Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Mourning

Two nights ago at dinner we were talking about Sandy Hook. Kennedy wanted to pray for the families and teachers and everyone there. We prayed. Then we talked for a minute. And then my daughter looked at me and said:
It feels like just thinking about it is going to make me cry.
And for the 967,435 time since I became a dad, my kids taught/reminded me of something important.

Romans 12:15 tells us to, "mourn with those who mourn." I have spent far too little time since Friday letting the tragedy bring tears to my eyes. I have spent far too little time crying out to God for an end to the violence. But Romans 12 is clear. Being part of the Church means entering into others joy and sadness. 

God, I confess that I care way too much about my corner of the world and do not allow my heart to break with others hearts. Help me. And thanks for kids that show me who you are over and over again. Amen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What Can We Do? (And No, I Don't Mean Gun Control)

Yesterday, as the stories continued to come out of Newtown, CT, I kept hearing people on the radio say the same thing. It was something along the lines of:
This is different than Superstorm Sandy, with that I could give money or go help clean up. With this, it feels like there is nothing I can do.
For a moment I thought how true this was. Then I remembered God. He calls us into broken places to bring his hope and healing, so there must be something we can do. If you're a follower of Jesus here are some things you can do:

  1. Pray. For the victims families. For the kids who lost friends and are hurting and scared. For the faculty. For the community. For the churches in the community.For the family of the shooter. 
  2. Organize or lead a church/community prayer gathering.
  3. Connect with a church in your denomination in the area and find out ways you can help. I would guess that Christmas meals, gifts, general meals are being provided for lots of families. If you want to contribute, call a church and do it!
  4. Pay attention. There are people in your world that God is calling you to notice and love with His love. Put down your internet machines for long enough to be present wherever you are. There are hurting people who are NOT ok that need you to notice and care.
Having honest conversations about guns and mental healthcare and whatever else all seem important to me, but much less important than caring for the people of the community in Newtown and the community outside your front door.

May we listen well to the voice of the Holy Spirit calling us to love others with our whole selves! 

Monday, December 17, 2012

Monday Wondering (or Wandering)


  • I wonder if anything useful can be said about guns. There is a third way in the conversation. I'm not sure anyone wants to find it, though. And, if you're a baseball bat arguer (bats are #1 weapon in domestic disputes or something to that effect so why don't we ban them?), just stop. It's ridiculous. No one has gone on a mass killing spree using a bat. Let's talk about guns. Specifically the kind that are not made or allowed for hunting animals but are really good at hunting large groups of people. Please, in rational words, help me understand why anyone needs a gun like that? (FYI- I know LOTS of super responsible gun owners. Their guns are locked up and their kids don't have access. I'm not trying to attack the 2nd amendment. I'm trying to understand our NEED as a nation to own these incredibly destructive weapons.)(2nd parentheses: I have no agenda or side on this. I want to hear from all sides and opinions. If you want to comment, please do so respectfully.)
  • I wonder if we will have any more pukers in our house by the end of the day or stick at the current count of one.
  • I wonder how many other parents will hug their kids a little tighter this morning as their kids head to school and pause for just a moment of fear and worry.
  • I wonder why God is sometimes so hard for some people to find. Not letting go of self? Not really wanting God? I don't know. But it breaks my heart over and over and over again.
  • I wonder if my youngest sleeping 6 hours in a row this last week was an aberration or a sign of my wife getting more sleep very soon. 
  • I wonder how God felt on Friday. And how he feels as he walks with families in CT this morning. I can attribute words to him, like sadness or anger or compassion, but I don't know how God experiences those emotions.

What do you wonder today?

Friday, December 7, 2012

Stuck in the Wrong Story

Matthew 12:13-14
Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus.
Jesus performed miracles. Over and over again. And sometimes he performed them in times and places that the leaders of the time didn't like. The story of the man with a shriveled hand takes place on the Sabbath, a day set aside for rest. The Pharisees had turned the day into an absolute mess with law after law after law to make sure Sabbath was kept. In the process they had lost vision of relationship and loving God and others. 

On this particular Sabbath, Jesus and his disciples had already upset the Pharisees by picking grain to eat. So, the Pharisees set up a trap for Jesus: they would give him a chance to heal someone and see if he took the bait. 

Does anyone else see how ridiculous their trap is?

Jesus takes the "bait", shows compassion, love, and grace, and heals the man. IT'S A MIRACLE! This man's life is changed. He can now work and provide for any family he has. He can be a part of normal society rather than live as a beggar.

So obviously the Pharisees see their error and repent. Wait, what? Oh yeah, they leave angry at Jesus and plot to kill him.

They had lost the story. They had forgotten that the story of God had been about bringing freedom, creating community, and bringing deliverance. They were stuck in the stories of power, perfection, and legalism.

Sometimes I get stuck in the wrong story, too. Usually I get stuck in the story of self-pity or self-doubt. Or some over-inflated sense of pride in myself outside of Jesus. I would imagine that you can name your stories that you get stuck in, too.

When we get stuck in wrong stories, we are not about God's kingdom. So we have to get unstuck. I suggest a couple things:

  • Pray about it
  • Tell someone you're stuck
  • Have them pray with you about it
  • Fix your eyes on Jesus. He will pull you into his story as you see the story he lived and showed

What story are you stuck in?

Give me Christ or else I die!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Matthew 9

I was brought to my knees earlier this week as I read Matthew 9. Take a few minutes and go read it (here it is)...

Here's what gets me in this chapter:
Someone has faith.
Jesus heals them, it seems both physically and spiritually ("Your sins are forgiven" v2)
The healing gets proclaimed throughout the region (26 & 31)

And at the end of this chapter of miracles, Jesus says the workers for the harvest are few. He does not mention door to door evangelism. He does not mention learning strategies for telling your store clerk about Jesus in 45 seconds or less. He heals people who show faith and then calls for workers.

Sometimes we get caught up in what is and isn't the Good News. I am pretty sure the good news is that Jesus cam to bring healing and restoration to humanity. Many parts of the Church seem to assume that is a spiritual call only. But Jesus' own actions would seem to indicate that it is physical as well. In fact, in most of the stories in Matthew 9, the physical healing is all we hear about!

So, here is my question: If you think these miracles were just for Jesus and the early church, why? I used to say that, but I never understood why I said that other than I thought I should. Is it ok for the gospel to be about more than just a person's spiritual state? Can it also be about physical, emotional, or relational healing?

Discuss. I would really like to hear your thoughts- leave a comment below.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Weakness

One of the main reasons I took the job as youth pastor at South Hutch (soon to be Journey!) Mennonite Church was that I thought I couldn't actually do the job. I thought it was more than I was actually capable of doing. I knew, that everyday when I woke up to be a pastor at this church, it would be beyond what I could do on my own.

And you know what? I was right. Oh boy was I right. I mean, how may people get stuck in a country they didn't mean to be in where they don't speak the language with 11 high school students along for the ride? There have been more times than I can count in the last three years where I have walked into situations where all I can do as I walk in is say, "God, HELP!" I have cried more and prayed more in the last 3 years than I did in the 10 years before that. But I have also seen God bring healing and hope and restoration and himself  over and over and over.

And I am thankful, that after three years, I feel no more able to "control" or "handle" what God has called me to. It is still beyond what I can do.

Here's why I think it's important:
Moses led a couple million people and he didn't like speaking in public. So God did the leading.
Paul had a public image problem since he spent the early years of adulthood persecuting the followers of Jesus. The Holy Spirit sent him region to region to proclaim Christ. And he had that whole thorn in the flesh thing. And God did the leading and changing of people.
We could look through all of the Bible and see story after story of people who were insufficient for the task but followed a completely sufficient God.

Here's what Paul had to say in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10:
(God) said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
Here is a great truth: God meets us in our weakness and works from there. When we quit thinking we can do any of His kingdom stuff on our own, then he will equip us to really do kingdom work.

How are you allowing God to meet you in your weakness and call you into His work?

Friday, November 30, 2012

Power and Pigs


Matthew 8:28-34
When he arrived at the other side in the region of the Gadarenes, two demon-possessed men coming from the tombs met him. They were so violent that no one could pass that way. “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”
Some distance from them a large herd of pigs was feeding. The demons begged Jesus, “If you drive us out, send us into the herd of pigs.”
He said to them, “Go!” So they came out and went into the pigs, and the whole herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and died in the water. Those tending the pigs ran off, went into the town and reported all this, including what had happened to the demon-possessed men. Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region.
There are people who will see the power and God and ask it to leave.

Let that sink in. Here is the order of events:

  1. God shows up (yes, he was technically already there for all you picky people.)
  2. God does a miracle that brings healing
  3. People freak out about some pigs
  4. People tell God to go away
Oops. Sorta missed the point I think.

Sometimes, as humans, we miss the main plot point for a subplot. The pigs? Subplot. The healing of the men? Closer to the main point than the pigs but still not the main point. The power and grace of Jesus? Main plot point.

We have to pay attention to what God is doing in our lives and the world around us. Otherwise we are likely to see the pigs, miss the power and grace, and ask God to leave. And that, is a tragedy! 

Where in you life is the power of God at work? Where in your life are you or others worried about the pigs and need to see the power of God?

(As a last note, Jesus is lucky PETA wasn't around in his day. They would have jumped all over this one!)

Give me Christ or else I die!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Repetition in the Age of One Hit Wonders


One of the things I was captured by when I ran my 5k a couple weeks ago was the repetition of one foot in front of the other. Over and over and over and over again. Left. Right. Left. Right. Left. Right. For (what seemed to me) a really long time. 

We don't live in a world that values repetition. We move from one "greatest, most awesome, there will never be anything funnier/sadder/ more thought-provoking/beautiful/whatever" thing to the next. The way we consume media  encourage this. Youtube encourages us to find the next viral video and experience it before it gets old. And so we live in a hurry that discourages repetition.

The problem, is that repetition is good. It connects us to something. It connects us to God with depth that we cannot have when we run from God high to God high, chasing the next emotional moment. And sometimes the American version of church encourages this. Okay, a lot of the time. Each new study is the thing you need to really know God. Every conference is the one that will change your life.

But 40 days is not the goal. Neither is reading the Bible in a year. Or being up to date with current worship trends. The goal is to know God and enter into his work in this world. And that takes time and as Eugene Peterson put it, "a long obedience in the same direction." So don't be in a perpetual chase for the newest and best in Christian marketing and thought.

Think instead about the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years. Or Paul's years spent in prison and captivity. And live a life of faithfulness.

One of the disciplines that helps me experience this is repetitive prayers. These are short, simple prayers that I can pray over and over again to help remind me of my King and his Kingdom and to quit chasing lesser things.

Two of my favorites, give them a try (pray them over and over, left, right, left, right, left, right):

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me a sinner.

Abba, I rest in You.

What repetitive practices do you use to keep you anchored to Christ and His kingdom?

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Worried Mind

Matthew 6:28-34
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own."
Are you a worrier? I believe many of us are. We spend much of our day worried about our jobs and our bills and the list of things that need fixed on the house. The list of what we worry about could go on and on.

But Jesus tells us not to worry. When he tells us not to worry in these verses, he attaches it to something important. He says that instead of worrying, we should seek the kingdom and righteousness of God. Could it be that when we run around full of worry, that we fail to participate in God's kingdom? That we fail to try and be like Christ, living in the grace and truth that he offers?

So, the result of worry, isn't just poor sleep, gray hair, ulcers, overeating, (add your own). The most eye opening result is that we miss out on the kingdom work of God. May it never be!

Let us walk with confidence knowing that God sees us and will provide for us. Here is a beautiful prayer form St. Patrick asking for God to walk with us this day:

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.
I arise today
Through God's strength to pilot me;
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,

God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me, 
God's shield to protect me,
God's hosts to save me
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.
Christ shield me today
Against wounding
Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of everyone who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through the mighty strength
Of the Lord of creation.


Where do you need less worry and more kingdom today?

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Election Night Communion

On election night our church, with over 900 other churches across the country, held a communion service. It was not a service for praying for any certain people to win. It was not to pray against any candidates.

It was a night for remembering.

Remembering who we belong to.
Remembering the sacrifice made for us on the cross.
Remembering that our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against Satan and the powers of darkness.
Remembering that the USA, while a great country, is not God's kingdom. His kingdom is larger and greater than our country will ever be.
Remembering that unity is important and can be had when we meet at the cross rather than at the polls.

We centered our night around Isaiah 26:8:
Yes, Lord, walking in the way of your laws,
    we wait for you;
your name and renown
    are the desire of our hearts.
And we remembered that our lives are about seeking God and living in a way that makes Christ known and brings glory and fame to Him.

It was a beautiful gathering and one I will remember for a long time. I will leave you today with a couple of the prayers we read together that night.

Call to worship #2 
From Cahill United Methodist Church (Alvarado, TX), published by re:Worship
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the love of God,
and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
And also with you.
Happy are the people who serve the God of Jacob.
Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.
Let us pray.
Loving God,
we gather to praise and worship you
and to pledge to you our loyalty and our service.
Bless our gathering and our remembering,
our hearing and our speaking,
that all honor and glory may be yours.
Bless us that we may be a blessing—
a blessing to you, to our community,
to our nation, and to our world.
We ask it in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer for the election
By Joanna Harader, author of the “Spacious Faith” blog
God of justice and compassion,
God of Republicans and Democrats and Independents,
God of the poor and the 1% and the middle class,
in the heat of this election year
we pray for our nation, our churches, and ourselves.
In the midst of meanness and deception,
may our words be kind and true.
In the midst of loud speeches and harsh accusations,
may we listen well and try to understand.
May those who follow Jesus do the work of Jesus–
breaking down the dividing walls
speaking the truth in love
meeting together in the face of disagreements.
Holy, loving God, have mercy on your children.
Amen. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Thoughts

One of the reasons I hear most often given as a reason to vote is that, "If you don't, you can't complain for the next 4 years!" While this line of thinking seems great, I think it is wrong. Here's why:
1 Corinthians 10:31- So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
So, if you are able to complain and whine AND bring glory to God, then maybe you could somehow say it's ok to complain. But as followers of Jesus, our ultimate goal is to love God and love others. Complaining about the President or the senate or whomever certainly is not loving them. We can think critically and have opinions, but I often see those turn into attacks against people. Especially President Obama.

Maybe even more compelling is this verse:
Philippians 2:14- Do everything without complaining or arguing.

So care about politics? Yes. Complain? No.
Vote? Sure. Use your vote as an excuse for complaining? Nope.

So, tomorrow morning or whenever a winner is declared, here's my humble advice:

Pray. Then pray. Then pray. Our president could use it.

Monday, November 5, 2012

5K Recap

To start, I want to give you a clear idea of my training regimen for this race. I signed up 2 months ago, then proceeded to have about 5 weeks of completely debilitating allergies and a week of sickness. So obviously, I was at my peak physical shape as I entered this race.

It was very cold Saturday morning with a brisk wind. So I dressed warm and milled around trying to fit in or look like I knew what was happening or wasn't very scared of what was about to happen.

My goal was to not be the first person to start walking. As the start sounded, my fear of being last was quickly gone as some people made it less than 100 yards before walking. So I trudged along and realized at some point that I could just keep going at a slow jogging pace somewhat indefinitely. The only point I walked was coming over a hill and turning right into the wind. It just stopped me.

The thing that I found most interesting were the people who would sprint for a short distance then walk. Then sprint, then walk. Eventually those people mostly faded into the background somewhere behind me. I don't understand their strategy. It seems painful.

After all 5k's were complete and I ran under the inflatable finish line, I was overwhelmed. I honestly thought this was something I couldn't do. And I had just finished it. Wow.

I think I am officially bit with the bug. I want to do it again and be faster. And have it resemble actual running. What a great experience. Glad I showed up and tried it!

Friday, November 2, 2012

180 Degrees

"Repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is near." -Jesus

Jesus calls people to repentance. Repentance is not just:
  • Being sorry.
  • Feeling bad.
  • Wishing you could be different.
  • Wanting to stop sinful actions.
Repentance is turning around and taking a new course. When Jesus called people to repentance, the call was to be a new person. To take hold of the "new creation" and leave behind the life that was controlled by sin and self. To live the story of God in their life rather than the story of Adam.

Repentance is kind of a big deal. True repentance changes a person's life completely. It alters it's direction. It is beautiful. And it is found at the cross. So lead people to the cross. Go to the cross yourself. And turn in the direction of Jesus.

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Jesus- Matthew 1-2

Back from the sickest I've been in a really long time... Ugh. Not something I hope to revisit, ever.

In our world it's easy to lose the picture of who Jesus is and was. I try to regularly read through a gospel and just let his life speak to me. This morning I started Matthew.

Obviously all these things that I notice carry my bias and 21st century, Anabaptist self with them, but I try to lay those down to whatever degree that is possible.

Here are some thoughts:
1:1-  Jesus is the Messiah and the son of kings and patriarchs
1:6- Jesus' ancestry is not perfect. It includes adulterers and murderers
1:19-21- Jesus had an earthly father with great amounts of faith and trust in God (Not sure an angel could have changed just anyone's mind about getting a divorce.)
1:23- Jesus name speaks to his purpose- "God with us"
2:1- Born in Bethlehem during the reign of King Herod
2:2- Even as a baby, he was worthy of worship.
2:7-8, 13-15- Herod wants to kill Jesus, because Jesus is a threat to his throne, his kingdom, his agenda. Jesus is still a threat to those things in every persons life, if he is allowed close enough.
2:23- He grew up in Nazareth.

I'd encourage you to get out your Bible, pick one of the stories about Jesus' life and see what you learn. I promise, if you take the time to read the Bible prayerfully and with a heart and mind open to the Holy Spirit, you will see new things about Immanuel.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Confession and Healing

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
                                                                                                   -James 5:16
Relationships are important. In this passage, James says that our relationships have the ability, through the Holy Spirit, to bring healing to each other. Our sins aren't to be confessed just to God, but also to each other. When this confession happens, you don't just listen and then talk about it. You listen and then you pray for healing!

So, today, stop hiding your junk from those who love you and spend some time confessing and praying.

Who do you need to go have some confession with today?

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

My Kids

My kids are awesome. They challenge me every day to be more like Jesus and to be present right where I'm at. I am so grateful for all 4 of them. Here are a few photos from the last month or so:
  

















Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Wonderings (or Wanderings)

I wonder if Jesus would have voted. Would he have set himself up as for or against any laws or leaders? He was about his own kingdom. I'm not certain he would have voted. I'm not certain I'll vote. (No, I won't complain about who wins anything if I don't vote. Or if I do, I still won't complain, it's not very helpful.)

I wonder what would happen if every person who loves Jesus chose to to pray for president Obama and Governor Romney rather than debating the truth of their birth certificate or tax returns.

I wonder if the issues surrounding homosexuality will still be issues in 20 years. I would suspect that they will not be. I would guess most of the things that movement wants will have come into law/general acceptance. And people who follow Jesus shouldn't be scared of that. Not because they should agree, but because the laws of this country don't give or take away your ability to know, worship, and serve Jesus. It's all about Him. Always has been, always will be.

I wonder if Langley will start sleeping more this week. I'm hoping so.

I wonder if Kennedy will continue to hear me, her dad, over the boys that seem to be liking her. I pray that she knows her worth is not in a 1st (or 2nd or 3rd or 4th ...) grade boy liking her. I'm very thankful that she chose to talk to me about a boy who likes her rather than just talking to her friends. Now, if I can just keep that up into the teenage years and with two more daughters...

I wonder if non-GMO eating is possible for our family without taking out a loan for groceries. It's really expensive and really hard to find many options in Hutchinson, KS. But we ruined our lives by watching this movie. Oh, what to do...?

What do you wonder today?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Dead Faith

Growing up in church, I always heard, "All you have to do to be saved is believe in Jesus. Just believe and have faith." And while I believe that statement is true, I don't think it is ALL of the truth.

Here are a couple verses from James 2:
14: What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if people claim to have faith but have no deeds? Can such faith save them?
17: Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
26: As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

James is pretty clear. You can have faith without actions, but it is a DEAD FAITH.

Dead=Not living
Not living=incapable of producing fruit

We are created to know God and produce kingdom work to bring glory to God. If our faith is dead, this will not happen.

These actions that James talks about are not some sort of legalistic list to make sure we do. You know, read 1 chapter of the Bible a day, pray for at least 10 seconds in a row without distraction, go to church, don't cuss, don't flip people off who are jerks when driving... The list could go on and on. 

James is talking about something deeper. He is speaking of actions that flow out of a deep ad overwhelming sense that we are God's hands and feet in whatever place we find ourselves. If we meet a hungry person, we cannot just pray for food for them. We must answer the prayer! That's what living faith does.

Let's shake off any dead faith that tries to sterilize us and live in the power of a God who calls us to a living, active, world-changing and shaking faith.

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Hugging and Theology

I'm not a hugger. Ask anyone that knows me, and they would tell you I don't hug people. In fact, I can give you the list of people I feel comfortable hugging:
My wife
My 4 kids
My mom, dad, brother, sister, grandma

That's it. To put it mildly, physical touch is not my love language. This has been true of me for as long as I can remember. I remember fighting to stay away from kisses from my aunt or great grandma. Or hating visiting my other great grandma because I knew I would have to give her a hug before we left.

But, something has changed.

I have always believed that God can heal people. I grew up thinking, though, that all the miracle stuff of the New Testament was done and over, it didn't happen now. So, while I believed God could heal people and perform miracles through us, he didn't. That wasn't how he was working anymore.

Over the last few months, that belief has been challenged. I have seen someone healed after collapsing in a church service. I have seen someone who was losing the ability to sing and speak, have his vocal chords healed in a miraculous way. I have seen a student who had trouble hearing without hearing aids not need them anymore.

That sounds like a God who not only can heal, but he is healing.

And somewhere deep down in me, this news, that the Holy Spirit is actively at work healing people, has turned me into a person who hugs. Jesus healed people with his touch. I don't know how that worked, but if Jesus healed through touching people, then touch must be pretty important. So I decided to give people some hugs because Jesus loves them and I can give them a hug and tell them that.

This past week I was talking with a student who is hurt very deeply by some peers at school. We talked for a few minutes and then I asked if I could pray with him. I put my arm around his shoulders (shout out to the side hug!) to pray with him, and the moment I did that, he wrapped his arms around me and held on tight through the whole prayer. That student NEEDED a hug from someone that loved him with the love of Jesus. I think the hug said "Jesus loves you and so do I" a lot more than my words did.

And so, God continues to break into my life and upset my world in awesome and frightening (to me!) ways.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Storytelling

Do you ever tell a bad story? You know, one where you forget important details but somehow manage to describe the unimportant ones? Or it goes on and on and nothing ever happens? Or you just can't quite seem to get the meaning across?

Yesterday, I tried my best to tell a bad story. The problem was, it was my story, the one I was living yesterday. I was tired and a little grumpy and having an inner pity party after a band practice felt like it didn't go the way I hoped it would. Somewhere in there, I adopted a "woe-is-me" attitude. About my entire life.

It was pitiful.

And then, in spite of my best attempts at holding the "World's Lamest Pity Party," God showed up and reminded me of the real story. Students were at church who needed to meet Jesus. They needed prayed and talked with. They needed to know God heard them. And all of a sudden, my sorry self was reminded of the real story.

The story of a God who so loves the world that he sent Jesus. The story where I get the freedom to not be the main character. The story of the Holy Spirit at work in students lives bringing healing and freedom.

And those are stories worth telling. The pity party? Not so much.

What's the story your trying to tell today? What's the story Jesus is trying to tell through you?

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Youth Ministry and the Law

My time in youth ministry has gotten me up close with the police a few times. Mostly in not-so-fun circumstances, but once, they were responding to a concerned neighbors call about someone shooting a shotgun at the church. When the police arrived they asked us to stop shooting the dumpster... with a balloon launcher and past it's goodness fruit. Funny! But today, I'm not talking about that kind of law. I'm talking about the law of God.

Back in the day, the Israelites tried to earn their way to heaven by perfectly following God's laws. They created more laws to follow help them follow God's laws. And still, no one could seem to do it perfectly. So Jesus came and actually did it. He lived the law perfectly so that no one else ever had to. We are saved by grace through faith, and this is not something that we accomplish, it is a gift from God. So we no longer have to try to earn our way to heaven!

Except in youth ministry. I often feel an immense pressure to teach students how to be good, moral people. I feel like there is an expectation that I will teach them not to watch 'R' rated movies, that saying cuss words is wrong, and a whole list of other things that will help them be good, moral people. And lots of the things on the list are true and good and right and will help them be good, moral people.

I have just one problem with that: I am not looking to create good, moral citizens of this earth. I mean, I hope students are good and moral and ethical and all that, I just they are something else first.

I hope they are in love with Jesus, and his bride, the church. I hope they are giving Him all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. And then loving others out of their love for Christ. If they are doing that, the moral choices will be easier. And if they aren't doing that? The moral choices won't save them, and I don't want them for a second to think the goal of church and God is for them to be a good person.

So parents, I apologize if you are hoping I will teach your kid right from wrong. I'm not real interested in that being my job description.

But I will teach your kids about fixing their eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and running a good race with him as the finish line.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Simplifying

I like to read blogs. As a youth pastor I really enjoy reading blogs about youth ministry. So I subscribe and subscribe and subscribe. And read and read and read. And all this subscribing and reading leads to a whole mess of thinking.

On any random day, I will find myself drawn into blogs to think about calendar planning, how to be a better teacher, purity, running a good event, and many other things. I realized over time, that I was thinking and creating less and less for my own youth ministry, and more and more just jumping from thought to thought.

And so, a week or two ago, I did this:
BEFORE:

AFTER:









I kept 4 youth ministry blogs that are people I know or that I feel like "mentor" me from afar. I kicked the rest to the curb!

And I haven't noticed or missed them at all!

But I have a lot more time to breathe. And pray. And listen. And dream. And create. And that is beautiful.

I think God, in the life of Christ, calls us to live simply because it creates space around us. The space for God to speak to us. The space for people and relationship. The space for silence and meditation on and around the things of God.

But I still have a ways to go, just stop by my office some day!

What places in your life do you need to find simplicity?

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Thoughts from My Ordination

I was ordained in the Mennonite Church on Sunday. Coming into the ordination, I don't know that I had a lot of thoughts about what it would be like. I didn't expect to feel different on Monday morning, and I didn't. But I also didn't expect some of the things I did feel and experience.

  • Having my college pastor, Gary Aronhalt, and his wife, Melanie, for the weekend was incredibly fantastic. We had sort of lost touch outside of facebook in the last few years and it was wonderful to sit and tell stories and reconnect. I love those people. 
  • It has also been a while since I heard my mom play piano and my dad sing. They are really talented. I'm glad a small fraction of their musical talent rubbed off on me. I love those people a bunch, also.
  • Students and youth leaders wrote me letters comparing me to various items of clothing and then dressed me up in them. It was fun. And encouraging. And I looked like this(ps- you can't see the sweet clip-on earrings or sweatpants):


  • The prayer time. Oh my. A group of men and women came forward and prayed for and over me. And it was a powerful moment in my life. One of the hands on me was pouring the Holy Spirit into me. And I mean I could literally feel it coming into my shoulder and filling my upper body. It was hard to stand under the weight of it. I have never experienced something like that before. But if that was the Holy Spirit, I want more!

All in all, I was blessed by the morning, and I think our church was, as well. I am so grateful that God has called me in this time to this place to be a pastor. And specifically a pastor to students. May His kingdom grow and His fame increase!


Friday, October 5, 2012

On Spiders and Snakes

Yesterday while mowing my lawn I took this picture:
I posted it to facebook and somebody made the following comment about it:
 Orb spiders eat the bad bugs!
Almost like they were on the side of the spiders. And so I share with you, humanity, my thoughts on snakes and spiders. Any place that I have inserted "facts", please know that I have not diligently checked them for accuracy. In fact, I am making them up to suit my needs. (It's practice for a future in politics!)

Lie #1 we believe about snakes and spiders:
The enemy of my enemy is my friend. Sometimes they are also your enemy. We eat bad bugs? That is ridiculous. I have a house for a reason. It keeps the bad bugs outside. Also, I believe spiders are the only bug in my yard that may contain enough neuro-toxin to kill me. That seems worse than a mosquito bite that itches. If we want to have the enemy of my enemy talk, let's talk about the pest control guys. They are my friend. They kill "bad bugs" as well as spiders.

Lie #2 we believe about snakes and spiders:
Snakes and spiders are pets... Someone in my church caught a large tarantula at work the other day and brought it to show it to us in the office. He "felt sorry for me" and others in the office that didn't want to have it on our hand running around. That's like bringing in flesh-burning acid and then shaking your head when I won't stick my hand in "for the fun of it." If that demon pet bites you, it will get a taste for your blood and eat you at night. Just watch any horror movie that involves snakes or spiders. That's how it works.

I had a friend who had a pet python. Yes, the kind that kills people when the slightest opportunity is given. One day, he come home from school and it was gone. After a week, so was his cat. And a small herd of sheep. True story, except the sheep part. Snakes don't like wool.

Lie #3 we believe about snakes and spiders:
We may get spiderman-like superpowers if we are bitten. That's dumb. For every 1 spiderman, think of all the villians that are created. You are much more likely to turn into some snake-lie villian who wishes to turn an entire city into "bad bugs" for food than to turn into spiderman. So don't try it.

Lie #4 we believe about snakes and spiders:
Their mouths are too small to bite humans OR they will only bite you if provoked. When you believe these things, they have you right where they want you. RIGHT. WHERE. THEY. WANT. YOU! It's kinda like playing dead with a lion or a bear. You know what lions and bears do with dead stuff? They eat it. And they are happy because they don't have to chase it. Ask anyone who knows (mostly me): Snakes sit all coiled up so they can strike whenever you get in range. Unprovoked, on a nice walk, going to to do charity work for snakes and spiders? They don't care. They want to share neuro-toxins with you.

Here is a short poll to gauge your feelings on snakes and spiders and what you have learned from me during this informative blogpost:

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Prosperity

The greedy stir up dissension, but those who trust in the Lord will prosper. Proverbs 28:25

How do you read the Bible? I think a lot of us read it like a personal instruction manual. And verses like Proverbs 28:25 are pretty exciting when you read the Bible this way!

This verse can quickly go from a statement about greed and trust, to a personal money-making strategy. We can "trust in the Lord" with the end goal of financial prosperity.

Somehow, I don't think God intends for us to trust him with the result being a healthy 401K.

I do think God intends for us to trust him with the end result being a person who is shaped and formed (sometimes painfully) into a kingdom of God citizen. I think that is closer to what prosper means. This verse reminds me of Psalm 37:4-
Delight yourself in the laws of the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.
You see what the Psalmist did there? Pretty clever. He says God wants to give you the desires of your heart. Awesome. 6'4" here I come! Wait, he says something before that?

Delight yourself in the laws of the Lord... So the idea is first to immerse yourself in who and what God is. Soak him up in the Scriptures and then I believe he will give us the desires of our hearts. But I think our desires will change. They will line up with the kingdom of God instead of the kingdom of man.

His desires will become our desires. And I think in those moments, we see and understand prosperity very differently.

Where is your heart greedy for this world instead of for Christ today?

"Give me Christ or else I die."

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Reflections

As water reflects the face,
so one's life reflects the heart.
Proverbs 27:19
One of my favorite types of photographs are those that show reflections in water. I love them because I know they take planning to have the right kind of light, patience to have a calm day, and a good eye to see the picture that many might miss. One of my absolute favorite reflection shots is by Andrew Hetherington

So the question today is: What is your heart reflecting? Is it reflecting love and hope and joy? Or is it reflecting anxiety and anger and frustration? What is in our hearts comes out in our lives. 

And other people notice. They see the reflection of our hearts. I was at an event recently and two people got into an argument. One of the people involved immediately started saying things under his breath that weren't super kind toward the other person. He then loudly and meanly, "joked" about what he was angry about. None of those in the room were fooled. We knew he was all kinds of mad. But it also said something about his heart. His reflection wasn't so great in the moment. (Although this story isn't about me, you can assume that most days of my life, it could be.)

His reflection, and yours and mine, was crystal clear.

We have a choice in what we reflect. We can put beautiful things, like Scripture, in our hearts and pray to God that those things are reflected, or we can put in ugly things, like Nic Cage movies. The reflection may be somewhat horrifying! Seriously, though, you can make a list of the things in your life that you hope aren't reflected to the world. Stop putting them into your life!

If our lives reflect our hearts and we claim to know Jesus, then our lives reflect Jesus. Even when they really don't. So pay attention to what you are reflecting today, because it speaks to the world of a God who is love or who is angry or who is forgiving or who lacks forgiveness. Let's ask God to give us lives that reflect who He is.

What do you hope is reflected from your heart to your life?


Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Wonderings (and Wanderings)


  • I wonder what would happen if God's people lived out his call to be "one" in spite of our differences... I think the impact on communities would be overwhelming.
  • I wonder if I will ever feel "caught up" at work. Feeling overwhelmed seems to be a common theme in my world the last 3 months. I'm not a big fan of it.
  • I wonder what would happen if I got rid of half my stuff tomorrow. I don't need most of it, but I have it. I think I have 30 shirts. I might wear half of them. My wife does some laundry everyday, so I could probably get by with 5. But I have 30. That seems kinda dumb. (I would guess I will still have 30 next week...)
  • I wonder if writing these at night makes them more melancholy? I feel like it is. I wish I had remembered to get back on the blog horse when I woke up this morning. I much prefer writing in the morning.
  • I wonder if the day will come that Kennedy doesn't want me to lay in her bed at night and talk with her. She is a pretty marvelous human. I am blessed to be her dad!
  • I wonder why ice cream has to be so delicious and many healthy foods are not quite so delicious. I mean, I can force myself to eat broccoli, but seriously, if you cook that stuff, it is gross. Put cheese on top and it's gross stuff with cheese on it. Granted, ice cream with cheese on it doesn't sound so fantastic, either. I do, however, feel a need to try Brussels sprouts. I keep hearing they can be good. I have my doubts. Also, the "Brussels" in Brussels sprouts is apparently a proper noun type deal. Always capitalized. I would love to have that happen with my name. I don't even really care what with. It would just be sweet that people said, "Look, there's a Blasdel _______." Do rounded wall corners have a name? I think "Blasdel corner" has a good feel to it. Any other suggestions would be appreciated so I can get whatever process to attach my name to something started.


What do you wonder today?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Runny Noses and Itchy Eyes

Yesterday and the rest of this week the blog will be in an allergy-induced coma. Mornings are kinda hard with the breathing and sneezing and phlegm and what not. I'm sure God has things for me to see in it, but mostly I just feel miserable. So, hopefully they will calm down over the next few days and I will get back to un-medicated thought patterns and the blog next week. Until then, run after Jesus!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Monday Wonderings (and Wanderings)

Can a church be both strategic and organic? I love the structure and drive of creating strategy,  but I also believe that if we can strategize the church, then we can quickly create our own kingdom instead of God's. How to balance those is a big question in my mind.

Oh Denver Broncos... I'm glad I couldn't watch. Quit losing please.

I wonder if there will ever be a day that my to do list actually shrinks. It feels like it often grows longer throughout a day. Today that is certainly the case. 

I think there are not very many people still deciding who to vote for when the Presidential election happens in 5 weeks. I don't follow that world really at all, but I don't hear many stories of people changing their minds about who to vote for. Also, I love these "campaign commercials" made by Ellen.

Will my Teva's officially fall apart soon? I've had them for 6 or 7 years, but they are about to officially bite the dust. This makes me sad. It really makes my feet sad. I've been thinking I might try Chaco's this next go around. Thoughts?

Allergies suck. A lot. I signed up for a 5k and since signing up have been mostly unable to breath and completely unable to sustain any type of exercise. I think this 5k for me is going to feel a lot like being beat with a blunt instrument for whatever ridiculously long amount of time it takes me to complete it.

What do you wonder today?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Fear and Satisfaction

I'm overweight.

I don't like it. In fact, I mostly hate it. I get tired too quickly, physical activity is harder than it should be, my clothes don't all fit... The list could quickly get very long.

And I've tried to lose weight. And I've lost some and regained some and lost some and regained some. Many of you can relate. But here's the thing: I'm a little bit afraid to lose all the weight, because what happens if getting to my "ideal" weight doesn't bring all the "happy, happy, joy, joy" that I feel like it should?

What if I'm still a broken person struggling with insecurity even when I'm skinny? And deep down, I know that is the truth. Being skinny will not fix my humanity. Neither would being taller or faster or smarter or anything.

And so I, and you, have to unpin our hope in this life from our circumstances in this life. We can't hang on to flimsy promises that life will be better when... Because sometimes the "when" doesn't turn out picture perfect like we imagined.

I have friends that went to the doctor last week expecting the all clear in a fight against cancer. Instead they were told that they had another year of chemo with radiation to face. They have to know, that even though this was horrifyingly bad news, that there is hope outside of anything that happens with the 'c' word. Or this little girl that has been fighting for her life just weeks after her family moved to Africa to help free women and children from the sex slave trade. This wasn't the way it was supposed to work out. This isn't what is supposed to happen when you move to a 3rd world country to free slaves... it just isn't. 

But if our hope is found in health or things working out just like we dreamed... then we are missing the beauty of Jesus. He makes beauty from ashes and causes things to grow in the drought of our hearts. 

I need to lose weight, but not because it will fill all my dreams or something, but so I can be healthy for my family and to do what God has set me on this earth to do. I will leave my hope of fulfillment and perfection squarely in his loving and good hands.

Hebrews 12:2-3 (Message)
Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Pursuit of God Chps 1-2

I've been reading "The Pursuit of God" by A.W. Tozer. A few quotes and thoughts as I've started reading it.
Everything is made to center upon the initial act of "accepting" Christ (a term, incidentally, which is not found in the Bible) and we are not expected thereafter to crave any further revelation of God to our souls.  We have been snared in the coils of a spurious logic which insists that if we have found Him we need no more seek Him. (16)
Acute desire must be present or there will be no manifestation of Christ to His people. He waits to be wanted. (17)
When religion has said it's last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself. The evil habit of seeking God-and effectively prevents us from finding God in full revelation. In the "and" lies out great woe. (18)
The roots of our hearts have grown down into things, and we dare not pull up one rootlet lest we die. Things have become necessary to us, a development never originally intended. God's gifts now take the place of God, and the whole course of nature is upset by the monstrous substitution. (22)
C'mon! There is so much there, out of just the first two chapters! Oh my, the God-and part just wrecks my heart! Oh how I love the other things that I try to include in following God. Pick up the book and give it a read. I'll leave you today with the prayer that Tozer writes at the end of chapter 1.
O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, that so I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away." Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long, In Jesus' Name, Amen.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Culture Shock

Proverbs 23:17-18
Don’t for a minute envy careless rebels; soak yourself in the Fear-of-God— That’s where your future lies. Then you won’t be left with an armload of nothing.
Are you sure, God? Does my future lie in you? I'm going to be honest, a lot of the time that doesn't feel very true. A lot of the time I think my future lies in whatever I see making other people happy. 

And God, can I tell you something? It's a LOT easier to envy careless rebels and those who don't follow you than it is to fear you. They make everything look so fun, carefree, and simple.

But I know it's a lie.

Because I know when it's just faith and hope and love that are left, those things that I envy will be gone, they will be nothing. And a lot of people will look kinda silly while they stand around trying to hold all of their nothing (I guess a lot of times it already looks kinda silly). They will strain under the weight of their nothing. And it will reward them with nothing.

Or

I can carry your weight. You say your weight is easy and light. Some days it feels awfully heavy to me. But I get what you mean. You hold my future, my hope. I won't be left holding a bunch of nothing. I will be left being held by you and in that, I will have everything. 

God, rid me of useless jealousy for things that aren't you. Let me SOAK in you because you are love and you are my future.

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Power of the Pause

The church staff I work on has recently started a new practice. Each day at 10a and 2p, we stop whatever is happening in the office, close the office and spend 10 minutes in prayer together. We generally read a Psalm from the Paraclete Psalter and then spend time in silence or prayer. We have been doing this for about a month. Here's what I have learned:

  • There are a lot of Psalms I am not familiar with. (Like Psalm 29- that one wrecked me last week. The voice of the Lord... Wow!) I have read the Psalms a few times, but as we pray the Psalms together, I hear then in new ways as I allow them to wash over me as offerings to and from God.
  • I work with some awesome people. If you've never prayed with anyone on the church staff, just come in and ask, they all love Jesus, and it comes out when they pray. 
  • The power of pausing. 
That last one... Stopping each day at 10 and 2 is really hard. I will be right in the middle of something and all of a sudden I have to stop. That is really hard for me. I am a very distractable person already, and having to stop when I am "in the groove" can just feel unfair to me. 

But I kind of think that's the point of fixed prayer times like this. To get the opportunity (or be forced!) to stop and see God and refocus my world towards him. As a pastor, it seems like it should be easy to always be focused on Christ as I work. It is not. But pausing helps me remember what I should be remembering, and in that remembering I find life and energy.

So, stop by at 10 or 2 sometime and pray with us, or set your own times throughout the day to "pause".

If you're going to pause, leave a comment about the when and the what!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Weight of Debt


How many of you have ever been in debt? Even if it's just a small amount of money, it can be overwhelming. I remember when Shiloh and I signed the papers for our first home loan. I was almost physically sick knowing I would owe someone SOOOO much money for 30 years.

When you're in debt, it can often create a pit in your stomach that eats away at you. You feel this sense of urgency to remind you to get out of debt. Or you can be completely overwhelmed by both the feeling and the debt. You work harder or pinch extra pennies to pay it off. Whatever the case, when we are in debt, we FEEL it. 
Let no debt remain outstanding except the continuing debt to love, for whoever loves has fulfilled the law. -Romans 13:8
As I read Romans 13:8, I think about how the debt to continuing to love makes me feel.

Because all too often it produces no urgency.

No extra work.

No sense that I have to do something now.

It is really easy to forget that we owe a never-payable sized debt to God for the love that he showed us in Jesus Christ. And we pay it back by loving others. (I am in no way suggesting that we can pay it back or that it earns our salvation. Just that it is a debt we owe that we can only make payments on with our love.)

This isn't a "be nice to others" love, either. It isn't easy. It is self-sacrificing. It chooses to see, and then know, people that are invisible in our culture.   (If you don't know where these people are, go to wherever the low income housing assistance in your community is located, and buy someone there a meal.) We need to feel the urgency and love others with radical abandon. 

What a beautiful debt to owe! May kingdom-sized love abound in your life!

How are you loving others?

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars



I'm reading a book right called "The Fault in Our Stars" by John Green. It is the story of Hazel, a teenage girl with terminal cancer.

Last night I came across a line from Hazel in a conversation about beauty with her boyfriend. They are marveling at the beauty of the elm tree seeds falling all around them. Here is a snippet:
     "Of course," said our waiter. "We have bottled all the stars this evening, my young friends. Gah, the confetti!" he said, and lightly brushed a seed from my bare shoulder. "It hasn't been so bad in many years. It's everywhere. Very annoying."
     The waiter disappeared. We watched the confetti fall from the sky, skip across the ground in the breeze, and tumble into the canal. "Kind of hard to believe anyone could ever find that annoying," Augustus said after a while.
     "People always get used to beauty, though." 
That last line is such a good reminder! I worship the creator of all beauty and goodness, but very often I find myself missing the beauty altogether, or worse, grumbling about how annoying it is.

Today (once the sun and someone else in my family is awake!), I will choose to see beauty. And I will not be satisfied in the beautiful thing, but I will remember who the beautiful one is, and give Him glory and honor and thanks.

So, shake off your slumber, stretch your limbs, open your eyes wide and see the beauty God has placed around you wherever you are today.

Where do you see beauty today?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Prayer of St. Ignatius

Challenged students to pray this prayer of St. Ignatius for the next 3 weeks. Feel free to join us!

Lord, I so wish to prepare well for this day.

I so want to make all of me ready and attentive and available to you.

Please help me to clarify and purify my intentions.
I have so many contradictory desires.
I get preoccupied with things that don't really matter or last.
I know that if I give you my heart,
whatever I do will follow my new heart.
all my encounters, reflections - even the frustrations and failings
and especially in this time of prayer,
in all of this may I place my life in your hands.
Lord, I am yours. Make of me what you will. Amen.


In all that I am today, all that I try to do, all my encounters, reflections - even the frustrations and failings and especially in this time of prayer, in all of this may I place my life in your hands. Lord, I am yours. Make of me what you will. 
Amen.
On a less important note, I am about to try a piece of gum called Stride Shift Citrus to Mint. That sounds gross. But I'm excited to give it a whirl. Yeah for super cheap and weird packs of gum from Meridian Grocery in Newton! And yes, that is a nun calendar. It just appeared in my office early this year. And I think it is swell. And I just changed it to September after I took the picture.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Worldly Wisdom vs. Godly Wisdom

As I've been reading through Proverbs recently, I've been struck by how often our  world operates in the exact opposite way from what the Proverbs say. Take these verses from Proverbs 15 for instance:
5- A fool spurns a parents discipline, but whoever heeds correction shows prudence. 
What? In our culture that first statement would read, "A fool heeds a parents discipline." It is completely acceptable among teens to trash your parents when you don't agree with them. (I would guess that if I changed teens to 30-40 year olds, it would still be a true statement.) But, the kingdom of God works differently than the kingdom of man.
10- Stern discipline awaits those who leave the path; those who hate correction will die.
Our world encourages "finding your own way" and "doing whatever makes you happy". Neither of these statements lead one to be open to correction. Our culture rebels against correction: "Who are you to tell me what to do/say/think/how to act?" And this is encouraged! Be independent, follow your heart, and make your dreams come true. But. God's kingdom works differently than the kingdom of man.
18- The hot-tempered stir up dissension, but those who are patient calm a quarrel.
Most often, the loudest, angriest voice wins in our culture. If you have been wronged, be as loud and angry as possible, and "they" will have to deal with you and make things right. Case in point: A plane full of United passengers are recently stranded in China for 3 days. They begin yelling in the airport and attacking United personnel across the counter. They receive refunds and vouchers almost before they have landed in the US. Another group is stranded in Peru (A country they weren't supposed to see) for 1.5 days. They stay mostly calm and never cause a scene. It takes 7 weeks and LOTS of phone calls, emails, and faxes to hear from United. (Side note: Full refund request okay'd on Wednesday morning. Woohoo!) But, God's kingdom works differently than the kingdom of man.
33- Wisdom's instruction is to fear the Lord, and humility comes before honor. 
In our world, humility is usually a trait of weakness. It's ok to fake it when people are publicly making much of you, but it is not something that will lead you to great honor. Case in point: Usain Bolt. The cockiest, least humble athlete I've ever heard interviewed. He takes great honor for himself. But, God's kingdom works differently than the kingdom of man.

Go after the kingdom of God!

Where do you see a difference in the way of our culture and the way of God's kingdom?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What's in a Name?

I have had a few questions lately on where the name of the blog comes. I am hurt that those of you who don't know haven't read through my archives back to May of 2007 when I first posted about the name. But, I understand, I guess. 

The name is a from quote from "Reflections on the Psalms" by C.S. Lewis:
Meanwhile, of course, we are merely tuning our instruments. The tuning up of the orchestra can be itself delightful, but only to those who can, in some measure, however little, anticipate the symphony.
I try to live each day watching and remembering that the symphony is coming. The kingdom of God, in parts and pieces, is already here, but it has not fully arrived. The in-breaking of God's kingdom happens as the followers of God follow the example and way of Jesus in the world around them. 

This is the "tuning up". It can be overwhelmingly beautiful as we see God-sized, kingdom-full things happen in the broken world we inhabit. Yet I still long for the symphony: the instruments working together, perfectly following the conductor, creating a joyous and enormous movement of sound. 

May we be people who long for the kingdom of God and spend our lives bringing pieces of it to people here.

"Give me Christ or else I die!"

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Being a Dad

As humans, we are always striving for balance. Eating a balanced meal or diet, the crazy people try to balance their workouts (I just try to workout!), balancing the budget (unless you are my government...), and balancing our work/home life. 

That last one is hard for me. I am blessed to be doing something I love for a job, that I have skills to do, with people I really love working with. But it can make my job WAY too important in my own mind.

It gets really easy to think about how I am (or could be) helping lots of teens get introduced to Jesus and community and the Church and forget about doing those same things with my 4 kids at home. Home can get pretty stressful because I never leave anything for being there. I give it all at work. 

And this is a problem. A big one. Part of the problem is buying into the lie of "balance". Not the lie of achieving a balanced life, that is goal we can have. But the lie that we can split our life up into parts, like 50% work 50% home or 33-33-34 or 1-40-59 or whatever you want the split to be. If your family gets less than 100% of you, that sucks. Of course it is unrealistic to give 100% of your time, but you can give everything you have when your there.

Here is what I'm trying to do:
Work ridiculously hard while I'm at work. 40 or 50 (or sometimes more) hours of work a week should be plenty to get done what I think God is calling me to do, if I use my time wisely.
When I have big, huge, hairy, loud work projects to finish TODAY!!!, I go home when I say I will, or even a little early. And I leave my computer off once I'm home. No pulling up work projects the second I'm home.
We talk about and memorize the Bible together. We talk about the story that God is writing. We read the Jesus Bible Storybook together(Seriously, go buy it now!). Because the Bible and following Jesus is not my job, it is my LIFE. I have to pass that on to my kids and show them what it means in the small places of my day, not just when I'm up front at church things.
I'm trying to teach my kids what's important. Don't tell Kennedy, but I'm going to take her out of school to go finish some pottery we've been making at my friends Mark's studio. 

What are you doing to "balance" the different parts of your life? Leave a comment on this post!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Monday Wonderings (or Wanderings)

I wonder why I let myself fall asleep on the couch once in a while. It always makes my entire body feel miserable.

I wonder if the current presidential candidates are trying to drive voters away with their lies, half truths, and lack if civility. I have very little interest in voting, and zero interest in voting for either main party candidate. I also wonder if their tactics will trickle down to local politics. I had someone running for a local seat ring my doorbell, tell me who he was, tell me 2 bad things about who he was running against, nothing about how we would fix those problems, and then ask for my vote. Ummm... is that what earns votes these days? Bummer.

I wonder if I will actually train for the 5k I signed up for. I hate running. A lot. But I also hate being overweight and feeling tired after even small physical activities. So I gave someone $23.00 to participate in their charity 5k on November 3. That is just under 9 weeks from today. I believe I can currently run to the end of my cul-de-sac (at a VERY slow jog) without stopping. Any tips or advice?

I wonder how often all the 4 big Reno County high schools win their season opener. One of the youth group students ran for 2 td's and threw for 2 more to lead his team to a big win. Way to go, Tim! And at 5th Quarter we had 115+ students. From a school of 280. It was crazy. And awesome.

I wonder what it will be like to take a personal retreat day on Wednesday. I'm kind of intimidated by the idea. A whole day of quiet, reflection, and prayer. I'm also a lot excited. I have taken about 2 of these in my ~104 months as a pastor. I have been given 1/month that whole time. Sorry God and people that I pastor. But our staff is holding one another accountable now to take one day each month. We have to schedule it before the month starts. That's good.

I wonder if, now that college football is started, it will make it seem faster to get to college basketball season. Rock Chalk!