Thursday, June 30, 2005

Picture? What Picture?

All of you who are relentlessly calling for a picture of the mohawk are forgetting one thing. Maybe we didn't even TAKE a picture...!

Yeah, okay, my wife works for Creative Memories. Of COURSE there are pictures. But I'm not very technologically savvy, so I don't know how to post them to this site.


No can do.

Tonight is the last (and longest) night of VBS. After it's over, almost everyone will stay until midnight or so and clean everything up, tear down all the stuff in the classrooms, and strike the stage set. I'll stay for a while but I'll probably also play the 4-year-old card and get James home to bed.

I am still saving the rant. There have been more unfortunate negatives this year at VBS than usual, but the single constant has remained: the kids' faces. They are filled with joy and wonder every night and many of them are really learning something about God. That makes anything worth the trouble.

I should mention that Doug Baker is amazing. He writes all the scripts and is in charge of the whole auditorium production. He is an incredibly talented guy but I have come away this year more impressed than ever with his attitude. He has been a good listener, easy to work with (can't believe I just said that), and very very patient. I've really been humbled and taught by his spirit this year.

Now if he could only teach me how to post a picture on a blog.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Summer Reading

I have a mohawk right now.

Randy asked me recently what my summer reading list was like and I thought it would be fun to list the books in my stack. My stack, by the way, never goes down. I add books to it as quickly as they get read. Quicker even. And there is no particular order to it as I simply grab the one that looks best at the time. There are also usually two or more books being read at the same time. Anyway, here's the list:

"From the Dust Returned" Ray Bradbury
"Salem's Lot" Stephen King
"The Purpose Driven Church" Rick Warren
"Out of Sight" Elmore Leonard
"The Collected Stories of Arthur C. Clarke" Duh.
"A Generous Orthodoxy" Brian McLaren
"Mere Discipleship" Lee Camp
The "Astro City" Graphic Novels Kurt Busiek
"Season Ticket" Roger Angell
"Shadow Puppets" Orson Scott Card (LOVE the Ender novels!)
"Black House" Stephen King and Peter Straub
"The Emerging Church" Dan Kimball
"The Gods Themselves" Isaac Asimov
"The Blank Slate" Steven Pinker
"Life of Pi" Yann Martel

Yeah, that might not get all done this summer. It'll be fun trying though. Please please PLEASE let me know of good books you have read. The stack can never be too tall.

What? Oh, the mohawk. Yeah, I got it last night for VBS. I'm playing a new recruit at Fort Uno so I got an army haircut with a raised "one" in it. We even frosted it florescent orange. Sweet. If there are any calculus type people still reading this, you can ALL STOP LAUGHING NOW! I look cool with a mohawk. You should, like, also know that my character is, like, a total surfer dude. So if my writing gets, like, totally righteous and wicked sick you'll know why.

Peace out.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Just A Few Things

I finished "Blue Like Jazz" yesterday. Run, don't walk, and buy a copy. Read it and be ready to want to read it again. Like immediately.

It's no accident, I'm sure, that I read it right after finishing Yancey's "The Jesus I Never Knew." Most books I find myself reading lately treat me to a side of Christ and Christianity that has been hidden from me. Strange that, because it's probably been hidden for no other reason than that I have been immersed in it. Anyway, I find myself coming face to face with who Jesus really was, what he really wanted for us. And more often than not, it's not anything I'm doing, at least not consistently. This is all roiling in my head (and since my reading list for the summer includes things like "A Generous Orthodoxy" and "Mere Discipleship" I'm sure it will continue to hit me squarely between the eyes) but I'm sure it will all come spilling out of me in the months to come.

The Angels just beat the Dodgers. Again. Woo hoo!

Lisa has been working her tail off on VBS all week and it will consume our lives again all of next week. I'm involved with it, so I dare not talk much about it now. I promise to publish a full disclaimer before I start my rant next Friday. You may wish to avert your eyes.

Tomorrow's class will be about King Asa. He served God faithfully for 32 years and, for no apparent reason, became self-consumed during his last four. We should have some good discussion about why people turn their backs on Christ late in life. Okay, not the cheeriest of all subject matters, but important.

Did I mention the Angels won again?

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Oh, hey. Hi. How's it going?

Summertime is all about establishing a new routine. The problem is that parts of it (like staying up too late) happen right away and other parts (like keeping up with the blog) take awhile. Add to that the family rigors of your wife being the Vacation Bible School director and you can see why this space has been for rent for awhile.

I'm still without a car. They have to replace the entire dashboard and it's taking awhile. A couple of people have been very gracious in letting me borrow their vehicles while they were out of town so it hasn't been TOO big an inconvenience.

I had fun on Monday buying new golf clubs on the insurance company's dime. Tuesday was fun too because I took them out and hit them for the first time...felt nice. I'm sure people are wondering if I spent waaaaaay more than my original clubs were worth and the truth is: Not really. The new set costs about the same as the old...there are fewer clubs though and they are NEW. That's nice.

"Blue Like Jazz" continues to be a great read. In the chapter I read today, he talked about how hard it us for some people (read: MOST people) to accept unconditional love. The desire to make our love an even trade is what keeps us feeling guilty for our wrongdoings. We want to give as good as we get and when we can't...and we NEVER can...we get down on ourselves. And that's when Satan starts whispering..."you never will be able to live up to that ideal...give up already." But when we finally get it, that God will love us no matter what, that we please him with our lives and our love even as flawed as they are, then we stop trying to do what's right because we are SUPPOSED to, and we start doing things for Him because we WANT to. Good good good good good stuff.

The routine is getting established. Promise.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Ok, NOW It's Summer

After about 2 more hours of tech training, summer will officially begin.

Tonight, I get to go with my nephew and his family to see Star Wars. He's 16 today and perfect. This weekend, the Salt Lake Stingers (the Angels AAA affiliate) are in town to play the Grizzlies. Rich and I will go on Sunday and Monday. Meanwhile, the Angels are playing my favorite National League team, the Marlins, for the first time. I really like both of these teams and I'm looking forward to watching them play each other. Then next week I'm looking at a long stretch of "days Steve doesn't have to go to work." There will be lots to do...VBS, teaching at church, a lot of play time with James, and hopefully an Angels game or three. And Lisa is BUSY. But I love those days when my most important decision is whether to read my book or play a computer game.

Lisa and I are starting a new tradition for Mother's/Father's Day. The honoree-to-be will say to the spouse, "Hey, did you get me anything yet?" The spouse will say, "Um. No." And then we will say, "Good. Mind if I buy this?" where the "this" in question is something we are looking at on-line or saw in a store somewhere. That's how I got some books I've been wanting to read forEVER from Amazon this week. They are:

"Mere Discipleship"
"A Generous Orthodoxy"
"The Emerging Church"
"Blue Like Jazz"

Today I started reading "Blue Like Jazz." Here is the first paragraph:

I once listened to an Indian on television say that God was in the wind and the
water, and I wondered at how beautiful that was because it meant you could swim in Him
or have Him brush your face in a breeze. I am early in my story, but I believe I will
stretch out into eternity, and in heaven I will reflect upon these early days, these days
when it seemed God was down a dirt road, walking toward me. Years ago He was a
swinging speck in the distance; now He is close enough I can hear His singing. Soon I
will see the lines on His face.

No book that starts that good can turn out bad. I can't wait.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Ain't Technology Cool?

Just for fun, I'm handwriting my blog today.

Handwriting it? How is that possible? And is "handwriting" even a verb? Stop! You're freaking me out!

Sunnyside is providing all its teachers with Tablet PC's and I am at a 4-day training session this week. One of the many things these computers can do is allow you to write on the screen and convert your handwriting (noun...properly used) to text. The educational applications of these things are far too various and boring to go into. But they are extremely cool.

In "The Jesus I Never Knew," Philip Yancey wonders why God chose to send His son during the period of history he did. Why not wait until a time when technology had us all connected? Why not wait until his miracles could be broadcast world-wide and we could all catch any of them we missed by downloading them from Then he makes a profound point. Miracles do not cause faith. Faith causes miracles. It would make no difference how many people saw a particular miracle. Those who are not ready to believe would simply call it video-tampering and move on. Jesus knew that word of mouth and Word of God would be the best method. After all, he told Thomas, "Blessed are you who have seen and believed. Even more blessed are those who have not seen and yet still believe."

I have to quit. My hand is cramping up, just like the good old days. And isn't that funny? The more things change....

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

The Penitent Man Will Pass

Bonus points for the first person who can tell me what movie that line is from.

I asked my class on Sunday morning what the first thing was that came to mind when I mentioned David. Almost half the class said, "Bathsheba."

Not psalmist. Not Goliath. Not shepherd, or warrior, or king. Bathsheba.

David wrote that his sin was always before him. It lives long after him as well. David was a man after God's own heart. How sad that so many of us think first of his sin. There are some lessons there, of course. One is that our reputation is very important, and the more important (or prominent or noticeable or whatever adjective you choose) we are, the more important our reputation becomes. People in leadership in the church not only have to remain above impropriety, they must remain above even the illusion thereof.

Another lesson is how God sees our heart, not our sin. We mortals may view each other through sin-stained eyes, but God sees us only through the blood of his son which covers us completely.

The biggest lesson I learned on Sunday (and ooohhhhhhh how I love teaching Lee Smith's class...I learn SO much from those guys) was not about David's sin but about his penitence. Here are some verses from Psalm 51:

1 Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge.
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.
7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

9 Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquity.
10 Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

You think David's sin is always before US? Imagine how it was for him to live with what he had done. And yet his repentence seems to have gotten him past it. He was able to turn the page because he was truly sorry. David had a relationship with God that allowed him to pour out his heart and soul to his Master and, day after day, come away clean.

Friday, June 10, 2005

"Mr. Thurman? This is the Fresno PD."

Very few really good conversations take place immediately after hearing those words.

The lady from the police department was very nice and quite understanding as I told her I was pretty sure she was a friend of Lisa's playing a trick on me. It was only when she asked me to check if my car was where I had parked it that I thought perhaps there might be something wrong.

See, she knew it wasn't where I parked it because she was looking right at it when she asked. It wasn't in front of my brother's apartment at all but rather it was straddling the railroad tracks on Chestnut in between Butler and Church. Now, I'm no expert, but that doesn't seem like a really safe place to leave a car.

So, apparently, somebody saw my sweet '93 Saturn, jimmied the lock, stripped the wires, hot-wired it and took it for a ride. I wonder if they enjoyed how much it shakes and shimmies as much as I do. When they got to the tracks, they had had enough, so they ripped out the stereo, took my golf clubs and shoes out of the trunk, grabbed the Trivial Pursuit game off of the passenger seat (!), and split.

Okay, the ignition is jacked up and it was (and will continue to be until it gets fixed) a big are the silver linings:

That stereo hasn't worked in over two years. I can't wait for them to find that out.

When was the last time I drove to Rich's place and didn't leave the iPod in the car? Or, for that matter, my wallet? I'm pretty bad about those things, but not today.

I get new golf clubs!

No windows are broken, nothing's scratched up or dented, and nobody got hurt. Unless that molding along the driver's side door fell off like it sometimes does and whacked the thief. That'd be okay.

All in all, a very pleasurable car-theft experience. And what are the odds that my wonderful mother-in-law would be leaving town on Sunday and won't need her car next week while I get mine taken care of.

Sure, I hope God smites the bad guys. But He was very generous with me!

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

So What DID He Look Like?

Paintings of Jesus have always driven me nuts. I've seen very few where he wasn't white, with brown (perfect) hair, often with that glowing aura around his head. Of course, depending on the culture responsible for the portrayal, he becomes dark-skinned, or his eyes slant a bit, or we alter things even more so that he looks, you know, like US. Nevermind that he was Jewish!

Let's go a step further. We also want him to have been tall, strong, and slender. Above all, I think we want him to have been good-looking. After all, wouldn't God's son be the best-looking man who ever lived??? But then, would God's son have entered the earth through a womb? Would he have been born among animals? Would he have started his life in hiding? And consider this prophecy from Isaiah:

"He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted."

Scholars have taken these words so far as to suggest that Jesus was a hunchback or had leprosy. I don't think it went that far. But certainly the idea of men hiding their faces from him, considering him to be stricken by God, must give us the idea that he was not beautiful to behold. We don't like that, but it does make him more common, more in touch with what it is to be truly human.

I don't think people were drawn to Jesus by his looks. I think they were drawn by his words and his deeds. I think they loved him because HE loved THEM, just as it is today. I think he may not have been great-looking. I'm certain his skin and hair were dark, and I think his nose was probably a bit crooked. But I think he was one of those people who seemed better looking than they really are because of the light that shines out of them, because of their smile.

What do YOU think he looked like?

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Pop Culture Update

I just finished reading "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius." I have to admit, I was drawn to it by the title and, after reading a few great reviews, I was sold. It was a Pulitzer runner-up and unlike any book I've ever read. And, in the end, it was just disturbing. It was very (VERY!) funny at times and incredibly touching. But it seeped anger. Absolutely seeped it. If you don't believe me, pick up a copy and read the last page. Or don't, if the "F" word mustn't enter your brain. The book is more or less a memoir written by a 26-year old (or so). This is a man who is obviously turned off by religion. His mother, who the book is really about, although I don't know if even the author would admit it, was a devout Catholic. But it's obvious that to him Catholicism is religion and nothing more. So it was disturbing on many levels...the anger...the awkward self-references...the baring of his soul...the extreme worldliness. But mostly because it was familiar. His way of looking at things (oh, his name is Dave Eggers, may as well introduce him to you) is such a common way. As many references as there were to church, to religion, to Catholicism, to his father's atheism...there was no reference to Jesus except in a comical way or a curse.

If the church has one task I think it's this: show people who Jesus IS. Not a symbol, not an icon, not a historical figure and NOT a religion. The man. The God. The life saver.

One of my ex-students (sigh...hear that? EX-students) is going to Brown next year and Eggers is going to speak. I'm hoping she'll hear him and tell me what he's like. (Yes, you, Mandeep) Because I truly believe that he is a voice of his generation. And THAT frightens me.

Oh yeah, saw "In Good Company" last night. I liked it. Topher Grace cracks me up. And the message there is far from disturbing: We can always teach, and be taught, how to live our lives. How to be there for others. How to be happy.

Blessings, all. Vacation ROCKS!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

School Is Out

Let the festivities begin.

Graduation yesterday was wonderful. It was so great to see Lisa and Anna up front doing great things. I could not be more proud of the kids that came through my classes this year.

No long post today. School is out. Nuff said.

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