centered, community. But you also want to serve the families of the church, many of whom have children who have grown up in such a community.

You have 12 year old boys who still don't shower much, and think that girls have cooties. You have 13 year old girls who know all 10 commandments, and can name the 4 gospels.

You also have young men closing in on 18, smelling of substances, who have little to no understanding of how to even "allow" a community like this to love and support them. You have young women who are grasping for an identity in how they look, and think "manly" guys have ill reputations.

You divide up, Junior and Senior High, male and female, as possible. We definitely need to do that more often, and I'm hoping God continues to bless us with volunteers to make that possible. Although you could switch the ages above, and still notice the same qualities.

In our church, the balance is constantly shifting. We have Sunday morning "sunday school" for our Youth Bible studies. We have Sunday evening "supper club" for our core, to deepen community in those who we hope/pray will come back Wednesday night to add their flavor to the atmosphere. Then we have Wednesday night - a conglomeration of those who come on Sunday, with a much larger group that only come this night. Many have no parental/familial connection to the church yet. I continue to be stunned by some that still come.

But they do come.

I know the balance in our group probably frightens/turns away some Sunday families from involvement on Wednesday. I hope and pray that as their strength/community builds with each other on Sunday, they would feel more and more comfortable coming as living testimonies on Wednesday night, drawing others to participate in more than the Wed. night crowd.

I guess this was just a random post to remind the world, I'm a youth pastor.

I love this job. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

post-nap


Mommy is out with a friend. I'm on the couch, enjoying the silence a few moments longer.

Sophie drools down her chin, down her shirt, onto the already soaked spot on my chest. She's awake for the first time in 20 minutes or so. She looks up at me, and I have no idea what is going through her mind. Probably something profound like "I recognize this face. How long before it gives me food?". She smiles at me because she knows it makes me smile back. I wipe the drool off her face with the back of my hand, something I would have cringed at watching someone else do years ago.

From the farthest bedroom I hear her older sister begin to chime in to the action with a silent wail. "Mommmmmyyy???" "Dadddddyyyy????" "Geeeetttt uuuppppp?????" Holding her younger sister I yell softly down the hallway, "come here Addie!!". A soft thud, and a patter of footsteps on the wooden floor, she enters the room. Pony tail slightly undone, and diaper is sagging a bit inside those 2T jeans, but she looks at me and yells, "daddy!!!" The drooly one, the full diapered one, and I, hug briefly, before the chaos begins.

A bottle, some chocolate, and an episode of Dora later, we play. Play dough, dancing, and acting like dogs for a bit. Later we'll eat vegetables, cottage cheese, and maybe even a cut up hot dog. Bath time, some more playing, and eventually bed. (before daddy's 8pm show starts, hehe)

Outside of these moments, chaos in the world. Many are suffering. Many are alone. Economy threatens. Hope is offered in a million different vessels. Christmas stresses already rear their head. Extended family continues to extend, while attempting to maintain it's bonds.

But here...here is an entire world. I love being a father. Thanks God.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

of community...

A recent article in the Washington State Journal talked about the movement (in advertising at least) of atheists who are making public statements. If you've watched the news much lately, you've probably seen these signs. Things like "Why believe in God? Be good for GOODNESS sake", or "Beware of Dogma", etc.

I can understand why the atheist community would want to say things like this. Advertising has always been a way for a misunderstood group, or company who feels they have something to offer, to make a statement about themselves publicly. I know some Christians are getting very upset, saying how offended they are, even accusing atheists of hate speech, etc. I think Christ would model a different response, than protesting that our "rights" have somehow been trampled on, and fighting to remove such ads.

I'm personally not offended, even though I disagree with most of what they're saying. The same way I disagree when certain restaurants tell me they're the best in the Midwest. But I didn't want to talk about advertising.

A quote from the article, "Still, leading activists say nonbelievers tend to be just as wary of organized atheism as they are of organized religion -- making it tough to pull together a cohesive movement. "A pastor can say to his flock, 'All rise,' and everyone rises. But try that in an atheist meeting," said Marvin Straus, co-founder of an atheist group in Boulder, Colo. "A third of the people will rise. A third will tell you to go to hell. And a third will start arguing....That's why it's hard to say where we're going as a movement."

I would offer the church as a model for atheists who are looking for a positive, community building way to organize. Not the church as seen in popular movies, or even news sources. Not the church as seen on any TV programs or commercials. Not even the church as seen in many major cities today.

But the church as seen in scripture, and breaking through in small/mighty ways around the globe today. Each one giving as there was need. Being examples of love, and grace, and forgiveness in a selfish world. A supporting community that anticipates what lies ahead, while existing in an incomplete today.

Heck, you may even want to join a church, and help them move that direction. Many of us could use a reminder.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

supper-club/sacramental socialism

On Sunday nights, we've begun something with a small group of our teens. We make a meal, and eat together. It began as a "leadership" group, and continues to be a core group of the youth from our church. The goal as it began was to invest in relationship-building for many of our younger teens, in hopes that they will become more confident/present as leaders in our other times together.

It's working. More is happening that I'd originally hoped.

I'm reminded of the beginning celebrations of the Eucharist Meal(communion, literally "giving thanks"). How special it is as sacrament and as worship, but also as a statement of the Kingdom of God in today's economics.

"At the Lord's Table, those who have bread bring it, and all are fed; that is the model for the Christian social vision in all times and places" - Yoder

It's something that happens in our youth on Sunday nights. Anyone who can bring food does, many come, and everyone eats. Our church acts similarly on other special events (annual BBQ, Sunday Evening Snacks, etc.). Anytime we have food together as a church, they tell certain people to bring certain things, but truth is, even if you show up with nothing, you're invited to eat just as much as the 70 year lady who cooked all afternoon to prepare.

Easy to do it, and just enjoy it. But may we be reminded of the model it gives us for life as the church throughout our weeks as well. As those who are living new creations within a new creation, may we bring what we have to others in need.

May we invite others "to our table", without taking into account what they might bring to it.

May we give thanks...

Friday, November 14, 2008

if anyone is in Christ...

In reading a bit more of Yoder lately, I came across a take on a familiar verse that I think may benefit to be talked about. Especially in today's context of what it means to truly follow Christ within a world where real servant-hood (not as a means to be a more powerful leader, but actual self-denying servant hood), loving your enemy, and forgiveness are viewed as weaknesses, or illogical at best.

Many of us have heard of the verse 2 Corinthians 5:17. "Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (NIV) Most of the time when we hear it, the emphasis is upon the internal transformation that takes place when one begins to follow Christ, or begins to be "in Christ", whatever that means.

But when we read the verse in the New Revised Standard Version, we hear it a bit differently, "So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!"

When we realize the Greek word for "creation" here (ktisis) can mean "world", or "everything created", or "institution, ordinance"...we begin to see that this verse could quite possibly be referring to an even larger transformation. It's not simply what happens "inside" a person. Although there are plenty of places in scripture for us to realize that is an important aspect of being "in Christ".

Literally here - "if anyone is in Christ, there is a new world!"

This verse offers to us a reminder, that if we are in Christ, we exist it a completely new "world". A new "order" of things. No longer are we slaves to power, money, sex, etc. We are freed to live as Christ, without worry of it "making sense" to the world (order) we once lived in.

May we continue to follow Christ, as new creations living as a part of THE new creation...even when it doesn't (and it won't) make sense to the world we once knew. May we not use that as an excuse to justify actions that benefit us, but rather to justify actions that serve, love, and forgive others; even when it doesn't make sense.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

forgiveness as policy

"No economy can survive without Chapter Eleven; no prison system is viable without parole. No moral culture works without making scapegoats and celebrating rituals of exculpation. Social scientists call it conflict management. Yet forgiveness remains costly, since the first reflex of the self-righteous is to fear that to forgive would be to cheapen sin. Four years ago (in the mid-90's) one presidential candidate suggested that the country should become kinder and gentler; yet neither party which wants to rule us is making the case for forgiveness as policy." - John Howard Yoder

Recently I was a part of forgiveness. Our church incurred some damage at the hands of a local teenager. We were faced with the choice of how to respond. Most members of our church don't even know it happened, and even more do not know how we handled it. But I think I'm proud of us. We offered forgiveness first. We then offered to pay the fine's the boy was charged with, providing he and a parent would sit down and meet with us. They agreed.

The meeting was short. We shared some snacks/drinks, gave a tour of our church and its' ministries, got to know the boy and his family a bit, and ended in prayer together.

Maybe they'll join us. Probably not. Maybe the boy will turn his life around immediately, and experience a crazy awesome transformation of some sort. Probably not. But you gotta think, that moment of forgiveness has to have impacted his world on some level. We pray it did/does. But at the same time, forgiveness was offered out of love, not out of a desire to change him for life.

We forgive, and pray that forgiveness will transform the world around us. But we do not forgive "because" it guarantees anything. We forgive because it is the nature of the Kingdom. The nature of God.

Should we have offered to pay the fines, even if they would not agree to have met with us? Maybe. I'm not sure. But I think we have opened a new door of responding to offenses for our community...at least on a small level.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

..get on with it?

Watched C-Span randomly yesterday, one of the few resources both of actual news, and of reality television still left. They don't try to make the programming more appealing, and even though politicians speaking may have hidden motives, it's still the reality of what is occurring that the camera shows.

I turned it on, as two fathers are giving testimony of children they lost in the 2007 baseball team bus crash. Felt like a sissy, as I teared up a bit listening to these fathers try to keep their composure while speaking at the Sept. 18th, 2008 Senate hearing on surface transportation as it pertains to Motor Coaches.

As the fathers' completed testifying, and the Senator presiding (Lautenberg, NJ) tried to find an appropriate direction, they asked questions of Mr. Pantuso. He is currently president of the American Bus Association. It was obvious that Senator Lautenberg wanted to know how/why we haven't all just decided to put seatbelts throughout Coach buses nation-wide...also including school buses. There was some back and forth discussion, blah blah blah about studies, and placing the blame on government inaction, etc....more small talk.

For real? This is the bill being questioned/discussed, and it's updated version here. As you can read, both in the bill itself, and in the comments of the people interested.....it's not crazy. Why take so long?

Pantuso wrote an article about a month after this hearing, whining about there being more issues than just "seat belts - yes or no". Okay, I believe him. There seems to be more issues. But why wait to act on enforcement of seatbelts simply to do more studies in other areas? An actual quote from Pantuso says, "ABA is not opposed to seat belts, if the scientific research yet to be concluded demonstrates we need them."

Seriously? Do we need more scientific research that says a seat belt could help save a life?

All I know is....as a youth pastor who confesses to being a bit relaxed on reminding teens to buckle up.....I've just experienced an important reminder of how simple, yet crucial, that decision can be. And our church bus actually comes equipped with them.

Thanks to Mr.Forman and Mr.Betts for their honest testimony, and for bringing humanity to that moment of politics.

Monday, November 10, 2008

the mini-van has changed...

When I was in high school, I was friends with a couple of the coolest guys I knew. They weren't cool because they were athletic. They weren't cool because they were good with the ladies. They were cool because, when many of us were getting hand-me-down vehicles, and $400 junkers from whatever lot had one available; these guys won the contest.

Why? When we all got 4-door beasts that would throw a deer 50 feet upon impact, these guys got minivans. (one hit a dog, and it flew a few feet...but nowhere near as fun as hitting a deer)

Their world (by my eyes) became full of the ability to haul around between 6 (legally), and 13 (not so legally) teenagers to and from any event/venue we wanted to hit up on any given evening. I envied them, every time I crammed 5 people uneasily into my 1984 Delta 88'.

I wanted a mini-van. I wanted that "hangout" on wheels. We had so many good times in other peoples' mini-vans. I couldn't wait until someday, I got a turn.

It's my turn now.

Something has changed.

Maybe it's the fact that I'm older. Maybe it's because I'm wiser. Maybe it's the 2 kids that seem to be everywhere I go. :)

Or maybe, it's because I'm paying for the van, it's upkeep, and gas.

Still....I love it.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Children Underground...

Watched another documentary (into these lately) earlier this week. It's called "Children Underground". I'm sure a lot of you know more about Romania than I do, but here's my brief synopsis.

Apparently a while back, Romania wanted to boost it's future workforce. So they made abortion and birth control illegal. A HUGE amount of children were born, and with lost jobs and unhealthy home situations, many of them ended up on the streets. By many, I mean over 20,000 in a small amount of time.

This movie follows a small group of them living in a subway station. The issues their stories bring up are tough ones. Issues of identity. Of self-worth. Of communication, both spoken and implied...between those of similar status and up/down the social rungs. A 10-year-old girl looking out for her younger brother. Many of the teens addicted to huffing paint fumes, to relieve them of their situation/hunger. Begging. Doing whatever small jobs they can for people who tolerate them enough to help out a bit...to earn a few cents, or food.

I watched the movie while holding my almost 9-month old, Sophie. I don't know much about who she will be someday. But she will know she is loved...unconditionally. So many things within the documentary that I'm tempted to draw out and use as an illustration, etc...but I can't bring myself to do it. Seems like it would cheapen the struggles/issues covered.

But ultimately, there is much to be gained from seeing this. The small amount of worth/love some people communicated to these kids, and the impact it has on their lives.

May we all be aware of the places we can have such an impact for the Kingdom...

Friday, November 07, 2008

just add it to the list...

I had this girlfriend back in college who was incredible. We met early freshman year, and began officially dating in early December, 1999. Eventually, you guessed it, she became my wife. Since the day we met, a list has continued to grow of why she rocks. (I'd say "why I love her", but that's a bit mushy)

She and a couple friends have been working on a new project lately. They're all nuts for connecting/being resourceful/saving time/helping others/etc...and came up with something. A website that posts meal ideas/recipes/etc. and updates regularly to help you meal plan ahead of time; helping you know how to shop/plan ahead/etc. She'd do a better job describing it too, probably, but you can learn the most about it just by going over and CHECKING IT OUT!!!

"But Chadwick, isn't that a bit sexist?" - You might be thinking. "Isn't that making the statement that women are the ones who should be planning/cooking/etc.?"

Nope.

She knows whenever she wants, I will gladly take over plans for any meal throughout our week. It just happens that she doesn't share my affinity for frozen pizzas. :)

For real though....check that stuff out. Just click the link, go to the site, and bookmark that thing. Tell your friends. And your friends' friends. Heck, even Money Saving Mom is hip to them.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

small-group-ism

A while back, I mentioned the small group my wife and I are a part of. How I'm thankful for what it has been, and what if offers to continue to be. But I've realized recently that when I say the word "small group", you may have a view defined by your experience of what one is. So let me break it down a bit more, because I think it has much to offer.

It's not a Tuesday night Sunday School class. It's not an extension of youth group for a group of 8-10 people. I wouldn't even say it's a "bible study" group really. Have there been times where we study/read the bible together? Yup. Have there been times where we do a lesson, and discuss it together, and pray at the end? Sure. Have there even been cheesy times where we've sung around a campfire (even while getting kicked out of the area by college girls who had "reservations" or whatever)? Uh-huh. :)

But I would confess that the few hours we spend together each week, is not why I love this group. Each week, and even months, or seasons, our Tuesday nights take different forms, based on who's leading that week. Also based on what is happening in the collective humanity of the group. Sure, it's a good time, and usually we snack a bit too. But something larger happens...

You see, our group has become a safe place for broken people to share their brokenness, and point at where the world around us is broken as well. I think, especially in these days, we all need a place like this. When we leave group together, back into our worlds, we go as people set free to heal and be healed, or even learn to live with some of the brokenness. We haven't had a counseling/therapy session. We haven't spent time in heated confession before God. We have simply shared our brokenness, and pray (usually), which allows us to move beyond that a bit in our lives.

So how did we go about beginning a group like this? We didn't on purpose really. I think in the beginning, we may have even had the starry-eyed Tuesday night Sunday school in mind (at least I think I did - still do sometimes). But our few hours a week together bled into a life of community throughout the week, and presto - here we are.

So yeah...to those still searching for a community like this...keep purposefully trying. It may happen where you least expect it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

sound of silence...

The economy is hurting. We hear this regularly.

Not so long ago, gas prices were hovering at nearly $4.00 per gallon. We heard cries going up all over the place. Every news channel had their own way of publicizing how horrible this was. People blamed big oil companies, and attached the issue to politics in big ways. We were reminded by various "counters" that would keep track of the average price of gas in major cities. We were told to continue expecting higher prices, as the world continued to spiral downward, and watch that evenings' broadcast for more updates on why the prices are so high.

In about a month, gas prices have lowered to the $1.97 range in many cities. For someone who was paying $300 a month average for gas, it now means that person pays $150 average per month.

Who's covering that story?

Granted, it's a sign that the economy continues to slow down a bit, and there is less demand for gas. But for the average American who already lived simply before the prices got crazy-high, this is a HUGE relief!!! The few reporters that do cover the story get a 4th page small article with no pictures...or a 30-second spot in the middle of "real" news.

I understand. Panic, anxiety and distress make us want to keep watching the news. They make us want to buy the products advertised, and vote for the politicians followed, hoping that something can save us from the anxiety the news just told us we should have. We want to make sure we're "up to date" on the latest thing we need to worry about.

It's a very good capitalistic formula.

So let me be one of the few to break the silence.
GAS PRICES ARE DOWN!!! WOO-HOO!

Okay. I'm done now.

Let's see who wins this election, so that we can hear the news tell us why it's both an incredible happening AND something we need to worry about at the same time.
Maybe there's a shaving gel that will help me cope...

Monday, November 03, 2008

things to think about...

In times like this, where the politicking of the day has made most people aware that we exist with a system with many flaws. Flaws that no human being can claim to have remedy for. Many have already spoken wisdom about the roots of the body of Christ having much to offer society as a whole...

"...the order of the faith community constitutes a public offer to the entire society....this good news...a grace-driven order of servant hood transcends the hampering dialectic of fulfillment and claim, dignity and responsibility, taking and giving....it's authority is not coercion but trust...its members commit themselves totally, contributing the wholeness of what worldly powers cannot command...every member is seen as a person, a brother or sister, and as equal, regardless of status, capacity, qualification....Church law (order) may be a model in that it is "living": flexible and fluid, continuously flowing from the worse to the better." - Karl Barth

"It is not that first we set about being a proper church and then in a later move go about deciding to care prophetically for the rest of the world. To participate in the transforming process of becoming a faith community is itself to speak the prophetic word, is itself the beginning of the transformation of the cosmos...Our world still needs to learn that the reason every person and every kind of person must be seen with equal respect (and love) is not that their (or our) culture is equally healthy, or that (anyone) has earned equal treatment, but that equal dignity is ascribed by divine bias in favor of the Other." - John Howard Yoder

"The discoverer of the role of forgiveness (even in politics) was Jesus of Nazareth. The fact that he made this discovery in a religious context and articulated it in religious language is no reason to take it any less seriously in a strictly secular sense." - Hannah Arendt

The body of Christ has always had much to offer the world. We continue to have much, even through many mistakes and leaders/sects that have missed the heart of Christ in large ways. May God be with us, as we continue to offer His Kingdom to a world that needs it badly.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Sophie Update...

Well, guess we have to stop dropping small things on the floor now...



...and I was becoming such a fan of dropping small things on the floor.

Sigh. :)

Saturday, November 01, 2008

reminder for the week ahead...

0.5. Continue to check FACT CHECK in order to see the truth behind what BOTH presidential candidates throw out there.

0.75. Neither candidate is the "Christian" candidate. Voting one way or another does not automatically indicate anyone's level or direction of faith.

1. Obama is NOT any sort of anti-Christ, or the sign of any type of "end times" prophecy. No matter what grandma tells you. I doubt that even if there were going to be one "anti-Christ", someone could accidentally vote for him.

2. Voting for McCain does NOT mean someone is traditional or uber Convservative, or somehow "out of touch". Each candidate have several issues they disagree on, several issues they (and their campaigns) still don't present clearly to the public. But when it comes down to it, they both are candidates because they are qualified to be. People will vote for a candidate based on a large number of possible legitimate reasons.

3. There are many more things at stake than the presidency!!!! Check my previous break-down of Macon County's ballot for a local rundown.

4. Even if the candidate we voted for in any office wins, our work is NOT DONE!

Whether a certain candidate wins or loses this next week, our response as citizens remains largely the same. To support our leaders, to pray for God's guidance as we seek to better serve and represent His Kingdom (of love/grace/mercy/freedom) even as citizens of a certain country. To remain active in the decision-making processes of the world around us.

To live sacrificially, and simply, and to be aware of how we fit as a part of the redeeming work God is accomplishing in all of creation.

And no - the fact that the world will continue to spin and God's Kingdom will continue to come no matter which candidate is elected - does NOT mean Christians should not worry about voting this week.

But rather, like Paul (a practicing Roman citizen - Acts 22:25-29), God calls us to be INVOLVED in the processes that guide. Not that we believe God's Kingdom will come based on how we vote, any more than we believe by preaching lives will be changed.

We depend on God's Spirit to move,
which is good....cause that's pretty much it's nature.

Friday, October 31, 2008

one dream to another....

When Sarah and I first graduated college, and moved to Iowa to begin our adult life, we decided it was time to roll like adults. My 1994 Saturn SL1 (Hermes) was not going to work on the highway much, and when I was gone, Sarah had to stay home. So we went car shopping. Sarah had always wanted a Honda Civic.

Neither of us had much of a credit history. Most dealerships wouldn't finance us for anything, much less a decent used car. Ironically, the only place we found luck was a Honda dealership. They were having a special where if you'd just graduated college, they would finance you, but only for a brand new car. So we did it. It was ridiculously new, and lost a ridiculous amount of value the moment we left the lot. But we've loved it for 5 years.

Alas, with the trappings of vacation packing for the Anderson family lately...we knew the Honda Civic simply wouldn't work much longer. So we went hunting again. This time, armed with a credit that....well, at least exists. And a simple dream this time: More room on wheels, and less money to pay each month. And a Honda Civic that was finally paid down to it's depreciated value...so we could break even. :)

After spending many hours at home, hunting and researching for a few weeks. After spending 5 hours at the actual dealership, test-driving, poking around, and speaking with a great salesman...who was still a salesman...we finally found one.

We will now own the road. We will fit our suitcases. We will watch Dora at 70 MPH. We will open our sliding doors from 15 feet away. We will start our engine from our living room, so it has time to warm up. We will own a mini-van that most people haven't heard of, because they were only made between 2005-2007. But we will rock it like it deserves to be rocked....:)

Thursday, October 30, 2008

my friend...

I remember one of my friends growing up. He wasn't the brightest guy in the world, but he could always make me smile. I first met him at a summer camp, where he definitely changed the way many of us saw the grown-ups around us. It always seemed like he would accidentally get into serious trouble, but somehow got out of any serious consequences. He was awesome.

One Christmas, he had a particularly rough time, but it ended up being one of the best years ever in the end. That next year, he invited me to Splash Mountain with him. I totally wanted to go, but couldn't make it.

As we both grew a little older, I still valued our friendship. Even when he got mixed up with some friends in the "wrong crowd". He spent a small amount of time in jail, but was eventually released...once the truth got out. Looking back, it was kinda funny. He totally forgave society for that mess-up.

The next year, I remember was one of the scariest years for him. The stuff he went through that fall, I could hardly even bear hearing it all. There are very few things that truly frighten me, but some of the things he had to deal with still give me the shivers.

We kinda lost touch after that. I know he had some crazy rides, went back to school, played some basketball from what I've heard. He even traveled a bit overseas, and then joined the armed forces, though I didn't really keep tabs on how that went. Never really heard of him after that, although I think he passed away back in 2000...








I can't believe most local video places don't even carry him anymore....sigh.

Ernest Goes to Camp (1987)
Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)
Ernest Goes to Splash Mountain (1989)
Ernest Goes to Jail (1990)
Ernest Scared Stupid (1991)
Ernest Rides Again (1993)
Ernest Goes to School (1994)
Slam Dunk Ernest (1995)
Ernest Goes to Africa (1997)
Ernest In the Army (1998)

Know what I mean, Vern?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Twilight - yes or no?


So if you're involved with teenage culture at all, you've no doubt seen these books EVERYWHERE. Seriously, I didn't think much of it, until I began to notice it in the youth room ALL the time. I finally realized, it wasn't taking one girl a really really long time to read through the books. There were several girls who were reading it, and sharing copies.

If you have no desire to read the books, but are a parent or hang out with teenagers, and want to know the draw of the book; check out this article. (contains major spoilers) It's a pretty decent summary, with more grace for story-telling than you usually find in a Dobson-inspired publication.

Apparently, it's also a movie slated for release less than a month from now. Probably even just the first, in a series of movies based on the Novels. Who knows, if someone pays my ticket, I might even go see it with a bunch of my teen who are fanatics of it.

It's interesting that, so far at least, I'm not hearing/seeing as much parental upset as we did when Harry Potter first began to be popular. It seems almost embraced by the young teen culture, and their parents, even in the evangelical communities. Based on the article linked above, it does actually stand out from much of today's entertainment in it's decency/regard for sexuality; aside from the fact that it's about vampires.

As in any story that's told, especially for artistic and entertainment purposes, having open conversations with your daughters or sons about the book is encouraged. Heck, you may even want to grab a copy and read it along with your child. The themes of love, eternity, devotion, self-image, and over-all "reason to live/die" can be really good topics of discussion with your teen or pre-teen.

You probably don't wanna leave those subjects for fiction to inform.