Sunday, January 31, 2010

Team USA: Ice Hockey Schedule


Okay everyone, the TV Schedules are out for some of the games. Here are the games to pay attention to for us in the USA:

Feb. 14th -
USA vs. China - Womens - 2pm-4:30pm CST - on USA Network (appropriately)
(re-aired again on Monday, 15th...in case you missed it)

Feb. 16th -
USA vs. Switzerland - Mens - 2pm-5pm CST - on USA Network
USA vs. Russia - Womens - 4:30pm CST - on MSNBC

Feb. 18th -
USA vs. Norway - Mens - 2pm-5pm CST - on USA Network
USA vs. Finland - Womens - 4:30-7pm CST - on MSNBC

Feb. 21st -
USA vs. Canada - Mens - 6:00pm-9pm CST - on MSNBC


Check the link above as the action happens, for updates on who is playing when on which channels. It seems as if NBC realizes this hockey biz-ness is fo' real.

But no matter who you are, or what country you cheer for....you NEED to be watching NBC, Sunday, Feb. 28th, from 2-5pm as the puck drops on the GOLD MEDAL GAME. See you there. Game On.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

haiti - solidarity.

suffering and loss
been counted out of the cost, feeling like you've been tossed
out.

luxury is: clean water, clean sheets, clean streets,
Love.
forget alma mater, education for children is triumph

THEN the quake.

the earth shakes, makes space, reduces pace
buildings crumble like towers made by toddlers
bodies collapsed with the rubble, there is no time.
But time to pray.

no time for funerals, no time for mourning, no time for morning
because I'm thirsty. For air, for water, for food, for safety.
Honoring the lost, a cause taken up by others thankfully
Because here - here is survival.
Pray for our survival.

The survival of the fittest, but the fit are hit with it too
Here is equality, though some still grasp for the ladder.
Pray for our weak.

Not simply a quest for survival
celebrating each arrival of supplies like a revival
This is NOT the end, for we who still breathe.
We remember who gives each breath
and He does NOT take it away - no matter what others say.
Remember that when you Pray.

Creation is broken, now more clearly seen
Not a message to be searched for what it means
But what meaning it can be given, through rubble and strife
Humanity. Here we find a snapshot of love and life
in a world uncontrollable.
Pray for stability.

Here come the Superbowl, Valentines, Olympics
Life.
Temptation to forget, or permission to quit
But we can't do it.
Pray we don't.

The world is breaking, it's not done.
God calls us to bring the healing of His Son
Haiti is not "the beginning of the end"
But it can be a new beginning.
Pray.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Bonhoeffer: The First Hundred

So I've begun reading Eberhard Bethge's "Dietrich Bonhoeffer - A Biography". It's over 1,000 pages long, and a seemingly daunting read. I've given myself the year to get through it, though I'm finding it may not take so long. The only thing that may delay me finishing it, is my aversion to being seen in public with such a large book. As if I need something to outwardly confirm my nerd-hood.

It's a great read, especially for someone who's just finished a fictional account of Bonhoeffer's life, and needs something to fill in the cracks and set the record straight. Bethge was also a close friend and student of Bonhoeffer, which enables him to make statements and bring up memories that wouldn't be possible anywhere else. This is also a revised edition, so many quotes from other Bonhoeffer sources and writings have been added to complete their part of the picture.

Bethge starts, as anyone would, at the beginning. But not simply Dietrich's beginning. He goes back into the lives of Bonhoeffer's parents and grandparents. We get a picture of what long-term influences and cultures go into creating the family Dietrich finds himself in. We see a family rich in cultural heritage, very musically inclined, and involved in positions of public influence and leadership. Quiet, firm, disciplined, and yet experiencing the fullness of life in many ways.

Within these first 100 pages, it takes us through the Bonhoeffer family into the years of Dietrich's studies in college. The more I read about this man, the more relevant his writings, musings, and life become. His passion for ecclesiology (the study of the church), his Love for the bride of Christ, and his genuine/open wondering about a great deal of topics. His thoughts on how the presence of Christ comes to the world in the living community of believers could have come straight from a modern theologian. And these are only the beginning/formative years!!

Yup. I'm a nerd.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

intense...

He had his knife to my throat. He was yelling his demands, as the sweat beaded on his forehead. A forehead that was larger than most, as balding had begun, but he was by no means an old or out of shape man. And for some reason, he kept a knife larger than Crocodile Dundee's laying on his dining room table at all times.

Otherwise we would've been safe. I looked around the room at the other faces, all terrified at what might happen before this was all over. For some reason, I'd been chosen as the one he would open up to. And demand things from. I casually put my hand in my pocket. MY CELL PHONE!!! Oh man, I knew there had to be a silver lining somewhere. Stupid touchpad though....I couldn't imagine how I would try and dial 9-1-1 without arousing suspicion.

After some nonchalant back and forth, I was able to divert his attention to something else just long enough for me to dial the numbers with the phone still in my pocket. My only hope was that they would hear what was going on.

Now, he was yelling something new. He wanted me to go out to the driveway, and sit in the front seat of the car. He wanted me to use the phone he hands me (my hand is out of my pocket by now, thankfully.....and I'm praying they can hear what is going on, or at least trace the call), and wants me to transfer money from my bank account into his. I tell him I don't have that much money IN my account to begin with....but sweaty bald men with a knife at your throat don't seem to listen to reason much.

I began to walk slowly toward the door. I looked around the room at my family, some blurry people, a few I recognized....all of their faces registered fear and "help us" at the same time. My only hope was that the phone in my pocket had already done what was needed, and I could let the situation enter the hands of the officials soon enough. So he wanted me to go outside and sit in the car where he could see me, eh? Odd request....but he was now threatening someone else....and it was up to me to follow through. Okay...I'll go.

I was at the doorway, and had just opened the glass storm door....when something caught my hand. I looked down. It was my almost-two-year-old, Sophie. The thumb of her other hand in mouth, and casually looking outside at the darkened neighborhood, she tugged on my hand. As I looked down at her, she looked up at me, removing the thumb from her mouth said, "Daddy, outside!!!???"

I love that even in my weirdest, most intense dreams....Sophie takes advantage of any opportunity to go outside. :) I love my daughters.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Holiness Manifesto: Fin

So there it is. A review of each chapter within the book "The Holiness Manifesto".

Introduction: A Guiding Vision for the Future (link is to my initial finding the book)

The Context: Past and Present

The Holiness Manifesto (link is to the original manifesto)

Fresh Eyes on Holiness: Living Out the Holiness Manifesto (link is to response to original manifesto)

1. Goodness and Worship: A Perspective on Old Testament Holiness

2. Holiness in New Testament Perspective

3. Jesus and a Gospel of Holiness and (Part Two)

4. Integrated Streams of Holiness: Christian Holiness and Unity, Ancient and Future

5. The Social Vision of the Wesleyan Holiness Movement

6. Holiness: Sins Anticipated Cure

7. Holiness and the 5 Calls of God: Holiness in Postmodernity

8. Transformed by Grace: The Beauty of Personal Holiness

9. Social Holiness: Journey, Exposures, Encounters

10. Holiness in the City

11. Local Church Impact

12. Preaching as Charisma

The appendix that follows these contains 4 approaches to the definition of "Holiness" that can be useful when reading all of this, or in general.

Overall, I recommend the book. Perhaps not to be read straight through, but whenever you're hungry/in need of a reminder of this concept that is so wrapped up in our creation and new creation; yet so often misunderstood and sold short. May we continue to be a people created Holy, called Holy, and called to become Holy...in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Preaching as Charisma

Chapter 12 of "The Holiness Manifesto" is called "Preaching as Charisma", written by James Earl Massey. Massey is a long-time preacher/teacher, and Dean Emeritus from Anderson University School of Theology.

Massey begins with rescuing the word "Charisma" from any of it's more recent secular uses. It is not simply someone's ability to draw a crowd, or enjoin a small group of fans/followers. It has very little to do with our ability to entertain or illustrate well with words. It is a gift from God. He quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer's statement, "a sermon is only relevant when God is there. He is the One who makes its message concrete."

A seemingly specific message, although still quite important to those of us called/involved in the realm of preaching. But I believe he could (and may have elsewhere) expanded his message to anyone who desires to speak God's word into the lives of others...verbally and in action. What we do and say is nothing on its own merit. Mere "good things" to do and say. We believe, and pray for the Spirit of God to do something beyond the natural....to bring value only possible in the name of Jesus, and the power to heal and transform.

A proper warning to anyone...whether preacher, pastor, leader, or simply someone who speaks the Truth of Jesus Christ to others. Any follower of Jesus Christ will be gifted in the area of Love and Hope-bringing to others...for it is the nature of the Spirit within us. That may attract the attention of the lives around us. We may sometimes be tempted to speak or write on our eloquence alone. Eloquence may even attract followers. But it is only when God's blessing, God's divine claiming occurs on our lives, words, and ministries....that these become so much more. We are warned that when this happens...even without our purposeful action, others may look to us. Humility and a proper concept of self will be great tools in those moments, as we are called to let go of any credit that is due Him.

Masseys' is a message of Divine Duty, and the significance of a message praught from the Spirit of God. The large-ness, and importance of it cannot be promoted enough. But at the same time, the humility required of anyone involved in a ministry which finds its' effectiveness completely in the "other". May God continue to lead us into both...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Local Church Impact

Chapter 11 of "The Holiness Manifesto" is called "Local Church Impact", written by Jim Adams & C. Stevens Schell. Adams is the executive director for the Center for Global Learning and Engagement at Azusa Pacific University, and is connected to the Foursquare Church. Schell also serves the Foursquare Church, and is pastor at Northwest Foursquare Church in Washington.

Despite several points in this chapter where they talk about "postmodernism" as if someone just discovered it, and putting it in the same category as "paganism of ancient Rome, superstition/lack of biblical literacy among the laypeople of the Middle Ages, and the sexual revolution of the 20th century" in terms of a challenge the local church must face...it pans out to be a pretty good read.

They encourage us learning 5 things from John Wesley's ministry that can be helpful to our ministry no matter what cultural changes occur:

1. Promoting Spirit-empowered prayer (and releasing/creating space & time for those we lead into such.)

2. Working effectively WITHIN the established church. Illustrating how Wesley's desire was for revival and transformation of the already existing body of Christ he was a part of.

3. Encouraging small group ministry - not to "grow the church", but to bring health and opportunity for maturity and faith-depths not possible by the usual large-group gatherings alone. They point to LTG's and Neil Cole as a healthy example. (ps. I REALLY like this LTG concept...and may be leaning in this direction in my own small group interactions.)

4. Living out a "deeply felt and actively expressed" faith. An area that can definitely go un-discussed in many church-attenders homes these days. That a healthy church can only come when it's people experience meaningful and growing spiritual lives.

5. Recognizing Holiness as a Requisite to the Christian Life. A recurring theme throughout this book. That holiness is more than just a "pie in the sky", and definitely not reserved for only the purest of elders. But IS actually a living aspect of this whole "God at work in my life and heart" thing we call salvation.

Overall, it's a great reminder that this "call to holiness is a call to change in the church." I can definitely get down with that...

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Holiness in the City

Chapter 10 of "The Holiness Manifesto" is called "Holiness in the City", written by George McKinney. McKinney is a Bishop, and pastor in the Church of God in Christ in California.

His topic is one that will tug at the heart/spirit of anyone involved in ministry to an urban area, for sure. He reminds the Church that in our discussions of pursuing holiness, we must also be talking about our response to: Fatherlessness, declining parental skills, marital health, other manifestations of our young frustrated by unfulfilled needs, education of our children, injustices, oppressive forces/systems/people/habits, ministering primarily to those impoverished in one way or another..etc.

To quote McKinney, "(Jesus) also ministered on behalf of what held them captive - socially, politically, economically, ethnically, linguistically, and in other physical ways as well as spiritually and, perhaps, demonically."

He discusses many of the roles the people of God can play in bringing the (holy) presence of this Jesus Christ into our urban areas that need it badly, and the work Jesus continues to offer to do through us. As someone who has been called into ministry here in an urban context, many of his words offer encouragement to things we find ourselves doing, and a call to further action...and prayer.

Decatur, Illinois certainly has the need for the people of God to follow his example set for us in Christ. To reveal God, His identity, love, Spirit, etc...for all.....not simply the ones who have "caught on". Out of our comfort zones, and in ways that make us vulnerable, to carry his message of freedom, love, grace, and mercy into our city...not simply invite them into our building in order to hear it.

A challenging message, and one I admit to doing better here in my place of work...than in actively going out to be involved in. May God give me opportunity and resource to go beyond...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Exposures & Encounters

Look out world, I decided to man up, and finally finished reviewing a book I've been working on since 2008.

Chapter 9 of "The Holiness Manifesto" is called "Social Holiness: Journey, Exposures, Encounters", and is written by Jonathon S. Raymond. Raymond has a rich background with the Salvation Army, and currently serves as President at Trinity Western University.

He talks briefly about 2 (3) main views of "holiness" within the Salvation Army. First, Brengle Holiness, which crudely summarized focuses on an event or "crisis" alone. A distinctly "second" blessing of grace which God performs, subsequent to forgiveness of sins. Second, Coutts Holiness, which focuses more on the "ongoing, growing relationship, communion, and fellowship in Christ, and not just a single crisis experience."

Raymond goes on to acknowledge the faults of taking either approach as the definitive "correct" choice. He suggests another "ecological" approach, emphasizing Pauls' call to Christians to "Grow in grace". I really like some of his illustrations here, and think it's valuable to today's Church that often wonders what a life pursuing "holiness" might look like.

"(Paul) means for us to mature as we immerse ourselves in nutrient-enriched (appropriate) environments of God's grace, in context of his lovingkindness, in his presence, and in our relationships with him and others."

That along our journey towards what God is actively doing, we will experience both Exposures AND Encounters. Exposures, Raymond describes as being these "means of grace" type things, ways of being exposed to the activity and presence of God in daily living. Encounters, he continues, are Emmaus Road and Damascus Road type experiences. Upper room encounters, both heart-warming and challengingly transformational.

Raymond continues to talk quite a bit about how all of this calls us to social action, and existing in extremely inclusive communities. Echoing Wesley's sentiment that there is "no holiness without social holiness", even pointing at movements like Wesley's, and also the early Salvation Army as times where God has used large scale spiritual transformation towards social holiness to impact societal stability and progress. I don't think any of us would say "the more people focus in holiness, the closer we get to "fixing" problems we face today."......but I do think we'd agree with Raymond that there's definitely some sort of connection in God moving through His people into the world and a Supernatural-healing-taking-place....um...thing. :)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

And Jesus said to her, "Woman..."

In John 2:5, Jesus uses the common respectful term for any given woman who he may be speaking with. The word "gunai". Not a term usually used by sons addressing their mothers ("meter"), but at the same time not disrespectful. Simply acknowledging perhaps, that there is a new relationship here. That as He is moving into a new phase of His life, and has now become "Son of Man", as opposed to hers alone.

The same word is used in John 19:26, when Jesus "saw his mother (metera) and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, and said to his mother (metri) "Woman (gunai), here is your son."

Jesus isn't denying that Mary is His mother, but is offering a new emphasis to their relationship....which no longer views her maternal relationship as the most important role. But also understanding in that moment that Mary now needed a son (to take care of HER), he offers this disciple saying in verse 27 "Here is your mother (meter). And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home."

I recognize that a large part of this is unique to Jesus becoming "Son of Man", etc. But there is another aspect that strikes me as a parent. I don't think my children will ever address me as "Man" in word. But there will hopefully come a point in their maturing where they recognize there is something larger about the way we relate. The part that older parents often get close to tears when they talk about, when their children no longer come to them for cuddling. No longer "need" them the way our girls currently need us in many ways.

Someday, my daughters will look at me and say "I'm moving forward with something big." They will step into a new phase in their life. Maybe a long-distance career. Maybe a husband/family. Maybe simply a new job near us (crossing fingers). But it will come.

Perhaps if I begin praying for my response to that moment now, it might help just a little when it finally arrives. If anything, it will help me appreciate the small moments that can easily be taken for granted...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

thirst for Spirit...

"I'm a theologian, who wants to be a believer." - Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in "Saints and Villains"

We forget sometimes, how simple yet huge it can be, to experience the Spirit of God. We have promises all throughout scripture that God has given us the same Spirit that was given through Jesus Christ, and that when that Spirit comes on us, we will receive power to be witnesses (Acts 1:8). We hear even Jesus himself promise us we will do "even greater things than these" as the Spirit continues the work that has begun long ago. (John 14:12)

But so many times, we get caught up in a sort of "spiritual hunt" for some sort of "authentic spiritual experience" that can somehow prove in a miraculous way so that we can exclaim audibly for others to hear "THERE! There is the Spirit of God doing something!!!!".

Well, those experiences are neat, and they make great movies and inspirational testimonies to pass on through our families and church families. They're definitely encouraging. May we never cease being thirsty and expecting such experiences that blow our minds, and redefine the realm of "what can happen" in the name of Jesus.

But we forget verses like 1 Corinthians 12:3 that say to us, "..and no one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit." What a miracle and Spirit-enabled thing it is for someone to even speak/live with Jesus Christ as their "Lord". Not money, not systems/hierarchies of this world, not any other power, or voice, or source of influence. Jesus. The Jesus who spoke of a new way of existing. Who promised and offers a new, true version of life to its' fullest. Who calls us to care for others before ourselves. Calls us to live vulnerably, knowing we'll probably get hurt, and to Love without reserve.

Sure, someone can throw the words "Jesus is Lord" out there, without any Spiritual backing.

But for someone to actually say "Jesus is Lord" with their life...THAT is miracle. Spirit-filled, creation-transforming, healing, redemptive life-bringing "Word becoming flesh" type stuff. And I believe I've just made myself a bit hungrier for it. You?

Come, Holy Spirit...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

being a bride.

Isaiah 62:5b says "as a bridegroom rejoices over a bride, so your God will rejoice over you."

I remember our time of being engaged. I proposed to Sarah in August of 2001 and our wedding date was set for December 21st, 2002. It was a LONG engagement.

Such a long engagement seems like perhaps it would get dull after a while. There are only so many times you can gaze into the others eyes and think "wow, we're getting married!", right? But somehow, the anticipation/excitement over becoming one with this woman only continued to build.

Then the day finally came. December 21st, 2001. The day I was able to publicly take on vows with this woman before God and before our families and friends. I remember the deep love, friendship, such emotions that escape the ability to be captured easily in language. It was a whirlwind of busy-ness. The decorations. The friends from all over gathered. The horn that got stuck as I drove all the way across town with people staring at me, wondering why I was honking incessantly.

Then seeing her. My bride. Walking down the aisle, smiling, tears welling up (good tears, so hush). She was beautiful. Her eyes beaming. Thinking to myself, "wow...I love this woman soooooo much." The deep sense of giddy-ness of knowing I'm beginning a life together with her. Whew. It was, and continues to be, an amazing gift. I've not always deserved it, but we continue this road together. I love her.

But to think back on that moment, watching her walk down the aisle. To imagine God viewing us as the Church in the same way. It feels good. I'll end with a few old-school lyrics from "The Waiting":

I love the way you look at me
The way you steer your eyes to see the Bride
Beneath the harlots' skin.
The virtue underneath the sin.
I love the way you look at me
When you lift the veil, and you repeat your vow...

Monday, January 18, 2010

smilin'

Had a pretty good weekend, minus a horrible hockey call Saturday. Here are just a few reasons I've had to smile:




Oh yes, and sharing a hockey game with Addie Sunday afternoon. Even though we ended up losing in a shoot-out, she loved it. She's asking so many questions, and learning the right things to yell, even if she may yell them at the wrong times. :) I'll leave you with the shootout video, because Datsuk (1st shooter for Detroit) and Bertuzzi (3rd shooter for Detroit) both scored goals that make you smile for sure. :)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Rule 78

Today you should watch the Detroit Redwings take on the #1 team in the NHL, the Chicago Blackhawks (11:30 CST, NBC). You'll see two incredible teams, who both had physically demanding road games on Saturday in other states. They'll go head to head in Detroit, where the Wings hope to make up for a horrible conclusion to Saturday's action, and make some headway in their quest for points in the Western Conference.

That horrible conclusion? Just watch this.

Seriously. And I know fans are always saying "that wasn't fair", etc. But for real, yo.

A goal in the NHL occurs ONLY if the puck crosses COMPLETELY over the line. Also, when a call is made on the ice (in this case, NO GOAL), the video replay must WITHOUT DOUBT prove that it was a bad call. That was not accomplished.

Let's hope those involved are able to make better decisions today against Chicago. Great hockey, and broad-casted to a national audience, if anything. We all win. :)

Saturday, January 16, 2010

παρακαλέω

The word "parakeleo" is found 109 times throughout the New Testament. It is formed by two other words, "para" which means (from, at, beside, near), and "kaleo" which means (to call, invite, call by name).

It's range of similar meanings can go from "to call upon/beseech" to "to exhort", "to encourage", "to offer consolation". We find the most concentrated use of the word, in various forms...in 2 Corinthians chapter 1.

Here, Paul begins a letter from a place of sorrow. In the midst of suffering, Paul writes a letter and focuses on this theme. He uses the word 10 times in under 5 verses (1 Cor. 1:3-7). In the same section of verses, Paul uses the word for "affliction" or "suffering" 7 times in those same verses, and a word such as "we, our, us" 14 times.

This could all be seen as a bit of using what I see to say what I want to say....but I believe there is a tremendous message in these verses that we are witnesses to in the reality around us today. The people of Haiti are suffering, and have been impacted in some very large ways because of the earthquake activity this past week. The call to prayer/action/financial support is unlike anything I've ever seen before.

But even so, the response stands as a moment with Kingdom qualities. A time where suffering and consolation find themselves in close relationship, and the opportunity for both to occur in the context of human relationships, community, and the "least of these" is huge.

To quote NT Wright on Paul's choice of word here: "that one person is being with another, speaking words which change their mood and situation, giving them courage, new hope, new direction, new insights which will alter the way they face the next moment, the next day, the rest of their life....when you "console" someone you simply bring them back from utter despair to ordinary unhappiness. The word Paul uses here, over and over again, does more than that. It meets people where they are, and brings them right on to the point where they are strong enough to see new hope, new possibilities, new ways forward."

May we all continue to pray, whatever our connection to what has happened. May we respond as those called to "parakaleo" the suffering whenever an opportunity like this arises.

Friday, January 15, 2010

obedience & authority

Especially in youth ministry, the verses in Romans 13:1-3 come up often:

"Let every person be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. 3 For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Do you wish to have no fear of the authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive its approval;"

You read these verses, and many adults would nod their heads in agreement. But most teens aren't so quick to believe that EVERY authority is instituted by God. What about Hitler? What about unhealthy parents? What about....?

I've grown used to these questions, and always emphasize that of course, God's authority comes first. If a government or parent or other authority asks us to do something actively against God...we are called to follow God. With grace/humility/love, of course.

But something I've missed out on proclaiming, until studying to teach it once again recently, was the importance/call towards developing the nature of "Obedience" in the life of a Christian. Because God describes it as a part of who we are in following Christ. We are obedient, in Love.

Jesus said "what you've done for the least of these, you've done also unto me". I believe in many of our lives, especially today's youth, but even some of us "grown-ups"...authority may be included in that "least of these" category. Is our natural response obedience....or is it rebellion?

God doesn't call us to be obedient to authority only when it makes complete sense and is easy for us. God calls us to be obedient. To have the nature of obedience. To God first, but also to the other authorities in our lives. This is definitely not something many of us can achieve on our own strength. May God's Spirit enable us to be an obedient people...in the same way that light shines in darkness...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Young @ Heart

Tuesday night, my wife was out with a friend and the girls were in bed. I'd recently finished a book, and found myself flipping channels. I landed briefly on the new season of American Idol, but it was anything but new...and anything but worth watching.

Then I found PBS, a movie was playing that I'd heard of before and wanted to see. "Young at Heart". Holy cow. Awesome movie. Seriously. A choir from New England, with members ages low 70's to mid-90's. Men and women who have found each other, and something worth pouring themselves into. Very talented, even without the age factoring in. But with the age, definitely becomes an endearing and heart-warming story worth watching. (or buying) A warning though, it will tug at your heart more than most "hey, let's watch a dvd tonight" type movies...for sure. But in very good/healthy ways.

Our own church family celebrates the life of one of our own members turning 100 this week. Rachel is an energetic, self-motivated woman. She drives herself to church most every Sunday, even in recent sub-zero temperatures. Less than 2 years ago, she called and asked if I would come help her finish staining her gazebo, because even though she could climb the ladder and balance on top of it to get the job done....she figured maybe she shouldn't.

I hope and pray that I reach that age with the same enthusiasm/gusto that many of these seem to have. I know that means beginning to take better care of myself, perhaps even eating some of those green things that are so popular on other people's plates.

I doubt my audience contains many of these...but in case there are...thank you. And may we each find some of the elderly in our lives this week to reach out to and appreciate. For the lives they've lived, and for the value their lives still bring to our world today. :)

I'll leave you with the trailer....

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Romans 13:8

"Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law."

These words come as a great reminder to a world that loves "credit". The mentality of getting something now, and settling an account at a later date. So popular in our world, not just in the realm of material things that we don't really need, and can't afford. But even to the point where it's used in many cases simply to survive with the bills we've accumulated for the life/society.

Even when some of us can clear the hurdles of credit cards, we still find ourselves chained down by what is referred to as "good debt", but to anyone making payments on these - they're anything but. Car loans, student loans, and even mortgages can be things we owe others.

I'm not sure if Paul was making a large theological statement about our finances, or a statement that "good followers of Jesus will not take on loans", although it can definitely be seen as a reminder to lean away from financial debts. Verse 7 talks briefly about taxes & revenue, but that's the only mention of financial obligations in the entire chapter.

The verses surrounding 8 are focusing on the fulfilling of the law in how we relate to one another. What relational debt do we have to others? To LOVE them. It's easy for us to relieve ourselves of any other relational debts. We sense a great relief at these words, realizing that simply in loving others (albeit a costly and active sacrificial love) we are FULFILLING the law.

But how good are we at releasing others?

To relate to other people in a way that the only thing we ask/expect of them relationally is that they love. Not simply in our head, but to actually actively communicate to them by our demeanor and language that our expectation of them is light and loving. That the man we meet on the street, our children trying to earn our pride, our siblings who look up to us, our co-workers who feel the need to posture themselves one way or another...no matter who it may be - to communicate to them by our very nature "your love is enough."

May God help us to be people who release those around us from any burden or expectation other than to love...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Bonhoeffer.

I remembered studying him in college. I remember watching a movie about his life. I remember skimming through "Cost of Discipleship". Since then, Dietrich's presence has been an overall knowledge of his life, and a few short readings and quotes that have been inspirationally included in other readings.

A year ago, I checked out a condensed version of "Letters from Prison" from the library. It was a small book, and easy to read small sections at a time. That began what I would confess as my first true desire to learn more/read more about this man. But life became busy. My desire to revisit the life of Bonhoeffer faded.

Until recently I was searching for a good book, offering substance to chew on along with a good story to swallow. I'd been seeing Bonhoeffer in the sidelines lately, reading some of Hauerwas and Yoder, and so I looked for a fictional biography of his life. I posted a blog not long after beginning it, impressed even early in the story.

I have to say, I've been even more impressed by his life, writing and desires for Christ/His Church. Especially his attention to the Sermon on the Mount lately. So much so, that I've set a goal for myself in 2010. I am going to read through the entire Biography (non-fiction) written by Bonhoeffer's close student and friend, Eberhard Bethge. Most resources I've found point to it as the definitive work/collection in it's most recent, revised form. It's almost 1,000 pages long, so it will definitely be an undertaking for me. Which is why I'm giving myself the entire year. No doubt readers of my blog, if I stick with this, will become a bit sick of my references to him. But my hopes are that God will bless the time spent in these areas of contemplation and prayer.

Friday, January 08, 2010

the power of a people a-mused.

As February hits this year, many people will be buzzing around, talking about the Superbowl. Since it seems the Lions might not make it again this year, I'll probably wait until that night to think much about it. Then I'll watch a few funny commercials, a few minutes of the game, eat some snacks, hang out with people I love, and tune out. I'll find out the score the next morning, unless it's an entertaining nail biter.

But what I WILL be excited about, along with a mob of people, it seems, is the return of the show LOST to ABC's line-up. We've been hanging on the edge of infinite mysteries, and this season promises to at least connect a lot more of the dots. Although that usually leads to more mysteries...which is the lure of the show in many ways. I have to say, even without getting into the shows' presence in our every day world, advertising, magazines, radio, etc...without us realizing it often (seriously, there is so much more to this show than what we watch on TV)...it's a great stand alone television show. Here's a recent interview with the writers about the final season.

Remember to be watching Tuesday, Feb. 2nd, on ABC at 8pm CST. And just in case you were worried about that pesky Presidential State of the Union Address:

Thursday, January 07, 2010

come back.

Recently I've seen the commercials on TV for a (new to me) movement called "Catholics Come Home".

All the selling for Catholicism instead of Jesus aside, I think it's good. How many people do we know who used to be very involved in their church? But for whatever reason, they took a break. Maybe they intended to just back away for a few weeks. Maybe just reduce their involvement so they could focus on other areas of life if they were being over-used by the local church body, etc. But one reason or another, they've now (or perhaps YOU now) find themselves distant from a local church.

Now, for one reason or another, there are large amounts of people who still consider themselves followers of Christ; but who have grown comfortable in a place of low or no involvement in a local body of believers. They still have Christian friends, after all. They still pray before meals, and before bed, and before an important meeting with the Doctor. But perhaps feel "guilty" about having taken such a long break. Unspoken guilt, and the feeling of being judged keeps them from openly entering the church doors.

Sure, people are leaving the Church because of fallen leaders. Because of doubts in their faith. Bad examples of Christ-followers being the most boisterous in the media. Etc.

But what if we were missing some of our family simply because we haven't said to them, "Come back. We miss you. Whatever the reason you've been away is...doesn't matter. Let's be family. Let's do this some more. We need you."

If that's you, consider this your invitation back. Heck, I'd even call it a plea. If you are already attending somewhere, who might you know that simply could use "permission/invitation" to return to regular worship/meeting together?

"because since we are all united as "members one of another," the living, salvific will of God is mysteriously communicated to us through one another. We all need one another, we all complete one another. God's will is found in this mutual interdependence. " - Thomas Merton

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

order.

I've just finished listening to a reading of a message by Henri Nouwen once again. I recommend it highly, and recommend returning to it several times. It's a reminder for each of us of the importance we approach the ministry we are involved in together.

Nouwen reminds us to begin with Solitude, then Community, and then Ministry. To quote Nouwen: "So often in ministry, I have wanted to do it by myself. If it didn't work, I went to others and said, "Please!" searching for a community to help me. If that didn't work, maybe I'd start praying."

He points us to the story in Luke chapter 6 which contains three main times: evening, morning, and afternoon. We are urged/led by Jesus to spend time in God's presence before anything, a time where we exist in the identity He gives us as "my Beloved". It's a great place to be, in solitude, and just allow God to pour that identity over you as one who is Loved by God. Meditating on a few words from the Gospel, or simply being silent, breathing before the throne.

And it's having that identity firmly planted in you, that moves you to seeing that same identity in others, as Loved by God. That moves one "Beloved" to desire to relate to another "Beloved" as we respond by our lives to God in a statement of "We Love you too". And as we form communities (marriages, families, churches, other groups) of Beloved's, our identities continue to come solely from our loved-ness. We are able to let go of anything else. "He is my shepherd, I shall not want." No desire for praise/approval from man, or worldly comforts, etc.

As we are freed toward Love, Compassion, Mercy, etc. (Kingdom Living); our Love infinitely compels us to reveal this "being loved by God" to others. In word, in deed, both infinitely sacrificial, and infinitely rewarding; we find ourselves filled by His Spirit, and involved in Ministry that helps communicate God's Love to this creation, and these who are created in His image.

And it all began by spending time apart. Away from busy-ness. Away from distraction. Not awaiting some mystical voice to come calling on a rushing wind. But simply aware of Words already spoken, and being spoken through all of creation: I am Loved by God.

May we each spend our beginnings soaking in such words.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

TEAM USA - ICE HOCKEY

You may remember a post from September, about TEAM USA's Men's Ice Hockey team. I know you've all been waiting with bated breath. Waiting, as team Russia, team Sweden, and various other countries have announced their roster. Waiting for the January 1st outdoor "Winter Classic" game, where the 2010 Winter Olympic Men's Ice Hockey team would be announced.

If you're like me, you may have missed it because you were driving home somewhere between Calhoun, GA and Decatur, IL. But no worries, the results are still available. Yes, a LOT of young players, that includes a son of the former "Miracle" team from 1980. It'll be a struggle, but might be possible for us to get some sort of medal. Remember to tune in mid-February, I'll keep you posted on the schedule. For now, in case you don't like clicking:

Forwards

First Line

C Paul Stastny, Colorado Avalanche

LW Zach Parise, New Jersey Devils

RW Patrick Kane, Chicago Blackhawks

Second Line

C Chris Drury, New York Rangers

LW Scott Gomez, New York Rangers

RW Phil Kessel, Boston Bruins

Third Line

C Mike Modano, Dallas Stars

LW Ryan Malone, Tampa Bay Lightning

RW Brian Gionta, New Jersey Devils

Fourth Line

C Tim Connolly, Buffalo Sabres

LW Jamie Langenbrunner, New Jersey Devils

RW David Backes, St. Louis Blues


Defensemen

First Pairing

LD Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings

RD Mike Komisarek, Montreal Canadiens

Second Pairing

LD Ryan Whitney, Pittsburgh Penguins

RD Ryan Suter, Nashville Predators

Third Pairing

LD Erik Johnson, St. Louis Blues

RD Paul Martin, New Jersey Devils


Goaltenders

Starter

G Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres

Backup

G Tim Thomas, Boston Bruins

Saturday, January 02, 2010

whew.


Over 2,000 miles driven.

Over 1,000 pictures taken.

Hundreds of Kleenexes used.

___ (plenty) of time outs. :)

We took a family vacation, together with my side of the family, to Orlando, Florida for Christmas this year. On my wife's recommendation, we did not drive the full 16 hours each way at once....but split into two 8 hour days...ish. :) Probably a safe decision.

Addie was able to meet Cinderella, Belle, and Sleeping Beauty. Not to mention countless other characters from those and other popular Disney classics. Sophie got to ride Dumbo, Small World, and see the Country Bear Jamboree, etc. And Ruby...well, Ruby got to drool a lot, and was kissed by Minnie Mouse.

We started out with Addie coming off a cold/fever thing. She ended up giving it to her sisters, and they ended up sharing it with most of the family at one point or another on our trip...culminating in daddy gettin' it pretty bad on the way home, and still hackin' up a lung as he types. New Years was spent at a hotel in Calhoun, GA....with daddy passed out on the bed and mommy trying to convince 3 little girls who sat in car seats all day to sleep.

But illnesses aside, it was a pretty sweet trip. Just spending such amounts of time with my daughters made me realize just how much I'm usually away from them. Being able to spend one on one time with each of them was pretty great...watching them in everyday moments. (read "everyDAY moments", the middle of the night moments were still taken for granted, probably) Hanging out with family, Disney, chillin' at the resort, dinner in/out together, Daytona Beach, etc. Nice to be home, even if the thermostat is borderline for flip flops. :)

Looking forward to all that God has in store for us in 2010, and thankful for the friends and family we've been blessed with!!!