Monday, November 30, 2009

Transformed by Grace

Chapter 8 of The Holiness Manifesto is "Transformed by Grace: The Beauty of Personal Holiness" by Cheryl Bridges Johns. Johns is a professor of Christian Formation at the Church of God Theological Seminary.

She talks broadly about John Wesley's approach to a transforming (sanctifying) grace, as well as the types of grace we experience/receive. She then goes on to list and briefly discuss each of the "Instituted" means of grace (those we see in the life of Christ), and the "Prudential" means of grace (fulfilling social and relational aspects of the gospel).

I think she does a great job in each of the means. She discusses prayer in a way that makes you hungry to spend some time in genuine prayer before/with God. She talks about fasting in a way that makes you hungry to experience hunger. She reminds us that Scriptures can be very moving and literary, rather than simply studied. She takes us through Wesley's appreciation for the Lord's Supper, and Christian community - including the high emphasis he placed on small groups.

She closes with some more comments on the prudential means of grace, such as charity and mercy. She takes a close look at what occurs when we experience a "crisis" moment in our life, and how it can lead to growth in grace. The way she presents it really challenges the norms of how we handle crisis today. Especially we masculine types.

We're encouraged to be tough. To be solid. But if we follow Wesley, and many other Christian theologians (including Paul himself - Romans 5:3-5)....to not allow ourselves to fully experience crisis, is to short change a potentially very transforming experience of God. To pretend too quickly that "we're okay", or to swallow our emotions so we can live as if we're "beyond that already", could be missing an incredible opportunity for our very soul.

May we continue to seek such means of receiving transformational grace....both the ones we look forward to...and the experiences we may not have chosen....God offers to redeem/use both areas...

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Happy New Year!!!

Today marks the beginning of the Christian New Year (Lectionary Year "C"). No countdown, no ball dropping, no kissing at midnight. Just a simple realization of the Advent season beginning. The quiet lighting of a candle. We've spent the previous week saying "Thanks" for the previous year, and here we are beginning the journey together again.

I'd admit...even though I've used the "Book of Common Prayer" for personal devotions here and there since college....I've not paid much attention to the actual "New Year" for the Church beginning on the first Sunday of Advent.

I like it.

We begin our year in a season of preparing/waiting/anticipating the arrival of Christ. Of course, we are celebrating the original arrival. But we are also collectively living towards the anticipation...."is this the year?" that Christ will return to complete what He has begun? We live from/toward what Christ will bring to completion.

This also marks an important year in the Anderson home. Being parents, and thinking about wanting to have "traditions" in our home that allow what God has done/is doing/will do to be more than just something we talk/sing about..but something we live. This is our first year of doing an "Advent Wreath" at home (where they were always done, traditionally). Looking forward to all that this year of serving Christ as a family offers...both to us...and the Kingdom. :)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

pentecostal silence

You don't have to attend many Midwestern Protestant Evangelical services to recognize we're not exactly people who "color outside the lines". Much of that might be attributed to beautiful tradition and ritual. But much of that might also be attributed to atrophied abilities to worship freely. As much as I love our church's worship, both services; I would confess my "freedom" usually comes in the form of bouncing a bit on my toes when I sing. Maybe even bobbing my head.

When I'm worshiping God by dancing with my daughters, I run around the house, spin in circles in the kitchen, sing LOUD and quiet, and make noises both natural and unnatural. :) When you compare that guy, to the man I often become in a worship service.....you may wonder what sedative I'm on.

So many pressures collide when wanting to worship in Spirit and Truth in a public arena. I admit I'm not as completely released from them as I'd like to be. What would people think? Would they think I'm trying to get attention? WOULD I try to get attention? Would a bar be set that I'd have to then meet again and again every service?

So I end up standing there. Bouncing on my toes. Except, of course, when I've gotten to join the band by playing the jimbe/bongos lately. Totally digging that....and even feel a new type of freedom there.

But I will say this: Alone in silence...in my car sometimes, but better when in nature of some sort - I worship freely. I talk (to myself, to things, to God), I sing, I pray, I make noises, I imagine. I smile open-eyed, in awe of simple things. I'm filled with His Love for others, and for His creation.

I want the man I am when enjoying an afternoon with my daughters, or when walking through a quiet afternoon forest.....to be the man that comes to worship service Sunday morning.

That might take practice. I think a good step may be to attend our Monday morning service as much as possible. We do a prayer service, that is mostly attended by families who will be coming to our food pantry that day. Admittedly, the ethnicity shifts significantly from Sunday morning...and the balance is shifted from those who keep quiet...to those who can't hold back the "AMEN!!" welling up inside.

That...and spending more time purposefully being the man who dances with princesses and shouts Hallelujah in the silence...:)

Friday, November 27, 2009

before you blacken your friday

Not to keep you from shopping, because we all need to save some money this year. But to help you breathe slower and easier if you have to make sacrifices in your shopping list because Black Friday deals are spread across a city and you can't shop everywhere at once:

Matthew 6:19-21 "
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. "


Philippians 4:11-12 "
Not that I am referring to being in need; for I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need."


Matthew 19:21 "
Jesus said to him, "If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me."


Remember to smile, and love others gracefully while you shop. Be thankful you've been set free from the chains many of them are walking under. And cross something off your list without buying it....just for fun. :)

Thursday, November 26, 2009

εὐχαριστῶ

I am thankful.

For Ruby Anne.

For another year with my wife, and Addie, and Sophie.

For blessings beyond what I deserve.

For friends who I can share life with.

For really really good coffee.

For food and drink on a daily basis.

For a home that is so much more than a house.

For the Word of God that becomes new daily.

For freedom from who I was "yesterday".

For a Hope-filled tomorrow that exists today.

For YOU for taking time to read this.

For the beauty of a creation made by God, and being made new.

For Love. For Loves. :)

For God....the bits I can talk about, and the bits that escape me.

I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

I'm an eye guy.

I'd have to say, one of the first things that caught my eye about my wife = her eyes. I don't think it's a huge coincidence that the eyes are often referred to as "windows to the soul". Her eyes still have the power to communicate wildly to my heart....whether to motivate me to help with a crying baby, or to send the message that I'm loved. :) Both are pretty effective.

But a new realm of optical appreciation has hit me lately. The power of my daughters eyes. It's ridiculous, and illustrates well the "Weak Force of God" as Caputo would put it. My daughters cannot force me to do anything, physically. Okay, so Sophie can sometimes grab my soul patch with a death grip...and yes, I would have to give in to her demands.

But with one look of their eyes, our older two girls have learned they can send a vice grip deep into daddy's heart, and twist it whatever direction they want. Okay, maybe that's not true. They're still pretty innocent in this area. But it suuuure seems like it sometimes. Happens on a daily basis....sometime between 5 and 7am.....we wake to the words "I'm huuuuuungry." We look over to see Addie standing there. As long as I keep my eyes closed....I can respond "get back to bed". But one look into her eyes, even in the half-lit room...and I'm toast.

So am I saying the "Weak Force of God" occurs magically when we "look into His eyes"? Nope. But I think it's a related kinda power sometimes. Jesus didn't come into town with trumpets blasting, blazing crown on his head, and a list of "how things were gonna' change" (said with a thick western sheriff accent).

He came as a baby. He lived towards the lowly. He loved unconditionally. He called "freedom" into the lives of humans who desperately needed it. He stood in the half-lit room, calling out to people who were hungry/sleeping, offering nourishment beyond the imaginable. Infinitely compelling.

We serve a powerful...powerful God....

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

κενόω

"Jesus had some choices. He was not born into the worst possible condition. He would have had far fewer options had he been born a woman, or even worse, a woman with a crippling disease. The issue was not how far down on the pyramid he was born but the direction of his gaze." - T. Richard Snyder

As a week of giving Thanks for all that we have, and all that we are collides with the birth of a new advent season...many of us have already begun speaking of baby Jesus. This past Sunday night my wife and I took our oldest daughter on a drive through a live nativity. The nativity took us from prophecies of Jesus, to his birth, through his life, crucifixion, and even the empty tomb. The narration spoke of Christ's humble beginnings.

We often emphasize that, and then act as if that was the path Jesus was on. A humble one. Of course he was humble, he was a human from Nazareth, etc.

But Snyder reminds us of an important not-so-secret: Jesus CHOSE to associate/love/relate/"gaze" toward the lower rungs of the socio-political-economic ladder. Why is that important to remember?

In today's world, we "gaze" toward the higher rungs. We want success, fame, health, fortune, power, prestige, etc. Snyder points out that the power of those in the "middle class" (he admits it's a very fluid/flexible definition for a group, but nevertheless) is essentially the "power to consume". That even if/when someone may achieve large success, as the case with many professional sports players, they do not make it to the "top of the pyramid. They can merely buy more toys."

Philippians 2:7 uses the word "κενόω" (ken-ah-oh) to talk about Jesus "emptying" Himself. What if this year's Thanksgiving was also attached to our anticipation of Jesus Christ, and all that He brings/announces/transforms? Let me put it more practically:

What if this year, as we spend time listing off each thing we're thankful for, we also use that as a list of things we want to consciously "release" our possession of towards God? As we thank God for each thing/being we have, we receive a burden for those without it?

May we "gaze" with God's love, and move toward where that Love is moving...

Monday, November 23, 2009

into return...

One of the aspects that couldn't be captured well in this film, but I would have liked to see, is the film-makers' return to his normal life. A life of traffic, cell phones, fast food, internet, and half-naked women in every advertisement. After spending 6 months sharing life in such simple, quiet, and holy ways.

In the Celtic tradition, there is a belief in "thin places". Actual physical locations where the pursuit of God has occurred so often, or in such grand ways, that the veil between "Heaven" and earth are worn thin. If there is any such place, it seems the monastery from this documentary would be one. Life, ritual, and liturgy happening in very much the same way for almost a thousand years. To spend 6 months in this place, participating in this liturgical way of living....wow.

But then to return, not to a life and arena that one would consider "unholy".....but rather, a creation that God is already involved in creating anew. Holiness breaking out all over the place. But still, very different from past 6 months in space and time.

Anyone who watches the film has a similar, albeit smaller, experience. Heck, anyone who attends worship services with a church family should probably have regular similar experiences. Many have had those moments....those experiences that make us want to stay doing whatever it is we're doing because of how we are participating in God's activity.

But we...we are not called to be monks. We are not called to sit and stare at video of a simpler life and drool over such freedom. We are not called to exist within the context and walls of a worshiping congregation. We are empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) to live amidst a creation being renewed as people who have spent time in the presence of God. Who spend time in the presence of God. There is a similar "brotherhood" among us, as seen throughout the men of the Grand Chartreuse. When one joined their "family", the new member would walk to each individual in the circle and they would embrace as kin.

Then the senior members would accompany them to their cell, and sing/pronounce blessings over this new one, and welcome them to a new way of living.

God is. We experience the presence of God. We experience the abandon that comes as both freedom and sacrifice. We are infinitely compelled by a Love that defines love. And we live from these, in and towards His Kingdom...."on Earth as it is in Heaven"...

I guess...all of that to say....it was a pretty good movie. :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

into seduction...

Setting the concepts of "eros" aside will do the following thoughts well:

One of the lines repeated over and over again throughout "Into Great Silence", is the line "Lord, you seduced me, and I was seduced." from Jeremiah 20. Here are a few other translations:

NRSV: "O Lord, you have enticed me, and I was enticed."

NLT: "O LORD, you persuaded me, and I allowed myself to be persuaded."

Douay-Rheims: "Thou hast deceived me, O Lord, and I am deceived."

The NIV also chooses the word "deceived."

The Complete Jewish Bible: "You fooled me, ADONAI; I have been your dupe."

The Message: "You pushed me into this, GOD, and I let you do it."

It's an interesting concept, and one that fits well with the "Weakness of God" wrestling I've done in recent months. God's power is very much a "infinitely compelling"type. To think of why someone might live simply, or follow the thousand-year-old liturgies these monks live out. Or why someone today may choose to live counter-culturally and towards the way Christ has revealed His Kingdom to be.

It's not because God has a giant finger on a cosmic "send you to hades" button. It's because when we experience God....when we are faced with His presence, or new knowledge or revelation of His Spirit....or possibly even His words become flesh...powerful seduction may be a very appropriate way of describing how we are led to being transformed by His Spirit.

May we find ourselves seduced by the infinitely compelling presence and Hope of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit that is always active, and in whose presence we cannot help but be transformed from.....and to.....

Saturday, November 21, 2009

into abandon...

It's one of those verses that if you're reading online through some sort of "internet bible", you desperately want to click the "read in context" link above it. Luke 14:33, "So therefore, none of you can become my disciple if you do not give up all your possessions. "

So there you have it. The word for "give" here doesn't emphasize so much the action of giving, as it does the letting go of. The "renounce, or bid farewell to".

What is it that you have a hard time "bidding farewell to"? The word for "possessions" here can also be translated as "substance". What part of our identities would be the hardest for us to hold before God, palms up? What desires/motivations are we moved by in our daily lives that we would have a tough time letting go of?

I think marriage and family are great practices in this area, but also complicate the whole thing. In a marriage relationship, we (in theory, not always in practice) are giving up ourselves for the other. We desire to put the other before ourselves, and love them as Christ loved the Church. Each day offers new opportunities (whether we take them or not....I should more often I know) for us to let go of ourselves, for the sake of the other. Then come children. We parents would sacrifice anything for our children. To provide for them. To protect them as we see fit. Even as they are newborn, we begin the practice of letting go of ourselves (and our sleep) in order to give ourselves to them.

But this also complicates things. Our spouses, and our children....in Luke 14:26 Jesus speaks about these challenges to being a disciple. To make decisions towards Christ that may offend my family...my wife...my children...would be a bit harder to do than just anyone. To hold these relationships, palms up, before God on a daily basis....trusting His love for them is beyond anything I can bring to the table. Difficult...but at the same time, freeing.

I can see why monks vow to a life of celibacy. Any new familial relationship is another relationship to offer God on a daily basis...and can be very tempting to hold onto tightly as a possession.

May we practice Holy abandon of our possessions, relationships, and even our own "substance"...even as we move towards a week of Thanking God for these things...

Friday, November 20, 2009

into presence...

The original cynics in the ancient Greek world were against the materialistic society. They advocated the pursuit of virtue via a simple way of living. Ironic then, that I would be cynical when approaching "Into Great Silence". But I was.

We live in a world where we are being sold something constantly. So even when a movie experience that is advertised to transcend such aspects of culture, it can seem like another sales pitch. This movie has been recommended in several places of my life over the past year, so finally I caved and got it. Over 2.5 hours of experiencing the ancient monastic order of the Grande Chartreuse. That the film maker intended this be more than a movie about a monastery, but the film actually offers space and time of Holy silence...an experience of God.

Of course, if I'm expecting all of these things, and moving into it as if God "has" to respond...it won't happen, right?

As the movie begins, the opening production credits are bold and noisy. The dryer in our basement is on overhaul. A train is passing by outside, and decides it's a great time to announce its' presence by whistling. I whisper a quick prayer, "Lord, make this more than watching a movie so I can say I finally watched it. Let me sit with you."

The dryer stops. The whistle fades. The film illustrates 1 Kings 19:11-13. It was a goosebump moment for sure. But not in a "I'm watching a scary movie.", or even in a "rush of a giant worship concert". Simply, "God is here."

Even in the midst of guiding our teens into "Downtime" lately....I may have overlooked simple silence. I enjoyed it, to say the least....

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Die Große Stille

Decided something today in a conversation on fasting....I wasn't ever going to get a chance to watch "Into Great Silence" unless I fasted sleep. I've owned it for a few weeks now. So far I'd only been able to watch all of the "extra features", which included the evening services in Latin....a pretty neat thing in and of itself. But it's not a movie I could "fit neatly" into any daytime rest period...whether at work or with the girls.

So here I am, 1am. Having spent nearly 3 hours being taken through daily routines of one of the worlds' oldest monasteries, nearly untouched by time. I stayed awake by typing random thoughts/notes while journeying through the monastic experience. I definitely recommend it. And recommend fasting sleep in order to create time and space to take it in properly.

I have many thoughts, and some of them will probably come as I continue to process all that the film contained, and all that God spoke while watching. For now I'm simply still in awe, and grateful to have shared this experience. Those involved in creating the film really did achieve their goal "to embody a monastery, rather than simply depict one."

To share in liturgy that has been taking place for over 1,000 years. To see the purposefully simple way of life....to be jealous of much of their simplicity. To have quiet spaces built into the film, allowing for reflection and meditation on the Word, and God's Spirit. To be reminded of that moment in 1 Kings 19, where God passed by Elijah. It was not in the wind, earthquake, or even the fire, but in the sheer silence.

I'm Thankful....for having spent time in such silence.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Got $5?


Okay, so here's the deal. I've been "sent behind bars". I'll actually be doing my time the 2nd Wednesday in December. The purpose? Raising money for Jerry's Kids.

I've got a goal of $1,500. Think I can raise it? Here's what the dollars go toward.

I'm not looking for one person to give $1,500. I'm not even looking for 15 people to give $100. Of course, I won't argue if either ends up happening.

What I'm looking for are 300 people willing to give $5.

For every $30 raised, they can offer a flu shot to a child with Muscular Dystrophy. A flu shot that could save a life. MD children are much more vulnerable because of their weakened respiratory muscles, so the swine flu has posed an especially dangerous threat this year.

Seriously. I know you probably get asked for money regularly. And usually it comes with a promise of overpriced popcorn or cookie dough. Not offering anything here, although if you give now I won't have to call you from jail. ;)

$5. That's a cheap lunch. Skip one.

Donate here. Thanks...

Sunday, November 15, 2009

last night.

A quick lesson from my daughter:

Right now, Addie is a big fan of using the words "last night". Only, it's not always in the context of "what did you do last night, Addie?" With her responding, "Well, I played with my princesses."

It's more like, she will think of something that happened in the past. Maybe it was a day ago. Or this morning. Or a week ago. Or a year ago. Or maybe even just talked about at one point way back when. She will say "last night, __________". I understand. Mommy understands. But other people may wonder why we had a birthday party, or ate cereal with milk, or watched fireworks "last night".

It's a simple problem, that as she grows we'll address at some point. But it's so stinkin' cute right now, the general public will have to deal with it.

I borrow her error as a way of illustrating something larger. We all know, or might be, people who live as if the past was "last night". And not just last night today, but last night every day. Whether:

1. Last night really was last night. Caught up in a life or lifestyle that I don't know how to be released from, I repeat the same things over and over again. My identity is very caught up in that being a part of my present.

2. Last night was a long time ago, but I continue to live with it as a burden. I blame myself for it, or feel like others see "it" when they look at me. My identity is very caught up in that being a part of my past.

To both of these situations, we find Jesus entering the scene as someone who releases the prisoner. Not only releases, but redefines...offering not only assistance when we repent, but an entirely NEW identity in Christ. Offers the ability for us to have a new relationship with our past, redeemed and re-created from out of it. Offers the freedom for us to follow Him with our lives TODAY, through whatever sacrifices that might mean.

May we as a community be people who have been freed from our "last nights", and seek that same freedom for those God has called us to Love...

Saturday, November 14, 2009

song of the world.

(a lie)




The Listener. A poet/rapper who will open doors and windows.

Friday, November 13, 2009

again.

In reading 1 Corinthians 10 (heads up quizzers), we see Paul warning the church in Corinth not to fall back into patterns the people of God have already gone through. Ironically, we find ourselves in many of the same patterns today. Paul's words send us a similar message, and unfortunately, could send the same message a thousand years from now possibly. (even though I hope with the Church that Christ comes in the next instant to complete what has begun)

Idolatry - The Israelites found themselves desiring pagan gods who might rescue them from "wandering" on their journey out of Egypt to the promised land. The church in Corinth may have similarly found it easier to allow vague pagan influences to become a part of their response to God, as Christianity was figuring out a new way of being God's people. Today, we have many things that compete for our time/resources/being. We may not bow down or pray to these things, but they can definitely become things we ascribe too much worth to (worship).

Sexual Immorality (a sub-category of Idolatry) - An obvious one here, in all three communities. But at least in the first two, such things were talked about, and in seeking purity/holiness the people of God would correct each other. Today, such topics are either considered "taboo" or "conservative". But we recognize the seriousness of sexual immorality. Sexual experiences outside the context of marriage are something warned about severely.

Putting Christ/God to the Test - Paul was most likely speaking of Numbers 21 where the people of Israel did not believe God would provide for them. As if God would have accomplished everything so far, simply to let them die in the wilderness, alone and forgotten. Corinth was a popular city to pass through, and full of other cultures/gods. The temptation would be to somehow "prove" that Christ's followers were "in the know". We have the same temptation today, plenty of Christians who promise us God wants us to be successful/powerful/rich, and sell their books to reveal such things to us.

Complaining (murmuring) - Not simply complaining, but blaming God and "grass is greener without God" complex. The people of Israel actually had thoughts of things being better back in Egypt. I'm sure the people of early Christianity often were tempted to complain for the various ways following Christ impacted their life in a new way. We too, are sometimes tempted to focus on how much easier the road would be if we simply followed our emotions or the world's "logic". But God calls us to be citizen's of His Kingdom, transformed/different by new life in Christ.

Thankfully, if we find we've been involved in ANY of these lately, or even currently...we have a God who offers to make things NEW daily. :)

Thursday, November 12, 2009

change...

In high school, the only yearbook that mattered to me was senior year. I have no idea what happened to my senior year yearbook....if my mom reads this and knows where it is...I'd hug her if she found it. My guess is it was lost or gone in some random abyss of our home or someone else's. But it mattered because it was the "final" of many years of moving towards that year.

There was a section in the yearbook where each of the seniors were pictured. Somehow, we'd each gotten titles that had been "voted on" by the general student body. I didn't attend a large high school, Eaton Rapids is not exactly a metropolis. But somehow, creative democracy still occurred.

I remember the moment I first scanned through the yearbook to find out what title I'd earned myself. What has all of my social, educational, and artistic effort accomplished me? Sure not "best dressed". Definitely not "most likely to get great grades in college". Probably not "likely to play a professional sport". My mind imagined what sort of non-title I might have gotten.

Finally, I saw it. My picture..and underneath were the words:

"Most Changed"

Most changed? What does that mean? Most changed since a year ago? Since 5 years ago? Since we all began in Kindergarten? Yes...I'd definitely gone through some changes. I gained a lot of weight in middle school...and in high school ended up losing a lot due to a stomach surgery. I'd changed all 3 of my names between 5th and 10th grades. I gained more social confidence late in high school through realizing new life in Christ offered freedom from social status.

I was recently reminded that our bodies' skin and bone cells almost all die and are replaced every 6 months. We are not who we were half a year ago. But we are so much more than our bodies. We are daily being transformed by God's Spirit into something pretty spectacular. We may have missed out on bits of it yesterday, but today is NEW.

Our relationship with an active God offers us to experience daily, new ways of relating to those we love, to our enemies, and to aspects/routines of daily life. What about our day today is God desiring to change how we relate to? "Most Changed" can be a very good title to have. May we seek God's renewal and redemption, and what that offers for today, and an infinite amount of tomorrows....

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

strategically simple

This past Sunday, we were reminded that the story of the widow giving her two copper coins (Mark 12), was not simply a message on giving. It wasn't simply an illustration on the fact that "little can be much", and every amount we give is important, etc.

It offers a much more life-transforming message to us today, in our time and culture.

The widow, because she didn't have much to give, was able to give her ALL. "All that she had to live on." How much more difficult is it, for someone with much, to give their "ALL". Sure, we who have a lot may give what we believe we can financially afford. What we can sacrifice and still get by on. But our "all"??

And not just finances. Socially. Relationally. How much mercy/Forgiveness/Love we live out. Our time. Other resources. Are we truly offering our "all" to God?


Generally it isn't until Christmas is near that we begin to hear about donating to good charities, etc. About purposefully choosing to live and give simply, so that more resources can be given to places of staggering need. I know it's hard, and learn more about how hard it is....as with 3 daughters....we and all of our family/friends LOVE to give our daughters gifts/toys/etc. Their smile is worth any price...or so it would seem.

Take a moment to watch this video. Seriously...before Black Friday, before the lists have been submitted to Santa, before the race begins. Take 4.5 minutes, and watch this video.

$8 hot dogs aren't evil. Enjoying the chocolates of life can be a very God-filled thing. But may we be more conscious and aware of purposefully living more simply.....because Jesus taught us that will make it easier for us to "give our all"....and what better time of the year to model that to the children watching all of us...than Christmas? :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sport of any Season - Gennis

Right now many of you golfers may be longing for greener pastures. Literally. You've put your clubs away and submitted to natures suggestion that you wait until next Spring to try again. But there's a long time between now and then, and you probably don't play hockey.

Here's what you do:

1. Grab your 7 iron. Heck, go to Salvation Army and grab a few 7 irons. Then go by a used sporting goods store, and get yourself a few tennis balls.

2. Select a course. A large public area, like a park, college campus, or even a (safe) neighborhood.

4. Create the course. 9 hole or 18 hole, depending on the area you've chosen. Most neighborhood courses should probably be limited to 9. Before you invite anyone else, map out the area. Select where the tees are, and where the holes will be. A hole can be anything you want the ball to make contact with. When choosing a hole, be sure not to use humans, animals, or easily damageable objects. Once you've created a hole, play it to see what you think Par should be. Write it down.

5. Now that you have your course map, and Par list, invite some friends to play (me especially). Offer them a 7 iron you got for cheap, and they'll be your best friend for a day.

6. Remember that as a Gennis player, there are certain standards we have to uphold. Keep this in mind when playing through roads, yards, and around people who might be actually using the park as a.....park.

There's a history of Gennis somewhere online....you can thank the good people of BURPO for proselytizing the beautiful idea, and if you're a student at ONU, just ask a BURPO for the course information.

If you live in or near Decatur, IL...we've created a GENNIS course for Moundford Free Methodist Church...talk to Pastor Wick for a copy!!!

Simple as that. Golf with a tennis ball. Gennis. Enjoy.

Monday, November 09, 2009

dia de luz

This is good. Good. Very Good.

The love. The community. The Kingdom building. The music.

For whatever about it ends up falling short...this IS GOOD.

Day of Light from Love Light & Melody on Vimeo.


I like that.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

won't back down...

You woke the morning up
Running off my darkest night
The longest fight I've seen

And here goes a chance I know
Cashing in on all my chips
Let all my ships come fly

These days, a little bit longer than the last
And all of these ways, a little bit stronger than the past
And your light, found my bottle in the night
Gave me second life, you kept me in this fight

And I won't back down
I won't turn around and around
And I won't back down
Doesn't matter what comes crashing down
I'm still gonna stand my solid ground

And you found me once and for all
I laid it down in the sinking ground
The hopeless undertow

Singing out the gentle sound
Rattling through my smoking screens
My broken dreams last night

And I sing hallelujah ripped through my veins
I heard the hammer drop
My blood in the rain
Sing hallelujah came like a train
When all is lost, all is left to gain

And I won't back down
I won't turn around and around
And I won't back down
Doesn't matter what comes crashing down
I'm still gonna stand my solid ground

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Collision: The Movie

As much as I'm curiously interested in watching this movie, and the trailer makes it look really "hip/trendy", it also seems to miss a point. It's being screened in Chicago soon, if you're interested in checking it out with a context that offers a bit of discussion/digestion of it. It's also on Amazon by now, if you'd rather others not know you watched it, or can't drive to Chicago....or a combination of those two.

It's a documentary/movie about a story of dialogue happening between world-famous Atheist author/speaker/etc. Christopher Hitchens and world-famous evangelical author/pastor/etc. Douglas Wilson. Based on the trailer, it seems to be a 90-minute back and forth and rebuttal about whether or not Christianity or Atheism makes sense, and is good for the world, etc. I haven't seen the film, so obviously I can't tell you any of the redeeming qualities, or about the ultimate message/context it provides for being a great resource of some sort.

All I can do here, is point at the concept behind such a thing even happening...and ask...really?

Now, with Christopher Hitchens I can understand. Such a project and undertaking makes perfect sense. Possibly even purposefully drawing Wilson out to have him participate in something that seems to go against much of what Christ spoke of.

But Douglas Wilson being a part of this? I haven't read his books, but I'm weary anytime one person represents the whole Christian body in a public way like this.

Maybe my concerns are without foundation. Maybe Wilson's goal is to reveal how nonsensical following Christ is. Perhaps his purpose lies in revealing there is no worldly logic or good and easy explanation for why someone should believe and follow God's Kingdom.

May we remember, as we come into dialogue and living situations with those of other or no faiths....to love. To offer grace and mercy, and Truth from a loving heart. To live freely, and enabled by the Holy Spirit. To attempt to explain the Hope that we have, and offer it to others who are bound by many of the chains of our world.

But may we also remember that chains do not often fall off through a theological or a-theological debate where we attempt to prove why all of this "makes sense" or is "economically or physically or etc....attractive" in the light of other paths this world has created.

Check out this appearance on CNN for an interview with both of them after the movie is made. As people who follow Christ, let's take less paths that look like this....k? :)

Friday, November 06, 2009

1 vs. 99

Lately the theme of Kingdom as valuing the one over the ninety-nine (Luke 15) has been running through my brain. Like, what does that look like beyond the shepherd and sheep analogy? I don't think we'd very easily accept many of the situations I can come up with:

1. A pastor learns an elderly person from his church really needs to be prayed with, and has requested them as the one to pray with. Even though it's Sunday morning, and service is about to begin, they walk out and leave service in the hands of whoever grabs the microphone first.

2. Someone who is very successful at their job as a __________. They make quite a bit of money, and have a life that requires steady employment at that job in order to keep the wheels spinning, house heated, and food on the table. There comes a brief moment where they see unhealthiness in their home, and are faced with continuing to work at the pace they have, or spend time seeking healing for family...come what may with employment.

3. There is a pre-school class with 30 or so children in it. There is one teacher, and she realizes a student is missing. The rest of the school is off today for teacher inservice. She leaves the classroom unattended, and begins to roam the halls in search of the missing 4 year old.

4. I have about 99 things I need to do each day that are required. They're practical. They matter. If I don't do them, my day, or my job, or my relationships, or my family, etc....would be impacted negatively. But something comes along...not an assignment for work, not an opportunity to make money, etc. But an opportunity to build the Kingdom in a unique way, by giving of myself. I think I'm called to do the one, even if it leaves some of the 99 behind.

5. Okay, now you try and create one...

Thursday, November 05, 2009

parenting as story-building

I love being a dad. I love even more being a daddy. But I worry both as a father, and especially as a father of three girls. This world is not very good at coming together to raise females in a healthy way. In fact, most places...even the ones considered to be "fun" or "innocent", want to take advantage of, sell things to, and teach my daughters as much untruth as possible.

Chapter 9 of Donald Miller's newest book is surprisingly good and captures some really good stuff, for him not being a parent himself. You can read it yourself for the specifics.

But the essence of it talks about how we as parents who know the God-given identity of our children, have a responsibility to tell a story with our family that captures and lives that out. How if we're simply existing day to day, even if we're growing and learning....but not purposefully living out a Kingdom story together, children will look elsewhere for their story.

I love my daughters. I want them to know who God has made them, and who God has called them to be. Not in a strict, demanding they have to follow these rules and walk this path. But in a free, God has released them from many of the chains of this world, and they're made able to live/exist differently by His Spirit.

But if I desire that for them, and for my wife, and my family as a whole, I need to be purposefully looking for ways to illustrate that is the story we are living. Experiences for my family, and for my girls, where they exist in that way, and develop their identity as a character in that story.

May God guide me in experiences of love, grace, mercy, sacrifice, etc; and may I seek them out purposefully as someone who is called to not simply exist within a story, but to help tell it by the Spirit of God, and to know where this plot is taking us...

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

perspective.

I support the construction and renovations needed in Decatur Public Schooling. (although this video is ironically hilarious. first few seconds we see students using paper and pencil next to available computers, and it goes right into a statement from Superintendent Gloria Davis "paper and pencil are gone" in regard to the need for new technology in classrooms). I love Mrs. Davis, and support Decatur Schools...but to say paper and pencil are gone is like saying let's not teach people how to walk anymore because driving is now possible. :)

Decatur Public Schools Video from Billy Tyus on Vimeo.



But I also think it's important to keep our perspective.



We have it pretty good. :) As we move forward as a community that desires to serve its future faithfully, may we retain a healthy appreciation for all that we have, both in substance and ability...

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Locked Up!!!

Want to help me out?!
Or want to make me stay in??

I'm going behind bars for "GOOD"
PLEASE HELP BAIL ME OUT (click here)

(unless you want me to stay there! click here)

Your donation is my key to freedom, or another hour in the slammer! Be proud of the fact that together we're providing help and hope to kids and adults served by MDA in our community.

After you give, e-mail me and let me know whether you're donating to FREE me, or to make me STAY another hour!!!



Thanks for making a difference!

ἐμβριμάομαι

In reading the story of Lazarus, we find an interesting word. The word is found in John chapter 11, verse 33, and stood out to me this past Sunday. According to the NRSV, the word is translated "enebrimhsato", which means Jesus "was deeply moved".

It stood out to me, simply as an example of Jesus feeling an emotion. Not just any emotion, one strong enough to be "deeply moved", using a word hardly used anywhere else in the New Testament. Most of the time, when these words are pointed out, it's someone extending the illustration of how much Jesus must have loved Lazarus, etc.

I like that side of the coin. Obviously Jesus cared about Lazarus, and these women knew there was a relationship between them. There is a great illustration here of Jesus Christ being human, and experiencing a life such as ours.

But it also seems like there is a frustration/emotion here that focuses on the lack of faith in the Jews he was close to in these scenes. The word here meaning "was deeply moved" comes from a root word "brimaomai" which means "to snort with anger". This was not a sadness for the loss of his friend, this was a frustration with the unbelief of those who should be the first to believe.

This understanding, however, would also change the meaning of the verses that follow. "Jesus wept." would be another sign of his immense sadness for the unbelief of those closest to him. "See how he loved him." would be the Jews continuing to miss the reason for Jesus' sadness, blind to their own unbelief and the grief it caused Jesus.

Which opens up yet another new word that can come from this story. That we followers of Christ are quick to point out things that may grieve the Spirit of Christ, as long as it's something other than ourselves. May we each spend some time reflecting on what in our own life may be the "unbelief" that could cause Christ to "snort with anger", and shed tears on our behalf....

Monday, November 02, 2009

(it's gettin' hot in here...so ________)

It's always pretty cool when you hear a new message coming from a story you've heard a thousand billion times. These thoughts are stolen from Pastor G's message yesterday. I liked 'em.

In biblical Judaism, there were laws and customs on every area of life. How to make sacrifices. How to build altars. How to keep "clean" in pretty much any given realm of their daily living. But there was an area that hadn't been covered. Well, many areas probably, all surrounding a response to exactly what God was accomplishing through Jesus Christ.

But specifically here in John chapter 11, "How should a faithful Jew respond when someone once dead has become living again?"

Everyone knew to touch a dead person was unclean. To touch a sick person was unclean. So what of this man Lazarus, who was coming out from the grave as alive again? (it seems a different type of "resurrection" than Christ, but that's another blog) Should they go near him?

Jesus gives clear instructions to those around them, and they seem to be followed:

"Take off the grave clothes and let him go."

As Christians, we often find it hard to know how to respond when someone we know has been living apart from Christ for a long time all of a sudden begins walking around "as someone made alive." When we see there are still things that are binding them as they walk toward Christ. It's easy to simply point, it's easy to condemn, easy to tell them to take their bindings off.

But Jesus response calls us to respond by assisting/serving. Also interesting to note the different goals in approaching the dead/living. Someone who is still dead, you don't approach attempting to help remove the grave clothes. We first seek new LIFE, and THEN once they're living, we're called to come alongside and help in taking off the grave clothes that bind.

When we begin to consciously approach others who have come to new life in Christ, seeking what grave clothes we can help to remove (Method-ism); it leads us to a life where we are continuously asking ourselves as well. "What grave clothes are still bound on me?", and to seek people/Godly happenings that will help us remove these clothes, so that we may be clothed anew in Christ....

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Truly Compelling & Saints

Yesterday's post ended with a phrase that made me want to share a few thoughts from Youth Group Wednesday night. "Oh, youth group", you're thinking. "Don't have sex, listen to your parents, and do good in school, etc.", you might summarize what I'm about to say.

You'd be more than slightly wrong.

Wednesday we talked about our identities as NEW CREATION. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We talked about how this is more than simply something God wants to do because it's nice and creative. In Revelation, the book that reveals God's desire/plan through Jesus Christ for all creation, verse 21:5 shows us a God who's pretty excited/giddy about what's going on. He points at what is happening and says "LOOK!! I'm making all things new!!"

We talked about our identity's as new creations, and how God is pointing at us, and telling all of creation "LOOK!! THAT is what I'm wanting to do with ALL things!"

I think I like the concept of "Saints" found in the Church...as long as we keep a healthy relationship to them. I think of people like John Wesley, BT Roberts, John Mason, and many others. Imperfect people, sure, but people that I think we could point to and say "LOOK! That is what God is wanting to do with all of creation!" Today, we honor those who have gone before us. Those saints. Those who God continues to remind us of, as embodying something incredibly close to what He's accomplishing throughout all things.

That's powerful. And not He-man powerful. Caputo powerful.

Infinitely compelling. I desire to live a life that, when I'm alive even would be nice, others and perhaps even God might point at once in a while and say "LOOK! That's what I'm doing in all things!" Guess I'd better get goin...