Wednesday, December 31, 2008

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




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

AT WRIGLEY FIELD.


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

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

It's going to be an historic game.

You NEED to watch it.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

on the strip...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Really? Does anyone else see something wrong with that?

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

Whether it's nation vs. nation.

Or person vs. person.

Or ____ vs. ____

Sunday, December 28, 2008

post

So here we are, after Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy X-Mas

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

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

..is coming.

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

another bad illustration..

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 22, 2008

..in case you missed it.


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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 21, 2008

6 Years...


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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 20, 2008

..on being followed...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 19, 2008

Obama's Choice for Inauguration Invocation...

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

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

.
.
.

Correct answers:

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

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

No?

Me neither.

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 18, 2008

insight...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I still love Stryper...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

STAY AT HOME PARENTS' DAY

Yeah, so my wife is pretty much incredible.

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

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

My jealousy has faded quite a bit.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 15, 2008

cards...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 14, 2008

how to properly white your elephant...

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Richard Cizik

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 12, 2008

Decking the Halls...

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

Thursday, December 11, 2008

looks like........?

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

So what does it look like?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

any Josephs?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 08, 2008

Christians - called to rebutt?

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

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

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

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

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

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

God bless,
JoEllen


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

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

4+1 = 5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 07, 2008

forgiveness - pt. 2

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

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

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

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

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

We need to forgive. We need to love.

May we follow Christ more often than we lead Him.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

how not to show love...

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kentucky: Sounds good.

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

But instead, it continues to escalate into the ridiculous.

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

Friday, December 05, 2008

sillyness...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

forgiveness (for Xmas and for life)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Probably.

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

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