Saturday, May 31, 2008

The G.T.F.

Well thanks for all the prayers. Amy is feeling better now, still taking perkaset (not sure of the spelling) for the pain. She just took a shower by herself and was able to walk to the bathroom unassisted (something she couldn't even do with assistance yesterday evening). But since she lost a good deal of blood, they have decided to keep her here overnight. We should hopefully be gone some time tomorrow. Praise the Lord we have the GTF, Grandmother Task Force, which will continue assisting us. They've been absolutely fantastic. Right now they're helping Amy breast feed, which is much harder than it looks. Why Connar can sleep at the breast and be wide awake at night I don't know.

Just a side note, the Diaper tally is Geoff-2 and Amy-0. But for some reason, I think she'll catch up! But she's had a little trauma to her body and is breast feeding an infant, so we'll let her slide for a bit. Moms please don't shoot me, just a joke; I'll probably never lead in diaper changes, so I have to gloat while I'm ahead. Thanks again for the prayers and interest.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Some Pics

Well, if you're interested, click here for some more pics. I will warn you if you choose to watch the video clip, it does have some gross stuff; so be forewarned. I will try to get some more with Amy and the baby; she was breastfeeding in some, so I couldn't post the ones I have.

Connar Jack Henderson the First

Well the kid is here with us. Connar is his name. He was born at 1:11 pm in room 111, and is weighing in at 8 lb, 9 oz. I guessed 8 lb, 3 oz. Not too bad for an amateur.

Amy did great. I actually almost threw up just a few minutes before the final push. Crazy.

He's been breast feeding and is now sleeping. Amy has been throwing up in between breast feeding and continues to feel light headed and some pain. Here are some pictures of Connar and the doctor. Amy's not feeling too well so pictures of her would not be tasteful.

She lost a decent amount of blood and can't keep stuff down, so please pray she begins to feel better. Thanks so much for all of your prayers and interest. Can't wait for you to see him in person. I think he looks cute.

We've seen some hair

Amy is now fully dialated and has pushed some hair out. We don't know the sex of Little T, but we know that he/she has a full head of hair. Unlike his/her daddy. The midwife is taking her sweet time coming down here, but now we are summoning her for the home stretch. Amy can't help but push, so we should see some results really soon.

"The Waiting is the hardest part...."

Well now its a bit after noon. This is the time when I eat lunch. So the prognostication that the baby would be here by lunch time is probably going to come up short. Yet the baby is at the +2 position now (head turned the right way) and the delivery table is in the room. And Amy has 'the shakes' which are indicative of nearing the end of delivery. Nevertheless, we are playing the waiting game for a bit longer. And as Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers sang, "The waiting is the hardest part..."

3 Moms, kind of...

Amy is feeling so good now. She can't feel a thing and continually talks about how thankful she is for this epidural. They'll eventually lessen the drugs when its time to push. Until then she's been happy to just chill. We were kind of in a race (for guys, everything is a race or competition) to beat this woman down the hall, but just got word that we lost. Still everything seems to be moving well. Praise God. Thanks for all those who are 'keeping score at home.' My mom just showed up so we have a full house.


The midwife took a while to get here, but Amy was in such pain that we got the epidural going. It didn't take too long and now she feels fine. She's was actually talking on her cell with her brother a minute ago. The midwife has just broken her water and checked her dialation. She's now a 6! I don't know what that really means, other than those painful contractions actually did something (6 cm as opposed to 1 cm Amy's been at for like 2 weeks!). The next best news is that she's no longer in pain. Anathesia is pricey, but seeing your wife no longer in pain: priceless. The next best news after that: the midwife and doctor think the baby will be here before lunch time. I'm thinking they meant Easter Standard Time.

Waiting for the Dam to break

Its about 7:30 am now, and we are anxiously awaiting someone from the doctor's office to come soon. Supposedly they should be here around now. The contractions are increasing in frequency and strength, so she's pretty uncomfortable during them, obviously. We're looking forward to someone breaking her water (if she's dialated enough), and then get her the epidural. Pray she can hang on until then. Thanks! I'm proud of how she's handled them so far.
She's got some crushed ice to eat; I feel kind of bad since Randy brought by some of his famous cinnamon rolls.

We've arrived

We arrived as scheduled at Lakewood Ranch this morning. Actually we were a little ahead of time, coming in at 4:45 am instead. Both of us slept a combined total of 27 minutes last night. Amy had contractions most of the night, and I wouldn't have been able to sleep anyway. So I helped time, then fell asleep for about 12 minutes before the 3:50 am alarm.

She's been given the Pitosin and so that should increase the number and strength of contractions. Apparently they don't want to give her the epidural until later, so that's going to be hard for Amy. It might be a few hours before she gets the real drugs. It's just before 6 am now, so we'll see how long she can go. Apparently her cervix is still not very dialated. That's what we're pushing for now. Thanks for the prayers.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Heading home again

Well, we're getting ready to head home. Its 10:15 pm. This is getting really fun. Baby is fine. Amy is fine, but frustrated. Hopefully the next time we head to the hospital, we'll be leaving with a baby! Ours of course.

At the Hospital, but who knows how long?

We are now in Triage C. We've been here like 4 times in a week! Amy had some leaking of fluids, which turned out to be nothing. And "Little T" wasn't moving, or so we thought. He's moving now but Amy can't feel it. She'll be hooked up to the NST until 10:15 pm, and then they'll call the doctor about inducing. We are still scheduled at 5 am on Friday, and I'm a bit concerned about them keeping that time. Apparently there are no inducements on Thursday, their normal day of inducing, because of some stupid class. We're thrilled. So we may be going home tonight around 10:30 pm. Little T is costing us some money! But he looks healthy so that's what counts. Thanks for your prayers. I can't give pictures because I forgot my connection thingy. Amy wasn't too mad about that.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Freaky Friday

Well apparently 2 things are now certain: the internet at the hospital is working with my computer and Amy will be induced on Friday, instead of Thursday. It was a bit disheartening to push the inducement date one more day. But Friday morning at 5 am, the fun will start. Unless we get some bad news from the NST (apparently this time he/she's too active for an easy reading, so we could be here a while), or Amy goes into labor beforehand (which I guess is theoretically possible since the doctor did all that he could to give the cervix a 'workout'), Little T will have a new name on Friday.


We had our final, and possibly the best, movie discussion of the year (we run on the fiscal year here at Hope) on Sunday. The movie was Saved, a satire attacking a superficial, unloving Christianity. It was probably fairly accurate at a number of levels, which is probably what made it so funny. In the end it seemed to tear down the judgmental Christianity, only to replace it with a more universalistic theism. And again, the irony of it all, is that this replacement once again serves as a judgment against all those who don't adhere to this universalistic individualistic belief structure. As Tim Keller in The Reason for God described it, every group has to by nature exclude someone.

Nevertheless, I enjoyed the movie and agreed with many of the critiques. For instance, Pastor Skip, the principal, comes out doing a flip and calls for people to "come down" and rededicate themselves to Jesus after "backsliding the summer." I'm not a fan of altar calls or re-dedication calls, because people just come on down and it never seems to make a difference. I can't tell you how many youth I've seen come down one evening, and then nothing after that. Maybe you've had a different experience, but that's been mine over the years. And of course I've come down several times for re-dedication or commitment (once might have been the point of conversion in elementary school, so I can't completely blast the practice!) and personally haven't seen it enable me to "carry my cross daily and follow after Jesus."

Movies are going to express something true of the world, just like books or philosophers. That's just part of being made in God's image, according to the WCF we were created in "holiness, righteousness, and truth." Of course sin enters into the picture, and concomitantly into the motion pictures, so sometimes we have to mine a little more carefully. But there is truth conveyed nonetheless and this movie turned out to be quite devotional: I was challenged to be more broken before others-the broken characters were the only characters in the movie we actually liked. It really taught me a lot about relationships.

Monday, May 26, 2008

I guess you're a good teacher if....

Today was Memorial Day and we did what we always do on national holidays: painting or yardwork. We opted for the latter. Nothing like planting flowers, having your in-laws rake leaves, and mowing the grass to make for another memorable national holiday. Anything to take our minds of Little T's late, but soon-to-be arrival.

While we were doing yardwork today, we got a chance to catch up with several neighbors. Which I guess is a good reason to do yardwork-though I don't really like it (not them; I love my neighbors). I know, it shows. I fired first.

But as we raked, trimmed, planted, an unfamiliar mini-van pulled up. It was one of Amy's kids, not driving of course, but he was a passenger. He came by to bring her a balloon, a card, and a plethora of hugs. It was very sweet. The mother spoke a lot of spanish, but for some reason "teacher" remained part of her spanglish. She actually spoke way more than I expected. She'd been by before for the Easter Outreach party.

I guess you know you're a good teacher when your kindergarteners cry everyday you're gone, and bring by balloons/cards/hugs. You know you're missed. I guess the same thing could be said about any time you leave something/somewhere/someone. If you're missed, you probably were a good _______. Please don't read anything into this; I'm not going anywhere. It just shows me how much these kids AND their parents appreciated her for not only her hard work, but also her love. Justin is the hispanic kid in the picture, and was the bearer of the balloon.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Fun Saturday

Little T was being obstinate today. Either that or just really sleepy. Probably the latter. We went in this morning for ANOTHER NST (non-stress test). Unfortunately for us, Little T decided that moving around was no longer fun, like it was at 5 am this morning, and he refused to do so. Popsicles, apple juice, graham crackers, and the like did no good. So we had an ultra sound to check if everything was OK. The little joker didn't move for that.

So they gave Amy some delicious hospital ham sandwiches and some beverages. About 30 minutes later he started moving. We were at the hospital for about 5 hours, but glad to be home now. I'm expecting more fun of the same variety on Tuesday, our next doctor's appointment. This time we're bringing Jolly Ranchers. Little T loves those things, and "shakes what his/her mama gave him" whenever Amy eats those.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Brief Baptism Reflections

We just had another baptism in our church last Sunday. It's been a while. I hope to see more adult baptisms here as well: someone new coming to the faith and partaking of the benefits of the covenant of grace and the concomitant community. That's a great thing as well.

I have to confess that infant baptism is not that weird to me. I grew up Presbyterian, so that's what we did. When I became old enough to really question the matter, all I had to do was to see some biblical support. I understand that for those who didn't grow up with such a practice, or even the theological framework behind the practice, that this is quite a step. And I TOTALLY respect folks who believe that baptism seals the believer (Baptistic folks) as opposed to sealing the promise (Presby-types).

In seminary, I remember an evangelism professor say, "I prayed that my child would never know a day when she could remember not knowing Jesus." I thought that weird, since most of my college ministry experience taught me the necessity of knowing THAT MOMENT. That was where assurance could be found. Now of course there is a moment when the Holy Spirit regenerates the heart and that person is "born again" (John 3). But for many folks, the date isn't an option. And that's good. Because all they have to hold on to is Jesus. Not a date/time/place.

Now a covenant child can obviously have such a date/time/place. Plenty do. But it's certainly not bad when they don't. In fact its normal. That's what we pray for when we place the covenant sign/seal upon the child and claim God's promise.

BTW-if you didn't get it by now, the picture is of the musical artist presently known simply as "Seal" (not the first thing I think of when I see him though).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

B-Day update and Neighorly Love shown to us

Well yesterday was the supposed to be the B-Day. Unfortunately "Little T" wasn't moving out. Not yet. We stayed for some surprise tests and an ultrasound for several hours. Next on the agenda is a trip back on Saturday for another NST (non stress test) to see how "Little T's" heart rate is doing. Then back on Tuesday, and if no action before then, Amy will be induced on Wed or Thursday. Impatient? No of course not. Never. I'm such a patient person.

When we got home from the hospital yesterday, our neighbors with their newborn in hand, came out and greeted us with a gift. It was some sort of "hooter hider" (yes, there is a such a thing) or nursing blanket. I'm not real well read on that kind of stuff.

This was very encouraging to see our neighbors loving us back. Perhaps even better than we've loved them-although giving gifts is not my love language (but I have given them snook and redfish filets before!). A sense of community has definitely developed as people are beginning to creatively think of ways to bless others. And that's a good thing.

And then we were able to have someone over for dinner. A nice ending to a long afternoon.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cross Eyed

Lately I've been supplementing my daily bible reading with a book called The Enemy Within by Kris Lundgaard. It has been quite helpful in reminding me that each Christian ought to daily do battle with sin. If there is no battle, then we've become complacent and are not pressing, "on toward the prize which God has called us heavenward in Christ Jesus (Phil 3)."

The chapter I read today reminded me of one way that the flesh operates. Here's an excerpt:

You must understand this: the flesh weakens conviction against sin by separating the remedy of grace from the design of grace. The scriptures teach nothing more clearly than that God's design in showing mercy is to make us holy people: "For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say no ungodliness and worldly passions and to live upright and godly lives in this present age." pg 64

In other words, the
remedy of grace stirs within us a restful assurance that Jesus died once for all sins (I Peter 3:18). Yet we cannot separate, as we so often want to, the remedy from the design of grace: to make us look more like Jesus. Of course we aspire to this holiness not by sheer effort, but by repenting of the idols of our hearts (comfort, respect, money, power, sex, pleasure, etc....) and seeing Jesus as the ONE worthy of our highest affections.

But we must not forget that the design of grace calls us into a war zone, where competing affections regularly do battle against us.
Ludgaard's reminder is not only "catchy," but biblical and powerful: we need to be more "cross-eyed." Jesus cross displays God's wrath and white hot hatred of sin. And we need to hate sin more. But it also reminds us of his Fatherly love towards his children. He forsook his own son, which became the irrevocable price of our adoption. What love! Let us be more "cross-eyed."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Share the joy if you want more of it

Last night Amy was cool with me fishing. So I took off wading, not kayak fishing, which would allow me a quicker getaway if I got "The Call."

So I called up one of my new fishing buddies (a guy visiting the church AND starting up a new lure company-I'm supposed to be getting some inventory soon!) and we headed out about 6:15 pm.

I got one decent snook, and two "snooklets" before the bite slowed. Then I got a monster snook, about 30 inches in length. The fight was awesome. But even greater was the fact that someone else was there to share it with me. And of course take the picture. As a side note, I've held many more fish than babies in my life. So I do need to be careful I don't have one hand in "Little T's" mouth and try to hold him far away from my body to make him look bigger (as I do with snook and redfish).

Sometimes I like fishing by myself. There's some freedom in it. I can go this way or that, and chase after fish. Yet if I look back on my fishing, I've realized that I have a far greater time when I'm fishing with someone else. Someone else can share my joy.

Now this picture is up on the kayak website, and many folks are posting stuff like "Nice snook" and other really deep things of that nature. But the more posts, the more joy for me, and for them (provided they're not jealous like I am sometimes).

A joy that is not shared doesn't last very long. It really doesn't. Just another of my gazillion encouragements to be active in sharing this joy in some sort of relationship. Our joy will really run dry if we shut ourselves off from others, or if we shut our mouths and refuse to speak of the joy we have in Christ. The more it's shared, whether it be through fellowship or relational evangelism, the more evident and consuming our joy shall become.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Our version of the Dundies

Last night was our last official youth group meeting of the summer. Some of the youth requested we do a 3 hour night, and use the extra time to have an Awards Ceremony, similar to The Dundie's of the hit show "The Office." I obviously obliged, if for no other reason than 3 youth took their leadership initiative seriously. But I also was excited to do some sort of awards ceremony.

I've done this in previous years as an RA, youth director, and college intern. No season is officially complete without an awards ceremony.

One of our more creative youth came up with most of the awards, passed them on to me, and I passed them on to another youth who put them on paper plates. High end operation for sure.

Of course they were hilarious as expected. But the question was whether or not they would be well received. After all, my awards ceremonies tend to highlight and emphasize the more embarrassing aspects, events, or personalities of the recipient. For instance one of the kids whom we often forget is even in the room, received the most outgoing/center of attention award. One who never comes got "most committed" (someone had to accept on his behalf). My personal favorite was the "I love Florida football, but who the heck is Tim Tebow" award given to someone who wears University of Florida gear but knows next to nothing about the team.

We all laughed with one another. And that's a direct result of the gospel. We love and accept one another, in spite of all our idiosyncrasies, shortcomings, annoyances, etc....We should be able to laugh with one another because there is no condemnation in Christ Jesus. If we can't laugh at ourselves, then we really are missing something of the gospel. If we can stand faultless before the throne of grace, then who cares if we receive the "I'm thirsty, but not thirsty enough to drink the full 12 oz can" (for the youth who always leaves the can half full/empty) or the "Loudest talker (yours truly)."

Friday, May 16, 2008

The necessity of lay leadership

Recently, I've been thinking of the necessity of lay leadership in the church. For starters, I began listening to a talk on "Mentoring Lay Leaders." The 2nd speaker, John Yates rector of The Falls Church, began by publicly repenting of his low view of lay leadership at the beginning of his ministry. He thought that really strong Christians go into ministry and the rest kind of "serve Jesus on the side." This is really just a pagan gnostic/Platonic picture of life, where the sacred and secular are divided into separate spheres, with ministry being spiritual and of greater importance, and any other work being secular and of lesser importance. Sorry for the run-on sentence.

To serve Jesus, you have to do it 'on the side' instead of actually serving him wherever you are. Fortunately our Reformed tradition has done everything it can to eliminate this faulty distinction, but sometimes people still think this way. This isn't the point of my post, however, so I shan't be touching on it further. Just FYI.

He challenged everyone on the importance of lay leadership. Then someone involved in church planting came to our session meeting on Wed with the intent of getting our elders on board with a presbytery wide vision of planting churches. One of the reasons why he found it so important for elders to become involved is that every great renewal movement of God has been the result of the Spirit moving in God's people. Not specifically clergy.

Getting back to the talk, Yates mentioned that most of the ministries in his church actually began by lay folks seeing a need and rising to leadership to address it. Couple that with someone more capable than I agreeing to lead our summer mission project, and two ladies bible studies starting up-not by pastor recommendations but by folks seeing a need and rising to it-I'm really jazzed up now.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Taking time to listen

Well of course the Rays couldn't take my praise and lost last night to the Yankees 2-1. That's what happens when little guys like me put enormous pressure on them.

Anyhow, one of the points of my last sermon was to know that the joy Christ offers is grounded in objective reality. It's not true joy because it makes us happy (there are plenty of happy folks that don't know Jesus), but true joy because Christ has legitimate, objective worth. It is of the utmost importance that we continue to delve into deeper knowledge of Him (why we should have this joy) and how/where He will build His Kingdom through us if we are to maintain that joy in the face of either hardship or skeptics.

We obviously do this-though it has to be intentional and with faith-through fellowship, the word, prayer, sacraments. But another way is reading, or listening to sermons, talks, lectures, discussions. It probably sounds boring to some, but especially for those who don't like to read or have time to read, these aforementioned resources though the internet/Ipod can be of great help. You can kill two birds with one stone: I'll drive, work in the yard, or clean the bathroom with these talks/sermons. Many of the speakers are quite engaging, particularly if the audio comes from a conference: conferences tend to not get boring folks to speak!

Here is a link of talks/lectures (I hesitate to use the word "lecture," because lecture seems so academic and these are not) from the Gospel Coalition Conference of 2007 that I have begun to listen to. I definitely commend to you the talk on "Mentoring Lay Leaders" by Harry Reeder and John Yates.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Rays Reign, for now

I generally see baseball in very pragmatic terms. It serves the sole purpose of 'getting me though' the tough times before football season starts once again. Then I drop it like a slippery trout, and it's off my hands until next season. However lately, its been exciting to follow the Tampa Bay Rays (remember they are no longer Devil Rays, since that was a stupid name to begin with and there actually ARE NO Devil Rays on the west coast).

Whether its the name change, the new "uni's," the starting pitching, bullpen, defense, or all of the above, the Rays are now in first place. Yes, over the Yankees and over the Red Sox. How long this will last is anyone's guess, but it feels good when teams with nearly 200 million dollar pay rolls lose to less funded teams (cheaper owners is really what it all boils down to). Regardless, it is a blast to see a perennial loser beat up on some of the bullies in the neighborhood.

Our team reigns, for now. And I want people to know about it-Sports Center has yet to show much love. But I want more people to know. For the Christian, as evidenced in Jesus' resurrection, and start of His Kingdom moving forward (His will in heaven being done more on Earth, restoring all aspects of fallen creation), our God reigns. We should have much more confidence (the Rays reigning is only temporary, and maybe REALLY temporary) and far more joy in the fact that our God reigns. As a result, we go forth into the world motivated by our joy, to express this to others via the gospel and our gospel acts of mercy, reconciliation, love, hospitality, renewal, etc...

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Every so often.....

Sometimes folks who spew forth 95 % garbage, can say very true things. Theologians call this Common Grace, and is part of being made in the image of God. Even people who hate Jesus can say true things. Take Bubba the Love Sponge for instance. Not a fan of Jesus.

I was traveling back home from the church to get my Ipod before heading to presbytery in S. Sarasota (there’s no way I was going to drive 35 minutes there and back and not listen to a good lecture). Well, there were commercials on both of my normal sports talk programs, so I flipped to my 4th (after my CD that I was tired of listening to) option: Bubba the Love Sponge. Every so often I'm curious as to what he's talking about. He is quite a repulsive individual, yet today I found myself agreeing with him.

Today he was angry with the prosecutor for the Sean Taylor murder case. The prosecutor will not seek the death penalty for the two young men in the case. Apparently one of the dudes who shot Taylor was under 18 years of age when he committed the crime. So the real question that Bubba raised was, “Why do you have to be 18 to be held FULLY accountable?” He reasoned that his kids who are 6 and 7 know right from wrong. “To not know right from wrong, you have to be retarded.”

While I might word that last sentence a little differently, Bubba makes a good point. People know right from wrong at a very young age and yet choose that which is wrong. Whether they are 16 or 18, they know shooting people is wrong.

So on this rare occasion, Bubba, I salute you. It might not happen again for a long time, so savor the flavor.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Last day of School and Little Kid art

Amy had her last day of school today. Its been an amazing year for her. God has been so good to her, as He gave her a class of All Stars. The odds of such a truly unique, smart, well behaved, and loving bunch of kids coming together is like 1 in 75 years; kind of like Haley's Comet.

Anyhow I was formally and cordially invited to come in for a pizza party and take pictures. The party was intended to help the kids could get a little more closure that she would not be coming back. I'm glad I came, because I got to take home the left-over Domino's Pizza.

One of the girls named Jasmine drew a picture for me. I guess it had me and her in it. BTW-If you ever have the need to feel like a celebrity, walk into an inner city kindergarten class. They treat you like royalty, without acting like Paparrazzi. Upper-Middle class Kindgerteners may do the same, but I wouldn't know since Amy has only taught in title one schools.

Every time I go there, someone draws a picture for me. No Picaso's in the making, but their pictures are done with love and do put a smile on my face. Not because of the quality of their work, but because of the desire of their hearts: to bless me.

I think there is some similarity with our praise before God. Our offerings before Him probably look like little kid art. We often think we're offering Picaso worthy stuff to him, but its probably more like stick figures. Yet God delights in the praise of His children. They make Him smile. Its not the worthiness of the art He's after, but the desire simply to honor and bless His name.

She's planning on tutoring some next year, so I may not have seen the last of little kid art. I may just have to share the spotlight with "little T."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Thank God for counsel

Today I had to make a decision on something that would be somewhat public. I'm staying vague here because of law suits. Not really, but you do never know who will sue you in our litigious society.

Anyhow, I sought some counsel with a friend whom I consider more mature in the Lord than I (though not that counsel from less mature folks is worthless), and who once walked in my shoes. Again, I'm staying generic.

However, I'm so thankful and filled with joy that I have someone-actually I have several folks-that I can ask hard questions to and listen to their counsel. Most Christians have folks like these in their circles, but because of pride, self-autonomy, and disdain for accountability don't actually invite them into their lives.

But it is a beautiful thing for someone younger in the faith (again, the order can be reversed sometimes) to come to someone older and say, "What would you do in this situation" or "do you think this is really wrong?" I'll never forget a college girl who asked me my best bud whether or not she should take a job as a bar tender. I still can't believe that a college person sought counsel! May we all be more like this girl, or woman, now.

Friday, May 9, 2008

God's grace in a down market

I'm not happy about the economy being down, gas prices going up, house prices going down. Mine has dropped a ton! But God's grace has still been at work in a way we might often overlook. Our main sense of security more often than not is in our houses, bank accounts, savings. They seem to be bastions of security. But they are ultimately are vain idols.

A church planter I talked to several weeks ago informed me that God had been destroying such idols of security before his very eyes. A man with roughly 400, 000 in a particularly company (I can't remember which) lost just about all of it when that company folded. Suddenly his heart was more open to the gospel. He was willing to talk.

Until the nation recovers, and I obviously do want it to, perhaps we should be more active in praying for/sharing with folks to run to the only REAL security we can have in life and death (Heidelberg Catechism Q 1). When the bottom drops out, people reach for something more transcendent. Like Soren Kirkegaard, a Danish philosopher, we only hope that folks are reaching out to find a nail scarred hand, not more vain idols.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Prayer Schedule

One of the things I've found helpful to my prayer life (which still needs plenty of help) is a prayer schedule. If you're not a schedule person it might sound like work. But its really not. A schedule helps direct our time so that we are praying regularly for the same persons, places, things, and possibly, but probably not animals (though that's of course not prohibited!) We don't have pets.

I remember being in college and hearing of people praying consistently for things or people. I can remember them telling me how they could see such fruit in their prayer life. I never prayed for anything consistent very much, because every time I sat down to pray, it was simply 'freestyle.' So I never really had that much to share with such folks.

In seminary, my mentor/pastor challenged me to go through some sort of simple schedule. He gave me his template, which I have since revised. Now Amy and I have specific things to pray for each night together. I never have to wonder what or who to pray for. And the cool thing is that we have seen God really work in people's lives. Family members coming to the Lord, extended family coming back to the church, etc..

So I would commend some sort of prayer schedule to you. Here's what ours looks like. Hope it is helpful to you.

Monday-Family members
Tuesday-Extended Family
Wednesday-Church leadership and their families
Saturday-Worship on Sunday and Persecuted Church
Sunday-Grandma's, widows, orphans

We always add "side items (not like grits though)" to the schedule, but we at least know that these folks/areas will be regularly prayed for. You will begin to see a difference and be all the more encouraged to pray.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Take the Over

My favorite sports talk host Jim Rome gets emails signed from people, emotions, states of mind, states, etc...Well somehow I'm getting comments from an entity known exclusively as "Spam." It has found its way to the comment section of my blog. I'm not a fan.

Anyhow, for those who know Amy, I'd like for you to take a guess on when you think she will be delivering "Little T." The due date is May 21st. I'm taking the over, and I think she is as well. Please post if you think she'll go earlier or later than that day (if you're not familiar with gambling terminology).

We live in Tentative Times; we always have!

Lately I've been having a fun time scheduling things. I really have. There is not a huge section of my life that is truly organized. OK, there probably isn't a small section either, except when it comes to Contacts and Calendar-courtesy of Apple and Microsoft respectively. Since I've become a pastor most everything big I do, or person I meet with, is put on my electronic calendar. If something happens, and it gets canceled, no harm, no foul. I just electronically delete it.

Now that Amy is due in two weeks, everything I plan becomes extremely tentative. And all the more so as the Vday (or technically B-day for birthday, but I like WWII terms better sometimes) approaches. So now I'll tell people when I plan something with them, "We'll say 'tentatively' Tuesday at noon" or something like that. I even have to have back up plans for preaching this Sunday, and for my report on the floor of presbytery next Tuesday. I seriously do have a "Pinch Preacher." No lie. Hope you don't have to see or hear him.

Anyhow, I got to thinking, as I sometimes do, and thought, "Everything is ultimately tentative." Nothing is set in stone. There really isn't a need to add 'tentatively' to my plans. There is a tentativeness about life that should simply be presupposed. James 4:13-ff reminds us to say, "If the Lord wills, we will do this or that."

However, I don't think we need a literal recitation of these words every time we make plans. In fact it bothers me sometimes when people have to say EVERYTIME "Lord willing, I will see you tomorrow." I know everything depends upon Lord willing. I'm Reformed and know that all things happen according to God's Sovereign will.

Maybe I need reminders of that truth sometimes. But it does sound unnecessarily redundant if I already presume EVERYTHING is according the Lord's will. Maybe I'm just being picky, but you don't need to say "Lord willing to me" every time you see me. Thanks.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Ticket Cops and Tax Collectors: a few of my least favorite things

Ever since I listened to a great lecture and follow-up Q & A on evangelism by a church planter from New Mexico (who encouraged pastors to do more work outside the office), I've been challenged to follow his lead. So I did a few hours of work in a coffeehouse on Friday. It cost me. Unfortunately the 2 allotted hours in its present spot was taken quite literal. I showed up about 2 hours and ten minutes later to find an ugly stinkin' ticket on my windshield.

Everybody hates, or at least gets quite angry with the 'parking ticket cops.' One of our golf cart parking ticket ladies at Furman was actually attacked by a local, high on drugs. And no one felt bad. I wasn't an eyewitness and was unavailable for comment. I still am.

Around any downtown area, these ticket cops hover over cars like vultures, waiting for their time to expire. And to make matters worse, they seem to take great delight in ruining people's days.

Then something hit me as I drove passed the ticket cop with some anger in my heart. I preached the other day on the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. This Sunday, I'll be preaching on The Parable of the Hidden Treasure (just a shameless plug). I think the parking ticket cop would have made for a much better illustration. I used people least likely to be seen in church: strip club owners or gay folk.

But as community, who likes these ticket cops? Strippers, gay folk, democrats haven't personally 'wronged me' (I know 10 minutes over is still 10 minutes). That only scratches the surface of what tax collectors would do back in the day. They would actually keep the money for themselves. If this ticket lady were keeping the money for herself and charging arbitrary (not 25 dollars if paid on time) fines, then we'd have a pretty close parallel.

And it just reminds me how shocking Jesus really was. And he still is now. How offensive would this parable have been to its original religious audience? Amazingly offensive. When Jesus stops offending us today (remember his greatest offenses were to the religious crowd), we need to stop following a religiously comfortable, fabricated Jesus; and follow the real, offensive one.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Coffeehouse: Why care about the arts? Part III

This will be my final post on our coffeehouse. We had a decent turnout this year. Quality music by folks who were outside THE Church, outside OUR Church, and inside OUR church. The art was quality as well, in my humble non-artistic opinion. All in all, we left the evening encouraged and probably will do it again next year.

One affect of the coffeehouse/art show that we had hoped for was for more Christians to enter into this creative world. None of us expected we should see such fruit almost immediately.

After the coffeehouse on Friday, several folks hung out for several hours and began to write a song. I wasn't there but I'm told that four of them contributed to either the music and/or lyrics.

There are some extremely well written hymns (with some being better/worse than others) and it is a mistake to throw them out. However, it is also a mistake to ignore any new hymns/praise songs (I know that many are shallow, but not all, for instance "In Christ Alone"). And it is still a bigger mistake to not continue writing new hymns/praise songs. Has God stopped working in the hearts of believers or our world? Then we ought to write and sing about it.

Here is an excerpt from a song called Sacred Seduction which several of our young adults composed on Friday evening (or I guess early Sat morning) and sang for our offertory Sunday morning.

All that I can see, Is you drawing me into your arms
Wiping clean my tears of fear and alarm
Who can resist, your sacred seduction
Slowly breaking down my defenses

Miriam sang after crossing the sea, Deborah after victory over Jabin, David after one of his many deliverances in Psalm 40, Paul quotes a hymn celebrating Christ's victory in Phil 2. So why should we stop singing or composing new songs?

Friday, May 2, 2008

Coffeehouse: Why care about the arts? Part II

I'm now a man with no more baby classes. I probably even look different. We only have to go to Lakewood Ranch once a week (instead of 2-3 nights) for doctors visits. Soon "Little T" will become Connar or Anna Kate. Soon.

Anyhow, I just wanted to follow up on the last post about our coffeehouse, and why we are doing it. Some folks would wonder why we care at all about cultural transformation, restoring neighborhoods, bringing community where there is none, etc...Many Christians have put for the question: why should you care anything about the world around you, or enter into the world and culture since it is all going to be destroyed? They have compared such efforts to polishing the deck of the Titanic (BTW-last week two separate people used this analogy as a way not to think of culture so I find it apropos to use it now). Why do anything when the ship is going down anyway?

Such thought arises from the Anabaptist tradition. During the period of the Protestant Reformation, two streams of thought developed. The Anabaptists sought to flee from cultural involvement, politics, military, etc...They divided the world into spiritual and secular. The spiritual component was sacred and eternal, while the secular world of politics, military, the arts, were left to others. Now there were some amazing Anabaptists who endured fierce persecution from not only the Catholics, but other Protestants (to our shame), so I commend them on such amazing perseverance. Yet I think their cultural legacy leaves something out.

The Reformed view of the world leaves no distinction between sacred and secular. According to this world-view, there should be no major section of the world and culture in which Christians shouldn't be present. Again, as mentioned in the last post, they don't have to be witnessing to others in order to fulfill their calling in work. As Christians go forth, they ought to embrace and express truth, beauty, love, goodness about God and His world. Painting a picture of a beautiful sunset or radiant full moon displays something about our creator in the same way that the moon, stars, sky display something of God (Psalm 19:1-2). It doesn't have to have a bible verse (though I'm not knocking art that does) to honor God.

One day we will have a whole new world, as heaven comes down to Earth. And on that world we will have culture which perfectly and fully emphasizes truth, beauty, and goodness. There is a picture in Revelation of the different kings of the earth bringing their glory to the New Jerusalem (Rev 21:33). We bring the best of our culture into the new world we are promised. It's more that we are getting a head start in this magnificent endeavor than we are polishing the deck of a sinking ship.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Coffeehouse: Why care about the arts?

Yesterday was a day of highs and lows, and I'm not talking about the tides. However they, by the way, have been awful lately, and what I'm blaming for my lack of fish in the boat (or rather kayak). Anyhow, I was down because the promised article from the Herald was no longer a possibility due to the proximity of our coffeehouse/art show (in two days). Then all of a sudden, a woman called and interviewed me. And 30 minutes after that, someone came by to take pictures. My office has never looked so good. Seriously. All the art crammed in the tight space covered over some of the other clutter.

To read the article, click here. I think they did a good job.

One of the reasons we do this coffehouse/art show each year is to give the community, our church, the Church in general a chance to more greatly appreciate the arts. Art, music, writing, story-telling don't have to be explicity Christian to be good. God is a creative, story-telling God whom we honor by reflecting back that creativity through pursuing art, music, story-telling, and/or simply by appreciating the aforementioned through the arts.

My Reformed background has always expressed a high regard for arts, music, and cultural engagement. The Reformed view of the arts is to appreciate beauty and the creative processes God has given to men and women because they are in fact made in the image of God. Animals can't do this, nor can their descendants. Christians ought to celebrate this unique God given creativity through the arts.

In addition to simply reflecting a creative God, art, music, story-telling point us to a greater story behind our story. To depict God's world, even in its brokenness, points us to some aspect of God's Ultimate story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, Consummation. It needn't be explicitly Christian, nor done by Christians for it to be of great benefit to us.