Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Chuck Norris

And now for something completely different.

For whatever reason, probably because some of us find it hysterical, there is a current internet craze concerning Chuck Norris. Here, for no other reason than that I could use a laugh, I present some of my favorite Chuck Norris Facts.

Chuck Norris does not sleep. He waits.

Chuck Norris does not hunt because the word hunting infers the probability of failure. Chuck Norris goes killing.

When the Boogeyman goes to sleep every night he checks his closet for Chuck Norris.

If you can see Chuck Norris, he can see you. If you can't see Chuck Norris you may be only seconds away from death.

Chuck Norris is currently suing NBC, claiming Law and Order are trademarked names for his left and right legs.

The chief export of Chuck Norris is pain.

When Chuck Norris sends in his taxes, he sends blank forms and includes only a picture of himself, crouched and ready to attack. Chuck Norris has not had to pay taxes ever.

If at first you don't succeed, you're obviously not Chuck Norris.

Someone once tried to tell Chuck Norris that roundhouse kicks aren't the best way to kick someone. This has been recorded by historians as the worst mistake anyone has ever made.

Chuck Norris frequently donates blood to the Red Cross. Just never his own.

Chuck Norris can touch MC Hammer.

When an episode of Walker Texas Ranger was aired in France, the French surrendered to Chuck Norris just to be on the safe side.

Monday, January 30, 2006

We Must Be Doing Something Right

This weekend, Lisa said, "Oooooooh, it's going to be freezing next week. High of 60!"

I just knew my friends in the cooler climes would appreciate that.

Some ten years ago, the College Church entered into an intense time of prayer. Groups were formed and people met in homes to ask God for direction, vision, and clarity of purpose. There was a strong sense of unity and a pervading certainty that God was listening and ready to work wonders through us. I have a vivid memory of the entire episode and my one fear throughout: that few people were taking seriously enough how much the enemy was going to hate what we were doing.

He attacked, as we knew he would. Individuals and families started going through some very rough times and some of the College family let him get the best of them, even to the point of turning on others. Eventually, the groups disbanded, our minister was summarily dismissed with little regard to his feelings or the long-term health of the body, and a large group of people found other places to worship.

It was, in my opinion, the single worst event in the history of the College Church.

Last year, we embarked on 40 days of prayer, searching again for guidance. Few of our leaders felt any answers were given but we did not give up. We have continued in prayer and have now formed a committee (oy, committees...) to interview church members (how I hate that word) in search of priorities for our body. We are not neglecting to continue in asking God to point us where He wants us to go. It's a big job and we are serious about it.

And we find ourselves under attack. Big surprise.

I don't think it's an accident that Lisa and I keep taking hits to our car, our house, and our belongings. Satan has a lot of power over "things." I don't think it's an accident that our elders and our committee members have been "having a run of bad luck" lately. And I don't think it's an accident that yesterday's planned announcement of a major kick-off event for the process turned into a momentum-sucking fiasco. We know the source of these things and we recognize that we must be doing something right for them to happen.

Still, I dread the thought of repeating mistakes. I dread the thought that we're not taking him seriously enough. We keep saying over and over that these things must be drenched in prayer and we mustn't let up. So I solicit yours now. Keep our elders in mind. Keep our ministers in mind. Keep the committee in mind. And pray for the College Church. This could be a much-needed turnaround point in the history of that body of believers.

Or it could be something else entirely.

Thursday, January 26, 2006


One year ago today I wrote my first blog entry.

It's amazing how much this has evolved in just a year. I don't tend to write about what I thought I would write about. I didn't really think that I would keep it up for this long. And I had no idea that I would actually make friends doing it! Blogging is one of the biggest blessings I look back on from 2005. Thanks to everyone who stops by with notes of humor and encouragement.

I was going to re-post my first blog and rip it to shreds. But I have a better idea. I'm going to spend my blogtime today going and reading all of YOUR first blogs. I've done this a little already and I can't figure out why Randy had 6 comments his first time! You da MAN!

When you get a chance, go back and read your own ALPHA blogs. Eventually, most of you should find a note from me there. What a wonderful community God has surprised us with!

Blessings. Happy Blogiversary!

Wednesday, January 25, 2006


Thanks to everyone for your thoughts yesterday. It's nice to know you care, even if some of you would refuse to accept a ride from me.

One of the caring elders at College suggested that I annoint my car with oil to rid it of its evil spirit. I would rather annoint it with gasoline. And light a match.

Randy, I want you to know in particular how much your comments meant. Lisa almost fell off her chair laughing last night. Where can I get a copy of the RDW version? Puts the New Century Version to shame. "Buy American!" Heh.

Thoughts are still churning from ZOE. It's always interesting to find out how people felt about everything. I wish I could be a fly on the wall this weekend when Sandra flies back to Nashville for a ZOE recap.

I often wonder who might be offended by different comments and changes in worship style during the conference. Lisa and I were talking last night about serving communion together on Sunday. We had done this before during other conferences but this time she ended up helping me pass the collection plate. It hit me last night how unusual that must have been for some people to take the plate from or pass it up to a female. Would anyone withhold their contribution because we dared to have a woman helping? One never knows.

William Barclay wrote, "The church is full of people who think that there is no way of doing things but their way. To change a customary or traditional way of doing things is worse than heresy. But the way of doing things that annoys us may be the way of doing things which brings salvation to someone else's soul!"

"No one has a total monopoly of the truth or of doing things in the right way."

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Case of the Cursed Car

Who read Hardy Boys or Nancy Drew when they were a kid? Raise your hands.

I intentionally didn't say "Hardy Boys and/or Nancy Drew" because nobody read both. Boys read one and girls read the other and that's all there was to it. I loved the Hardy Boys. Even more, I loved the Three Investigators. Remember them? Great stuff.

They always had the best titles. I liked "The Secret Window" the best. Everything was a "Curse" or a "Mystery" or a "Secret."

My life is beginning to resemble a suspense novel.

Recap: In June, my car is stolen and left on the railroad tracks. Everything inside is stolen. In November, it is hit while parked on the street in front of the house. The car which hits it parks in my kitchen. Two days later, it is hit again by another teenager in another Toyota.

Yesterday: The grout was put in for the counter tile. Sadly, it was bad grout, spotty and such. And so it was all removed. All the carpet was stripped up and the remaining furniture was moved to the garage and bedroom. You haven't lived until you've pulled up to your house and seen all your stereo equipment dragging its wires along the garage cement and then walked into your bedroom to be greeted by your big-screen TV. For the record: no refrigerator + no table = no breakfast. The doughnut shop's going to love me this week.

I did, however, "pull up" to the house in my own car. The body shop finished repairing the front end yesterday and it looked great. The paint job was perfect.

Sadly (there's that word again), my car was broken into a couple of hours later at Best Buy while I was exchanging some bad DVD's. My stereo was stolen...again. My sunglasses were stolen...again. Worst of all, my leather jacket was taken. It was old but just, y'know, comfortable. It was one of those jackets.

It's still all just stuff and pretty easy to keep in perspective. I was glad that I had taken my wallet and cell phone into the store with me and that I had taken the golf clubs out of the trunk just a few days ago. But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to being pretty tired of the whole thing. The car does seem fairly cursed even though it served me so well for 12 years. My first instinct is to get rid of it and buy something new right now, but I'm going to wait until I have a garage to park it in.

Lisa's tired of it too and having to deal with far more of it than me. Keep us in your prayers. Ask God, if you don't mind, to keep Satan's minions away from my wheels for a while.

He's our fortress and our deliverer. He's our strength and our song.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Family Reunion

Highlights from the 2006 West Coast ZOE Conference

Seeing old friends who have become family was the greatest part of the weekend. Eric and David and Brandon and Paul and Teresa and John...so many others. It's odd (though not in a Christian context I suppose) that I've seen these folks for a grand total of 12 days or so in my life, yet they are my brothers and sisters. David (England) and I were talking yesterday about the day when we aren't flying for hours to see each other, but walking down the golden street. And praising every hour of every day the way we did for these past few days together. Glorious.

Leonard Sweet's talk on Friday was mind-blowing. I sat paralyzed in my seat for about five minutes after he was done. I couldn't move and didn't want to talk to anyone. I just wanted to process. I think his points about living in "The Perfect Storm" will shape how I approach ministry for some time.

Seeing and hearing Mike Cope talk about Chris and the accident was so moving. It was the reason we didn't get to see him last year and he spoke so well on how we are to serve each other, just as those angels held his boy and others. And, of course, the CD commercial put me on the floor. He left a copy and gave me permission to recycle it during future sermons. It's going to become like one of those SNL commercials that you see every five or six shows. Mike Cope is the new Bass-O-Matic. Saturday's message was just as good as he recognized teachers, commissioned us and, yes, showed a Star Wars clip. Heaven.

My College Church family always feeds the ZOE folks so well and I always mooch off the meals. I call it my preacher pay for the year. They are so appreciative too. Leonard Sweet said that if steak was a religion, then College would be a cathedral and Lee Smith would be pope.

Leonard was good at recognizing people's work. On Saturday, he was talking about Starbucks and mentioned that his morning drink was a "Black Eye." Then he mentioned that Lisa would know that, referring to the fact that my lovely wife was the one who brought said drink to his hotel room that morning. He sort of stopped there for a second and said, "Man, she's wonderful." She is, by the way. She worked harder than anyone this weekend. But it was so appreciated. Mike Cope and I agreed to devote a week of blogging to her sometime soon.

John York's sessions were predictably great. Leonard stayed with him during the second session for Q & A. John gave me some fantastic sermon ideas and a whole new way to read the Bible. I plan to use his method of prayer, reflection, and perspective in my personal study and in some lessons soon. In a nutshell, we prayed, then read a passage with an eye towards what it was saying to us personally...had quiet time...read again thinking about what it said for our church...more quiet time...then one last reading as we reflected on the meaning for our mission to the world. After the final bit of quiet time, we shared a bit. Not only was the text different at each reading, but it was different for all of those present. I suspect it will be different the next time I read it as well.

This post wouldn't be complete if I didn't mention that I was recruited to sign, yes sign, with Paul and Teresa on Saturday morning. It was only two signs ("God is love" over and over) but I was terrified. I'm not exaggerating. Ask Sandra how wide my eyes were. I didn't sleep the night before but I gutted it out. Isn't it funny what scares us? Give me a crowd of a few thousand and I'd love to speak. Put me in front of a few hundred and ask me to do two simple hand motions...I tremble.

Jeff Walling's Matthew was extraordinary. He could go on the road with it. I'm not surprised that the message was good--his usually are--but his delivery was amazing.

Worship yesterday was the perfect capper. My church family and my ZOE family were there in one place praising together. Everything came together perfectly and God was glorified.

There were so many other great moments: meeting Owen and Adam and Jackie; conversations and hugs; enlightening messages; all that standard ZOE stuff that we take for granted like, y'know, singing. I'll be processing for days. But my prayer, and I hope yours, is that His will is done and his message gets out through the excitement and the Spirit that is shared in times like this. I'll post more things as they come to mind and I'm anxious to compare notes with those of you who went to Nashville.

It's wonderful to be reminded how great our God is. How mighty and how loving. And that He takes great delight in us.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

ZOE 2006

This will most likely be my last post until Monday as I am looking forward to a weekend of "soaking it up." I have been blessed and changed by so many ZOE folk in just the last few years and I'm sure that God's hand will be all over this conference as well.

I appreciate Brandon Scott Thomas for his voice, leadership, and enthusiasm. I appreciate his blogging because it inspired me to start my own. Also for the face he made when I told him I had gum but he couldn't have any.

I appreciate Eric Noah-Wilson for his direction and hard-work. But mostly for sharing his pew with us for a Sunday in Nashville and taking us out for a good (good) brunch afterwards.

I appreciate Mike Cope for being clearspoken and straightforward. Great speakers often lose their humility. I'm not sure Mike even knows he's great. My niece and nephew are flying back to Abilene with him after the conference to park at his place and tour ACU. I'm more than a little jealous.

I appreciate Randy Harris and that's new. I just discovered Randy this week as I listened to some CD's from Pepperdine 2004. I'm looking forward to sitting at his feet in person.

Quick comment here: Randy voiced some thoughts about worship reform during that lecture series. The word he used was that it often seems so frantic. That resonated with me. Certainly, there is a place for dramatic presentations, powerpoint, responsive readings, praise songs, wireless roaming, and creativity in worship. But I long for a step in the other direction at times as well. Yes, I'm in the minority, but I can't help wondering how it would feel to kneel and pray with my siblings in Christ for 15 minutes. Group silence, meditation, listening...sometimes sounds better than a 3 Musketeers bar and an ice cold glass of milk.

I appreciate Larry James and how he lives out the Word in Dallas. I learned last night he won't be coming and I'm bummed.

I appreciate John York and his deep understanding and ability to share it. I especially appreciate his bibliographies and willingness to keep me up to date with the latest in great reads. If not for him, I never would have discovered "Blue Like Jazz," "Father Joe," "Mere Discipleship," and others. He and Mike both suggested "Gilead" and that's near the top of my stack.

I appreciate Rubel Shelly, Jeff Walling, Randy Gill, Brian McLaren (whose "a Generous Or+hodoxy" I just started yesterday) and so many others who combine to allow ZOE to be even greater than the sum of its parts.

I appreciate Sandra Henderson for hooking up with these amazing people and bringing them here.

Please pray for the conference and for its future. I want to go on appreciating these folks for decades to come. I can't wait to share the blessings on Monday.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Pump It Up!

When I was young, I was miniscule. I was also very reluctant to try new things. I was, as other children so delightfully put it, a fraidy-cat. This was especially true of food. I hated trying new things and so had a menu of maybe six or seven items. My sainted mother even tried the "we're going to sit at this table all night until you try those peas" approach but finally got tired and had to go to bed. I'm still quite picky but my menu has grown incrementally. In the last couple of years alone I've discovered the pleasures of red onions, portobello mushrooms, and sushi. Mmmmm...sushi. Try the Ichi roll with real crab and be sure there's wasabi in your soy sauce.

My son, James, is 4 and has all of the eating habits you would expect. Quesedillas, mac and cheese, corn dogs, chicken nuggets and fruit snacks. The boy could live on 'em. He's far too much like his old man when it comes to trying new things. In most cases, he doesn't even like things to look any different. Last night we went to a nice restaurant and he ordered a hot dog. When it came, it was enormous. The dog was cut in half and grilled, then put on a toasted, buttered bun and served with a generous helping of cabin fries. I salivated. He cowered. Literally, the boy screamed and tried to flee. I told him that I would eat it if he didn't want it (that wasn't just Daddy-talk, this thing looked good) but then my own 20 oz. ribeye showed up and he was on his own.

James had been excited all week to go to a birthday party this past Saturday at a place called "Pump It Up." This is a place filled with huge inflatable arenas where kids can bounce, box, joust, slide and engage in a wide variety of tooth-loosening activities. We saw a commercial for it on the telly and talked endlessly about going down that big slide together. The night before, James carefully picked out a pair of socks to wear to bed: one white, one red. Saturday morning dawned and he put on his matching pair. And so mismatched, off we drove to Pump It Up.

He wanted none of it. I went down slides, through obstacle courses, into bounce houses alternately making a fool of myself and scaring small children. He spent an hour watching people play air hockey and throwing nerf balls into holes (the kid in the picture isn't James...James is smaller and his left sock was red). I begged, pleaded, carried, threatened, joked, cajoled...to no avail. There would be no big slide.

Lisa was a very adventurous kid. She would try anything. James' reticence bothers her even more than me. We want him to embrace new things and to be devil-may-care, but we love him as he is too. We know that he will grow and change and we trust that God is molding him to be who He wants him to be. Still...I wanted to go down that slide together.

Spiritual application section: Those who know me know how frustrated I get with people who can't (won't) throw off their traditionalist, legalistic shackles. I want people to understand God's grace and freedom because it's better for them and much better for the church. My experience with James is teaching me that some people are just afraid. Not everyone, mind you. There are those who think they are brave for keeping the church from changing. But lots of folks just don't want to try new things. God is molding them too.

His will be done. I hope there's a big slide in heaven. There are some people I can't wait to watch go down it the first time.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Star Trek Sermons

Indulge me.

The congregation heaves a sigh of relief as they realize that the sermon is over and there hasn't been a single reference to Star Wars, Star Trek, or superheroes. It's rare and they appreciate it.

The truth is that I would use my pop culture lexicon every time if I didn't think it would ALIENate my audience. But I try very hard to restrain myself. Why, just recently I preached on three consecutive Sundays with only a short video clip of "Lost In Space" to show for it. And that was unavoidable as I was preaching about the lostness of mankind.

So, since we have all established that our blogs are our own personal territory, I am now going to execute my inALIENable right to synopsize some possible Star Trek sermons. I would advise the vast majority of you to quit reading.............now.

This, of course, is only a partial list. I don't have all day. And it will only be from The Original Series. I love Next Gen, of course, but I cut my teeth on Captain Kirk.

In "The Naked Time," the intrepid crew of the starship Enterprise (NCC-1701...hey, I told you to stop reading) brings back a virus from an away mission. Soon they engage in all sorts of whacky (whacky whacky whacky) behavior and almost crash. In my sermon, "The Naked Church (title subject to change as not to offend that nice old lady who sits in the eighth pew, middle)," we learn how the greatest danger to the church is from within. Satan acts as a virus among us, turning us against each other with gossip, resentment, and envy. He is defeated with awareness, humility, love, and much prayer.

We first meet the evil, power-hungry Khan Noonian Singh (and if he's indian why does he look like Ricardo Montalban?) in "Space Seed." Awakened from deep space hibernation, Khan and his followers us their genetically enhanced minds to take over the Enterprise and try to kill Kirk and Co. My lesson ("Space Church"? "Spacy Church?") revolves around those traditions which lie sleeping for years on end until one day they arise unbidden and attempt to strangle our maturity and spiritual growth. By revisiting the Bible through fresh eyes and applying it to the 21st century, we take those outgrown outgrowths of superfluous religiosity (can I turn a phrase or what?) and dump them on Ceti Alpha VI where the only company they will have is those squirmy little bugs you stick in peoples' ears. Ugh.

I should only have to say "Edith Keeler" for you to recognize the greatest episode of them all. In "Church On the Edge of Forever," we examine the future of Jesus' bride and how she can only be what He wants her to be when we stay out of His way and allow His plan to unfold in the proper way, in the proper...time. (This was a bad idea. I'm starting to really want to preach this stuff now.)

We all remember "Amok Time" as the episode when Spock goes through Pon Farr and experiences the Vulcan need to...well...you know. This hits Vulcan males every seven years as opposed to human males which it hits 8 or 9 times a day. In his blind lust, Spock "kills" Kirk and then comes to his senses. We see one of the few hints of emotion when he sees the captain alive back on the Enterprise and yells, "Jim!" (Cue strings, shed tear.) "Amok Church" will be an uncomfortable lesson on sexuality and how it affects individuals, couples, and ultimately the church itself. I'll ask Mom not to come that Sunday.

Maybe this is a Wednesday night series. We show the episode, then have a lesson, followed by discussion and then tribble-shaped pastries. It must be kismet; my iPod just started playing the theme from "First Contact," I kid you not.

Raise your hands. Who's coming?

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Bruce Sutter? Bruce SUTTER???

I would like to go through Cooperstown with a broom.

I thought the standards were already pretty low. Then Bruce Sutter gets elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. Are you kidding me? Let's look at some of the lowlights.

Sutter pitched for 12 years. That's right. 12 years. Then he blew his arm out by repeatedly throwing the splitter, the pitch that he became FAME-ous for. Infamous might be a better word. The split-finger fastball has ruined more arms than Tommy Lasorda and Dusty Baker combined. And that's a LOT of arms, my friends. And it's not like Sutter invented the pitch anyway. Roger Craig was throwing that pitch (and teaching that pitch to the future woe of the Giants bullpen) before Bruce Sutter ever learned how to put on a pair of stirrups.

It should also be pointed out that Sutter didn't exactly go out on the top of his game. His twelve years weren't Koufaxian by any stretch of the imagination. His last 3 years brought ERA's of 4.48, 4.34, and 4.77. Those don't sound good by 21st century standards, but they were awful by the standards of the 70's and 80's.

Sutter won one Cy Young award and four Rolaids Relief Awards. That's right, Rolaids Relief Awards. That's because he never started a single game and he is the first "Hall of Fame" pitcher never to have done so. Don't get me wrong, there are pitchers who were predominantly closers who belong in the Hall--I'm all for Dennis Eckersley being there---but Sutter is decidedly not one of them. He only led the NL in saves in three different seasons for cryin' out loud!

Here's the truth: Sutter was elected because there wasn't anybody else on the ballot even close to being deserving. If this was next year, a year when Mark McGwire, Tony Gwynn, and Cal Ripken Jr. will be on the ballot for the first time, I defy you to find me a single person outside the Sutter family who would have voted for him.

I'm sure that Bruce is a heckuva guy. But a Hall of Famer? He had 300 saves. Here are some people who had more: Doug Jones, Jeff Montgomery, Tom Henke, Jose Mesa, Troy Percival. Good relievers? No, great relievers. Hall of Famers? Gimme a break. Then gimme a broom.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I Miss Baseball!!!

Sometimes the title says it all.

I don't watch sports other than baseball. I didn't even watch the Rose Bowl, although I'm sure it was a great game. I'll watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. I can't stand basketball, even though I can appreciate questions like this one I saw the other day: What's the difference between Wilt Chamberlain and the 2005 Portland Trailblazers? I'm sure the Winter Olympics will be on at our house. Lisa loves the Olympics. I can't get excited about the bobsled or curling.

I miss baseball.

The offseason is boring, boring, boring. This one has been more boring than most. The Angels have done nothing. The A's, Mariners, and Rangers have all gotten better. The Rangers have gotten a LOT better. I think they're the team to beat in the AL West right now. Meanwhile, the Angels have told everyone they need one more big bat...and traded for Edgardo Alfonso. Small bat. Very small bat.

The upside is that by the time the season starts, our house will be back to normal. The two month anniversary of the crash has come and gone and very little has been done. It's certainly an uncomfortable place to live. They are supposedly putting cabinets in right now, but I took a look at them last night and there is a lot of work to be done even on them. Doors that hang at 85 degrees, drawers that stick, that sort of thing. We'll see how it looks when they're in.

After that, we'll just need counters, an island, a new outlet, floor tile, counter tile, wood flooring, a shelf for the bay window and lots of paint. Should be ready by opening day.


God is good. He says, "Before they call I will answer; while they are still speaking I will hear." There is a roof over our heads and Hall of Fame announcements in less than an hour. Everything will be fine.

Monday, January 09, 2006


My one-year blogging anniversary is coming up in a couple of weeks. In all of those posts, I have never received so many negative comments and such vociferous rejection as I did for my last entry. It seems that some people had a problem with the butterfly picture.


I told this story in my sermon yesterday. I repeat it here for those of you fortunate enough not to have stay awake and pay attention to me on Sunday mornings. Actually, there was a fella about six pews back who read his bulletin the entire time I was speaking so "paying attention" isn't really a hard-and-fast rule.

My son, James, likes to express his love in numbers. Truly a math prodigy. At some point, he decided that the largest number was 106. So when he's feeling pretty good about you, he'll say, "I love you a hundred and six." It's really sweet.

A couple of months ago, I had to discipline him for something or other. Afterwards I sat down next to him and put my arm around him. I asked him if he understood what he did wrong and he said yes. Then I reminded him that I still loved him. He said, "I love you too, Daddy." I smiled and asked, "How much?" He said, "I love you three."

Given the situation, that actually wasn't too bad.

Last week, he told Lisa that he loved her. Lisa said, "I love you too." James said, "That's not very much."

"No, no, I love you also," Lisa explained. James tried to tell her that he loved her more, but Lisa wasn't having any of it. She told him a truth that only parents can understand. "You couldn't possibly love me more than I love you."

I love God a hundred and six. But He loves me numbers that I've never even heard of before. His love is staggering. It's overwhelming. It's eternal and unconditional. I don't understand it and I often can't accept it. None of that makes it any less real. He is the perfect Parent and we are His creation. We can't possibly love Him more than He loves us.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Wonder, Hope, and Dreams

What a great title for a blogpost. There should be rainbows and butterflies. Maybe I'll go find some.

Okay, now this is just going to weird me out until I get past the pictures. Pretty though aren't they? Even Eeyore looks happy.

In one of the two daily reflection books I have started for this year, William Barclay has a lot to say about wonder. It is the topic of four of his first eight entries (I'm not reading ahead, he writes two per day, one for morning, one for evening). Barclay uses the freshness of a new year to help us remember what it is to wonder. He encourages us to stop and look at God's creation, listen to His still, small voice, and to realize anew his awesome majesty. Psalm 60:3 says, "Thou hast made us to drink the wine of astonishment." That may be a bit King Jamesy for you, but I much prefer it to the later translations that have it as a wine that makes us reel or stagger. I don't know the psalmist's intent, but I love the image of open-mouthed awe, absolute astonishment at God, His creation, and His working plan.

There is hope in a new year as well. My friend who is going through such trials right now recognizes that this is as good a time as any, maybe better, to start taking steps towards improving his life. He knows God's place in His life and even recognizes that sometimes God needs us humbled. I think of His Plan when I hear that line from Hoosiers: "I'm gonna break 'em down and I'm gonna build 'em back up again." There is hope even in being at the end of your rope. It can mean that it's time to find a new rope.

A dear friend and I chatted for over an hour last night and the result was that he kept some dreams of mine alive. Often, my dreams die all too easily. That isn't because of a lack of confidence, excitement, or faith. Rather, it's because I have such contentment with my life as it is that I often don't try to see what it could be. God has to drop these things in my lap and sometimes, like last night, He has to stoke the fire. My dear friend, if you are reading this, I want to thank you for hearing His voice and following His lead. You amaze me.

Butterflies and rainbows, folks. Butterflies and rainbows.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

God's Dilemma (and Mine)

Because the district server was down and I have had precious little time to work from home, I haven't been able to visit Blogland for a while.

What does it say about me that I have more time to blog at work than at home?

Anyway, the server is back up today and there is a little break in the action here at school so I've been catching up a bit. Speaking of school, I'm fairly sure that the second semester is going to be better than the first. Most of the problem children have found new places to be and those who are left tend to be harder workers. Nicer too. It will be a busy few months, especially gearing up for the AP test, but I think I'll enjoy it more.

We held services Sunday at the same old 9:00 time and I was so impressed with the attendance. There were as many, if not more, there as usual. Even more impressive was the spirit they brought with them. Far from being placid and weary, the worship was strong. I expected the sermon to go over like a lead balloon (kind of like first period went yesterday) but they were very responsive, active listeners. It was cool.

We have decided to preach the gospel in January. Novel, I know. But this is a time when many are wishing to become better people and may be more receptive to the Spirit's urging. So we are sandwiching four lessons around the Zoe Conference that will deal with man's condition, God's dilemma, His answer, and our response to it. Sunday we talked about the natural lostness man finds himself in. This coming Sunday will be the duality of God's possible choices: justice or mercy...punishment or grace...wrath or love.

This will be the third straight week I have preached. I am also teaching a class on Yancey's "The Jesus I Never Knew." This week there will be a Steering Committee meeting right after class. Translation: I'm beat. Every quiet moment (including, unfortunately, those right before I want to sleep) is consumed with questions and preparation. How do I present the lesson most effectively? What of Jesus' culture is applicable to my class? Where is our church going? How do I preach about The Wrath of God without reverting to fire and brimstone? How do I memorize and differentiate the characteristics of the Essenes, Zealots, Sadducees, and Pharisees? Where is our church going? What do my own experiences as teacher and parent tell me about God's discipline? Were there really Jews that didn't poop on the Sabbath? Where is our church going???

I could do that for a while. I'm looking forward to some time off. I'm not sure how one takes a vacation from a non-paying job, but I'm going to find out. The problem, of course, is that I'm just as excited (moreso) about the next pulpit series coming up and I want a piece of it too. And my current Bible class is an open-ended one. To say nothing of the joy I get from the actual teaching. It's the preparation, the time and energy, that's wearing me out.

ZOE will be here in about two weeks. Please pray. Also, a friend of mine is at the end of his rope and his knot is loosening. Pray for him too please.

Free Counter
Hit Counters