Monday, July 31, 2006

Court TV

For those that don't know me, for some reason I have a small addiction to court shows. I don't get to watch them all that often, but today I'm at home so I got to see The People's Court with the honorable Judge Millian. I was watching I think I figured out some reasons why I am so attracted to those shows.

First, it amazes me how two different people can have such conflicting views over the same thing. Maybe it's part of our wonderful Postmodern society in which there is no truth but just everyone's personal point of view, a development I can't wait to die off but realize I have to live with for the rest of my life. A brief simple explanation is fifty years ago if you looked at the sky and said, "My, that's a beautiful green" the person next to you would go "No, it's blue you idiot" and life would go on. Now, when you look at the sky and say "My, that's a beautiful green" everyone says "I don't see that, but it must be green to you and since truth is defined by the person, whatever you say it is, it is to you".

And this is nowhere more evident than on court shows. Two people have ridden in the same car, one as a passenger and one as an owner. The passenger says it was dirty and the A/C didn't work. The wonder says it was clean and the A/C worked fine. Who's telling the truth? The stupid part is both people think they are.

This brings me to the other area that draws me to these shows. Now, after hearing two entirely different stories about the same incident on the same day in which both people were there, the judge has to figure out what is truth. Not always an easy job, a lot of discernment and patience needed. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I'm not so sure. But it amazes me that we need someone to figure out what really happened. In my mind, a judge would be used to decide how much the car was worth the other guy wrecked, not who actually wrecked the car.

The funny part is usually someone is lying, and they think they're actually telling the truth until the judge just hits them with it. Like today, some guy was saying his mom gave him money while she was suing him saying it was a loan. Again, you think there would be a clear answer, but both see something different and stick to their story. That is, until the mom pulls out a check her son wrote to repay her that bounced. Hmm... Why would he write a check to pay her back if it was a gift? And idiot keeps arguing after the check appears with his signature, etc. and says it was still a gift from him mom!

Are we really that stupid? Why can't people just tell the truth?

Psalms 15:2 - "Walk straight, act right, tell the truth."


Saturday, July 29, 2006

And Finally Home

Yes, it's finally here. We're not in Wyoming anymore...

It was a long trip, we were a little hungry, and Stephen Ogle ate bean burritos for breakfast (please, never again), but we made it home. We smell, but we made it home.

So how have people's lives changed since we went to Mexico. Here's the way to find out. Tomorrow in church (the 30th) we will have one students share a little bit about Mexico in each service. Please come listen and support them.

As for me, I think these were the longest blogs I've done so far, and frankly, I have to be at church at 8:15 tomorrow so I'm going to bed. But thank you. It was great to relive Mexico a week later, giving me a chance to reflect on what happened. I'll try to have blogs just as interesting in the future (no promises). Read Liz's blog too, she goes to Wisconsin with the Jr. High's for their mission trip tomorrow (we're praying for them at NewSong if you can make it).

Good night!


Homeward Bound... Maybe...

Want to know a great way to start your day? Go to bed at midnight the night before, then wake up at 5:30 in the morning! That's right, we had to be up that early to get packed, clean up our bunks and clean up the comedor (the job our group was assigned). I think Taylor and I sprayed so much bleach our nostril hairs were white. It was nuts. But it was clean.

Then we left at 7:00 for the border. Now, we've already heard about how things go with me at the border, lots of fun. So to get all 51 people through (both our groups), Youthworks walks everyone across single file. Good plan actually. I got out all the information (boy am I glad I was organized), give each person their paperwork, and they all walk through, myself included. For sake of ease, I used only my driver's license and hoped they wouldn't ask any questions (see Tuesday about being a Canadian, not that there's anything wrong with that, but I just didn't want to be questioned again). I ended up being in line behind Matt Simmonds. So what happened? They saw Matt, asked him all sorts of questions, then waved the rest of us through. So nice. We all made it through from the time off the bus to the other side in less than 10 minutes! A record I've been told.

But then it happened. We are back on American soil, about ten feet into America, walking back onto the bus. Everyone has all their stuff and Ann is carrying a plastic bag full of bottles of soda she's bringing back for her family. And the bag breaks. Bottle falls. Shatters. Punctures Ann's foot. Then the bleeding begins. Now, it was pretty bad, but the fact that there was clear soda on the ground, it all mixed with the blood quickly and at first glance it looks like she was losing a lot of blood, so where do we go? El Paso hospital again! For those playing the tally game, we're up to four (three for our group).

So Carrie (Youthworks leader) and I end up at the hospital, eventually one more Youthworks person comes with the van (the bus dropped us off), and Ann is being checked on. She has to be x-rayed to make sure there's no glass, then is given two stitches, the pain killing needle being the part that hurt her most. But here's the part I don't understand. She's just across the border, looks down, see all the blood (mixed with soda so it looks like more) and she starts crying. Understandable. Then in the hospital, the nurse is cleaning her stitches and accidentally presses where the blood has gathered at the cut and a small geyser shoots up. What does Ann do? "Cool! Can you do that again?!" I don't think I will ever understand...

But here's the important thing. We had a lot of major injuries this week. My hope is that the hospital visits are not what we all remember from this trip! Maybe God gave some people scars so they will remember the trip, i don't know, but our students did a lot of great work and showed the love of Christ to a lot of people this week, and they learned a great deal about the world outside of a Fishers cul-de-sac and how they can help those in need across the globe. Please don't forget that!

The trip for Friday was uneventful, except leaving four hours later than planned thanks to El Paso Hosptial, x-ray division. We watched a lot of Star Wars and slept = less stops = quicker travels. The only regrettable moment, we stopped at the same TA in Arkansas we stopped at for two hours on the way down (remember the air conditioner story?). It was kind of a downer to see that place again, but then to buy a Gatorade and have the sales lady on the phone, get off and tell us all about how her husband just cheated on her for the second time and that was her friend, the woman he cheated with, on the phone!

But there was one highlight. He's going to hate me for telling this but I cried laughing, so it's here. On the way home Mike Snyder (hospital visit Wednesday) was on a little bit of Vicadin. Cool. But that made everything funny. Then Mike went to the bathroom. Every sound that came out of his body made him laugh, which made more sounds, which made more laughter, which made an entire bathroom of people laughing, which made an entire bathroom of bodily sounds, and you can guess how it just keeps escalating. Too funny!

But we were on the road, fell asleep during Star Wars IV (A New Hope) the last memory of Friday is Obi Wan telling Luke he had a gift for him from his father...


Thursday, July 27, 2006

Actual Work?!

Yes, today we did some actual work. No playing with kids, no cooking, it was down and dirty time for my group (the groups that were doing work projects Mon. and Tues. got to play with kids today). There were two different jobs for us to do as we built Fetemine's house (the name of the guy who owns it). One was plastering, as you can see Alison doing here. The scary part is Fetemine was better than all of us at this, and could have done a much better job, but he was thankful for our help. Nice guy.

The other part we did was building a roof. Unfortunately, something happened with the group before us and all the beams were put on the roof at the wrong length (they were all different, hard to put a brace beam when only 2 of the 9 are touching), so Taylor, Stephen, Jacob and I were busy measuring beams and cutting them. There's me getting ready to use the skilsaw. Notice the plethora )for Liz and her dictionary fun) of sawdust on my head, the reason Taylor and I were allowed a second shower (ah blessed second shower!). It was during this time we realized just how hard it is to build a house in Juarez. Sure, they're not very big, but when you have really old tools, warped wood, rusty screws, well, you get the picture.

That night we went for ice cream. The Youthworks people said something to the owner about me in Spanish and he laughed. I still have no idea what that was...

Then we ended with club as usual, but the last night with Youthworks is always the foot washing ceremony. For those unfamiliar with this, basically, we reenact Jesus washing the disciples' feet. The Youthworks staff wash the leaders' feet, then the leaders go and wash all the students' feet. Always quite an emotional time, because as we go the leaders pray with the students, then the students start to pray with each other, and so on and so forth and before you know it we have a huge noise of prayer. A beautiful noise by the way. I always like the foot washing, but the one wish I had is that we had more time. I didn't get a chance to pray with everyone, something I like to do. But I don't know how much more time I'd want. We prayed for over 2 and 1/2 hours! It was quarter to midnight when we finally said, "We have to be up at 5, we need to go to bed." And there were some really moving and powerful prayers there too, things the students and adult leaders prayed that really moved me, but I won't discuss them here, that's something between us and God.

But that was the day, hard work then hard prayer. I wouldn't trade it for the world :)


Wednesday, July 26, 2006

The Universal Language Of Worship

So Tuesday night I got no sleep. None. This is not an exaggeration, I literally roller all night long. And yet for some reason, I was a little tired, but I didn't do too bad at all. Maybe it was because that morning at 6:00 I got to the coldest shower I've ever had. It was freezing, it was mucky, it was smelly, but t was one of the best showers I ever had (I had not showered since Saturday before we left, they have a water shortage in Juarez so we were limited to one to two showers and this was number one).

Why was I up so early in the Mexican morning taking a shower? It was church service day! The one day we all had to dress up somewhat respectable and worship God with the good people of Juarez in our Comedor (thanks Shawn) we've been eating in. Worship in Mexico is not dependent on Sunday morning, they have it any time they can on a regular basis, Thursday nights, Monday afternoon, or in our case, Wednesday morning. Sorry, but I haven't gotten any pictures of this.

Because I was with a detail of people that cooked (I'll get to that), we had to be there at 8:30, an hour and a half before everyone else, which also meant we skipped devotions. But that was okay, God and I had a little talk anyway. At 8:30, the comedor was easily half-full. Tell me this, when was the last time someone showed up for church an hour early just because, not for a committee meeting or to stack chairs or something, but showed up early just to show up early? At 9:30, Jenni (the woman who runs the place) got up and spoke for half an hour. I have no idea what she said outside of "Christ" and "Glory to God", but people listened for a half-hour with no problem at all. She was also fluent in English (thank God) so I was able to talk to her a little after.

At 10:00 everyone else showed up and we started our time of singing, praising and corporate worship (the time we designate as "worship" for some reason in our church bulletins). Here we are in Mexico, we don't know the language, there are no overhead screens to tell us the words, it's being led by one guy on an out of tune guitar with another guy on a Casio (Radio Shack) keyboard on the oldest sound system still working in North America, and still everyone, including our guys(!!) sang for the entire time, clapped, praised God for an hour solid, no breaks to sit down every ten minutes or whatever! I actually spent time with the little Mexican kids during it and I remember seeing one gentleman at the front, he seemed mentally challenged, having troubles with some actions, etc., but when it was time to raise our hands, he was completely focused on God. There's a lesson there...

At 11:00 was an hour of preaching time (again, when does that happen in our churches). We took up a bit of that time as we were introduced and told a little about ourselves plus the offering. Then we had a sermon in English by a Youthworks staff (the normal preacher was gone) and translated to Spanish by another Youthworks staff member. At 12:00, Jenni came up again and spoke, this time to tell people they did not give enough in the offering and they had to try harder (again, what church in America would dare say that?!). She was right though. There was only $7 in the offering, and almost all of that was from us.

We finished the service with a massive time of lunch together (the reason for the cooks). Good authentic Mexican food! We served the kids first, then the adults, then we ate while a few of us handed out food for people so they would have some food this week. It was amazing to see a church doing so much for the community. Km and I had a little talk about it, I kept feeling like our church didn't do this much, but she mentioned we did, but it was so much more behind the scenes, giving money instead of food and time. Good point.

After all this we went shopping at the Centro or "downtown". Here Juarez was much more advanced than we thought it would be. At the center of town were fountains and the most precious commodity of all, grass and trees (you can see them in the back of the picture). They were all fenced off and you were not allowed to touch them. Stephen, Shawn, Mandy and I went walking around, pet some baby bunnies, found out there was no silver anywhere for my wife, and did all the fun stuff like that.

Then we hit the second lesson in worship. This building is a Catholic church downtown right next to the first mission built in the country of Mexico. However, there are a few rules in this church. It is primarily for prayer. There is no talking allowed, period. You go in, you kneel silently, pray silently, light a candle if you wish silently, and you depart silently. All the time that you are silent there are ornate works of art all around you, stained glass, statues, and other pieces that show God's glory. It was quite a contrast to the morning. This too was worship, but instead of jumping up and down, it was introspective. Rather than doing what you can on a shoestring budget, everything here was huge and done to the absolute best of your ability for God. Another area we have no pictures from (we weren't allowed) but that's more than ok. Our discussion this night in our church time was quite long about worship and the time of "worship with a Youthworks guitar player" became "Worshipping God with all that we've got while a Youthworks guy played." Big difference.

But, in the midst of an amazing day, we had one problem. Mike Snyder, one of our wonderful chaperones, played basketball during free time and went up for a rebound, but came down on the curb. Rolled his ankle nicely and caused a lot of swelling. So, we took him to the hospital, although this time I didn't go with him (I think he was old enough to handle his own medical insurance stuff) and Matt Simmonds went with him. Running tally now at 3 (2 from us) trips to the hospital in El Paso. He even got the same doctor as Zak. Small world.

So how do you think a person's view of worship changes after a day like that?


Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Trouble Is A Brewing

What? Trouble in Mexico? Say it isn't so...

It was a long day, but not necessarily a bad one. I guess it depends on who's point of view you're looking at it from. My day started out bad anyway. I mean, I don't get much sleep as it is, like I need less. But I still didn't get much sleep at all, just enough to get me to breakfast where I loaded up on sausage (to get me through the rest of the day of course).

So here's the thought of the day. Justice. God's justice. Now think about it, what does justice really mean from God's point of view? I mean, the first thing that entered my mind when we were talking about it was Judge Judy freaking out on someone, but is that really what God means when He talks about justice? How do love and justice co-exist? Yet they do in God's eyes. Just more to ponder throughout the day (we talked about it a lot at group time in the evening). But that was our devotional for the day (look at James studying so diligently).

It was shortly thereafter I found out that Carrie, our fearless Youthworks leader in Juarez, was in the hospital last night thanks to a bug bite. It just so happened to make a really nasty bruise in the exact same spot, so it looked really ugly and she went to the hospital, the first visit of the summer for our site. That's important, tally now at 1... We also had a small problem as one of our vans we use to get all our groups to their work sites had a flat. It was fixed that afternoon, but it made for a lot of shuffling in the morning.

Kids Club was a little more fun today. First we painted a room bright, bright orange. As in you would go blind if you stared directly at the walls. Bright. So bright. My retinas are burning just from the memory of it. Did I mention bright? But then we had fun playing with the kids. I was doing crafts again, but this picture's of the song time down the hall. Are they dancing? I have no idea. I'm hoping yes.

I actually even learned a little more Spanish today. It was kind of forced on me. One of the kids showed up and told our director Stacie (the crazy white person looking at the ceiling above) they knew where one of our Youthworks soccer balls were, but the kids wouldn't give it back. Her brilliant idea? "Troy, go with him and get it back." So I do the normal thing and ask what Spanish I'll need. "Oh, none, just go and look tough." So to bully people, I'm now the first choice. Yeah, Mexico's a little messed up. But I went, two kids almost got in a fight, lots of fun. The only part that made me happy were the fighters were two tiny kids that I could lift up with one arm, while all the big huge guys thought it was funny and were trying to joke with me in Spanish. I also got killed again in soccer upon bringing the ball back. I should have left it with the other kid.

But then we had one more problem. The guy in the picture is Zak. I'm sure he wished I picked a better picture of him, but I don't care, he ticked me off. I have been at Fishers United Methodist Church for three years and have not had a single injury. Not one. Liz has had people get hurt from catepillars. Troy, still nothing. Until Zak decided to walk too close to a metal gate over a window. His left arm had a nice sized gash in it and upon request from Youthworks we needed to take him to the hospital (I told him to tough it out, but meh).

So we have to take Zak to the hospital. Only one small problem. We're in freaking Mexico! No, he couldn't get hurt in the good ol' U. S. of A., he has to get hurt in Mexico. So Carrie and I load him up in the van with the new tire and drive to the border. More background information. I never have a good time at the border. I have been stopped, I have been searched, I have been given a pat-down. It never turns out good. So we're in line and the guy asks our nationality. "American", "American", "Canadian". He looks all dumbfounded. "Canadian? Do you have papers? Why are you here?" Yes, if I wanted to sneak into the country from Canada, I wouldn't go from the Canadian side, I'd travel to Mexico and try to get across there. After pointing out the kid with the bleeding arm and the whole need for the hospital, he hurries things up a little.

Then we get to the hospital. If I ever get hurt, I am going to the hospital on Mesa in El Paso. What a great facility! And quick. Zak got thirteen stitches (yeah, the Youthworks people were right, he needed to go) and was out really quick. As in from the time we left our camp, it was an hour and fifteen minutes. Across the border, stitched up and out the door in 75 minutes?! That's nuts. And we were held up too. Guess what young man didn't have his Social Security Number on his health form? The best part was when I called his mom to get it (we work together) and she answers with, "Troy! Wait, that means this can't be good..."

So while we are gone, the rest of the group gets to go on a walking tour of Juarez, looking for things, learning about the town, etc. Alex, the guy over Carrie who met us at the hospital, is nice enough to give Zak and I a short tour as we drive home, letting us see what the other guys saw without leaving the comfort of our pick-up truck. Here's a picture of something you would have seen. A tiny little house, one wall made out of a tarp. Notice the tires too. There is no foundation anywhere here. The ground is all dirt (grass is precious, we only saw it three time, at a church, at Oscar's, and one other place I'll mention tomorrow, and all grass was under lock and key). So tires are used as a foundation of sorts all over Juarez. Hey, it's cheaper than cement. By the way, tally now at 2...

I learned one more lesson today. Since we were back kind of late, we let the guys and gals in the student ministry stay up for a bit, but they were asked to be quiet. Apparently, it is impossible to be quiet. When talking outside, our bodies are physically unable to whisper, or so it seemed. And the larger the group, the harder it was. Noise is infectious. I hope the neighbors didn't mind too much. And after this writing for today, we'll give it a rest, but this is nothing compared with tomorrow.


Monday, July 24, 2006

Monday - The First Day Of Real Work

That's not a joke, today was a wake up call. More specifically, a 6:45am wake up call. For those that don't know me, I only see 6:45 by staying up until then, not the other way around. The only thing that gave me strength? Cocoa Puffs. I totally forgot they turn milk into chocolate milk. Made the morning much better. That may seem like a little thing, but after no sleep, it was a big thing!

So I guess you get the schedule. That lovely breakfast takes place in the commodore (yes, like the old computer system). It's down the street from us, so we have to walk in groups of threes past the four or five infested dogs that live near there. After breakfast, we have our devotion time. Surprisingly, I got stuck on a really simple question, something I do more and more now. Rather than brush over something quickly, I ponder too long now. Here's the question: How is God beautiful? Think about it, you could get stuck for a while.

Then we went to our work sites. A little different than most places, we split into four groups, two work on houses and two do Kids Club (a nine week long VBS), but we only do it for two days, than the groups switch, so everyone gets to do a little of everything. We got Kids first (yay). That's me trying to do crafts with left handed scissors. Notice the concentration. But we did learn a few things. There's a lot of poverty here, although Juarez is considered moderate poverty, still worse than anything in America. Free education lasts until 6th grade. Once done you have a graduation ceremony. If you want to go on, you have pass really hard exams and pay a lot of money. One added catch, schools don't start to teach English until 7th grade.

I also learned some things about myself. I'm not good at soccer. Got schooled badly. I look like some movie star, but not knowing any Spanish movies and not being able to communicate (we learn French in Canada) I have no idea who. I make really ugly masks out of paper plates (their words, not mine), and most importantly, I can speak Spanish Sign Language, which is really a lot of pointing and going "Que?"

One more fun fact, we walked some kids home today. Three kids, one of which I carried on my back until he almost fell asleep. We got to see some of the guard dogs on the way home, not diseased and hungry, but in fences and very, very pissed off! He would have eaten my hand if he could. Still, we took the kids home. Their house was tiny and had a homemade fence built from shipping palates. No gate either, the kids had to climb over them to get into their own house. Reminded me of how every single house in Africa had fences and gates, no matter how cheaply made they were.

After that we had some spare time before dinner, which usually consisted of going to Oscar's, one of the little soda shops run out of someone's house that are every few blocks or our students grabbing their guitars and playing worship.

Our evening activity was a hike. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that yet, so here's one of us hiking from the bunk house to the commodore, just to let you see a little of Juarez. This small mountain showed me a few things too. I kicked one of the small green plants with long leaves and learned those leaves are rock! I bled for quite a while (no one knew, shhh). Also, on the side of the mountain is a message to the city of Juarez that loosely translated says the Bible can save you, read it. It was written in letters painted white that are so huge, you can see them from El Paso. The entire city can see those words. Cool idea.

At the top of the mountain you see two things. Facing south you see the Bible message and cross standing over the entire city as a blessing. Facing north, you see the entire city of Juarez. Here's the funny thing. From that distance and seeing everything, Juarez and El Paso bleed together. If it wasn't for I-10 running through the middle with a huge fence a little south of it, you would think it was all once city, except for the fact that the quality of living jumps a little at that fence. The thought that we discussed after was how the people of Juarez can see America so clearly and so close, yet it's still so far away. It had to be really hard.

The last part of every night is a group time of worship, Youthworks speaks, then we break off into our churches for discussion, where we talked a lot about the impact of the first day and God's beauty, how God is beautiful even here. Family was one of the most common answers, but there are many more. We followed that up with sleep. See you tomorrow :)


Sunday a Mexico

So when last we left our traveling crew the air conditioning had stopped working. You have no idea how horrible it is to try and sleep on a bus of 41 people when the air conditioner is spewing hot air instead of cold (yes, it was actually hotter than outside). At 1:30 we stopped to refuel and try to fix it, a half hour gone to no avail. The only idea we could come up with, open the emergency roof hatches and keep driving. The drivers abandoned this idea about 4:30 when we stopped at three "TA"'s in a row trying to find a mechanic on duty. At the third, still no one who could work on the bus, so they called ahead trying to find a mechanic somewhere on the road.

Jump ahead 2 hours. We're still at the same TA in Arkansas and nothing, so we decide to start the bus up and leave. Somehow, after turning the bus off and on, the air magically works. We say nothing, thank God and try to sleep (yeah, right) and continue the journey. But now we have 15 hours of bus driving and everyone's sleep schedule is messed up (yes, 15 hours + 6:30 in the morning = late, add in no showers = lots of fun). The poor people at McDonald's who fed all of us on one order as we took it all to go back on the bus since we were already 3 hours late, God bless them, they must have hated us. Still, we needed to get going and get to our destination.

Youthworks was waiting for us in El Paso along with another youth group from Virginia, they had been there since 10:00am (poor forgiving people). But we made it. So the 39 of us, the 12 from Virginia and the Youthworks crew all pile in an old school bus with Minnesota plates and a really broken back seat (just the one) and we all go to the Mexican border. Before we even cross, you can feel a Mexican flavor, but that was nothing compared to Mexico.

We cross extremely quickly (Mexico isn't as worried about people sneaking in as America) and hit Juarez. The city has water running through the streets from the storms, water rushing to the Rio Grande. I remembered my old friend Mike Grafton saying how borders are imaginary lines that make no sense. It kept running through my head as this was no imaginary line. You could see I-10 clearly with cars on it a few hundred feet away, on the other side of the cement wall with barbed wire on top running along the tiny river. I was a little disappointed we didn't see Juarez in daylight first as Carrie (the Youthworks leader) said most people take it as quite a shock. Some of our guys were so shocked in the night, maybe I should be glad it wasn't daylight.

We arrive at our site, definitely not the Ritz. We live in a small compartment half-way up a hill with double sets of steel doors (this picture is from during the day). Wooden bunks in each room hold us all as close together. Because of lack of space and it being late, etc., I end up on the floor, but I'm underneath a swamp cooler. What is that you ask? Really cheap air conditioning. Basically it's a wall of hay with a fan behind it, water siphoned up and dribbling down the hay, causing the air blown to be cooler and moist. Still, after our drive, long day, shock and awe and being hot and humid, falling asleep didn't come as easily to some as others. But everyone has amazingly great attitudes, so we're not doing too bad.

Want to see the view from where we are? Tune in tomorrow (we didn't' see it until then either).


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Juarez Blog Starts Now

Hey all, so here's what's happening. We (the Sr. Highs) returned from Juarez today, and since we left exactly one week ago, I am blogging to you what happened exactly one week after. So from here on in, we are time warped one week back. Enjoy.

It's Saturday and we left right on late at 4:30 (supposed to be 4:00), but it's all okay so far. We watched a few movies and also had some worship time on the bus. How good was the worship time? Well, I managed to break a string. That's right, we're not even to Mexico yet and my guitar is kinda useless (not really, but it doesn't sound as good).

For our worship time, I asked a whole bunch of questions about Jesus to make you think (from Group Magazine's 50 Questions about Jesus). By far the best question and answer went like this. I asked that the students actually take time and think about the answers, not just be the first to raise their hands (see blog last week) and have Scriptural proof. So I asked, "Did Jesus cry as a baby?" We got all the normal answers quoting Christmas Carols and the fact Jesus was 100% human, but then Justin VanTress said this, "In Luke 2:21 it says Jesus was cicumcised on the eighth day. That would have made me cry." Far and away the best answer of the night.

I also spent most of the trip reading that book I stole from Liz (which I finished) and it was funny how Louie told of his trip to Zimbabwe, the only other place I've been on a missions trip out of the countries (Canada and U.S.). It totally got me remembering what life was like there and thinking about what to expect in Juarez. Isn't it funny how God's timing can work out like that?

Well, at 11:30 we stopped and I started writing all this down in a notepad to remember. Most of the students were either asleep or close to (whispering, etc.), but that's not all. For some reason, the air conditioner stopped blowing cold air and started blowing hot air. As I've heard before, it makes for a good story...

Until tomorrow.


Friday, July 14, 2006

Blogging In Mexico

Alrighty, here's the plan. I'm not counting on wireless internet or laptops in Mexico, so I will blog every day in a notebook, then write it down exactly a week later. So next Saturday, the 22nd, will be my post from the 15th (tomorrow).

Make sense? It will. But for now, I'm off to Mexico. Pray!


Thursday, July 13, 2006


Sorry to those who heard this last night, but it might be good to hear again.

So here's the story. I'm reading about a pastor who prayed every day "God, bless my church." All the time he prayed it. Whenever he prayed, it came up. Never an answer, just prayed it anyway. Then suddenly, one day, in a nice, quiet voice, God answered.


What an amazing thought! How often do we talk to God in huge, overwhelming gross generalities then wonder why nothing is happening (and wonder why we can't pray longer than 39 seconds)? God is a very specific person. If He know how many hairs are on your head times everyone, He must be kinda detailed oriented.

So let's look at a story, shall we? A man named Luke wrote this down, and hundreds of years later someone called it chapter 18...

He came to the outskirts of Jericho. A blind man was sitting beside the road asking for handouts. When he heard the rustle of the crowd, he asked what was going on. They told him, “Jesus the Nazarene is going by.” He yelled, “Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!” Those ahead of Jesus told the man to shut up, but he only yelled all the louder, “Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and ordered him to be brought over. When he had come near, Jesus asked, “What do you want from me?”

Hello?! What do you think a blind man wants from the Son of God, someone who has been healing people all over the country! But Jesus still asked. He likes the specifics.

He said, “Master, I want to see again.” Jesus said, “Go ahead—see again! Your faith has saved and healed you!” The healing was instant: He looked up, seeing—and then followed Jesus, glorifying God. Everyone in the street joined in, shouting praise to God.

So next time you're praying, try being a little more specific. God may be waiting for it.


Tuesday, July 11, 2006

When Did First = Best?

This is a random observation I've made about our society as of late. One that really has started to goad at me. Since when did we equate doing something first to doing it right?

Some examples. First, I was watching the World Cup and they have the little "text who you think is the most valuable player' contest. At about half-way through the game you're supposed to pick who was most important in the match. Half-way through the game? It was 0-0. What if someone scored a goal in the second half, the only, game winning goal? They were not included. Why? Because we have to be the first to announce who the player of the game is, not necessarily make the right choice.

Another one. Politics. Who watched the last election? I did. I was a little intrigued because we do things differently in Canada. But then I noticed something. Every station had different numbers. One said Bush had won 83 seats. Another 120. Then there was Fox, which had Bush at 239 seats for the whole night until they could officially say he had won the 240th and won the election. And what's worse, these stations were making assumptions on states and counties after only 7% of the votes had been tabulated. 7%?! How on earth can you make a fair call on 7% of the information? Apparently being the first to say who won was more important than actually giving the citizens who voted the correct facts.

Let's go with one more. Science. Please understand, I love the pursuit of science, I've just learned to hate the business of science. For those that don't know, here's how the business works. Scientists have to earn grants, be it from companies or the government. So it's not based on actual information, it's based on the perceived value of the information. No one wants to pay someone for three years of research to find out that what so-and-so discovered 200 years ago is still right. So they jump the gun to try and be the first to have the slightest shred of proof so they can get funding. Example? Saturn's moon. I'm not sure if you heard this, but they took a picture of one of the moons and found energy being released. So what did that mean? To the average person, it means there's energy. Nothing more until we find out more. But in the business of science, we have to assume more so we get funding, so apparently energy under ice = water = life = aliens living on Saturn's moon that we must find (because aliens will get you money every time).

Whatever happened to finding truth, even if you are the second, third or three hundredth to find it?


Monday, July 10, 2006

Just How Small Are We?

To bug Liz, here's more of the book she lent me (Liz, stop reading now, I'll have it back to you before I go to Mexico).

Okay, so here's something to think about. Let's talk about your physical size. If you're reading this you're probably somewhere between 5 and 6 1/2 feet tall. Let's go with 6. That means you are 1/880 of a mile big, or .001 miles tall. That's pretty small. That means from my apartment to church, the route I travel pretty much every day, would take 11 440 of you lined up in a row to get me to FUMC. Feeling small yet?

Well then, let's not waste time and jump to the opposite end of the spectrum. It appears that we have found a piece of the universe that is the farthest point from us that we know. It is 13 billion light years away (for more info, go to Since our universe is only about 13 1/2 billion years old, and the Big Bang had everything moving from the center, either we moved really fast at the start or it doesn't quite work out, but that's another topic.

13 billion light years away. Let's add that up for you, shall we? 13 billion light years, a light year being the distance light can travel in a year, would then make our equation to equal you to that galaxy (depending on where on earth you start from, but you get the picture):

13 000 000 000 (distance in light years) x 5 878 482 084 580 (miles in a light year) x 880 (you in a mile). According to my trusty Windows Calculator, that means we are (=)
67 249 835 047 895 200 000 000 000 of you away from that point in space. Still feeling big?

And God's in every single inch (all
4 260 949 548 615 631 872 000 000 000 000 of them)...

Is there anyplace I can go to avoid Your Spirit?
to be out of Your sight?
If I climb to the sky, You're there!
If I go underground, You're there!
If I flew on morning's wings
to the far western horizon,
You'd find me in a minute-
You're already there waiting!
Then I said to myself, "Oh, He even sees me in the dark!
At night I'm immersed in the light!"
It's a fact: darkness isn't dark to You;
night and day, darkness and light, they're all the same to You.
-Ps. 139:7-12


Sunday, July 09, 2006

What Movie Are You In?

I'm reading a book I stole from Liz (it's really good too, sorry Liz) and it had a little line in passing that really struck me about your life being a movie.

So let's run with that for a second. Your life is a movie. Every second is being watched with anticipation by crowds. But tell me, who is the star?

This is the question Louie (the author) asked. Who is the star of your movie? And it got me thinking. Okay. I'm in a movie. But am I the focus of the movie, or am I a part of a great movie? In the terms of life, am I trying to put all eyes on me, the little actor, or are they watching God, the real star of the show?

Now there are many people each day who are the stars of their own little movies. But is it really that good? To use an old cliche, would you rather be a small fish in a big pond, or a big fish in a small pond?

It got me looking at my life a little differently. I guess we all have the choice to be Peter Summer. You know him, right? He was the star of the horror movie "The Spiral Bureau". Nothing? Come on, you have to have heard of it. Heard of him. He was the star. He was the big actor. First on the credits. Don't you want to be Peter Summer right now? After all, he's a star. He was in some other movie too. Really little part. He isn't even in the credits it was so small.

But tell me, do you think when Peter Summer is introduced to friends, do you think he says, "I was the star of The Spiral Bureau", or do you think he says, "I was in Star Wars"...

I don't know about you, but if I was given the chance to star in a movie or be in Star Wars, I'd take Star Wars every time. What about your movie of life? Wanna be the star, or let God be the star and see where He takes you...


Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Santa Or Jesus

I was reading a book by Dick Staub tonight and he mentioned something interesting that got me thinking. He in passing mentioned how the Bible ends differently than most other myths, one being that of Santa, and it go me thinking. Who do we believe in?

Let's start with Santa Claus. He is invisible. Never seen. You cannot know him. He lives far away and will never answer you back however hard you try to listen. But he will listen to you. You can write him, talk to him, but he isn't interested in conversation. The only topic of discussion is what you want from him, nothing more. And then, once a year, he answers in the form of a gift, something he hired someone else to make for you. Now how do you get your gift? You earn it. It is all based on what you did. Where you naughty or nice? The gift is all based on what you deserve. You have to do the right thing to win Santa's favor. And that is all there is to it. No relationship. No love. Minimal communication with someone who wants no communication with you. He just wants you to earn the gift he has for you.

But look at Jesus. There is no earning of love. It's already yours. He merely wants you to share in the love. To talk with Him, to be with Him. Membership into heaven is not decided by what you did. Unlike Santa's list, His list is not filled with those that did well. It's filled with those who knew Him. Jesus is more interested in knowing you and loving you than giving you what you want (sometimes He has something even better to give than we think). Jesus doesn't appear once a year. He wants to be with you every second of the year, all 30 758 400 of them. He is not distant, but is with you everywhere you go and he is a part of everything you do, if you'll let Him. Instead of earning a gift, it's all about knowing The Gift...

So which do you believe in? Switch the names around and see which one applies to your beliefs. Look at the way you pray, how you live your life, than take a good hard look and ask yourself if Jesus is merely Santa to you...

btw, I'm trying to find scenes in "The Passion Of The Christ" for my sermon Sunday. I'm purposely looking for ones that are flashbacks, not of beatings, and still, in fast forward, I want to cry...


Louisville Zoo

So this weekend, Lorie and I decided to get out of town and went to Kentucky (why? I have no idea, but it was better than I thought). And as always when we have free time we went to the zoo, because animals are cool.

But here's the crazy thing. We've discovered that animals like us. Again, why? Who knows. But it happened a few times, like the huge turtle that walked right up to us and let us pet him, or the orangutans that sat in the back corner while everyone else was around, but then when it was just us, came up to us, gave Lorie a kiss through the glass and put on a straw hat and did a little dance for us.

More amazing to me is to think that every single one of those animals was created by God. Do you think you could be creative enough to come up with 100 different animals? What about 1000? So far we've cataloged over 50 000 species of animals, over 1 000 000 species of insects and that doesn't include plants, viruses, or all the other living things in this world. And those are only the ones we've already discovered.

Isn't that amazing? I love the zoo...


Saturday, July 01, 2006

Fun? = 1 More Missions Spot To Mexico

This is something that just kind of drives me nuts. One of the guys who was planning on going to Mexico, someone I really like and didn't get to go last year so I was really hoping would go, he and his mom came up to me Wed. and told me he's not allowed to go. His dad won't let him. Why?

Because he's not going to take a week off work having fun.

Someone please explain this to me. How is taking a week, losing that seven day's pay, to go work, build houses, do some roofing, teach kids, all in the blistering heat, how is that fun? This guy was making a major sacrifice to go, leaving home for a week (okay, that might not be a huge sacrifice for a teenager), leaving his friends and girlfriend for a week (no cell phones allowed on the trip, no communication whatsoever), riding on a bus for 24 hours to go sleep on a school floor in Mexico after working all day, just how is this fun?

So now he can't go, and worse yet, he's paid for the spot. So please, if there is someone else out there who can go, please take this spot. It's a shame he can't go in the first place, it would be a bigger shame if he paid for it and no one went to take his place. Who wants to come have some "fun"?