Wednesday, December 31, 2008

After Christmas DAY

One of the many things I love about celebrating Advent is that you are celebrating for an entire month. Ideally by celebrating Advent, you're longing not for the day of Christmas to come, but for the Christ of Christmas to come-and reflect on how much He's already done and is doing in the world. As a result, when the day of Christmas comes and goes, you neither feel let down (if the day was bad) or saddened (if it as too short). Ours was just right.

But I still have two problems.

1.) Taking down the Christmas tree. We're going on vacation for a week and plan on taking down the Christmas tree after we get back. And then the lights after that. What activity is more anti-climactic than removing Xmas decorations?

2.) What to do with the music? I've been listening to Xmas music for a month. But as soon as Xmas day comes, I feel weird listening to the same carols. Shouldn't there be "day-after-Christmas" type music?

Maybe I should keep celebrating Advent and do the few devotions Amy and I missed until our decorations are completely down. Maybe then the Xmas music wouldn't be too un-Christmassy in early January? Or maybe I could go Greek Orthodox, celebrate Epiphany, and dive into the waters in Tarpon Springs in hopes of retrieving a cross. But that's a bit too similar to vying for the garter at a wedding. And I'm not Greek.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The difference between a snow angel and snow ball according to the NFL: Nothing

Two Sundays ago, when it was warm in Florida but nowhere else in the U.S., Patriots receiver Wes Welker caught a touchdown pass in snowy Foxboro. After crossing the end zone, Welker did something a bit creative. He made a "snow angel."

And for this non-taunting gesture he was fined 10,000 dollars by the N.F.L. On the same day, New York Jets defensive tackle Shaun Ellis hit a Seattle fan with a snowball as he and teammates were walking off the field. He was fine 10,000 dollars.

Good to see the punishment for making a snow angel and throwing a snowball is the same amount. Both are equally heinous, eh? Sure....Fortunately we can put our trust in a better and more just judge.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Connar's first Christmas and he knows it, I think

I wonder at what age kids become cognizant that a certain day is special. I really do. Because Connar woke up today in a more-than-crazy mood. He screamed joyfully just about as soon as we came to fetch him from the crib, like he knew something was happening today. Amy couldn’t even fully feed him this morning because he was so excited. So I had to hit up the sweet potatoes for him. He seems to know that today is Christmas. This picture was taken by Amy on Christmas Eve, so he was probably dreaming of proverbial sugar plumbs or whatever last night. Who knows? He won't be able to remember to tell me if my conjecture was a bit over the top, so I'll just dream as well.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Which Shepherd do I trust more?

I’ve noticed some noises with my Mazda the last few days. So I took it in to Shepherd Tires here in Bradenton. After about 15 minutes of observation, they came back with a fair verdict: the rear brake pads needed replacing. Looks like I’ll be out 130 dollars plus tax. Could be a lot worse I guess. Could be double that if all four needed replacing.

But there are two main reasons why I’ve taken the 130 dollar-plus-tax hit quite well, or at least quite stoically. And one reason kind of points me to the next.

The first is that I know nothing about fixing cars. Nothing. So don't have advice for them and I really can’t disagree with whatever they say.

The second reason is that I trust the Shepherd Tires folk. They could have told me that all four needed replacing. I would have no way of knowing the truth. But since they have a great reputation, and have saved me money before, I fully accept their verdict. I believe what they say is exactly what my car needs. It is for the overall good of the car-though it kind of hurts on the front end of things.

It’s a shame I often put more trust in Shepherd tires, than the Shepherd born in Bethlehem, “who will shepherd my people Israel. (Micah 5:2/Matthew 2:6).” I know far less about how to run the world, much less my life-though at times I don’t agree with that statement. And God has proven Himself, not just in the scriptures but in my life, far more trustworthy and powerful. Yet unlike coming to Shepherd Tires, I trust the true Shepherd far less. Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Friday, December 19, 2008

A new kind of Xmas letter

I like Xmas cards, though I honestly don't know what I'm supposed to do with them. If your kids are cute enough (like the Thomas girls), and if we have enough space on our fridge, they adorn our lovely Frigidaire. But if neither of those are the case, they get tossed immediately. I mean what else is one supposed to do with them?

I'm a bit more ambivalent with Xmas letters, you know the kind of letters that give you a SportsCenter highlight version of the year in review. Yesterday Amy and I received a Xmas letter from a woman in our church who pointed us to Jesus and our need for Him to return. When we finished it (so it was obviously short), we were both greatly encouraged and challenged. Amy and I are thankful for some of the elderly people in our lives who have refused to sit back and waste their health; instead they bless the socks off everyone who comes in their path.

And I really like Xmas prayer letters from missionaries or other ministries like RUF. I like to know what to pray for. Otherwise I won't do it. Seriously.

But what I really don't like is the standard Xmas letter that tells everyone how great your family is doing, how many tricks your dog can do, how wonderfully sweet the kids are, and how well they are doing in sports and school. We both know that you're either lying or you're oblivious to reality and the affects of sin on the human heart (I don't care how young-we've already seen how selfish Connar is after he grabbed a toy away from a girl in the nursery!)

I'll tell you what kind of letter I really want to hear. I want to hear how poorly you've done as a parent. How you've yelled at your kids too many times, how you drive them crazy, how you've forgotten to pray for them, how you've disappointed them and let them down (because as much as you'd like to be-you're not Jesus).

I want to hear how they've failed to love you, how they've hurt you, how they've disappointed you and let you down (because they have often become your idol-and they are not Jesus either).

But please don't stop there. Then I want to hear how Jesus' cross is so big not only in your life, but your family's life. That you know you're all forgiven despite the mess you and your kids have made. That you know Jesus loves your kids more than you do, and that He will be faithful even when you are faithless (II Tim 2). That you know He will continue his work of conforming you to His image and will not stop until He completes it. That he promises a new record, a new heart, and one day a new body and new world.

I don't really get many Xmas letters at all. My reflections are more from letters I've read and the sappy sentiment from which they are sent. But if I had my vote, this is the kind of letter I want to read, because then I will know that Jesus is truly at work.

Please understand that I'm not blasting people who don't write letters such as these. I've never actually seen one to tell you the truth. The question I struggle with now, even as I write this, "Will I be able to write such a letter in a few years when Connar, Amy, and I disappoint and hurt each other?" I hope I believe in the Cross enough to do so. I guess you'll just have to check your mailbox in December of 2010 to find out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bono and Xmas

I found this Christmas reflection from U2 lead singer Bono on another blog. Very poetic and thoughtful.

This reflection on Christmas occurred after Bono had just returned home, to Dublin, from a long tour with U2. On Christmas Eve Bono went to the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral, where Jonathan Swift was dean. Apparently he was given a really poor seat, one obstructed by a pillar, making it even more difficult for him to keep his eyes open…but it was there that Christmas story struck him like never before. He writes:

“The idea that God, if there is a force of Logic and Love in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in sh&$ and straw…a child… I just thought: “Wow!” Just the poetry … Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it’s not that it hadn’t struck me before, but tears came streaming down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this.”

Excerpt taken from Bono: in conversation (New York: Riverhead Books, 2005), 124-5.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Connar Blessing

One thing that we regularly pray for Connar is that he would be a blessing to others. Even in a small way, we hope that this little boy would be used by God. On Tuesday, God really answered such a prayer. Amy took him to school to visit a fellow teacher. Mr. Luther, the janitor who became close to Amy over the last few years, ran into the dynamic duo.

Even though no one knew where his hands had been (probably better not to think about it), he reached out to grab Connar. Amy simply let him. He held Connar up and said, "Thank you Jesus," several times. He was near tears. It made his day. It made mine too.

We prayed tonight that his life would be a blessing to others for a long time coming-particularly when he's able to point folks to the "lovely source of true delight" and source of all blessings. But we're happy even now that God has given him a head start.

He'll be showcasing his cuteness when we go caroling to an area nursing home this Sunday. Fortunately, he'll not be alone as Connar's favorite little ladies, the Thomas girls, will be joining forces.

Love is in the Lights II

If you've read my brief article for the Bradenton Herald, you'll see why I think that turning your lights on at night can be a great example of love. I mean, once you're inside your house, you don't get to enjoy them anymore. In fact, that's often the main reason (not the only reason as you'll see) I go and turn my lights on some times. However, last night, self preservation (I didn't want to get shocked in the rain) kept me from "loving my neighbors."

But while turning on your Christmas lights may dip into the essence of love (finding delight in the delight of another, even in your own sacrifice), it by no means reflects pure love. For instance, putting up Xmas lights can be a way to "out do" your neighbors. One episode of Home Improvement delved into Tim "the Tool Man" Taylor's obsession to have better lights and arrangement than a particular neighbor. They battled it out year after year. That may be hyperbole, but that episode certainly reflects the competitive attitudes existing within men's hearts.

Another motivation for putting up Xmas lights is self protection. One could simply put up lights because they feel obligated, for everyone else is doing it and they don't want others to look down upon them. They may not care at all about blessing others; they simply don't want to look like a scrooge. So in this case, the motives would not be 100% pure either.

Sometimes I want to bless others, sometimes I turn my lights on simply because I don't want others to say or think, "Why doesn't that joker have his lights on? What's his deal? Is he playing the "economy" card?" Often those two motivations collide within my heart.

Such is the case with all things we do. That doesn't mean we become inactive. Our motives are never 100% pure, and so everything we do has to be offered up in faith to God. Faith not in the action, nor the motivation, but faith in Christ-the one who perfectly loved his neighbors on our behalf. So we can love, even with a mixed heart, because the object of our faith is what makes the action "good."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Love is in the Lights

Here's an article from yours truly, the contributing religion editor of the Bradenton Herald. Perhaps the 2nd most read paper in Manatee county. They actually kept my title and didn't cut off any sentences to make it fit this time!

The article is about Christmas lights and how they can remind us of what love really is. With that said, there's some other stuff worth noting, which could not fit into a short article, and will be mentioned in a future post.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Xmas Music

Someone the other day told me she didn't like Xmas songs. I don't get that. But, whether you like the tunes to them or not, the story which they tell is quite amazing. It is an amazing story, and some folks have really captured it quite well over the years. I'm a huge fan of the standard Xmas carols, no matter what arrangement. And there are also some new Xmas songs which are really quite worshipful. If you're looking for another Xmas CD, especially one for free, I highly recommend going to a site called noisetrade where you can download Sojourn's "Advent Songs" for free.

Some of you shared some lovely and thoughtful Christmas traditions on one of my posts. Do you have any favorite Xmas albums? Here are my favorites. Please post and share yours.

My Top 5 Xmas Albums

1. The Chieftains The Bells of Dublin
2. Amy Grant's A Christmas Album
3. Indelible Grace's artists Your King Has Come
4. Point of Grace (this was Amy's but it's starting to grow on me!) A Christmas Story
5. Sojourn's Advent Songs

Honorable mentions
The Three Tenor's Christmas, Loreena Mckinnitt

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two ways to learn

I heard yesterday that there were plans to not play the 09 Arena Football League season. Apparently some big investors had been hit by the economy and wouldn't be supporting it this year. I'm sure all 65 fans of the A.F.L. will be hurt by this decision.

Yet it seems that some other sports franchises are not at all hurting in this down economy. For instance, the New York Yankees just came to terms with highly sought after free agent C.C. Sabbathia. The deal looks to be worth over 161 million dollars. They offered another pitcher, A.J. Burnett, a deal for nearly 70 million.

There are two ways in which we learn not to "trust in chariots (Psalm 20:7):" things which we put our faith in instead of God. Of course we spend all our lives trying to learn this truth.

1.) God takes the "chariots" away. Investments, home prices, appearances worsen, skills deteriorate, etc..

2.) God allows us to ride the "chariots" and find that they really leave us empty. There's something incredibly depressing (but can point us right back to Jesus) about getting what you hoped for and finding it only disappoints you further.

Guess what route the Steinbrenner's (who can buy anything but happiness, and recently a World Series-though not for lack of trying) will have to take? Which road is God taking you down?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Annual Neighborhood Xmas Party and listening like a child

On Sunday we had our 35th annual Christmas Outreach Party at my house. Well, actually it was our 2nd, but who's keeping track? Click here to see more pictures. We included church kids, Amy's school kids (last year's kindergarteners and those she's tutoring this year), as well as neighborhood kids.

At first, it didn't look pretty. At all. At 2:30 pm (our start time), we had zero from outside the church. At 2:45 pm, one neighbor. Eventually folks started trickling in from 3-3:30 pm. By the end of the party, we had 3 different neighborhood families, 4 different church families, 3 different school families. But all of the school kids brought brothers, sisters, and both parents. So we had at least 20 kids (and a number of teenagers and adults) in my front yard, kitchen, and all around the house.

I was angry at God at 2:30 pm. I was praising God at 4:45 pm (when the last one's left-it was supposed to end at 4pm!). He brought people in His timing, not mine-which is His right. It just happened to be in Latino time, which was appropriate for most, even though my neighbors who came were either black or white.

One of our youth got to share the gospel through candy. It was a hard road (peppermint hard candy) for Joseph and Mary. The Baby Ruth reminds us of Jesus, Smarties-the wise men, Starburst-the star....You get the point. Go
here for the full story. It's really quite simplistically brilliant.

The highlight for me was seeing one of my neighbor's kids, who had already finished making his craft, card, and his ornament, sit down and listen attentively to the telling of the Candy filled Xmas story. When the next group of kids came out, and his group moved on, he simply came right back to listen again. His parents were looking for him because they had to go, but he wanted to hear the story again.

That was a powerful picture for me. We should be like Caden (the one in the Santa hat), never getting tired of hearing the amazing story of the gospel: how God entered into time and flesh to save a sinful people whom He loves. Each detail of the story, with or without candy, points us to the uniqueness of our Tri-une God. Amen.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

You never know...

On Saturday from 7 am-2 pm, I participated in a kayak fishing tournament hosted by I really didn't enter the tournament with any expectations other than hoping to build relationships and meet some new folks. It's always nice to have hobbies in which you can use for a greater purpose. Then you don't have to do something ELSE just to do outreach.
So the fishing was simply a means to an end.

I didn't expect to do well since I was fishing an area I'd never fished before. I was not disappointed. I ended up with 6-7 trout and no reds or snook.

The goal is to catch and take pictures of a snook, red fish, and trout (what we call a "slam"), and then add the inches of the largest snook, red, and trout. Since I didn't catch any redfish or snook, I figured there was no need take more pictures of trout. What I didn't realize was that everyone had a slow day, and NO ONE caught any snook. Therefore people just added up the inches of their trout. And third place was 40 inches. I caught at least 3 trout over 14 inches, and you can probably realize that adds up to more than 4o inches. I lost out on nearly 200 dollars because I figured, "What's the point, there's no way I can win?"

I believe the psychological term for that is "learned helplessness." Ultimately you feel like you will fail, so there's no reason to even try. But just like a fishing tournament, you really never know what will become of your faithfulness. It was a good reminder to me to keep plugging along faithfully in the work that God has called me to do. You never know what may become of it. Here's a "for instance."

One of the intended purposes of our neighborhood Xmas party was to invite folks to the Xmas Eve service. Last year no one from the party came to the service. This year, a neighbor brought it up in conversation that he and his family were hoping to attend.

I guess that's why I'm so drawn to fishing and ministry: you just never know what you'll catch, literally or proverbially.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Advent and Devotional

I'm a huge fan of advent. It constantly and properly reminds us where we stand: smack dab in the middle of Christ's first and second comings. Thankful for all that he has accomplished, and longing for Him to finish what He started. A dude named Tullian (I'm not getting into spelling his last name) wrote a good little blurb on Advent. I doubt I'd do any better, so I commend his to you. He's the 2nd person to recommend this little Advent devotional from Christ the King Presbyterian Church (PCA). Click here and you can download it for free. I checked it out and it is fantastic. Amy and I will be hitting it up from this day forward. Of course it's not as good as the one I created (I'm not biased or anything), but it's a very close second and more family friendly! I hope you give it a whirl. I know it will help you celebrate (with thankfulness AND longing) Christmas all month, especially in the midst of the economy, busyness, family issues, sickness, and suffering.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Miles to go before I sleep

Robert Frost's "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening" served as my introduction when I preached at my best bud's ordination service a few years back. I used the last lines "Miles to go before I sleep. Miles to go before I sleep...." as commentary on how we feel much of the time. Well I felt the "miles to go" part again tonight.

Since everyone is busy-I've met few people who say they're not busy-I'm sure all of us have felt despair at the proverbial miles we feel we must travel before we get a chance to sleep. All of the stuff to do (bills to pay, chores, reports, papers, sermons, books to read, relationships to mend, etc....). Especially during Xmas time when everything seems to get busier.

In fact, these "miles" I must travel next week are a large reason why I'm up blogging at 12:30 am tonight. I was already awake BEFORE Connar started his midnight gas routine that woke him and Amy up.

When I preached at the ordination service I camped out at Colossians 1:28-29 where Paul mentions that he struggles with all Christ's energy which so powerfully works in him. In fact his goal was to present everyone "perfect" (I think he means "perfect" as in mature). A lofty goal no doubt. Paul lost sleep, I'm sure, worrying about his churches (II Cor 11:28). But he also slept content at night (Phil 4:11-13).

And so we can sleep and rest even now. There will be many more miles to travel tomorrow, yet we have someone who promises to sustain us during those miles. After all it is "His energy" which powerfully works in us. I can sleep. I can rest. If I believe, which I'm obviously not doing right now (its always easier to preach a verse than believe a verse) or I would be in bed. There's still hope for me and help in my unbelief (Mark 9:23). I just hope that help comes soon.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Monte Kiffin and Leadership

I've never like the University of Tennessee football team. For reasons that are probably unreasonable. But now I have one more reason that is perhaps a bit more, well, reasonable. They recently hired Lane Kiffin as their head coach. That joker is only 2 years older than I am. Crazy.

But the real problem is that his father is Monte Kiffin, the Buc's defensive coordinator for the last 13 or so years. Guess where he'll be going next year? To coach with his son. Can you imagine being your dad's boss?

One of the things that both former Buc's coach Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin were really good at was leadership development. A number of Dungy's assistants, and several position coaches under Monte have gone on to head coaching and defensive coordinating positions.

The mark of a good leader in any arena, in my opinion, is indispensability. Is he making the church, organization, or team utterly dependent upon him or is he doing everything possible to develop leadership under him. In other words, will the organism go south when he leaves, retires, or dies? Or did he/she do all that was possible to make him/herself dispensable?

Some sports talk host believed that the mark of a good coach was how well the team did when he left. He argued in that light, Gruden is great: the Raiders still haven't recovered; Dungy was not so good: the Bucs won the Superbowl the next year. Yet even secular models of leadership, as presented in Good to Great, recognize the need to be team-centered as opposed to being single leader-oriented.

That leadership reflection finds reference in II Tim 2:2, where Paul tells Timothy, "And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others." Any leader who fails to train up other leaders fails to lead well. Otherwise he/she will just be creating a culture that is dependent upon him/her.

We'll see how well Monte Kiffin trained up others under him (they'll probably hire within, getting a "Kiffin disciple") next year as the Bucs will spend their first year without him calling plays. Based upon Kiffin's philosophy and track record, the Buc's should be fine.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Stealing, sharing, and blending family traditions

Once Thanksgiving ends, the Xmas season, at least for all commercial and residential purposes, begins. Since Connar hasn't experienced any Christmases yet, we have yet to develop any distinctly Christmas Henderson family traditions. In order to form them, we will become somewhat syncretistic: absorbing some Henderson-Nance traditions, but also taking new bits and pieces of other folks' traditions and blending them together. Not a good idea when it comes to the orthodox Christian faith, but perhaps very helpful when developing new family traditions.

And since I've already blogged on the need to evaluate all traditions, I'm guarding against becoming Clark Griswald from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Clearly the Christmas family traditions were for him, and not his family as a whole. So with that said, please post any of your favorite family Christmas traditions. We may steal them, tweak them, use them, or pass them on. You may give others some good ideas, and they may give you some. A win-win.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thankful for a good lawyer

I had a great Thanksgiving weekend. We took Connar to the Zoo and watched him splash about trying to grab the Sting Rays in the "petting" tank. That was probably the highlight of the weekend for me.

One person who didn't have a good weekend was N.Y. Giants wide receiver Plaxico Buress. He accidentally shot himself in the leg. Unfortunately it only got worse from there. Something about gun laws, and possessing firearms. So he had to turn himself in today, and potentially face a minimum of three years for his crime. Getting shot, and then getting arrested for shooting yourself. How about that for a Thanksgiving weekend?

Well he can still be thankful the bullet didn't hit any major arteries and cause him to bleed to death in the night club. That and the fact that most NFL players not named Michael Vick ever serve jail time during their careers. Plaxico can sit around the table with family and be thankful that high priced lawyers usually trump common sense justice (this dude already helped Puff Daddy get off from a similar charge 8 years ago). As John Cougar Mellencamp sang, "Ain't that America.."

Friday, November 28, 2008

The Detroit Lions and evaluating tradition

Thanksgiving was a great day for me. Our joint Thanksgiving service (with St. Paul's Missionary Baptist) was great, the food was great, and time with family was great. The only thing that wasn't great was the football. And that has pretty much become standard for Thanksiving Day. Why? Somehow it became tradition to have the Detroit Lions play EVERY Thanksgiving day.

I don't know who started this tradition or why it was ever started in the first place. The Lions players don't like playing on Thanksgiving Day; they'd rather be doing what most others do on Thanksgiving (except the crazies who would put off their Thanksgiving lunches to watch an 0-11 team play-the game was sold out): spending time with friends and family. Both casual and diehard fan alike don't like watching the Lions play on Thanksgiving. So who wins with this set up? No one.

But it's tradition to have the Lions play on Thanksgiving Day. And I'm pretty sure it will ever change. That's the way we've always done it. Looks like its not just the church that has this problem, eh?

Some traditions never die. And some traditions should never die. But some should. After careful evaluation, some definitely should go the way of the Lions (or rather the way I wish the Lions would go...). It's time for another team to start a new tradition. Evaluating traditions, whether within families, churches, neighborhoods, is always a good thing. Whenever you think that a tradition is un-evaluatable, remember the Lions.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Would I like who I would become is often the first question

One the seminars I went to at the National Outreach Conference a few weeks ago was entitled something like "Spiritual Formation as Evangelism." I had never heard of the lad before, Todd Hunter, (he kind of looked like Darryl Hammond from SNL from a distance) but was quite impressed by his knowledge, experience, and presentation. He was arguing that we need to examine the main questions non-believers are asking. Traditionally folks have broken them down into two major categories.

1.) Is God real?
2.) What difference would it make if I believed in that God? Would I even like who I would become?

Most often we deal with the first. In the 80's that really worked. Crusades, Lord-Liar-Lunatic arguments, and the like. But now the questions people are asking really are reversed. In other words, people are seeking to know "Does this Jesus make me care more or care less about the world, justice, humanity, love, beauty, truth?" If that is not the case, then they really aren't up for hearing arguments about His existence/character/involvement in world. The presenter's point was not to scrap apologetics (his buddy Lee Stroebel was in the room next door lecturing on Apologetics), but to make sure we reverse the order in which we answer the questions.

If people can see that Christ really does make us less judgmental, more caring, more concerned for mercy, more loving, truly free (question 2) then they will be more open to discussing HOW we got that way (question 1). Christ, the perfect human, molds us into what it means to be more fully human, not less.

As president of Alpha-USA, he interviews a lot of folks involved in outreach. One of his examples was Inter-Varsity. Apparently all the college folks who came to faith and became involved in IV, first came as a result of some sort of mercy/justice/creation care/mission project. You mean you care about the Earth, the poor, justice, love, and you're willing to put TIME into doing something about it? That was their first question. They didn't want to believe in a God who doesn't care about that stuff. Fortunately our God does, and these believers showed them that through their lives.

It shows the need to not only invite folks to attractional (paintball, parties, get-togethers)/apologetic events (outward focused bible studies), but also through things like Habitat for Humanity, Operation Christmas Child/Angel Tree, cleaning the road, book/movie/philosophy discussions, environmental care projects, etc...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

That's actually not in the bible....

I usually listen to a radio fishing show with Capt's Billy Nobles and Mike Anderson on the way to church. Since I live about 5 minutes from the church, I don't get to hear very much. But some times I'm able to gather a few nice morsels of information. This Sunday the hosts discussed some service opportunities at Metropolitan Ministries in Tampa. Apparently there has been a shift in ministry focus. Instead of simply giving people stuff, they are now doing more now to equip those in need.

One of the hosts informed me of a bible verse that I was currently unaware of. He spoke of the biblicity of Metropolitan Ministries' vision, reminding the listeners, "It's like that verse in the bible, 'Give a man a fish, feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, feed him for a life time."

Two thoughts came to mind.

1.) That verse may come from III Opinions, but it is definitely not in the bible. Nevertheless, it is wise, and is a good application of the commandment to love our neighbor.

2.) It really is important to know what the scriptures say and where they say it. I don't know how many times I've heard, "It's like that verse somewhere that says something like..." Sometimes our summaries of verses are so far off that we're not much different than that fishing guide: assuming that the "verse" in question is actually in the bible. Lately I've been challenged myself to spend more time in the Word so that I don't fall into this trap and so that I don't allow others to either.

Monday, November 24, 2008

I can't imagine being that athletic AND that bright

Finally some good news for FSU football. Not just on the field, but off the field (you don't need to bring up the brawl which is still under investigation-I know about that!). Myron Rolle was awarded the Rhodes scholarship, which affords him two years of study at Oxford. Remember, Rolle is a starting Safety for FSU, and one who has potential to play Sundays in the NFL.

After the game, a reporter asked him what his plans were. Would he go to the NFL or take the scholarship now and spend two years away from football? I'm really not sure if the scholarship is something that can be put on hold or not. Apparently he plans on becoming a doctor and opening up a clinic to help the poor after playing pro-football. So that may have an affect on this more immediate decision. What would you do in his situation?

Saturday, November 22, 2008

U-Haul Theology

Here's an article from Jim Hatch, the dude in charge of church planting for the PCA. It is called "U-Haul Theology." In light of the transient state of young adults and younger families (well, really all generations since we have a large number of "snow birds" here in Florida), I found this a well thought out theology of both moving and staying. And since we just lost yet another family to a move, and will probably lose one or two more in several months, I found this an apropos time to post this article. I highly recommend taking a few minutes to read "U-Haul Theology," which is both comforting and challenging to those moving or staying put.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Leadership developed

Jim Rome had an interesting interview with Detroit Piston's head coach Michael Curry the other day. Rome posed the question to Curry, "Do you think that leaders are born or do you think that they are made?"

While Curry believed that there is something to leadership that comes from our personalities, he really believed that good leaders are more often "made" then simply "born." He spoke of reading John Maxwell books in graduate school, and the importance of developing the skills of leadership. It is a craft.

At a church planting conference a few years ago I heard the same thing from a church planter. Leadership is not simply something that just happens. He challenged us to read more books, and put ourselves in the paths of leaders-that we would learn from them. I think many pastors are realizing that there is much wisdom to delving into this issue of how to be better leaders of people. Probably because it does not come naturally.

In the past year or so, I've read a few books on leadership, by both Christian and unbelieving authors. Here are some I've found helpful: Leading with a Limp by Dan Alender, Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni and Good to Great by James Collins. I actually thought the latter (written by unbelievers) in some cases, were just as, or more biblical and practical. Wherever we are, I think developing greater leadership skill is crucial.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Believers praying like un-believers

I've been slowly working my way through John Piper's When I Don't Desire God, How to fight for Joy with another young adult in my church. We've both really been blessed and challenged by the book. Here is an excerpt from a section we just read.

Most people, before their prayers are soaked in Scripture, simply bring their natural desires to God. In other words, they pray the way an unbeliever would pray who is convinced that God might give him what he wants: health, a better job, safe journeys, a prosperous portfolio, successful children, plenty of food, a happy marriage, a car that works, a comfortable retirement, etc...None of these is evil. They're just natural. You don't have to be born again to want any of these. Desiring them-even from God-is no evidence of saving faith. So if these are all you pray for, there is a deep problem. Your desires have not yet been changed to put the glory of Christ at the center.

Wow. Pretty convicting. How often do prayer requests go like this, "I ask for traveling mercies, a job, a spouse, kids doing well in school, etc...?" Again these things aren't bad to ask for when they trouble us. But when we pray alone, or with our spouses and friends, are our prayers much different?

I heard in a Sunday school class (not at my present church) something to the effect of, "Just ask, and talk, like a child to your daddy." I wasn't there for the whole series so I may have missed the part of prayer which involves Praise, Kingdom vision, Thanksgiving, Confession (you know, the way Jesus taught us to pray). But if you tell my heart simply to ask for things, and not ask for God to receive glory from those things, guess which route I'm going to take?

Again, asking for a job, a car, for your house to sell isn't bad. But we need to be asking these things motivated by Christ to receive glory and His Kingdom going forward. For instance, I would pray for a job that I may honor Christ in my workplace and have money to not only support myself but to support the church and its mission. Wordy yes, but our prayer requests are often quite shallow, and I would imagine, so are our prayers. So with that realization, we ought to think more clearly on how such petitions fit in with His Kingdom and His Glory covering the Earth. When we do that, we'll be more likely to trust God with the specific details of how He answers.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

A vote to think about

Sometimes we have impulsive ideas that we would really love to act on. However, sometimes our own shame, simple concern for "laws of decency," fear of losing a job or social black-listing, keeps us from acting on them. Sometimes. Of course there are some times when all of the aforementioned don't stop us.

A friend directed me to this article in the Bradenton Herald. Apparently a kid who was in the process of being diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome (0n the spectrum of Autism) had been disrupting the class for a while. Amy has certainly experienced that a time or two. But basically there's not a whole lot you can do except write a bunch of referrals (although Principals really aren't big fans of that either). The other kids just have to suffer through the tantrums.

Or she could have done what this Port St. Lucie teacher did. She put the kid in front of the class, and had the class vote on whether or not he should be allowed to continue in their class. He lost 14-2. He must have received some sympathy votes.

In all honesty, he needed to be somewhere else. And he is now. But voting him "off the island?" Certainly something I would have thought about, but I might have "run that by" someone before I acted on it! How important is it to have people in our lives who can say, "Voting that really disruptive kid out of the class might not be the wisest direction for you to take." I'm not judging this teacher. I'd probably have done worse.

For Amy last year, her hands were tied even after a plethora of tests and papers were filed. Of course now he IS in a special class. Just a year too late, but better late than never. Some teacher owes Amy big time.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ties, football, and mission

On Sunday afternoon, after the Buc's game finished early, FOX switched to some bonus coverage of the Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengal's game. That coverage was short lived because the game soon went into Overtime and some sort of broadcasting rules don't allow "bonus coverage" to continue past 4:15 pm.

In overtime, the game see-sawed back and forth, and then time ran out. It was a tie. One of the things that I hate about hockey and soccer CAN, on occasion, happen in the NFL (not NCAA football though). Well Eagles QB Donovan McNabb, in a true expression of honesty, actually admitted he didn't know that the game could end in a tie. I guess he thought there would be just another OT quarter.

How this dude didn't know that is beyond me. This tie is the 3rd tie in the past 11 years. I can-I don't know what this says about me, maybe I shouldn't 'open my mouth' like McNabb and admit this-tell you the other teams which share this dubious distinction (Giants/Cowboys; Steelers/Falcons).

How can someone not know the simple rules of OT, especially since McNabb has been in 8 OT games in his career? The meaningless debate (all sports debate really is meaningless, but still fun) is whether or not his knowledge, or lack thereof, affected his play. Could have made him less aggressive, thinking that he could always play for the next quarter?

I'd have to look at his record in OT games to draw any conclusions, and I've already probably spent more time thinking about this then necessary, so I'll not look that up. But in our Christian walks, it DOES matter that we know the "OT" rules.

We are and have been in what the bible calls the "last days" since Jesus' resurrection. There is a set amount of time left. Could be a lot, could be a little. But what we do know is that there will be no ties. The forces of Satan and God are not equal. There will be no ties, as Jesus will move His church forward, and bring about His Kingdom in fullness one day.

Knowing that there are no ties in OT does make a difference in life. It should move us as individuals forward in mission. Unlike Hockey, Soccer, and yes, sadly the NFL, we needn't worry about "ties.' Fortunately. Present frustration, sure. But ultimately no "ties!"

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Donna the Dragon Slayer

I understand that not everyone has great neighbors. I get that. Robert Frost's poem "Mending Wall" has a lovely and appropriate line, "Good fences make good neighbors." For some folks, I understand the sentiment. My friend has neighbor who makes great sacrifices. Not figuratively speaking, but literally speaking. They sacrifice animals. Seriously. It's legal as long as you eat them afterwards. Crazy.

But we have neighbors who sacrifice themselves. Not literally, but they sacrifice time and comfort. Let me give you a "for example." On Saturday, just after catching my last redfish, I received a frantic call from Amy. It was a snake.

A little snake managed to get in between the screen and the office window. Not good. I was on the water, at least an hour away, so our only option was to call our neighbor Donna the Dragon Slayer. She is not scared of snakes. They are scared of her.

So Donna came over, in the rain, and killed that baby snake. We think it was a baby rattler, but Donna practically pureed it with the shovel. I really couldn't find any pieces.

So how about that for a neighbor, eh? Sure, I'll come over in the rain and kill the snake for you. For some, fences make good neighbors. For us, good neighbors are just good neighbors.
I give Donna high praise and put her up for "neighbor of the year." However, she's one of several great ones we have here in Groveland. I just got invited by another neighbor today to a beer-n-bonfire. Tough to beat.

I doubt that it's only Groveland that has such great neighbors. I would encourage you to get outside, take a walk, spend a little time in your front yard, and you might just find another Donna the Dragon Slayer living down the street from you. Maybe you can even "one-up" me with a better "neighbor brag." I doubt that, but its worth a try.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Panera Prophetess and a Slam

Well if the big change predicted by the Panera Prophetess was that I would break out of my fishing slump, then she was right on. Today I caught what folks call a "Slam:" snook (1), redfish (2), and trout (4). Not a bad day on the water. Always nice to get the monkey off one's back and regain some "swagger" out there on the water.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Panera and God's leading

Today after my men's group at Panera I had a "run-in" with an interesting and bold young Christian girl. As I was getting ready to leave, she came up to me and said, "I don't know you at all, but God wants you to know that you've been seeking something big, and to not give up. It's just around the corner."

I didn't know what to say, but I did want to commend this young girl on her boldness to come up to a complete stranger. So I thanked her for the message. And I do admire her boldness. I really do.

In our session meeting the other day, we looked at a passage in Acts 8. The Spirit clearly tells Phillip of an evangelistic opportunity, and to "Go that chariot and stand near it (Acts 8:29-NIV)." He meets an Ethiopian who is reading and trying to comprehend a passage in Isaiah 53. We all discussed the need to be open to the Spirit's leading in the role of evangelism, whatever that might look like.

A few questions, at least a few, popped into my head. Did God really tell her to say that? I can't prove that He didn't. Nor will I try. Maybe he did lead her to tell me that? If I had to bet, I would bet NO. I really have no idea of what the "huge breakthrough" or "change" might be. Perhaps I will break out of my fishing slump tomorrow, or soon? That would be nice.

Would I be so bold as to go up to a random stranger and tell them that? Well not specifically that message, but the message of the gospel? Not random strangers, but people I know or who I meet? I commend her on on her boldness. Maybe if I catch a ton of snook and reds tomorrow, and break out of my "fishing slump," I'll come back and thank her one day. If that breakthrough or another comes my way, I'll be sure to let you know.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Not learned behaviors

Selfishness is not a learned behavior. We are born selfish. No one needs to teach a young child anything about "private property." What's theirs is theirs and what's yours is theirs; things simply become "private property" by touch. I guess you could argue that it's "genetic," going all the way back to Adam.

I didn't have to teach Connar anything about sticking his foot in his mouth. So I guess you could say that sticking one's foot in mouth is not a learned behavior either. Although he'll certainly have plenty of time to develop this "skill" by watching and learning from one of the best: his Daddy.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Good to Great

I just finished reading Jim Collin's book Good to Great. I found it a good, or rather great, read on leadership, vision, and managing people. Collins and his research crew spent a serious amount of time interviewing and examining companies which seemed to fit a specific mold. For instance, the most successful companies had what he called "Level 5" leaders (bold, humble, people who put company before ego), followed a Hedgehog concept (what can we best at, what can we have a passion for, setting a common economic denominator), and always dealt honestly with real challenges. Much of the principles could be used at any management level and have proved helpful for pastors or those leading non-profit organizations.

One of my favorite lines from Eddie Murphy's Coming to America is, "Yeah, he (a male singer just referred to as "good") is good and terrible!" The funny thing is (though I guess that's not really the best word for it) that two of these Good to Great companies have now become Good and Terrible. Fannie Mae ran into a "bit" of trouble the other day, and just recently Circuit City filed for bankruptcy. The economy could have played a part, but it seems that they may have deviated from their Hedgehog concept by treating their employees poorly (according to some). Well I hope Walgreens isn't next or else that will be 3 out of about 9 on the list!

Monday, November 10, 2008

A commitment found in Kentucky

I was watching a little of the Georgia-Kentucky football game on Saturday while baby-sitting Connar. In the stands was a 90 year-old who had been to over 400 straight University of Kentucky home football games. He would have had more but a little something called WWII happened and he went to fly bombers over Burma.

And I thought to myself, this is Kentucky football. This isn't USC, UF, FSU, OSU. This is Kentucky football. I can't imagine that kind of commitment. Especially to a team that will very often let you down.

What a good model for Christians. Commitment to a local church where you may get disappointed a time or two. But he was committed nonetheless, and it sure looked like he was having a heck of a time in the stands (even though they did eventually lose at the end). I think we too can find joy in our commitment. Our problem is that we tend to skip the commitment part, though, and simply search for joy.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

When in Rome?

At the conference this past week, I had a chance to meet Michael Francese, a former mob boss who came to Christ. I first heard of him through an interview on the Jim Rome show, my favorite sports talk show. Michael and I shot the breeze about how we were both Jim Rome fans, and he told me how Jim is always calling him, and how he would be back on the show in March to promote his new book. So yes, God is using even Jim Rome to help build His Kingdom. Apparently he did the same with Josh Hamilton and his new book.

Anyhow, not everyone is a fan of Jim Rome. I was talking with some folks in my community group about Rome the other day. They were definitely not fans, and they brought up the most common complaint leveled against him. Much of Rome's show comprises inside jokes he and his fans (called "clones") will mention when they email or call the show. If one is not aware of these terms or jokes, he (and sometimes she-there are female listeners), will simply listen to something else. Yet Rome tells people to "give my show a chance" and to commit to listen for a time, and then make an informed decision.

The thing about Rome is that he is very popular, and on in a ton of different markets from California to Florida to all over Canada. So he will not change his approach to inside jokes or jargon. He can get away with it.

The church, however, really cannot afford to use inside jokes and jargon. Inside or outside the proverbial walls. There is just too much at stake. Even if we could, it would not be very loving. We might find it interesting/challenging to reflect on our conversations for a while to see if they really exclude rather than include and bring people into the next level of deeper fellowship. It is at this next level, that they may be open to hearing jokes and understanding jargon. But we cannot operate by Rome's methods and use such jokes and jargon on the front end and expect to build deeper relationships within and outside the church.

The hardest part for me is that "inside joking" is so stinkin' fun. It really is. And I think it does have a place in certain company, when everyone is on the "inside." But I do need to be reminded where haphazard use of it has alienated people from specific relationships and even entire ministries.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Even the losers.....

I'm now on my way back to Tampa, sitting in Phoenix for a brief layover. Everyone is talking on their cell phones, including one dude who's currently making a business proposition, over the phone line, primarily with hand gestures. Crazy. I wonder if cell phone guy realizes how ridiculous he looks. Anyhow, I just have a few minutes, and a few thoughts. Last night the conference included some comedians, some more funny than others.

The last one was from Canada. And of course he mentioned something about his wife getting an ultra-sound; and he mentioned it was free. People kind of ooed and aaahhhed for a second, and he then quickly retorted, "Well you might be getting free health care soon."

I laughed like crazy, but man, there was a strange weirdness which permeated the room that could only be cut by the sharpest of ginsu knives. It took about 5 minutes for the audience to come back around. But from that point on, I was probably the loudest laugher (no surprise) among the 1000 or so in attendance. Now it may have had something to do with his fat pregnant wife jokes. Always a sore subject.....Yet several times he said, "I definitely won't mention anything else about free health care, anymore." But it was too late. He politically, or comedically-or both-distanced himself from much, but certainly not all, of his audience.

Maybe it was too early for that joke, maybe not. It wasn't too early for me, and I didn't vote for Obama. I'm fine. But after the election, I received untrue emails and actually got one facebook message questioning Obama's citizenship. The latter was an attempt to form some sort of petition to release some sort of birth records. I honestly doubt he would run if he weren't born here. People have a way of finding out stuff about you when you run for office.

I didn't see McCain's concession speech (I had to fly out early the next morning), but I heard it was quite classy. Even Katie Curic thought so. Hopefully his supporters will eventually follow suit, and be thankful they live in a democracy. As Tom Petty sang, "Even the losers...." or at least the "losers" who believe God works all things out according to the counsel of His will, can lose with grace. Every now and then I like to go "Westminster." Sadly many believe that God's will can be trumped by ours. By God's grace I'm not one of them, so you shan't be getting facebook messages from me.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Learning from those who are different, but better

I'm in lovely San Diego right now. It really is lovely here by the way (you were right Adri). I'm attending the National Outreach Convention put on by Outreach Media Group. Unfortunately, one of the few presenters I'd really heard of and desired to see, Ed Stetzer, is speaking after my mother and I are leaving. Oh well.

I definitely feel the diversity of the body of Christ. I'm surely the only PCA person here (although I can't prove that), or at least that's what it seems to me. Lots of Baptists, Independents, Methodists, some Lutherans, but lots of other folks as well. There are a bajillion little exhibits, tons of books, publishers (I always dream of being published one day so I "networked" during breakfast with fellow exhibitors-though I'm really not one.....) and some great speakers here that have been quite challenging.

So why did I leave behind my wife and little baby for this trip? And it wasn't easy by the way. Other than the fact that my conference fee was completely funded by the ministry Somebody Cares to be an exhibitor (that feels a bit weird but as long as I'm not behind the table no one reads my name tag and asks me questions!) and my mother's purchasing the plane ticket, why would I come here and listen to folks who definitely have different theological leanings?

Because they have a greater passion for outreach than I do, along with greater applications for actually bringing people to faith and discipling them. That much is shamefully clear.
Someone already established at Hope-it's easier to criticize and actually be constructive when you are part of that which you're criticizing-gave some thoughts on my denomination the PCA. He matter-of-factly said, "It seems like the PCA is a Grad School for Christians. They come to a PCA church not because they've been converted to Christianity through a PCA church, but because they've been a Christian a while, are interested in theology, and read R.C. Sproul."

I laughed my head off when I heard it. Sad, but funny. Sad, but very true to life. Now I don't want to leave my denomination because I think I do think its the "best show in town." But it's not the only show in town. And it needs to grow in this area, among others. I will gladly learn from these others who may not agree with me on the non-essentials of the faith, but currently know way more and do way more in this area. They have much to instruct us on evangelism. More thoughts on that later. I hate (or rather don't) read long blog posts (hopefully I haven't lost you by now), and I assume you may be like me.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The DVR, the Bucs, and the comfort of knowing the end

On Sunday I "missed" the Bucs incredible comeback: their biggest in history. Well I say "missed" because I didn't watch it live. For 7 dollars a month, the DVR feature has become an NFL lovin' Pastor's dream come true (you know with Sunday being a work day and all).

But even with the game being recorded, I wasn't sure if I wanted to watch it. I really didn't. If they lose, I sometimes watch the games REALLY fast (skipping plays). Yet if I know they are going to win, I savor them a bit more and simply skip the huddles.

On Sunday they were playing as poorly as was humanly possible, so I didn't have great expectations. I couldn't watch this game-when I got home from youth group-without knowing the end first. So I timidly checked ESPN.Com and found out they won in Over Time. It was the same case with the movie The Sixth Sense; I had to know the ending was "good" before I would suffer through the scary parts (except this time I didn't need to keep the lights on).

When I got home I simply savored the game, despite the fact they continued to turn the ball over 2 more times in the red zone. I wasn't worried when they made stupid penalties. I wasn't worried when there was 25 seconds left and they were 25 yards away. Even though they rarely ever come back, I wasn't scared. I knew the ending. I knew they would eventually score a touchdown and get the 2 point conversion.

That's not to say I wasn't excited. That was probably one of the more exciting games I've seen. But because I knew the final score, I had nothing to worry about. Life definitely isn't like the DVR; and we should be glad-if you've seen the movie Click, you know what I mean.

But there is some parallel. It's important to know the end of the story. God doesn't give us all of the details (supposedly the devil is into those). Even how the end comes about is a little fuzzy. However He does give us enough that we don't need to await further revelation. And here's the end. We will one day get a new world, and Satan will be crushed under our feet (Romans 16:20). And in that new world, we will be without sin (Rev 21). And He promises to get us from here to there (II Tim 4:18), even when we, like the Buc's, just about "fumble" away the game. So because we have the end in mind, we can struggle, fight, and still enjoy this life he's given us. We know we will literally come out on top (Romans 16:20).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Don't waste where you live

On Saturday we had another neighborhood cookout. It was decently well attended and quite a blessing for all involved. One question that we really need to ask ourselves is "Why did God put me in this house/apartment/condo/igloo (if you're an Eskimo)? He has placed us in specific locations that we would bless those around us. We may like where we live; we may not like where we live. However we are not to "waste" where we live, but instead live among and love those whom God has ordained us to live among and love.

A verse that my mother (via her Tea Calendars) has brought to my attention is Acts 17:26-27

"From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us."

A neighborhood cookout is a great place to build relationships which may eventually lead people to "seek him (via YOU) and perhaps reach out for him and find him." In addition, such cookouts bring community to people who are naturally (and now more than ever) isolating themselves from deep relationships. It's been a blast to see relationships begin to form from these simple get-together's.

If you're interested in hosting one, and I think yo ought to at least consider it, I recommend simply sending out an online poll to find a suitable date, and then sending it again to coordinate who's bringing what. It may take a little effort to eventually break through the inertia. But in the end, you''ll find it well worth the effort and prayer.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Connar Pictures

It has been brought to my attention by several folks that I have not had any Connar pictures in a while. So for those of you who like seeing baby pictures, click here for some Fall Festival and Halloween pics.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thoughts on manhood

The last few Fridays, some men and I have been meeting at 7 am to go through Living The Cross Centered Life by C.J. Meheney. The book has been absolutely fantastic, and I totally recommend it. All of us have been Christians for more than 5 years, and yet are getting so much out of going over the gospel. How simple, and yet how complex. If you ever get tired of, or think you've somehow outgrown this message, you've more than likely misunderstood it to begin with.

Anyhow, before we discuss the book we have some time of prayer requests, accountability, dialog, and confession of weakness and struggle areas. That's probably been my favorite part. Men coming together to talk about deep stuff. Men coming together to admit we are in fact weak. And this is the kicker-not being scared to talk about our need for accountability and prayer. How beautiful is that? And yet how deeply masculine. Instead of running from and ignoring our weaknesses and struggles (fear), we're embracing and confidently confessing them (faith). Sound a little more "manly" now?

Was Samson a picture of manhood? He kicked people's butts and slept with lots of chics. So up on the big screen, and in the eyes of our world, yeah, he was a man's man. But in reality, it wasn't until he called out to God in His weakness that he really displayed what it means to be a man. Unfortunately he died shortly afterward.

We're hoping to get a "head start" now in confessing our weaknesses to each other. And it's been very freeing, not to mention less lonely, to be around other needy people like myself.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

More with less

Well, the Rays' season is over now after a magical ride. They will probably go down in history as the team that did more with less than any other team. I have to admit that I doubted Joe Maddon's laid back style for a few years, but it seems to have worked. No one got more out of less (low payroll, young players, few "household" names) than him.

That's the way that God works with us. He gets more out of less. Jesus didn't establish some sort of "dream team" of talented, beautiful, highly educated people. He chose fisherman. That's why there's hope for us, even if you don't fish. It isn't any different with the church today. He doesn't accomplish anything through us because of how talented we are.

He uses jars of clay (II cor 4), not pots of steel. He chooses the foolish things to shame the wise (I Cor 1). He does more with less so that He gets the glory and we get to join him in His work.
Provided we use our gifts to serve the church and participate in mission, we'll see God do more with less quite often. So in some way, the lives of His children (who are using their gifts) parallel the Rays magical season. Except our season doesn't end in October.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

I don't talk about politics and religion...

As I was reading Randy's blog today, I noticed some great political debate. I didn't agree with some of the ideologies and thoughts presented, but it was great to see some civil political debate. Like war, debate usually isn't very civil. Which is probably why someone coined the phrase that many people like to quote- "There are two things I don't discuss: politics and religion."

I can remember one of the few times someone threw that line my way. I was working in the meat department of a Food Lion in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina the summer after my sophomore year of college. Milton, a big (literally he was huge) redneck (not used in a derogatory sense-this guy told me that gold fish are good bass bait, but "just don't let the game warden catch you...") used this line on me in between cutting and wrapping meat. He was a butcher, and I was the wrapper.

I said, OK, fine. I mean what could be more private than politics and religion? What could be more public is a better question! But I'm sure he'd experienced plenty of uncivil debate in his time on both issues. I honestly can't remember the rest of the content of our conversations because I was a sophomore (literally a "wise fool") in college.

I came back to Myrtle Beach the next summer after my mission trip to Mexico City. Wouldn't you know it, some friends of mine who had worked with Milton that summer invited me to celebrate his birthday at Ryan's Steakhouse (obviously someone's getting a little loose with the language). He had become a Christian. Looking back, I guess it wasn't a fruitless summer after all. I was just laying the foundation.

It often takes the witness of several people to lead someone to faith in Christ. Obviously, as Milton formed relationships with more than one Christian he could trust, "religion" got taken off the "the things I don't talk about" list. If people trust you, and you give them time, and involve other Christians they can trust in their lives, religion will drop from this list faster than you would think.

Of course you have to be willing to lay the foundation, realizing that it may be someone else down the road who sees the fruit. If you're lucky (providentially blessed), you may enjoy a "steak" dinner with them some time down the road like I did.

Monday, October 27, 2008

The 2008 Rays of Kindergarten classes

Tonight as I was preparing dinner, we heard a knock on the door. Much to our surprise it was one of Amy's former students (and his family of course-I don't know too many first graders who can drive). After tutoring today, Amy invited some of last year's kindergarteners to come again to our Xmas Outreach party this year, this December. One of the kids thought since the invitation was issued today, that the party was today. So his Mom called Amy's cell three times. No luck. The only way to prove to the little tyke the Xmas party was not in fact today, was to stop by the house.

So little Justin, his younger sister, his mother, Connar, Amy and I hung out for 15 minutes or so. Connar just so happened to be wearing the very outfit they gave us. Crazy. It was a great reminder to us how God used/continues to use Amy as a teacher to do more than simply teach (though that still would have been a good thing) but to touch lives. Justin, and we pray many others as well, are planning on coming back to our house for the Xmas party. Even though these kids are no longer in Mrs. Henderson's class, they'll always be Mrs. Henderson's kids.

That class was special. ESPN sport's anchor Stuart Scott has even compared called that class the "2008 Rays" of Kindergarten classes. We've had more than 75% of the kids over to our house to hear short gospel messages around Xmas and Easter. And now we have the chance to do it even after they "graduated" kindergarten. Who knows what the gospel (and a Spanish bible) could do in their lives?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A figurative wedgie

My dear friend Ande Johnson had the privilege of going to the Rays-Phillies World Series game a few nights ago. They were fortunate enough to witness what could be the Rays only win. Anyhow they were interviewed by someone from a Philadelphia paper. While Ande told me that the Rays fans were less than cordial, this article made them look a bit too nice. Nevertheless, even overly laid back fans can still get in on the "action." Look at what my buddy did to a friend according to the paper:

Also prevalent last night were lone Phillies fans among groups of their Tampa Bay friends, like Tim Stahl, 28, of Naples, Fla., who was the only red ship in his sea of blue friends. "I came in a car with four other guys in those shirts," he said, pointing to his friend, Ande Johnson, who claimed to have given Stahl a "figurative wedgie" on the car ride to the stadium.

I don't know what a "figurative wedgie" is, but it sounds quite painful. Far worse than a literal wedgie, with longer lasting scars I would assume.