Sunday, August 31, 2008

the politics of politics

So over the past, well....20 years that these prospects have been running for president, it's been interesting. Interesting to see people who have switched opinions, and to hear why. But I'm glad I can hear why in those cases at least. I don't care if you're gonna vote for McCain because of his favorite chicken souffle' recipe, or for Obama because he kicks butt at hide and seek. I'm just thankful for those who are willing to at least talk about it all.

It seems to be a "taboo" subject, especially at/around church stuff. Which I guess makes sense to an extent. We're not legally allowed to support one candidate over another. Although I've wondered if you even state both of the Dem/Rep. candidates names, are you favoring them over the Green/Libertarian parties? Or do they not count yet....until either of them gets a 5% vote to be on the ballot next time?

The answer I'm not a big fan of is, "I'm just not voting this year." Although maybe there's an incredibly relevant reason (you're not 18) that's out there I haven't heard yet. For the most part, I believe we are all each called to place our vote. As responsible citizens, who are participating in the world around them, etc.

But my logic probably takes this too far. We're called, as Christians, to be participatory in the world around us, and therefore Vote. And we each know that surely our duty is not to take the issue lightly, as I joked above. So that, each of us should have legitimate reasons to choose whatever candidate we are choosing. Neither candidate is a fool, having gained the support of their respective parties, and hundreds of thousands of voters. So you can be reasonably at peace that you have made a decent choice, whatever side you land on.

Understanding of "ALL things political" aside, and slander against either candidate being not necessary...shouldn't it be possible, and even useful, for us to be talking about these things together?

I understand that some people will follow a spiritual leader (even a flip-flop wearing fool of a fallen one) over a cliff without much thought. Because of that, I probably won't post who I'm voting for online. But for those who we've had great discussions with so far, and for those willing to bring it up over the next few months.....thanks. :)

Friday, August 29, 2008

The Holiness Movement - Resurrectable?

Just stumbled on this interesting article. It's a speech made before the entire "Christian Holiness Association" back in 1995. You'll notice the title of the speech is "The Holiness Movement is Dead". You can tell throughout the speech, that it is intended to be a bit inflammatory, to poke those in attendance from a doctrinal holiness to a movement once again.

Statements like:
"We have a holiness heritage. We have holiness denominations. We have holiness organizations. We have holiness doctrines. We even have holiness colleges, but we no longer have a holiness movement."

He then gives 8 main reasons he believes the movement had died (remember, this was 1995). They are:
1. We wanted to be respectable. "
we decided we didn't want to be weird"

2. We have plunged into the evangelical mainstream.
"
We built respectable churches on busy highways"

3. We failed to convince the younger generation.
"
holiness is preached as an attractive accessory, not as an essential necessity"

4. We quit making holiness the main issue.
"
Today's trend is uplifting, cheery, help-for-Monday sermons, not holiness sermons"

5. We lost the lay people.
"
(holiness conventions) have become fellowships of ministers on expense accounts, not a crowd of laymen with a personal passion for holiness"

6. We have over-reacted against the abuses of the past.
"
legalistic and judgmental. So we became behavioral libertarians"

7. We adopted church-growth thinking without theological thinking.
"
Many holiness pastors just switched movements...(to the church growth movement)."

8. We did not notice when the battle line moved.
"
The doctrine at risk in many holiness churches is not entire sanctification but "transformational conversion". Christ is "added on" to achieve a balanced life."

At the bottom, he reponds almost 10 years later (2004) to his own speech, adding some more points and explanations that enrich what he's saying here.

I think this can all be very important, especially as a member/pastor of a denomination that is the product of AT LEAST 3 theological reforms. (Protestant Reformation, Method-ism, Free Methodism) We are not supposed to "fit well" with the world around us. There is something significantly different about the way we live, and the way God has called us to live in this world. And it means a lot more than wearing a tie.

I'd say "let's do it this time, without starting a new denomination/sect"...but of Luther, Wesley, and Roberts....none of them wanted to either. But seriously...let's at least try and do this together...

I'd say, let's be in prayer together. Prayer for an entire Body of Christ. That we would, AS THE ENTIRE BODY, be putting on the "new self" talked about in Ephesians chapter 4. Not as opposition to this world and it's ways, but as a declaration of the reign and rule of God which is present HERE AND NOW.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Holiness: Not just for breakfast anymore...

Not sure why I haven't heard of this before finding it online. Maybe someone told me at some point, and I was just too distracted to know what they were talking about. I don't pay enough attention sometimes. Ah well...glad to have stumbled on it.

Over the past 4 years, at least 10 denominations have been gathering together, studying/discussing/preaching/living/etc...this message of "Holiness". They've compiled a lot of what has been talked about in a book called, "The Holiness Manifesto".

This project includes discussions from: Free Methodist, Church of God (Cleveland & Anderson), Brethren in Christ, Nazarene, Wesleyan, Salvation Army, Evangelical, FourSquare, Shield of Faith, Christian Missionary Alliance (US & Canada).

Most noticeably, for my Nazarene friends: a chapter by Craig Keen
and for my Free Methodist friends: a chapter by Bishop Kendall, and Howard Snyder.

This next paragraph captures well, I think, why this topic could be very important to our churches that are beginning to realize "saving souls" is not, and can not be the "main focus" of a vital body of Christ. Why worrying about how many numbers of people have "asked Jesus into their hearts" this past year is not the best way to make sure our church is alive and contributing to the Kingdom.

From "The Holiness Manifesto" (the paper on the website, not the book):

"Many church leaders have become hostages to the success mentality of numeric and programmatic influence. They have become so concerned about ‘how’ they do church that they have neglected the weightier matter of ‘what’ the church declares. We have inundated the ‘market’ with methodological efforts to grow the church. In the process, many of our leaders have lost the ability to lead. They cannot lead because they have no compelling message to give, no compelling vision of God, no transformational understanding of God’s otherness. They know it and long to find the centering power of a message that makes a difference. Now more than ever, they long to soak up a deep understanding of God’s call to holiness—transformed living.
They want a mission. They want a message!"

I've just ordered the book, and looking forward to the impact this reminder of Holiness may have on the ministries God allows me to be a part of...

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

pray...

just received this...please be in prayer with us, for this is only one of many stories occurring even now, in India and other areas of the world...

This is a quick note to inform you that the anti-Christian outfits have struck us again in Orissa.

The details of damage are not known yet. But I have the news of several churches and Christian homes burnt and vandalized.

Our superintendents and pastors have gone into hiding. The latest is that the house of Prakash Naik, our superintendent in Raikia, was set on fire yesterday.

He is in the jungle with his wife and 40 small children of our orphanage that was at Raikia, Orissa.

Tapson, another superintendent's motorbike was burnt in Balliguda and his house destroyed. The churches and houses in Raikia area have been attacked by the arsonist mob.

Please uphold the persecuted families in your prayer so peace and harmony is restored in the area.

hmmm.....


Just read this article. It talks about how we shouldn't expect the same things (opening and closing ceremonies, etc.) from the 2012 London Olympics, as we saw this past month in China. And behind all the bragging about Chinese performers and their incredible abilities/dedication...you can hear the real reason behind it: human rights.

An actual quote from the article:
" Like the moveable type cubes (at the opening ceremony), the performers follow orders," he said. The actors listen to the orders, and can carry them out like computers. Foreigners admire this. This is the Chinese spirit."

I'll admit. The closing ceremony was pretty stinkin' cool. The 5-story flame made of humans dressed in colored suits, and all the pageantry that went into it....holy cow. But at the same time as I was "wowed", it also felt really awkward. Like I was watching robots. Like one of those scary scenes in a sci-fi movie where thousands of people are doing some ritual under mind control.

And that is the "Chinese spirit" that foreigners (me) admire? I don't think so. It was interesting. It was curious. It was "grand". But it still freaked me out a bit.

Trying, as always, to make some sort of connection to religion/youth ministry. It made me wonder what, human rights and individuality aside, would I desire for "youth group" to look like if I had as much control over the teens as this guy had over his actors. Sure, it'd be nice to have them uniformly obedient, quiet when asked, tame, and thirsty for every word I spoke.

But that'd freak me out a bit.

Thankfully, I can always count on them coloring outside the lines. Interrupting. Being curious. Showing up late/early. Asking the hard questions. Being young humans. And watching them become more of who they are becoming every year, praying that Christ/the Church/the Kingdom become infused every step of the way...

Monday, August 25, 2008

not cynical - just plain honest. :)

(a rant, not specifically to/of teenage cell phone users, but they're more often guilty)

A while back, someone was making a phone call to someone else. While they waited for the other person to answer, a thought struck them:

"I know this person is listening to whatever favorite ring-tone they've recently downloaded, and probably enjoys hearing it, and perhaps that is why they don't answer promptly."

Feeling jealous, and a bit belittled by their friend choosing to finish the refrain of their ring-tone over receiving the call right away, this person had an idea:

"What if I could be listening to a similarly cool ring-tone that this person has selected in advance for me to hear while I waited? Wouldn't that be great for both of us? Surely it'd be better than hearing this digital "ring" noise everytime....right?"

It was a horrible idea. But because everyone wants to advertise to potential callers how unique their musical tastes are, and how hip/trendy/anti-trendy they are...it sold well. It continues to sell well, and has even grown cheaper, so that it's no longer a sign of how over-indulgently rich you are. Now it's simply an annoying option, forcing passive callers to submit to your decision to shove noise in their ears.

But I'm not sure that many of these people have called their own phones. It could just be that the relatively few people I know who have this service have picked terrible songs for such a service. Something to do with the quality of the music, the mix of the audio, or the vocals/instrumentals involved.

But seriously, I dial a number ***-***-****, and usually without warning (although sometimes the nice lady tells me to "please enjoy the music while your party is reached", but I never do) it goes from silence.....to an empty soup can caught in a blender.

Note: Thinking about it makes me realize there has been ONE song I enjoyed listening to. It was the no-lyrics theme to "Rocky". Are there songs out there that work really well with this service? I'd like to give the people I call some suggestions.

Maybe it's secretly a way to get me to stop calling you. If so...I suppose it's working. :)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

six things I learned from six flags...

We took the youth group on our annual "Back to School" type thing yesterday. Every year we do something celebratory, and this year it took the form of us all heading to a "non-thinking" park. At the end of the day, with blistered feet, a wet shirt, and queasy stomach; I've learned a few things:

1. Teenagers are not adults. But then again, neither are many adults. I'm not sure we can say "act like an adult" to our teens, when so many adults out there aren't even doing it. How easy it is for two men in their 30's to be reduced to the level of my own daughter fighting over a toy she doesn't want to share.

2. All that being said, man I love teenagers. Not just our own youth group, but to watch them all around the park. Establishing identities as individuals. Figuring out who they are in the context of who those around them are. Making sure they look a certain way. (either cool, or like they're too cool to look cool, etc.) Even those "forced" to walk around with their "unhip" parents all day (you could tell who they were). Trying hard to look like they're not trying. In the blazing hot August sun. It makes you smile.

3. We will buy ANYTHING when we're "not-thinking". (a-muse-ment) Seriously, the hats, glowing swords, light-up sunglasses, etc. that you will never wear again anywhere with as much pride or excitement. But $10 for a neon green and red Cat in the Hat-lookin' thing? Sure!! :)

4. I'm not the coaster-buff I used to be. I'm not sure what else to say here. The ups, the downs, the twists, the turns, the speeds.....ugh. They affect my body a whole lot more than they used to. For a fun day, I would've much rather spent the day kayaking on a slow river, or even reading a book with some coffee, or just sitting in an air-conditioned room playing cards with some friends. Am I old, or just boring? Maybe both.

5. At the same time, I loved it. The anticipation of the ride. Discovering what each ride was like. Not quite scared of death, but awfully close to being afraid of injury. Being the one that screamed ridiculously long even before the ride began, to give the rest of the riders something to laugh at (or be annoyed/embarrassed by). The Cartoon Characters, the water park, and yah....Mr.Freeze was awesome.

6. It doesn't matter how many forms/registrations/announcements a youth pastor makes. There will still be people calling last minute to tell you they're going. (no you're not) There will still be people who tell you they're coming, but haven't paid yet, that totally won't show up...even though they're the reason you told the first people they couldn't come. Sigh. Still, we took 24 people on one bus, and spent the entire day open to close.

It was a great trip. :) Happy School Year.

Friday, August 22, 2008

how to find a good church...?


You've probably heard a number of people, especially those who have moved/will move to a new area, etc. Theories are as diverse as there are people church-hunting. But I've stumbled upon a suggestion to make to all of you church-hunters out there.

Take it with a grain of salt, I suppose, as I'm not a member of that category, and probably can't speak to the exact issues of your hunting process.

We are called to "honor your mother and father", and to "honor the sabbath" as well. These are in close proximity to each other in scriptures, not on accident. We are called, as believers, to honor those who have reached the "sabbath" of their lives. Often, in our behavior and desire to make church "desirable" to ourselves and others, we get dangerously close to forgetting this. Not to say the 65+ crowd should run things, or be given even more influence on whatever boards make decisions. But that they are to be a part of the conversation every bit as much as the 27-year old emerging church feller with the flip flops that joined last year.

But this goes beyond church politics and boards. I rambled.

As youth pastor, I've had opportunities both in Iowa, an here in Decatur, to be involved in fellowship and service to those several generations ahead of me. I've played dominoes (mexican train of course), sat in on "old man" breakfasts, chauffeured trips to museums and state fairs, gone mall walking, raked yards, and recently helped stain at 98-year olds' gazebo. She was totally going to try and do it herself!

All of this to say, there are people in our churches who are way older than many of us. They are losing the ability to do some things for themselves. They have family that have moved away, or passed away. Many of them are lonely, and need to be given the message that they are honored/loved.

Want to find a good church?
A church where you will be fed, and given opportunity to serve/worship?

Find a church with a large community of the elderly and almost-elderly. Connect there.

You'll probably get a lot of great recipes too. :)

I think there's a great deal more to all of this than I'm saying here. But I at least wanted to say....I think this is important.

ps. Already have a church? Find a way to connect your life with this section of your church body. You'll be glad you did. Promise.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

a "Jesus Museum"?


So probably on a weekly basis, things like this hit the news.

This one stands out a little bit, because at least in this article, she doesn't actually tell us she believes God purposefully made this Cheeto resemble the crucified Christ, and/or that it means she or her household/family are blessed.

But I haven't heard/seen her other interviews.

We know that not everyone who sees the image of Jesus in things is a nut, right? Some of us just enjoy poking fun at those who take it VERY seriously in ridiculous objects having certain patterns, etc.

But she does mention toward the end of this article, she's keeping it in a safety deposit box in order to best decide how to display it safely to the public. Which made me wonder two things:

1. What do people keep in safety deposit boxes? I knew it wasn't all gold and jewelry....but seriously....a Cheeto shaped like Jesus? I imagine a VERY disappointed bank robber down the road. Have you ever used a deposit box? What'd you keep in it?

- Before I proposed to Sarah, I'd bought the engagement ring 8 months in advance. Kept it in a safety deposit box, waiting for the right moment.
The hardest part was, 6 months after owning it, I had to get
the diamond reinspected by the jeweler to keep it up to date.
Then return it to it's box...knowing it wasn't time yet.
That's my experience.

2. Will there ever be, and who will capitalize on it first, a museum of random things like this? Toast, McRibs, birdpoop on windows, cheetos, wood grains, carpet stains, etc....all that look like the image of Jesus or the Virgin Mary? If so, what state will it be in? Indiana? Kentucky? Tennessee? How much will admission cost, and who will buy sponsorship there?

If you're looking to be the person to launch this museum of Jesus appearing in random artifacts, be encouraged. By the swarm of publicity usually offered to things like this lately, you'll probably get a lot of visitors, if you can afford to purchase a collection. If it helps, I'll offer you my window at whatever the cost of taking it out/replacing it with a new one would be. Let's talk. :)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

when nouns become verbs...

I read books. I drink coffee. I watch Dora.

These are all easily understood, noun/verb/noun combinations. They make sense.

My wife goes CVSing.

According to the rules of the English language (which are observed about as much as the "no food on the church bus" rule) this sentence doesn't make sense.

But according the rules of our household, our wallets, and our bank account...this sentence makes a TON of sense. You haven't heard me say much yet, but prompted by my wife getting excited about another man blogging about his wife's new hobby.....I figured I owe Sarah a lil' somethin'.

It all started a couple months ago-ish? We were watching a show on TV, and a woman was talking about the concept of using coupons at the same time as a sale was going on in a specific store. Apparently, when you do that, especially when coupons are doubled or tripled...you can save BUTT-LOADS of money on everyday stuff. Suuuure, we thought. Then she actually showed the camera her receipt. My wife was hooked.

It began like a snowball going down a very steep, very short hill. But lots of snow, nonetheless.

It didn't take long for her to realize the deals at every local store, and the websites that keep track of them for you. You can check her blog for regular updates/deals. It likewise didn't take long for her to find out that CVS was no longer a noun! Seriously, the weekly deals, freebies, coupons, etc....provide my wife a treasure hunt comparable to any Easter Egg hunt at your local mega-church. It also seems to act as a sort of "therapy" to the stresses/confines of an incredible Stay-at-Home-Mom.

True, sometimes she comes home with enough toothpaste to last a year. Or products neither of us have ever heard of before, or heard of but never wanted to try. But to date I've eaten more Chex Mix this summer than the past 2 years combined, and if that isn't enough...well, I don't know what is.

All that to say, Mrs. Anderson.....I salute you. And your hobby. I'll still make fun of it sometimes, because hey....Soy Joy bars? 6 Hour Energy Drinks? But you can point right back, cause I eat 'em. And because it saves us money for coffee and diapers...and that ain't bad...:)

Sunday, August 17, 2008

¡Lo hicimos!

So perhaps you were able to catch the interviews with both candidates, facilitated by Rick Warren this past weekend. I missed it myself, and missed the second showing also, but was able to read the transcript online.

It seems both candidates are purpose-driven. :) In all seriousness, I think this public conversation did offer a lot to an American people who are used to being "sold" candidates, and forced to pick through 30 second rebuttals, etc. But I still think we were being sold stuff. By all 3 guys.

There were some good things to note, however:

- Whatever is needed to face the issues we are facing, it's going to take effort on the part of EVERY American. No time for pointing fingers.

- Obama said that anyone making under $150,000 a year is middle class. Rick Warren said people who make that in HIS area are considered poor. Wow. I'm more poor than I realized. Thanks guys.

- McCain is like the grandparent who keeps telling the same stories over and over again. And he's willing to go to the gates of hell to find Osama....impressed?

- Both candidates admit evil exists. Both say we need to defeat it. Obama was the only one to mention God in that process. McCain seemed to go off on an anti-terrorism tangent. I wonder if that's symbolic of anything in evangelical America today?

- (learned a bit from the interview happening, and a bit from Larry King's interview of Warren last night) Rick Warren has a lot of important "friends". His comment on the interview was something like "I happened to have two friends who are both running for president....they trusted me to have a conversation publicly with them, etc". At which point, Larry King says "you ARE a good friend, Rick"...and Rick acknowledges his friendship with Larry. Wow.

Someday maybe I can be Rick Warren's friend.

In other news, Addie's 2nd birthday celebrations went splendidly. It's the main reason I haven't posted since Friday, not to mention preaching yesterday and painting a nice ole' ladys gazebo. Thanks to all who celebrated with us, and all who sent their love. It was nice to have so much family in town, stayin' with us...and eatin' more cobbler than God intended. And I still rock at Euchre.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Who's the "purpose-driven" candidate?

So in my routine, "checking the top stories", etc...this morning. I noticed this story about what was happening at Saddleback Church in California this Saturday.

Do I admire the fact that Rick Warren's message (Purpose-Driven, etc.) has been so well received (or sold), that it's impact has drawn both Presidential Candidates to submit themselves to Him/His followers for a special interview time?

The old "What Would Jesus Do?" when you look at the growing political/evangelical influence this man is gaining. Is God using Him, or is God using Him despite Him? (hopefully you can see there that I obviously believe God IS using him)

It's obviously a good move for both candidates. You KNOW this book has been a best seller, especially in the USA, and anyone with a library has a copy...whether they've read it or not, and whether they like it or not. (or at least they've been given a copy at some point, and decided not to keep it)

The people who LOVE the book (which seems to be millions), will probably pay VERY close attention to the author when he's mentioned in the news. (or random blogs) As a candidate, it's a pretty good bet that allowing yourself an interview with this man will give a chance for millions of people to recognize that:

If you're Obama - "see, I care about poor people just like Rick Warren does, and even though your junior highers and grandma's are telling you I'm a Muslim, I'm obviously not! I'm hitching my cart to Rick Warren's horse! Vote for me!"

If you're McCain - "see, I'm an evangelical (and everything THAT means) who's hip enough to realize that James Dobson is nothing compared to Rick Warren. I'm hitching my wagon to his horse! Vote for me!"

Do both candidates seek to get the stamp of being "purpose-driven"? Or maybe one of 'em will totally surprise us by disagreeing with Rick Warren........not likely.

Thankfully, we can all watch it on CNN at 5pm that night.


Footnote: I know...you probably love the book. It's okay. Millions of people can't be wrong, right? I like the first line of the book, "It's not about you."

Although, I do think it's interesting that Warren wants to "mobilize over 1 billion Christians to attack 5 Global giants - spiritual emptiness, corrupt leadership, poverty, disease and illiteracy."

Purpose-Driven Christians need their purposes, I suppose...5 is a nice, achievable number. Although I think he could've stuck with 4. My daughter can't read, and she's doin' alright.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

cynical of cynicism...

I was reminded recently by someone I love, that it's easy to find bad things to say about anything if we're looking. Cynicism is as popular today as "Twister" ever was...and you don't have put your right hand on red. If you'd search through my 200+ posts, you'd probably find some things I've been cynical about. But I would hope you'd find less than more. So I figured the world deserved a reminder that I'm a pretty optimistic guy.

Heck, I've even been a member of the Optimist Club. Although I haven't made it much at all since becoming a father. They meet early morning, and my wife usually appreciates me spending that time at home. Whether getting ready for the day with the girls, or just hangin' out.

There are things that I get cynical about. If you know me, you probably know the specific things. But I think even the things that get me the most cynical, I don't run from or refuse to participate in/have dialogue with. I think that's where a cynic becomes unhealthy, and there is the danger of a "hermit" type existence. (I realize this whole paragraph is annoyingly vague)

So in a day and time where many of us are natural cynics, how do we continue to participate in many of the sources of our cynicism? (school systems, economy, government, religion, etc.)

I think a whole lot of what Jesus was talking about.

Love, grace, mercy, HUMILITY, etc...

There are places for incredibly relevant thoughts, and new ideas, and words that offer life. Words that bring Truth, Justice, and communicate God's Love/Hope for the world.

But how/when we offer those words may be important too. Maybe it means we spend more time working on our method of delivery, taking into mind how Christ delivered His own message to us.

Not sure what all of this means. But I've got a lifetime to practice.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

On "going home"...

In college, we were required to plan our own funeral for a class. After singing at a man's funeral this past Monday, I realized I should probably go back and make a few changes.

A primary theme in the funeral was the celebrating of this man "going home". How Heaven and Earth were celebrating the "homecoming" of a great man...etc.

It was good. It honored the man, his family, and those who loved him.
It echoed their thoughts/beliefs/etc.

But as I sang during the services, I got a bit choked up. Not because of the song I was singing (about God's presence, etc). Not because we had lost this man. I'd never actually met him, although I'd met some of his family/friends, and he was considered a part of our church family.

But because, as much as I'm excited about being present with Jesus in paradise, and in the New Creation sometime after that. (or however that's all gonna work out) I really really love this life. Most every part of it, although the specific parts that came to mind in that moment were being a husband and a father. And how much it'd really suck to leave my daughters anytime soon. Not in a guilty, "I'm worshiping these things above God" kinda way. But in the sense of a husband. A father. A brother. A son. A friend. Etc. Someone who was created for these purposes.

This is home to me.
Albeit a home that hungers for God's complete renewal.
An incomplete home.

I think that's why I really like what light recent theology/biblical interpretation has shed on things that we've moved away from as a Church somehow. Things like new creation, and how God intends to "make all things new" as opposed to "all new things". That this life, this world, and the relationships I'm building, etc...are all, and will all become a part of what is to come.

I'm gonna get serious for a sec.

If I died tonight in my sleep, please don't tell my daughters or my wife that I've "gone home". They probably wouldn't believe you anyways, if they've listened to me.

I'm fine with them believing I'm with Jesus, and waiting along with them and the rest of creation for God to reveal Himself completely, and I want them all to continue working/enjoying towards that day. Whether it came in their lifetime or not. And based on what I read in scriptures, and have chewed on...I would then eventually return with all those who have passed...with Christ when/as He restores all things, and pours Himself out completely. A New Heaven, New Earth, combined/connected through the New Jerusalem.

Of course, I'd want my wife to go find a good-looking millionaire and remarry. But lucky for her, and my daughters, I'm planning on waking up tomorrow....:)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Southern Gospel...

Sunday night, our church hosted a Southern Gospel Quartet based locally. If you know me, you already know how much I was looking forward to this event, compounded by the fact that they were locals. Not 100% because of the music style...I don't mind barbershop too much. :)

But I noticed two things, through the gut-piercing harmony, and car salesman-esque personalities. (though I'm sure they were great guys, I'm just a cynic at times) One, were the lyrics. About 80% of what they sang about talked of "leaving this place", "riding that glory train", or a "home up yonder". Given - I'm really excited about what God will do someday, completely revealing Himself, etc. I'd definitely sing about it. But it seemed they were saying this life is a commercial for where everyone should really want to be. No songs about this life being a part of God's plan, etc. Maybe it's just really hard to work the lyrics "feeding the hungry" into a 4-part harmony...cause I'm sure each of these guys would offer their shoes to someone if it'd help them experience Jesus. It made me wonder if this was just Southern Gospel theology, or are there actual Southern Gospel groups with decent lyrics? Cause there were a few songs that talked simply about Jesus, and how much peace God offers, etc. But I don't think I'm brave enough to search.

But the second thing I noticed, was the impact the songs had on many of those present. I think the lyrics actually may have played a small role in what was going on with some. There was a sense of nostalgia happening, and I believe the Spirit of God moved through the room, reminding many of early moments in their faith. Times when they were excited about anticipating the work of God. Excited about the transformation and Hope that God offers a life. God offered to renew that same presence in that moment in those lives. This wasn't being done because of well delivered middle-aged humor, or annunciation of those performing, and definitely wasn't due to most of the lyrics.

It was the same sensation I get when I get up early in the morning on any campground and have time to myself. To walk while the sun is still rising, quietly taking in whatever scenery is nearby. (preferably some body of water, or some sort of wildlife) It takes me back to moments when I was growing up, at various camps I had privilege to attend, and found quiet times away from life. God met me there.

I can get down with that.

Monday, August 11, 2008

tagged...quirky...

Okay, so my sister-in-law Joy "tagged" me in something. And if anyone after her tags me in anything, you can rest assured I most likely won't do it. I'm pretty against forwards/chain-letter/etc. type things. No matter how cute, and no matter how much I like the person who sent it to me.

I also won't be "tagging" anyone at the end of mine...so the madness ends here.

But in honor of being "tagged", and to show Joy I read her blog, and think she's neat, here's my response. I'm supposed to list 6 unspectacular quirks about myself in no particular order. Being a quirky person, the hard part will be limiting myself to which quirks I announce. Here we go:

1. When I make microwave nachos, I don't just throw some chips/cheese on a plate. I spread an even layer of chips out, providing as much plate coverage as possible, with as few overlaps as possible. Then an even layer of cheese, with a fair amount per chip. Then one, possibly two more layers in the same manner. Freshly shredded from the block is preferred.

2. The first swallow/bite/etc. of any newly opened digestable product is special to me. Once in a while, I've been known to offer it to my wife out of love. But if it's ever taken/spoiled, I hurt a little inside. :)

3. I need to have a piece of gum in my mouth when I sing/speak in front of a crowd. I know any professional will tell you that's horrible, and not helpful....but it's me.

4. I'd rather have a frozen pepperoni pizza than a home-cooked Roast Beef dinner any night. (but if the roast beef is flavored by an effort of love from my wife, I'll keep my mouth shut, and LOVE it.)

5. The cups in our cupboard must be face down, and grouped alike. Medium glasses with medium glasses, etc. in rows. If I open the cupboard to get a cup for a drink, and something is out of order, I usually have to rearrange them before I'll continue.

6. I usually wear a pair of pants or shorts for many days before switching them out for a clean one. As long as I can get away with it. Gross maybe, but it's efficient. The belt stays overnight.

There you go....just a peek into my quirky existence. You can thank Joy. :)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

off the ice...

It's been a while since I've posted something about hockey, so deal with it. :)

Some may wonder, when the Cup's been hoisted, and the new hats worn. When the crowds go home, and lights go out on a season. When the excitement begins for next years draft picks...

What is happening with Lord Stanley's Cup? It was awarded, right? So what does the team DO with it?

If you've ever wondered, you NEED to check this out. The Stanley Cup has it's own BLOG. Once a week or so, usually on Friday, it's updated with where the cup has been lately. Each member of the organization is allowed to spend a day with the Cup, doing whatever they want that day. Of course, the keeper of the Cup must travel with, in order to keep things safe. The joke being, if a player wants to sleep with the Cup, the keeper says "scoot over".

Not even sure how to describe how Tomas Holmstrom must have felt last month, as his two-month old daughter Alva was allowed this collision of special meaning...

Yup, that's right...baptized using the Stanley Cup. Among other activities, the Cup has served as the world's best beer stein, world's best cereal bowl (for the kids), baby bathtub (and toilet on accident a couple times), champagne flute, snack bowl, birthday cake dish, etc...each player coming up with their own unique take on the special moments allowed them.

But overall, even with the cleaning/sanitizing/dirtying it goes through. It remains "The Stanley Cup". Celebrations in various cities inevitably include close family friends, and local townspeople, all proud of the man bringing home the cup. Evoking pride, emotion, excitement, reverence, awe, and the joy of hockey for all who are able to come near, and especially touch it.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

haha....


I had to post this...just cause....well....I find it funny.
Ever wonder how some pictures get selected to go with which headlines?

Thanks Herald & Review. :)

You make Decatur look good.

just in case...

...you thought the world was starting to make sense. You have this.

Joel Osteen (God wants you to conquer the world, get rich, and live well) and his wife (I follow Joel everywhere) were flying (first class, of course) back in 2005.

Mrs. Osteen notices there's a liquid spilled on her armrest. Instead of grabbin' a wetnap or hanky out of her purse and swiping the bad boy up, she calls the stewardess. Asks her to do it. There's a misunderstanding. The woman accuses Mrs. Osteen of "grabbing Brown by the shoulders, elbowing her in the chest and pushing her out of the way in an attempt to get into the cockpit". Apparently, that's where they keep the napkins.

Joel obviously defends his wife, saying she never raised her voice or grabbed the attendent. But later agreed that he couldn't even hear his wife from where he was seated at the time.

So what's this lawsuit going through the court-system for? What could this flight attendent possibly be seeking?

"
Brown wants an apology and punitive damages amounting to 10 percent of Victoria Osteen's net worth as part of her lawsuit. Brown claims she suffers from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder because of the incident and that her faith has been affected. She is also suing for counseling expenses."

Wow. Really? Not that it would affect the Osteen's financially really. After all, it's God's will that they continue to be ridiculously rich, and eat fresh buttered biscuits forever. But seriously?

An apology I can understand. Obviously SOMETHING happened, because the Osteen's were asked to leave the flight. (even though Joel says they left voluntarily. c'mon now...who volunteers to leave a flight going where they NEED to be?) But to seek millions of dollars, claiming depression and PTSD and a loss of faith from being asked, even if by force, to wipe up a spill? Whew.

I suppose it's not that we're raising our children so that they can "grow up" and become a part of this world. But perhaps that our children can help the world grow up.

Friday, August 08, 2008

when I eat chocolate, someone else doesn't

(taken from the Free Methodist of N.A. website)

The Free Methodist Church “has a mission from God to uphold the New Testament standard of religion; and to preach the gospel to the poor.” This was B.T. Roberts’ passion in organizing a meeting of a new Methodist denomination on August 23, 1860, under an apple tree in Pekin, NY.

It’s been 148 years. How are we doing?

God is [still] calling His people called Free Methodists to share the gospel with the poor. God is [still] calling His people called Free Methodists to radical obedience, to self-denial, to cross-bearing so we might engage in a vital part of His rescue mission to the lost, the least and the last.

The standard of living in our culture keeps rising. We are a people called Free Methodists. Yet we dress in fine clothes and live in mini-mansions with manicured lawns. We drive minivans, sip expensive coffees, plan resort vacations. We enjoy our little luxuries. They are all nice. It is hard to tell us apart from our neighbors across the street.

Is it possible we are missing out on real life, the radical mission of who we are truly meant to be as Free Methodists?

We’re missing out because we refuse to deny ourselves, take up our cross and embrace the poor, the stranger, the widow, the orphan and the untouchables of our society.

We’re missing out because we can’t bring ourselves to move in with Jesus in the alley, to the other side of the tracks, in the inner cities of our nation, among the poorest of the poor in our world.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm not a "senior pastor", with all of the privileges and responsibilities of one. I just get to influence/lead from the realm of youth/family/children's ministries. Which is realize even in saying that....is still a pretty big calling.

Figuring out how all of the above (which I agree with) fits in the context of children/family/youth ministries in a world driven by consumerism.

I give in, once in a while. We're going to Six Flags this month. Next month, we may bring in a concert (although it will be FREE). In life, I eat chocolate sometimes. But I hope/pray that even the aspects of "church" that I can influence will reflect the desires written above....and that as the Kingdom breaks through into this world...we can both point at it, and be a part of it.

To quote Sarah's girly book that she had me read an excerpt of,

"When the day comes that this community has the same amount of energy, enthusiasm, and responsiveness for the poor, the marginalized, and those far away from God and each other, then I will believe that what (we witness in our services) was worship."

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Days off...(the morning)

5:45 - the internal alarm goes off. This is it!! No sounds yet from either daughter.

Thoughts of cinnamon scones, and fresh darkly roasted, infinitely refilled coffee. Stay composed.

Shower. Carry the baby into bed with my wife, so she doesn't have to get up when the hunger strikes.

Which book? The current read only has 80 pages or so left, not enough to last the hours ahead.

Crime and Punishment? Recently arrived in the mail, but a dense read. Not sure if I'm ready to shed the burden "What is the What" has placed on my heart/mind. No, a lighter read is still needed.

"The Book of Lost Things", arrived along with Dostoyevsky's work. Although it feels awkward, leaving the previous Koonz novel just barely finished, at such an action-packed moment.....I didn't want to bring two large books into Panera with me. I already appear a nerd....no need to confirm it.

Out the door by 6am, the drive allowing Panera to put it's finishing touches out there, and be sure to stock the 4 coffee choices (2 never touched by me) before I arrive.

I order "a cinnamon scone, and a coffee in a mug please". This (in a mug) lets them know I intend to eat on location, as the site of a large book never seemed enough to convince them. I settle into my corner, where I can see the people coming and going, but can also become completely engrossed in story when I choose.

Time passes. I've gotten permission to 9:30am...but imagine my wife attempting to prepare for the day with both girls screaming from corners of the house.

8:50am - really enjoying the book. An easy read. A boy who has lost his mother, and escapes a war-torn landscape in imagination....or reality? Probably too easy, at a level intended for younger readers. But I still feel it's length makes it a proper book for a 26 year old to journey. I finish my chapter, relinquish my mug, and head home.

I've traveled distant lands, had an incredible morning, and the entire day lays ahead, unspoiled.

The stuff sighs are made of. :)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

favorite meal...(breakfast edition)

Not sure why....but I figured I should post something
you don't have to think about much....


Home-made Cinnamon Rolls w/butter

Scrambled Eggs w/Cheese (shredded sharp cheddar, NOT sliced)

Tennessee Smoked Sausage (not the brand, ACTUALLY from Tennessee)

Cranberry Juice

Egg Nog


ahhhhh....Christmas Morning.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

animals...

I've been noticing something lately. Stories all over the internet, in books, and in sermons that illustrate aspects of humanity being taken on by other animals.

A lion that reminds us how love conquers all.

A goat that reminds us not to be judgemental.

A dog that reminds us of how simple it can be to love someone.

Etc. People get emotional, inspired, and teary eyed, and say....wow, what a good point.

I should probably be honest and say....I don't think lions, goats, or dogs do any of those things.

I love my wife. Not like a lion loves it's owners after being gone for a year. Not like a dog loves it's owner, even when the owner doesn't do much for the dog. And not like the rooster loves the Sun.

But rather...like a man loves his wife. Inspiring story to go with it? Well, I did take out the trash this morning. It was some nasty stuff, smelled gross, and was really heavy. In my mind I thought, "Sarah would be disgusted by this, and it would probably take her several trips. I'll take it out to the street myself."

Moved to tears? Inspired to go love someone else in such a way? I thought so. :)

I'm not saying that these animal stories are bad to have around. Not even saying the world shouldn't use them. I'm sure they actually do help move people emotionally, and that can be a very good thing. But just saying, I've had enough of them for awhile. :)

Let's be humans that can inspire each other by the way we are human, so that we don't have to look elsewhere in the animal kingdom for inspiration as much. K?

Monday, August 04, 2008

oh crap.

So last week, on a stormy night, Sarah and I pulled the curtains back to watch some pretty awesome lightning/rain/etc. It was pretty cool. But it ended quickly, and we were sittin' there watchin' darkness. It was late, so we kicked on the tube to see what was on at that hour.

Enter "Rev. Peter Popoff". Oh man...this guy was hilarious. Ever seen "Fletch Lives" with Chevy Chase, where you've got the fake Televangelist who hears information from his assistants through an earpiece, and has fake healings and what-not? This Popoff guy is TOTALLY doing that. And his mannerisms, etc...oh man. It had to be fake. But it was totally serious. Thousands of people attending his services, all obviously "in need", or "looking for something".

Kinda funny. Mostly sad that this guy would be allowed airtime.

Anyways, he's talking about this "miracle manna" that he got a recipe for in the Bible, and that if you eat it, and follow his specific instructions, God's got some incredible blessings for you. At that moment, my wife said "you should totally call and get some for free".

So of course, with her already on board, no convincing was necessary, I called Popoff. Told him my "need" was thousands of dollars in college debt, let's see him conquer that. This past saturday, I got my "miracle manna" along with instructions.

Of course, it's all in fun, and I was hoping it'd make an entertaining blog post. I ate the manna as instructed, although I'm not sending him money as instructed (duh Popoff, remember....I don't have any?). Today I finally opened up the Bible to look up where he got this recipe for "Miracle Manna".

I hope he didn't follow the recipe exactly. - Ezekiel 4:9-15

You see, it's the bread God gave the Israelites as punishment. They were given the ingredients, and told to bake it on human dung. After some complaints, God relented, allowing them to bake it on cow dung. But still. I ate that junk.

After doing some research on Popoff, I'm really surprised he's still allowed to do anything public without everyone exposing him as a crock. He was destroyed by an investigation back in the 80's and it was even broadcast on the Tonight show (& most recently on "Inside Edition"). But I suppose it's a whole new generation of desperate people out there now.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Addie's Birthday.....a hint....

Just a quick post...if you're looking for stuff to get Addie. I know many of my readers might be family/etc. that will be celebrating with us in a couple weeks. And many of my family are male, who don't keep records of these types of things...her birthday is August 12th, and she turns 2. Don't waste money on a card, she'd rather you spend that dollar or so on crackers/cookies, and just write on the packaging...hehe.

She's got a LONG torso, with short legs. So tops usually around 24 months to 2T...pants usually around 18 months. Diapers are size 3. Shoes are like 5 1/2 to 6 I think.

She LOVES Dora, and Elmo/Nemo a little these days, and still loves YO GABBA GABBA (so does daddy).

And what is this? Yo Gabba Gabba just began selling merchandise at your local Wal-Mart, Target, AND Toys R Us!!! WOW. What good fortune!!!

You could help make her just as happy as the child in the picture above! And really, isn't that what life is all about?

Friday, August 01, 2008

church?

In reading another blog this morning, I was pointed to a conversation that took place between two Christians, and observed by an Atheist. The Christians got pretty heated in their discussion, ultimately forgetting there was even another person near them. Here's a snip from their conversation, as observed:

"when the driver asked where the woman attended services.
She replied that she didn't regularly attend services and had
only gone twice last year. She was still quite religious, she said
though she believed that God hadn't intended her to take
"that path" and go to church. The driver seemed interested by
this and made an attempt to tell her something along the lines
that she was risking her eternal salvation by not giving her entire
life over to Christ in all ways."

The entire conversation is interesting, but there's a lot to talk about even right here. I don't agree with the woman OR the driver in this case. But I think it expresses two views on church that are out there, and very popular, that miss the point completely.

View # 1: Sure church is important, but it's not required for MY spiritual journey at this point. I'll go the few Sunday's I'm up on time, and feel relaxed enough to warrant going. But c'mon, my weeks are so busy, and they always ask me to volunteer for something. And the ____ just isn't my style. I pray and read my Bible, and I hang out with other Christians sometimes. That's good enough. (usually younger, or religiously "hip", or maybe burned out ex-devotees)

View # 2: The doors open at 7:30am service is at 8:30am, so I'm there at 7:30am. I know that I'm saved. How could I not be? 52 weeks a year = 52 sermons that have shaped my life this year. Heck, there's some weeks I even go to both services, just to make sure I've got enough Jesus to get me through the week. (usually of the "felt-board" generations, suit/tie, sit in the same pew every week)

I doubt many (if any) of my readers would fall into category #2. But there may be a few of #1's out there who read this. So the question here is, if I don't agree with View #1, how would I respond to it?

Let me first say, when Sarah and I moved to Decatur, IL...we had no official church affiliation. For the first time in my life, I wasn't going anywhere with my parents, and wasn't expected to show up anywhere or serve anywhere. It was kinda freeing. There were several Sunday's where we worshiped by getting out of bed around 10-11am, makin muffins, and watching some TV. After a long work week, having Sunday off can be pretty tasty.

I know it happens. But I also know that if we're not careful, it can happen more than we realize.

I don't think by doing so we risk missing out on what God has planned for AFTER this life. (unless you alternatively spend your Sunday's killing people for fun, etc.) But I DO think we can risk missing out on what God has planned DURING this life.

Just one more reason that preaching the "everything we do is about going to Heaven, or getting others to Heaven" message is NOT doing the church any favors. May we remember weekly that the Kingdom of God is coming, and has now come. We proclaim (in word and deed) it's existence together, and the world is transformed.