Thursday, July 31, 2008

NOT a fan...

Here's the army's latest recruitment technique:


Here's an article that talks more about it.

Some quotes from it's supporters:

"Beer companies have hot women. They (the Army) have a videogame"

"This is going to be me in two years, but in a real-life situation.
And I'm going to have to kill people and use real bullets."

Although this subject on the whole is something I'm probably not educated enough to talk about at length, I think something's wrong with this:

- We know a lot of people don't want to join the Army, apparently due to the stuff they see the Army doing overseas, and the public opinion of why the Army does much of what they do.

- The Army does a lot of good, life affirming work ALL AROUND the globe. They're not just killing suspected terrorists, and protecting the Holy Lands so that Jesus can come back.

- Instead of looking at our ambitions for the forces dedicated to protecting our nation and Democracy at large, we'd spend $10 Million a year to let young men and women see how fun it is to shoot a gun. Although I'm sure those involved would say there's a lot more to it, and deeper stuff going on. (which is why they parked it at Six Flags so much this past month)

We should probably do more than come up with a new advertising campaign.

Especially if this is the best we can do.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

a valid point/question/calling...?

It's from the Friendly Atheist blog, although written by Richard Wade, and not the man who sold his soul on E-bay.

Basically, it's an atheist wondering why Christians don't make more of a fuss about the people who claim to be Christian, but are actually doing/saying things that are WAY off base from the message of Jesus Christ.

He says this to Christians:
"Bigots are co-opting and hijacking your religion. They’re
promoting their hatred, abuse and domination of gays, atheists,
the followers of other religions and anybody else who doesn’t
exactly agree with them including you, all under the guise of
God’s word, the one that you say you value so much. They’re
doing despicable things in your God’s name. Your response to
this is so small, so weak and so quiet that you will have
no effect in stopping them."

What do you think? Are we responding enough? Does this man give the people "hijacking" our faith too much credit, or are we lacking in our response?

A comment from a reader of his blog brings up one valid response:
"We very much need your donations to help feed
the hungry and shelter the homeless. If you thought
for a moment that some of those donations would go
into picketing other religious institutions,
would you still donate?"

I'd like to think if something like this was happening in my city or nearby even, I'd be pretty vocal in my opinion, and in acting against things like it. Even if my church didn't want me speaking on their behalf (they probably wouldn't, I'm no good at it).

Although I'm not sure I'm the picketing type. I dunno that it accomplishes a whole lot. One statement that he says, kinda highlights what I don't like about what he's calling Christians to do:

"You say they have a bigot’s radio show? Pool your money
and get a louder show. Show boldly that they don’t speak
for you or for the God you believe in. Make it big, loud,
joyful but most importantly, effective."

I can't get down with that. Seems like you'd start an advertising/smear campaign that a lot of people would put a lot of effort/recources into, while the world continues to go unfed. Let's face it, the crazies are good at being crazy, and putting a lot into it. The lovers (agape) are good at loving. Maybe that would be labeled as an "excuse". Ah well.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

holes...

So let's say there's this giant wall. As big as the eye can see. Stretching in all ways on every direction. On one side, there is this crazy active, churning, flowing, transformational water. On the other side, a world made for water, but drying out. It's changing as it dries. Not for the better.

Something happens. The wall is transformed. It's thinner than it once was. It threatens to rip right in half, and let loose the water found behind it. But it must remain for now.

There becomes a hole in the wall, coming from the other side. As the trickle of water squirts through the hole, it threatens the dryness that has become so familiar to the world. Some embrace it, and experience what it offers. Others run from it, protect themselves from it, pretend it's not what it seems.

Over time, some realize they can become a hole. But to become a hole is a strange thing. You give up whatever dried out identity you have built around yourself. It's difficult to do. Some choose not to, finding one of a list of growing excuses. But there are some to still do, pressing themselves into the thin veil so hard that they burst through the other side, only to be blown back towards the world by the force of the rushing water...but remaining there as a hole.

There are places in the wall where trickles are running through. A lone small hole, in the midst of a large area of the wall. Almost like a dollar store squirt gun permanently mounted and squirting from the wall. The dry world soaks up all it can in these areas.

There are other areas. A hose has been run, from the dry land, duct taped to the wall, and spouting out back onto the dry land. From a distance, it seems water is flowing from beyond the wall. But coming closer, you realize it's the same, dry-sourced stuff that exists everywhere already. But many gather anyways. After all, it's still wet, right?

Then there are other areas. Areas where the holes are so close together. Where the holes seem to come together as one GIANT hole, and water is POURING through these areas, making contact with the world and transforming what once was dryness back into what it was created to be. Alive. Through the water.

Someday, the holes believe, the thin layer separating the churning waters from the land that is drying out will be removed completely. Not because of the holes themselves, but it certainly is in the same direction as they've been existing. They look forward to that day. They try to get others to join them in opening the wall.

Not so that they can "become holes" too.

But so that the water can get through and transform the world.

(I know the analogy falls short if you take it far in any direction, or even short in some. But I think it expresses something.)

Friday, July 25, 2008

a new metaphor?....

So a week or so ago, I talked about the need for a new approach in Evangelism. In talking with a few who are reading NT Wright's book "Surprised by Hope" right now, it came up how things could benefit from a change in regards to how we teach this all to our children. A new story or metaphor or something...

On one hand, I recognize that if my daughter latches onto Jesus because she's afraid of living forever without God (or me, even), it's not a horrible thing. If she decides to "give her life" to Jesus, because of the sacrifice God made when He allowed His Son to die for us, it's not a horrible thing. If she prays a prayer that says something like "Jesus come into my heart", or "I believe Jesus died for me", it's definitely not a horrible thing.

But it's not the main point.

It's significant ONLY as it leads to us being made able to participate in the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and being a part of God's making all things new.

But almost ALL of our efforts are found in pushing the "Jesus died for you, so you owe Him something", or "You don't want to burn forever, do you?" methods. We tell our children the story of Jesus (or Veggietale version, or colored book/bracelet, or Romans road), and REALLY REALLY want them to understand/believe that Jesus died for them. We want them to pray the "Sinner's Prayer", and the younger they can say those words...the better, right? Then with a few resources we have left over, we help make them good people and teach how to get along with others, and call it discipleship.

We began to wonder how the Gospel message might be presented in a way that truly captures what Christ was talking about, even to children? Then looking at scriptures, it appears there is. Christ even spoke them.

"BORN AGAIN"
(born anew, born from above, born of water AND Spirit)

When did "Born Again" somehow become saying a certain set of words? When did it become the goal of Christianity itself? Even Jesus said, "no one can _____, without being born again". It wasn't the end, it was part of the process of the revelation of God's reign and rule (His Kingdom).

We've definitely condensed and cheapened what offers to be something much larger. These words have the taste of new creation, and are meant to point us in that direction so much more than simply avoiding hell, or becoming a church statistical figure.

God's reign and rule exists here and now (beginning with the resurrection), though hidden, awaiting the day when it will be fully revealed. When you become "born anew", or "in Christ" (which is ironic, cause we've made it mostly about Jesus being "in me"), you are a new creation in Spirit (2 Cor. 5:17) that will someday become fully revealed physically (1 Cor. 15). You become a part of God's reign and rule becoming present in this world, His Spirit through you...breaking through the veil and transforming the things that are.

We don't "save souls" so that they are saved. We don't "become Christians" so that we can wear the shirts and say "I'm a Christian", and we are not "building an army" to fight in some cosmic battle of Armageddon. We desire to be transformed so that we might be used to reveal God's already existing reign and rule in and to this world, and work towards His making all things new, which will someday be revealed fully.

But how to say all of this to a 6 year old? Like I said earlier, if my daughter comes home from Sunday School and tells me she prayed for Jesus to come into her heart...I'll still be really excited.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

d-addie day...

We started out by doing some grocery shopping....
Then we caught up on some painting that needed to be done...
Did some laundry...
Even ironed it (no thanks to daddy, he had no clue how)...
Made some of daddy's favorite meal, frozen pizza...
Whew...needed a break outside...snack-time anyone?Back to work, gardens don't weed themselves...
Of course, all work and no play...well, it's boring...
Checked out the magic shadow wall...
Then thought every wall could be just as magic...
Coal energy...old, but still useful...
Drove daddy home, he was pooped.

*the above adventures all provided by mommy taking a trip with Sophie, and by the Children's Museum of Decatur, IL. Gotta love it...

accidentally caring (trendiness aside)

On our recent trip to Michigan, I brought two books with me. I burned through them in a couple days, with much of the trip left. So in a panic, we rushed to the store to find a book that would adequately feed me for the remainder of our time in Michigan.

I chose "What is the What", as posted recently.

Throughout the book, it was entertaining, curiously informative, sad, offensive, disturbing and heartwarming. His village was destroyed/dehumanized, and he traveled with the "Lost Boys" until living in refugee camps, and ultimately coming to America through Christian organizations that seemed to have dropped the ball, or bit off more than they could chew in some ways. Or maybe their only concern was "getting him into America", or even "getting him into Heaven". Having just finished the book, it was a somewhat positive ending, and I felt good that things were heading in a better direction for him.

The final pages contained information about the author, and about Valentino Achak Deng, of whom the book is written. There was a link to a site describing the current work he's involved in. I figured I'd check it out, because the story was just that compelling.

Great work IS being done in Southern Sudan, thanks to the awareness these stories have brought to the area. But a LOT is left undone, especially in neighboring areas still affected by the traumatic conditions described in the book. It's far from over. Refugees are still living out similar stories to Achak's on a daily basis. Innocent villages burned to the ground, forcing people to live on the move, and die on the move. Women are raped. Children killed for fun. Men killed out of fear.

Why doesn't the US act on these horrible things being done? The obvious answer, there's a lot of oil in them hills. The not-so-obvious answer - information. The Sudanese Government is giving out small amounts of information here and there, and is thought to have more in the future...on potential terrorists, etc. Bin Laden began a lot of his organizational networking there in Sudan. So out of fear of offending those giving us small pieces of info, the US treads lightly on the genocide happening still today.

It's affected over 2.5 million already displaced refugees, and continues to spread. You can watch a video on it all here...but a warning: offensive words/images, and you will probably be broken.

You'll notice that yes...it does involve the Darfur Region. I was hesitant to post anything, because I know how trendy being an activist for Darfur has become, with rich and famous people wearing shirts, and having concerts, etc. And yet...here I am.

What can we do? The Valentino Achak Deng foundation has a great resource page...a good place for anyone to begin.

We believe in prayer also...cheesy as it sounds......let's do more than just this...but let us also pray.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

maybe later...

Might be interesting to see where this goes...

when dobs doesn't make sense...

Because I'm involved in church-stuff, somehow I got signed up for Dobson's "Family News" (Fundraising advertisements). Usually they get ripped in half with the rest of the junk mail, and deposited in my round file without much to do.

But just curious at this envelope's message, "Why does God allow suffering?", and what Jimmy would say, I opened it. At first glace, I was a little surprised. He actually cited sources of those suffering outside of the US. That was short-lived, however, and the message quickly went into a sales pitch for his book on this subject. It was an excerpt from the book.

To shrink the message down so you wouldn't have to sift through it all, it came down to this:

"God purposefully allows suffering, and His ways are too complex for
us to understand, so be okay when you don't get it. He's up to something large."

He then went on to say how he understands how each of us could be suffering through deaths, terrible events occuring, broken homes, etc...because his mother-in-law passed away at an early 97 years. Somehow, he was able to pull up his boot straps and trust in God through it all. Comforted in the fact that she was finally "where she wanted to be", etc.

He mentions that "heaven is our ultimate hope" (clearly not hip to the "life after life after death" stuff), but just in case that doesn't cut it for you, feel free to call his offices, and they'll be glad to resource your confusion. A silver lining here...their staff DOES pray for the people who call them, and their requests. Whew.

I don't know what I would've expected. But I think I was hoping for a little more cake, and a little less icing from someone who has written a book on this topic.

It's a valid question, that many are asking. And every time a believer says "God saved my ___", or "God did _____ for me", it says to other people (believers and non) "God didn't save ___for you"...."God didn't ____ for you". You suffer because other people don't. It must be God's will.

I would agree with Dobson on the premise: This stuff happening is difficult to grasp. But I'm not sure if explaining it by saying "God has something big in mind, don't try and understand why you suffer" is a good approach.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

all fall down....

The tension built as each second passed.

They began to stand, one right after another. She wanted so badly to knock them over. I gave her a job. Handing me one at a time, while daddy set them up. I knew the end result of such patience would be truly rewarding.

There were 91 dominoes in all. A set of ivory white dominoes that sounded like a symphony when a tower of them fell together. The colors of the dots on each domino made them even more attractive. And even more difficult to resist toppling. But she waited. And helped.

About 63 were set, the trail was winding across the kitchen floor. Her younger sister looked on from her bouncy seat, far enough away to not cause any trouble, but close enough to add to the electricity behind the moment. Her eyes watched as daddy and big sister meticulously added to the line of dominoes leading across the ground.

The 64th domino wobbled, and for a moment our collective imaginations saw the trail of dominoes collide, one after another, with 27 of their friends missing the party. Being a close relative of the Weebles, however, this domino stood intact (Weebles wobble but they don't fall down), with each of the consecutive dominoes breathing a silent sigh of relief. Progress would continue.

89. She had never seen so many dominoes standing at attention, each waiting for our command.

90. The air stood still. No one breathed. Her muscles held so much penned in tension, she appeared close to bursting as she handed daddy the final domino.

91. Here it was. The moment we'd been waiting for. Anticipating with each addition to the line-up. I wanted to give her the privilege of pushing over the lead domino. But would she understand what was going on? Or would she simply make a wide swipe with her hand, knocking over half of them in no particular order with one fell swoop?

To be sure, I pointed at the first domino, and said to her "go!". In that moment, my finger came dangerously close. I was unaware of just how close I was, until I saw the first domino begin to wobble. And this was no Weeble wobble. It was coming down. I closed my eyes with a mix of regret and excitement as I heard my daughter scream and squeal with all sorts of joy. I opened my eyes to watch the expected outcome of Newton's Third Law.

Nothing.

The domino I'd knocked over laid still. Defeated. And had fallen the opposite direction. The remaining dominoes still stood tall.

A crossroads. After hearing how much joy came from a single domino biting the dust, should I continue one at a time, producing several minutes of 90 more outbursts of the same emotion? Or should we go for the gusto, sending all 90 of them in one long chorus of clacking?

We went for the gusto... :)

Monday, July 21, 2008

abolitionism = not the end

Looking back at the issue of slavery always astounds me a bit. The fact that all throughout scriptures we have story after story of God's people being rescued from it, and such emphasis on freedom, and equality before the throne. And yet, for a LONG time, even the most religious people saw nothing wrong with owning other human beings and viewing them as inferior.

I imagine myself sometimes, reading through stories from those years, as one of the few who would have realized the injustices happening, and speaking out on their behalf. But honestly, would I have been? I'm not sure. If I'd been raised to think and see things a certain way (which I have been), in a culture that views the world a certain way (which it does)...could I see beyond that? What role does God play in that revelation?

Thankfully, a lot of work has been done in those regards, and now a larger portion of the world understands that slavery is not just. Although there are several people/cultures/organizations who get around this issue by throwing a few pennies at their workers, whatever is enough to not be official "slavery".

But let's face it...if a person or group of people is unable to move/work/live freely because of economic or work conditions/etc. that have been placed on them by another people who CAN move freely in those areas....it's still not just. And as far as one group of people viewing another as "inferior", I guess we have a long way to go too. You see that in every setting, from school lunchrooms to international economic and political interactions. But at least....a really small part of the issue has been confronted. Right?

All that to say, what is our "slavery"?

What is it, that a few generations from now will look back on and say,
"How did they not realize how wrong this was?"

N.T. Wright, towards the end of his book "Surprised by Hope" says that the issue of today that would compare to the issue of slavery years ago....is that of International Debt. The crushing and paralyzing conditions many nations (of humans) are living in, due to unjust loan management by other nations. Do you agree? Would you name a different issue?

But even with this. If we name the "current issue", and have rallies, and change laws, and fight the system...something remains. A new "current issue" will rise up to take its place, based on the same injustices.

How do we confront the foundational illness that leads to injustices like these?

I think I just combined like 3 posts into one. Go back, and read it slower. :)

Sunday, July 20, 2008

an update on Todd Bentley, Lakeland Revival...etc.

Back at the end of May, you may remember my blog about the "exciting revival" happening in Florida. I'd heard about it from one of my teens, who had heard about it at church. All the amazing things that were happening, etc.

Here's an update, in case you hadn't seen the TV interviews over the past few months.

In the excitement of "saving souls", "dramatic healings", and "raising people from the dead"...all of which he could never show documentation to reporters...and like any human who focuses a bit too much on himself...he messed up.


Unfortunately, not before thousands and thousands of people gathered under his leadership/influence. May we pray for the healing of Mr.Bentley and his family. May we also be in prayer for those whose faith/lives have been uprooted and/or shaken by all that has gone on.

All subsequent tours in America and Europe have been cancelled or postponed, and he is taking "a year off from public ministry", etc.

In other news...I still believe the Kingdom of God is here, and is coming. But I hope we've learned a little bit more about what it might...and might not....look like.

in case you missed it...

There was a molasses spill in Sugar Land this past week. Pun intended.

So I had a free movie pass yesterday. I watched the girls while all the women from my wife's family watched "Mama Mia!"...so the trade off was me going to a movie last night. All signs pointed to going to see "The Dark Knight" at some point. After all, the whole world was watching it, right? Every news channel, a story was being run. Every website had fresh articles talking about it. It was officially "the buzz".

"It was seriously the best movie ever..."

"Heath Ledger was amazing, unfortunately the movie around him wasn't..."

etc.

I'm not sure exactly what it was...but something in all of that made me want to find another movie to see. At least for now. I have random bouts of not wanting to follow the masses. Even if they're doing something really cool.

So I went to see "Hellboy II". Another comic book based movie. A creature who's life could have been destined towards evil, being used to fight it for good. A really good illustration, right?

This sequel had little to nothing to do with hell, though. But Guillarmo Del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth) had some pretty amazing visual affects. This movie had more of a "trolls, elves, and fairies" type feel similar to the Labyrinth. Almost too similar at some points. His imagination went pretty deep, to the point where I wish I could've paused or slowed things down to view just how many creatures were on the screen, and their attributes.

Cheesy one liners abounded, but the movie itself was worth seeing. I'd even give it a thumb up as a good fantastical movie for teens, as I don't remember much of any cussing, and there was hardly any blood and no sex. The creatures were too scary for the young ones (the tooth fairies especially), but other than that, it was pretty good. There were even lessons there for those willing to look (or make them up):

How true peace (maybe even forgiveness?) actively seeks the benefit of the "other".
Is humanity worth saving...and if so...why?
etc.

But...I'm sure a lot of people who go to church once in a while will focus on the word "hell" in the title, and not allow their teenager to go to it. Ironically, whatever PG-13 movie they go to instead will probably have a lot more of what their parents are against in it. Ah well...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

a new message...

"You're not promised tomorrow"

So many youth events I've gone to (and some "adult" services too), and taken teens to, present evangelistic "get saved now" messages, based on that premise. It's true, in a world of violence and hate, and random acts of ignorance and greed....and just accidents happening, any of us is a candidate for the grave right now.

But I'm not sure this approach reaches everyone. Let alone, teenagers who pretty much view themselves as invincible already. Sure, there may be a few who have had parents/loved ones/schoolmates pass on, and so have a better grip on our mortality. A few who are wise beyond their years. But for the most part, you'd have a hard time convincing Johnny-enjoy-today that tomorrow might not come.

And even if we could....isn't this approach simply advertising to teenagers, and to the world, that the main reason to participate in what God is doing comes from a fear of dying?

What if there was something better?

What if there was a reason to live a life seeking God's _____ , even if you do live through tomorrow?

I know we believe there is...otherwise those of us who have been journeying in that direction would be excited about the prospect of dying at any given moment. So if we're honestly so excited about living for God, and building towards His Kingdom with as many tomorrows as we can get...why does our main offer to teens focus so much on "in case you die tomorrow"?

In fact, thinking about it...it's very similar to messages I've heard given at rescue mission type settings too. It may even come from a pure intention. "We don't know for sure if this teenager/person off the street may come back again, so let's do everything we can to 'get em saved' tonight." But I'm not sure if I agree with that approach.

It's not like if 20 people came up to the altar, and signed the "I accept Jesus" line on a slip of paper, we could sit back and say "whew, that was close...glad that's done".

I think a key to the survival of young adult and adult ministries (teens who didn't "die tomorrow"), will be in responding a bit better to this issue. After all, God offers us SO MUCH MORE than simply a nice place to retire after we die. Maybe we should tell someone that.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

for my fellow decaturians....

Just a quick note of advertisement:

If you're ever looking for a quick lunch, that's affordable and stinkin' awesome....if the weather is nice....head downtown Decatur to Central Park.

This is where my information is lacking, so if you can fill in any gaps, please comment.

There's a woman who, when she's not busy with guests at home, and when the weather is pleasant, and when she feels like it...has a lunch stand set up. She's not associated with any local restaurants, she's just a retired woman who does this as a profitable hobby on the side. She's friendly, and is usually just chillin' with a book, or singin' whatever song is playin' on her iPod dock.

I've seen her before, but never ordered anything. Today I considered it my civic duty to support her. After looking at her sign, with about 10 choices on it, I decided to be adventurous. I ordered the "Havana Dreamin", or something like that. The description under it said:
"Chicken, plantains, yellow rice, sausage - salsa, cheese, and cilantro"

I imagined being handed a small plate of stir-fry type foods, mixed with the above ingredients. Until she began toasting a large bun...that's when I knew something was different that I'd imagined.

It ended up being a sausage, filled with chicken, plantains, and yellow rice. It was placed on a freshly toasted wheat bun, and topped with fresh salsa, crumbled cheese, and fresh cilantro. Holy cow....it was awesome.

A little expensive for a sausage, at $4.50...but you get what you pay for. She does have a straight up all beef hot dog for $2.50 for the less adventurous. As well as Jones pop or Green Tea to wash it all down.

Anywho...she deserves free advertising, so if you're from Decatur, IL get down there to Central Park and eat something. Tell her Wick sent you. (she won't know what u mean, but if enough people do it, maybe I'll get a free hot dog someday)

Passion of the Founders...

Going through some of the messages originally praught by Free Methodist pastors and leaders from the late 1800's, it can be very interesting. In many ways, a completely different time. The views on how the Church should respond to culture has relaxed in HUGE ways, some for better, much for worse I'm sure.

But many of the things they spoke of could be very helpful reminders to us today.

In the opening sermon of the 1886 General Conference, Rev. W.B. Colt praught on the importance of the Holy Spirit's involvement in our efforts. It might be better to say "resourcing", than "involvement" really.

At points he reminds the church that things like status, education, speaking ability, talents, power, prestige, lineage, etc....are nothing without the Holy Spirit:

"the disciples had a power the world could not cope with, and though these persons were comparatively illiterate men - men not backed up by an honorable lineage, did not come from royal families, yet under the tread of the power of this endowment, the thrones of the day tottered and cedars licked the dust in less than three centuries."

But this kind of thinking might allow someone without a Masters of Divinity, a guy with a guitar (or an organ for you contemporary service people), someone known to be "a sinner", or even...gasp....a woman - to be an instrument of the Holy Spirit....what would Reverend Colt have to say about this?

"If a voice should ring out upon the night air tonight: FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! would anybody be particular as to who or what threw on the water?"

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

5 Months....


Yeah, I know 5 months isn't a popular "marker" in infant development. But I realized I haven't blogged much about our newest addition since she was added. So here it is...an update. :)

She's HUGE. No growth hormones involved here folks...she's just a large baby. In the picture above we asked her to do the infamous "sunken cheeks" that most models pull off. She had a tough time, as you can see.

Because of her size, it's been a little harder for her to catch on to the "rolling over" concept. Just nailed it for the first time last week at Grandma O's house. But instead of the usual "tummy to back" roll made popular by her predecessor Addison, she opted for the "back to tummy". A little more difficult, but much more rewarding.

Holding her hands just slightly, she can pretty much stand for a long time. This gives you time to count the rolls on her arms and legs (15 last time I counted).

She still has much more reflux than Addie ever had, and when she misses a dose of medicine (Prevacid) you can totally notice it. But it's subsided a little, and crying just a little bit less these days. She even sleeps through the night, which is AWESOME. Her bottle-taking ability seems to be waning, but it might just mean she's ready for the "rapido" stage..."lento" is just not cutting it. (if you don't know what that means, it's okay)

Addie is lovin' on Sophie.....although most of the time we have to help Addie when she wants to be helpful. Just to make sure no one gets hurt. :)

Her cry.....oh man. Piercing doesn't cut it. Imagine a raptor from Jurassic Park, with it's tail caught in a blender. This girl can wail, when she wants to. But usually she reserves it for special occasions, thankfully.

Continuing to learn, and hopefully getting just a little better at all this...lovin' it for sure...:)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

why the what?


Okay, so most of ya'll know I'm a nerd these days. Something happened in me after college, and I've been reading books like they're going out of style ever since.

Wish that would've happened to me before or during college.

Anyways, in the midst of reading something currently, and thought I would put it out there as a recommendation. It's called "What is the What", by David Eggars.

It's a true story of a "Lost Boy" (not Eggars, but an escaped refugee from Sudan), but because much of it happened when he was very young, there are a few details he had to fill in creatively. Because of this, it had to be billed as a "Novel".

It's his story of how he survived (barely) the conflict in Sudan. If you're anything like me, you've heard of Darfur, and perhaps a few stories of what's going on, and that "it's bad over there". But to actually hear a personal story of a boy who lived to tell about it, and the way he's able to word things.....has been very helpful.

It's also his story of how he came to the USA. Christian organizations who help refugees like this, most of us only get to hear about them from their point of view. (i.e. how many souls they've saved, how many refugees they've rescued, etc.) To hear his experience of coming to America, and what happens to him and many others once they arrive is definitely a message churches caught up in Justice should be listening to.

I won't give too much more away, although I'd love to post more on where the title came from. It's definitely a rich read. But the larger your heart is, the more difficult some of the pages might be to turn.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Tim Hortons and the issue of "fresh"...


So while we were in Michigan, I came upon my very first TIM HORTONS shop. For my fellow citizens of the United States, Tim Hortons is a very popular donut/bakery/coffee/breakfast stuffs place in Canada. They're everywhere.

I've seen their logo surrounding hockey rinks on TV all over the place. I've had my Canadian friends tell me how incredible they are. So when I found out Lansing, Michigan actually had a few of 'em, I knew I would have to try it out. But I had to make sure I did my part for the visit. So I called.

The manager told me my best chance to get a hot donut was to come at 6am. So a few days ago, while in Michigan, I got up a couple minutes earlier than usual, and skipped the shower.....and drove out to Tim Hortons in Holt, Michigan. I smile now, as I remember the conversation that followed:

Mrs. Horton: Good morning, how can I help you?

Me: Good morning, this is my first Tim Hortons' experience, so I wanna make it good, do you have any fresh donuts?

Mrs. Horton: Oh, all of our donuts are fresh!!!

Me: Oh, really? (genuinely excited at this point) Well, which ones are the warmest still?

Mrs. Horton: Well, none of them are warm, they've been made for a while now. Really early this morning. But they have a shelf life of over 8 hours!

Me: Um...so you don't have ANY hot donuts?

Mrs. Horton: Sorry, no....but I can put one in the microwave for you?

:) And she did. And yeah, it was better than a cold donut. But seriously Canadians....I'm not sure what all the fuss was about. I was even told they rival the great Krispie Kreme. I now stand on the other side of this experience and say.....nope. Krispie Kreme tastes better, AND they know what I mean when I ask for a fresh donut. (they even advertise freshness with a light)

I'm sure there are spiritual applications to this....but I'll let you make them on your own. :)

(To Mr. Hortons' credit, he doesn't advertise fresh donuts, he advertises fresh coffee. Unfortunately, even fresh gas station coffee doesn't mean it tastes good.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

who knows the Bible the best?


So all this week, the Free Methodist Bible Quizzing National Tournament has been happening in Spring Arbor, MI.

That's why God may not be listening to you, He's pretty busy up here. (comedic sarcasm)

Just a brief overview: Teens study a section of scriptures like crazy all year long, having local quiz meets throughout the year. Quizzing consists of 2 or 3 teams of 2 or 3 sitting on little sensitive pads that electronically announce who was the first (through 4th, in order) person to stand up. If they stand up during the question, they must finish that question (and then answer it). If they stand up after the question, they must answer it. 15 questions per round. If a single person answers 5 questions correctly, they've "quizzed out", and can no longer help their team. Etc.

I tried quizzing when I was in High School. Apparently, I wasn't cut out for it. Or perhaps, a lack of dedication on my part. Or there weren't enough girls involved. Or something.

But in this small arena are so many reasons to be excited, and at the same time, illustrations/fodder for many of us to be aware. Many students here might not be the best quizzers, and yet they grasp the love of Jesus Christ very well. Other students may know the verses word for word, and have the "fastest jump", and yet might not have a clue as to what it truly means to follow Christ. Most, however, like us, are probably somewhere in the middle.

I'm proud of our team. Not cause we'll win all the trophies. But because they're involving themselves (whatever the reason they begin) in the study and participation in the scriptures.

No matter what you believe, and whether or not you're a fan of the quizzing world....you gotta admit...it's a pretty decent thing for a teen to be involved in. I recommend it. Next year we're studying the book of Luke....get on it. :)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Are you a parent???

If you are, and you have 5 minutes to spare, please take this QUICK SURVEY. You don't have to give any personal information. This will help me tremendously! I need as many parents as possible to give their input ASAP, so feel free to give the link to someone else as well!

Feel free to leave a comment here letting me know you've completed one!

Thanks so much!!!

ps. You might be able to tell from the survey questions, I'm contemplating working on a book. I can't/don't want to say much more than that for now....but will definitely update as needed/able!!!

Monday, July 07, 2008

i used to live here...

...so I'm in Michigan as I type this. I'm an hour ahead of many of you. I'm surrounded by more mosquitos. Abraham Lincoln didn't grow up here. They keep their pop cans, cause they're worth 10 cents each, but they also pay that 10 cents when they purchase pop. Also, it's pop, not soda. You can buy Vernors in 2 liters. They know hockey. They know what a petoskey stone is. Many here have hiked the Mackinac (pronounced "mackinaw") Bridge on Labor Day. Ann Arbor vs. East Lansing. Etc.

We attended the Eaton Rapids Fourth of July parade. Whew. 30 firetrucks, and 50 John Deere's later, Addie had a small bag filled with candy (Tootsie Rolls, mainly). Before and after the brew-haha, I was hoping to run into an ex-girlfriend or over-confident bully-type from High School. Here's how the conversation went:

Me: Oh hey! How've you been?

Them: Quick story of what they did after high school, and why/how they still live here.

Me: Oh, that's fun. Still living in Eaton Rapids, eh? Oh this incredibly beautiful woman here? My wife. Yup. Oh, these phenomenal kids? Mine. Uh-huh. Oh yeah, I'm a youth pastor down in Central IL. It's pretty much a dream come true. YES, I get paid to do it. Etc.

I looked and looked and looked for someone we might walk by, with whom this conversation would be entirely satisfying. Couldn't find 'em....I think they knew I was coming, and hid...thoroughly ashamed of dumping such a catch. I can't blame 'em. Shoot. :)

I attended the church that made me who I was in many ways yesterday. The pastor made more sense now, although I'm not sure whose fault the lack of sense was when I was in High School. It was a good service, other than attendance being much lower these days, and other than him saying, "..the gospel is more important to our children than it is to us...", and a couple other statements that were just a good heart, coming out in the wrong way.....but I can get down with pastors who don't always say things perfectly.

Stories here. Everywhere. Look Sarah, that's where I used to hang out at 2am with Berto and Crow. Look Addie, this was daddy's Sunday School teacher. Wow, my high school has tennis courts? That's where I got my first speeding violation. That's my favorite local pizza place. That's where I got in my first and only major car accident. That's the best sledding hill in the midwest. That's the accountant I used to be (secretary/janitor/errand boy/etc.) for. That's the restaurant I used to be (server/buss boy/fly killer/room service/etc.) for. That's the house of the girl I danced with in 5th grade, so that the girl I WANTED to dance with might think I was a guy with a big heart. ETC.

It's good to remember. :)

Saturday, July 05, 2008

fresh...


So as much as I tease my wife for her coupon illness, this tidbit is tasty.

Go to http://www.subwayfreshbuzz.com/getsmart and register (without signing up for the e-mails, uncheck the box)...you can enter 2 codes a day, and play their jackpot game. I've won several bags of chips for my next subway visit....and MAINLY, tonight Sarah and I are going out to the movies with 2 free passes we both won, that you can use for ANY movie in theaters.

Free chips, free movie, and free babysitting.....a night to remember. :)

Friday, July 04, 2008

God Bless...*...land that I love....


I still think on a day like today, even with the no doubt thousands of "trendy" relevant thinkers (who I sometimes pretend to be, and sometimes make fun of) in the world of faith who are saying it already...something like this deserves to be said.

Because no matter how many are speaking words like these, there will be even more speaking what we are bringing to light. So here it is:

We are careful this weekend to not make America our idol.

We pray that God would bless the WORLD, which includes both America and Iraq. (and Zimbabwe, Columbia (even the FARC), China, Canada, Israel, etc.)

I am proud to be an American. We have some great things. We have the freedom to enjoy those things. A great many sacrifices have been made to build this. But I'm even more proud to be a citizen of the Kingdom of God, which pretty much trumps any flag or allegiance to it.

So celebrate. Light some fuses. Watch some expensive display of waste that probably could have been spent more responsibly. Cook out. Get sun burned.

But Sunday morning, when our worship leaders will no doubt ask many of us to sing our allegiance in the middle of a worship service...(which, even though it somehow was canonized into the Hymnal, probably isn't the place for such things)....remember, and pray for God's blessing outside of our nations borders as well as to those within them.

ps. Not that singing "God Bless America" on Sunday morning is wrong. But perhaps that God blessing America has a lot more to do with God's revealing than it does our political/economic favor....and in that, we are called - especially when meeting together as the body - to lift up the world God has sent us into. i.e. ALL of it. So sing/pray loud, but be careful to remember that what happens in our churches across the world unifies us as the body of something much larger.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

wow.


What else is there to say? ( I know hockey season is over....but this free agency season has been CRAZY)

As if the Red Wings weren't already number one, and proved it by attaining both the Presidents' Trophy AND Lord Stanley's Cup this year. As if they needed anything else going into next year to be competitive. Here's an update on just the past month:

Hasek retired. We knew that was coming. But Osgood is definitely back for another season....good enough, right? Wrong. We've signed Ty Conklin (remember the outdoor hockey game in Buffalo last season?) as our backup goalie. Check the stats. This guy is a brick wall.

Chelios has declared intentions to stay with the team one more season at least. Although he knows he'll probably down on the 3rd or 4th lines. Defensively, Detroit was the best in the league. There was fear about Brad Stuart leaving the Wings, but we still would've been already with Lidstrom, Kronwall, Lilja, and Lebda, etc. But Stuart signed on for 2 more years...SOLID.

How about forwards? As the team with the most goals for in the league this past year, and all the players returning, you'd think we'd be set, right? But wait....Hasek is gone, which frees up some room in our salary cap. So what do we do? Remember that guy, Hossa, one of the top scorers for the Penguins as we fought through the final round of the Cup playoffs? Oh yeah....we totally just signed him for a year.

So to re-cap....take the Presidential Stanley Cup winning team from this year....give them better goal-tending depth, another solid defensive year, and an even higher scoring offense.

We are totally going to win the cup again next year.

We may even beat Chicago once or twice during the regular season. :) (Right Noah?)

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

muy importante

This past Sunday, I sneaked into an adult Sunday School class for the first time here at Moundford. I'm checking out the various classes our church has to offer for a few reasons. One, I'm curious what all the adults are doing while I'm teaching a small group of teenagers. Two, I kinda feel like I'm an adult these days, and maybe I should attend one of these classes once in a while. Three - a whole lot of unnameable reasons.

It was a good class. It was also a hard class. Hard to keep my fat mouth shut, that is. But I think I did a good job. Just sat, following along in heart and mind, and sipping away weak coffee. They were reading through John chapter 17. We read through the entire chapter once, and then began to go through it verse by verse.

We ended on verse 18, which I kept my mouth shut on. But I wanted to stand up and preach. I got through it quietly by promising my excitement I would allow it to blog about this later. So here we are.

I think this verse could possibly be one of the MOST IMPORTANT VERSES to our churches today. Look it up. Read it. It's HUGE.

Christ does not send us into the world to conquer it's political systems. He's not called us to create and defend a "Christian Nation" (or even a "Christian political party", donkey OR elephant). He doesn't ask for us to crush the opponents of Christ in every visible realm (political, social, theological, everyday conversations by "one-upping" others). He hasn't even called us to tuck in our shirts, and/or wear ties and Christian t-shirts and slap bumper stickers on our cars so that everyone might know just how Religious we are, even if they're just driving/walking past us.

It's not OUR JOB to make Christ look good/powerful/successful/attractive/like a winner.

Instead, we see in verse 18, a powerful and challenging statement. In the same way that God sent Christ into the world, so we are being sent. How did God send Christ into the world? Humbly. To Love. To Serve. To Die.

This is our calling, to the world around us. Humility. Love. Service. And ultimately, to die of ourselves (although adding "of ourselves" weakens it a bit...we might be called to actually die). Our goals, ambitions, dreams...even the ones we see as truly noble. To let go of these. To follow Christ to a cross. Not even one of self-denial or of self-pity, but of communicating God's love, grace, and mercy to others. ALL others. Not just the ones easy to love.